Thursday, December 17, 2015

Boat Yard - Still "on the hard"

Tracy and Layla are eager to get back in the water

It is now mid-December and Layla is still languishing in the boat yard ("on the hard"). We have completed a few more boat tasks and tied up an assortment of loose ends before we make the final decision to put Layla in the water and head south. A boat person described life at the end of the year as "Just like a roll of toilet paper. As you get near the end, the faster it goes." Somehow the time has just flown by and we remain here.

Cleaning up the "dynaplate" (necessary for radio "goodness")

We have watched more of our friends from the boat yard make it back into the water and head south.

Stein and Bud making plans

Our favorite Norwegian, Stein, on Anna Rose, just left some days ago. We know we will catch up with him somewhere in Florida, possibly Fernandina Beach.

Anna Rose about to head south

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Happy Tanksgiving!

By Mia on Sailing Vessel Black Cat.

Although we are not cruising, it feels like we are with many of the cruisers we are meeting in the boat yard or at the City Docks.  Among them, we introduced the family and crew on Sailing Vessel Black Cat (Bernard, Karine, Mia, Victor, and crew member Alain) from Montreal, Canada to their first American Thanksgiving.  We enjoyed turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans amandine, broccoli salad, wine, and Canadian maple syrup pie.  Mmmmmmm.  Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving (or we should say Tanksgiving).

Bernard, Alain, Karine, Mia, and Victor aboard their boat Black Cat.

We just bid farewell to Black Cat and crew Sunday morning on their journey to the British Virgin Islands.  We hope to catch up with them somewhere along the way.

Adding another layer of caulk around the leaky chimney.

What have we been up to lately?  Just finishing up a few house and boat projects before putting Layla back in  the water.  After three weeks of rain, we discovered that our one year old new roof had a leak around the chimney.  This was exceptional rain.  In just one day, we had over eight inches of rain.  Our roofer has made three attempts to fix the leak.  We may know after tomorrow when it is expected to rain again.

Measuring the memory foam topper to fit the new split mattress for the pullman berth.

Another project entailed making it easier to access the storage under our pullman berth.  First we did a test run with our old mattress by cutting it in two pieces width-wise at our knees. It worked great. Now we could easily gain access to storage without both of us holding up the heavy mattress.  By cutting the mattress at our knees, we would not "fall in the crack".  We then bought a 5" queen size mattress foam from Mill Outlet Village fabric shop in New Bern, NC, and used the old mattress as a template to cut the new split mattress.  We then made covers for the two pieces.  To make the bed even more comfortable, we bought a 2 1/2" queen size memory foam topper which we cut to size to fit the split mattress, and also made a cover.  We can't wait to sleep on the boat again.

As you may see, we have modified the format of the blog, just for something different.  We hope you like it. Send us a note.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Art of Travel by Truck and Tent

Campsite at Castle Mountain Campground in Banff National Park, Canada.

Many people have gasped almost speechless, “You mean you camped nearly your entire trip IN A TENT?”

When we weren't visiting friends or family (yellow houses), or recuperating in a motel (red beds), we stayed in over thirty different campgrounds on our trip across country, in a 2 or 4 person tent.

We get that. Travel by truck and tent worked very well for us, but it is not for everyone. We were not on a mission to see how much roughing it we could handle - our aim was to keep things simple. We learned some practical lessons, particularly about adding more stuff.  More stuff demands more attention. More stuff distracts you from enjoying the travel. More stuff has to be packed and more stuff has to be fixed. Remember our beautiful sailboat, Layla, has a lot of stuff and travel on her taught us important lessons. Also, recall last year we traveled to the Canadian Maritime Provinces in our old pickup, and months before that we camped out of the back of our Mini Cooper! Fortunately, we paid attention and learned a few things that guided us on this road trip.

