Friday, June 27, 2008

15 days,16 states, and some 3800 miles later...

...we're home. Miles was so excited to be home that he started hootin' and hollerin' in the car as soon as we left Ellensburg, and he didn't stop until he was in his room. When we get our internet connection hooked up, I'll post some video. We got home on Monday, but took me until today to get around to posting.

We had lunch at Elk in Spokane with Laurine and Colette. They are both friends of mine from college, they didn't know each other in school. They work across the hall from each other and until November didn't know that I was a mutual friend. Small world!

Made a quick visit to Gingko State Park in Vantage.

We stopped in Ellensburg for some dinner and a quick visit to
Dick and Jane's Spot.

Then we hustled on home. Now the real fun begins as we unpack and get resettled.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Day 12 & 13: Yellowstone National Park

As you can see, Yellowstone is teeming with interesting wildlife.

We watched Old Faithful blow on the early side.

Got caught in a buffalo traffic jam.

Saw the immense Norris Geyser Basin...

...the dramatic Lower Falls that carved the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone...

...the beautiful West Thumb Geysers (this is Seismograph Geyser)...

...and Mammoth Falls which reminded us of Pamukkale in Turkey. Photo courtesy of Miles.

We saw some moose and later some elk and a quick glimpse of a bear.

Unfortunately we did not spot these two. Cellphone coverage was very spotty and made it impossible to hook up. We later learned that Pere and Marta were also in Bozeman the same day as us.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Day 11: Shuffle off to Buffalo and then Yellowstone

I decided to try riding a horse again today after chickening out yesterday (really, that laundry I did while Keith and Miles went for a ride was very important). This time I asked for a kid's horse. They gave me one smaller than the one Miles was riding. I had no pride, it was fine with me, though I felt a bit sorry for Wyatt (the horse). We took a short, and happily uneventful ride in the morning. Did a little lassoing and then left the ranch via tiny Buffalo (the town you hit once you hit a paved road) and then headed out towards Cody and Yellowstone.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Day 10: Cowboy Miles

Yesterday, after I was thrown off the horse, Keith asked the Head Wrangler at the ranch if he knew any good cowboy cures. His answer was something like, "Drink lots of beer."

This morning when we were trying to rouse Miles for breakfast, Keith asked Miles if he knew any good cowboy morning songs. Miles replied in his best cowboy drawl, with his eyes still closed, "'s called Let's get drunk and stay in bed." He really has got the hang of this cowboy thing.

Forgot to mention that yesterday we went skeet shooting. Miles and Keith were awesome, I think Keith hit over half of the clay pigeons. Miles was close behind. We won't talk about my performance, even though I was the only one who had ever shot skeet before. But at least I didn't shoot anyone, unlike that famous duck/friend shooting Wyomingite who lurks in the dark shadows of the White House.

Note: I'm posting these with the dates they actually occurred rather than the post date due to access problems along the way.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Day 9: The Rodeo Queen of HF Bar Ranch

We arrived last night at this rustic and beautiful guest ranch in Saddlestring, WY. Seems like most of the guests here are from the east coast and have been coming here for many years. But how did I become the Rodeo Queen?

This morning as we were getting outfitted for our morning horse ride, the horse I was going to ride freaked out. No one knows why. My stirrups were just being adjusted when Chester (the horse) started rearing way back on his hind legs. He reared back a few times as I held onto the saddlehorn for dear life. He then reared so far back that he fell backwards, at that point I fell off, landing on my head and shoulder. Chester fell next to me, partially landing on my left leg. He then jumped up and ran away; I covered my head hoping he wouldn't accidentally run over me. No one knows why he freaked, there was speculation that a bug might have been biting him under his saddle. But I think he just didn't feel like going to work.

Aside from some sore muscles, and some scrapes, cuts, and bruises, I'm fine. I'm thankful that there happened to be a vacationing physician standing right there, who promptly checked me out.

I am also very thankful that I did not land in any horse droppings littering the corral.

After scrapes were dressed, we swapped my horse out and then went for a short ride. That is how I came to be the rodeo queen. Anyone interested in vying for the title?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Day 8: Jewel Cave and Devil's Tower

On the way to Jewel Cave we made a brief stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial. It's been under construction since 1948, but funding has been challenging.

If you can fit through this opening and are not disturbed by confined spaces, spelunking in Jewel Cave may be for you. Since it was a bit of a challenge for Miles, it is definitely not for me.

