First Two Months
Well, shit. Kinda knew this was going to happen. We got busy. Living on the road takes a lot of time. Everything has to be packed up and put away. Every. Single. Time. Plus, we were doing a lot of driving to get to Monterey in time for Brandon's work event. And Leigh landed some big audiobooks that took massive amounts of time. We've slowed way down though, and promise to be better in future.
Here's a recap on this momentous day, marking a full two months on the road.
DAY 20: Sept. 2 Made it to the O’Dea cabin. VT is utterly beautiful. Leigh has always wanted to come here, ever since she saw White Christmas as a kid. We took back roads and loved every minute of the drive. Brandon is working while Leigh drives… it’s been a good system and Brandon is able to do quite a bit even over rough roads thanks to the Fox Shocks he got before we left. The cabin is nestled in a little valley and it’s nice to be able to sleep in the van in the yard, but run in if we need plumbing. Headed out tomorrow to explore a bit.
DAY 21: Sept. 3 Went all over the place today looking for things to do/see. Stopped finally in Chester and wandered for a bit as well as had lunch. Brandon rode his bike this afternoon for a little bit after even more tail-chasing driving. Leigh is on the hunt for Maple Candy and has already eaten an entire package of Maple Leaf Cream Cookies. We’ve seen a few turkeys, some hawks, and a fox (who was hopping up and down on a mouse and caught it while we were watching.)
DAY 22: Sept. 4 Did maintenance work on the van - rotated tires and adjusted brakes, etc. Nice to have the kitchen in the cabin for washing dishes. So thankful Tom’s family let us stay here for a few days… what a pretty spot! DAY 23: Sept. 5 Found the maple candy. And some Maple Syrup Sriracha Sauce for Brandon. We also stopped on the NY side of Lake Champlain to explore the ruins of an old fort there. Didn't see Champ, the local sea monster, though.
Made it to Horseshoe Lake in New York. It came highly recommended by the Bowmans, who had already been here once on their trip. Very clear water and definitely worth staying here. Built a campfire and roasted marshmallows. We went for a paddle that night before it got too dark. Again, another pair of loons serenaded us all night long.
DAY 24: Sept. 6 Leigh and Beth went for paddle before we headed out. At the Bowman’s recommendation, we went to The Wild Center and learned SO much about the Adirondacks. This country is full of crystal clear lakes, beautiful mountains, and clean, cute little towns on every shore. It’s such a pity to rush through them... but we have to get back to the West Coast in less than a month and there is a lot to see between here and there.
We’re staying in a lake house on Lake Owasco. It’s owned by the family of Beth’s sister in-law and is outside Syracuse. Built in the late 1800s, it’s a massive old place that the family keeps up and has graciously allowed us to use. Owasco is a finger lake, and crystal clear. Everything for the house (building materials included) was brought to the site on a boat, as the roads didn’t exist until somewhat recently. Nice to meet some of Beth’s (very) extended family. As ever, we’ve been welcomed most kindly and enjoyed falling asleep to the sounds of tree frogs. DAY 25: Sept. 7 Spent the day at the ‘cottage’. The dogs did a lot of swimming the lake before the algae bloom blew up. We had a big family dinner and got caught up on work. Rained hard all night… made for great sleeping weather. DAY 26: Sept. 8 Left the kindly Newmans and their beautiful house on Lake Owasco. We separated from the Bowmans for the night. We went to Niagara Falls first. Pretty impressive sight, even if we didn’t really engage in any of the touristy things (Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds). It was hot and we took the dogs on a long walk, then ran out of time before we had to be in Buffalo.