That said we still took a lot of stuff. We packed tents (old tent and new tent), ground tarp, spare large tarp, sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, propane camp stove, pots and pans, utensils, dishes, coffee pot, spices and dry goods, crates, BBQ grill to fit fire rings, ice chest (with some perishables), truck box (to hold gear), air mattresses, water jugs, tools, hatchet, flashlights, clothes and cameras. It was a good idea that we bought a bigger truck.  We used everything we brought. 

Crates, boxes, and coolers helped us pack a lot of stuff efficiently in our truck.
Campgrounds.  We traveled at the peak tourist season and did not reserve a single campsite, but we always found a place to sleep. (Yellowstone hit an all-time record of 3.8 million visitors by September this year.) You have a lot more choices for camping than you might think ranging from commercial campgrounds to the federal, state and county parks, forests, and recreational areas. You should also know that nearly all campgrounds set aside some unreserved campsites on a first-come, first-take basis.  

You are probably asking, “With the uncertainty of just showing up and hoping to find a campsite, wouldn’t it be better to get a reservation?”

Reserved sites cost a bit more for the privilege of a reservation (~ $5-$10 more) compared to unreserved sites. A reservation ties you to a schedule and your pre-paid fee is non-refundable. We benefited from this on several occasions when the camp hosts offered us the reserved sites of campers that did not arrive. Sites may be reserved many days, weeks, or even months ahead of time, which may limit the available dates. If you are reserving a campsite online, it can be difficult to evaluate suitability without actually seeing it. You may not have the option of choosing an alternative site if you find your camping neighbors are behaving badly. Reserved sites are not necessarily the best sites in the campground. You may find an unreserved site is comparable or better. However, if you want to stay in one of the most popular campgrounds during the peak times, want a site with amenities and have a tight schedule, it is probably a good idea to make a reservation, although we never did.

Primitive campsites or those with amenities?  In addition to whether to reserve or not to reserve is the decision of the type of campsite you want. There are two types of campsites - primitive and those with amenities (“hookups”). Primitive sites typically have water nearby or at the site, a fire pit, a table, and an area for a tent. Campsites with amenities cater primarily to RV’s. These campsites are often distinguished by their expanded paved or hardened areas for parking larger vehicles or by the driveways to allow the bigger RVs to set up and leave without having to back up. Surrounding trees may be trimmed or removed from RV sites to reduce damage to the big rigs which in turn can transform these areas into exposed parking lots. At a minimum, amenities typically consist of an electrical outlet to plug in standard extension cords and/or 30-50 amp power cords and a water faucet to attach a hose. Campgrounds may have a sewage hook-up on each campsite or access to a disposal area nearby, as well as internet, cable TV, swimming pools, laundry, recreational rooms and more.

Primitive campsite in Dorst Creek campground in Sequoia National Park.  In addition to the tent pad, fire ring, and picnic table, this campsite had a bear-proof food locker to store food and keep hungry bears from ripping into your vehicle.

Campsites with amenities also differ from primitive sites in cost. In our travel across the US and Canada we found primitive campsites ranged from $6 to $26 per night, with an average of about $15 a night. Campsites with amenities cost from $5-$25 more than the primitive sites.

Some campgrounds are self-serve, that is, there is no attendant to collect your money. You simply drive around the campground, find an available site (without a current or reserved receipt attached to the post next to the site), place your fee in a provided envelope and drop it in a lock-box at the campground entrance. Many campgrounds have volunteer camp hosts to oversee the campground, check on paid recent arrivals, and sell firewood (you are not allowed to bring in firewood from outside most parks). We met a diversity of hosts that were friendly, good humored, helpful, and obviously enjoying life.

Welcome station at Belly River campground in Glacier National Park, Montana.  Fee envelopes and pencils for filling out the envelope can be found here, along with a locked deposit box.  Most self-serve campgrounds take cash or check, but some also take credit cards.

Availability of campsites varies significantly among campgrounds, but some unreserved campsites are usually available every day, especially early in the day. We were often successful in getting a campsite if we stopped to select a primitive site between 2:00 to 4:00 pm. Campsites with amenities are in most demand and go quickly.

