Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Startling and Funny Statistics

I thought it would be interesting to compile some statistics from our summer of camping across the U.S. and back.  It was an amazing once in a lifetime experience to have the time and resources to do a huge roadtrip.  It also strengthened our relationship...pay attention to each other without daily work stress, listen to one another, and learn more about each other.  For example, I didn't know about the Erie Canal *gasp*.  This absolutely floored him, until I told him I napped through U.S. History in high school.  Ohhhh..

Many thanks to family and friends who put us up anywhere from two nights up to 18 nights (yikes).  Your warm hospitality and generosity is appreciated.

Miles driven: 10,603 Did you know it's only 3,000 miles to the East Coast?  It's not that we got lost a lot.  We had a GPS.  It resulted from whimsical exploring of the Olympic Peninsula, daily ice cream runs in Loveland, Ohio, driving out of the way to find a campground, and several unplanned trips.

States traveled thru: 22 and 12 state capitals

Miles biked: 112 for me, probably 150 for Emil

Oil changes:  2.  It's time to do another one now.

Rivers fished:  5 (Sol Duc, Bogachiel, Rock Creek, Clear Creek, Calawah)

Canned tuna consumed:  16

Bags of cherries consumed:  9

Jars of peanut butter consumed: 4

Places we want to retire:  Anacortes, Lopez Island, San Juan Island, Moab, Newport, RI (Sara)
Estes Park (Emil)

Sara's faves of the summer:  Bike camping in the San Juan Islands and mountain biking in Moab

Emil's faves of the summer:  Biking in Rhode Island, seeing friends and family

Number of Cabelas we drove by and did not stop: 6

Number of Cabelas we stopped at: 5

Nights we tent camped :  35 (includes 3 nights in a rustic fishing cabin)

Nights we stayed with friends and family:  30

Nights we wimped out and cashed in a hotel chit:  2  (one for extreme heat, one for no place to camp along the ski corridor on I-70 in Colorado)

Hope you got a chuckle out of these numbers!  If you are planning a roadtrip or want to know "must see" things in certain states, let us know.  We can tell you all about it, give you a map, and a brochure!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Welcome Back to Redmond

Yep, we're back to house-sitting at the beautiful home in Redmond for another 10 months.  Temps are in the high 90's, wildfires filled with sky with smoke, and the chicks are all grown up!  We've named one of the chicks Palmetto (Palmie for short), since she looks like she has no neck and is shaped like the state, South Carolina (Hollar back to my roots).  When she runs, her head doesn't bob at all...she's like a chicken torpedo running away from you.  They are a little skittish and very fun to watch.  We'll try and snap a pic of her to post.

Wildlife sighted since we arrived on Friday afternoon: 
- 2 mule deer
- 4 quail with 4 little ones
- Doves
- Horses in our pasture - the neighbor is using the area
- Lots of little birds feeding out the window

Next up on the agenda:  job hunting, unpacking, getting back on Weight Watchers, mountain biking, fishing, and obtaining an Oregon drivers license.  Oh yeah...ukulele practice every night!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Arches National Park in Moab, Utah

Add a trip to this park to your bucket list!  Beautiful arches, easy hikes, blue sky, and no crowds.  For our visit, the temperature was 102 degrees, and I could feel my skin cooking.  The pictures really do show how gorgeous it is.  Many thanks to Emil, my talented photographer with a camera always in his hand.

The Three Gossips

My adorable husband

Skylight Arch

Balanced Rock

Delicate Arch - the most famous arch

Double Arch

Our summer adventure is winding down.  We'll be back in Redmond tomorrow afternoon.  Time to score a cool job, settle back in, finish edits on my book, and start planning another adventure.  BIG THANKS to everyone for keeping up with the blog and following along!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Trail Ridge Road in RMNP

After exploring downtown Estes Park and a round of mini golf (tied game), we drove Trail Ridge Road (48 miles) to Granby and back to I-70.  What a lovely paved, wide road with many beautiful vistas!  At one of the pull-outs, we saw approximately 24 elk right by the side of the road. 

A little down the road, Emil spotted about 80 elk high up on a mountain.  It was an impressive herd as they trotted over to a shady grove of trees.  Here are other pictures of some vistas:

As we drove up a particular long hill, we passed two road bikers.  They pulled in to the 12,000 foot high scenic viewpoint at the same time we did, so Emil went over and offered them water and energy bars.  They rode 25 miles and climbed 4,800 feet before turning around.  We should've given them a gold medal.  Seriously.

Bud from Arizona
We drove by my old stompin' grounds, Georgetown, Colorado - population 1,000.  A few new places have popped up since I left there in 1995.  The Red Ram Restaurant where I worked is now closed.  What a bummer!  It was used in filming the movie, "Switchback" with Danny Glover, Dennis Quaid and Jared Leto.  I had the opportunity to meet Danny, and he was super friendly and talkative.

