Tag Archive | Road trip

The Build

I have never really been a hippie, or free spirit, so the idea of road-tripping by myself around the U.S. for three months takes me far out of my comfort zone.  But here I am, giving it a try…

My original plan was to fold up the seats, put a bed in the back end, and get a Thule roof box for the top of the car.  But the departure date moved up by about 6 weeks after I first got the bee in my bonnet, so to speak, so I wasn’t sure I would be able to get a Thule roof box without buying it new.  And lo and behold, those are expensive!

Around the same time, a friend sent me a YouTube video, where a guy built a raised platform bed in the back of his CR-V, and I thought, BINGO!  My dad is a hobby woodworker, and that thing didn’t look like it would be too tough to rig up – and much cheaper than the close to $1000 price tag to buy a roof box, buy roof racks, and have them installed.

Dad and I spent parts of four weekend days putting this baby together.  It is level and sits up off the floor of the back end of the CR-V, stretching from just behind the front seats all the way to the back of the hatch space.  It gives about a foot of clearance in back and about 18 inches in front.  It sits up on the wheel wells for support, and I can partially sit up, but obviously, it is primarily for sleeping.

Seats-Out

 

We built two pull-out tables into the back of it, in case I’m somewhere with no picnic table; they have support posts extending down to the bumper so that the table doesn’t collapse when you put weight on it.  The legs holding up the bed are on hinges to make it easier to get things underneath.  The whole contraption is in two pieces, so I can remove it if needed to get to the under floor storage, where the spare tire, jumper cables and other car paraphernalia are.

I went down to the Storables store one day to get totes of various sizes to fit underneath and make the best use of the nooks and crannies.  There is still plenty of other unaccounted for space.  These areas hold my camp chair, Coleman stove, tent and tools.

My mom made curtains I can string up around the space for privacy – luckily she is a genius seamstress.  I fitted out my home on the road with a 4” thick memory foam mattress topper. It was a little too long and I didn’t really want to cut it, so I folded it under and my mom made a band to secure it.  I decorated my car-home with some girl power inspiration, and a few mementoes from past travels and friends.

Although it isn’t luxury, I hope it will be comfortable, and I don’t have to worry about setting up a tent every night as I move around the country.  I can just park and crawl in back. I’m secure with locked doors and am out of the rain.  And, for better or worse, it will be home…

The total price was about $60 for fabric, S hooks, and carabiners for the curtain rigging, and about $120 for storage containers to puzzle piece under the bed.  The entire bed itself was free for me, made with scrap wood and leftover hinges that my dad already had hanging around in his shop.  All in all a very reasonable investment!

Tonight will be my first night trying it out!

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The Circus Trip: Revealed

I have said before that this blog has been my happy place for the last several years.  I love travel, history, and wine, and I love sharing my adventures with all of you.  Yet they say change is the one constant, and that holds true in my own life too.

As a result of recent life changes, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection, and a lot of way-finding.  As this directional adjustment is going to include travel, and likely quite a bit of wine, it only makes sense to me that I include you on my journey here.  It is guaranteed to be a lot bumpier and more raw than some of my other journeys, but the rest is basically unknown territory.

As is to be expected, I have felt a bit lost after my divorce.  I know a lot of people do.  My divorce wasn’t easy or amicable and I found that the man I thought I had married wasn’t at all the man I had thought he was.  I don’t want to dwell on this or relive it, but it certainly contributed to my feelings of loss recently, as have some other events.  They have damaged my ability to trust, and I am still healing.  It’s pretty amazing how a few people and their actions can make you question your self-worth so thoroughly, even when you are a confident, intelligent, capable person.

As one of my employees is fond of saying, “What fresh fuckery is this?”  I feel like I have experienced more than my fair share of fuckery lately, and I need to let it go.  There are a whole lot of circus animals out there that just aren’t mine to care about anymore…  And therein lies the title of this post…

Often though, in the face of adversity, there is opportunity.  I have decided to do something huge, just for me; I am quitting my job to travel the U.S. for a few months.  Just me and my car, whom I have named Viaje.   I need to find myself again.