Fortunately, you don't have to be a spelunker to tour the cave though. There is an elevator that takes you down roughly 30 stories. And a ranger leads you through the cave using the pathways and stairs that have been laid down. This is the second longest cave in the world. The longest is Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Jewel Cave is being explored regularly, so the cave keeps getting longer, current length is 142.38 miles. The temperature is constantly around 49 degrees Fahrenheit. It's so dark that nothing lives there...not even bats or spiders.

At one point the ranger turned off the dim lights that light the path and some rocks so we could see just how dark pure darkness is. Your eyes never adjust and no matter how long you wave your hand in front of your face, you visually have no sense of it being there.

Cave Bacon in Jewel Cave.

En route to Devil's Tower, a representative from Wyoming's welcoming committee turned on his lights and stopped us to say "Hello" and issue us a speeding citation.The road was straight as a ruler and we were pretty much the only car. The officer was a rather unfriendly sort and didn't take kindly to Keith's attempts at friendly conversation.

Speed Devil and Devil's Tower.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Day 7: It's Sunday - this must be the Badlands, Corn Palace,Wall Drug, & Mt. Rushmore

We squeezed a lot in today. First a visit to the Badlands. A strikingly desolate and unearthly landscape.

Brief stops at Corn Palace and Wall Drug. Corn Palace was worthwhile...Wall Drug was most definitely not. Yes I have heard the argument that these are monuments to capitalism in America, but who cares. Is there really such a shortage of monuments to capitalism that we must all drive to a tiny town in South Dakota to gaze upon it with wonder? After having zipped past zillions of Wal-Marts?
The Corn Palace is a multi-purpose meeting facility and, effectively, a giant birdfeeder, that the community decorates with murals every June-Sept. The murals are made entirely with tons of corns, grains and grasses.

Mount Rushmore is so iconic that I wondered if I really needed to see it in person. But going there gives a better appreciation of the scale and the story behind it's construction is pretty interesting as well. We had heard the light show at night is impressive, but I couldn't sit through the sappy presentation beforehand, so we left part way through. If you decide to go, go around 9:30 and see the lights sans the sap.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Day 6: Minneapolis to Sioux Falls, SD

Based upon our brief stay, Minneapolis impressed us as a very livable city. Along the way to a nice brunch at a place called The Local we saw this protest against Scientology by the group Anonymous, here's more about their ongoing protest actions.

Our enjoyable visit to the sculpture garden and the Walker Art Center came to a crashing halt when my camera slipped out of my hands and slammed down the stone steps. It was destroyed. So, we made a slight shift in plans and paid a visit to another Minneapolis institution, Best Buy.

Then it was off to Sioux Falls, SD.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Day 5: Flooded roadways

Heavy rainfall and a failed dam flooded many towns and roadways. I heard that in one town the Madison Ducks ( you know those amphibian tourist vehicles) were called in to help evacuate people. Everyone who was trying to get anywhere by wheels was channeled into just a few open roadways. I bet even this trucker was cursing the horrific back-ups. It took us 2 hours to go 40 miles and we were going against the worst traffic.

Hat's off to the very nice folks at House of Wisconsin Cheese in Madison. We stopped there because I heard they sold cheese shaped like Wisconsin and had to have some. While there, Keith struck up a conversation with them and before you know it they were online looking onto what roadways and routes we should take. We might have driven right into the flooded areas if not for them.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Day 3 & 4: Amish country to Chicago

Drove through the outer edge of Ohio's Amish country. I hadn't realized that it's much larger than the community in Pennsylvania. We stopped in at Lehman's hardware, which looks to have had humble amish country beginnings stocking loads of non electronic hardware and kitchen appliances. Nowadays, it seems to be something of a tourist destination.

Our stay in Chicago was brief. We really enjoyed cooling down in Millenium Park, exploring the Wicker Park neighborhood, and our evening visit to the Art Institute. Turns out Thursday and Friday nights at the Art Institute of Chicago are free ALL summer! We wished we had more time to spend there, but enjoyed what we saw.

Can you find us in this picture? You'll need to click on the picture to see it in a larger size.

Happened upon this Dave Eggers storefront in Wicker Park, unfortunately it was closed.

