End of the road: Seattle

Lela and I have made it safe and sound to Seattle, WA. It has been a few days since our arrival and we have finally settled in. We were stuck in a hotel in Seatac, WA for a few days before we could move into our apartment in Seattle. It was a little bit of a let down because I envisioned this "grand finale" to our trip. Instead it was a just a quick trip up I-5 North and there we were. That's probably why I hadn't updated the blog earlier.
The weather is a little colder than we had expected. We've been wearing jeans and sweatshirts daily. The sun briefly shined into our apartment earlier today before it moved further west (our apartment has a very slight eastern exposure). Orange has been soaking up all the sun she can given it doesn't shine through the window very long. Although, it still seems that she is more comfortable in the van rather than inside the apartment, but I sure that will change with time.
Our apartment is very nice and modern. All the furniture is stained a nice dark wood, the windows are very large, and the porch is a nice for a quick getaway. The couch is covered in a nice sage microsuede material and the matching chair has a nice green and yellow print. It feels like we are in a very nice hotel room. A big change from sleeping inside a 17 year old van.
There is a lot I am already missing about the trip. Waking up, sliding open the van door, and breathing in the fresh air. Starting the day out with great optimism and excitement for what unknown was yet to come. And believe it or not, leading a more simple life is actually, well, simpler.
The drive up the pacific coast on route 101 to Seattle was awesome. At times the road was so sharp and steep while the whole time the trees and the waves of the ocean were just to your left. I was driving and it was incredible. It probably was even better for Lela. It was about this time that we started seeing VW Vanagons/Buses/Eurovans all over the place. I would say they are probably as common as any model Mercedes or BMW in Baltimore. I am sure that our van came from this region. We stopped at a roadside expresso stand and got "filled up" and didn't stop to eat until we reached Seatac. We knew our trip was ending and the real world was awaiting us (well, at least Lela).

A special note to all of you that have been keeping up with the blog. We are extending an invitation to come at visit us during our stay. Our apartment is little, but we would love to have you! Some of you have already made plans to come and see us which is so great. We look forward to it very much.

We also couldn't end this without thanking our God for keeping us safe, healthy, and spirited throughout our trip. He is everything to us and we hope to grow stronger in our faith daily with His guidance. Thank you Lord, we love you.



Day 17-18: Nehlam State Park - Pacific Ocean

As I sit hear typing this I hear the Pacific Ocean waves coming onto shore, the crackel of the campfire and feel the stong breeze coming off the water. Welcome to Nehlam, Oregon. We left Missoula, MT and headed due west all the way to the west coast. I am sure Glacier NP is nice (northwest Montana), however our warmth and comfort was our priority so we canceled our trip there. We stopped along the way to the west coast at Lewis and Clark State Park in Montana and stayed the night. It was a great little park along the L&C trail that had flush toilets and showers. Don’t get too excited, the showers cost 25 cents each three minutes, and for me that would equate to nearly $3.00 for a shower. Pretty expensive! So I passed. I was still pretty clean from the 2 showers I had taken at the Ponderosa Lodge. Lela and I had actually bought chocolate, grahm crackers, and marshmallows in Yellowstone to make smores but because the weather was bad and our fire pit was snowed over, that never happened. So we made smores at L&C park. I found that the trick here is to make sure the the chocolate gets melted too, so just put some on a grahm cracker on the edge of the fire to get it a little warmed up. Once you place the toasted marshmellow on there, it’s perfect.
In the morning we had some cheesey scrambled eggs and then set out to make it to Nehlam State Park in Oregon. We chose this park because of it’s location and in case it was full there were some more camping sites further north up the coastal highway. We were so excited to be able to see the ocean again. We started out our trip on the Atlantic and finally we were going to make it to the Pacific. We were psyched. We followed the Columbia River, which separates Washington from Oregon. The day before we had stopped at Cabella’s and spoke with a guy named “Lee” who actually grew up at the mouth of the Columbia river. It was also warm again, temperatures were actually in the 70’s! Lela was enjoying it wearing her red tank-top in the van. I was manning the iPod/radio. Orange napped almost the whole way.
Once we arrived at the park, we paid for our site and made camp for the night. This state park was the most equiped of any park we had stayed at during our entire trip. Every site had electricity and water. We made sure to use the recently purchased heater from Walmart. We walked along the beach feeling that we had actually accomplished something. It was a great feeling to know that God had given us such a great opportunity and agreed to let us do. We were so thankful. Thankful that the van had made it, thankful that we were healthy, thankful that Orange was healthy, thankful that someone had been looking out for us the whole time. We picked up rocks along the beach, marveled at the nearby cliffs, and stepped over the huge pieces of driftwood. We were in our element. This was where we wanted to be.
I slept a long time that night, longer than I had wanted, but this what I had needed. After breakfast we took a 2 mile bike ride along the park. We found the park’s airstrip, met up with a deer along the trail, went to the site where people can bring their horses, and took some pictures near the water. We came back and took a long nap in the tent. For some reason a tent is so comfortable during the daytime. Please try it soon if you get a chance. After we woke we went to the local store and picked up some fish, corn, zucchini, and dessert for dinner. I am writing this with a full stomach while listening to some tunes, seated next to the campfire. The hair on my shins feels like it’s burning.
Tomorrow we will arrive at our destination of Seattle. It will be bittersweet. We have come so far, had so much fun, but I wish it could go on longer. But it is now time to get back down to business with graduate school applications and work. Trips cannot last forever.
I will blog one more time once we get to Seattle. After that I have to decide whether to keep up the blog during our stay, start a new one, or just discontinue. Talk to you next time!

