The Maiden Voyage of Rosie, Baby and Me

Call it a maiden voyage, or a shake-down trip, depending on who you ask. This is the story of the first adventure with my travel trailer, Rosie.

Trip Details:

  • Date: September 20 – September 22, 2020
  • Location: Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia
  • Distance: 126 Miles
  • Total Miles: Approximately 300
  • MPG: 18.3
  • Weather: Sunny, highs in the upper 60s, nighttime lows in the upper 30s/low 40s

In August 2019, I made the craziest decision. I was going to pack up my home, rent it out, and become a nomad.

In October, I bought a 2015 A-Liner Classic to tow behind my 2012 Tiguan (affectionately named Baby, an homage to Supernatural). I named my new trailer Rosie, after the Riveter, because we can do it.

By February, I made the (what I thought was going to be) temporary move to my mom’s house in West Virginia to rent out my house and hit the road.

Then Covid-19 hit.

My house wasn’t ready to be rented, and no one knew what was going on. The days of quarantine turned into months. I settled into the “new normal” (aren’t we just sick of that phrase now?) and waited.

As people found their way, I made the final push to get the house ready to rent. By the end of August, I finally had a tenant, so it was time to dust off everything I learned when I bought my travel trailer and take her for a spin.

But where would I go? The trip needed to be relatively short (both in distance and time), just in case it went horribly wrong. Or I panicked towing. Or, well, anything.



the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

“a fortunate stroke of serendipity”

– Oxford Languages

The universe likes to tell me where to go. I took a trip to Colorado based on the biggest round of robins outside my house. I bought my house because of the bunnies in the back yard.

But, when mom first mentioned Blackwater Falls State Park, I added it to my list but didn’t think much more about it. I wanted to go to Harpers Ferry, only a scant 20 miles from where I am. Then, mention of the state park started popping up in different camping groups.

Fine! I said, I get it! That’s where I’m going then.

Onward to Adventure!

Planning started in earnest. Mom was coming with me to make sure … oh let’s be honest, we both needed to get out of the house for a couple of days.

A week before our departure the lists started.

Mom spent the week leading up to our departure date preparing grill packets full of goodies like cheesy potatoes, shrimp, and squash. And we’d try out the microwave in the trailer with creamed chip beef or mac & gnocchi.

I spent the week working. The day before our trip I crammed all my tasks into the waning evening hours.

  • Clean Car
  • Add Oil
  • Check Tires
  • Put camping gear in totes
  • Put trailer gear in totes

Let’s Go! Whooo!

The sky was clear and sharply blue as we packed all our gear into the car. The first stop was the gas station, then to pick Rosie (the trailer) up from the storage lot.

I turned the car on. I put the phone on the charger. I did a couple other things…

And then… the car started shaking and sputtering.

Mom says “Mine does that. Turn it off, give it a minute, turn it back on.” She has a 2001 Eurovan. We’re a Volkswagen family.

I turn it back on. It shakes, sputters, and dies.

I open up the Fixd app, connected to the car, and get all these scary engine cylinder misfire errors.

A Quick Aside…

Fixd is an OBD2 sensor, like the one mechanics use, that syncs up to your phone through Bluetooth and shares all the different error codes your car might send out. It was a gift from mom and has been a great addition to the travel arsenal.

Back to the story…

And then it sinks in… I didn’t check the oil before I filled it. I am suddenly filled with anger, despair, and all other negative emotions. A year in the making, I’m finally ready to hit the road, and the car dies on me, because of something so simple.

[What happens next is redacted for the sanity of all parties involved]

After some serious calming down, mom can finally get through to me. “Check to see if you actually overfilled the oil.”

I pop the hood. And sitting on the engine is the oil cap. All I’d actually done was forget to put the oil cap back on. That’s it.

So I put the cap back on, give it a few minutes, start the car up, and she purrs like a kitten. I rechecked Fixd, no new errors. And, I can clear the check engine light using the app.

Okay, now for real, lets go!

We head to the gas station, I fill up and raid the junk food. Then to the storage place to hook up and head out.

Hooking Rosie up was easier than I expected. Mom guided me back to the tow hitch, and I got everything connected. This included the power cable, breakaway cable, and chains. I tested the electric braking system, and we were off!

The drive to Blackwater Falls State Park was wonderfully uneventful. We took US 11 south to Winchester, then made our way over to Corridor H (also known as US 48). I was definitely “white-knuckling” (gripping the steering wheel too tight) most of the way there because the whole towing thing is pretty new to me (so is the driving thing if you’ve been following.)

Arriving at Blackwater Falls Campground

I pull up to our back-in space. Yep, first trip and I’ve got to back in.

First try… nope. Cars lining up behind me. I take a loop and try again.

Second try… nope. Cars lined up again. Take the loop again.

When I come around the second time, mom is standing with an older gentleman who apologizes profusely (I guess his wife mentioned that I told her I didn’t need help) and asks if he can show me how to back in. A couple of loops around the campground had removed any sense of pride I had, and I gratefully took the help.

Within less than two minutes, he had me perfectly backed into my campsite. I called him “my angel” the rest of the time they were at the campsite next to us. He told me he used to drive big rigs and was a perfect guide.

With Rosie in place, I unhitched and set up camp. Part of the reason I picked an A-Liner is it only takes one person to set up the whole thing.

Since we couldn’t get the NFL game on the weather radio, we decided to check out the lake. Pendleton Lake Beach is just a minute’s drive from the campground.

Then, it was time to burn things! Start the fire for dinner and heat. It was a chilly low 60s and getting colder as the sun went down. Meanwhile, we had a visitor. Maybe they were there to warn me of trouble to come.

A deer visits us at Blackwater Falls State Park campground.
Hello deer!

The packets mom made for our first night’s meal were perfection! All I had to do was throw the aluminum foil-wrapped potatoes, shrimp, and squash on the grill over the fire, and dinner was served shortly thereafter.

Dinner is served!

Day Two – Blackwater Falls, Thomas, WV and Cathedral State Park

It took some fussing, but we figured out how the “guest bed” in Rosie was supposed to work. We broke down the dinette and tried to position the cushions comfortably for mom to sleep. They’re awkward, but it worked for the most part. Some additional padding helps immensely.

My side is a sofa bed that slides out to slightly smaller than a queen-size bed, but I kept it in the sofa position. Every once and a while I get the craving to sleep in a nested tiny space, and this was one of those times.

