Thursday, August 30, 2007

Garden Clutter

In other words, weeds. I've been working on our front yard, half of which is lawn with some beds at the edges, the other half of which contains a garden railroad. That side, despite a good mulching last year, has gotten all weedy again. Over the past two days, I've been weeding and then pouring mulch again. Ran out of mulch last night, so this morning, after weeding for a good hour and a half, went out and picked up six bags of mulch. Yes, it's cheaper by the yard, but my car isn't a pick-up, and there's a place just blocks away where I can get it for about $2.99 a bag on sale. Not so bad.

Pictures coming soon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It's the Little Things...

I wish I had a starting odometer picture, but I do have this nifty little movie I made back in April when my car "turned over" to 200,000 miles.

Those Details...

Total Miles: 6,060
Hotels slept in: Stardust (Wallace, ID), Best Western (Laurel, MT), Rushmore Express & Suites (Keystone, SD), Best Western (Sioux City, IA), La Quinta (Merrillville, IN), [Ohio, stayed with my cousin], Travelodge (Florence, KY), Best Western (Foristell, MO), Days Inn (Hays, KS), Express Inn (Cheyenne, WY), Western Inn (Tremonton, UT), Super 8 (Pendleton, OR).
Best Hotel coffee: Western Inn, Tremonton, UT
Worst Hotel coffee: Travelodge, Florence, KY
Best breakfast: tie: Best Western, Sioux City, IA and La Quinta, Merrillville, IN
Worst breakfast: Rushmore Express and Suites (ironically, one of the nicest hotels)
Best beds and pillows: Best Westerns
Worst bed: Stardust
Best pool: Days Inn
Worst Pool: the only bad pool was a closed pool (Rushmore Express & Suites pool was closed during the hours we were there-we arrived quite late)

Restaurants: Cathay Inn, Spokane, WA; Perkins, Rapid City, SD; Cracker Barrel, Des Moines, IA; Bob Evans, Florence, KY; Cracker Barrel, somewhere in MO; LC's BBQ, Kansas City, MO; Johnson's Corner, Loveland, CO; Big John's Pizza, Pendleton, OR. I feel like I'm forgetting one, but really, we just didn't eat out very often. Mostly, we ate from our cooler (lunchmeat, cheese, etc for sandwichs or we had leftovers from a meal out).

Best food: Bob Evans was pretty darn good for a chain. It's an Ohio-mid-west local chain, started by a man named Bob Evans. He passed away just recently. Good food, reasonably priced, with a great kids menu (seriously, the menu was so full of games it entertained the kids for hours in the car). It was a real treat to have genuine Kansas City BBQ in Kansas City. The cinnamon roll at Johnson's Corner was great, I would definately go back there if I happened to be in the area (that is, about fifty miles north of Denver and south of Cheyenne). Perkins sucked, never need to go to another Perkins. Cracker Barrel was fun, but the food was heavy. I have some weird allergies, so it's hard for me to get things like salad or fruit plates when I'm dining out, so I stick to the cooked food.

Scariest moment: Seeing the oil light come on. But, it came on just as we were driving by a gas-station convenience store in Sundance, WY on our way to Devil's Tower. I added about four quarts of oil and we were good to go! (nb: my car burns oil. It's a 1990, with over 200,000 miles on it. It turns out that it burns more oil in a hot, dry climate than in a hot, moist climate, since we didn't need to add oil at all in the more humid states).

We did almost no night driving. I hate to drive at night, since my contact lenses glare (and my glasses are just as bad with the glare, but give me virtually no peripheral vision). I think we did perhaps two or three hours at night at the most.

More details to come...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Home Again!

Well, we did it. We made it home! We spent the morning exploring Pendleton, which is a lovely little town. We visited Hamley & Co. Saddlery, drove past the Round-Up grounds and stopped at D & B Supply, where you can buy stuff for your ranch or farm (as well as the coolest Western duds around).

Yesterday, we drove from Tremonton, UT to Pendleton, OR. I'm so glad we picked Pendleton! The last fifty miles or so, I was repeating in my mind "The Pendleton Round-Up is in September". Frankly, I had no clue when the Round-Up actually is, but I didn't want a repeat of Sturgis with scarce rooms and inflated prices. And you know what? It worked! The Round-Up actually IS in September, and our hotel had plenty of rooms. We found a Super 8 hotel in our trusty coupon book (expect a whole post on that), with our three requirements: free Continental Breakfast, free High-Speed Internet, and a pool open during our stay. We got our room arranged, brought in our bags and then headed over to Big John's Pizza (yes, I know where this link goes, fyi interest for The Secret fans) for some dinner. Great pizza and reasonably priced with our room key's $5.00 off discount. Then, back to the hotel for a leisurely swim.

