Thursday, September 30, 2010


It has been awhile since our last post...sorry about that. Visiting with family and friends has been the main focus for the past couple of weeks, and what an amazing time it has been.

This journey has been filled with such wonderful blessings and this period of time ranks right up there near number one. This was my first visit to Wheaton, Illinois, where James went to college, and I loved it. It is a very pretty town with wonderful shops, restaurants and of course, the college, Wheaton. But, the best part was the people.

We met new people and reuniting with old friends, every visit was so special. Everyone opened up their homes to us and made us feel like family. Shayne, Jennifer and Dave, Jeff and Stacey, John and Krista, my Uncle David...everyone showed us such generosity!

After Wheaton, we headed to my Dad's place in Alexandria, Indiana. It always warms my heart to see my Dad. He generously invited us to park the RV in his driveway and hook up for a couple of days. Time was way too short, but very special none the less. We visited with my dear friends from High School, Jill and her family, Faye and her family and Laura with her family. What a great time. And, I got to eat my favorite pizza, Pizza King! Thank you, Jill, my wonderful friend, for putting it all together.

There is never enough time to spend with my sisters. We spent some time at Whitney's and then saw her again Sunday at Dad's house. I wish we lived closer. She is such an amazing woman and I love her humor, honesty and beautiful soul. Then, of course, there are all of our amazing nieces and nephews (including the "great" ones...dang, I feel old). They are all growing up to be beautiful and handsome individuals I'm proud to call family. Jordan is a Junior in High School, smart as a whip and drop-dead gorgeous. Brandon is working for the city, working out (he looks incredible) and taking care of his Mom and little Thor, his brand new English Bulldog puppy. Brooke and Mat continue to amaze me with their grace and gifts in raising four of the most fantastic children I have ever laid eyes on; Tristyn Grace, Kaedyn Nicole, Zoe Elayne and Ryder Alan. I could eat them up!!! they have grown.

Dad took James and I to the James Dean Car Show in Marion, Indiana and we really had a great time. Cars from every decade were showcased. I had a hard time picking between them all, but I did find two cars I really liked, the '68 Camero with the 3.27 engine ( birth date) and the 1967 Charger. Yep, I liked those very much.

Family came over on Sunday for a cookout at Dad's and to watch football. It was a good day as the Cowboys and Colts both won! Yeah!! Dad and Linda also have a new puppy, Boomer, who is a Chihuahua ADORABLE!! I wanted to take him with us, and I believe Dad would have let us, but James said no...he said it would traumatize Peanut too much. I knew he loved that old curmudgeon of a dog. So, Boomer stayed behind. He really is so very cute!

Monday morning came too soon and we had to say good-bye. I hate that part. But, we take with us great memories and know we will all be together again soon.

On our way to Ohio, we made a stop in Greenfield, Indiana to visit my Uncle Kenny and Aunt Joyce. I hadn't seen their home (built in 1869) for nearly 20 years and was anxious to see the work they had done. It is a very beautiful home and we loved visiting with them.

Monday we spent the evening in Cincinnati and had dinner with James' college roommate, Brian, and his family, Audrie-Anna is wife and three sons, Jonah, Noah and Isaac. GREAT TIME! I have said after every visit with one of James' college/high school friends that I'm so incredibly blessed to now call them MY friends as well. These are such amazing people and I thank God for the opportunity to build friendships with them all. Thank you, Brian and Audrie-Anna, for opening up your home and for the amazing Mediterranean food!

Tuesday we drove the short distance to Columbus where we would be meeting Julie and David! YEAH! Again, spending time with my sister and nephew lifted my spirit high! It was so great seeing them. I'm so proud of both of them as they are both in school...Julie graduates this December, and I have to admit, I'm a bit jealous. I love being in school!! We ate at the Olive Garden and then visited back at our RV for a bit. Julie brought some old photos with her so we had a great time reminiscing and laughing till our bellies hurt. David is amazing. Period. I simply can't write enough about him. The only thing missing was our sweet niece, Samantha...she was at her father's house and couldn't make it THIS TIME, but we will see her soon. I love my sister so much. I am so proud of her and her determination to finish school and live her life for the Lord. Thank you, Julie.