We had a space heater plugged in to keep us nice and cozy.

I slept like the dead.

Blackwater Falls

Blackwater Falls State Park‘s centerpiece is the 57-foot cascades as the Blackwater River tumbles down out of the Canaan Valley and enters the Blackwater Canyon.

We drove to the first lookout, high above the falls. With no one around, we could take in the beauty at our own pace.

We then drove aimlessly around the State Park. Blackwater Canyon has some really glorious views.

There are a lot of cabins all over the park that can be rented, including some really secluded ones that look like they’re set up for winter. These cozy cabins had large sheds for storing a winter’s worth of wood just outside.

I didn’t get any pictures of the cabins, but I did come to a screeching halt (as much of a screech as one can do driving 20 mph) when I saw these beautifully balanced rocks in front of a trail aptly named Balanced Rock.

After Blackwater Falls, we headed out to Thomas. Thomas is special because I have a one-of-a-kind art piece from an artist who has a studio there, thanks to my mom. That’s where this quote came from:

in fact,

she hoped she wasn’t really headed anywhere in particular,

but just in case she was,

she had taken precautions to ensure it would take

her an exceptionally long time

to get there…

She drove all the way there to pick it up as a gift, after she commissioned a slight change from the original quote from “he hoped…” to “she hoped…” just for me. The artist is Seth Pitt, and his shop is called Creature.

Thomas is an adorable town full of artists and free spirits. I’d love to go back and spend more time there.

Cathedral State Park

At only 133 acres, Cathedral State Park is the largest old-growth forest in West Virginia and full of virgin Hemlocks. The park was only 20 miles north-west of our location, up the windy and scenic US 219, 24, and then US 50 for half a mile.

Along the way, we stopped at the “Smallest Church in 48 States.

The church contains seating for 12, and the exterior measures 24 ft. x 12 ft. Behind it is also the “World’s Smallest Mailing Office.”

We continued along our way, and just as I turned onto US 50, a groundhog jumped out into the road. I managed to swerve around it. Then, just as I was catching my breath, a deer took the same path across the road.

I swerved again and thought I’d cleared the deer when the deer decided it wasn’t done with me and ran back out into the road, right into the passenger side of my car.

Mom gasped, I cursed, and the deer bounded off.

Just about a minute later, we were at Cathedral State Park. I pulled into the first spot I could find to assess the damage. There were some tufts of fur in the plastic casing on my day running lights and a nice dent in my quarter panel. Mom opened the passenger side door, and it scraped just enough against the quarter panel to make me cringe.

It could have been worse. It could have been much worse.

I drove down to the visitor parking lot when I realized the spot I was in was only for park rangers. Mom hung out on a picnic table while I took a walk through the woods and rested my hand on a large hemlock tree. A friend told me once that we need to be in touch with nature to center ourselves. I needed some centering for sure. Hemlocks also smell wonderful.

The “adventure” with the deer took any extra adventuring right out of me. We made our way back south to Blackwater Falls. We stopped to fill the gas tank and dipped into the liquor store at the gas station. I picked up a bottle of Tennessee honey (Whiskey) and a couple of soda bottles to mix with it. Mom got a bottle of vodka.

Back at the campground, I mixed my drink and started the fire (with mom’s help – I gotta work on my fire-starting skills.) I had a steak that I picked up from Rocky Point Creamery after my last trip to the MD house to get it rented. I slapped that bad boy in the cast iron over the fire.

We did it!

The next morning, we enjoyed the microwave’s simple comfort in my trailer to have creamed chip beef for breakfast. Then packed up, broke down camp, and hit the road back home.

Within hours of being home, I was already plotting my next adventure. A few days later I booked a week-long trip to Virginia Beach so I can test out working from Rosie while on the road. How did I pick Virginia Beach? One, it promised more wifi options than other places. Two, most importantly, I happened to log into Facebook while I was contemplating Virginia Beach, and Facebook Memories let me know exactly 10 years prior I was camping there with mom. Serendipity!

Stay tuned for the next adventure!

Gathland State Park, Maryland

We’ve all been feeling it right? The weather is getting warmer, and the walls are closing in on us. But, we have to protect ourselves and our loved ones by making smart decisions about when and where to go out.

Armed with masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, a giant bottle of rubbing alcohol, and a desperate need for the open road, we headed to South Mountain, just 30(ish) minutes north of our current location.

This is a “we” instead of an “I” trip because I was happily joined by my quarantine partner, road trip concierge, my mom.

You can’t stop us, Universe!

First, the universe tried to put a couple of obstacles in our way. We started the day patiently waiting for prescriptions to be brought to the car in a Walmart parking lot before heading on our preferred route through Shepherdstown. Only to be deterred and turned around when our lovely two-lane road was shut down for a fire.

So, on to Plan B. Up U.S. Route 11 to Williamsport and then east on Route 68. Before we could continue, a bathroom break was much needed. And, with the current state of affairs and our proximity to home (and the first attempt at finding an open bathroom being a fail), it made sense to just head back home instead of trying to find an open and clean bathroom.

All needs taken care of, we tried again to make our way to Gathland State Park, most specifically to see the War Correspondents Memorial. It was a beautiful day for a drive, with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s.

Williamsport, MD

As we crossed over the Potomac River into Williamsport, I made a quick detour to a park spotted from the bridge over the river. There was a very narrow wooden bridge open to motor traffic that I decided against driving over, which would have taken us to Williamsport Park. Instead, we parked at the head of the bridge and walked around a little.

Union Major General Jesse Reno

Union Major General Jesse Reno

Also on South Mountain, and our first stop is a monument to Union Major General Jesse Reno. Major General Reno was felled at this spot, unfortunately by a rookie Union Soldier who mistook him for a Rebel.

Rumor had it when they brought him to camp, mortally wounded; he greeted Brig. Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis by clearly saying,

“Hallo, Sam, I’m dead!”

To which Sturgis replied (thinking that Reno was joking) that he hoped it wasn’t as bad as that.

Reno replied, “Yes, yes, I’m dead-good-by” and promptly succumbed to his injuries.

Several cities are named for Major General Reno, including Reno, Nevada. Fort Reno, in my hometown of Washington, DC, and a place I spent a lot of time as a teenager, is also named after him. Fort Reno sits atop the highest point in DC, making it an excellent place for seeing all the fireworks on the Fourth of July. They often have a summer concert series that showed off DC’s underappreciated punk scene.