We had dinner there with Leigh’s friend from grad school (Disney) days, Ben Roberts. Awesome laugh-filled dinner with him and his lovely wife, Amy, in their beautiful home - great architecture, lots of history, and just really well done. It was a pleasure to meet her and their darling daughter Abigail. Finally tore ourselves away and stopped at a campground south of Buffalo, on the shores of Lake Erie. It is doubtful two humans were ever so hot as we were that night. It was unbelievably humid and hot. DAY 27: Sept. 9 Made our way to Ann Arbor, MI, today. Staying in the driveway of some of Zach’s friends, Joe and Al. Noticed that Piper’s gland problem is acting up again and made an appointment for her at the local Banfield Pet Hospital in the morning. Leigh had audio work to do. Brandon hung out with our kindly hosts and friends - drinking wine long into the night. DAY 28: Sept. 10 Took Piper to the vet today. That was a fast way to blow $360. She definitely had a gland problem and they had to sedate her to deal with it. She was there all day, so the three of us went sight-seeing. In the rain. (There's a lot of rain on the East Coast. And in the upper midwest. And everywhere, apparently.) Saw some Sandhill Cranes in a field, did laundry, cleaned the van, stopped at a roadside farmer’s market and got all kinds of goodies - corn to pop, apple butter, cider, and a dozen pumpkin donuts. (Most of them made it back to our friends.) We did a lot of eating today, starting with breakfast at Bob Evans (a nod to Brandon’s dad and grandfather). Pretty good, actually.
Michigan State was playing today. These people are serious about their football. We clearly are outsiders as we’re wearing neither royal blue nor gold. It was pretty impressive to see all the folks headed to the game who had turned the neighborhoods around the university into a parking lot. Had a lovely, delicious, and hilarious dinner with Joe and Al and a few of their friends. Much wine was drunk, even more food was eaten, and friends were made. Was nice to dress up and eat off real dishes and drink out of real glass. (A small part of Leigh really misses that.) DAY 29: Sept. 11 Brandon rode the Potawatoma Trail and then we drove on to meet up with the Bowmans at Higgins Lake. It’s the 7th clearest body of water in the world, and it’s gorgeous. Brandon went out for a paddle and then we spent much of the night listening to our neighbor’s 90s country music. We called the police to file a noise complaint, Zach went over and asked the guy to turn it down. It kinda worked.
There are black squirrels here. Black like ninjas. They are the ballsiest squirrels we've ever seen. And they're everywhere! They go up in the trees, knock down acorns, and then wander all over camp to collect their spoils. The acorns hit the van. Quite often. It's loud. Not as loud as the resident crows, which are everywhere here as well. It's making the dogs nuts.
Day 30: Sept. 12 Interesting day of doing a good deed.
Leigh and Beth did a little yoga on the shores of Higgins Lake while Zach and Brandon worked. Then we took the kayaks out to see what we could see. We were aiming for the mouth of the river where it flows into Higgins when we got sidetracked on an animal rescue mission. We were paddling by a private pier when we saw a duck hanging by its wing from what looked to be the pier. Turned out it was massively thick fishing line that was wrapped around everything on the dock, including this poor duck, who could barely touch the water. We grabbed her and brought her up on the pier (getting out of the kayaks onto the pier was funny.) We spent the next hour unwinding this poor bird’s wing from the line. We will never be without a pocket knife again! When we finally got her loose, we had to get her back home. She was exhausted and we weren’t sure if her wing was broken or not. Plus, her feathers were really gnarled. The initial plan was for Leigh to hold the duck and tie the kayaks together, so Brandon could paddle back. It was too windy and would never have worked, so Leigh walked back along the shore and Brandon towed the other kayak back. Leigh walked through neighborhoods, along busy roads, and got a lot of funny looks. Yoga pants and PFDs aren’t common attire - at least not at the same time. They arrived about the same time… that’s how bad the headwind was. After many calls by Zach, we found we had to wait for an animal rescue person to return our call and they’d likely come out to get her. The didn’t and asked us to bring her, so Leigh drove 20 miles to the rescue center. The woman who runs it took a look at the duck (Hazel). She’d been busy in the bag we placed her in, preening and smoothing all her feathers. Ruth, the rescue gal, tried a few things, said Hazel had what was like a skinned knee on her win, put some Neosporin on it, and gave her back to us. We get to release her in the morning.