I never thought that I would be a person who would just hit the road without much of an itinerary or a timeline; that world is for hippier, more free-spirited people than me.  But I think something more extreme is what I need to get out of the rut I find myself stuck in.  I need to figure out again that I am strong and capable, and that I am enough.  I need to relearn that there is purpose in this life.  I need to know that there are kind people in this world, even if I know I will run into some unkind ones too.  Hopefully the kind ones will outnumber the jerks.  I need to figure out how to make it alone.  I need to see and feel peace again.  I need to heal.

I am on a budget, unless one of you wants to be my anonymous benefactor, so I’ll be doing it with a combination of car camping and couch-surfing, with perhaps the occasional hotel night thrown in if I am really itching for a good, hot shower and some TV (I can’t let that happen too often though – darned budget).  If any friends and family, both well-known and little known, are interested in sharing some time, or inviting me for a brief stay to connect or reconnect and find some laughter and human connection, I would welcome that!

I won’t be going everywhere, but if you would like to get together, and/or are willing to put up with me for a night or two (or more, but that would be completely up to you and my itinerary), let me know here and we’ll see if I will be in your area.

The next few months of blog posts are likely to deal more with my emotional experience than I have revealed here in the past, but I decided that my process of healing needs to include that level of openness.  Maybe someone else can benefit from my trials.  Other antics may include freezing my butt off, sweating to death, not being able to get the camp stove working, singeing my hair in a campfire, spraying bug spray in my eye, turning into one giant, itchy mosquito welt (they love me) and being bitten by (hopefully not) ticks.  The trip is also bound to include some gorgeous sunsets, great hikes, fantastic historical sites, and wine consumed from either a mug or a melamine cup…  There might even be smores!

They say what doesn’t kill you…??? To that end, I will still be posting here, and as I still have a ton of previous trip stuff to catch up on (including a trip to London that I arrived home from early this morning!!!), this blog will be a combination of past and present posts.  I will likely be posting less frequently though, as I will have to find a place for the night each night…  Priorities…  You will be more likely to find current updates on Instagram or Twitter (my username on both platforms is @wineandhistory), so I hope you will follow along there as well.

I hope you will follow along on this crazy adventure of mine!

 

Mi Vida Loca Photo Series, 2

Life has a way of catching up with you sometimes, and getting crazy busy and a bit overwhelming. So while I devote some attention to it over the next few weeks, I am going to share a few photos of the adventures over the last several months that I haven’t had a chance to post about.

Me with the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, March 2018

Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: On the Water

Day 12-14, Friday, August 4-6, 2017

I headed out from Portland towards home on Friday morning.  Along the way, I stopped off at the Tacoma Marina to meet my friend David, who had a boat moored there.  We had talked about just meeting for lunch, but the timing turned out well, as my only commitment was getting back to work the next Monday.  The weather was spectacular, so we ended up taking the boat out for a couple of days of relaxation and decompressing.

On our way

 

Our getaway

The good thing about a boat on the water is that you are a captive to the concept of relaxing.  We anchored off of Vashon Island and had almost no interruptions, except for the occasional boat going by.  For two days, I read my book, napped on the bow of the boat, sunned myself, fished and crabbed (both rather unsuccessfully, as an octopus kept stealing the bait from the crab pots), ate, drank red wine (Redhead Red blend – yummy!), and swam in the Sound.  It was glorious!  We ate well, with shish-ka bobs, strawberries, peaches, plums, assorted snacks, and Greek yogurt for breakfast.  Corn on the cob and roasted potatoes were salted with sea water and cooked on the BBQ.