Onward, to Gathland

We turned right from the Fox’s Gap parking lot and wandered through the South Mountain countryside. Past South Mountain Creamery, a place we’d been before on a different adventure, and through beautiful farmland.

Picnic Woods Farm in Arnoldtown, MD
Picnic Woods Farm in Arnoldtown, MD

We came upon Gathland State Park, a place we’d accidentally gone by in yet another adventure several months ago (or was it years? Time is a construct). There were more people out exploring than I expected, but we grabbed our masks and kept our distance.

George Alfred Townsend was the youngest war correspondent of the Civil War. He wrote under the pen name Gath, and after the war, wrote several novels while continuing his journalistic endeavors. In 1884, he purchased the tract of land he called Gapland and, in 1896, erected a unique monument to fellow war correspondents and artists who served in the Civil War.

Gathland State Park - War Correspondents Memorial

The property is now known as Gathland State Park. After Towsend’s daughter sold it the property, it changed hands a few times, and was ultimately deeded to the State of Maryland by the Frederick Chamber of Commerce and the Historical Society of Frederick in 1949.

Towsend also built several buildings on his land. The only ones of which stand today are the mausoleum (where he is not buried), Gapland Lodge, and the crumbling foundation of Gapland Hall.

Gathland State Park - Mausoleum
Gapland Mausoleum
Gathland State Park - Lodge
Gapland Lodge
Gathland State Park - Gapland Hall
Gapland Hall

The Appalachian Trail Runs Through It

As with Fox’s Gap, the Appalachian Trail made its appearance in Gathland State Park. This has not been the year for thru-hikers. First, a train derailment in Harpers Ferry closed the Goodloe E. Byron Memorial Pedestrian Walkway across the Potomac River. Then, well, we all know what happened next. The warning signs under the Appalachian Trail markers warned of both the bridge closing and all of the shelters being closed to discourage large gatherings and the potential spread of the virus, changing how we see the world.

Appalachian Trail Marker
The sign below reads “Potomac River Footbridge Closed”
Appalachian Trail Marker - South to Weverton Cliffs
Warnings about limited services and shelter closings for Appalachian Trail hikers

Three and a half hours of driving in under 12 minutes

I had my dashcam recording the whole trip. Sit back and enjoy Beethoven’s 9th symphony as we zip through the countryside.

Thanksgiving On Eastern Shores

As much as I love to cook, the idea of having someone else prepare Thanksgiving dinner has become more and more appealing these past few years. My mom and I reprised our trip from the previous Thanksgiving (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it) and headed out to Rehoboth Beach, DE, early Thursday morning. 

On January 27, 1873, the “Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church” was incorporated by the Delaware legislature for the purpose of establishing a “permanent camp meeting ground and Christian sea-side resort.”

~ Historical Marker on Rehoboth Avenue

While Rehoboth is no longer a predominantly Christian town, many small white-steepled churches dot the landscape along the 2 1/2 hour drive from D.C. to the shore. 

A Feast Fit for a Queen

We checked in to the Atlantic Sands Hotel with an hour to spare before our dinner reservations at 2:30 PM at the Irish Eyes Pub & Restaurant. The feast was as wonderful as we’d remembered it from the previous year. And, I stuffed myself painfully silly with turkey, ham, homemade mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, oysters, shrimp, and pie. 

We returned to the hotel to watch the Washington Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys. As a Redskins fan, it was a disappointing game. However, as a Redskins fan, I’ve also grown accustomed to that feeling. 

 Moonrise over the Atlantic Ocean

However, I was soon feeling better as I watched the full moon rise over the Atlantic Ocean. 

Even if it was a very, very cold evening. Temperatures were in the 20s Fahrenheit and very windy. 

The Atlantic Sands Hotel
The Atlantic Sands Hotel

Friday, the ponies, oh, the ponies.

Assateague Island is a 37-mile barrier island, with two-thirds in Maryland. The remaining third, also known as Chincoteague, is in Virginia. It’s also home to beautiful wild horses, rumored to be the feral descendants from domesticated horses that survived a shipwreck off Virginia’s coast. 

At the very top of the map above is our starting point for our Friday adventure. We drove down the infamous US Route 1 until just north of Ocean City, MD.

US Route 1 is considered the first interstate highway in the United States. 

It runs 2,369 miles (3,813 km), from Key West, Florida north to Fort Kent, Maine, at the Canada–US border, making it the longest north-south road in the United States.

~ Wikipedia

To access the northernmost part of Assateague Island, just south of Ocean City “as the crow flies,” we had to turn west to US 113, then south again.

We explored Assateague State Park in Maryland for a while. Then we decided, why not head down to Chincoteague? While it looks like a direct route down the barrier island, it’s actually not possible to drive between the two parks. Much of the land is preserved for the ponies that occupy the island. There are places on the island where you can go off roading through the sand, with the right permits and equipment. I was gently reminded I have neither the proper equipment nor sufficient experience.

Assateague State Park, Maryland

Instead, to get to Chincoteague, you head back west to US 113 and drive about an hour south to into Virginia then back east to the coast. Both parts of the island have their own appeal. Assateague is wilder, and Chincoteague is also a coastal beach town with the fanciest KOA I’ve ever seen. 

Chincoteague National Wildlife Reserve, Virginia

We were fortunate enough to end up in Chincoteague when they had a service road open for visitors. We did not make it the full seven and a half miles up the service road because it was slow going, and it was getting late in the day. Plus, the ponies know it’s their land, so they had no problem stopping traffic. 

We made it back to Rehoboth from Chincoteague. We had dinner at Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats, a recent staple in the Rehoboth scene. 

Delaware’s Methodist Churches

Back at the hotel, I read the local guides the leave in the room. There was an article about the Methodist churches that dot the Delaware landscape.  

Methodism was not invented in Delaware, but American Methodists nevertheless owe the state a debt. During the Revolution—when patriots were hostile to the denomination—Delaware was its spider hole.

~ Founder of U.S. Methodism Sought Refuge in Delaware – DelawareToday

A particular church caught my interest. I found that the Nanticoke Indian Tribe embraced the Methodist church and chose to make their own house of worship that combined both cultures. The article pointed out that the cemetery had several headstones displaying both the tribal name and the Christian name of the individual buried there. It was on our route back home, so we decided to visit the Indian Mission United Methodist Church.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip through one of my favorite regions just a couple hours from home. 

