On Our Way Home…….and the old Lincoln Highway built in 1913.

We seem to be running just ahead (and sometimes IN!) the weather system traveling across the midwest.  We have spent the last two nights in storms with hail, wind and driving rain.  Watching the weather channel has shown us we escaped the tornados and worst weather but it is fast approaching.  So last night we stayed in another motel and the next two nights we will be with my brother in Indiana.  That puts us two days from home and by then we should be safe to get back in the van.  It has been quite an adventure!

Rather than take the interstate across Iowa we opted to travel most of the old Lincoln Highway.  We found a small information center in a little town (two gas stations and an old store).  It was an information center in the front and beauty shop in the rear. There was a vast collection of information and photos on the Lincoln highway and you could purchase a tour book that gave you the history and maps on how to follow it.  Of course, the book went from east to west and we were going the opposite!  Good thing my directional sense is backwards from teaching kindergarten all those years!

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The old pharmacy, now a vistor’s center for the Lincoln highway.  The only store not boarded up in town!

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Inside….lots of stuff!  And great information!  There is a very active volunteer group of Lincoln Highway Fans!

Along the highway in 1928 the Boy Scouts placed markers.  Each had a bronze medallion of Lincoln and indicated which way the highway went.  

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Rich in front of one of the markers.  The map told us where they were along the way.  Like a treasure hunt! 

There was also lots of information on the old gas stations and cafes along the highway.  Some where in terrible shape and falling in but others have been restored and are still functioning.

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This is Niland’s started at the junction of the Lincoln Highway and Jefferson Highway (Winnipeg to New Orleans).  It still had the tourist cottages and cafe along side.  It functioned until 1995, run by the same family.  Fully restored by a new couple, the cafe is still serving the same menu.

Being a couple who love wandering the back roads we had fun trying to find all the posts and old buildings along the Lincoln.  It was the first road to go from coast to coast and we have traveled parts of it in Pa.  We, as a nation, have always wanted to travel the roads.  The interstates just get you there but bypass some of the best parts.  Each state seems to be generating new paths called “Byways” that take us back to what was interesting and scenic in each area.  (or is it because all of us are getting older and want to drive a bit slower???)

One of the TV shows we like is called “American Pickers”.  Two guys travel around “picking” from old buildings and people who are collectors (or just can’t get rid of stuff!)  Their original shop is in Le Clair, Iowa which is a small town right along the Mississippi.  We had to stop but, of course, a tour bus pulled in just as we did.  So we decided to wander the town and found some great folks to talk with at the information stop.  He was a former Alcoan and she a native who told us lots about the history and river museum.  Thanks goodness for volunteers like this in each town!

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Rich in front of the American Pickers shop.  

Over the Mississippi and east we go………..both of us agree that maybe three months on the road was a bit too much. Of course, when we get home we may decide just to turn around and go back……the country beacons and there is so much to see!

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The grand Mississippi!!!!!!!!!

 

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back in the van…….

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After 20 days of traveling with the rental and staying mostly in motels……our little van is back.  So happy to be back in the comfort of our own space and able to plan our own meals and travel without  constant time spent finding a room.  It is amazing how many motels this time of year are booked solid.  We have found this time to be one of the busiest as far as the western states go.  I usually spend several hours on the internet every other day looking for a room with good reviews and a decent (meaning less than $100) price.  I also look for things to do in the area, restaurants,etc.  If I ever need another job…sign me up as a travel agent.  I am becoming an expert!

Our last stay was in a cabin on Lake Hayden in Idaho.  I found it on the VBHO site which is vacation homes by owner.  I had used this site several times to book and always found the reviews of the homes to be well-worth reading.  This cabin happened to fit in our time frame and the owner was so generous after hearing of our van’s breakdown that she gave us a really good deal on price.  Here are some pics:

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It was basically a two bedroom family owned cabin.  Sometime in the 80’s they expanded it and added a new foundation, fireplace and modern kitchen.  They rent it out to keep it in the family.  She and I had a chat about keeping a place like this in the family and how difficult it can be.  My mom’s family cottage has been a difficult process since it is waterfront on the ocean and needs constant upkeep.etc and we all love going there.  Thanks goodness my aunt took it on but no one is sure how much longer she wants to continue.  It rained all the time we were there so we didn’t use the canoe or beach but had a lovely fire each evening and morning to sit by.  Lots of good reading time and they had shelves of old Reader Digest Condensed books!

