Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Roadside fun

George Washington in George, Washington! Almost there!

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Location:George, WA

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day Seven: Coeur d'Alene, ID

Since Colin was born and raised in Idaho, it seemed fitting that he would write the post about today's journey to Idaho.  Good luck.

Finally!  The pinnacle to our adventure! (with the exception of getting to our house)  The whole reason for driving across the country! (again, with the exception of getting to our house) We finally made it.  We've come home.  Today, day seven, we arrived in Idaho.

God's country, the holy land, the most beautiful place in the world, true America, mecca: As a homegrown spud, I can confirm all of these things are true.  Idaho, is all of these things. 

Today's route took us through Coeur d'Alene, ID.  In the panhandle of a state graced by the rocky mountains, this small town is a vacation spot for people world wide.  Renowned for it's beautiful scenery, it's gorgeous, pure lake, it's outdoor activities, and my brethren Idahoans, how can you help but spend your precious summer vacations in this beautiful northern oasis.  No pictures could possibly do this land justice, but we've taken a few so that you could experience some of the awe inspiring scenery which we were blessed to view today.  Dim the lights, light some candles, and enjoy.  

(Oh yeah, and we found a dutch brothers.  Kristin was really excited.)

Ming Bob, overwhelmed by the excitement.

Tomorrow: Home.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day Six: Bozeman, MT

Oh Montana, how I underestimated your size.  Today was a gruelingly long 9 hour day.  The first few hundred miles of plains lands were exciting.  I mean, look at that photo below.  It looks like something straight out of a book.  Or Pushing Daisies.  Now Imagine looking at that for roughly 550 miles.  The upside was trying to spot deer, coyotes, and antelope (there were tons), and of course, the elusive buffalo!  Now, Colin claims that there are no "real" buffalo in America.  I say, why does everything in Montana claim to be buffalo this, and buffalo that, if it's all really just bison?  I pretty much spent the entire day saying "buffalo!" and pointing at large animals in the distance, and Colin spent most of the day saying "cattle" "cow" and "that's actually a shrub."

This is literally what we saw nearly the entire time.  The moniker "big sky country" is 100% accurate.

Now, these next photos (so lovingly snapped by my wonderful husband) get a little graphic, so here's your warning.  Tonight at dinner, we tried our first bison buffalo burgers!  We were in Montana and it just felt right, so we sought them out!  Ultimately, it really just tasted like a super fancy beef burger.  However, it's supposed to be much better for you than beef, and I can see why.  There was little to no fat, and they were still tender and Delicious.  I would at least suggest trying it once if presented with the option. 

Tomorrow is day six, and Colin is absolutely beyond stoked about being in Idaho and exploring Coeur d'Alene.  I'm mostly just excited about the world's largest radio flyer wagon :)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day Five: Hill City, SD

What an adventure we had on the road today!  Did you know that the stretch of I-90 between Sioux Falls and Rapid City is riddled full of strange attractions?  The theme of the day was definitely "we're too cheap to actually pay for this," but I did occasionally convince Colin that we should pull off the freeway to see something ridiculous.  Here were some of our favorites:

How creepy is this?  If you watched Hoarders this week, then you'll understand why our first reaction was, "this is a crazy lady mecca!"

My absolute favorite stop on the trip!  This is not only the largest, but also the only corn palace in the world!  For miles and miles we saw different billboards for this 8th wonder of the world, and the whole time we said, "it can't actually be built of corn!"  And guess what...it is!!!  They spend $130,000 each year to rebuild the exterior and change out the corn pictures.  I would highly recommend clicking on this picture to get the closer look.  This was the first stop on the "we're to cheap to actually pay for this" tour of South Dakota.

Attached to the Corn Palace was Mitchell, SD's city hall, of course.  While the palace is rebuilt at a ridiculous cost each year, the city hall appears to be made out of particle board.  If nothing else, these Dakotans sure do have their priorities in line. 

This is Cornelius, the Corn Palace mascot.  Not only does he have his own security detail (originally installed to protect president Obama on his visit in 2008), he has two faces, one on each side so that you can be taking picture, while another crazy family takes one on the other side. 

Aside from these awesome stops, we also made our way to the Petrified Forest and Wall Drugs, neither of which we actually went into/payed for.  Now for the more traditional tourist destinations:

After getting through plains and the badlands, we entered the Black Hills.  To say this area is surprisingly beautiful would be an understatement.  This is one of the tunnels carved out of a hill. 

