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In the Rearview -- Superlatives

Sunday, July 31, 2016
Diane's favorite picture of Me as Intrepid Explorer.


One other things Diane and I have been keeping track of throughout our journey is a list of what Diane calls "Superlatives," the bests and worsts of where we've been.

Before we got any further, a disclaimer: This list is based on our experiences and observations and is in no way scientific or based on research into reliable facts. There are just the impressions of a woman and her dog, but we think our impressions are pretty reliable.


New York


  • Saddest attempt to capitalize on nature's splendor: Niagara Falls
    • The fact is nothing humans can build can compete with the wonder of the falls, which perhaps explain why the town of Niagara is so sad.
  • Most beautiful waterway to drive along at sunset: The Erie Canal.
    • The reflection of sunset in the calm, still waters is stunning.

Ohio

  • Saddest evidence of how humans ruin everything: Lake Erie
    • Oh the pollution. The lake stank. And was full of bacteria and algae. It was sad.

Indiana

  • Worst toll road rest areas: I90

Wisconsin

  • Worst cell phone reception, small town category: Tomah, WI
  • Bounciest highway: Madison, WI
    • It looked smooth but looks can be deceiving. We bumped and bounced so much we thought parts were going to start flying off.

Minnesota

  • Most picturesque farms

South Dakota

  • Fewest Walmarts
  • Darkest interstate highway

Wyoming

  • Craziest sky
  • Best weather-watching
  • Windiest
  • Greatest concentration of pickup trucks 
  • Most freight trains
  • Most Scenic Turnouts on the Interstate
  • Most enthusiastic sport climbers

    • We spent more time in Wyoming than anywhere else (6 nights!), which was enough to make a number of observations. Montana may be the home of Big Sky, but we didn't go anywhere with a bigger sky than Wyoming. It was big and crazy. You can watch storms swirling thirty miles away, and the ceaseless wind absolutely will knock you down. There are scenic pull-offs or "turnouts" constantly along the highway so you can enjoy the vast sky and brutal wind. Everyone here has a pickup truck and freight trains rumble constantly across the high plains. There's a lot of rock climbing here, mostly bolted routes
  • Most Scenic National Forest Drive: The Loop Road from Sinks Canyon through Shoshone National Forest
    • It's mostly a dirt road but it is smooth and can be driven by any sort of car, no off-road vehicle required.

Colorado

  • Steepest paved road in Eastern Colorado: Magnolia Road (20% grades!)
    • Todd's brother-in-law Ian informed us that Magnolia Road is actually, factually one of the steepest paved roads in the state. We should NOT have driven on it. Seriously. 
  • Most festive vibe: Boulder
    • Boulder feels like a beach town with no ocean even though it is also a real city where people have real jobs.
  • Most dog friendly city town: Boulder
    • Residents of Boulder can get have their dog certified to be off-leash! They go and do some kind of test and then they get a special tag so their dogs can be off-leash in public. How progressive is that? 

Idaho

  • Brightest High Beams
    • You've never seen anything like it (unless you're from Idaho)
  • Greatest Proportion of Land Designated as National Forest
    • Take a look on a map and you'll see what I mean
  • Friendliest People
    • Camping in Idaho was the first time people stopped to ask us questions about the Big Rolling Crate. Sure, here and there we'd had comments from people before Idaho, but in Idaho people introduced themselves, asked questions, told us their stories, and suggested places we might like to visit. 
  • Biggest Mosquitos West of Maine
  • Meanest Horseflies
  • Most Plentiful Hot Springs
    • If the people we talked to at the hot spring we visited are to be believed, this is factual. They said there are more hot springs in Idaho than any other state.

Washington

  • Greatest Concentration of Small, Independent Roadside Coffee Stands


Montana

  • The Most Letters on Hillsides
    • Every town seems to have a hill, and on every hill, written very large, is the first letter of the town's name. M for Missoula, F for Frenchtown, B for Butte, you get the idea.
  • Best Electric Light Show
    • The thunderstorm we witnessed was intense and beautiful and, we suspect, not usual around these parts


Connecticut

  • Worst State to Drive Through
    • We drove through 19 states and our suspicion that Connecticut is the worst state to drive through was only confirmed. 


Maine

  • Best Place to Spend a Week by the Sea

Massachusetts

  • Place We Most Want to Live
    • Our travels were amazing, but at the end of it all, we love living in Central Mass!

Well, dear readers, thank you for sharing our journey with us. We hope you enjoyed. We're taking the month of August off from social media, but you can always reach us via Email or via Diane's website.

Our Trip By the Numbers





Diane and Todd have been keeping all sorts of stats throughout the Todyssey so I thought I'd share a few with you!

8005

  • The total number of miles we traveled over the course of 31 days.


585.814

  • Gallons of diesel purchased on our trip. The price of diesel varied quite a lot from state to state but $2.50 is a reasonable average. We'll leave it to you to do the math on that, though.


19

  • The number of states we drove through:
    • On the way out: Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, back to Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon
    • On the way back: Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine


10

  • The number of nights spent camping in a State Park, National Forest, or National Park
    • Two nights in South Dakota
    • Two nights in Colorado
    • Four nights in Wyoming
    • Two nights in Idaho
  • Also the number of states where Amelia swam:
    • Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Pennsylvania, Maine


8

  • The number of nights spent sleeping in Walmart Parking lots. 

6

  • The number of nights we spent in hotels. It would have only been 4 if it weren't for the breakdown in Idaho, which caused two very unplanned hotel nights.
  • Also the number of nights we didn't camp, Walmart, or hotel (1 night at a KOA (which is definitely NOT camping), 1 night at a rest area, 1 night at a truck stop, 1 night at Jeanne's, 1 night at Diane's mom's, and 1 night when we didn't sleep at all)


5

  • The number of National Parks/National Monuments we visited:
    • The Badlands, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, Crates of the Moon, and Roosevelt National Park
  • Also the number of State Parks we visited:
    • Sinks Canyon (Wyoming), John B. Yeon State Park (Oregon), Cape Disappointment State Park (Washington), Ollalie State Park (Washington), Iron Horse State Park (Washington)


4

  • The number of National Forests where we camped:
    • The Black Hills (South Dakota), Arapahoe & Roosevelt National Forest (Colorado), Shoshone National Forest (Wyoming), Sawtooth National Forest (Idaho)

2

  • The number of wild fires we encountered
    • The Nederland Fire in Colorado
    • The Mile Marker 14 Fire in Idaho

1

  • The number of cupholders in the cab of the Big Rolling Crate. Back in olden times when the Big Rolling Crate was new, people weren't big babies who needed to constantly be sucking on a bottle of water or a cup of coffee or a smoothie or whatever. If you are wondering why this deserves to be in our list, you try to driving 1800 miles in 38 hours with two adults and only one cupholder and let me know how it goes. To our credit, we only spilled two cups of coffee all month. 
  • Also the number of broken iPhones that were broken on the Todyssey.
  • Additionally, the number of boat rides Diane and Todd took (the shuttle across Jenny Lake at the Grand Tetons)
  • This is also the number of vanilla milkshakes Diane had during the Todyssey. The number she would have liked to have: All of them.
  • And finally one is the number of breakdowns suffered by the Big Rolling Crate.

