Well Hello Idaho

Day 9

Starting mileage: 5861.2

The trains ran almost all night and when I say all night, I mean ALL NIGHT.  I’m wondering if that’s the reason why they don’t charge to stay at that campground.

When I woke up and crawled out of the tent, I found the fly was completely coated in ice.  My hands got so cold as I was packing up the tent that it took me probably twice as long because I had to keep shoving my hands into my armpits to regain feeling.  I put out food for the dogs but they just watched me struggle with the tent and probably added some new words to their already expansive vocabulary of curse words.  I had planned to make breakfast but decided to move on.

Pocatello is not too far down the road and we stopped at Red Hot Roasters.  I got a really good breakfast burrito and americano which I destroyed as we walked around the town.  I have a clip that I use for their leashes that allows me to go hands-free.  From the number of people staring at me, it seems that it’s an unusual sight to see someone double-fisting breakfast as they walk with three dogs.  The dogs were walking amazingly well so it made us look like superstars.

As we were driving down the highway, I saw signs for Frontier Pie.  I wasn’t going to stop.  I wasn’t going to stop.  Hang on…why are we in Rexburg, Idaho and why are we stopping at Frontier Pies?  Well fine, I can’t stop here and not go inside.  I mean that would be rude and as a Canadian it is my duty to be polite.  I ended up leaving with a slice of peanut butter chocolate cream pie for later.

I saw signs for Yellowstone National Park and my plan had been to cut through there but then when I saw a $30 entry fee, well same thing with all the other parks: if I’m going to pay that much money I’m going to make a day of the trip.  We took the highway around the edge of the park and found a parking area which let us hike into the edge of the park anyway.

It was a nice hike and we had not gone in too far when I noticed Jack’s attention was focused on something to our right.  It took me a few minutes to see the deer that was watching us.  I was able to get the camera out and snap a few pictures before it turned and bounded away. I wanted to let the dogs off for a run but decided that with deer and all the signs for bear, that would probably be a bad idea.  When we got back to the car, I poured out their water and ate my pie.  It was so tasty.

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Jack knows there’s something out there.

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New friend.

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Too bad we didn’t have enough time to explore more.

We crossed into Montana and the first rest stop that we stopped at had a fenced in dog area!  While most rest areas have a designated pet walking area, most of them are unfenced and require the dogs be kept on leash.  Montana has had more fenced areas and nicer places than most states.  Bravo Montana!  We also made a stop to take in the fall foliage.  The bright yellow contrasted against the blue sky.  Stunning.

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Had to stop for photos.

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I could have sat here all day long.

A short time later as it was starting to get dark, we stopped at another rest area.  I saw signs for a pet area with an arrow off to the side that pointed away from the buildings along a dirt track.  I was intrigued and followed the trail along the side of the hill and up to the top.  There over the rest area was this wide open field with benches at one end.  The view from the top was incredible and with no one around and no one being able to sneak up on us, I let the dogs go for a run.  We lingered there until almost dark and I followed the paved path back down to the parking area.  And that’s when I found the sign warning about rattlesnakes.  Well it would have been nice to see that a little sooner.

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Great view.

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Out for a stretch.

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Piper scoping the land.

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Smiling Jack.

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Leo looks like he’s planning mischief.

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Professionals at posing.

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We stayed long enough for this view.

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Would have been nice to know this before we went up.

Remembering what the temperature had been the night before, I decided on a hotel and stopped in Mile City, Montana.  As I was checking in at the Motel 6, I asked if there was a good place for food and was directed to the Gallaghers across the street.  I popped in there and ordered the Rodeo Hoagie.  So good.

Piper decided that she needed some space and took up the other bed, leaving me to snuggle with the boys as we watched TV.  I discovered the show “The Last Alaskans” and stayed up late into the night before falling asleep.

Leaving Nevada

Day 8

Starting mileage:  4938.1

Even though I was awake earlier than usual, I guess the little green men running through my mind wore my brain out and I was lazy getting out of bed.  That and the fact that I was squished onto a bed since, heaven forbid, the dogs sleep on their blankets on the floor.  I took the dogs for another short walk before packing up.  The restaurant had not opened yet and I handed my key to the staff sitting out front chatting before their day started.

The road from Rachel was about the same that it had been on the way in minus the Joshua Trees.  I’m still kicking myself for not going back for pictures.

As I drove it gave me plenty of time to figure out my route.  I had wanted to turn this into a real alien adventure and go to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.  But since I hadn’t had time to go to Roswell in New Mexico, it wouldn’t really be an alien tour anyway.  And time was running out since I did have my grandparents to visit.  If I’m going to stop at a park, I’m going to do it right and stay for at least a day so this time around I was going to bypass Devil’s Tower.

We were passing through Ely, Nevada when my tummy started protesting it’s empty state.  We did a short tour along the main streets and I decided to stop at Silver State restaurant.  As usual, I asked for a recommendation and ordered the country fried steak with sawmill gravy, eggs, hash browns, and toast.  Then I saw the display case of pies near the counter and was drawn to it like a moth to flame.  I grilled the poor woman about them and she told me that she made all the pies.  A fellow baker?  Yay.  I tried to ask about her about her preference for butter or lard and does she mix her flours?  But the tables were filling up and that required more attention than me.  I collected my breakfast and a slice of coconut cream pie and hit the road.