The next stop along the "we're too cheap to actually pay for this" tour was Mt. Rushmore.  Sure, it's only $11, but when you can get such a good picture from the side of the road, why waste the cash and the time it takes to fight the crowds?  All in all, I'd say it was a little anticlimactic.  Did you know it was built by a Ku-Klux-Klan member? Yeah me either.

The Washington profile from another viewing area in the national forest.

This is my favorite picture from our Mt. Rushmore adventure...

And this is Colin's, because Washington is picture crashing right in between us :)

Colin in his natural element.

Even though you can't see it in this picture, all of those rocks around me were super sparkly.  Therefore, I deemed this my princess hill.

Our third stop on the WTCTAPFT tour was the crazy horse monument.  We actually had to drive into the park, tell them we weren't going to pay $20, and then drive in far enough while we were "turning around" to see the monument and get a picture.  This one was even more anticlimactic than Mt. Rushmore, but once if it's finished it's gonna be awesome.

Aside from the sites, this has without a doubt been our favorite destination so far, simply because of the hotel.  We've learned a great lesson at this Best Western Plus - there's a huge difference between a nice family hotel where people vacation, and a "staycation" hotel where people actually live.  Last night we stayed at a Super 8 in Sioux Falls that shared a parking lot with one of the sketchiest apartments we've ever seen.  Here, we are totally isolated in a nice little nook of the black hills, so the hotel is really more like a little mini resort, and worth every penny.  The saddest part is, it's only about $15 more than the Super 8 was. 

Besides all of the other awesome accommodations this hotel has (including a Seattle's Best coffee shop in the lobby!), it has a restaurant where Colin was able to get his first frosty mug beer in over 4 months.  That's a look of pure joy you see there.

The final thing that happened today will go down in history as the night Colin predicted the Apocalypse.  If you take a look up there at that happy beer picture, you'll see that it's bright and sunny out.  Now take a little peek at the photo below - they were taken about 10 minutes apart, and this wasn't even as dark as it got. Colin noticed that the clouds were moving in opposite directions (which is totally weird), and started talking about the end of the world.  Then, the rain, wind, and giant hail started.  This was all followed by severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings.  What an end to an exciting day!  Things have calmed down now, but we're in a watch zone until midnight.  Hopefully the worst has has already passed, but who knows. 

Tomorrow is our longest driving day at a whopping 8 hours (which between bathroom and gas station stops will probably be more like 9.5).  We'll be stopping in Bozeman, MT, but don't really have anything planned while we're there.  Hopefully we find something billboard worthy along the way! :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day Four: Sioux Falls, SD

Welcome to Sioux Falls, SD! Today was a pretty boring driving day, but we were able to get some pictures as we drove through Minnesota, land of the wind turbine fields! We tried multiple times to get pictures of these giant wind turbines that stretched for miles, but they were so far away we never could get one that fully grasped the magnitude:

You'll have to click on it to see the wind turbines, and it still wont be anything like seeing them in person.

My best attempt at a picture of the giant Mississippi River
We stopped at a BP where instead of a convenience store, they had an Amish store, complete with carriage parking.
What we saw 90% of the day.
It's tough catching "Welcome to.." Signs, but here's South Dakota's.
So far Sioux Falls isn't our favorite destination, but we're looking forward to Rapid City and Mt. Rushmore tomorrow!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day Three: Madison, WI

All and all, today was a pretty exciting driving day as far as middle America goes.

Top five best things about day three -

1.  The cats seem pretty happy now that they've settled in to life on the road.  In fact, Julius spent over three hours just like this today:
2.  We actually drove through a big city that we've never seen before - Chicago!  The traffic was more than worth the change of pace from farm land to city.

 3.  We ended up waking up early to get a delicious breakfast (the first one in weeks that didn't come prepackaged) and got on the road an hour early!  This, coupled with a time change that worked in our favor, put us in Madison, WI super early.
Our best attempt at getting the 'Welcome to Wisconsin' sign in the rain.
4.  Not only did our hotel let us check in an hour early, but they also upgraded us to a king suit at no extra cost!  How awesome is that?  Since we haven't seen a couch in over a month, this was a huge deal for us :)
Our giant room.  Ming obv. feeling at home already.