0

  • The number of rainy days during our travels. We literally had zero rainy days! We had passing afternoon thunderstorms all three days in the Black Hills, we had a ten minute thunderstorm in the Tetons, we had a little drizzle in Seaside, OR, and we had passing showers on the last two days of the drive home, but we never had a single washout day. The sun was shining on us for a month. Oh that relentless Western sun! Always, always, always shining on us. It's been the sunniest summer of our lives, and one we will never forget.

1800 Miles in Under 40 Hours: It's exactly as fun as it sounds





We were on the road by 9AM on Thursday, July 28, and we didn't get off the road until 12:30 AM on Saturday, July 30. Our only stops in that time were


  • A very quick stop at Roosevelt National Park to stand at an overlook of the Painted Canyons in North Dakota's Badlands.


  • A one-hour lunch break at a Cracker Barrel somewhere in North Dakota (delicious fried chicken, btw)
  • And stops every 325 miles or so for gas.

Aside from that Cracker Barrel lunch, Diane and Todd ate snacks while they drove and drank a lot of coffee. It was overcast on Thursday and rained on and off, and Diane and Todd were actually grateful for that. For the first time in weeks they didn't need sunglasses and the rain helped keep the road cool, which was good for the Big Rolling Crate. They had thought they were driving into a massive heatwave, but actually they were driving with the front that was breaking up the heatwave, and good thing since the Big Rolling Crate tends to overheat and effectively has no AC (because when the AC runs the engine runs hotter so you can't run the AC when it's hot out).

North Dakota was long but we made it to Minnesota and then Wisconsin. Diane was driving when we crossed the state lines and as it was nearly one in the morning, she drove back to the Walmart in Tomah, WI where we'd stayed on the drive out, thinking we'd get some shut eye. Todd, however, had other ideas. Diane got in the back with me, Todd got behind the wheel, got a coffee at McDonald's, and got back on the highway.

Unfortunately, with no co-pilot to navigate, Todd made a mistake that should have told him it was time to get some shut-eye: As he drove on I94 East, he saw signs for I90, which he knew we needed to take to get home, so he exited I94----and got on I90 West. And he didn't realize it until he'd gone 45 miles and had returned to the Minnesota/Wisconsin border. He hadn't realized that I94 East and I90 East actually run together for a while, and thus caused himself two extra hours of driving.

Diane was a nervous wreck in the back of the Big Rolling Crate, so she hardly got any sleep. Finally at 5AM when Todd stopped for gas, she got back up front to help him navigate because we were approaching Chicago.



At the Illinois border we returned to the miserable land of toll roads. Between Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, we paid nearly $60 in tolls. In a car, it would have been cheaper, but still! Out west there were no toll roads. They know about living free out there.

We passed Chicago around 7:30 (really enjoyed that morning rush hour traffic!) and once we were outside the city, Todd passed the job of driving on to Diane. And so they alternated through the day. Driving, driving, driving. Construction zone after construction zone. Here a little rain shower, here a spot of sun. Driving, driving, driving. It's so noisy in the Big Rolling Crate that they had to shout to talk to each other and I think we're all going deaf a little. We were all dirty, cranky, stiff, and eager to just be done with the blasted driving.

As we drove through Ohio, Todd surprised Diane again, this time by conceding that there was no way we could drive straight through to Worcester (let alone Maine). It was too far, the Big Rolling Crate needed a break (the check engine light started coming on intermittently back in Montana), and we all needed sleep. We had two choices:

  • Take I90 through NY state (and pay a million more tolls) and sleep in a Walmart parking lot somewhere
  • Take I80 through PA and sleep at Diane's mom's house.
 We knew Diane's mom, Mammam Dot, as I call her, would probably be with Dave at his lake house, which is one of my all-time favorite places to visit, and which isn't too far off I84. I hadn't had a good walk in days, let alone a chance to run free or swim, so Diane called her mom and made a plan.

Oh, Pennsylvania, you're endless and hilly like a Western state but at lower elevation and with lower speed limits but faster traffic. Out west, the speed limit was often 70, 75, or even 80, but it seemed like not that many people really drove at 80 mph and we didn't feel our slow place was a danger to us, but back east, the speed limit is generally 65 or even 55, but everyone is going 80 and our top speed of 55 feels like a real hazard.

Around mile mark 111, we crested the highest point on I80 east of the Mississippi at 2225 feet. You'll recall we crossed the highest point on all of I80 weeks ago in Wyoming, so it feels like we had the full experience of I80.

We finally, finally, finally make it to the lake at 12:30 in the morning. Mammam Dot had waited up for us and greeted us with hugs. In the morning, I got to swim and run around and eat goose and deer poop and it was so much fun. At noon, when Todd told me to get back in the Big Rolling Crate, I was absolutely brokenhearted. We didn't even get to spend 12 whole hours there! But that's life on the road, I guess.

The drive from PA to MA was uneventful and even Connecticut didn't cause us too many slow downs, but remember, our top speed means we don't get anywhere fast. We got to Worcester around 6 and I was so happy to see our house! And Taco! It was just the same as when we left!

But we didn't even stay a whole hour. Todd got his windsurfer and Diane got her car and it was back on the road. I went with Diane in her small red crate, which is quiet and fast and has delightful air conditioning, and, at long last, around 10:30, we arrived at our final destination, Harpswell, Maine.



Today Todd promised me we aren't driving anywhere at all. In fact, we're staying here an entire week. I went swimming in the salt water this morning and have already romped around the yard a lot. 

It's funny to take a vacation after a monthlong vacation, but road trips are kind of a lot of work and we are all exhausted and ready for relaxation. We're thinking of this as a transitional week to help us readjust to normal life without being too disappointed that our big adventure had ended. 









The Long Ride Home


After the hot springs, we drove through Butte where Diane and Todd decided to eat a delicious lunch from Burger King. When they told the cashier they were from Massachusetts and were just driving through, she came outside to point out some Butte landmarks for us. 

Butte is a mining town surrounded by tall hills. On top of one hill is a massive statue of Mary that's bigger than the statue of a liberty. That was one landmark she told us about. The other was these scaffolds on the far hills that used to the way miners got down into the mines. Now they're being preserved and used for cultural activities like concerts, which is pretty neat. That was a whole tour of Butte because we'd sort of wasted a lot of time already (we hadn't exactly gotten an early start in Missoula) and we had a loooooong way to drive.