It is difficult to predict whether you will find the campsite that is just right. Even in the best campgrounds there are the prize campsites such as those with views, privacy, access to water and bathrooms, and those campsites to be avoided if possible. A campsite set back in the trees may seem ideal for solitude but it may also be dark, dank, and mosquito-ridden. Your choice of a campsite may ultimately be determined by when you arrive. Sometimes you just have to settle for whatever you find.

Primitive campers.  Upon first hearing a park agent answer our inquiry about the availability of a tent site by saying “Oh, you want a primitive site,” we imagined all sorts of horrors because primitive sounds, well, primitive. We immediately thought primitive sites might actually be set aside for Neanderthals or another ancestral species similar to Homo sapiens. We imagined primitives sitting around campfires fashioning stone tools and gnawing on bones. We thought we heard the friendly park person say, “Hey, we’ve got another couple of primitives. Should we put them up there on the hill away from the others? You know the trouble those primitives cause when they get too close to the other visitors.”

We are not sure why, because we certainly covered a lot of territory and stayed in a lot of parks, but we did not see a single Neanderthal or any other primitive in any of the campgrounds. We were disappointed. We were looking forward to sitting around the campfire with a primitive sharing our primitive campsite, exchanging jokes about humans, trading secrets about building fires and fashioning new tools, and probably arguing about the latest theories of early human evolution.

We were looking forward to sharing fire building techniques with some of the primitives in the campgrounds, but never got the chance.

Commercial campgrounds vary from excellent to poor, cater mostly to RV’s, often look more like parking lots, and usually cost more than other campgrounds. Most commercial campgrounds have all the amenities including electricity, pools, showers, laundry, internet, and in some places, cable TV. Many commercial campgrounds are located outside the park entrances to accommodate visitor overflow. When we discovered the campgrounds were full in Yellowstone, we found an exceptional alternative in Valley View Campground outside the town of Western Yellowstone with hot showers, laundromat (with free popcorn), internet, friendly and efficient staff, and a tent site in an open field all for $10/night!  We were so pleased that we stayed a couple of days and used this as our base camp to explore the park. Similarly, when we discovered no available campsites in Zion National Park, we found one outside the park in a commercial campground. Our tent campsite was merely a flat area tucked in the bushes beside a bumpy dirt road, the showers/bathrooms were atrocious, and record rainfall made the entire area a muddy mess. To add to the misery, we paid among the highest rates of the entire trip for the site ($30). The next day we learned of the tragedy of the 20 people killed by floods in Zion and in a nearby local community. We recognized that, despite the campground’s shortcomings, we were fortunate we found a place to pitch our tent and remained safe and dry.  

Campsite in Valley View campground might not have had the solitude we sought, but gave us a base camp for exploring Yellowstone National Park… 

...and great skies at sunset.

One of the least aesthetic and most expensive campgrounds of all our camps was at Zion Mountain Ranch on the east side of Zion National Park, Utah. Although most of the campground roads were flooded and muddy from rain all night long, we stayed dry in our tent.
National parks are popular and rightly so - they are the crown jewels. However, we were surprised to hear that only a small fraction of the millions of visitors actually stay in the national parks and most stay for a VERY short time. A ranger told us that the average stay of a visitor in Glacier National Park is 2 ½ hours! He explained it may take more time than that to drive through the entire park without stopping! The crowds in the campgrounds actually represent that small fraction of visitors who choose to enjoy the park up close and at a slower pace.

National park campgrounds are predictable and consistent with what they provide. Without exception we found the park personnel were helpful, talkative, cheerful, and apparently, as they said it often, quite pleased to see us. All national parks have an entrance fee of $20-$30 (unless you have purchased a lifetime senior pass, 62 and over) which gives you access for seven days (bad timing as I was not yet eligible). With a few exceptions, you must pay the entrance fee at each park. Also, the fee does NOT include the camping fee.