I'm pretty sure this bathroom is bigger than our whole room was in CT.
5.  Thanks to getting in early, we got to drive around and explore Madison a little!  Not only did we see the capital building, but we also found a Qdoba for dinner!
It's the comfort food that counts after a long day on the road! (did i mention there's a no makeup[me]/no shaving[Colin] policy while on this road trip?)

 That's about it folks!  Stay tuned for tomorrows recap once we make it to Sioux Falls, SD!  Only four days left!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day Two: Todelo, OH

Hello from Ohio!  Ok, so we've finally reached somewhere where I have decent enough internet to update you all on the craziness of the last couple days.  I think it's best to separate it into parts:

Part 1: Leaving Connecticut

For the last week or so the navy has been promising guessing that we would leave each day, and each day we packed up and got ready to go and then something stopped us from actually getting on the road (that "something" was usually navy medical).  Then, on a sunny Tuesday morning in June, I got the text that Colin had his medical records in hand and we were set to hit the road.  As soon as he got home we packed up, thanked the beyond wonderful staff at the Rodeway Inn, and booked it before they could change their minds. 

As far as the actual logistics of Colin's medical hold, he's going to continue waiting around, we just get to do it in the comfort of our own home.  Although nothing is official, word on the street is that his waiver has been denied, and he will be redesignating in the fall(ish).  A lot still needs to be figured out, but he will for sure be staying in the Navy.

Part 2: Frackville, PA

Now, to say we left in a hurry would be an understatement.  We were just so excited to be given the ok to get out of town, that everything else more or less fell to the wayside.  Now, if you know me, you know that I don't do so well when things aren't planned out.  I'd say this quadruples for things like cross country trips.  Never the less, we haphazardly mapped out a route and picked some affordable pet friendly hotels along the way, without really checking too many reviews on each one (I usually go a little user review crazy). 

What's nice to someone, may be a complete snake pit to someone else.  I'm pretty sure that's what happened when it comes to Frackville, PA.  Stopping in Pennsylvania was hard enough considering there's not a whole lot between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but finding a pet friendly hotel is even harder.  Since we'd been living in a Rodeway Inn all this time, we figured we knew it wouldn't be great, but it would be livable.  We. Were. Dead. Wrong.

This hotel will without a doubt go down in history as the worst hotel we've ever had the pleasure of staying the night in.  As soon as we pulled up we knew it was less than ideal, but just as Colin was saying "if you want to go somewhere else we can..." Lao Tzu was throwing up in his carrier.  He made it through the whole four hours and waited until we were literally pulling in to this gross hotel to throw up everywhere.  At that point we were pretty much exhausted and figured one night wouldn't kill us and decided to stay.

As soon as we parked and got something to eat I made a trip to the local walmart to get some things for the trip.  While there I saw: 2 grown men in camo pajamas (at 7pm), 1 man drink out of a juice carton and put it back, and 1 Walmart that doesn't sell bottled water (what the what?).  Discouraged, I headed back towards the hotel only to pass by a maximum security state penitentiary.  Upon further phone googling I quickly found that not only is Frackville home to this prison I had driven by (that was .2 miles from our hotel), but that there were 3 more within a 6 mile radius from where I was.  Awesome. That definitely explained why the staff didn't ask me for any information (including an ID) when I checked in.  After that I couldn't drive back and unload the car fast enough.  As I did, the guy who lived next to us mentally inventoried everything I was taking out of the car (presumably to decide if we had anything worth breaking in for, which it seems we didn't). 

I will never stay in a random town without a thorough google search again.

Part 3: Toledo, OH

After a pretty successful (and windy) 7 hour drive we finally made it to Toledo, OH!  The La Quinta we're staying in has the most comfortable bed we've slept in in weeks, and the room couldn't be nicer (what a relief!).  The cats are happy, we're happy, and now we're just biding our time until we can get back on the road to head to Madison, WI tomorrow.  We should make it to Poulsbo by next Tuesday, and we can't wait to see our house!  It's been almost 7 months since poor Colin has even see what we've been paying mortgage for all this time.

Cross your fingers that our trip continues to go well, and I'll do my best to update whenever we have internet!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An internetless 1st night on the road

We don't have Internet at this wonderful establishment, but check back tomorrow and hopefully I'll be able to write a mondo post from Toledo, OH!!!