We found a small park near the restaurant and I dove headfirst into breakfast.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I had never had country fried steak or sawmill gravy.  Well this Canadian girl is now a huge fan.  I was dipping my toast into the gravy and pouring it over the hash browns.  The dogs made sure that I shared the steak with them.  The crunchy coating had a wonderful seasoning to it that I was peeling it off and eating it in chunks.

Then we took a short walk around a duck pond next to the park as I tried to create room in my now full gut.  While the dogs have all seen ducks and swans at home, usually the birds  fly away.  There was one swan that was standing on his side of the fence and he eyed Jack as he stood across from him.  Even with Piper sidling up next to her older, shorter brother, that swan just stood there, puffed his chest up, shook his head as he flapped his wings, and I would have to say he strutted away as if to say “this here is my pond”.  Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to record the standoff.  And as a side note, aside from that one posturing swan, the ducks and swans did not seem to care much about the dogs at all.  Had there been any panic or the dogs were going nuts, I would have moved them away.  The dogs were curious and the ducks and swans were not.  In fact, the dogs did not make a sound.  Come to think of it, I don’t even think they pulled at their leashes.

We continued through Nevada and stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flats.  I expected to see… well salt flats.  What I did see was a perfectly flat expanse of water stretching out from both sides of the highway.  And a few tire tracks.  I’m not sure if I would rather they be from people trying to avoid collisions or people thinking they could drive the flats.  Both are kind of sad.

So anyway, we took a walk around the rest area at the flats then sat at a table in a shady area so that I could eat my lunch: the slice of coconut cream pie from Silver State.  I had the dogs water bowl out with a bottle of water and as I was reaching over the bottle to pick up my fork, my elbow spilled the whole litre of water onto my lap.  The whole bottle.  The family sitting at the table next to me pretended not see but I know they did.  I tried squeezing as much of the water out my pants as I could, thankful that they were quick-drying then finished my pie.  Let me tell you friends, sitting in a car with wet pants is unpleasant.

Then we continued on, back into Utah and then crossed into Idaho.  Small confession here: when I think of Idaho, I think of potatoes.  And for some reason when I think of potatoes I think of flat land.  Well that is not Idaho at all.  It is beautiful and the changing foliage was stunning.  I was admiring the land as we passed through it, especially as it started getting late.  I was looking for a place to camp but did not see anything close to the highway.  Finally I turned to Yelp and found a cluster at Lava Hot Springs so I headed there.

I was a little unsure of the temperature so I considered getting a hotel room but when I looked at the prices, I felt my eyes bug out a bit.  I guess it’s to be expected with it being something of a tourist spot but then when you add in dogs…well that price tends to go up a bit.  I tried to do the fahrenheit to celsius conversion and with the weather calling for high 30’s to low 40’s I thought it should be okay.  My limit is 10 degrees celsius so I thought that might be close.

As I was trying to find the camping places that I had seen advertised, I saw signs for Bird Canyon State Park.  I turned onto the road, a dirt track really, and saw that the only facilities were a shed for a toilet and a bulletin board which said this was Portneuf Lower.  I was surprised to see that there were no permits required and no fees listed.  Score!  The sites were quite large with just a fire pit in a spot cleared in the grass.  It was primitive camping to be sure but I had no problem with that at all.  With only two other sites occupied, I picked a site far from them and was able to let the dogs run for a bit while I set the tent up.  There was a train track running close by but I hadn’t seen a train go by and I figured that the trains wouldn’t run at night.  More on that later.

It was getting dark by the time I had everything set up and took them for a walk to explore a bit.  I was finally a bit hungry so I dipped into my food stores and whipped up some ramen noodles with dehydrated mushrooms. It was such a tasty dinner to shovel down as I stood at the back of my car eating by the light of my headlamp.

We climbed into the tent and almost immediately Leo squeezed into the foot of my sleeping bag.  I was worried that they might be chilled so I tried pulling some of the free blankets over top of them.  Jack immediately shook it off and went to his blanket that he balled up underneath himself.  Piper just expects that she will always be sleeping next to me but she soon slipped out from under the blankets as well and tried to climb onto my sleeping bag which upset Leo and he wriggled out of the bag and to the far side of the tent. They shifted their places a few times during the night but each time I tried to throw a blanket over them, they would have none of it.

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Leo trying to figure out how to get in first.

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Checking out the area.

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Heading back to our site.

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This little pond was just downstream of our site.

Watching for Lights in the Sky

Day 7

Starting mileage:  4361.9

I was woken up a few times during the night when vehicles pulled into the lot but I didn’t hear anyone walking so I’m not sure what they were doing.  When I climbed out of the tent, I noticed that there was a rock dwelling at the opposite end of the lot and got worried that I was trespassing on an attraction or something.  I packed up the tent really quickly.  The van that I had seen was a rental camper van but at first I thought it was part of the attraction because of the wild paint job.  I wasn’t in such a rush that I couldn’t stop to take advantage of the light as the sun rose.  The rock was such a remarkable shade of red it blew my mind.  Again, the photos posted have not been altered.