So, now I'm filled with the love of family and friends and ready for this last stage of our trip. We are currently in Dunkirk, NY heading to Old Forge, NY to visit with our dear friend, Paul Case. For those of you not on Facebook, I ask that you pray for Paul and his family. His little girl, Katie, six years old, was in a horrible accident and suffered burns over 30% of her legs. She is in Shriner's Hospital in Boston for three months. We can't wait to spend some time with Paul and his son, Little Paulie, tonight.

After that, we will be on our way to Maine. We are blessed to have two good friends from the Florida, Tim and Diane, meeting us there for the first three days to see the sights, eat some lobster (pronounced lob-sta) and catch up. After that, we have still have a week there to reconnect and further enjoy the colorful foliage Maine has to offer.

To all of you we have visited in the past two weeks...THANK YOU. Each of you have made this trip very special for us. Your love and support means more than we could ever express. We know our paths will cross again and look forward to those times very much. May God continue to bless you all. We love you!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two States Later

We left Montana several days ago, spent time in Wyoming and are now on our third day in South Dakota. Our last two days in Montana were rainy, cold and miserable, which was fitting since we were sad to leave and maybe, just maybe, Montana was sad to see us leave as well. Missoula is a wonderful little town and we did enjoy some interesting Thai food while there, and shopped at a great vintage shop to purchase some much needed warm clothes.

Cody, Wyoming was fantastic! The Buffalo Bill Historic Center is like an art museum on steroids. It has Western Art, Firearms, Yellowstone National Park Display, Native Indian and a Library. We spent a couple of hours milling around with our dear friends, Roland and Sloan, and new friends, Clause and Ana, who are friends of the Munech’s visiting from Germany. After the Historic Center we headed to Irma’s Bar and Restaurant for some catching up, eating and we even watched a Gun Fight in the street, corny, but fun. Cody was not a planned stop, but we are thrilled we added it to our itinerary.

We have had some major driving days and will have until we reach Maine. We are averaging about 400 miles a day in the RV, which depending on the road conditions, could be anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of driving. What a blessing that the country is spectacular, therefore the drive isn’t so daunting. Big Horn National Forest in Wyoming was incredible and because of its high elevation, autumn was in full bloom. All the Aspen Trees were a vibrant yellow.

We arrived in Rapid City, South Dakota on Sunday and were pleasantly surprised when we woke Monday morning to find temperatures in the 70’s climbing to the 80’s later in the afternoon! Yeah! I was thrilled. It seems I have been cold for months, so the opportunity to wear shorts and short sleeve shirts came as a tremendous boost to my mood!

I had been looking forward to Rapid City to see Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, however, they pale in comparison to the TRUE beauty of the area, Custer State Park. Wow! This State Park offers more wildlife and dream-like landscape than most National Parks we have seen. The Needles Highway goes right through the park and consists of tall, narrow rock formations that look like needles and tunnels that only one car can go through at a time. I could reach out and touch the wall of one of them it was so narrow. But, the real treasure of the park is the Wildlife Loop Road where herds of Bison (Buffalo, Tatanka, etc.) live and graze right along the side of the road offering amazing photo opps. There are also “Begging Burros” that come right up to your car, stick their head in the window and beg for food, which unnerved me a bit since we were in the tiny Miata with the top down! James did well to keep enough distance between them and us, but still close enough for photos and one pet on my part. They are really beautiful animals.

Antelopes decorate the green hillside with their beautiful tan and white colors and amazing horns. They too, are not afraid of humans and will sit right off the road until you are finished taking pictures. I swear they pose because if they are eating grass when you approach, they will turn and look right at you with their beautiful eyes until you are finished, then they return to grazing.

Absent mountains and coastlines, this landscape is almost one of my favorites. I love rolling green hills with lone trees standing in their glory! It was so relaxing to me. Peace and grace seemed to fill the air around us.