In the afternoon, Diane took over driving so Todd could rest for the night shift. As she drove, a weather alert came on the radio stating that a large thunderstorm with golf-ball sized hail was moving Southeast towards Billings. We were heading due east towards Billings at that very moment. Diane had actually seen the thundercloud in the distance a while before hearing the alert, but she knew from our experiences in Wyoming that it was far, far away. She definitely did not want to drive into golf-ball sized hail that can break windshields and would probably be the end of our solar panels so she walkie-talkied Todd and asked him to check the radar to see if we should stop and wait out the weather.

After some deliberation, he decided that it looked like if we just kept going at our slow and steady pace, we'd probably miss it. Nervously, Diane drove on. The picture above is one she took later, after Todd took over the driving in Billings, and as you can see, we were still driving towards one heck of a big thunderhead. 

We had decided not to stay on I90 through South Dakota, opting instead of I94 through North Dakota, for the sake of variety and also because it seemed there would be a lot more stuff in North Dakota so we'd have better options for our pitstops.

We drove and drove for hours always with that cloud out ahead of us until around sunset. The highway had begun to track northeast and the storm had moved off to our right. We stopped at a rest area for a stretch and got the most incredible glimpse of the storm cloud reflecting the sunset. It was as if the clouds were on fire.


As we drove, the view of the clouds only got better and better until finally Todd couldn't stand it and pulled over to the side of the road to take a picture.


This picture is one Diane took from inside the Big Rolling Crate while Todd took his real camera outside. When Todd came back to the window, he held out his hand to Diane and it took her a minute to understand why he was holding up ice cubes. Hail! Golf ball sized hail that had fallen here before we drove through. Due to our general slowness and several stops, we'd missed it, thank goodness.

For the sunset until midnight, we watched a spectacular display on both sides of us as we drove: There were thunderstorms out there on both sides lighting up the night sky for hours. Amazingly we only experienced the slightest bit of rain.

We arrived in Beach, North Dakota, the first town across the border, at 11:45, pulled into a truck stop, fell asleep for the night. We'd traveled 601 miles for the day, making it our single biggest one-day mileage of the trip, but we knew we needed to go even more miles next few days, so we all needed our rest.



Travelogue -- Half a Day in Missoula



After our big breakdown in Idaho and two days stranded at a slightly crumby hotel outside of Coeur D'Alene, we got on the road on Tuesday, July 26 around 11:00. Although we knew the clock was ticking and we had, oh, 2874 miles to go to get to Maine by Saturday as planned, we had to make one more stop first in Missoula, MT to visit Diane's college roommate Jeanne.

Way back at the beginning of our trip when we thought we were going to take I90 all the way to Seattle and then putter our way back East, we had planned to see Jeanne just after the fourth of July, but then we decided to go south to Colorado and save Montana for last before our big push for home.

In retrospect, saving Montana for last was probably not the best idea because

A. Montana is beautiful
B. There are tons of fun things to do in Montana
C. It was a bummer to have to rush through such a ridiculously gigantic state.

But things happened the way they did and we finally arrived in Missoula around 4:00 after a harrowing drive through a long, uphill construction zone that gave the Big Rolling Crate's radiator a real test. Thankfully we didn't overheat and after the mountains of Idaho, it was downhill to Missoula. As we drove Todd shocked, stunned, and stupefied Diane by saying that he thought we should stay the night at Jeanne's. Jeanne had offered to have us stay, but Diane had assumed we needed to cover more miles, after all, Missoula is only 160 or so miles from Coeur D'Alene. We hadn't stayed over with anyone else we visited, so this was wholly unexpected, but Diane was glad because she hadn't seen Jeanne in 13 years!

Jeanne and her daughter Helen greeted us with food and drinks and a dozen ideas of how we could pass a fun afternoon. We could ride bikes! We could take a hike! We could go climbing! We could go to a brewery! Helen, at the wise old age of 3, chimed in, "Brewery!" So that's what they decided to do. Because I'm a dog, I can't go to breweries, so I had to wait at Jeanne's. 

Todd said it would be no trouble to take the bikes off the Big Rolling Crate, an assertion you surely recognize by now as a lie because putting the bikes back on the Big Rolling Crate is a miserable ordeal that involves much cursing, sweat, blood, and maybe even tears, but he really, really wanted one more bike ride before the end of our Todyssey. 

Jeanne and her co-pilot Helen lead the way on a tour of the University of Montana and over a rail trail bridge over the Clark Fork, where Todd could not resist the temptation to take a really quick swim, and finally to the Dram Shop, a nice bar where Helen could get a delicious root beer and hang out in the play area while the grownups had beer. Diane and Todd had never before heard of a bar with a play area. You'll never see that in old Massachusetts.

When they came back to the house after their bike ride, Jeanne's husband Matt was home and he had the grill fired up for steak. Jeanne has a beautiful fenced in back yard so I got to hang out and relax in the cool evening air. I also got to have some steak.

I have to say, there are not a lot of people I can really relax around, but I liked Jeanne a lot. I even let her pet me a little. 

We didn't take a lot of pictures in Missoula because we were too busy visiting, so you'll just have to use your imagination to visualize all the fun we had. After dinner, we all got a good night's sleep, and good thing, too, because the next few days were going to prove exhausting.

On Wednesday morning, Todd fought with the bikes until they were securely strapped to the back of the Big Rolling Crate and we left Missoula with a promise to come back and visit again when we have time to stay a while.

The scenery was beautiful as we drove but we didn't stop to take pictures because we had over 2700 miles to go. We had a goal in the mind for the day: We needed to cross the border into North Dakota, because as Jeanne said, once you get out of Montana, you're a quarter of the way back to Massachusetts. Here's a picture Diane took as we rumbled down the highway.


About an hour from Missoula, we began seeing signs for Fairmont Springs Resort that advertised hot springs pools. Hot springs were something Diane and Todd both wished they'd had more of back in Idaho, so they decided to stop. After all, Todd said, we can still have some fun. Once again, I couldn't go with them, a fact I found extremely depressing.

Unlike the hot spring they went to in Boise National Forest, which was an undeveloped hot spring, Fairmont Springs are a developed area, which means the natural hot springs water directed into giant swimming pools. There's a big indoor pool and a big outdoor pool, each of which is around 95 degrees. The water constantly flows in and out and is minimally treated with chlorine. There are also indoor and outdoor hot tubs, in which the water is about 105 degrees. At the outdoor pool there was even a huge waterslide that was fed with hot springs water! Todd rode it a lot of times. He's pretty sure he was the oldest person in line, expect maybe one or two dads riding down with little kids. But isn't this trip all about being young at heart? 