Driving up the Idaho valley there was lots of snow on the top of the Rockies and after we got the van back and traveled east there was even MORE!  Drove through Butte, Mt where there was at least 3 in. of it on the ground and then we stayed in Bozeman and had snow all around.  Our original plan was to head back as soon as snow fell so it looks like we are back on track.

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Our next destination was Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park in South Dakota.  We both wish someone would convince Amtrak to do a car train out west.  The plains are very boring to drive and the landscape offers little change.  Please do an autotrain out here!!!!  (Put the car on train, pick it up in the west)

Custer State Park in Idaho is the site of a bison roundup every fall and altho we missed it by a day we did see all of the bison in the valley where they keep them until they are immunized and set free again. They also cull the herd to keep it at 1300.  I always think of my niece, Jenny, doing something like this.  Can you imagine riding across the plains herding the bison?  It must be quite a sight to see them come down the hills and into the stock pens!!!  The state park also has several horse campsites for individuals who bring their horses.  The west is still very much horse country!

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We made it before the shut down!  It is truly an amazing sight and the visitor center tells the story of the sculptor, funding it and why these presidents were chosen.  Lots of really good interesting material.  Rich and I tried to find another country that had something like this and couldn’t come up with any. Other countries honor their leaders, religious figures,etc.but are there any that have individuals who come from such a varied background and contributed like these? (we thought of Canada, perhaps)  We went back in the evening for the light show and video presentation and again well worth it.  At night against the dark sky with lights on it is stunning.

Driving around the park is a route called the “Needles” and these are rocks that shoot up to the sky in some very beautiful vistas.  On the way to the monument you drive through three tunnels, each with a different view of the monument as you come through.  Stunning!  Then on the other side of the monument drive is a VERY twisty and narrow drive. Here is the van going through one of the tunnels:

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We had perfect weather!  Thank goodness Rich did all the driving!!!! 

We are both happy to be back on the road on the way home.  We still have South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana……etc. to go! Luckily we can have a few days of R and R at my brother’s house in Indiana next week.

Retirement

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Ok…so I took this without him knowing!  But for Rich to actually sit or lie in the sun and take a nap is extremely difficult.  During this trip we have both discussed what this next phase of our life looks like.  Both of us have worked in some capacity since we were in our early teens and find too much time on our hands hard.

I “retired” from teaching several years ago and have found so many opportunities to give back, volunteer and work part-time that most of the time I feel quite satisfied.  I do miss the classroom and the kids I taught but would not want to go back in today’s world of education.  I enjoy teaching water aerobics and volunteering at Mystic Seaport and various community groups. I am also lucky to have several close friends who I can spend time with.

Rich is new to this world and this trip has been a revelation in what relaxation can be.  We both have enjoyed seeing the country and meeting a variety of characters.  He spends time in factories and mechanical museums wandering and discussing for hours. There are so many opportunities out there in National Parks and museums that can use his many talents that I know he will be fine. (plus…there is always the “Honey do, list!)

The chance to actually find a green space and lie in the sun seemed foreign to him until I insisted (like the GREAT wife, I am!!).  It only took seconds for him to fall asleep and take a nap.  Something everyone should enjoy, once in a while!

Both of our daughters are off on adventures of their own.  The travel bug definitely landed in their genes.  Kate was in Seoul, South Korea on tour with the musical “American Idiot”.  She returned today to NYC and started work immediately on another show.  Thanks goodness she is still young!  The youngest is up in Maine doing “yard” work on the ship she is on but has accepted a position for the winter down in the Islands.  Lucky girl…sailing around the warm waters……!