It was difficult to find a campground on I-70 past the Eisenhower Tunnel, so we had to hotel it last night...we were tired, hungry, and grumpy.  If you're counting, that's two hotel nights since June 20th.  Not too bad, huh?  We vowed to stick it out the rest of the summer adventure, which will end in just a few days.  Now, we're in Moab, where it's 98 degrees.  But, it's a dry heat.  Huh huh huh.

A few pics from our drive in this afternoon:

In Fruita, we stopped at The Hot Tomato Cafe and Pizzeria for lunch.  Emil ate there before on one of his guided bike trips with Western Spirit.  Delish pizza with fresh peaches, gorganzola cheese, mozzarella cheese, canadian bacon and rosemary. 

Now, we must leave the air conditioned library and look for a shady campground.  We plan to ride a two mile loop at Slickrock tonight, ride tomorrow morning on an easy trail overlooking the Arches National Park, and drive into the Park after lunch.  Bike riding, hot weather, and a cute town.  Perfect!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park

First, a little back story....

One of my summers up in Denali National Park, I worked at the Visitors Center (shout out to LoMo!) where tourists would purchase bus tickets and campground spots.  It would frustrate me to no end when someone would come up to my window and not know anything about Denali and how to access the park.  They saved their entire life to come to Alaska, did no research and got pissy when they found out the shuttles were full or not available for the one day they had in Denali (Seriously?  One day?).  To fully explain access to the park, it took about 20 minutes.  Now, add a long line of folks, and it's no wonder that I didn't fulfill my work contract that summer and quit.  Not to worry...I landed a job with a flightseeing company and found a cute trailer to live in near Healy.

Now, I am that tourist (kind of).  We arrived on Friday evening to Estes Park.

1.  Gorgeous. 
2.  Rocky Mountain National Park is right here.  Hmph.  Should have consulted a map.
3.  I did no research because I thought we were just coming here for a wedding.  Silly me.

We picked up tons of brochures, pored over them for the best hikes to do, asked around at the local pizza joint, and finally visited one of the five visitor centers on this side of the park.  Twenty dollars later, we were in the park, huffing and puffing up to three lakes with an 1,100 feet elevation gain.  Worth the gasping (just me), many rest stops, and a lot of water.

Nymph Lake

Dream Lake

Emerald Lake
All of the lakes had huge mountains above them, and Dream Lake was filled with greenback cutthroat.  Leader-shy and savvy, they ignored the fisherman and cruised the shallows giggling, I am sure.  Emil and I caught some caddis, ants and grasshoppers to feed the fish.  They came right up to them, and we watched them snack away.

At our campground, a group of 24 elk wandered through and nibbled on the trees and bushes.  Ground squirrels, rabbits, mule deer, and birds are abundant everywhere.

The sun is blazing, and the sky is blue.  Time to explore downtown Estes Park and play a round of mini golf before heading west.

Bonus:  Questions/comments to me while working at the Visitors Center

1.  Give me two tickets to the top of the mountain.  (Denali)
2.  My bus trip was ruined by a crying baby.  Babies aren't natural!
3.  So, the shuttle takes six hours.  If it leaves at noon, what time will I be back here?
4.  How long is the eight hour shuttle trip to Eielson?
5.  What time do you let the animals out of the cages?
6.  Can I take a plane and land on top of Denali?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gerald Ford Museum and the lovely Lake Michigan

Yesterday, we toured the Gerald Ford Museum in downtown Grand Rapids.  It was the first Presidential Museum I've ever been to.  The building boasts some great exhibits, including a special exhibit about Betty Ford, which showcases her clothes and family pictures and traditions inside the White House.  There is also a replica of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room.

Troy Wise - This was in the museum too!
Today was another beautiful sunny day, so we packed a picnic and went to explore Lake Michigan - only 30 minutes away.  The boys brought their skimboards, a raft, and plenty of sunscreen.

Nice form
Sharing the raft
Perhaps a perch?

This could be my boat...if I had lots of money.

We'll be sad to leave Michigan, but I am looking forward to exploring St. Louis and other parts of the midwest.  Time to load up on tuna, jelly, turkey, and desserts for camping!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Grand Rapids Day One

The drive from Cincinnati to Grand Rapids was pretty easy, and it's my first time visiting the great Pure Michigan state.  Emil is familiar with the area since he used to work at Post Cereals in Battle Creek.  His fondest memory involves free cereal at every work break.

We are here visiting Wendy and her family.  I've known Wendy since 1993ish.  We were fellow waitresses at California Dreaming Restaurant in Greenville, SC.  I know, so long ago, right?  We even survived being roommates and sharing a bathroom, which she often locked me out of somehow (it had a door in to her room and the hallway).  I visited her several times when she lived in Washington DC and also in Fayetteville, Georgia.  We also met up every other Christmas at her Mom's house when we both returned to Greenville.  Her parents also visited us when we lived in Anchorage.