Seattle – September 7 – 10

Excited to finally be on my way to Seattle, I spoiled myself with a delicious breakfast at the Leavenworth Golf Club before hitting the road. The trip to Seattle was a blissfully short one, with just one stop at a place called Deception Falls, and I arrived around 1:30 PM. Deception Falls runs directly under US-2, with a metal bridge from the parking lot to the falls. The bridge made me a little anxious, but I managed to walk over it without breaking into a cold sweat.

The “hotel” I selected was not actually a hotel. It was an apartment at the Icon Apartments (Contemporary Suites near Pioneer Square) right across the street from the Amtrak Station in the International District, downtown Seattle. After checking in and chatting with the Property Manager about the best place to get a pedicure, I dragged ev-er-y-thing out of the car up to the apartment. The plan was to use the washer and dryer to wash everything and repack the car.

Also, on my mechanic’s advisement, I had an appointment the next day with a Volkswagen dealership to have my oil changed and a safety check done on the whole car. I figured it would be easier for them if the vehicle wasn’t loaded to the brim with stinky, filthy, camping gear.

Before I brought all my stuff in.
After I brought all my stuff in.
This beautiful, beautiful, bed.

Day 1 in Seattle

I drove to University Volkswagen to drop the car off for servicing. The team there was so thoughtful, even offering to drive me back to my hotel. I thanked them but asked instead how to take public transportation (I always think of it as the best way to see a city). They instructed me to walk to the University of Washington metro station.

I headed out and realized very quickly I’d forgotten to eat breakfast. I walked into a local vegetarian cafe and promptly walked back out when I realized that it would not offer me the kind of food I like. A block away, I was rewarded with a Jack In The Box. I ungracefully scarfed down breakfast and continued on my way.

A little over a mile and 28 minutes later, I arrived at the train station. I played a very convincing local (by accident) to a woman visiting her daughter at the university. She wasn’t sure how to use the train, and I’d done a great job of pretending I knew what I was doing. Once I clarified I was not a local, she told me that I must visit the Chihuly Garden if I did nothing else. I thanked her for her recommendation and headed back to my apartment.

From my apartment, I walked a short 10 minutes to the infamous Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. Just before I entered the tour, University Volkswagen called to let me know my car was ready. I told them I’d head back to pick it up after the tour.

If you are ever in Seattle, I highly recommend the Underground Tour. The tour lasts about an hour and a half and is very popular, so get tickets early. The Underground tour will take you through what is left of the original city below modern-day Seattle. The history of how the original city was created, destroyed, and rebuilt, is absolutely fascinating.

I took the bus back up to my freshly oiled and detailed car and drove back to Pike’s Place Market. I would not recommend driving down there, as it’s always pretty busy. However, I was fortunate enough to find parking right across from the market. The unassuming facade did not let on that the market continued five stories down. I only managed to explore about a fifth of that. I did enjoy a light lunch of prawns and smoked salmon at the counter of the Athenian Seafood Restaurant & Bar in the market.

2017-09-08-Athenian Seafood
Prawn Cocktail and Smoked Salmon platter at Athenian Seafood Restaurant

After dropping the car off, I walked up (and I mean UP, Seattle has many steep hills) to Queen Bee Nail Spa for a desperately overdue pedicure. Queen Bee Nail Spa was on recommendation from the apartment property manager.

From there, I headed to Elliot’s Oyster House, where a friend’s cousin was supposed to be working. Come to find out she’d left several months before. However, I still enjoyed my oysters, scallops, and Pendleton smoked old fashioned in a packed house.

Day 2, Saturday in Seattle

Interestingly enough, Seattle was the first place I saw consistent sunshine after traveling through the wildfires. According to the previous day’s underground tour, Seattle sees rain 300 days a year. I was lucky to get 3 of the other 65 days.

My first stop was the gravesite of Bruce and Brandon Lee in Lake View Cemetary. There were only a couple other people there, which gave me time to take in the headstones of two talented men who were taken too soon.

From Lake View Cemetary, I headed to Seattle Center to tour the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass. I chose to skip the Museum of Pop Culture, and I’ve been told since the trip that I should have gone. There’s always next time.

As I approached the Space Needle from the parking garage, I was met by a man selling peace, by way of beaded bracelets. Caught up in the moment of my adventure, I bought the bracelets and added my name to the list of donors for peace. I still wear those bracelets to this day.

After a trip to the top of the Space Needle, I visited Chihuly Garden and Glass and was not disappointed. Seeing these beautiful delicate pieces made from multi-colored glass, suspended from the ceiling, set up as displays, words cannot begin to describe it, and I don’t think my pictures do it justice.

After almost two hours at Chihuly, I bought a round-trip ticket on the Seattle Center Monorail, a fun, short ride from Seattle Center to Westlake Center. I didn’t head straight back. Instead, I looked for a Sprint Store to take advantage of the lifetime warranty on my (now) cracked screen protector for my phone. The folks at Sprint were friendly enough to explain I needed to go to the manufacturer. They provided me with information on the closest store, but I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. I hopped back on the monorail to Seattle Center, back to the car, and back to the apartment.

After a couple hours of relaxing, my next stop on my Seattle list was up. Just a couple blocks from where I was staying was the Seattle Pinball Museum. You buy a ticket, and you get to play as many pinball games as you want from the machines set up in chronological order. I easily spent over two hours there. Dinner was a quiet (as in I was the only diner there) place called J Sushi. I closed the evening out by enjoying a dance-off during a festival in the International District.

Day 3 – back into the wild

On the recommendation of the bicycle adventurer I met in Montana, the plan was to take the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge and drive the Olympic Penninsula’s north side. This would be my first time driving onto a ferry, in a trip full of firsts. I drive up to the ticket gate, and the gentleman asks me which ferry I’m taking. I stammer, uh, I, it starts with a B? Of course, there were two (Bainbridge and Bremerton). I picked the one that sounded right, and really hoped I’d selected the correct one. He had no time for my ignorance. Luckily, I had. On the ferry, I watched a man. His dog relaxed most unusually (check out the picture below). As we approached Bainbridge Island, the Olympic Mountains came into view way off in the distance.

2017-09-10 (3)

Once on Bainbridge Island, I headed northwest to the beginning of route 101. Lunch was at the Next Door Gastropub in Port Angelos. I desperately needed coffee an hour later, so I stopped at the Hungry Bear Cafe in Beaver for a cup to go.