(pix will be above)



Since the weather is so bad now (rain, snow, sleet, freezing) Lela convinced me to stay in a motel last night.  I agreed only because of the cheap price, free internet and cable t.v..  I have to say that I do long to be "in touch" with the world again.  It pains me not to be up on all the latest and greatest news, especially political news.  We are going to leave the "Ponderosa Lodge" today, however I am not sure where we are going.  Glacier NP would have been next on our list but since the weather is so bad I am not sure if we could enjoy it.  Maybe we will start heading west to get out of this funky weather.  Tune in next time to see where we went!

Day 14-16: Grand Teton, Yellow Stone and Moussula, MT

our drive to Grand Teton was a little shaky once we got to Wy (just after posting the last blog):  our "trusty sidekick" van started chugging everytime it slowed, and at that point we were on an interstate hwy.  it all turned out to be a fuel octane choice - 85 preferred around these parts.  after confirming that with locals and consulting with dad, we continued on this gorgeous drive up to Grand Teton.  we passed through the cutest town called Jackson Hole:  it had cafes, art galleries, small boutiques... just so quaint.  my favorite little town so far.   

we got 
to grand teton after dark, so we
 quickly set up camp, ate dinner and turned in for the night as we were forewarned about the weather (thanks mom!).  it dropped to low 40s in the van, and orange was soo cold she slept under the covers between us!!
in the morning, we drove through park, saw a family of bison, and enjoyed the green scenery.  unfor
tunately we could only see the bottom half of the cluster of mountains to which grand teton belongs to as it was sooo cloudy.  but not to worry:  we took a pic of the informational plaque!!!  

After a short hour ride, we got to Yellowstone NP.  we actually met people from Easton Shore, Md!! it truly is incredible.  there was snow everywhere, and just driving through the park to our chosen campsite was worth the drive.  there are so many turnouts on the road for taking pix of the animals, trees, and nature, waterfalls, geysers, hotsprings....  we saw soo many people fly-fishing.  just beautif
ul.  it was about a 45 mile drive from the entrance to our campsite.  well, the only damper (for me) was the weather:  it was freezing.  people were wearing their winter gear (gloves, hats, puff jackets)...but that didn't deter us from going to see Old Faithful, or pull over to see some of the sites (the hotsprings and geysers a
re my fav).  
our campsite was freezing and snow covered:  JP 
couldn't even build a fire as they didn't get to clear out the fire pit.  so we went to the campsite's restaurant for dinner and to warm up, and went to sleep in the van.  it was under 30 degrees in the van and we had ice rain throughout the night and into the morning.  the locals call it the "june surprise," but they did say this weather was a bit extreme.  
in the morning, while orangey stayed curled up under her blanket, we got a hot shower (for a small fee), had breakfast at a 50's diner just across the campsite, and off we went to our next destination: Glacier NP in Mt.  


Day 11 - 13: Co. Springs, Garden of the Gods, Dinosaur Nat. Park

We arrived safely to Colorado Springs and we stayed with our friends "The Plankeel's".  They live right in the mountains!  It was so nice spending time with them and their twin daughters (one of them is named Lela!).  We feel blessed to have such great friends.  Lela did our laundry for us, we stocked up at the grocery store, and relaxed.  Jeff and I went on this awesome mountain bike ride for an hour our last night there.  It was incredible biking up the mountains.  We also went to "Garden of the God's" while we were there (thanks AKinKS).  This place is awesome.  The land was purchased for about $10,000.00 in the early 1900's by a business man.  He and his family gifted the land to the city of Co. Springs and required that it must remain a free park.