The iconic parks such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, and Glacier are very popular, fill early and can be very crowded. Campgrounds (many with flush toilets and showers) are usually well-managed and fairly clean. Depending upon the park, there may be several campgrounds within the park comprised of numerous but fairly small campsites placed close together. You can expect a lot of neighbors. (Have you ever observed how well sounds, especially voices, travel in the forest?) There are often a fair number of unreserved sites, but there is heavy demand, particularly for full-hookup sites. Primitive sites are usually more readily available.

A highly prized primitive campsite at Apgar campground in Glacier National Park, Montana (read below).  We had neighbors to our right, neighbors to our left, neighbors in front of us, and cars zooming by just beyond the trees.  Despite the close quarters and road noise, the campers kept their voices to a minimum.

You may find a list of the campgrounds and their status as full or open at the entrances to the park, although these signs may not be accurate especially if the campground is many miles from the entrance (which many are). Don’t count on availability of a campsite even after the helpful Ranger called to confirm with the campground host. In a park that sees over 3 million visitors a year, availability can change very quickly. Many prospective campers troll through the campground early in the morning to grab unreserved campsites as soon as they are vacated. In Glacier National Park campers arrived at our site at 8 am and waited while we packed to leave. These campers completed the registration for our site before we loaded the last of our gear in the truck.

Camping options at Yellowstone National Park were limited, even when we arrived around noon.  By the time we had driven to Indian Creek and Lewis Lake (shown as open), both campgrounds were full.

National parks are certainly not the only camping areas with this problem; the parks’ popularity inevitably means the crowds can be annoying. Considering the immensity of the national parks and that most visitors are concentrated in the most easily accessible areas, we learned from a ranger that 90% of the parks are unseen by 99% of the people! If you seek real solitude and want to experience more than drive-by vistas, consider obtaining a wilderness permit and hiking into one of these less traveled areas. Although this may be roughing it more than you might want, we were continually inspired by people we met on trails with wilderness-induced smiles that affirmed they were having the times of their lives and that the effort was worth it.

Primitive campsite at Tamarack Flat in Yosemite was down a three mile narrow newly paved road. We found uncommon solitude in a national park campground.  Potable water was available from the creek after boiling, bathrooms consisted of vault latrines, and of course there were no showers.  Living without the amenities for a couple of days was a worthwhile trade for the natural beauty and solitude.
In the peak travel months you may not find a vacant campsite in the national park, but don’t fret, you usually have other options nearby such as in the commercial campgrounds and national forests.

National forests are managed forests where logging, hunting, grazing, and other activities are not heavily restricted as in the preserved areas of national parks.  Some national forests have lower fees (usually self-serve), some have campgrounds with well-organized campsites whereas others have campsites with minimal or no amenities, or no designated campsites at all. In some forests you are allowed to camp wherever you find a suitable spot. National forest campgrounds are often adjacent to national parks which also make them a good alternative to the popular and crowded parks. We stayed in a number of national forests and generally liked them very much. We found a good campsite in the Coconino National Forest outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. The campsites were a little ragged and very basic consisting of simply a level area for the tent and a fire pit surrounded by boulders off a dirt logging road. It was just what we needed. 

Campsite in the Coconino National Forest, Arizona off of Forest Road 535.  All the campgrounds in the very popular Oak Creek Canyon were full, but were told that we could camp anywhere in the forest.  Our site had no tent pad, no picnic table, no water, and no bathroom, but plenty of space.  

National Forest campgrounds provided great solitude.  Our campsite (one of about twelve in the campground) in the Bighorn National Forest in north-central Wyoming overlooked Leigh Creek.  We fell asleep to the sound of the bubbling creek.

State Parks/Forests are a mixed bag; some are among the best, whereas others are to be avoided. State parks typically have amenities such as flush toilets and showers. The majority of visitors appear to be locals. If you are not a resident of the state, you must pay a visitor fee in addition to the camping fee. Our two favorite State Park campgrounds were Center Lake Campground in South Dakota's Custer State Park and Hidden Springs Campground in California's Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  Center Lake Campground gave us good access to Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Showers and water were available, and campsites were well proportioned. The campground was made more memorable by the friendly and interesting fellow campers we met, including the French family touring the US, a family moving newlyweds to start new lives in graduate school in Virginia, and the generous neighbor who brought a pot of coffee and lively conversation to start our day.  Hidden Springs Campground wound up and through a redwood forest, with each site carefully cut out amidst the large trees, providing unexpected privacy and natural beauty.