From there, I made my way to the Kalaloch Campground. Finally, I was on the Pacific Coast, looking out over the ocean, just under a month from leaving the east coast.

Leavenworth, Washington – A Pleasant Surprise

When I last left you, readers, I was cranky because I woke up in Steamboat Rock State Park believing I would end the day in Seattle. I was tired of cold food (due to the campfire restrictions caused by the wildfires) and ready for a couple days of no driving. But instead, I needed to kill one more day because my reservations were for the 7th of September, and I’d already gone through quite the process just to get them changed to that. So, I put on my explorer hat and decided I would not let this get me down.

2017-09-06-Steamboat Rock State Park (3)
The sun rising over Steamboat Rock, through the haze of wildfires miles away.

I drove down to the public access beach, which sits in the shadow of the rock formation where the park gets its name. Steamboat Rock rises 650 feet up out of the Banks Lake, a reservoir south of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River.

Gehrke Windmill Garden

I left Steamboat Rock State Park and headed back the way I’d come the day before for two quick stops, even though my destination was in the other direction. One was the Gehrke Windmill Garden, something I’d bookmarked from Road Trip USA. Sitting in the middle of a parking lot on Hwy-155, the garden is a collection of whirligigs and windmills protected by a tall fence and made even more bizarre by the haze that still hung thick in the air.

Grand Coulee Dam

The Grand Coulee Dam was built as part of FDR’s New Deal and is one of the largest concrete structures in the world. After being awed by the Hoover Dam on a previous adventure, I wanted to see how the Grand Coulee Dam stacked up. Take the Hoover Dam and multiply it by three, at least, to get the width of the Grand Coulee Dam.

Leavenworth, Washington

After a quick tour of the Grand Coulee Dam Visitor’s Center I began my journey west to Leavenworth, another location I found in my Road Trip USA book, as part of “The Great Northern” route. Leavenworth reinvented itself in the 1960’s as a Bavarian village. Only 130 miles from Seattle, I was originally just going to drive through. However, since I had the extra day, I made Leavenworth my destination for the day. When I arrived in town, I spoiled myself by reserving a cabin at the local KOA, using my handy KOA app. I found a great parking spot on Front Street, where pseudo-chalets line the street. It was time to eat, and some quick research told me Munchen Haus was the spot to be. I gorged myself on a bratwurst, German pretzel, and potato soup, and finished it off with a delicious “Icicle Dirty Face Ale.”

2017-09-06-Leavenworth (1)

I explored the little shops along Front Street. I picked up a book full of pictures and stories about teardrops and tiny trailers, aptly named “Teardrops and Tiny Trailers.” At the end of the street, I found a local distillery and coffee shop. Blue Spirits Lake Chelan had a bottle that caught my eye; espresso flavored vodka, distilled using local glacier water and American grain. The shopkeeper recommended I drink it on ice with orange zest. I needed something to decompress with, so I picked up a bottle and headed to the Safeway that was on the way to the campsite.

A brief tour of Front Street –

If you’ve never stayed at a camping cabin, it’s important to mention, they do not come with linens. I dragged in my sleeping bag and pillows and decided I needed a refreshing dip in the KOA pool. The cold water made my aches more apparent, but the hot shower after melted them away. I meandered back down to my cabin and cracked open the bottle of vodka and the “big ass shot glass” I bought at a gas station in Montana (because why not?). After a few glasses, I slept like a baby in my little cabin.

September 7th I woke up ready to get to Seattle but needed sustenance first. I picked the Leavenworth Golf Club for breakfast where I had  German sausage and eggs, hash browns and English muffin, and coffee, while watching a bottle blond mom down a number of Mimosas, early on a Thursday morning. I wouldn’t expect any less from a golf club.

Seattle was absolutely awesome. Tune in next time!

New Orleans – I Miss You Already

We arrived in New Orleans on Friday, March 16th, as a belated birthday present to my apprentice traveler. While I’d only briefly visited the city years before, it clung to me like the swamp moss surrounding the Crescent City, the Big Easy, Nawlins.

In the airport’s hustle and bustle, we picked up an unexpected additional fare going in the complete opposite direction from us. The cab driver assured me it would cost no more than the airport’s $37 flat rate, so we settled in for an impromptu sightseeing tour as the other passengers were dropped off. Naturally, once they were dropped off, the fare agreement suddenly changed, that is, until he learned I would have none of that with a gentle “Sure, we’ll pay what you charge, but I’ll be contacting the cab company and the airport afterward.” His tune quickly changed.

Once we turned down one of the cross streets of Bourbon Street, my apprentice’s eyes finally lit up. Here was the New Orleans she was excited to see. Revelers wandering the streets with oddly shaped and oversized containers of a red drink, beads around their necks, hooting and hollering at partiers on the balconies for more beads. We checked into Hotel St Helene, just two blocks south of Bourbon Street, changed our clothes and headed out for dinner. The walk to supper took us out of the Quarter to the revamped warehouse district with the promise of fresh Louisiana oysters. Seaworthy delivered. We ordered two each of the Lousiana Gulf Coast selections (six in total), and I found a local IPA to try, the Wayward Owl Clean Slate IPA. The main course consisted of the Seaworthy Roll, a take on a crawfish po’boy, and a burger for my companion.

We walked the hearty meal off by heading back toward Bourbon Street. There we stopped for two frozen Hurricanes. My travel companion pointed to a fridge behind the counter where little sauce cups with lids held a red liquid and asked: “What are those?” I responded gleefully; those are jello shots! So, of course, we ordered them. We continued down Bourbon Street with our hurricanes in our hands and a buzz from the jello shots. Finally, sometime after midnight, we headed back to the hotel and crashed hard on a very, very comfortable bed.