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The view from my tent.

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Stunning colours

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Cliff Dwellers

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If this doesn’t make you appreciate geology…

I drove back to the restaurant at the Cliff Dwellers Lodge and sat to enjoy breakfast on the patio with the dogs.  The woman working there recommended the corned beef hash for breakfast. It was deliciously simple and surprisingly filling.  The service was a bit slow but it just forced me to relax and not rush into the day.

I’m glad that I had stopped for the night and was able to enjoy the scenery through Arizona.  When I stopped to get gas just outside the road for the north rim of the Grand Canyon, I was tempted to check it out.  I mean how often am I going to be near the Grand Canyon?  The man working at the station was super friendly and told me the road is 45 miles out and back which he said makes it about a 90 minute round trip.  So I decided to make the drive.  Yes it was slightly out of my way but why not?  I started driving down the road but then when I saw a $30 vehicle fee I turned around.  If I’m going to spend that much I want to make a day of it.

We passed through Hurricane Utah and where we, OK I,  stopped for a coffee and found a dog park on the edge of town.  There were two sections to it: one with grass and the other was rocky.  There was a man with a couple of older dogs on the grass side and we chatted for a little bit over the fence.  I’m not going to lie about it: he said a few things that were a tad bit roof-side.  When I told him that we didn’t go to Zion National Park (I’m kicking myself for not allowing more time for the parks) he seemed surprised since I looked like a hiker.  I told him that I do hike and run and he made a comment that I looked good.  Hmmmmmm yes it’s a compliment and all but the way he said it was a bit creepy especially when he followed it up with “too bad you’re not staying longer”.  Maybe I’m just being sensitive.  I mean, it’s not like he groped me or made any lewd gestures or anything. And I try to give compliments to people to counteract the negativity that seems to be rampant in this day and age so maybe he was just doing the same thing.  Who knows.

I continued the drive and then I saw it.  The reason we drove all this way.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I turned off the highway at the east end of Highway 375.  Nevada Highway 375 is also known as the Extraterrestrial Highway and the reason why will become very clear shortly.

We stopped for some quick pics then started down Highway 375.  Until I saw a sign that said there’s no gas for 150 miles.  I looked down at my tank and tried to do some math in my head as I converted kilometres into miles and tried to factor in stops and possible changes in terrain and any delays…I decided that it wasn’t worth the risk of running out of gas with three dogs in the desert so I turned around.  Back at the junction, there was a town closer than Alamo so I headed in that direction.  Turns out it isn’t much of a town so I drove back the way I had come and back into Alamo.  And now, finally, back on the highway.img_7639

As we continued along the highway, Joshua Trees started to appear for the first time.  The farther west we went, the thicker the stands became.  I was tempted to stop but they were so prolific and the lighting wasn’t what I wanted so I figured I would stop later when it was better.  Then all of a sudden, there was nothing.  Damn.

I was looking for something, some clue for what was out in the desert.  For you see, these mountain ranges hide something from prying eyes.  An area know by many names.  Dreamland.  Groom Lake.  But it’s the most famously known as Area 51.  That’s right.  THAT Area 51.

Now I wasn’t expecting anything so obvious as a sign that says “secret military testing facility this way” with a big arrow. But I did know that there was a gate and a black mailbox in the middle of nowhere.  I saw one track that seemed to be more well used that others but I saw a truck booting towards the road at a fairly fast pace.  And when I looked at the tracks, I had some doubts that my car would be able to navigate them.  So no exploration of the desert.

Then we drove into Rachel.  Rachel Nevada is absolutely tiny.  A collection of trailers in the middle of the desert.  I saw a gas station at the edge of town that obviously hadn’t been used for some time.  Then just off the highway is The Little Aleinn, a restaurant and motel which I can only imagine is the only business in miles.

I wasn’t sure about where to stay yet but I knew that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast so I knew that I could stop for food at least.  I ordered the saucer burger, which is a pretty standard burger but with garlic mayo which totally made the burger.  I was talking with the woman at the counter and asked her if there had been any lights in the sky and with wide eyes she nodded and said yeah there were lots.  OK sold.  I booked a room and took my key before taking the dogs for a walk.

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Hello Rachel.

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I guess there are some crazy drivers passing through.

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Just the four of us.

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Highway 375.

The motel is made up of some trailers and I was staying in the one with the best view of the mountains.  When I walked inside, I realized it’s a shared trailer meaning I had roommates.   It had a shared kitchen and washroom but we each had our own rooms.  We rested for a little while and once night fell, I took the dog’s blankets and the dogs and went outside to the parking lot.