Campsite in the Humboldt Redwoods California State Park along the Avenue of the Giants scenic highway.

How often to you get to sleep amidst a redwood forest?

Recreational areas, whether federal, state or other, deserve a visit. They are typically found near a lake, reservoir, dune or other attraction, and as their name indicates, these have an emphasis on recreation. Locals flock to these areas, particularly on long weekends. Be aware that you may be sharing a very busy campground with scores of your newest best friends on all-terrain vehicles, dune buggies, motorcycles, jet skis and boats. Oregon Dunes Recreation Area is such an example. Another example of recreational area we visited is the Oahe Dam Recreation area located on the Missouri River outside Pierre, South Dakota (Bud’s birthplace). As both Bud’s father and grandfather had worked on this dam in the 1950’s, camping at the base of the dam and taking a swim (very short) in the very cold downstream waters added to the feeling of a pilgrimage. (In the first seconds of dipping into the water we understood the water flowing by the camp originated at the base of the deep reservoir). The downstream campground was well-organized with perhaps a 100 campsites nearly all occupied. It was a popular for good reason as it was pleasant choice to spend a warm summer weekend in South Dakota.

Campsite at the Oahe Dam Recreation Area was just a couple hundred yards from a swimming beach on the Missouri River, just beyond the cottonwood trees.

We fell asleep listening to the wind rustling the leaves of the cottonwood tree.

Traveling in Canada deserves a special note. Beyond the joys of traveling in a country that seems at first just like the states, but one that then surprises you with the charming, odd and interesting differences, a visit to Canada will do for you what travel should do - change your perspectives and increase your desire to explore further. The Canadians were friendly and welcoming, and the provincial and national parks we visited offered stunning and incomparable vistas, amazing critters, challenging trails, and dazzling discoveries every day.

Travel with truck and tent gave us the flexibility to take advantage of a diversity of campsites throughout the country and immersed us in the outdoors on the level we sought.  Quite simply, it met our needs.  You don’t have to travel by truck and tent.  Find what works for you, and go.  Just go and go soon.     

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Road Trip: The Plan and How It Worked

Our circumnavigation of continent (in pink).

We departed North Carolina on July 13 and traveled across 19 states and two Canadian Provinces to add more than 13,000 miles to the truck’s odometer in 69 days (returned September 19th). Other than the days we stayed with family and friends and three nights in motels (forced by either fire-closed roads, or rain), we camped in a tent in National Parks, National Forests, State Parks, State Forests, Commercial Campgrounds, National Recreational Areas, State Recreational Areas, Canadian Provincial Parks, and Canadian National Parks.  

What was the plan?

We were on a voyage - this time on the road. Central to the plan was the rare opportunity to travel without a fixed schedule and itinerary. This road trip was not a vacation, but an adventure, and as everyone knows, adventure embodies discovery and discovery cannot be planned.

Bud and his Uncle Jim outside of his uncle's bookstore in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Our philosophy and our reckless behavior were issues for some of those with interests in our travel, particularly those we said we might visit. Some found it exasperating to ask the question, “When will you be here?” and get our answer, “Well, probably sometime before September.” Of course in the world that most people live, schedules are a necessity of everyday life and our imprecise responses were aggravating. We imagined that some might think we were indecisive, obtuse, and aimless. We imagined they might be calling us gypsies, nomads, vagrants, wanderers, or worse. We weren’t trying to be difficult, of course, but if we were to put a priority on maintaining rigid schedules, we reasoned we would be less likely to change our plans, or make new plans, and in the process, we would lose some of the freedom offered so abundantly by the open road. We did, however, try to be good guests and, at the very least, inform our gracious hosts when we might leave.  