We jumped in the water whenever we got too hot, and bobbed on pool noodles and watched the jellyfish float by, drinking canned beer until we got too cold.  Well, let’s get real, I always got too cold first.  I learned that full beer cans float – I have no idea how I made it into my 40s while living right next door to the ocean without knowing this.  The weekend cycle – get hot, jump in, bob, drink beer, climb out, warm up on the bow, repeat.

Jellyfish floating by

David knows I hate Modest Mouse – so every time Modest Mouse came on the Spotify station, he would skip over the song, even if it meant getting up to do it.  Bless his sweet heart.  We talked about life; all those deep conversations that happen with close quarters, people you cherish, and wine after dark.

The sunset from the water

These were some of the most peaceful, enjoyable days I have experienced in a long time, and the perfect end to a great vacation.

Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: Dee Wright Observatory and Balancing Rocks

Day 11, Thursday, August 3, 2017

We didn’t have a need to get up really early this morning, so I took a brief walk, had breakfast, and hit the pool. It was so hot out that it was already warm enough for swimming!  I loved spending some more time in the pool!

Me at the Pool

Once we got going, we headed out and went to the Dee Wright Observatory.  It is an observation structure at the summit of McKenzie Pass in the Cascade Mountains near Sisters.  The road up to the summit of McKenzie pass is the route of an 1860 wagon route on the Oregon Trail.  The pioneers actually had to build the road in order to get the wagons across the lava – and you think your commute is bad!

The road leading to Dee Wright

The observatory is a 5,187 feet in elevation, and offers panoramic views of the nearby mountains.  The area around the observatory consists of 65 square miles of black lava rock.  It was built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and was named for the foreman of the project to build the observatory, who died before the project reached its completion.

Dee Wright Observatory

When it is clear, you can see Mount Washington, Mount Jefferson, South, North and Middle Sister, Mount Hood and many more.  Unfortunately, the day we were there, the area was covered in a thick haze of smoke from the wildfires up in Canada.  We could see the closer mountains, but not as well as I would have liked, and the mountains further away were not visible at all. I will have to visit again.

The observatory structure is very cool because it has multiple windows built into the stone structure where you can see the various mountains framed in stone – and they are all labeled so you can tell which mountain you are looking at.  We checked out all the windows, and took photos.

 

We also did the nature trail walk, which explained the volcanic eruptions that occurred in the area, the different types of lava flow and how plants and animals returned to an area after the landscape is changed by volcanic eruptions.  There were small trees and shrubs growing, and there were hundreds of monarch butterflies!

 

After we went to the Dee Wright Observatory, we went into downtown Sisters to get lunch; burgers and fries that were good, but nothing to get all excited about.  We wandered around town for a bit and poked around in some shops before we got on the road for our next destination.

Our next stop was the Oregon Balancing Rocks.  If you hadn’t heard of them, never fear – I hadn’t either.  Apparently, years ago, my brother and sister in law saw a documentary on the Oregon Public Broadcasting Station about the Balancing Rocks.  They visited many years ago, and wanted to see them again with the kids.

The Balancing Rocks in Oregon are similar to the more famous balancing rocks in Arches National Park in Utah.  The harder stone above is held up by softer stone underneath.  The softer stone erodes away more quickly, leaving these mushroom-shaped capped stones.  The Oregon Balancing Rocks are not nearly as exciting as the rocks in Arches though – the colors are more brown than red, and they aren’t nearly as pretty.  There were lizards there though!

I have no idea where these rocks really were, besides about 30 miles north of Sisters down a gravel forest service road, somewhere overlooking Billy Chinook Lake and the Metolius River (how’s that for vague?).  There is an unmarked small gravel parking lot at the trail head, but no services.  The quarter mile trail is well maintained gravel though – and the kids enjoyed running down it with abandon.  Which they probably shouldn’t, because I am sure this area has rattlesnakes – but hey, I’m the aunt…

We checked out the rocks, and checked out the view, which was hazy because of the wildfire smoke, and took some pictures of the lizards, but really, there isn’t a whole lot to see out there in the middle of nowhere.  Like I said, they aren’t as exciting as their more famous cousins in Utah…

 

After the Balancing Rocks, we started the long drive home.  The wildfires made the sun bright red and the sky really hazy.  We even got out of the car for a minute to take photos of the sun because it was so unusual.  We got home to my brother’s house about 8 pm, unpacked the car and discovered a house that was about 87 degrees upstairs – Yikes!  Home sweet home!  The air conditioning and some fans did manage to cool it down to 85 by the time we got into bed – that certainly isn’t much though!