That time we broke down in Idaho

Monday, July 25, 2016

Turns out there was no reason to rush in Coeur D'Alene. We were only a few miles down the highway when the Big Rolling Crate decided it was time to take a break. It happened like this:

Sunday morning, we had noticed that the truck was making some new and usual noises. It sounded like a cat was stuck under the hood. Todd and Diane both noticed it but decided (stupidly, it turns out) to ignore it.

Sunday afternoon, when we got on I-90 East towards Missoula, we'd been on the road a matter of minutes when Todd understood something was wrong. It seemed he had lost power steering. At first he thought he'd just drive to Missoula (about 150 miles) and get it looked at there because power steering is nice but not essential. 

Thankfully, though, there was a very large "chain up area" on the side of the road where trucks can stop to put on chains in the winter so he pulled over. When he did, he discovered he also had no power brakes. At that moment, he realized the tack was also not working, so he figured it was the serpentine belt. This was just before 2:00 in the afternoon.

We rolled to a stop, he turned off the truck, and popped the hood, at which point we all heard a strange bubbling noise. The truck had overheated because the belt runs and the fan. Coolant was boiling out of the radiator. The situation was clearly not looking good.

Diane said, "Should I call AAA?"

And Todd said, "Shhhh, let me think."

The belt that had broken was a replacement Todd had put on before we left, and it hadn't been without its problems. It had jumped off the pulleys once before, although nothing like this where it was literally shredded and wound around the fan. When Todd put it on back home, he'd actually kept the old belt, so he decided the first step should be try to put that one back on. He got out his wrenches and the old belt and carefully (because everything under the hot was blazing hot) set about snaking it around and setting it. He planned to get that on, add a pint of water to the radiator, get more coolant at the next stop, and hope that was the end of the trouble.

He got the belt in place and turned on the truck. Instead of the usual rumble it sort of chortled, a plume of black smoke came out, and the old belt snapped in half. The problem, it turns out, was not the belt but the tensioner pulley. Diagnosis complete and time to call a tow truck because there was no fixing it ourselves.

Diane called AAA and after answering a ton of questions learned that AAA doesn't cover ambulances. Fat lot of good that membership is doing us. As we sat there, Diane also noted that this was the first time in her life that she'd been in a vehicle that broke down to the point of needing a tow truck. She recalls being a very little girl in her mother's station wagon, or maybe it was a minivan, and having it stall out or something on I-81 in Dunmore, PA and her mother praying that the tractor trailers coming up the highway wouldn't hit them, and instead a tractor trailer came up behind them, stopped traffic, and helped her mom get the car off the road. That event may have ended with a tow truck, but if it did, Diane can't remember it, so at the very least, this was the first time in her memory that she was in a vehicle in need of a tow. She has also never been in a car that ran out of gas, and she hopes she doesn't have to experience that on this road trip.

Todd googled towing companies and found one called Superior Towing who claimed to be able to move trucks no matter how heavy. The person we talked to said it would cost about $250 and his last truck just went out on a "winch out" job, so it would be 1.5 to 2 hours. What choice did we have? We had to wait and we had to pay. So that's what we did.

It was the hottest time of the day and getting uncomfortably warm in the Big Rolling Crate, so Todd put one of the sun deflectors over the front and opened up all the windows. He took me out for a little stroll along the highway and Diane made calls to a hotel and a local Chevy dealer. Diane and Todd started packing things up for a hotel and around 3:00, the tow truck arrived! He was early! They didn't need him on the winch job after all. We said a few prayers of gratitude and stood back to watch him prepare the Big Rolling Crate for towing.


This guy was a true pro and as nice as can be. If you ever need a tow in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, call Superior. They get the job done. I had to ride in the Big Rolling Crate while it was towed, while Todd and Diane rode in the tow truck. It was a little scary, but the ride wasn't too long.

In the end, it cost less than $190, which was a pleasant surprise for Diane, since she'd told Todd she'd pay for the tow, whatever it cost.

The Chevy dealer had the tow truck park the Big Rolling Crate around back and we left the keys for the service department for the morning. A really nice salesperson named Mark offered us water and asked how we were getting to our hotel. At that point, we honestly had no idea. As far as we know, there are no Ubers in Coeur D'Aene and even if there were, Ubers and other cabs aren't big on dogs. Mark offered to give us a lift, so just before five o'clock, we piled our stuff into the back of his pickup truck and he took us the 4.5 miles to our hotel. People in Idaho are so nice, you wouldn't even believe it.

This hotel in Post Falls, ID is the cheapest we've stayed at, and, not surprisingly, the least nice, but it's good enough for me. Once we checked in on Sunday, Diane and Todd walked across the street to a truck stop and got subs from Subway. Todd had turkey and Diane had an Italian BMT and I got to have a little of each. 

There's a pool, which obviously I can't go in, but Diane and Todd went last night and today, too. They thought there was a hot tub, but there isn't. The pool is indoors, though, and so thoroughly heated that it's like a giant bathtub, so good enough.

There's free wifi (hence the flurry of blog posts) and free coffee and a complimentary breakfast that's not half bad. I had some of Todd's scrambled eggs and some of Diane's English muffin with peanut butter and found them both satisfactory.

Diane woke up at 7 and called the Chevy dealer right away to explain our predicament and see if we should book the hotel for another night. The nice technician said he'd call back ASAP. Around 10 AM he gave the bad news that we should book another night in the hotel, and he sent a shuttle to take Diane over there and get a courtesy car, so now we've got a brand new silver Malibu with a moon roof and leather seats, but Diane and Todd haven't let me ride in it because I make a mess out of cars.



Diane and Todd took the car for a spin into Coeur D'Alene this afternoon and had lunch at a place called Crafted. The leftovers were the best ones yet. Sweet potato fries and a chicken Parmesan sandwich! Yum! 


The heatwave has reached Northern Idaho, so they didn't do much else but eat and come back, and I was glad, because hotels make me nervous. 

This evening we got word from the Chevy dealer that the Big Rolling Crate will be ready by mid morning tomorrow and we'll be back on the road. Next stop Missoula, and we mean it this time!

After all, we're supposed to be in Maine on Saturday... 

This might be the last update until we get back to the East Coast, but don't worry, I'll let you know how everything turns out once we get there. It's just I've learned that when we're covering a lot of miles in a short amount of days there's no time for blogging.

Wish us safe travels and no more road mishaps! We've had enough of that.

 

Travelogue -- Coeur D'Alene


By now it'll be no surprise to know that I went swimming in Coeur D'Alene because I have been swimming in every body of water that wasn't full of algae and bacteria since our road trip began. 

Coeur D'Alene is quite close to Spokane, so we arrived Sunday morning and found a great parking space for the Big Rolling Crate right near the big park downtown on the lake. Coeur D'Alene is awesome! We walked on these paths on Tubbs Hill that went along the lake with big cliffs where kids were jumping into the water and beaches where people were swimming and sunbathing. Everyone was so nice and friendly and fit-looking. The only downside was how many dogs there were. After my swim, I had to go back to the Big Rolling Crate and chill out so Diane and Todd could swim.