We left the Plankeel's and started making our way to Dinosaur National Monument.  This is a federally protected area in the north west corner of Colorado and also shared by Utah.  The trip there was very interesting.  We actually had to pull over a few times because the van struggled to make it up the very steep hills of the Rocky Mountains.  We had to blast the heat and roll down the windows so that the van would not overheat.  Lela did a great job driving during this very stressful terrain.  Going down the hills was a problem too because you have to make sure that your brakes don't overheat as well.  Even with all the minor problems, the drive was completely incredible.  We went up and down, up and down, c
onstantly.  Other cars were flying by us, but we are use to this now and don't pay it any mind.

We went through a few really cool places.  We went throu
gh Routte National Forest and it felt and looked like we time warped back to Februa
ry.  There was snow all over the ground and it was freezing.  Using the heat now was actually needed to keep us warm, rather than using it to cool down the van.  We stopped through this really nice town called Steamboat where the skiing is apparently "killer" (per the locals).  We quickly fueled up at Sinclair and ate at Quizno's.  Along the way to the park we saw countless mountain and road bikers along with some people white water rafting.

We had to take a dirt road to get to the National Park.  It was really cool and fun (and bumpy).  The road was a little wet.  It was the first time I longed for my Jeep instead of the Vanagon.  Upon arriving at the camp we went for a shor
t hike to the "Gates of Ladore" which is this big break in the mountains where Green River runs through.  It was beautiful.  We then made friends with some great guys from Steamboat, CO named Caleb and Greg.  We talked about city life vs. rural life, desk jobs vs. field work, giving blood, and so much more.  We found the Little and Big Dipper and remarked over the stars.  I actually saw a shooting star as well.  They were also nice enough to let me eat one of their cherished "Hebrew National" hotdogs (thanks guys, it was good).  It dropped down to 43 degrees so we layered up to sleep.  Long underwear was required.

This morning we had pancakes and set out around 11am (late start).  We traveled on dirt roads for about 40 miles before making it to pavement again.  Although it was bumpy, we wouldn't have had it any other way.  We went through some of the most picturesque scenery that you could ever lay your eyes on.  We drove through this huge canyon called "Irish Canyon".  We are now stopped at the McDonald's in Wyoming and have a few more hours left before we make it to Grand Teton National Park. 


Day 9-10: Guernsey State Park, SD and Denver/Colo.Springs, Co

Staying at the Badlands was such a great experience, but it was time to move on to Mount Rushmore. This was something I had been lo
oking forward to
 for a long time. I
 realize that we east coasters (
especially Marylanders/VA'ers) have been spoiled by all the national monuments in Washington, DC, including their beauty and grandeur, but this is one monument that must be visited. As you drive into the park along the hilly and windy road leading to the monument you wait with anticipation because at any moment, around the next turn, you will see the four faces towering above you. The man that built them, Gutzon Borglum, was an highly accomplished artist/sculptor and ran in circles with the elite in the world including President Teddy Rosevelt (the only carved faced that there was some dispute over). He didn't start them until he was 60 years old, and subsequently they were never entirely completed due to his untimely death. We had lunch at the monument (perfect time for me to get a buffalo meat burger). We didn't pick up any souvenirs so the pictures will have to do (I believe they speak for themselves).
We headed back to the van and told "her" (the g.p.s. navigation lady) to take us to Colorado Springs, CO. We didn't really plan on getting there in one day, but we knew we were going to stop along the way at Guernsey State Park. It is in the southeast corner of South Dakota. On our way we went through this small little town that saved us from being stranded on the road. We were on "E" big time and needed gas. We found a gas station in Lusk, SD. Had we not run across it, 8 miles later we would have been pulled over on the side of the road waiting for years (literally, there are no people around, only cattle). This was an old school gas pump (check out the picture). We also stopped at the local grocery store there in town (not a Weis, Giant, Wegmans, Whole Foods or anything like it) and picked up a few groceries for the evening. The funniest part about this was the old camper parked in the grocer parking lot with the words "raw honey" painted on the side of it. Apparently someone lives/works there and sells honey to get by. We also stopped at this mini expresso bar in a parking lot as well. The lady there was really nice and insured us that the park we were staying at for the night was very nice, but still no showers.
We arrived at the park and immediately noticed it's beauty. It was encompassed by a huge lake. But the best part of all was that it was almost completely empty. It was enjoyable to feel alone with nature after being surrounded by a lot of people in the Badlands. We set up camp, as normal now, and had our dinner. I was able to make a fire with the good wood that the park ranger brought for me. It had rained the last few days so all the wood I could find was wet, he was nice enough to bring me some dry wood. I actually ended up taking a shower by mixing cold water with boiled water to make a nice warm water. It was elementary but it felt so good.
This morning we headed out again towards Co. Springs. I am writing to you from this amazing deli, Masterpiece Delicatessen, in downtown Denver. It just opened and the food is incredible. I recommend it to anyone in or going to Denver. I had a reuben sandwich that had the best roast beef I have ever tasted. No, we are not talking lunch meat here. The real stuff that is somewhat shredded into nice chunks and so tender that it falls apart with one bite. And it is bright pink, not brown. Very nice!
So, we are on to Co. Springs to meet up with some old friends. It will be nice to see a reminder of Baltimore.