Spreading one blanket out, I tossed the other over my shoulders and the four of us sat together and watched the stars.  I had Piper laying beside me under the blanket with her head in my lap.  Leo on the other side who couldn’t decide if he wanted to be under the blanket or not.  And then Jack wanted to be Jack and sat on the rock that I has sitting against.  Always the guard dog.

One of my housemates came out and I asked him when the lightship started.  He didn’t know since he had never been there before and then went back inside.  A woman came out with her fussy child and we chatted for a long time.  They had spent the past week camping in various parks and had stopped here because her husband was a conspiracy buff even though she didn’t believe in any of the alien stories.  Finally with a sleepy child, she went back inside  leaving the dogs and I alone with the stars again.

 

There were a few times I thought I heard the sound of jets but it could have bee the sound of the odd car on the highway speeding by behind me.  There were a few times I thought I may have seen movement in the sky but nothing that I can say for sure.  Maybe it was all in my head, with the magic of the desert playing games with me.

Do I believe that there is life elsewhere in the universe?  I find it hard to believe that there can’t be.  I mean, every single star you see is a possible sun.  And every sun could have how many planets?  And that’s assuming that we truly understand how the laws of the universe work because when you think about it, we really only understand how it works here and here is such a tiny place.  Do I believe that there are crashed vessels from far-off species that are being reverse-engineered at Area 51?  I think I want to believe because it means that there is so much more to things than this little ball of blue that we call home.

Having said all that, I do believe that this area is being used as a secret facility to develop aircraft.  It has to happen somewhere after all and that is a pretty good place for it.  Whether there’s alien technology is almost irrelevant for that reason.

Finally I went back inside and climbed into bed, not exactly disappointed with the lack of a show.  I mean the woman at the restaurant may always tell people that the lights are crazy all the time or they don’t do test flights on the weekend and it was a Saturday after all. With the three dogs piled onto the double bed, it was a bit of a cramped sleep but I did eventually drift off, listening for the sounds of planes overhead.

 

Is There Life on Mars?

Day 6

Starting mileage: 3726.7

It was still raining when we woke up and even though the dogs are delicate and made of sugar, they wanted a quick walk despite the risk of them melting.  And then we continued the search for Ted’s Tacos from the previous night.  Now even though I had the exact address, my map was determined to send me somewhere weird.  I was about to make the U-turn it told me to when I looked up and…oh there it is.  When the crew from “Feasting on Asphalt” came here, they had fry bread and all kinds of tacos.  For some reason my stomach wasn’t up to that so early in the morning.  However the breakfast burrito kept calling out to me.  Wow.  Another must have if you’re in the area: a tortilla wrapped around bacon and egg and cheese and green chili and tater tots!  I devoured it huddled in the car because there was nowhere to sit outside that was out of the rain.  I then stopped at coffee shop in town for an americano.  I can’t remember what the cafe was called but it was right on the main road and it had a steady stream of locals which is always a good sign.  Some of the folks were people that you would expect to see in a nice coffee shop.  Others looked like they left their horse parked out back after riding the range.  I loved it.  I wanted to ask if I could take their photos but the shyness set in so I got back in the car and drove to a nearby park to let the dogs out since there was a break in the rain.  Then back in the car.

But not for long.  As we drove back through Cortez, I saw a sign for an off-leash dog park.  I made squealing noises in my head as I turned the car around to find one of the largest dog parks I have ever seen.  There was another dog there, a husky named Gemini, and the four of them tore around while Gemini’s owner and I made small talk.  The dogs have a husky friend (who also happens to be Piper’s boyfriend) named Kiddo and I think they all miss him because they were playing with Gemini differently than how they usually play with new friends.  Or maybe it was just because he was a new friend.  Soon, with tongues lolling and my hands frozen, we jumped back in the car.

And here was another dilemma I had: I had been trying to visit as many of the “Feasting on Asphalt” restaurants that I could that were close to our route.  There was a steak place and lodge that was not too far across the border into Utah.  The reviews online were all good but it would take out a huge chunk of travel time and would I want to continue on after a (hopefully) delicious steak dinner?  I was agonizing over my options.  Then it occurred to me: why was I trying to recreate someone else’s adventure?  Was I going by places that were equally good but hadn’t been featured?  Or maybe they had been visited but cut out of the series for time?  Was I missing on perfectly good places that were newer or setting my heart on places that were now closed?  These places that have been on TV get a boost in business for sure, but maybe there were other places that also need a boost.  Maybe by even one person reading about the amazing meal that I had, or the wonderful treatment of my dogs,maybe just maybe a business that someone has poured their heart and soul into can get a few more people through their door.  And that did it for me.  Onward we go.

I had a couple of routes available to me and I chose the most southern course, which just happened to be the longer, one.  No backtracking that way.

When I saw the signs for Monument Valley, well my friends, how could I not head that way?  It seemed like the road crossed back and forth over the border between Utah and Arizona.  I was amazed by the colour of the rocks and soil: a red like I had never seen in real life and reminded me of the photos taken by the Mars rovers.  Buttes and mesas (I think I’m using those terms right) jutted out of the sand all around me with sagebrush dotting the land.  A few things hit me during the many stops I made for photos: what made people stay here?  Not just now but why would anyone decide to settle here?  Southern Ontario is lush and green and rich in natural resources so this desert looked so forbidding and inhospitable in comparison.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was stunningly beautiful and I understand the allure of it.  But it does give you an appreciation for how tough a people would have to be to stay there.