Breakfast the next morning was the usual--cold cereal, bagels & bread to toast, orange or apple juice and coffee. No fresh fruit, a disappointment. But, there were some tasty donuts. The coffee was actually not too bad for one of these breakfasts. You may wonder why we insist on breakfast when it's just really nothing to write home about. Well, it gets us out the door sooner, and does save money. So, still always worth it.

We enjoyed wandering the town. And then, we got back on the freeway and headed for home. I-84 to I-82 to I-90 and all of a sudden we were retracing our first hours on the road. Back in the lovely mountains, with the low clouds, the mist, the fresh green of the trees. Back home.

Monday, August 20, 2007

So, to answer your question...

It's the one you all want to ask. What does the hoarder bring with her when she travels?

Here's a secret: I'm the lightest packer I know. Below is a picture of my gear for this now 19-day trip:

The paperback is there both for scale and because it was my reading material. (Well, ok, I did bring another book, but I finished it, so it's stored in the trunk now).
I pack lightly because I like to be able to carry all my gear on my own if I need to. For this trip, I did have to bring more things than I would for a plane trip. The trunk of my little car is actually full--we have a box of snacks, a case of water, clothes and such for four people (everyone has a little case similar to mine), DH wanted to bring his telescope and tripod and since there was room, we tossed it in. We have the laptop, tons of maps and AAA guidebooks, toys for the kids and an ice chest. Still, we could have left about a third of the extras at home and still had a great trip. The telescope was super cool at Mt. Rushmore, but we would have been amazed without it. The snacks and water saved us money and time, as did the ice chest. Maps are a necessity, although we did have a GPS along with us and it came in handy for calculating trip leg times (it was accurate to within three minutes for our leg from Utah to Oregon).

If you too want to travel light, the best resource I know is the Travel Lite FAQ by Lani Teshima. She's been on the internet and writing about travel for a couple of decades now, and although the date on the FAQ is a bit old, the information is still very useful.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Very Long Day

Today we woke up in Cheyenne, WY and are going to sleep in Tremonton, UT. We drove about 470 miles, and got stuck in a traffic jam on the top of a mountain pass at the Wyoming-Utah border--forty-five minutes at about 7 miles per hour--torture. We stopped a few times, briefly in Laramie to stretch our legs (and to find a decent cup of ccffee: Coal Creek Coffee). A couple of rest stops, and a market stop in Rawlins and an ice cream stop in Little America--we'd seen the billboards for miles and got sucked in by fifty cent ice cream cones. The ice cream was good, ice milk actually and very refreshing, but the place was not so hot. I wouldn't choose to actually stay there--the signage was confusing and the place just huge. We've been tending toward smaller towns rather than large and that resort/travel center seemed huge.

Now, we're just tired. We were hoping to make it as far as Twin Falls, ID today and that just didn't happen. It means our trip may take an extra day and at this point, we just really want to be home. And, this hotel is pricey for being in such a small town and with no pool or other amenities. The other choice in this town was only $5 less, but no guarantee of internet service. I am feeling ready to be home and hug my cat.

Denver...and on to Wyomning!

We stayed the night in Hays, Kansas, at a Days Inn. Comfortable, with a great pool and reasonably priced. We set off for Denver right after breakfast. We had a brief stop in Colby, KS, where I broke my Starbucks rule. It was strangely just like any Starbucks, same smells, same type of merchandise (nothing particular to Kansas though). I had a cup of coffee and a cranberry bar and it was ... ok. Not great. Not nearly as good as the cup of coffee I got in Louisville, KY. Now that was a cup of coffee! Frankly, I wish we had skipped the Starbucks.

Anyway, we had a couple of other stops, once at the Colorado visitor's center, just over the border with Kansas and another at a gas station in eastern Colorado. Then, Denver. Even 20 miles east of the city, we saw nothing. Just fields. But suddenly, the mountains appeared, purple and blue against the sky. Then, the city, the vast sprawl of Denver. Man, that's a big city. Downtown is huge, many many tall buildings, and the sprawl of it as it is nestled up against the mountain, goes on and on.

We drove through Denver to Golden, where we stopped at the Colorado Railroad Museum. They have almost 100 train cars, locomotives and other vehicles like hand cars. You can climb on most of them, even though they're quite old. Lots of fun for kids and grown-up men:-). We did not get to go on the Coors tour.