John fixed a gourmet dinner upon arrival.  Roast pork loin, potatoes/carrots/onions, and sauteed spinach.  We relaxed after dinner and discussed sightseeing possibilities.  Their two kiddos, Adrian and Adam are adorable, fun, affectionate, and spirited.

Today, we rode our bikes from their gorgeous house (almost completely unpacked which is amazing since they just moved here 10 days ago) to Millennium Park.  It has a beach, splashpad, five ponds, trails, and tennis courts.  http://www.accesskent.com/CultureLeisureAndTransit/MillenniumPark/.

After lunch, we explored downtown Grand Rapids and drove over to the campus to see Wendy's new office.

President Gerald Ford and Emil

The boys playing in a huge button - piece of art.

Statue of Rosa Parks and someone's hand.

Neat reflection of a building in a building.

Flying pig - another interesting piece of artwork
Tomorrow, we'll continue exploring Grand Rapids while Wendy is at work.  I've also been assigned to unpack the formal dining room.  This may take some time as I want to be extra careful!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mark Waterpark off my Bucket List

We took the nephews to The Beach Waterpark yesterday.  I've never been to a Waterpark, so it was a learning experience.  Aaron took us on the biggest scariest ride first.  Thanks.  The Cliff is one big drop, and you will be airborne for at least an hour (okay, only a few seconds, but it feels like an hour).  We rode it once.  That was enough.

Aaron is so brave!

Sam is totally airborne!
After four hours of rides, we were hungry, sore, and totally worn out.  I'm so glad we didn't spend the whole day there. 

Last night, we went out to dinner with Uncle Ron.  It was so good to spend time with him and talk.  After dinner, we dropped by the Cincinnati Observatory.  http://www.cincinnatiobservatory.org/.  After listening to a lecture on asteroids, we peered through the telescope and saw Saturn!  We saw the rings and stars above it.  From the portable telescope outside, we saw the moon.  It was HUGE and very clear.  There were craters visible, and the moon seemed to sparkle like diamonds.  What an experience!

Today is our last day in Cincinnati.  We really love it here and would move here.  But, there are no close trails for mountain biking and fishing is limited.  Hmmmm.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Best Night Ever....at Aglamesis Brothers Ice Cream

Home Projects completed yesterday:  Painted stairwell and ceiling, weeded flower beds, cleaned chicken coop, harvested five cucumbers and three zucchini, straightened up the new barn.

All this hard work was rewarded by a delicious meal at Laszlo's Iron Skillet, complete with Schnitzel, potato pancakes and hot slaw.  http://www.laszlosironskillet.com/.  Karla's hot slaw is much better than their version though. 

We ended the evening with Aglamesis Brothers Ice Cream, where the servers know Emil by his "order."  Arriving right before they closed for the evening, the super cute servers asked if we were willing to eat our ice cream in to go cups instead of the metal dishes.  They said it's been a long day, and it would be less dishes to wash.  Sure thing.  As they scooped up our order one by one, the girls became confused and duplicated the double scoop of black raspberry chip.  WOO  HOO!  They asked if we wanted it, and my adorable nephews actually paused before answering.  You know me...I piped up immediately and said yes, we would take it.  BEST NIGHT EVER!  What would have made the night go down in history is they duplicated another double scoop of mint chocolate chip and red raspberry chip.  Unfortunately, they did not offer that one to us.

Today, we are building supports for the old barn, running errands (Aglamesis Brothers run), and prepping the front door for a paint job.  The humidity is lower, and nighttime temp should be in the mid 50's.  Nice.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


My brother, Tom, has been working in Afghanistan for almost two years.  I haven't been in Greenville when he's home for R and R, so the last time I saw him was July 2009.  He and his family are here in Cincinnati for a week, and I invited myself and Emil to be here at the same time.  YAY! 

Today, we played games, cooked out, and visited.  My Grandma and Uncle Ron also came over for the fun-filled afternoon.  Other than a quick thunderstorm, the weather was pretty nice, although quite warm.

Dinner Menu:
Hamburgers, hot dogs
Corn on the cob cooked in the fire
Hashbrown casserole
Watermelon, canteloupe

Playing corn hole

Elizabeth has an impressive throwing arm!

Fresh corn on the cob courtesy of Uncle Ron

Prepping the antique ice cream maker - pass me the rock salt!

No turn at cranking = No cherry cordial ice cream

Uncle Ron's turn to crank

Torturing the baby of the family never ends

Ted, Sara, Tom - Sweet siblings

David, my nephew, was the lucky one to lick the paddle
It was really great to spend time with the family.  Catching up with David, my oldest nephew, was fun.  He'll be 23 on Tuesday.  Time sure does fly by.

Next up:  Biking the Loveland Bike Trail early tomorrow morning if weather permits, errands (this really means going to Aglamesis Brothers), hanging up a towel rack in the bathroom, pulling down wallpaper in the hallway, and making tacos for dinner.