My little road warrior :)

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Nature Walk and History Time at Devil's Hopyard

 Hello, my name is Colin.  Tonight, I'm giving Kristin some time off.  She's worked so hard on her blog and I don't want her to get overwhelmed.

Today, after weeks of prodding, I finally got Kristin out of the cave (our hotel) and got her to go on a hike with me. We get out sometimes, but it's been tough to get here out into nature ever since our run in with ticks at the beach.  We went to a really great state park called "Devil's Hopyard" about thirty minutes outside of Waterford, CT.  The park is known for a really beautiful waterfall and several unnaturally large potholes indented into the large granite boulders covering the landscape.  You're probably wondering where the name for the state park came from.  It certainly is unusual and there are two theories about its origin.
The waterfalls from above
 The first theory says that many years ago, when the countryside was countryside and not suburbia (seriously, in Connecticut you can't get away from people, even the access road into the park is lined with houses and power lines), there was a small farm which made its money by growing hops for a local brewery.  Apparently, this "hopyard" was quite well known by the locals and for many years one farmhand, Dibble, was the sole tenant of this patch of land.  Logically people coined the phrase "Dibble's Hopyard" and used it to reference that general part of the countryside.  Like a classic game of telephone, the name Dibble evolved into Devil and so came the modern name "Devil's Hopyard."  Now, this seems like a reasonable story, but I think the second theory is a little more believable.

The second theory is told as follows:  Many, many years ago (probably around 1692), the Devil - complete with horns, cloven hooves, and that ugly balding tail - emerged from a large molten fissure in the Connecticut hillside.  You see, He intended to come up near Salem, Massachusetts to check in on his newly recruited witch clan but missed his mark.  This meant for a pretty long walk, one he hadn't planned for, so he was already pretty pissed.  He started heading in the direction of Salem when he stumbled upon the large waterfall that marks today's state park.  As the devil tried to cross over the falls, he lost his footing and dipped his tail into the clean, cold, Connecticut water.  Now in case you didn't know, the devil hates getting wet.  Hates getting wet!  He was furious. Smoke started coming out his ears, his horns started glowing red, and he proceeded to have a full-on devil tantrum.  With his massive cloven hooves, he stomped all over the Connecticut countryside leaving unnaturally large hoof prints, and when his anger peaked, he hopped from boulder to boulder indenting the rocks with his rage, forming the potholes we see today, and hence the name "Devil's Hopyard."

It's pretty obvious that the second theory is probably correct, but there will always be skeptics.  Either way, these days the park is a really great place to spend an afternoon.  I've been lucky enough to visit in both early spring and summer and both times, the scenery has been astounding.  I only wish I could see it during the turning of the leaves.  Kristin was a really great sport during the whole trip even though the state park wasn't immune to the tick epidemic that seems to plague Connecticut this time of year.  We spent about two hours hiking the trails and snapping some nice forest pictures.
Here's a nice mushroom ball.
We weren't up for the steeper hike to the "Devil's Oven" due to our limited foot wear - one of the side affects of living in a hotel.  Though, we were able to snap a picture of where we expected the oven to be through the trees.
"Devil's Oven" - either where the devil cooks his soul pizza's or where emerged from.
All in all, the day was a really nice way for Kristin and I to spend some time together away from the hotel.  The weather was perfect for the trip and we were able to see some really beautiful facets of New England.
Flower we found and picked (sorry bees)
There was also a really nice stream in the park that made me wish I had my fishing gear (and a license), but just seeing it was enjoyment enough.
Quiet stream - the cherry on top

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Another Special Day!!!

Today my best friend and I are celebrating two years of marriage together!  And it has definitely been two adventure filled years to say the least!  We've grown more in these last two years than we have in the five and a half years that we've been together, and we've been lucky enough to grow together as time has gone by. 
It's a shame Mike has his eyes closed in this picture :)
Last year, we spent our anniversary in New York City, having lived in Glens Falls, NY only about a month.
Central Park!
This year, we decided to get some fresh seafood at Captain Scott's Lobster Dock in New London.  It was an absolutely beautiful day, and the lobster rolls were to die for!
The sun was blindingly bright
This giant line was more than worth it!
The view from our picnic table at the restaurant
We've definitely come a long way from the 19 year old babies we were when we started dating, and I can't wait for many more adventure filled years to come!

This year, we'll be coming full circle and heading back to Seattle where we first met!
We may have some very exciting news related to getting out of this hotel soon - so stay tuned!