We did drive through some of the more well known towns of the area, Spearfish, Deadwood and Sturgis. Sturgis, of course, is basically a ghost town except for a few weeks in August when bikers from across the country converge on this little town and fill the streets with their iconic motorcycles, mostly Harley Davidson. Deadwood was my favorite; it still looks very much like it did in 1856 when it was as its height of fame with the likes of Wild Bill Hickok and other interesting characters of our western past filling the streets.

The Badlands and Grasslands of South Dakota are really amazing. Right now we are driving through an area that has a functioning 1800’s town, as well as props from the movie “Dances with Wolves,” you can see them right of the highway in these huge grassy fields. Beautiful. There are also hundreds of acres of sunflowers. This is stunning to behold against the blue, blue skies; yellow, orange, green and brown cover the land and it looks like an oil painting. There isn’t much more out here in the middle of the state, but what is here really captures your heart and owns its unique beauty proudly.

From here, we will be making our way to Maine via the Midwest with fun stops along the way to visit family and friends. Wheaton, Illinois is where James went to college so we will be stopping there for a couple of nights to visit friends, then to Indiana to see family, Columbus for more family and then northward to Maine. I can’t believe I am already writing about our final month on the road. Sigh. So sad.

So, until next time, may God continue to bless each and every one of you. We miss you all, think of you daily and look forward to reuniting with everyone very soon. Thank you again, for your prayers during our journey…they have all been answered as we continue to have a most blessed time.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Our Final Two Days in Glacier

It feels as if the dating turned romancing has turned into a wonderful, comfortable marriage and we don't want to separate, but we must. Glacier National Park was more than we ever could have imagined or more than we could ever describe with words and photos.

Yesterday we hiked Highline Trail, a 12 mile hike that weaves through mountains, over waterfalls and along the edge of some amazing scenery. It was a moderate trail, not very technical, but hiking 12 miles is pretty exhausting. The first eight miles were fairly easy, though a bit too narrow in spots for my comfort (vertigo only a few times), but the last four miles were all downhill, which proved to be a bit much for my knees. My legs were already tired, but then to traverse rocky and narrow paths downhill almost did me in! James, being the wonderful, protective husband that he is, immediately made me hand over my backpack to ease the load. So, he, the one with the bum knee, hiked the four miles downhill with my pack and his. My hero for sure!

It was as if we were walking on top of the world. We went through pine forests, rocky cliffs, thick Aspen forests and came within feet of Big Horn Sheep, who didn't seem to mind our presence at all. We couldn't have asked for better weather and I even got a bit of my tan back. The trail is a one way trail, not a loop, so you have to park your car at one end and catch a ride to the other. During the summer months in Glacier they have shuttles that go by every 15 minutes or so to pick hikers up, however, they have stopped running due to the end of the season. So, we literally hitch hiked. I don't think I have ever hitch hiked before, so it was a bit strange, but I stuck my thumb out, as did James, and waited. It didn't take long, maybe five minutes and a half dozen or so cars that passed us by, but finally a big SUV pulled over and the guy, a local, knew instantly where we were headed, so off we went! Thankfully, we parked the car at the end of the trail, so when we were done, our car was there waiting.

We finished the hike in about 6 hours and that was with stopping to eat twice, rest, take pictures and visit with passing hikers. Not too bad, I think. When done, we poured ourselves into the car and relished our accomplishment and being done! We still had about 30 minutes to drive home, so down the mountain we go. About 15 minutes into the ride, I was out like a light. We had the top down and for some unknown reason, I didn't fall asleep reclined with my head against the seat...nope, I fell asleep slumped over like some corpse! James said every time we went around a curve, I swayed to the other side and then back again with the next curve. Quiet a site, I'm sure. It was a bit confusing to wake up with my nose two inches from the gear shift. Apparently, I was tired.