Todd jumped off cliffs, but Diane thought that was too scary, so she just observed. I was glad she was there to protect him, since I was being prevented from doing my job by my fear of other dogs.

We only had about two hours to spend in Coeur D'Alene because we were going to Missoula to see Diane's college roommate, so we didn't do anything else, but all of us agreed: We could have spent a full and happy vacation in this fabulous lakeside town.

Travelogue -- Hiking in Washington State



On Saturday, July 23, our return East officially (and slowly) began. Weeks ago, we'd set July 23 as our turnaround day, although we also thought we'd be in Montana, so it's fair to see we were already behind schedule by being in Aberdeen, WA. We hadn't gotten the best night's sleep in Walmart, and we were all a little cranky and distracted. 

Todd had driven five miles or so when he noticed something was wrong with the tack, and Diane said, "Uh, this might be a dumb question, but you did switch back over to the main batteries, right?"

And Todd said, "Shit," and pulled over.

You see the Big Rolling Crate has two sets of batteries: The main batteries that crank the truck and the auxiliary batteries that provide power to the cabin. The auxiliary batteries can be used in lots of cool ways. They recharge either via solar panels on the roof or by plugging in at a camper like an RV and they provide power via some USB outlets and an inverter. So far we've had far more electricity than we've needed. We could have had a TV or a small fridge with all the juice we've got. 

But the one thing we're never supposed to do is start the truck on the auxiliary batteries. Never, ever, ever. There's a switch that you can flip to shut off the main batteries, and if you do that and you try to start the engine, it will crank on the auxiliaries, and that's what happened. 

The good news was the truck actually did start and no harm seems to have come to the auxiliary batteries. Todd flipped the switch, restarted us on the main batteries, and we continued on.

We decided to skip Seattle because A. There's no such thing as a quick trip to a major city, B. There's be lots of traffic, which is no fun in a car, let alone a 10,000 lb ambulance, and C. We'd already decided we aren't really doing cities on this trip. So we took a road that allowed us to bypass the major city traffic, and as soon as we did, Todd began to feel regret.

We'd come so far! Seattle looked so cool on a map! We were missing it! 

So we got off the highway and deliberated. Diane took over driving and offered to drive us back--it was only 40 miles--but Todd wasn't sure what to do. Eventually he concluded it was too late and made up his mind to pout and be sad that we were neither going to Seattle nor Mount Rainier, since there was no easy drives to Rainier and no easy hikes there anyway, and we just didn't have time.

The weather was so overcast that even though we were right near Rainier, we never even saw it. At least when we were driving into Oregon we saw Mount Hood and had nice views of it, but Rainier makes its own weather (as all big mountains seem to do), so we didn't even get a look at it.

While Diane drove, Todd did research and found a state park right off the highway with a trail to a waterfall, and everyone agreed I needed a good walk, so we stopped, but the experience was frustrating from the start. 

The park was called Ollalie State Park, and we were planning to hike the Twin Falls Trail. We had to pay a day-use fee of $10, and the only way we could make ten and not overpay was by paying with quarters and dimes. Diane filled out the envelope and tried to put it in the self-service box, but with all those quarters and dimes, it wouldn't fit in the slot no matter what she did. Finally she gave up, set the envelope, money and all, back with the unused envelopes and a note that said, "Make the slot big enough for change," and hoped no one stole our fee and got us in trouble, because we really did pay.

Todd read some info about the trail and learned the waterfall got 5-stars so we were excited. The trail review also said not to bother going up above the bridge because the trail up there wasn't interesting  and there was too much highway noise. That was fine with us because as we understood it, to go to the bridge would be a 1.2 mile hike, so round trip it would be nearly 2.5 miles, plenty on a warm, humid day, especially because it was a pretty steep path.

We followed the trail markers from our parking area and quickly realized we were on the wrong end of the path. In fact we had to do the boring parts to get to the good parts, and our hike would end up being more like 4 miles round trip. Oops.

The other problem was that trail was pretty crowded. We expected it to be a lot like the waterfall hike we did in Oregon, where there were other people, but not too many, but this was much more full of people, which was hard on me because I get so nervous, and then you add in other dogs, and oh boy. It was rough. I had to be carried a few times, which is terribly shaming.

The waterfalls were very cool, but because most people had come up the easy way, it was mobbed full of people and I was really very scared. Nonetheless we went on to the bottom of the falls, and I was so happy to get to swim. I was hot and thirsty from all that straining against my leash.




Todd took a lot of pictures and then we made our way back up and out of the waterfall area and up the long boring stupid trail we hadn't meant to take to get back to our car. Along the path were tons of berries which Diane discovered to be salmonberries. Todd and Diane tried them and found them to be weird, like big, soft, tart raspberries. There were also very pretty wild flowers and great big trees.



After our hike, we were all very hot and sweaty and hungry. None of us had eaten much. Todd decided we'd find somewhere nearby to eat and we got back on the road. Right away the highway began climbing through a mountain pass and the Big Rolling Crate rapidly came up to a temp of 210, which is our pull-over temp, so we got off the highway again and discovered we were near a ski area in a place called Snoqualmie Pass. 

There was a road that paralleled the highway with some restaurants, so we took that road and came to a place called Iron Horse State Park, which is basically a rail trail. The area where we stopped included Snoqualmie Tunnel, which was only .4 miles down the trail, and Todd really wanted to go see it because he thinks it's good to do things that scare you sometimes. Even though we were hot and tired, Diane and I went along.


The tunnel is really long. We aren't sure how long exactly, but if the scale on the trail map sign is to be believed, more than a quarter mile.


A cold, musty air blows out of the tunnel and a sort of mist hangs in front of it. The tunnel isn't lit and it is very dark and frosty inside. We have headlamps but hadn't thought to bring them, but we walked in anyway.


It didn't take long before the dark made Diane very creeped out, and she told Todd he could go as far as he wanted, but she was getting out of there. Obviously I had to stay with Todd as it is my sworn duty to protect him from all dangers, real and imagined, but I wanted to turn back, too.

Todd and I only went a little ways further before we turned around and I was relieved.

Before we left the state park, Diane stopped at the ladies room and got a happy surprise: There were coin-op showers! Diane and Todd were starting to smell a little funky from our beach day yesterday and sweaty hike that afternoon, so they were excited for a nice hot shower. They'd planned to go to a truck stop, but there we were at a very clean state park, so they took the opportunity that had presented itself.

When we finally got back on the road, it was all downhill driving and the Big Rolling Crate was thankful. We were all starving, so we stopped at the first town where there were food signs, a little place called Cle Elum. Diane finally got what she'd been craving since Boulder: Mexican Food.


