Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Go West Happy Cow

Since we left Madison, our trip has been a bit of a whirlwind tour of the northern states. The brief (or not so brief now that I finally finished writing it) overview goes something like this...

We left Madison with plans to camp nearby and spend a few days in Minneapolis/St Paul. After deciding the twin cities would be better visited at a later date and in the company of two veteran tour guides (Bert and Laura), we pushed past the campsite and drove well into the evening to a rest stop just beyond Minneapolis. We rearranged the car, unfurled the bedroll and bunked down for what we thought was going to be a difficult few hours of rest. Eight and a half hours later we woke up completely refreshed and mildly annoyed that it took us almost six months to master the art of sleeping in our car.

Armed with the knowledge that we could sleep better and more easily in the car, than in a tent we continued the west/northwest journey into North Dakota with Teddy Roosevelt National Park in mind. As we drove across the state, we decided that the state motto should have been "North Dakota....Yup, 'bout what you expected." We pit stopped briefly at the park and let Emma run wild for an hour or two. Back in the car we looked at a map and a calendar and realized that given our motivation, the weather forecast and our projected stops along the way, we could be in Portland in time for Lincoln's first birthday the following Sunday. We quickly outlined a route and headed towards Billings, MT for dinner.

This is a good opportunity to point out that the culinary offerings of Billings leave something to be desired. If you are looking for a good steak joint you're in luck. If you're looking for somewhere you and your wife can eat for under $20 that isn't fast food, you might have a harder time. After running out the clock (everything in Billings shuts down early) looking for something local, we gave up and opted for at least something I'd never had before: Red Lobster. Imagine the joy on our faces when we discovered that it was indeed the last day of "Lobster-fest" and we hadn't missed out on all the festivities! Oh joy of joys! We split the salad, soggy lobster nachos, and cheddar bay biscuits (nothing goes better with nachos than biscuits, right?), came in a dollar under budget, AND got our weekly sodium intake in one sitting! What more could a road warrior ask for?

The next day we got a full tour of Wyoming when we failed to confirm ahead of time that the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park was still closed for the season. You might think we would be past the bush league errors like that, but you'd be wrong. You are never too experienced to continue being a moron. Our detour took us from Cody, down through the glittering, metropolitan centers of such towns as Thermopolis, Rivertown, and Dubois on our journey to Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. All joking aside, of the many detours we've made on this trip, our jaunt across Wyoming was one of the most beautiful.

Most of the trails in Teton National Park were still under snow, but we were able to walk the four miles out from the ranger station to Jenny Lake and enjoy being in the shadows of the Tetons for several hours. We had dinner in Jackson and set up camp near a state park between Teton and Yellowstone. The morning greeted us with panoramic views of mountains and a huge field for Emma to explore. From there we headed into Yellowstone National Park for an animal and geyser filled day. As the afternoon rolled around, we headed towards Helena for dinner and drinks with an old coworker of mine. After dinner with his wife, Tim Guisti treated us to a night on the town we are likely not to forget for a long time.

We had previously decided that given the state of Teton and Yellowstone, Glacier National Park was probably also going to have a significant portion of the park closed. Rather than driving so far out of the way, we took a layover day in Helena. We had brunch, worked out, visited the library and indulged in all the creature comforts we had forgone in the past few days. Sated, exercised and showered, we cruised through the mountains and into Missoula for a tasty dinner of salads and beers at the Iron Horse Brewery. Brunch in Missoula the next morning and we were off again.

We spent the better part of the morning driving down the mountain, alongside the Lochsa river. The hundred miles of white-water rapids made for a very scenic drive and before we knew it, we found ourselves in a wine tasting room in Walla Walla, WA. A few sips of wine and a long walk around town with Emma and we finally admitted to ourselves that there was no way we were going to sleep in the car again (no matter how good we were getting at it) when the only thing standing between us and the basement apartment Monica offered to let us use in Portland was a four hour drive.

And so here we are, in Portland, staying with the perfect hostesses Monica and Anya, and enjoying ourselves quite a bit. Something about Portland just feels right. Maybe it's the home brewed beer that rivals the best from the rest of the country. Or maybe it's the green in the politics as well as the trees. Or perhaps it's the backyard BBQs where the babies seem to always end up running around naked. Whatever it is, something about Portland feels like home. And it is nice to be home...if only for a little while.

North Dakota-Yup

There was a bear down there...we were too far away to see with our camera, but some people let us look through their binoculars. The bear is one of those specks in the middle of the picture. She had just woken up for the spring and had her cubs with her. This picture is really just a spot to tell you this story since you can't see anything. Hope you enjoyed it.

The Tetons

And again

Old Faithful


Lots of Bison

1 comment:

  1. So glad you two are having a great time. Look forward to you coming "home" to Texas soon. Love you!