The other thing was that I finally understood what people meant when they refer to the air as smelling like sagebrush.  I would get out of the car and there was this perfume that cut through the fumes of the cars and buses that sped by.  It was subtle but definitely there and I was tempted to grab a few handfuls to take with me.

Third was that I had expected the ground to be teeming with rattlesnakes and scorpions and all kinds of things.  Believe me, I was on the look out.  I’m not that upset that we didn’t see anything, but it would have been neat.

Monument Valley is STUNNING.  If you go, make sure you allot a few hours at least to really enjoy the place.  Unfortunately the one hiking trail was closed but we still drove the road through the valley.  I didn’t even bother keeping track of time as we followed the road.  There were plenty of places to stop and some of my favourite pictures from the trip are from the valley.  A word of caution though: the ground is fairly monochromatic.  So, for example, you might be creeping along the road and approaching a hairpin turn and be busy so busy watching for approaching vehicles that you don’t really notice how deep a rut in the road is until BAM!  Front wheels down.  Crap.  Try and ease rear wheels in but BAM as you wince and pat your dashboard in apology.  I peeked under the car the next time we stopped just to make sure nothing was dripping.  Nope.  On we go.

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At the entrance to Monument Valley

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A real road runner.

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Family selfie.

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Love the colour.

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One of my favourite pictures from the trip.

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Apparently I like trees.

We stopped in Page and after a quick Yelp consult, we stopped at El Tapatio in Page, Arizona.  I will admit, I had seen signs for Navajo tacos and wanted to try them but the few places that advertised after we Monument Valley were closed.  In hindsight, I should have gotten them at the Monument Valley Visitor Centre, but the crowd was so busy that I was afraid it would take a long time and I didn’t want to leave the dogs for too long.  The thinking was if anyone would have some kind of a taco, it would be a Mexican place.  In even more hindsight, that makes zero sense but by that point I was kind of desperate.  I had a basket of tortilla chips and some salsa and what I think was a coleslaw brought out with my menu.  After some debate, I ordered the mole chicken platter.  The food was outstanding and they let me sit with the dogs on the patio!  I was the only person out there and it was getting windy but it was great to be able to stretch my legs and not sit in the trunk of my car because there was nowhere else to eat.

Another thing?  I should have grabbed a hotel in Page.  The sun was setting and I wanted to get further down the road and I thought that I would be able to get somewhere before it was too late.

The dark seemed to come all at once.  It was like “the sun is going down and now it’s pitch black”.  I was looking for places to camp but there was nothing and I kept driving through the night and then I thought that it seemed like such a waste to drive through Arizona in the dark.  The few hotels that I saw listed an hour down the road were stupidly expensive.  I saw a Days inn listed for over $200 and had to read that over a few times.  I drove by one lodge that had their “No Vacancy” sign lit.  The next lodge that I stopped at was Cave Dwellers Lodge, and they didn’t allow pets.  But the owner did tell me that it was BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land down this road so I could stop somewhere safe and sleep.  I asked if there was a place to camp since I had the dogs and she told me I could camp there as well since it was public land.  Oh reeaaaaaaaaaaaallllllyyyy.

I had passed by what looked like a turn out just before Cliff Dwellers Lodge so I went back there.  It was a larger turnout than most of the ones we had passed and several boulders seemed to offer some cover from the road.  I set my tent up in what was essentially a parking lot right off the road.  I had even noticed a port-a-potty and thought “Wow this must be like a rest stop so of course we can park here”.  There was even another vehicle parked a short distance away.  They were probably wondered about the way I was constantly moving the car and all of the opening and closing of the trunk.  It was hard to see with the only light coming from the stars and my headlights so I tried to keep my car pointed away from them.

The similarity to Mars was so strong that I had to make a few few pictures of it before crawling into the tent.

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The moon rising.

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Camping on Mars.

Rocky Mountain High

Day 5

Starting mileage: 3073.6

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This is what I woke up to see.  Notice the blur of Jack’s tail?

After a wonderfully restful sleep, we were up early to hit the road.  To be honest, Chad from Palmer Divide Run Co. had me a little concerned about the traffic and what we may find on the mountain so I had wanted to be there as close to opening time as I could. The hotel had a nice breakfast and I loaded up with wafflewiches (waffles smeared with jam and syrup) along with a bunch of little yogurt cups.  I tried the coffee but it was wretched.  Fortunately Kairos Coffee House was a short distance away.  It’s off the beaten path for sure but well worth the visit.  If I’m back in that neck of the woods, I will definitely be stopping there.

We made the drive to Pikes Peak, stopping on the way up to admire a Bigfoot Crossing sign and again at the gift shop.  I just had to get a picture of the dogs with a carved Bigfoot after all.  The staff warned that there was a film crew working on the road so the drive up was a little bit scary with people and cars stationed at several hairpin turns.  And the shoulder?  Non-existent in most places so there was road then drop sheer drops.  Yikes.