Day 31: Sept. 13 Of course it was raining when we released Hazel this morning. She spent a quiet night (so did we - our neighbor having moved on) and was ready to get back out on the water. Without so much as a backward glance when we set her in the water, she paddled off down the channel and into Higgins Lake from the marina. Nice feeling.
We made it all the way to St. Ignace today. Crossed the Mackinac Bridge (seeing both Lakes Huron and Michigan at once.) That is a massive bridge. Our campsite is right on Lake Michigan and has a great view of the bridge. Did a few housekeeping things today… and at a Michigan Pastie (it’s pronounced pa-stie. Not pastie.) Ok, probably don’t need to eat them all the time. Planning a trip to Mackinac Island tomorrow on the ferry.
DAY 32: Sept. 14 HUGE day today. Comedy of errors to get the ferry and missed the one we were hoping to catch, but it worked out ok. The dogs went with us and loved the horse-powered Mackinac Island. Lily rode on the bench on the ferry, practically in Leigh's lap. Piper went under the seat. Seriously, there are no cars, no trucks - just horses and bikes on this island. Was weird to see quaint vintage transportation doing things like delivering Amazon boxes, sweeping streets, and carting around flatscreen TVs. Oh, there were golf carts on the golf course. We hiked all over the place after lunch, through the woods, through neighborhoods, to old forts… everywhere! Great trip. Even got some great fudge, which will be gone much sooner than it should be as we're eating it directly out of the box by the bite, like enormous chocolatey sandwiches. Don't judge, you'd do it too.
Spending the night next to Hovee Lake. Dispersed campsites and very few folks around. The Upper Peninsula (UP) doesn’t disappoint. DAY 33: Sept. 15
Drove by Lake Superior today on our way to Black Lake, WI. It’s our fourth (and final, for this trip anyway) Great Lake. It’s clearly the biggest one… just like the ocean, except it’s void of awesome sea creatures.
These little splashes of bright red are popping up more and more. We can't decide if they should be a motivational poster for being unique... or for not giving up.
Brandon rode his bike around Black Lake - over a trail that wasn’t really a trail anymore. Apparently they had a flood recently and lots of trees were downed and damage was done. It was a rough ride and not much fun. DAY 34: Sept. 16 Beth leaves us today for a wedding shoot. The three of us will try to fill her shoes. We’re staying at a campsite at Mille Lacs Lake - yes, it’s redundant. There’s a bass fishing competition here this weekend, it’s pretty obvious we were lucky to get a spot. DAY 35: Sept. 17 Stayed at the campground, helping (unsuccessfully most of the time) Zach with Lucy. All we could do was prepare meals and sometimes take over watching her. Beth definitely has big shoes… what a mom! DAY 36: Sept. 18 Zach and Lucy went to pick up Beth in Minneapolis. We headed to St. Cloud to another Banfield so Piper could have a follow-up appointment. Did laundry and cleaned the van. Just last night there was a mass stabbing at a mall we passed by. No one (except the attacker) died. The town seemed a little off, to be honest. Utterly understandable after an event like that. Drove to the corner of the state to stay in Blue Mounds State Park. It has it’s own buffalo herd and apparently e-Coli in its well. We couldn’t take showers (and we were in DIRE need) and couldn’t fill up our water tanks. We did get a complimentary gallon of distilled (not drinking) water and $4 off our reservation. Woo. The lack of shower was seriously disappointing and taught us a valuable lesson - one we’ve learned before but aren’t smart enough to remember, apparently.
We tried to use indoor shower for the first time. Hilarious failure. We bought a shower curtain to go around the hula hoop that would hang from the pop-top bar. We got everything set up and then realized the circumference of the hula hoop (specially made for Leigh) is much larger than the width of an average shower curtain. Stymied again. We ordered a larger curtain - one that’s used with claw foot tubs and will pick it up from Leigh’s parents in Boise.