Then, back to Denver for a visit to a booklover's mecca, The Tattered Cover. I've heard of this bookstore for so many years; yesterday I finally got to visit. I bought a couple of books (Twilight and a signed copy of William Gibson's latest, Spook Country) and just enjoyed browsing. Powell's beats them for sheer number of books and subjects, but The Tattered Cover is a friendlier place, with armchairs all over, little tables, and couches.

We had decided to power on to Wyoming, and we booked a room in Cheyenne. We ate dinner at "Historic" Johnson's Corner, halfway between Denver and Cheyenne. They're justifiably famous for their cinnamon rolls--amazing! I can see why people send for them Fed-Ex!

It was dark by the time we got to Cheyenne, so we didn't get to see the change in scenery. There was time for a quick swim in the pool for Older Daughter and me. It's an older (they actually have metal keys with a tag) hotel, the Express Inn, but clean and very reasonably priced.

I think we'll aim for Twin Falls, ID today...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Heading on to Denver

Yesterday, we started in Foristell, Missouri and slept in Hays, Kansas. On the way, we stopped for some Kansas City BBQ. I looked up some reviews on, my favourite foodie forum, and chose LC's. Well, also, it was the only one I could even vaguely locate on the not-so-detailed city insert to our state map of Missouri. Very tasty ribs! We ordered the mixed platter with the ribs and for the sliced meats, I just asked for the two most popular, the harried but patient cashier said "turkey and beef" so that's what we had. Beans and fries finished the order. The fries were crispy and so hot. The beans were quite good, meaty and saucy. The ribs were our favourite part, with the sliced beef a close second.

Then, on to Kansas! Kansas looks nothing like I expected. I was anticipating rippling fields of golden wheat, but either that's in another part of the state or we're not here in the right season. We've seen fields of corn, soy, some other field crop (hops?), rolling hills a lot like Ohio, and patches of deciduous trees. Lovely.

We had a brief "I must get out of the car and walk around stop" in Wamego, KS. I saw the sign promoting an OZ museum and that drove us off the freeway. We didn't actually tour the museum, a little too pricey and too much time, but we did look at the gift shop, and wander a little in the quaint downtown. Wamego is apparently a bedroom community of Topeka, because housing prices there seemed very, very high. More like our part of the country than the great plains.

Last night's hotel had a great pool, with a long section of shallow two foot water, so the Little One could explore. We had a great swim, and a good night's rest.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Those Details!

Ah, details. Well, so far on our trip we've stayed in 7 hotels. Three Best Western, two independent (Stardust and Rushmore Express and Suites), one Travelodge, and one La Quinta.

I have not gone to a single Starbucks location.

We haven't stopped at any fast food restaurants or at a Wal-Mart.

Next stop, Kansas City where we hope to find some BBQ!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Four State Day!

Today we had breakfast in Kentucky, lunch in Indiana and dinner in Missouri (we stopped for gas in Illinois). Whew! It wasn't a huge number of miles, but due to the geography of the area, to get from Kentucky west, we had to go through southern Indiana and Illinois.

We stopped at the Wyandotte Cave in Leavenworth, IN. Very very cool! We took the 90 minute guided tour. Our guide has been to the Sturgis motorcycle rally! She was great, informative and entertaining. I think her name was Sherri...The cave was amazing, the first limestone cave I've ever seen. The formations...ooh, ahh, and lots of wows. And, we kept seeing these cute little bats. No pictures of the bats allowed, but I'll post some pictures from the cave later...

After the cave tour, we powered on through to Foristell, MO, where we're staying at a clean, spacious Best Western. Free breakfast and internet:-).

Tomorrow, we'll go on through the rest of Missouri and on to at least Kansas. Ah, Kansas!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Homeward Bound

This morning, our lovely visit to Ohio ended. We said a sad farewell to my cousin, and hit the road around 11 a.m. First stop was Lima, OH, apparently a big railroad town back in the day. Well, not much there now. We went to the county museum for Allen county, which has a ton of interesting stuff, including an Egyptian exhibit (!?!). We decided we wanted to have at least a two state day, so we headed just into Kentucky before finding a motel. This Travelodge, which does have free high speed internet and free breakfast, is the crappiest place we've stayed so far. It's also the cheapest, so that follows I guess.

Tomorrow, we'll go through upper western Kentucky, with perhaps a stop at a cave if there's one close enough to the highway, then we'll head to St. Louis if we can make it that far.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


My cousin's husband started keeping bees this season. Today, he harvested some honey.