I never knew how yummy taco meat and enchilada fillings were until that night, but let me tell you, they are pretty darn good.

After dinner, Todd was sleepy so Diane drove and he dozed in the back with me while Diane drove us almost all the way to Spokane. She stopped in Ritzville about 40 miles or so from Spokane because we were almost out of gas, and she confessed that she had been pretty nervous that there wouldn't be anything in Ritzville and we'd run out of diesel altogether because the last hundred miles had been as desolate as can be. Todd and I slept through all those boring miles, but we were pretty glad she hadn't run us out of fuel.

Todd drove us the last few miles to Spokane and another Walmart, which we would call home for the night. As we drove, the moon rose yellow and startling over the Spokane airport. It was beautiful. When we got there, Diane got another thing she'd been craving since Boulder: A delicious vanilla milkshake.

In case you are unaware, Carl's Jr makes amazing milkshakes. I know, because I shared Diane's, and I could have eaten the whole thing myself if she'd let me.

Now you may be wondering why Diane had to wait weeks for a simple vanilla milkshake. That's a great question. I mean, you can get a vanilla milkshake at every McDonald's. But Diane didn't want a McDonald's milkshake. She wanted a real one. In Lander, she could have had one, but she was too full of burger. She did get one at another place in Wyoming and when she took a sip it was so disgusting she refused to drink it. It was like they'd dumped extra sugar in or it was made out of mostly cool whip.  Anyway, when she saw that Carl's Jr makes real milkshakes, she didn't care that she was full of Mexican food, and as far as I can tell, she still has no regrets about that decision.









Travelogue -- The Washington Coast


After our romp in the ocean at Seaside, OR, we headed north towards Astoria because back in Idaho several people had told us it was really nice. 

Astoria sits on the mouth of the Columbia River. On the other side of the river is Washington State. Astoria's claim to pop culture fame is that it is where Goonies was filmed. Todd and I have never seen Goonies, though, so that doesn't mean much to us.

When we got to Astoria, Todd did an excellent job of parallel parking the Big Rolling Crate in a spot that gave us 2 hours of free parking, and therefore two hours of exploration. The first thing we did was walk along a boardwalk on the river.


This is the view looking out towards where the Columbia flows into the ocean. That big bridge connects Oregon and Washington.


And this is looking upstream. Those boats are massive cargo ships.

There's a trolley that runs along the boardwalk that passed by as we walked. It was pretty neat, but also I was a little afraid of it. We walked to a deck where you could go up a flight of steps to an overlook and Todd had to carry me up there because the steps were the metal-grate variety, which are no good for dogs. Diane took the above pictures from that overlook.

After our walk, I took a nap in the Big Rolling Crate while Diane and Todd had lunch at the Wet Dog Cafe. Todd had the best fish and chips of his life and Diane had a homemade bratwurst sandwich. They came back very happy and gave me a little taste of their leftovers.

Now that everyone was fed and happy, we crossed the big bridge to Washington and drove the Washington Scenic Coastal Byway. We have driven so many scenic byways on this trip! The views are great, by the twists and turns! I'm ready for a straight, flat highway.

We passed a place called "Dismal Gulch," which is a hilarious name for a place, and then we came to another place called "Cape Disappointment," which is a state park and another hilarious name, so we stopped to check it out. It was actually quite beautiful and we never found out why it has such a silly name.


We decided to head to Aberdeen, another place that had been recommended to us, so we continued along the coast, but we initially missed our turn, which led to a detour to "Seaview," a beach on a peninsula called Long Beach. 

It's a beach people drive right up onto, which was a pretty odd site. All down the beach were trucks and jeeps and even some small cars. While I've seen areas on the Cape Cod National Seashore where you can drive onto the beach, the scene in Washington (and Oregon, where you can also drive onto the beach) is much different. On Cape Cod, not many people actually drive on the sand, but here it seems everyone does.


We drove onto the beach in Oregon where the sand was very firm and then we turned around and got out of there before our 10,000 lb truck could settle in. All the way across the country Todd had been joking that he wanted to touch the wheels to the ocean, but he didn't actually do that because even he could see it was a terrible idea.

Anyway, we didn't drive onto the beach in Washington because the sand was very soft. Instead we parked and took a walk and the sun came out and it was very pleasant. As we walked along, Todd accidentally dropped his phone and when he picked it up he got a big surprise. Black grains of sand were stuck to it in a crazy pattern like one of those silly magnetic desk toys.


The sand didn't break his phone. He broke his phone way back in Boulder when he was riding his bike to pick up the Big Rolling Crate from the garage. It's okay, though, because it's an old phone. It was Diane's 3.5 years. When she got a new one before our trip, she put Todd's number on her old one, since his phone had a broken screen. It only took him about 2.5 weeks to break the screen on this one, too, which might be a sign that he shouldn't have a smartphone.


After our walk, we went back to the Big Rolling Crate and took out the jetboil camp stove and tea things and made a cup of afternoon tea in the shade of the Big Rolling Crate. Sitting there, by the side of the road, Diane and Todd were basically an advertisement for ambulance-camping. Everyone who passed by had something to say about our "rig." Generally, they seemed to think it was cool. One guy confessed he's always dreamed of converting an ambulance into a camper, so we gave him a tour and told him all about it.



After tea, we continued on to Aberdeen. When we got there, we wondered why it had been recommended to us. The town seemed a bit down on its luck. We looked on a map and found a beach with the very Massachusetts name of "Cohasset" and realized we could get there just in time for sunset, so that's what we did. 

Even though it was overcast, the sunset was beautiful.


Todd on the dunes taking pictures with his real camera.


The clouds lit up by sunset.


The colors gradually fading.

As we walked back to the car, we saw the craziest animal-washed-up-on-beach ever:


Deer? Moose? Elk? Horse? Couldn't tell you, but this isn't something you see on Cape Cod, that's for sure.

In the growing twilight, we drove back to the Walmart in Aberdeen to crash for the night. It was one of our earliest Walmart arrivals yet, which was nice because we were all tired from our big beach day. When we pulled into the parking lot, we were shocked to see another ambulance-camper! It was the first fellow ambulance-camper we'd seen on our whole trip so we parked right by it in hopes of meeting its owner.

In the morning, Todd did meet its owner, a single guy from California. The back of his had a small sleeping bunk on one side and a bunch of surf boards, windsurfers, and a motorbike in the back. He told Todd he's never going back to California. Apparently he plans to be an ambulance-camping bum forever.