Leigh used the oven for the second time and made chicken pot pie. It was delicious if she says so herself. We polished off the entire damn thing and will have to make it again. Seriously, it was darn good. We’re headed to Badlands tomorrow, with a stop in a nearby town that will let us use their rec center’s showers. DAY 37: Sept. 19 Uhhh, no. The rec center showers were not really showers. They were shower heads in the middle of the room for people to use before and after they went into the pool. They were not actual showers. Brandon took advantage, Leigh just sulked in the car and ate cookies with her stink. We were able to fill up on water, so she was able to do outdoor shower tonight at our Badlands campground. Badlands was a surprise. The actual hills looked a lot like the bentonite hills around home and we’re that exciting - but it was still pretty and the expansiveness of it all was a welcome view for eyes that have been utterly inundated with trees for the past few weeks. (Don’t get her wrong, Leigh still prefers the trees. But the break was nice.) There were lots of big game animals out today - big horned sheep, buffalo, and a hilarious sea of floating pronghorn heads. Our campground reminds us a lot of a circle of wagons as we’re all out in the open and parked around a large loop. They say the buffalo like to come into camp - we’ll see if that happens tomorrow morning. Beautiful moon rise tonight as well - and oh, so many stars.
DAY 38: Sept. 20 The buffalo didn’t disappoint. They really were just wandering around. Brandon had to wait patiently for one to shuffle off before he could get to the bathroom. For such enormous animals, they can disappear quickly behind even small hills. Pretty awesome to see them so close and for people to be so smart around them.
We had another HUGE day. We saw Mt. Rushmore (awesome), part of the Black Hills (gorgeous), Crazy Horse (it’s going to be impressive if they ever get it done), and Devil’s Tower (even cooler when you get close to it.) Mt. Rushmore was just as cool as the Statue of Liberty - Leigh’s favorite work of art. It’s just so well done. The most interesting thing is how they were able to include Roosevelt’s glasses in the sculpture. Seriously, it’s impressive. Crazy Horse was worth seeing, but it’ll be way more worth seeing when it’s done and you can get closer. Leigh did a lot of reading about the fighting that went on between the US Cavalry and the Native American tribes in that area. As usual, history isn’t very pretty or nice. Devil’s Tower wasn’t part of the original plan, but we fit it in anyway. It’s an impressive piece of geology and we kinda wished we were staying there, but we also knew we had to keep moving.
The Bowmans headed on after driving by to find the camp site. We parked on the side of the road (after driving up to the tower) so Brandon could do a conference call. We drove clear to Gillette, WY after spending a long time on dirt roads looking for a campsite and the Bowmans. They couldn’t find anything that wasn’t littered with glass and trash, and ended up in the mountains outside Buffalo, WY. We got in really late. DAY 39: Sept. 21
Boy, they found a beauty of a site that was free and pristine. Very beautiful area and very pretty stream behind it.
Pretty day of driving. The leaves are bright as can be and contrast well with this blue western sky. You forget how blue it is when you’re on the east coast. The red leaves of the Adirondacks contrast nicely with the gray skies they often see, but the gold and blue is just as pretty.
Stopped at a roadside rest stop on the spur of the moment after we realized it was an aerial firefighting museum. There were all kinds of planes parked there… some were part of a private collection and we couldn’t get close. The rest were neat to wander around and investigate. Given how many wildfires are burning in nearby Yellowstone and elsewhere, we’re thankful for these great machines and the people who made them and use them.
Stopped for the night outside Cody, WY. Our site was overlooking the city and up a pretty tough dirt road. We camped at the top in the wind. Due to the shower situation, Leigh took arctic shower. Zach says she deserves a badge. It was also pretty cold that night and the furnace had stopped working. Brandon and Zach worked together to get it started up again. The intake was clogged with dirt (we’ve done a fair amount of off-roading lately.) DAY 40: Sept. 22 Drove through Yellowstone AND Tetons today. Full day of driving, starting in Cody. Didn’t see much in the way of wildlife in Yellowstone. A few buffalo and that was it. It was pretty stormy and wet most of the day. Tetons were beautiful, as always.