We also did an architecture tour of the city by boat, VERY dry, but a nice way to see the city.If you are headed to Chicago and considering a boat tour, I suggest avoiding the Chicago Architecture Foundation tour (unless you are looking to catch up on some sleep). All they did was point out buildings and name the architecture firm. Nine times out of ten the firm was Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Day 2: Gettysburg and Kennywood Park

This may be sacrilegious, but Gettysburg was sort of underwhelming. The Cyclorama was being restored and so was not open for viewing, which was a disappointment as that is one of the most interesting sights at Gettysburg. The new visitor center and museum is a worthwhile visit. Touring the battlefields was perhaps the most tedious aspect of the visit.

Some tips in case you decide to visit Gettysburg:
1) if you'd like a private guide you need to be at the Visitor's Center by 8AM.
2) don't waste your money on the big movie with the Hollywood voice-overs. Much better and free film snippets are shown at the various exhibits in the Visitor Center.
3) don't buy the Travel Brains audio tour unless you plan to follow the tour exactly as specified. We wanted to have an a la carte tour, but the way the CD is formatted and labeled made that completely unfeasible.

Pennsylvania monument at Gettysburg.

Kentucky monument at Gettysburg,
at least the only one we saw during our visit.

Our visit to Kennywood Park just outside of Pittsburgh was a hit though. We loved it!

Miles and Keith loved the roller-coaster rides. Two of them take full advantage of being built on a hill over looking the water. I loved the vintage rides and old Luna Park style buildings. The staff were all very friendly, and even helped retrieve Keith's cellphone when it was lost on the roller-coaster.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Homeward Bound Day 1 : Cambridge, MA - Gettysburg, PA

Well, this trip has had a bit of a rough start. On Sunday, the day before our departure, Keith's phone fell into a sewer at 5:30PM. The phone couldn't be retrieved and the stores closed at 6, so Keith rushed to a store, convinced them to stay open for him and quickly purchased a replacement.

Monday started off with a six hour delay leaving Cambridge. We were cleaning up the apartment right up to the last minute. I suppose it was good that it was so hectic as it gave us little time to dwell on sad feelings about leaving the friends and places we've come to love.

Part of the route included the lovely Saw Mill River Parkway in Westchester County.

Arrived in Gettysburg close to 1AM. One of my favorite parts about driving cross-country is the different signs you encounter. My favorite recurring Pennsylvania sign had to be the orange "BEWARE OF AGGRESSIVE DRIVERS" signs. Does anyone need to be told to be wary of aggressive drivers? Sadly, I was never able to get a picture of one.

Leaving Cambridge

Wow! Talk about send-offs, Miles has had one after another. He's made some really great friends here and is very sad about leaving them. There was the custom ugly doll that Elliott designed for Miles (incorporating of Miles' favorite uglydoll features), the cool uglies that Miles, Aidan & Ean designed and that Ann sewed up for Miles, a creature created by Charlotte, a party at school and cake (courtesy of Elliott's mom Margy), a Baldwin Elementary t-shirt and handmade card, both signed by all the kids in his class, and endless playdates and sleepovers up to the last hour. I think he was really moved by all the kindness and love showered on him. He couldn't bring himself to say goodbye. So instead he said, "I'll see you soon...even if it's just on Skype."

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mariners (and Seinfelds?) put the brakes on Red Sox home winning streak

Well at least I think we had something to do with it. The Red Sox had a 13 game home winning streak until Mariners ran right over them tonight with a final score of 8-0. We were there with a huge crowd from Miles' school, so we did our best to contain our applause. It was pretty thrilling to be in Fenway Park to begin with, the Mariners win was a bonus. I think the win was mostly due to the Red Sox playing poorly rather than the M's playing great. Just my uninformed $.02.

Homeward bound (almost)

In just a few days we will hit the open road. It's frightening how far we are from actually being ready. Keith and Miles are on a school camp-out at Cape Cod through tomorrow. And then we head to the Green Monster for our one and only Red Sox game.

Anyway, here's the route we'll be taking home.

View Larger Map

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Our final chapter of the mother/son book group

Sorry about that horrid pun...couldn't resist. We feel really lucky that Joan Epstein invited us to join this great group. For our last book we read about the life of Albert Einstein and met at the MIT museum, followed by discussion at Toscanini, an ice cream institution here. The newest member of the book group, who I just met today, is from Federal Way of all places (though she hasn't lived there for many years).

When I have a little more time, I'll post some video of the fantastic kinetic sculpture we saw by Arthur Ganson.