Today, we ended our time in Glacier with a bang! We took a one hour Helicopter tour around the park, and even into Canada. We saw places that one could never see even if you lived here your entire life. Places only seen from a bird's eye view. Those who know me well, know I'm not a crier. I just don't cry easily, but put me in the midst of God's glory like I have been several times on this journey, and the tears just flow. I can't explain it, nor do I even know it is going to happen...they are just there...tears welling up in my eyes. I can only say that something deep within my soul responds to such amazing beauty and it literally has to cry out. That was today. It was magical and very special. I took ever 200 photos in one hour, but could only choose a fraction of that to put on Facebook and on the Photo Journal; I tried to pick the best ones!

Then, to make this day even more special, we finally saw a wolf. We weren't even looking for was as if he knew we wanted to catch a glimpse of its mysterious beauty and granted us our wish. We were driving to Two Medicines, another part of the park, and I just happened to look up on the hill we were passing by, and there he was, just sitting there looking over the meadow on the other side of the road. I said, "Oh my gosh, James, I think that was a wolf!" As soon as we could, we turned around and started heading back to the spot and right as we came around the curve, he was crossing the street. He was a younger wolf, not an adult for sure, and he was the most gorgeous animal I have ever seen in my life. Elegant, majestic, swift, graceful...all of those and then some. We checked with the Park Ranger to make sure it wasn't a coyote, but she said with our description (especially the was big and fluffy), she was sure it was a wolf. I am so very thankful to have had to opportunity to see him in the wild, not in a cage or a zoo, but where he is truly himself and free.

We stayed one extra day to fit in these last two activities (and to do four loads of laundry), but will be heading to Missoula tomorrow for a night then to Wyoming. I will hate leaving Montana. This is the only state we have been in where people say proudly that they were born and raised here and that the are never leaving. We have heard this numerous times...that says something about Montana. We will come back here again, that I have no doubt.

So, as with any good-byes in relationships, we leave Montana very sad, but very thankful for the time and memories. We will cherish them always and revisit our photos and journal entries like old love letters until we are reunited.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Glacier and Us

Our romance with Glacier is blossoming as it continues to reveal more and more of it's glory to us. Each day exposes such beauty that we think it can't get any better, but it does.

Yes, the glaciers themselves are going away quickly; The estimated date for all glaciers to be gone is 2020, which I believe is overly optimistic by about 5 years. But, that is OK. Glacier National Park will still be an amazingly beautiful Park. The wildlife alone is enough to make the trip! We had lunch at one of the Resorts in Many Glacier that housed photos taken in 1911 and then photos of the same spot taken in 2008 and it is startling how much the glaciers have decreased, some have simply disappeared.

The Road to the Sun is epic. Every turn offers incredible views of mountains sprinkled with snow (we say they look like chocolate cake dusted with powdered sugar...which, of course, made me crave chocolate cake for two days), or crystal blue glacier lakes. As the clouds move or the sun sets, the mountains seem to change with them.

Our first major wild animal sighting was of a Grizzly Bear, known around these parts simply as "Griz." It was in Many Glacier high up on a mountain. We would have missed it completely had it not been for the 20 or so people standing, pointing and/or looking through binoculars. We still didn't see it. So, we stopped and asked and some kind soul lent us his binoculars and sure enough...there he was! Huge Griz...I managed to get a few photos, but my lens isn't quiet powerful enough. We were thrilled none the less.

We left the RV at 5:00am the next morning because that is the best time to catch wildlife, and it also happens to be a magical time in the mountains! Seeing the bright blanket of stars slowly fade as night turned to dawn and the black of the sky morphed to a brilliant blue, then aqua, then peach, then red and yellow was something I had never experienced before.

We decided to pull into Logan's Pass parking lot to watch the sun fully rise and to our surprise, three Big Horn Sheep were standing in the middle of the lot. Our headlights fully on them, they did I. Of course, I didn't notice them at first because I'm ALWAYS looking off the beaten path for the wildlife, something I have learned three times in two days isn't the best place to view wildlife, so James had to point them out to me. The photo is the sad commentary of how I handled the situation.

After watching the sun rise and just enjoying the glory of it all, we headed to the spot we had spied the day before (on the recommendation of people who "knew") to see some more amazing creatures of the wild. We were equipped with camera, two blankets, hats, gloves, hot coffee and Bear Claws...getting the picture that it was cold? It was, but the sky was clear, the sun was bright and the Moose were ready for their water around the lake we parked ourselves. Deer joined in as well, but the Griz never showed up.