Tomorrow is Beth’s birthday, so we went out for some delicious pizza and beer. Pinky G’s has super good Margharita pizza. Amazing, actually. Headed up to a campsite where we were last year, overlooking the elk refuge. Our previous spot was taken, but we found another one just up the road. It was a popular place that night and we got set up just before a major storm rolled in. It rained all night long. All. Night. Long. DAY 41: Sept. 23 Drove in to Boise from Jackson Hole. Got up really early, left the Bowmans, and still didn’t get there until late in the afternoon. (We did make a quick stop to wash the dirty dogs before letting them loose in Leigh’s grandparent’s house.) The weather was miserable all day. Rainy for most of the morning, and then a few hours outside of Boise it got really, really windy. We had to put our hazards on because we couldn’t even begin to keep up with traffic. We were getting blown all over the road AND battling a headwind. It was gnarly and our fuel economy was abysmal. Nice to get out of the car and wonderful to see Leigh’s family. There were seven dogs in the house, but it didn’t feel like it. DAY 42: Sept. 24 Good day of shopping and hanging out with the family. Leigh’s mom made lots of delicious dinner dishes we’ve been missing out on the road… enchiladas were at the top of the list. DAY 43: Sept. 25: On our way (slowly) to Monterey today. Brandon has a work event next weekend. Made it to Winnemucca. Found a campsite outside of town in Water Canyon. Pretty spot in the canyon that was not too hot. Popular road, pretty dusty with all the traffic. DAY 44: Sept. 26: Brandon rode his bike in the morning before leaving Winnemucca. Made it to Lake Tahoe! Kinda. Camped in the mountains outside the lake. Free campsite. Good thing as it is not in the least level (you know, on scale with elevation change of Mt. Everest or similar). Technically, it’s the parking space for the campsite that’s so unloved, but we can’t use the tent area, which is level. Very busy spot - understandable given the cost of using campgrounds around here. Site’s other features revealed themselves to us as the evening went on. We had to retreat inside the van to get away from the hordes of yellow jackets that were swarming the dogs, us, the dog’s dinner, and the van. Apparently bug splattered vehicles are like a buffet to wasps. So disgusting. We need to get this thing washed, and soon. DAY 46: Sept. 27 Spent much of the day working. Leigh had an audiobook due and Brandon had lots to get done as well. In the afternoon we finally packed up the car and went to actually see Lake Tahoe. Since the dogs couldn’t be in the van due to Leigh’s need for recording silence, they were camped out under a picnic table. In the dirt. we have never seen anything like it. Lily was a sickly brownish gray color, and Piper was a lighter version of herself. We decided it was time for a lake bath. They didn’t much care for it as the beach was mainly rocks and too shallow to really swim in. On the plus side, the lake is full of mica or iron pyrite and literally sparkles. They were snazzy dogs when they got out.
Brandon got parts necessary for making the indoor shower work. Leigh got another haircut. It’s slightly better and doesn’t cause tears, so there’s that. Her dream of growing out her hair as been seriously set back, though. Indoor shower worked ok. No problem with the ‘embrace of the shower curtain’ as our friend Keith termed it. Biggest problem was the cold. Door had to be left cracked open so the hose could go out the door into the gray water tank. It definitely eats up the floor space, but it’s infinitely better than being dirty! A few kinks to work out for sure, but when you’re living in luxury you have no room to complain! Off to Sacramento tomorrow for lunch with our friend Sara. DAY 47: Sept. 28 It was great seeing Sara. Had lunch at the Firestone Restaurant on the patio with the dogs. Hit the road right after lunch and got in to Monterey. It was a long slog through the California farm lands and then through a wildfire zone. Beautiful sunset. Stopped at the ocean in Monterey to watch whales right off the beach. Spent the night at a campground in the city.
DAY 48: Sept. 29 Went to the beach with the dogs today. They had a blast, even if it was cold. Grabbed at bite at a locals favorite, packing in the seafood as much as possible! Moving to the hotel for the rest of the weekend. Had clam chowder for dinner as well with the FM crew at their rented house.