This week we were fortunate to rent a cabin on Lake Hayden in Idaho.  Although travel is fun, moving from motel to motel each night had gotten tiresome.  One of the advantages of our little van is the same bed each night and food we fix for ourselves.  It is a pleasure to have a stove this week and cook delicious meals. Our cocktail hour is so nice in front of a roaring fire and the deck overlooking the lake is delightful in the morning.  It has rained each day but the area has lots to offer. Today Rich is checking out the local air museum and invention center (???) and I can catch up with everyone at the library.  Coeur D’Alene is a beautiful city, northern Idaho is stunning.  

Stay tuned…the trip back is starting at the end of the week and it will be a whirl-wind trip across the plains!

People……people who need people……..(sorry!)

As most of you know, Rich and I are not shy.  We love discovering interesting people doing what they do in their lives when we travel.  Some examples:

Our favorite ship in Maine, the J and E Riggin, is run by two of the most wonderful people we have met.  Jon is a quiet, talented captain who also happens to be an artist and great father.  You can tell his joy in his daughters and love for his wife.  What a pleasure to spend time aboard and refresh your own sensitivities to each other.  His wife, Annie, is full of life and never sits still except when planning a meal or sitting with one of her lovely daughters.  Not only the best sailing but the best people with which to spend time with.  The crew they choose is equally talented and a joy to be with.

Next is Patie and Tom.  I sailed with Tom on the “Gazela” and he was always number one on my “suck-up list” (sorry!!) I was the cook for several months and food stores were down below. Tom never went pass the galley without asking if I needed something.  Saved my aching legs and feet many times (and my forgetfulness, also!).  We spend an afternoon in Maine enjoying their company and seeing Patie’s amazing jewelry creations.  Rich and Tom had fun discussing cars and racing….you never know what talents and knowledge lie beneath a person.

Our favorite campground in Vt. is run by Pat and Gary.  From Fl. and St. Louis, they love the campground like parents overseeing their favorite children.  Sat. night with Gary playing the guitar around the giant fireplace in the 1930’s porch is not to be missed.

In Milwaukee, we met Mike.  Our “Untapped tour” guide.  He was a young man who started his own business and was running it with great enthusiasm.  He clearly loved the city and enjoyed sharing it with us out-of-towners.  At 26 years of age to be doing something with the passion and foresight is something to be greatly admired.  Our country is still full of such young people and we need to tell them “Go for it”!  Negativity never got anyone anywhere.

The tour guides, park rangers and fellow campers we come across fill us with gladness over and over again on this journey.  They still believe in this country and are doing their best to keep it running.  We have met retired folks who clean the bathrooms at state parks, plant flowers and keep things neat since the budget was cut.  Retirement in this country is not sitting around waiting but pitching in and making a difference.  

The Young Park Ranger who led the hike in Glacier was one of those who you just couldn’t keep up with but wished you had her energy again.  Rich had a wonderful hike into Iceberg Lake and along the way found out all kinds of information on the animals, topography and foliage.  The Park Ranger program is free and offers an amazing array of programs.  Each one of them we have met are passionate about the parks………..one of our greatest gifts to the nation.

Outside of Glacier, on a long, lonely road our VW broke down and we had to wait several hours before the tow came.  But Tony, the tow truck driver was a doll.  Big and competent, he got the van on his flatbed and told us a little about his life and beliefs.  He loves what he does, helping people in trouble and doesn’t mind the long hours and terrible weather in the winter.  Thank goodness for the Tony’s…he made sure I got dropped off at the motel, the van got delivered and even wanted to help Rich get the rental.  What a guy!!! (reminded me of my oldest brother….love ya, Larry!)

People in Montana and Wyoming have a way of greeting you and making you feel right here.  They wave when you drive by and call you “ma’m”.  We stayed in a very small town called Riverton,Wy. and always ask at the front desk where to eat.  Not fancy but good…where the locals go.  He directed us to an even smaller town called Hudson where there was really only one restaurant.  (Svilar’s) One of the best beef dinners I have ever had. (parking lot full of pickup trucks is always a give away out here!) Run by the same family since it started during the coal mining days.  Great waitress who was 20 and asking lots of questions about where we had been and seen.  Couldn’t wait to get out and see for herself but still appreciated the fact that growing up in a small town had it’s benefits.