Later that day we saw a Momma Moose and the ever allusive cow. Hahaha! When you spend 8 hours looking for anything that moves in the field or bush, you jump at the first thing that catches your eye, even cows. My dream is to see a wolf, but from what I understand, they are very, very difficult to find. The man that runs the General Store, and who is also an amazing photographer, spoke of the wolf like this: he said the bear, both Griz or Black, simply look at you. They see you, but then move on. The wolf, however, notices you LONG before you notice it and the wolf doesn't just look at you...he looks through your soul. I loved it! He gave us some great recommendations for seeing wolf, but to be honest, I realize I don't have the patience, or perseverance, to be a GREAT photographer. Getting up at 4:30 in the morning was asking A LOT of me, and this man will go out at 11:00 at night, camp, wake up at 3:00am and move camp again, wake up at 6:00am and just sit for hours to take a few photos of a wolf. I don't think I have that in me.

Today, though, provided us with the most spectacular wildlife viewing so far. We decided to drive in the "Inside Fork Road," which is a very primitive, rocky and narrow road that leads to several different lakes in the park. Oh yea, we rented an SUV for two days to do just this type of driving; there is NO WAY the Miata would have survived.

So, driving down the last leg to our destination, we rounded the corner, remember we are only doing 10 mph because of road conditions, and what do we see in the MIDDLE OF THE ROAD?? A giant Griz. This thing took up nearly the entire width of the road. He was stopped in tracks looking directly at us. At first we thought it might be a moose, but was a Griz. He was about 150 yards in front of us just watching. As James groped to turn the radio off, I, like a complete idiot, tried to change the lens on my camera but by the time I got the darn thing on, the Griz had moved on. James said he actually stood up on all his hind legs...and that he was gigantic. I looked up in time to see the Griz walk off the road. No photo. In the words of Napoleon Dynamite, "Idiot." It is an image forever in my memory!

We gathered ourselves and couldn't believe what we had just seen. This was the second time my intense search of the forests and fields proved fruitless as the wildlife appeared in the middle of the road. We saw a herd of mountain goats in the parking lot of the Resort we had lunch at one day...James specialty is spotting wildlife in parking lots...and in the middle of roads!

We made it to the lake and were still excited from our Griz encounter mere moments before, when we made the acquaintance of a nice man on the shore with his binoculars watching Bald Eagles. Now, that was a marvelous surprise! There were two of them circling overhead for several moments until moving on. We sat on the shore with Jarred and chatted a bit. He is building a log cabin in Montana and was taking a break in the park for a few days. We told him about the Griz and he seemed both excited and nervous, as it happened just a couple hundred yards from where he is camping.

We then headed back home. A long but wonderful day. The next two days promise some very exciting adventures for us, but I'm not will have to wait for an update! God Bless!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Our First Date

Our first date with Glacier was like many other first dates. The courted one, Glacier, presented itself with modesty and humility, almost shrouded in mystery. Literally, it was wrapped in a thick, impenetrable blanket of clouds, likened to the designs of old time Chastity Belts or Bundling Sacks. It was as if Glacier was not going to reveal all of its beauty and magic on the first date, oh no, there must be more courting involved for that to happen. Glacier demands patience so that its virtue won’t be questioned.

However, in its reticence and reserve (something we both found intriguing), hidden treasures were revealed that may have gone unnoticed had such an atmosphere not appeared this day. Little subtleties that would otherwise be overlooked because they simply fade into the background were very apparent and vibrant set among this quiet, guarded and mystic space.

Imagine meeting someone for the first time who is very active and energetic, talking a million miles a minute. It is all you can do to focus on what is being said and not getting lost in the deluge of words falling all around you. When you part from said company, you can hardly remember their eye color, hair color or possibly even their name…you are just exhausted and relieved to be alone…in silence.