Then finally we found ourselves above the treeline and not long after that, in the clouds.  Honestly in the clouds.  I have never been so high in my life.  I checked the temperature and according to my car, it was a mild…5 degrees celsius.  Well was I ever glad that I had pants and several tops on.

There wasn’t much to look at on the top of the mountain itself but the views were amazing and I got a few quick pics of the dogs before I put them back in the car.  They were happy to sniff around but I was worried about the buffeting wind and the effect that the thin air would have on them.  I popped into the visitor centre and, again at Chad’s suggestion, bought the world famous donuts.  Hot and soft…I shared one with the dogs as soon as I got back into the car.  Two donuts didn’t make it out of the lot.  I was feeling a tad bit lightheaded so I figured the food would help.

Then we began the drive back down the mountain.  There were signs that advise to use the lowest gear of the vehicle and I totally understand why.  It would have been very easy to ride the brakes and lose total control.  We did make a couple of short stops to admire the view and have a few leg stretches.  They had so much fun climbing over the rocks and I think Jack is trying to give me a heart attack because he seems to have no fear of heights.  In fact, he will perch himself as close to the edge as I’ll let him and bask in the sun.  Cheeky monkey that he is.  Meanwhile, Piper and Leo tried to poke their noses into every nook and cranny they could find.

We stopped at Catamount Reservoir for another walk to enjoy the amazing colours of the changing aspens…and more donuts.  As a tip, if you go to Pikes Peak and you buy the donuts, eat them as soon as you get them.  They’re great warm off the rack.  They’re OK once they’ve cooled down.

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Donut #3? Number 4?

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The moon over the mountains.

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A walk in the trees.

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And a run!

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We continued westbound, passing through Lake George and right past the aptly named Lake George Pizza.  I was hungry so I ordered the chicken caesar pizza.  A few slices into my belly and off we went.  Right into wicked bad rain with some hail thrown in for good measure.

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I couldn’t resist stopping for this picture.

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Just seems to moody.

I was heading towards Manuso looking for another “Feasting on Asphalt” location, this one being Ted’s Tacos.  I tried to find it but had no luck.  So we ended up going to Cortez and spent the night at Aneth Lodge.  It’s an older motel and the decor is a bit dated but it was very clean and the room was quite spacious.

After a few more slices of pizza, we were off to sleep.

 

Out of the Plains

Day 4

Starting mileage: 2505.4

Not only did I have to contend with three little heat machines but the wind kicked up over night and didn’t stop until the sun came up.  Needless to say, I did not sleep well that night and was awake early enough to watch the sun rise.  We took the opportunity to walk around the campground and enjoy the scenery.

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Still love this tree.

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After I broke camp, we went to WaKeeney Jake and Chet’s Lounge and Sundowner for breakfast.  I will say that I did not realize how long Kansas was or how long it would take to get across the state.  I will say that I ended up eating the last of the donuts for lunch.  Ahem.

 

As I was driving, I saw a sign for Monument Rocks and decided to take a short detour.  It was a little strange to be following dirt roads and seeing oil derricks dotting the landscape. But that was nothing compared to the shock of seeing cows grazing contentedly with no fence between them and me.  Seriously…no fence.  Now I’m a farm girl and have grown up around livestock most of my life so it wasn’t the fact that there were cows, I’m just used to having them separated from vehicles.

And then we came to Monument Rocks: pale banded columns of rock that seemed to erupt out of the plains.  We took a bit of time to wander around the rocks, especially once we found a tortoise and wanted to find more critters, just as long as they weren’t rattlesnakes.  Finally the heat and lack of shade pushed us back to the car.  dsc05738dsc05711dsc05700img_7554dsc05684

And into Colorado!  Now since we were in Colorado, I decided to stop at a running store that I follow on Instagram with some of the coolest posts: Palmer Divide Run Co.  Yes social media does work.  I spent a while talking with Chad who recommended a place to eat.  And I had been planning on finding a place to camp but a conversation about how unpredictable the weather can be on the mountain and that you can normally see the top of the mountain and now you can’t…well a flatlander like me knows nothing about mountains so I decided to play it safe and find a place to sleep.  After dinner of course.

On Chad’s recommendation, I went into Colorado Springs to Front Range BBQ.  This restaurant has also been featured on the Food Network series Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It’s got a really relaxed vibe but best of all?  The dogs were allowed on the patio!  As I waited for my food, most of the staff and several customers stopped by the table to get their snuggle fix in.  That was until I got the “Sloppy Pig” sandwich I ordered.  Oh my.  A toasted sweet potato bun with a mound of smoked pulled pork, kielbasa, bacon, sweet and spicy BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, spicy slaw, pickles, and onion straws and I ordered it with a side of BBQ beans.  I’m drooling just thinking about it.  If you’re in Colorado City, this is a must visit place.