Aberdeen's pop culture claim to fame is that it is the hometown of Kurt Cobain. It seems like just the sort of grungy town to produce a Kurt Cobain. In fact, the Walmart parking lot, we saw a lot of would-be Cobains in plaid flannel shirts. When we pulled into our parking space Friday night, we were surprised when a really beat up old van pulled up between us and a really beat up old pickup truck. A guy got out of the van and popped the hood of the pick up  and started doing to mechanic work that seemed to last until about 2 in the morning and included changing at least two of the wheels on the pickup.

We weren't too sorry to get the heck out of there in the morning.











Travelogue -- Toes in the Pacific Ocean


Thursday, we woke up early at our Oregon Walmart and Todd spotted something he'd been wishing for for weeks: A car wash with a big truck bay. He scrubbed the Big Rolling Crate until it was shiny as new and he vacuumed out the back where it was full of dust and dirt from camping and we got back on the road.

Wednesday night, we couldn't see what the scenery was like in Oregon, but by the light of day we saw that we weren't missing much. Rolling hills of scrubby brush and brownness. Not much to see. For a while. And then, all of a sudden, a huge river in the wasteland: The Mighty Columbia.

While the river was massive, at first, it wasn't all that scenic to tell the truth. The hills were as brown and dull on either side as they'd been before we got to the river. After a little while though we passed a sign that we were entering the "Scenic Columbia River Gorge," and the scenery began to change. The hills were covered in tall pines and wild flowers and they became steeper and more dramatic.

We don't have a lot of pictures since we didn't stop driving, but here's one Diane took from the window as we drove:


The highway goes right along the river for miles and miles. After lunch, Diane drove and Todd did some research to find a nice place to take a walk. He came up with John B. Yeon State park and Elowah Falls. We had some trouble finding the trailhead, and the debate over whose fault that was might never be solved, but in getting lost, we did stumble across these yummy blackberries.


Eventually we found the trail and set off and as we walked, we all realized something: We were back in the land of humidity. Everything was so clammy. For the better part of three weeks we've been in places where the humidity was always about 10-12%. The air was so dry you couldn't drink enough water to keep your mouth from feeling dry. It was hard to get used to, but we finally had, and there were lots of nice things about it: Laundry and towels dry crazy fast, bread never gets moldy, and even though it is hot out, it doesn't feel oppressive. But in the mountains above the Columbia it was more like home--sticky and sort of uncomfortable even though the temperature was only in the low 70s.

The hike was steep but not too hard and it had a pretty big payoff.


This nifty waterfall!

Here are some other pics from our hike:


This was a very steep part of the trail so the path made a hairpin turn.


These trees were completely covered in thick moss.


I got to swim below the waterfall.


After our hike, we got back on the road to Portland, and after a small traffic jam, our first since Chicago!, we made it to that hippie city. We drove around some hip-looking neighborhoods and then crossed the river to downtown. Todd found a perfect parking space on the street for the Big Rolling Crate and we took a walk in a big park. I was kind of scared to be around so many people and dogs, but I always like a walk.


Todd liked this statute of Teddy Roosevelt, which makes sense, because Todd, like that old Rough Rider, believes in "The Strenuous Life."


Our walk took us to a park along the river where Todd and I posed for this picture.

After our walk, I rested while Todd and Diane got some dinner. I was a little disappointed that there were no leftovers for me. They ate frozen yogurt for dinner, which is ridiculous considering that we were in a city full of delicious smells that suggested many real food options were available.

Before we left Portland, Todd studied our trusty old atlas and, based only on its name and proximity to Portland, choose the town of Seaside for our destination. To be honest, until we got there, I didn't fully understand that the Pacific was ocean, and I wasn't sure why it was such a big deal that we get there. I mean, we've been heading west for three weeks going from place to place, mostly mountains, and I liked all of them. Every time I got used to a place, we had to leave it, and I didn't know what could be so special about this Pacific place. And then we arrived. And I understood.

The sand! The surf! The sea breeze! The salt air! I LOVE THE BEACH! 

At first, we when got to Seaside and pulled into a parking lot, I was cranky and tired and hungry and not that interested. Then I got a whiff of that salt air and I was off like a shot towards the water! 

This beach was a lot different from where we go in Maine or where we go on Cape Cod. The sand stretched a long way between where the hotels were and the water. All up and down the beach, people were having bonfires that lit up the twilight and scented the air. It was very peaceful, even though it was kind of cool outside and a little drizzly.

We got a hotel for the night right on the beach and we were all pretty happy campers.


In the morning, we slept in and then Diane did her favorite hotel trick: She asked for a late check out. So far, every time she's asked, she's been given one. Diane and Todd went out for breakfast Andy hen they came back and got me for a big swim.

It wasn't very hot out and it was overcast, but we all agreed, we came all this way, we had to swim. We raced down the sand and through some tide pools and straight into the rising tide. The water was much warmed than it is in Maine at this time of year, much to all of our surprise. We swam and splashed and ran and Diane and Todd laughed at me as I raced the waves and we picked up some sand dollars that had drifted ashore. If only we had more time, we could have passed many happy days here.
















Travelogue -- Scenic Idaho, Famous Potatoes

Sunday, July 24, 2016

I'm writing this from a hotel near Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. We weren't planning on a hotel tonight. We were planning to be in Missoula, Montana, visiting Diane's college roommate Jeanne. The Big Rolling Crate had other ideas. A few miles from Coeur D'Alene this afternoon, it decided it had had enough and quit. So here we are, at a hotel, and the Big Rolling Crate is 4.5 miles away at the Chevy dealer, who will hopefully be able to fix it tomorrow so we can stay on schedule to make it to Maine by Saturday.

On the upside, Diane and I have time to work on the blog because we haven't made any updates in a whole week and so much has happened!

As we mentioned in our last round of updates, on Monday, July 18, we visited the Craters of the Moon. To be honest, up to that point, we were all sort of wondering if the whole "Scenic Idaho" thing, as the license plates here proclaim, was intended sarcastically. Southern Idaho is kind of ugly. Everything is brown. Brown hills. Brown plains. The towns are tiny (we passed places with populations under 100!). A huge swatch of what we drove through ran along a big fence and a restricted area for some nuclear laboratory, and the most interested geographical features were hideous lava rocks. 

Todd kept saying, "There's a numbered dirt road. We can probably camp up there."

And Diane kept saying, "Why in the world would we want to camp here?"

Nonetheless, we headed towards the big green area on the map where all the National Forests of Idaho begin. We turned off of the main road we'd been traveling towards Sun Valley and the Sawtooth National Forest, and things became scenic pretty quickly actually.

Fun fact courteous of the park ranger we chatted with in the Sawtooths: Sun Valley was the first ski area with a chair lift (as opposed to a tow rope or other sort of lift that runs on the ground), which was commissioned by the owner of the Union Pacific railroad in order to get more people to ride the rails in the winter.