PS:  Thanks for all the comments.  It really feels like you all are with us!

Day 7-8: The BADLANDS & Wall Drug, S. Dakota

oh my gosh, the drive to S. Dakota badlands national park was amazing.  endless rolling hills sooo green you wont believe it!!  and despite forecasters predicting we were headed into a thunderstorm with "hail the size of grapefruits," it was beautiful.  the clouds provided the perfect shade, but one can hardly notice that when you are surrounded with so much beauty.  ok, there is one thing that annoyed me to no end (sorry Fletch!!):  Wall Drug, a quaint and must-see town about 30 miles NW of Badlands, started advertising (billboards) in Iowa, at least 250miles before you get there!! and frequently.  so they bombard you with their advertisements that you either a)get turned off and refuse to go (my reaction) or b) you get hooked and go (jeremy's reaction).  anyhow, for anyone who hasn't been, it's cute and i'm glad we went. 
 just look at the pix from the badlands:  they are specta
cular. hard to describe in words...we camped for 2 nights:  first night, jp setup the tent and only 20 minutes after that, it started raining and wind blowing so much, some of the campers packed up and left!! we decided sleeping in the van would be wiser.  but nothing else happened until the morning:  jp encountered a big rattlesnake right next to the restrooms - very near our van & tent.  and yes, they are poisonous.  so my nerves were undone, and i was paranoid about walking on the grass from that point on.  i began to "hear" rattles at every corner, and jp got a good laugh.  anyhow, i enjoy nature, and love animals, but as far as i'm concerned God can do away with snakes (eco-balance can be compromised all it wants!!).   
most of you know that i've recently just learned how to ride a bike.  so far so good, i'm glad jp and i could share a nice bike ride together - it is so invigorating.  only one incident so far at the badlands when i crashed into a parked car.  aside from severe embarrassment, both i and the car are fine!! (Danu,  jess - stop laughing!!!)
orangey likes the van:  she thinks it's her house so we feel blessed to have her with us.  thanks to all our family and friends who keep tabs on  us and give us advice.  we love you all.



Orangey continues to be amazing on the trip...she's such a beautiful companion. she just looks out the window, sometimes tries to figure out what new sounds she hears "trucks, horns, etc..." but most of the time she's sleeping, nodding off like a tired person. she did well sleeping in the tent last night once she realized it was hopeless to bat at big bad bugs from the inside of the tent!!

Day 6: Iowa, South Dakota: Rest stop, Corn Palace, Stone State Park

Yesterday was somewhat uneventful.  We just drove and drove and drove, until we couldn't do it anymore.  We slept at a rest stop around Joliet, IL.  It was convenient because there were bathrooms right there for us (good for those middle of the night times where you can't hold it).  We woke up early and set out around 6:45am.  There was a considerable difference driving this day.  The wind was gone and therefore we were not getting blown off the road like we were the other days.  Our destination was Stone State Park in Sioux Falls, IA.  We weren't quite sure how nice the park would be, but at least it would be a peaceful place to rest.
We arrived at the state park around 8pm.  It was just what we were looking for.  We drove up this huge hill to an overlook where you could see for miles.  It was beautiful.  We paid $11 for our camp site and left our money in the lock box.  I immediately setup the tent and started a fire.  I also decided to take a shower, I was getting a little bit stinky by this point.  To my surprise there was warm water!  Very nice.  I indulged for a few minutes not knowing when my next hot shower would come.  
We awoke around 8am with rain coming down.  I threw on my waterproof pants and jacket and got us packed up quickly.  Lela then took a shower while I tuned in the radio to check on the weather.  We had heard that there was some hail in South Dakota (grapefruit size) so we needed to make sure to stay clear of it.  Thankfully the Lord was watching over us and the weather proved out to be just fine.  Actually, a little overcast in the morning but it was just fine as the temperature was cool.  
Right now we stopped for lunch in Mitchell, SD at a coffee/deli for place.  We actually stopped here to visit the "one and only" Corn Palace.  Apparently since the late 1800's this town has had a building made out of corn.  Pretty interesting, but somewhat of a tourist trap.  The nicest part was that the road where the building is, is straight out of the midwest.  It has a saloon and all!  You expect to see a cowboy on his horse trotting down the main drag with getting ready for a duel.  
We will make camp tonight at Badlands National Park in SD.  I expect to see some really cool stuff based on the pictures I have seen.  We will also be visiting Mt. Rushmore while we are there.  We have about 4 more hours of driving before we get there.