Saturday; the day of 20,000 steps

Although we barely got five hours of sleep, we woke up ready to explore the old city. Fueled by the second most famous coffee brand of New Orleans, Community Coffee, we headed east. Jackson Square was just two blocks east of the hotel and home to St. Louis Cathedral. The square was alive with street performers and vendors peddling voodoo dolls and paintings of the city. We tried to go into the cathedral, but they started a private event, so we agreed to return. On the south-east side of the square is the world-famous Cafe Du Monde, but the line was already well out of the door and down the block, so we trudged on. We were heading in the direction of St. Roch Market, a 20-minute walk, when we stumbled across the French Market and outdoor bazaar. Tummies growling, we decided to get a “snack” before heading on to St Roch. The snack ended up being a gumbo for my companion and a gator burger for me. We then perused about half of the outdoor bazaar before making our way to St. Roch Market. I was a little disappointed at how small the market was, but we found a lovely spot in the back of the market, with a bar, to enjoy a couple of drinks. I had the bloody mary, exceptionally spicy (in a very delicious way) and garnished with green olives, pickled green beans, and okra. I decided to give okra another try and then was reminded I’m not too fond of it. I don’t mind it in gumbo, but by itself, it has a slimy aftertaste I can’t get over. My companion enjoyed an iced coffee drink or two, and then we headed on to our next stop.

Aart Accent Tattoos & Piercings “Yeah! It Hurts”

My companion researched this spot for a couple of permanent mementos of our trip. What we did not know was the cultural significance of this place. While waiting for our turn, we were informed that we were in the oldest tattoo shop in New Orleans AND the first tattoo shop opened by a black woman. An interesting tidbit from this article says, “When Gresham opened her shop, there were a total of five female tattoo artists in the U.S.”

Wow, just wow. So, when I sat down to get my ink, I asked the gentleman, “How long have you been working here?” and he responded wryly, “oh, only a short time… about 22 years”. I looked at him; there was no way he was old enough to have been here for 22 years. But he says Jacci is his mother, not by blood, but because she took care of him when he needed it most. So, not only was I getting ink in such a historic place, but her son was doing the work. I was blown away. We swapped stories, and I begged him to come to DC because my next piece has to be done in DC (because it’s an homage to my hometown, and it just wouldn’t be right to get it anywhere else), but I want him to do it. I told him he would always have a home in DC, as a kindred spirit. I also asked him, as a local;

“What is one thing you recommend we do?” 

His first response was, listen to Jazz, and his second was “Get a Hand Grenade from Tropical Isle, but only get one.”

So, as we walked back to Bourbon Street, freshly inked, we decided first to drop off my camera bag (I’d taken no pictures with my camera, but a lot with my camera phone), and then come back out. Except instead of heading to Tropical Isle on Bourbon, we headed to the waterfront. But first, we had to eat. Our last meal was the “snack” at the French Market, and we had already clocked over 10,000 steps. I picked the Chartreuse House, just on the corner from our hotel, and an old haunt of Tennessee Williams. We ordered an obscene amount of food, including my travel companion’s first muffaletta, which was the size of her head (the second half of it made a great breakfast in the morning). After dropping the leftovers off at the hotel, we headed down to the waterfront to walk off the food. We admired the big paddlewheel steamboats with their loud horns and meandered along the waterfront until we got to The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, where we did some old-fashioned shopping. After we were done, we hit a vendor in the food court to get ourselves some Hurricanes to go (when in Rome) and headed back to our hotel. We decided to take a brief rest on some benches in front of the water when somehow I managed to puncture a hole in my styrofoam cup, still nearly full of Hurricane. We sat there while I “beer bonged” the cup for a little while, then figured out we could wrap the cup in one of our plastic bags so I didn’t drip it all over myself while we walked. As we made our way back, we stumbled across a Saint Patrick’s Day parade coming down Decatur street. So, of course, we stopped, danced, cheered, and got ourselves some beads (without any of that flashing you hear so much about.) Once again, we fell into bed after midnight and slept soundly for a whole five hours.

The Lord’s Day

2018-03-New Orleans St Louis Cathedral

I am not a religious person. However, I have respect for the beliefs of others, so as my Catholic traveling companion timidly asked me if I would be okay going to Mass at St Louis Cathedral, I said, of course! We arrived about 20 minutes before the 11 am Mass allowing me to take some pictures without being disrespectful. The service was beautiful, and my companion got a real treat as a retired archbishop gave the homily. After the ceremony, she spent some time in the gift shop, and I spent that time photographing the cathedral from Jackson Square.

We then made our way down to the waterfront for our own paddlewheel steamboat tour on the Creole Queen. We added the lunch buffet to the trip for an extra fee since we were going off a quarter of the muffuletta each. Oooo-e was the meal good. Jambalaya, Gumbo, Rice & Beans. We stuffed ourselves silly while listening to an excellent guide named Wendell regale us with stories about New Orleans and the Battle of New Orleans. Oh, and the Hurricanes at the bar were delicious. They add a little extra to the top. A thirty-minute ride down the Mississippi takes you to the Chalmette Battlefield, where you get off the boat and learn about the battle from a National Park Ranger. When the horn blows, everyone gets back on the boat to head back to port by the Spanish Plaza.

After the tour, we walked up Canal Street with the intent of visiting Lafayette Cemetery, just like I had years before. I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I was to find out the only way to tour the cemetery these days was with a guide and a fee. Although I do completely understand, Tourists and drunk ones don’t have much respect for the dead, which is the only way to keep the oldest cemetery in New Orleans protected. So, we headed back to the hotel to relax for a couple of hours and take a load off our throbbing feet. And… sadly… pack for our departure the next day.

Then it was time for one last jaunt on Bourbon Street. We started at Tropical Isle, to get our Hand Grenades, on the rocks, as I’d had enough of frozen-drink-brain-freeze. They were delicious and potent. When I looked up the ingredients after taking my first sip, I understood why our friend at Aart told us only to have one. Ingredients included gin and grain alcohol. But, not one to go down without a fight, I had two. It was a Sunday night, and Bourbon Street was still full of people in St Paddy’s day green and beads. We found a fun bar, apparently called Famous Door, where we posted up to enjoy a band and people watch. Sometime during the evening, a woman came in with a digital camera on a “selfie-stick,” followed by a guy with a video camera. She pretended to have fun, dancing around and whatnot, and then picked up a random Hand Grenade cup off a table as if it was hers and acted like she was drunk while recording. I’m guessing she’s one of those Instagram influencers, or whatever they call themselves. After about five minutes of this, they left. What a shame to pretend to enjoy life instead of actually enjoying it.  Speaking of enjoying life, the bartender was selling something in a big novelty syringe, so my companion went to find out what it was. It was more jello shots, three in one syringe, so of course, she bought one, and we shared it. We then found ourselves at Reverend Zombie’s House of Voodoo, where warning signs told you that if you took pictures inside, your soul would be cursed. With trinkets in hand, I noticed above our heads was an original fence from the movie set of Interview with A Vampire, but getting my soul cursed was not worth the picture. Somehow, I was hungry again, so after a couple of miscues with closing restaurants, we found a carryout and got too much food for a reasonable price. Once again, well after midnight, we limped back to the hotel, scarfed down what we could of our food, and got another five hours of sleep.