After dinner, we strolled up the main street for a bit to stretch our legs and be able to sit in the car comfortably.  And there up the road I saw something that made me look twice: a pizza place was a few blocks away and as we approached I saw two men dressed as priests? Would it be wrong to say the food must be…heavenly?

On the way back to the car I stopped at Republic of Paws which is a lovely pet boutique.  There were a few other dogs in there and I was a bit worried that new comers might stir up some trouble but in we went.  You know it’s a real pet place when there’s a gate across the door to prevent runaways.  Of course, my little darlings got all the love they felt they deserved.  I bought a couple of really cool shirts and continued on.

Back at the car, I scanned hotels and found a La Quinta nearby.   We checked in and about 10 seconds after walking in the door, the phone rang.  I froze since I had forgotten what a phone actually sounds like then picked it up.  Every horror movie I had ever seen flashed through my head and I half expected to hear that someone knew what I did last summer or that I was going to die in seven days or….nope just front desk checking to make sure that everything was alright.

All full from dinner, we soon snuggled down for sleep.

 

 

Networking Party: Come on in!

Anyone up for a party?

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This is only the second blog party I have hosted. However, I thought that due to my upcoming bloggaversary of my first year blogging, that it’s the perfect time to host a Par-tay!!

Everyone here has made it possible for me to continue blogging and I would like to give you a sincere ‘Thank You!’ for being awesome!

The gig is pretty simple:

  • Say hello and drop your link in the comments below
  • Don’t be a wall flower, meet some people! Eat, chat, drop some rhymes or funny anecdotes and enjoy yourself!

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  • Reblog this post on your site, the more, the merrier!
  • Grab some hors d’oeuvres & a glass of bubbly, then check out some of the other sites 🙂

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  • Enjoy yourself!

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I’ll be hosting this party for the next few days, so don’t be shy!

So here we are, let’s party!

-Mliae

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In Search of the Yellow Brick Road

Day Three

Starting mileage: 1579.0

It seems that long days of travel are good for my sleep and the alarm jolted me awake.  We went for a short walk around the motel and as the dogs ate their breakfast, I turned to Yelp to find mine.  There were two highly recommended places and after getting a little lost, I finally found myself in front of Hometown Bakery (902 State Highway N, Warrenton, MO).  In fact it would have been difficult to drive past it as I could smell the sweet aroma of baking from inside my car.  When I walked inside I was brought to a sudden and immediate halt as I faced not one but three display cases of baked goods.  Two it seemed held nothing but donuts.  My ordering of breakfast became a shameful display of pointing at various donuts and then, almost as an after thought, I ordered the egg, bacon, and cheese breakfast sandwich.  I had been so consumed with the donuts that I didn’t ask about the sandwich.  I doctored my coffee and giggled about the sinful box of donuts sitting on the counter as I waited for the wrapped sandwich.  I was a short distance and several deep sips of coffee away before I unwrapped the sandwich and found that it was on a croissant!  I destroyed that and two donuts in no time.

Now I wasn’t too far down the road when I started to see signs for KC Baby Back Ribs.  Apparently, according to the signs, they were voted the best ribs.  So even though I was still feeling quite full from breakfast, when I saw the exit for ribs, I had to take it.  I was a little perturbed by the lack of smoke coming from the building, which I had learned from my trip to North Carolina, was one of the calling cards of an old school BBQ pit.  I did not let that stop me from ordering the six rib platter with BBQ beans and green beans.  Hey I needed some vegetables of some kind.  The ribs were meaty and flavourful and came with sauce on the side.  The beans were outstanding and even the green beans had meat in them!  The dogs enjoyed the samples that they had so you know it’s a good spot.

As we continued west we passed by the stadium for the Kansas City Royals.  But we had not crossed the border into Kansas yet.  I thought we had missed signs for the border but it seems as though Kansas City stretches into Missouri, a fact that had me quite confused.

It was hot in Kansas.  We stopped at a rest stop to stretch our legs and walk off some of the breakfast and ribs.  There was a tall hill at the back of the stop and we climbed to the top to see the view, finding a large statue called “Guard of the Plains” at the top.  I did not expect to find anything when we emerged from the trees and I let the dogs sniff around before making our way back to the car and the road.

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The view from the top.

Now initially I did not pay much attention to the signs for Wamego but then I started to notice the “Wizard of Oz” pictures on the signs.  I wasn’t planning to stop but somehow the car made the decision for me and I ended up in downtown Wamego.  I would have kicked myself if someone had asked if I had stopped and I had told them that I did not.  I drove up the Oz Museum and found it…under renovation.  And then I saw the Oz Winery.  With it still being quite hot out and nowhere to tie the dogs up, I rolled the windows down and ran inside.

“I have 30 seconds to buy wine what do you have?”  The women behind the counter seemed to be stunned at this crazy-looking person who just launched herself into the middle of their storefront ranting about wine.  I left in mere minutes with a bottle of Muscat called “Fraidy Cat”.  It would have nice to sample all the Oz-themed wines but I left with the bottle untasted.