Another benefit of small towns are the small motels run by someone who moved west from NJ! We are constantly thankful that the small towns in Montana and Wyoming haven’t fallen into disrepair.  Rich and I love waking downtown on streets still filled with people out for the evening. Many times we have been sitting on the porch of our motel and had conversations with others.  Travelers in one spot for a short time.  Sharing our thoughts and travel plans.  So glad I live in this country!

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We go next to a cottage on Hayden Lake near Coeur D’alene, Id.  Another thank you to a family who rent out their cottage to others so they can keep it in the family. We are glad to have found a little place for 5 days where we can regroup,fix our own food and not have to leave a place every two days.  Hopefully the van will be fixed by next week and we can start the long journey home.  Both of us are ready and want our “little home on wheels” back.

 

While we are waiting……

Unluckily: we need a new engine for the VW van.  Luckily: There is an engine available at “gowesty” in CA and they shipped it today!!  It will arrive at the garage in Kalispell,Mt on Wed. of next week and one more week to install it and then……..Back on the road!

BUT…..While we are waiting we rented a car for then time we are without the van and headed to Yellowstone Park! We had planned for contingencies but not to this extent but because we had not made and reservation a head of time we didn’t have to cancel anything or loose money on these.

We headed out of Kalispell following the two-laners south through some beautiful mountains and forest.  Along the way we passed small lakes, large pines forest and very little traffic.  For lunch we stopped in Missoula, home of a university which usually means some interesting food choices.  They have a wonderful little store in the old major department store location which is all Asian import…perfect for a college town!  Fun to look through and a relief that we do not have a dorm to decorate! The lady running the store gave us a wonderful place to eat which was a Thai restaurant that did “Cafeteria” style lunches Mon – Fri.  Great Idea!! You go up to the counter and order one of 5 Choices for the day.  The menu changes but it looked delicious and was!

Onward to the Grant-Kohrs Ranch which is a National Historic site that shows the way a working ranch was during the last century.  One member of the family saw the potential to save all the records and the ranch back in the 1920’s and worked all his life to do so.  Smart Man! We both really enjoy the volunteer guides that serve our country at the sites.  Their enthusiasm and knowledge are wonderful and the passion the show for the subject is inspiring.  Thanks goodness we are a country of volunteers!

Spent the night in Butte which was at one time the riches hill in the world.  They mined copper, gold and silver here and now are “mining” the tourists and students.  The University of Montana is here along with the World Museum of Mining.  Worht a visit.

ON to Livingston (great old railroad station) and Yellowstone.  We are staying in Gardnier since all the park accommodations are full.  Toured yesterday by ourselves and took the Yellowstone in a Day tour today.  I cannot say enough about these bus tours.  If more of us would do these the pollution and abuse of the parks would certainly be lessened.  The guides are great and both of you get to enjoy the sights.  Yellowstone is a National treasure…again, we are lucky!

(tried to download some pics but did’t work…sorry!)

 

Montana

What a fantastic country!  We have had the pleasure of traveling all the way from east to west and the great plains certainly take your breath away while the Rocky’s just stun you with their majestry.

Arriving in East Glacier we spent the first day getting orientated and enjoying the change from the flat.  Rich took a hike to Iceberg Lake where great chunks of ice and snow break off during the winter and float in the lake all summer because the water is so cold and altitude so high.  It was 5 mi. in and out and I opted to visit the visitor’s center and do small level hikes.  It poured most of the day but just as the afternoon was waining the sun came out and shone warmth throughout.  What a sight as I was driving back up the valley to pick up Rich…that was when I took the reflection of the lodge on the lake and mountains.

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There isn’t much you add to that as far as the beauty is concerned!

One of the best deals in the park are the Big Red Bus Tours.  These buses were originally purchased in 1936- 1939 and used to transport tourists around the park.  Refurbished in the late 1990’s by Ford they now run again and are the best way to travel the “Going to the Sun” Road.  Save on pollution and fright and do this!  There is no way anyone should be driving that road and trying to enjoy the incredible views.  The tour bus driver adds so much information and they take off the CANVAS tops so you can stand up and take pictures!

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Yesterday we decided to drive south and visit more of the dinosaur sights.  There are several towns here that have small museums and research facilities.  The one we visited had the largest dinosaur sculpture that is articulated so it appears moveable and can be used in many different displays.  I took a video but am not sure if I can insert it but will try. (nope!)