Monday, Sad Day, Fly Back Home Day

Monday, we woke up intending to finally get ourselves some Cafe Du Monde and finish the second half of the French Market Bazaar. Surprisingly (maybe not?), the line for the cafe was again down the block, but this time we found the carryout counter and got two iced Au Lattes and beignets. While perusing the bazaar, I saw a booth where a man had set up his books and a tv playing his video of train hoppers. I was intrigued, so I began talking to him about his adventures. Brian Paul Brightdawn traveled with train hoppers and hobos and turned it into a documentary called “The CURE for the CRASH,” and later, a book titled “Book Safe Glacier – How The Rails Became My Rehab.” So, of course, I had to pick his brain about publishing, traveling, and anything else he wanted to share. I could have talked to him for hours, but we had a plane to catch. So I picked up the book and the DVD (my traveling companion insisted I put my wallet away, as this purchase was an investment she wanted to make), and we made our way back to the hotel to pick up our luggage.

On our way to the airport, I received a text from Southwest informing me that the first leg of our return trip, from New Orleans to Nashville, had been canceled due to what I would later find out were numerous tornados in Alabama and Tennessee. Understand that my rookie traveler and I had previously shared some hairy travel experiences, and I was starting to believe we might be cursed. But I kept a level head and followed the prompts to select a new itinerary. This one gave us a direct flight back home. Relieved that we’d seen such fortune, but still wary until we were actually on the plane, it was time for bloody marys at the airport bar. I kept checking our new itinerary and got the notice the plane was to be two hours delayed. With an attempt to stay positive, I reminded both of us, that would still get us back home two hours before our original flight plan.

Finally, after a quick nap near our gate, we boarded our plane and blissfully made it back home safely.

With so much left to explore of New Orleans, I’m eager to go back. Crawfish season is starting soon, but after that, it gets disgustingly hot and humid. So I may just have to wait until Fall.

September 5, Part 2; The Most Extreme Grilled Cheese

After spending an hour amongst the Buddhas, I continued west to my first real taste of mountain driving in the tiny stretch of Idaho between Montana and Washington. I suppose I’d been meandering up in elevation without too much thought, but as soon as the “Welcome to Idaho” sign appeared, it was straight downhill along a road I now know is closed during the winter.

Meltz Extreme Grilled Cheese

Almost three hours from leaving the Buddhas, I skidded into Coeur d’Alene to grab lunch at Meltz Extreme Grilled Cheese, another spot mom found as she was acting as my travel agent. I was really worn out from the mountain driving, and I remember being a space cadet and a mess as I walked up to the counter to order. I ordered a grilled cheese on sourdough and a dipper of tomato soup. Man, it was good. I wondered why I never thought to use sourdough for my grilled cheeses as I slowly ate and stared into space.

a lightly toasted grilled cheese sandwich with a small cup of tomato soup on the side.

Steamboat Rock State Park

With two and a half hours of driving ahead of me, I got gas, added air to my tires, and grumpily got on the road. My next stop was Steamboat Rock State Park in Washington. I turned onto Coulee avenue as it was getting late, and my GPS told me I arrived. It looked more like a parking lot than a state park, but I couldn’t think straight. I walked into the convenience store (as a sign told me to do) to get my campsite, and the lady behind the counter explained I was not yet at the state park and gave me instructions on how to get there. 

I continued… over a couple of causeways and along an inlet called the Devil’s Punchbowl before seeing the sign to turn in for Steamboat Rock State Park. The park ranger was very accommodating of my exhaustion (which translated into a babbling sort), and I finally got to my campsite. With summer officially over, only a handful of other campers, including a couple hiding their grill behind their RV, shame on them. I ate one of my pigs in a blanket and cracked open a cold beer.

That night I got a slow exposure shot of the full moon, tinted yellow from the continued haze of the wildfires.

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The next morning I woke up to a chorus of coyotes off in the distance. Oddly enough, I found it a pleasant way to wake up, most likely because I knew they were too far away to cause any trouble.

Are we there yet?

And then grumplestiltskin kicked in. I woke up excited, knowing I would be in Seattle by the end of the day. Then I realized it was Wednesday, September 6th. I’d only moved my Seattle reservation up by one day, to Thursday, the 7th. Man, oh, man, was I cranky when I realized that. I’d been good at being flexible throughout the trip, but I really wanted a few days of not driving and not camping.

I wasn’t going to let that ruin my day. 

But, my trip to the Grand Coulee Dam and Leavenworth will have to wait until next time. Instead, I leave you with a drive-through Steamboat Rock State Park.

September 5 – Part 1; Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

September 5th was a long day.

I wasn’t going to leave the area without going to the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas, an hour north of Missoula. I found my breakfast spot through some research, Paul’s Pancake Parlor in Tremper’s Shopping Center in Missoula. The decor amused me, all decked out in Jamaican colors. If you ever visit Missoula, I highly recommend breakfast here. I had my corned beef hash breakfast, with a side of biscuits and gravy and ordered pigs in a blanket to go. I figured those would hold up cold (I wasn’t wrong) since I probably wasn’t going to be able to light a grill again until after Seattle (also not wrong).

The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

With a full belly, I headed north to the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in the Flathead Reservation. I pulled into the empty parking lot and marveled at the buddhas’ stark contrast against the smoky sky. After a quiet and contemplative walk around the buddhas, I noticed a small gift shop and enjoyed a brief spiritual conversation with the lady inside. I picked up some of their local lavender and a book by Pema Chödrön titled “When Things Fall Apart – Heart Advice for Difficult Times.” The book spoke to me because the author suggests moving toward painful situations instead of burying them. Considering what I was going through, I could use all the advice I could get. I also picked up a small Buddha statue next to my VW bus from Field of Dreams on my dashboard.

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“Your enemies will never make peace in the face of hatred, it is the absence of hatred that leads to peace. This is an eternal truth.” ~Buddha
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“The one who has conquered himself is a far greater hero than the one who has defeated a thousand times a thousand men.” ~Buddha
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“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha

Because the garden was so moving, I will leave the rest of September 5th for another post. I implore the reader to take some time to meditate and find peace.