We didn't linger in Sun Valley, though, because it was already getting well on into the evening and we had a campground in mind that was still a ways down the road. We made the long, slow climb up into the National Forests, stopping a few times to prevent overheating, a reality we are totally accustomed to at this point, and then back down into the valley. 

Eventually we came to the Alturus Lake area and found our intended campground, The North Shore Campground, which was a small National Forest campground with a handful of lakefront sites. We got the last spot, and it was perfect.


While we were getting settled for the night, two other campers came over to ask about our "rig," which is what people call campers of all varieties. It was the most curious its we've had directed our way in a campground, but it was the start of a trend that would continue throughout our stay in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. People here are so friendly and they aren't shy about asking questions.

We stayed for two nights at this camp, and the timing could not have been better if we'd planned it. We were here, right on the lake under clear skies, for the full moon.

Diane and Todd have turned into pretty lazy campers by now. When we first began our trip, they were all about taking out the big camp stove and cooking, grinding up coffee by hand, washing the dishes with the solar shower, and all that stuff, but here they used instant coffee, paper plates and disposable utensils, and even dipped into the "emergency meals" to have freeze dried beef stew straight out of a pouch for dinner.


I got to have the leftovers, and let me tell you, they were delicious.

We arrived fairly late Monday night, and we left Wednesday morning, so Tuesday was our only full day in the Sawtooths. In the morning, we went on a lovely hike where we saw beautiful wild flowers and I got to swim in the lake.

Todd took the good pictures of wild flowers with his real camera, which we have not way of getting onto Diane's iPad for the blog right now, so you'll have to settle for this one:


The water in the lake was icy cold because we were up at an elevation of about 7,400 feet. It was also as clear and blue as can be, and I loved it.


I was pretty worn out from all our recent activities, so in the afternoon I took a nap while Diane and Todd rode their bikes a mile or so down the road to a swimming beach that a park ranger had said was nice because the water there was "warmer." Warmer, of course, is a relative term. Diane says the water was as cold as the ocean in Maine in May. Todd managed to get all the way in and swim a little, but Diane never got more than knee deep.

On Wednesday morning, after instant coffee and another fight with the bikes, which really do not like being strapped to the back of the Big Rolling Crate, we headed through the forest toward Boise. As we drove, Todd realized that we had driven into such a remote area that there was not one single radio station on the FM dial. He was really happy about that because his whole goal on this trip was to get far from civilization.

We made a lot of stops on the way to Boise. The first was Redfish Lake, another big, clear, cold, popular camping spot. It was beautiful, a lot like the Tetons, except I was actually allowed to do things here.


While we were there, I had the extreme pleasure of rolling in a dead fish on the lakeshore, and then I had to face the utter humiliation of being given a bath in a marina parking lot. I was so embarrassed. I don't know what Diane and Todd hate so much about me smelling so great.

Shortly after our stop at Redfish Lake, we crossed into Boise National Forest, which was more crazy steep mountains and ridiculous mountain roads full of curves and ups and downs that make Diane and Todd very nervous about the state of the Big Rolling Crate. 

We stopped for a hike at the Warm Creek Trail. It was very steep, very dusty, and did not seem to actually have anything to do with any warm creeks, at least not where we were, but the views were nice.


We had to drive a long dirt road to get to the trailhead, and after our hike, instead of turning right back to the highway, we explored the dirt road more to see if we could get to an access point of the Payette River. When we finally did, Todd and I took a quick swim while Diane just waded. The water was, once again, very cold!


The river was very fast flowing and deep in the middle. I swam in a pool right up against the bank. Todd got into the deeper part.


It was getting on into the afternoon by the time we left, and Diane was eager for us to get a move on because mountain driving is very slow and she wanted to make sure we made it to Boise that night as planned, but we'd only gone a short ways when Todd saw something that made him pull over suddenly to the side of the road.

What he saw was a place where people were swimming in the river and splashing in waterfalls that emptied into it. He turned around and drove back up to the parking area and when she saw the sign, Diane became giddy. They weren't just waterfalls. They were hot springs. 

I couldn't go in the hot springs, which was fine with me because I prefer cold water, but Diane and Todd paid the $5 parking fee and took their time relaxing in the hot water. 


While they were down there, some white water rafting trips floated past. In this picture you can see that the water dripping down the rocks is yellow from the sulfur of the hot springs. The river is the same icy one we swam in the earlier. Diane says that where the hot (VERY hot) water from the springs mixes into the river, it's like bath water. 

Believe it or not, our adventures for the day weren't even over yet. While we were at the hot springs, some smoke began drifting over the ridge, and we all knew what it reminded us of: Colorado. There was definitely a wildfire burning nearby, so we decided to make haste and get out of there because we've had enough of that. What we didn't know was that by driving to Boise we were headed straight for it. 

The hilly road gave the Big Rolling Crate a heck of a workout on the ride out. We stopped at summit to let the engine cool down and Todd happened to get out and walk around the back and notice the exhaust pipe was hanging down. Apparently our dirt road earlier that day had knocked the rusty old thing loose.



Fortunately the Big Rolling Crate has a tool shed and Todd had brought some wire, so he strung it up and we continued on our way.

This was some of the wildest, least populated road we'd traveled yet, which was a concern as the fuel gauge began to dip towards E. We were all holding our breath to see if we would make it to a town with diesel. We definitely cut it close, because it seems most of the towns out there are ghost towns. Fortunately we were able to fuel up and continue our journey.

Shortly after gassing up, we came to a huge lake deep down in a gorge and a sight none of us had ever seen before: A helicopter picking up water to drop on the wildfire, which we'd been approaching this whole time.


We stopped and watched the helipcopter make three or four passes. Diane took a cool video of it but the app she's using for a our blog doesn't let us upload videos :(

At last we drove on, the hills all around us blackened and still smoldering, and soon we came to the town of Boise. 


We parked right by the State House and I explored the soft grass around the big building. Then Diane and Todd went to a nice restaurant called Bittercreek Ale House for dinner. They brought me back some poutine, which is officially the yummiest thing I've ever eaten.


Diane wanted to just crash at a Walmart outside of Boise for the night, but Todd was fired up and the proximity of Oregon and the Pacific Time Zone.

A few weeks ago, when we abandoned I-90 in South Dakota and headed south fo Colorado, Todd had decided he didn't want to go all the way to the pacific and that we'd just camp all around the mountains instead. That night in Boise, he changed his mind again and decided we needed to just do it to complete our cross country adventure.

We picked out a Walmart in Oregon past the time zone line and drove on. We crossed time zones at 12:10 Mountain Time, which was as 11:10 Pacific Time. We gained an hour just like that! A few minutes later, we crossed the 45th Parallel, the theoretical halfway point between the equator and the North Pole (the actual halfway point is some kilometers north). 

At last, at 12:51 Pacific Time, we arrived at Walmart in Island City, OR, and we all fell sound asleep.

















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