Images of Ohio

Here's a selection of pictures from our stay here so far. We'll be heading back West in a day or two, but we still haven't chosen a route. Suggestions?

Shells I found at the Edgewater Lakefront park in Cleveland
I think this is a hibiscus rose mallow. Whatever it is, it's pretty. Holden Arboretum, Kirtland, OH.

The West Side Market in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland.

Lake Erie. The vastness of an ocean, without the saltwater and rotten seaweed stench.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Well, we made it! We started the day in Indiana, in scenic Merrillville. The hotel there had those nifty make 'em yourself Belgian waffles, so we had a tasty breakfast. Then, on to Fort Wayne.

The drive was pretty easy, though on a smaller highway. But we got a bit turned around in Fort Wayne and it took longer to get to our friends' house than we had hoped. We had a lovely but too short visit, and the kids got to play with other kids for the first time this trip.

Then, on to our final destination, Ohio. But first, we had to take a small, slow, rural highway, thanks to the crappy directions from the AAA online Triptik tool. Man, what a mistake. We were close to an interstate and could have taken it, but we followed AAA, thinking they would know the best route. Not true and we arrived close to an hour later than we had hoped.

But arrive we did, and so very nice to see my cousin and her husband. We had a warm welcome, with a delicious dinner and a brief lightning storm as a treat. We're out in the country a bit, and the crickets are chirping, the frogs croaking and a cool breeze is blowing in through the screened windows.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Day Five

We had another three state day today! We started in Sioux City, IA, and decided to make it a big driving day. There weren't any sites in either Iowa or Illinois on our list of things to see, so it made sense to just power on through. We made it to Des Moines, where we had lunch at a Cracker Barrel! I'd been trying to have a meal there since we first realized we were in Cracker Barrel country. Yes, I know, they're all over the country. But they're not in Oregon or Washington. The food was good, the service friendly and the store was full of cool stuff! I bought a Josh Turner live CD (Cracker Barrel exclusive) and DH got one of railroad music. The servings were large, so we packed up leftovers (and had them for dinner!). This was only our second restaurant meal of the whole trip, as we realized that not only would eating out cost a lot of money, but even more important, would eat up time.

After lunch, we got right back on the highway and headed east for the Iowa border. Along the way, we checked maps and found a likely stopping spot for the night: Merrilville, IN. It's right at Highway 30, which we'll need to take to get to Ft. Wayne, our next planned stop.

Nothing much to report about traveling across two whole states. We saw corn, lots and lots of corn. It's kind of beautiful...although it makes me sad that it'll be turned into high-fructose corn syrup.

We did hit a lighting storm on the way through Illinois, close to the Chicago area. Man, was that a bear to drive in! Huge thudding rain drops, lightning, other cars and trucks going way the heck too fast. After that, the Chicago area (we were on I-80 remember, so we skirted the worst) was full of huge trucks, cement walls, a friggin' toll booth of all things, and people just going way too fast. I don't mind speed, I enjoyed going 85 through stretches of Montana and South Dakota, but in those conditions, 80 just wasn't safe. Anyway, we did make it safely to Merrilville, our hotel is cheap (thanks to a coupon book I found at an Illinois rest area--look for those, you can save $20!), and the kids are letting off steam by jumping on the beds. Nothin' like a bed you can jump on! We have futons at home, which aren't nearly so much fun.

Tomorrow, we'll arrive in Ohio via Ft. Wayne, IN.

Pictures soon!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Day Four

Let me see, where did I leave off? After viewing Mt. Rushmore (which younger DD calls "Mount Mushmore"), we headed to our hotel, the Rushmore Express and Suites. It was very nice, I mean granite bathroom, whirlpool tub in the room, gas fireplace nice. Super nice. You'd be happy to get this room for a honeymoon. It was pricey, yes, but mostly that was due to the Sturgis rally. I'd stay there again. It's at the quiet end of the small pseudo-1880 town of Keystone, right up against a rocky hillside.

We got up, had a brief small (the only disappointment) Continental Breakfast, and headed up to see the Mountain in the daylight. It was amazing! There's an easy trail/boardwalk that gets you really quite close to the faces themselves. Of course, the crowd consisted mainly of bikers--I don't think there's a beer garden at Mt. Rushmore all the time!