Cooking breakfast with family in the Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona.

We made a general plan before we left North Carolina, but understand it was GENERAL. We would head west, stop along the way, and continue until we reached the west coast where we would turn around and head back east. We would probably take some northerly or southerly direction out there somewhere, but we had not decided when and where that might happen. Along the way, there were a few people we very much wanted to see, and fortunately, the big highways took us to see them. Other than that, we were often making decisions where to go on that particular day. We tried as best we could to travel in one direction without backtracking, which did not seem to be a rule that would hinder us too much. We also tried to find the smaller roads if possible, and to keep the gas tank above half full to be sure we had the greatest flexibility to change our minds on the fly.

Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

So how did all that work for us?

In the most general of terms- It was the best trip ever. We made at least one discovery nearly every day and the voyage was beyond all of our expectations.  

Devil's Tower National Monument in northeastern Wyoming.

To summarize the ~13,000 mile trek, we departed North Carolina to visit friends in Louisville, Kentucky, and family in Chicago, Illinois, Green Bay, Wisconsin and St. Cloud, Minnesota (don’t miss “Books Revisited” bookstore). We headed west through South Dakota (stopping at Richard’s birthplace, Pierre) through the Badlands, the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, and Crazy Horse. From there we went into Wyoming, past Devil’s Tower, through the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and traveled on to Montana and Glacier National Park. Continuing northwest, we headed into the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada to Banff, Lake Louis and the Icefields Parkway. Through part of British Columbia we turned south across the border through central Washington via Wenatchee and Yakima. We were plagued by fire and smoke over much of this route and decided to jog over to the dunes of the Oregon coast. From there we entered northern California, visited the Redwoods, then turned east to Lassen Volcanic National Park, and traveled along the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Yosemite, and Sequoia National Parks. We headed south to Bakersfield, east through the Mohave Desert and on to Tucson to see friends and family, Mount Lemmon, and Saguaro National Park. We back tracked north through Phoenix and Flagstaff, and then explored the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We continued to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in southern Utah. Epic rain and floods in the area shortened our stay. (Separate floods swept away hikers in Zion and a family in a small Utah community). We followed the Colorado River through canyon country and Moab, Utah. We headed east to Boulder and Denver, Colorado to mark the end of our camping and short travel days. We drove nearly non-stop to home via Kansas, Missouri, southern Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Geothermal pool at Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. 

Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana.

Wildflowers at Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana.

In the National Parks (or “International Parks” as we think they should be called) we met and talked with people from around the world (Germany, France, England, Japan, China, South Africa, Mexico, Canada, and India). International travelers and Americans alike were ecstatic about the parks and eager to share their adventures.

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada.

Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Canada.

Among the more memorable travelers, we met two young men from South Africa who flew to the US, bought motorcycles in Charlotte, NC, and, with a bucket list of must see stops, embarked on a tour of the country from coast to coast to end finally in Miami. Among their observations- saw a Red Sox baseball game (boring), saw a NASCAR race (won’t do that again), and saw various National Parks (loved them and eager to see more). San Francisco, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, and New Orleans were among their next stops. We imagine with their good humor and boundless energy these intrepid travelers made it back to South Africa with a lifetime of stories.

North Dome and Half Dome,Yosemite National Park, California.

In awe of the giants in Sequoia National Park, California.

We met a French couple with two children also on a tour of the US. Five years prior they shipped a custom-built Mercedes RV to Halifax, Nova Scotia and spent an entire year traveling across the US, Mexico, Costa Rica and back. They were so enthralled with the adventure that they come back each summer for more travel in the US.  