DAY 49: Sept. 30 Leigh kept working on the book, Brandon worked the show. Ate out, watching the ocean with a few of the FM folks. DAY 50: Oct. 1 Leigh kept working on the book, Brandon worked the show. Attended the banquet that night. DAY 51: Oct. 2 Leigh kept working on the book, Brandon worked the show. Had dinner with the FM crew that night at their rented casita. DAY 52: Oct. 3 Left Monterey. Stayed just outside Redding, near the foot of Mt. Shasta at Lake Shastina. Mt. Shasta was a total surprise, actually. As should be painfully obvious, we aren't good with geography. Or with planning. So we often don't know what we're near. It makes for cool surprises. Weren't able to get the camera out in time for shots of Mt. Shasta on the way in, and it was socked in the next morning when we left. The campground where we're staying is technically closed for the season, but we weren't the only ones bending the rule and decided to just run the risk of getting in trouble. We'll move on fairly early as it's late and has been a long day of driving.
Decided we’d head to Glacier National Park. It’s somewhere Brandon’s always wanted to see and it’s only going to get colder. We’ll head over, then work our way back across to Seattle and down the Coast. DAY 52: Oct. 4 Stayed outside Klamath Falls in a free spot that was utterly empty… for awhile. Brandon was working under a gazebo in the campground parking lot when another Westy showed up. The guy, Steven, had accidentally left his parking brake on and driven for about 20 minutes. The brake fluid was toast, and he was unsure what to do and wondered if Bran knew where a Westy repair shop might be. He didn’t even know about Humboldt as it was further down the road. Pretty convenient! Brandon volunteered to help him and they both worked on his van for the rest of his day. Steven was very appreciative as he didn’t have to go to San Francisco for the repair and made us dinner. It was cool hanging out with him and meeting another road dweller. DAY 53: Oct. 5 Headed out to see Crater Lake on our way to Bend this morning. It had rained most of the night at our elevation. Apparently, it was snowing higher up. The park staffer at the entrance gate said one of the roads around the lake was closed, the roads were sketchy, and that the lake was socked in, so we couldn’t even see it. As it was faster to go through the park rather than backtrack, we gave it a shot and slowly made our way around the lake. There was a lot of snow, especially higher up. We just took it slow and were able to see the lake at a few points. The best vantage point was not far from the deepest point (1,946 ft.) and the sun even came out for a few minutes. It really is a beautiful color of blue, we’ll have to come back. Headed into Bend, went grocery shopping, and were then stymied by the campground availability situation. Kept going to Sisters, a place we’d wanted to see anyway after we drove by it on our trip last year.
DAY 54: Oct. 6 Explored Sisters for a few hours today. Took the dogs on a walk around town and grabbed lunch. We keep trying to figure out what’s wrong with this town. It’s just so beautiful and picturesque. Lots of flowers, cute stores, arty places, restaurants, and no junky places anywhere. Definitely worth the stop. Spending the night at the City Campground again, have to keep working on the book. DAY 55: Oct. 7 More work on the audiobook. All day, in fact. Moved from the Sisters City Park to a spot in the woods (away from the trees as we were sadly in need of power). Brandon worked a bit, then rode his bike. Leigh finally got the book done right at 5 and took the rest of the night off. Feels good to have it done. Dogs spent the rest of the day rolling in the dirt. They are as dirty as they were at Tahoe and it’s too cold to throw them in a stream or lake. It’s getting pretty chilly at night. Think we’ll bump up the clothing layers and see if that buys us some more time. DAY 56: Oct. 8 Finally free of the audiobooks, we decided to wander around the Sisters Harvest Faire and then head back out to the woods. This really is a beautiful town and a beautiful area. The mountains around town are very picturesque at the moment, covered in snow. Staying not far from mountain bike trails and we still seem to be the only people for miles.
Decided NOT to go to Glacier after all. Struggling to come up with a plan, which in reality isn't actually a problem. We'll just go slowly, see what we want to see, and move on when/if we feel like it.