I will leave you with this video that really shows how thick the smoke was between Flathead reservation and my next stop.

Until then…

Missoula, Montana

Before leaving the Towsend / Canyon Ferry Lake KOA, my new friend recommended I stop at the Avon Family Cafe on my way to Missoula. She said they took good care of her, and the food was delicious. A warm home-cooked breakfast seemed like just the right thing since this is what I woke up to.

trees and a campground covered in thick smoke from wildfires with mountains in the distance.
The winds and haze at Towsend / Canyon Ferry Lake KOA

I was going off the directions Elizabeth gave me, “just before you turn right on MT-141, Avon Cafe will be on your left.” I drove right past the unassuming little barn and had to double back.

Avon Cafe

She was right, the food was worth it. I had my favorite breakfast; corned beef hash, eggs over easy, hash browns, and an English muffin.

Into Missoula

From Avon, I took MT-141 N to MT-200 W, just barely skirting a closure on MT-200 near Lincoln due to the wildfires. Two hours later, I approached Missoula. A confusing turn thwarted my first attempt to get into the city, and I ended up on I-90 E. One of the many interstates I was trying to avoid. I took my next exit and doubled back (for the second time that day) to make the correct turn. I checked in at the City Center Motel and asked the woman at the front desk for food and drinks recommendations. She recommended several places within about a half a mile of the motel, perfect walking distance. Before heading out for dinner, I called the management company for the hotel in Seattle to move my check-in date forward one day, not realizing I’d lost two days from my travels because of Glacier’s fires. I’ll come back to that later.

Walking through downtown Missoula was like being in a post-apocalyptic world. People were walking/riding bikes with masks on, and the smoke hung so low and thick in this valley town. I saddled up to the bar at Tamarack Brewing Co and gorged myself on poutine, and a big ribeye steak washed down with some delicious Montana craft brew.

Meanwhile, someone (ahem, mom) was trying to convince me to take the extra time to go to Vancouver to try to stalk the “boys” from my favorite show, Supernatural, who were actively filming the upcoming season. Maybe I’m not as brave as I proclaim. 😀

I’d love to revisit Missoula. It seems like a lovely town, with so much more to do than I gave it time for.

Until next time…

Yellowstone on Labor Day Weekend

I woke up the morning of September 3rd to my first chilly morning. It was 50 degrees when I woke up, and I was delighted to have packed warm sleepwear. On the day’s agenda was a drive back through the Grand Tetons into Yellowstone to see Old Faithful.

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When you’ve been on the road for several weeks, you don’t think about what day or weekend it is until you’re in a caravan of cars and RVs inching along. What’s more American than to spend Labor Day weekend in a national park or two? I didn’t mind the slow pace; it gave me time to take in the view.

Into Yellowstone from the South Gate

Along the drive through Yellowstone, I came across Lewis Falls and took a quick break along with the other visitors to scurry across the road and take pictures of the falls.

2017-09-03-Lewis Falls

I made it to the parking lot for Old Faithful about 45 minutes before the next scheduled eruption and realized I grossly underestimated its popularity. The parking lot was packed. Not a single parking space to be found. So I left Old Faithful for another trip and continued my drive through Yellowstone. Not but a couple of minutes from the Old Faithful parking lot, I came across the Black Sand Basin. This time I found parking and was rewarded with geysers and deep rainbow-colored hot spring pools.

My Drive Through Yellowstone

(and the Parking Lot of Old Faithful)

Into Montana

I crossed into Montana through the West Yellowstone gate. I pulled over to stretch my legs and discovered Quake Lake. The lake was created when a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in 1959 caused a landslide and natural dam to form on the Madison River. You can see the tips of the (now dead) pines sticking out of the water, and the story is fascinating.

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I pulled over to an Exxon in Three Forks, MT, to get gas and snacks, and that’s when I realized just how thick the smoke from the wildfires had gotten. The sun glowed through the haze like a scene from a post-apocalyptic world.

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With amazement and anxiety, I continued to my stop for the night at the Townsend / Canyon Ferry Lake KOA. I was headed toward the fires, not yet close enough to see anything other than the smoke.

At the KOA, there was only one other tent camper. Everyone else was in RVs. I pulled up to the site to find Elizabeth and her dog Bonnie, chatting with a couple of other campers. I soon learned she was biking across the country to the east along a similar route to the one I’d just driven west. To be clear, we’re not talking a motorcycle; we’re talking a pedal bike, with a small trailer for her camping gear and a place for Bonnie to sit when it was too dangerous for her to run alongside Elizabeth on her bike. I joked with her about how I thought I was roughing it as I pulled out my air mattress, blankets, and two pillows for my tent.

Due to the proximity of the campsite to the wildfires and the dry, windy weather, campfires and camp stoves were prohibited. So dinner was cold, leftover hot dogs from the grill at Jackson Hole and beer. At the same time, Elizabeth and I had a deep conversation about the state of the education system in the U.S. and swapped suggestions for sites to see along with our respective trips.

A Change of Plans

The next morning I went to the camp store for a free hot cup of coffee (the morning winds were cold!), and a couple smokes out on the porch out of the wind. The colorful manager laughed as folks drove down to Canyon Ferry Lake with their fishing boats in tow, only to come back shortly after when they realized the wind was too much to handle on the lake. When I told her I was on my way to Glacier National Park to drive Going to the Sun road, she handed me the awful news that the park closed just that morning as it was in the heart of the wildfires. My first thought was to the camper I met in Mitchell, SD, who was camping in Glacier as we spoke. My second thought was to the campsites I’d already reserved. I was really hoping they would take mercy on me and process the refunds even though it was less than 48 hours from my stay since campsites near Glacier are more expensive than any of the other places I’d stayed along the way. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and I decided my life was worth more than the $100 loss on the two sites. I changed my plans and decided to rent a hotel in Missoula, only a few hours from Towsend, so I could regroup and figure out how I would adjust reservations in Seattle and the rest of my trip. Note, in most cases, I didn’t make reservations until a couple of days before, if at all. However, Seattle I’d booked before I left DC because I saw a great deal on a place downtown.

For those curious, a few days later, I did hear from my camp friend from Mitchell. He managed to escape unscathed. I will make it to Glacier National Park, and I will drive Going to the Sun Road.

More about Missoula, and missing days, in my next edition…