Looking out from Cape Royal at the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

We had a lively conversation with a Canadian border agent as we crossed into Canada. “So, what are you doing in Canada?” he asked. “We are making a circle tour of parks and camping along the way”, I replied. “What do you do in North Carolina - are you retired?” he asked further. Since quitting our jobs, I have had a difficult time with knowing how I want to answer this question, and halted in my reply “I guess you could say we are retired, but I don’t like that word.” “Oh, so you are voluntarily unemployed?” I laughed, “I like that. I am going to use that if you don’t mind.” He said it was all mine to use and then looked directly at me and asked, “Do you have any guns?” I replied, “No”. He smiled, laughed and, as if he had waited all day to say it, replied “You must be the only one. What are you going to do when you get back in the states?” He waved us on and wished us well on our travels.

Hoodoos, Bryce Amphitheater in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Natural arch formed by erosion in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Update: We dodged Hurricane Joaquin. We re-secured Layla in the boat yard and, once again, we were obsessed with watching the weather reports as hurricane threatened the coast. Although Joaquin’s path did not come close to North Carolina, heavy and non-stop rain has become very tiresome. It is not a surprise that after more than a couple of FEET of rain over the past week and a half that we have several leaks in the house. After we replaced our tent we never had another leak on the road. Maybe we should just pitch the tent in the backyard?   

Next blog: Camping Lessons

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What You Bring Back From a Roadtrip

Canadian Rockies reflected in Moraine Lake near Lake Louise, Alberta. 

A road trip is a collection of images, impressions, and maybe, changes in perspectives.  In retrospect, we don’t know whether the travel changed us permanently, or just temporarily. Certainly, on the road, on the trail, in the camp, in the forests, on the mountain summits, and at the foot of glaciers we were seeing, doing and feeling things differently.

We began with a simple and general plan devoid of the details of where and how long we would go. We were guided mostly by the desire to be open to the open road.  It worked for us.  It is difficult not to become a “travel evangelist”- to want to convince others that maybe this too may be “just what you need”.  At the very least one thing is certain.  We have a huge country out there that you can and should explore.  You are bound to discover something, either about it, about yourself, or both.

Here are some of the snippets of images selected from the thousands of miles we traveled.

Heading north on Hwy 89 in southwest Utah.

The windshield of the vehicle frames a road undulating over hills and valleys, growing smaller as it merged and disappeared at the horizon.  The open country and the big skies of the west can make you feel small and exposed.

Saskatchewan Glacier on the Parker Ridge Trail in Jasper National Park, Alberta.

Another view on the same trail.

The most incredible and unbelievable panorama I have ever seen has made me gasp.  Two minutes later I round another trail switchback and see a vista more breathtaking than the last.

Highline Trail parallels the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana.

On the Highline Trail.

The narrow trail hundreds of feet above that tiny highway is both frightening and exhilarating.  My legs are shaking and my head is light, and all I can say is a feeble “wow”.

Columbia Icefield on the Wilcox Pass Trail in Jasper National Park, Alberta.

Columbia Icefield, Alberta Canada.

I have passed this glacier going the other direction, but now from this direction, I am seeing it for the first time.  

A bear along the road to Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana.

A cow moose and her twin babies in the Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Colorado campground.

I glimpsed something moving beside the road.  What is it this time - a bear, a doe and her fawn, an elk, or a cow moose and her twin babies looking back at me?  I consider, “Will I take a photo or I will I just watch?”

Chipmunk making a dash for home in Sequoia National Park.

I am entertained by a worried chipmunk scurrying around the periphery of the campsite. Finally, it made a bold dash for the hole, his home, next to the fire ring at my feet. This must be rush hour. 

Looking north along the Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area near Coos Bay, Oregon.

The Pacific Ocean viewed from windy dunes along the Oregon Coast marks the western edge of our travel that began in North Carolina at the Atlantic Ocean.  We have crossed the entire continent.

The sun pushing away the clouds along Bow Lake in Jasper National Park, Alberta.

Vistas of mountains shrouded by wispy clouds give way to mountains cheered by acres of sunshine.


Finding solitude in our campground along Caples Lake, California.  This was one of our favorite campgrounds.

We found uncommon solitude among granite boulders and scraggly junipers in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.  The original plan to camp among the crowd at Lake Tahoe fortunately did not work out.