 

 

A short time later I saw signs for coffee and gourmet foods at Grandma Hoerners Foods and with the dogs safely stowed I tasted samples of everything and left with a jar of marmalade and a coffee which went really well with another two donuts.

It was getting late and I was happy when I saw a sign for Cedar Bluff State Park.  By this time, the staff had left so I had to do the self-registration.  Now when I skimmed over the signs, I missed the part that said “designated sites” so when I went to pick my site, I only saw some with marking posts.  I was surprised by all of what I thought were picnic sites but after I had set my tent up in the area where the only other campers were (all in trailers) and went back up to submit my money, I realized that all those spots were other possible campsites.  Part of the confusion was because there was only one campground  with a sign.  Oh well.  It was a nice campground with very spacious sites and a reservoir right in front of my site.

It wasn’t until I had poured food out for the dogs that I realized that I hadn’t eaten since the donuts several hours before.  Oddly, I was not hungry.  At all.

 

It was still very hot out and the tent soon heated right up with the three dogs.  I soon had the screens open and the vents on the fly unzipped but it made almost no difference.  I ended up kicking out of my sleeping bag and was trying to figure out a way to create some space from the boxer that kept snuggling up to me without hurting her delicate feelings.  I failed and ended up with her head resting on my shoulder as I tried to get to sleep.

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Watching the sun set.

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I had to stop for this photo.

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I love this tree for some reason.

Through Michigan and Beyond

Starting mileage: 620.0 km

I slept like a champ and then took the dogs for a quick walk.  We were walking by a furniture store and saw a sign posted in what looked like a loading dock that said “No Parking Except for Bob”.  I wanted to wait until later and ask who Bob was and why he got to park there.

The next order of business was breakfast.  A quick consultation with Yelp pointed me towards Zingerman’s Bakehouse, which it turned out, was pretty close to the hotel.  It’s tucked away in an industrial-looking plaza so it’s not likely a place that you will stumble across.  I walked in and was transfixed by the pane of glass that separated the retail side from the production side.  Apparently scenes from the movie “The Five-Year Engagement” were filmed there.  I wanted to press my face to the glass and just watch but more pressing things needed to be taken care of: namely a coffee and chocolate croissant.  The coffee was good for drip and the chocolate croissant…well…it wasn’t bad it just wasn’t how I normally like my croissants.  I like flakey and buttery and melt-in-your-mouth.  This was more crisp and toasty.  It was still a great breakfast and I devoured it as I guided the car back onto the highway.

And pretty soon we were in Coloma, Michigan at The Chocolate Garden.  It was exactly as I had remembered it, right to the rows of jars waiting with shards of chocolate on the shelves.  There were so many packages of truffles that I stood and lingered for a while after selecting some to take to my grandmother for her birthday.  I hesitated at the counter and thought about buying a mocha for myself but decided against it.

I pointed the car south towards St. Louis, Missouri, stopping only to fuel the car and snack on a few slices of last night’s pizza as I walked the dogs.  They were less than impressed that I made them walk instead of sharing with them.

Another small confession: I am a HUGE fan of Alton Brown, the host of Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen” and “Iron Chef: America” and a previous show called “Good Eats”.  He also had a short lived series called “Feasting On Asphalt”.  “Feasting on Asphalt” was a show about road trips and finding true American road food.  There were two seasons: the first was about Alton and his crew travelling across the United States from the east coast in South Carolina to the west coast in California.  Season two had the group follow the Mississippi River from Louisiana to it’s headwaters in Minnesota.  Now you may wonder why I mention this.  First of all, my Standard Road Trip Rules were inspired by this series.  Not the road trip bottle; that’s all mine.  The other reason is that there were some places that I was going to be close to and felt that I had to stop at.  One of those places happened to be in St. Louis at a place called Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.

I went to the original location on Chippewa Street and after studying the menu at the walk-up window, ordered the S’mores concrete.  It was a little selfish of me since the dogs would not be able to have any because of the chocolate in it but I figured they would have plenty of other opportunities to share.  I am so glad I stopped because the frozen custard is so good and it doesn’t even come close to a blizzard or Mc Flurry.  It’s creamy and rich and well worth the stop.

I had originally planned to head out of the city but then figured I had to go see the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis.  The only downside was that the entire area around the Arch was under construction.  It was still pretty incredible though and we ended up walking around a lot longer than I had planned.  I love historic areas and parts of it reminded me of the Distillery District in Toronto.

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Standing on the bank of the Mississippi River.

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Even Lewis and Clark travelled with a dog.

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The old and the new.

It was almost dark by the time we left downtown.  On one hand I was kicking myself for taking so long but on the other hand, I had really enjoyed the walk so I wasn’t too upset.  I had seen signs for campsites before we arrived in St. Louis but as we left, I didn’t see any so decided to get a room rather than continue in the dark.

We ended up at the Relax Inn in Warrenton and curled up as I finished the pizza.

Note:  The bandanas the dogs were wearing are courtesy of HOGdog Swag.  Visit the site on Etsy or check Facebook and Instagram to pick patterns and sizes for fully customized, reversible bandanas.