The wildfire sun and haze

Distance for the Day: Sisters, Oregon – Dee Wright Observatory, Sisters, OR – Balancing Rocks, OR – Portland, OR (4 hours, 15 minutes; 185 miles – this is a guess, because Google Maps is being fickle and wouldn’t let me map some of these because the roads are still closed for the winter)
Fees: None
Lodging: Back home at my brother’s house

Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: Yellowstone Arrival

Day 3, Wednesday, July 26, 2017

I woke up to a breeze at our campground in Arco, Idaho, and knew that it would start raining soon.  And it did – pretty much immediately after I had that first thought about it.  I got up and got going quickly, tearing down my tent and getting it all packed up and ready to go before the rain got too heavy.  I went and showered, since the kids were not as motivated to get moving!  After that, I took them for waffles at the breakfast bar at the campground, while Michael and Susanna packed up their stuff.  YUM!

We finally got everything and everyone in the van and hit the road; we decided to stop at Cabela’s for rain jackets for the kids.  Note: some kids HATE rain jackets – they feel “funny,” so you can imagine how this trip went!  We also got a pop-up rain/shade tent thing for any rainy days along the way.  Then we were all set!  Today was the day we were getting to Yellowstone!

There is a lot of driving on the way to Wyoming, by the way, but soon we made it!  We got into the park through the West Entrance and fairly soon we saw our first wildlife – a couple of elk!  The kids were fascinated.  We also saw a few bison and some pelicans and geese.

Elk Butt!

 

White Pelicans and Canada Geese

 

We didn’t want to do too much sightseeing though, because we needed to get our campsite set up and ready for our five nights there!  We checked in, got firewood, got our campsite number, and headed over to see where we would be!  Our site was in the trees and on a small slope, so we really had to scope out our spots for two tents.  We got tents up, got our shade/rain tent up and got settled in.  My tent was only about 20 feet from my brother’s, but at night, was I far enough away that I would get eaten by bears!?

Our tents at camp

 

We had a fire, and turned in relatively early, and of course it rained… Hard!  But my little tent stayed dry!

Distance for the Day: 2 hours, 53 minutes; 167 miles
Yellowstone Entrance Fee: $30 per vehicle for 7 days, free with a National Parks Pass
Canyon Campground, Yellowstone National Park: $30 per night for a tent site

Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: World Center for Birds of Prey

Day 2, Tuesday, July 25, 2017

We woke up in Farewell Bend State Park on a cooler, but still hot, and still breezy morning.  I took a shower – the water took a long time to warm up so most of it was cold… Then we had omelettes and chocolate muffins for breakfast.  We live such a rough camping life! Tear down and packing the car took a bit of time, as it was our first attempt at re-Tetrising on the road.  I had my stuff packed and ready to go long before the kids, so I helped their parents try to wrangle them and we got on the road at 9:30.

Our next stop was at the World Center for Birds of Prey.  I had been there once before, in 2013 and loved it! The World Center for Birds of Prey was founded by the Peregrine Fund, as a conservation and education center. They are a group dedicated to the ancient sport of falconry.  Peregrines have been used in falconry for over 3,000 years, and the group wanted to save them for the sport.  Peregrines are the fastest animal on earth, diving at speeds more than 200 mph while hunting.