Instead I will put in Rich dancing with the dinosaur outside and standing next to am actual bone found in someone’s driveway.

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Now we are staying one night in the historic Glacier Lodge. Built in 1913 by the Great Northern Railroad and now owned by the Park Service.  It is stunning and amazing but only one complaint….you have to order all your meat in the dining room WELL-DONE!  Not one piece can be sent out to a customer unless it is fully cooked!  What a way to ruin a good hunk of meat.

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As some of you may know, we had a major breakdown yesterday on our way back from the museums.  The VW van decided to spit oil all over and die.  We spent several hours waiting for AAA….it is a bit out of the way on the Great Plains!! We had her towed and will wait to see what can be done but we are probably facing a major repair and shortening of our trip.

Luckily we had not made any advance reservations and both of us are in the “What happens will happen” mode.

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FOOD!

The hardest part of travel is always finding good food, not too fattening and healthy.  To top that off, Rich needs lots of carbs to stay in energy.  He is a always active…even in the car. (did I say….OCD and Hyper???)  Love him lots but sometimes keeping him fed is a full-time job and keeping me in low-fat and healthy alternatives isn’t easy.  We sometimes feel like Jack Sprat and his wife only we have the opposite problem.

We start the day with hand-ground coffee….yes, we travel with a little Camero hand grinder! This delicious treat is followed by fresh fruits and yogurt.  Once in a while I cook up sausage and eggs for Rich as that is a weekend treat he loves.  Finding homemade sausage is easy it seems and trying all the kinds is fun.  In Milwaukee there were all kinds of types and some with chicken and fresh herbs that were amazing. MInnesota seems to be one state where fresh foods are available and cultivated.  Who would have guessed??

In Duluth we found the Duluth Grill…home of locally sourced and organic delight.  We not only had dinner there but went back for breakfast.  Here are our choices:

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Fresh fish tacos: crispy fried fish caught that morning in Lake Superior, cilantro-lime tartar sauce, pickled onions, fresh avocado….yum!

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Pulled Bison BBQ poppers: Before I cut into the peppers the BBQ was wrapped inside with wild rice, onions, chilies, and charred.  Not sure what kind of peppers they were but the heat was just right to let you have a tingle.

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Lunch is salad and usually some meat left over from dinner before. I try and get some crusty  bread for Rich and cheeses.  Again, fruit and we find a little place by the side of the road and pull over.  There are so many road side picnic areas and each one has it’s own charm.

Breakfast at Duluth…I almost forgot!!!!!

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Scotch Eggs….hard-boiled eggs wrapped in blueberry sausage with their own home-made mustard.  The hash is red flannel hash…beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes with onions!  YUM!   OH, we had a wonderful talk with the owner, bees are kept on the roof, the parking lot is full of gardens in raised beds and almost everything else is local.  The prices are a little more than most “grills’ but they have health ins. for ALL employees and help shares in the profits.  They also pay more than minimum. You could tell, all who worked there…loved it!

That breakfast kept us going all day and out to dinner that night.

It wouldn’t be a trip across Montana without a good old steak dinner which we had last night in a dusty and charming town named Havre.  We ate at Uncle Joe’s steak house.  They separate the dining areas…upstairs for burgers and sandwiches and downstairs (fancy!) for steak and full dinners.  It was juicy and delicious and neither of us felt guilty about the calories!  After seeing all those cattle along the way we knew we were in a great place for good red meat.

We always travel with water bottles as most of your know I really dislike plastic water.  We always try to buy drinks in glass not plastic and fill our own water up.  In northern Mn. the water was the color of rust and tasted of minerals…we didn’t like it for coffee but seemed ok to drink.  When we were in North Dakota I was so impressed with the National Park service at Fort Union.  Their water fountain also filled water bottles!  Wish there were more of there everywhere!

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They get lots of love from me!!!! I am a firm advocate of eliminating plastic in our oceans.( and elsewhere!)

All for now…we are in Glacier National Park, enjoying the views and hope to spend time among this scenery for several days.