After we'd seen our fill of the Mountain, we headed back down the mountain, stopped briefly in Rapid City to make some sandwichs and gas up, and then, back on the road. Our goal was to reach Iowa and we did, though it was a long haul. On the way, we stopped at Wall to visit Wall Drug (crazy, but neat), we stayed too long! The kids loved the ice cream and rides and of course, the T-Rex! DH loved the Western Wear and threatened to buy a hat! I liked the bookstore, full of books about the prairie lifestyle of a hundred years ago, and of course, lots of Little House related books!

Our other main stop in South Dakota was in Mitchell, to see the Corn Palace. Well, I'll tell you: you can skip the Corn Palace. Look at the website, click a few links, consider yourself done.

Then, it was a speed run for Iowa. We gassed up in Mitchell, and hit the road. I don't like to drive at night, and as we were moving east and then, south, the sun set. It was the toughest driving I've done so far on this trip, getting to Sioux City. But we were determined not to spend another night in South Dakota.

We found a Best Western just off the highway, and had a good night's sleep and a great free breakfast the next morning.

Details, Details!

So far, we've spent about $125.00 on gas, $340 on hotels (more than budgeted, but heck, I didn't know about the motorcycle rally!), and less than $100 on food, due to bringing a cooler and eating leftovers.

Best so far: the scenery of Montana
Worst so far: high prices due to motorcycle rally
Kids favourite: the pool at our last hotel
DH's favourite: Devil's Tower
My favourite: Mt. Rushmore at night

Saturday, August 04, 2007

On the Road: Day 3

A three state day! We started the day in Laurel, MT, where we stayed in a clean, reasonably priced Best Western. After a light (included) breakfast, we headed out toward Wyoming, on I-90. We stopped off at the Little Bighorn memorial, which the kids didn't really enjoy--too many signs to read. We stayed too long, since it's very spread out and once you pay your $10, you want to see as much as you can. We then drove to Devil's Tower. We tried to find Close Encounters for the kids to watch, but no luck. Not even the supermarket right in the town nearby carried it. Devil's Tower is where we should have paid the $10 to go in, but at that point, we were getting tired and the kids wouldn't have made it through much of the exhibit. We did see a wild rabbit, tiny and cute.

And then, our third state, South Dakota! We aimed for Rapid City, and made it and then some. We've found a lovely room (at a crazy high price, due to the MOTORCYCLE RALLY IN STURGIS, which is just 20 or so miles away). We drove through Sturgis, and it was something, let me tell you.

Before heading to our hotel, we stopped up at Mt. Rushmore, since the monument is open at night. We saw it lit, glowing against the dark sky. Crazy and amazing... I took some pictures, including some through a telescope.

So tired...

Friday, August 03, 2007

On the Road: Day 2

Ah, day two, how far away you seem?'s what I think happened. We woke up in Wallace, ID, after a fairly restful night. We had a nice, cheap breakfast (and free wi-fi if you used it out on the patio) at the Red Light Garage around the corner from our hotel, the Stardust.

We drove through the small mining town of Wallace before getting on the road. We were aiming for South Dakota, but knew that was a long shot. We did make it to Laurel, MT, after visiting the old mining town of Philipsburg. About 4 miles of rutted road above the town is the ghost mining town of Granite. Here's my little car on a section of that unpaved, rocky road!

Back about a hundred years ago, it was a bustling town of 3,000. Now, well, here you can see for yourself.

Later, we drove through some amazing scenery, including some really cool rock formations. Here's my little car again, with some striated rocks.

Road Trippin'

We interrupt this decluttering blog for a brief announcement: We're off on a Road Trip!

We're headed for Ohio, via Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. We made it to Idaho, just west of the Montana border, last night, the first night.

We stopped in Spokane for dinner at the Cathay Inn (owned by friends of my DH's family), and stayed the night in scenic Wallace, ID. Lovely scenery, such mountains and the trees, my God. Amazing.

These fortunes are from our dinner last night.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Memories and Trash

This umbrella...well, I've owned it since 1988. I bought it for about 100NT in Taipei, Taiwan, during the rainy season. I'm not really an umbrella type, but in Taipei, in the rainy season, without an umbrella you'll be drenched. Since I relied on buses to get around, it was a necessary purchase. For some reason, I kept it in really nice condition. I always kept its cover on when not in use, I let it dry thoroughly before putting it away. After so many years, it was essentially a new umbrella.
Then, the Little One discovered it. After surviving many months of torturous play, it lost the battle. The handle snapped, the spokes rusting. Now, it's just garbage. I almost put it in the trash bin, as today is trash day, but I paused to take these pictures first. Poor dear umbrella. This is your elegy.