Peregrine Falcon

Their first conservation mission began in 1970, to save the Peregrine Falcon from extinction – the Peregrines and other birds of prey had become threatened due to the agricultural pesticide DDT, which causes birds to lay eggs with thin shells.  The breeding program and legislation to ban DDT were so successful that the Peregrine Falcon was removed from the Endangered Species list in 1999.  They are doing so well now that the Center no longer breeds them for release into the wild; they are focusing their efforts on other, still endangered, species.

While we were there, we saw a demonstration on a Lanner Falcon, which is native to the Mediterranean area.  He was beautiful, and we all loved seeing him up close.  We learned about the malar stripes, which reduce glare on the bird’s eyes as they hunt.  It’s where football players got the idea.

Lanner Falcon

We watched the movie on the work of the center, and I also loved seeing the success story of the Peregrine Falcon (removed from the endangered species list in 1999), as well as the California Condor, which in great part is due to the efforts of the World Center for Birds of Prey has gone from only 22 individuals remaining in the world to 446 in captivity and in the wild as of the end of 2016.  We also checked out the birds on display inside.

When we went back outside after touring the indoor exhibits, we split up and I was lucky enough to find two bird handlers with a male and female American Kestrel.  They look so different from each other – it was very cool to see them up close!  They are very small falcons, and the females are larger than the males, which is common among birds of prey.  Also very interesting is that Kestrels can hover, in order to ambush and swoop down on their prey!

American Kestrel Male

 

American Kestrel Female

The center also has several birds on exhibit outdoors, including a Bald Eagle, a Turkey Vulture, a Peregrine and my favorites, the Bataleur Eagles.  These eagles were 45 and 47 years old when I visited in 2013, so now they are 50 and 52 years old!  They were hatched in 1966 and 1968.  The birds here are not able to be released in the wild, either due to the fact that they were imprinted on humans when they were young or due to an injury they suffered previously.  The Center uses them as education birds, teaching students and community members about the species and their conservation efforts.

 

I was sure they wouldn’t be interested, but after we told them about it, the kids really wanted to do the tour of the archive.  The archive, of course has books and information on the history of falconry, but it also has exhibits and artifacts related to falconry.  There are falconry hoods and perches, radio and early GPS tracking systems, and artwork related to falconry.  There is also a 20 x 12 foot traditional goat-hair hunting tent from Syria.  The archive was made possible in large part from a donation from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, son of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding President of the United Arab Emirates and a falconer himself.  I guess it goes to show that it pays to know people…  I was surprised to see how much the kids enjoyed seeing it, especially the hunting tent, and they listened attentively to the guide during the tour.

 

After the archive, we had a snack and got on the road again.  Our plan had been to head over to Craters of the Moon National Monument, not thinking we were going to be at the World Center for Birds of Prey for so long.  What an issue to have!  So sadly, by the time we got to Craters, there weren’t any campsites available – they are first-come first-served.  After a bit of discussion, we decided that we would do Craters on the way home.  So that evening we really just breezed through…

At this point, it was getting late and starting to get dark and we still didn’t have a campsite…  A call to a KOA RV Park in Arco, Idaho and we had a site!  We got checked in and my brother took the kids over to the pool while Susanna and I got tents up and dinners started.  Cooking dinner over a camp stove in the dark with a headlamp is always interesting!  We had noodle pasta with hamburger and salad.  Not gourmet, but it hit the spot!  We had picked up a bottle of wine on our travels that day, and Susanna and I enjoyed some wine while cooking and during dinner too.

After dinner, and after booting the kids to bed, Michael, Susanna and I stayed up talking and enjoying our bevvies – wine for the girls and a bit of whisky for my brother, before turning in for the night.  Another great day…

 

Distance for the Day: 4 hours, 58 minutes; 282 miles
World Center for Birds of Prey: $10.00 adults, $8 seniors, $5  youth ages 4 to 16. 
Craters of the Moon KOA, Arco, Idaho: $30 for a tent site (if I remember correctly)