Now, imagine meeting someone who is a bit more reserved…quiet. Not rude or standoffish, but truly wanting something important to occur during the conversation. You notice little things when it is still and quiet, like the way their mouth curls up into a small grin when their dialog partner says something amusing, or how their hands find things to fiddle with, or how they might twirl their hair…or the color of their hair and even eyes for that matter. Little subtleties that can only be discovered when the light isn’t shining so brightly.

That is Glacier on this, our first date. Due to the thick clouds, rain and overall grayness of the day, it seemed as if all bright colors called in sick and stayed in bed. This left a pallet of whites, grays, blacks, browns and even some shades of dark green. This was their day to shine! Without having the brilliance of the yellows, blues, purples, reds and bright greens to compete with, these muted, less appreciated, colors jumped at the opportunity to present us with another side of Glacier most miss, or don’t appreciate.

The first to capture my full attention were the Aspen trees, but not for the reasons you may think. The Aspen’s white bark is usually overpowered by their leaves, either wild greens or bold yellows depending on the time of year, and the plain, white trunks are never truly seen for their own splendor; but, in a world of shaded grays, blacks and browns, they truly jump out from the forest and into your car they are so bold! Proud, they are! You can feel it. It is amazing.

Then, as I focused more and more on what was being said by Glacier, I picked up a hint of bright green, almost fluorescent, peaking from the trunks of trees and the forest floor. It was moss. Plain ole moss. But, in this light, or lack thereof, it glowed, as if someone flipped on a light switch that lit up the moss when the clouds appeared. Otherworldly, as James would say…otherworldly.

Like any other first date, some history must be shared to establish foundation and roots. Glacier did this in a most fascinating way. While driving around, we would notice small wisps of clouds mingled among the pine trees. They weren’t horizontal, as if lazing on the branches of the trees, but vertical, making their way up the mountains to their larger cloud friends hanging out in the sky. It looked like ancient smoke signals from Indians past, and that makes perfect sense, as this is Blackfeet country. This is Glacier’s past, history, and this is how it shared its story with us.

Now, there was SOME color around, but not a lot. Surprisingly, some of the trees have already started to change; like movie trailers announcing the upcoming Autumn season. Mostly they are the smaller trees, Aspens, and the dominant color is yellow, but even the yellow is muted, like the color of freshly churned butter. Occasionally there would be flashes of reds, but not too many at all. I did pick up another color while driving, though since I was driving, it was difficult to focus on the tree to determine what it was. So, I asked James if he knew. I pointed out up in the mountains patches of what appeared to me to be trees the color of burnt brick, a very deep, dark red, set alongside the green pine trees. After he had some time to look, he reported back that they were dead pine trees. Sad. But, even in their death, they are beautiful and offer a striking contrast next to their living relatives.

Towards the end of the date we started receiving signals that things were looking up! The Bundling Sack, or clouds, started loosening up a bit and beams of laughter, or sun, illuminated the area. So, as with any good courtship, we will continue our journey into the soul of Glacier and see what more it has to offer. We will keep you posted!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Heading Eastward.

This morning we are sitting in a rather lovely State Park in Idaho, much to our surprise. We didn't have any reservations for last night (or tonight for that matter), but decided since the summer has officially ended, we would do good to drive until tired and find a place, and we did do good! This park is actually part of the Army Corp of Engineers and is located outside Priest River, Idaho. Very, very nice. So, we may stay tonight and then reach Glacier tomorrow.

The RV park in Bothell (just 15 miles from downtown Seattle), was another wonderful surprise. Great park with all sites on Lake Pleasant, complete with ducks and geese, which Peanut thoroughly enjoyed chasing back into the water every time they ventured up near our RV. We were there Saturday and Sunday nights and to our delight, Sunday mornings they do up a Pancake Breakfast for all guests of the RV park. We met some wonderful folks, mostly long-time RVer's who were more than happy to share some of their wisdom and valuable tips for the next portion of our trip. We were grateful to be able to return the favor to one couple in particular who were heading to Florida...and the Keys! They asked if there were any nice places down there for RVs and we were able to give them a list of places we were sure they would enjoy! Oh, and did I mention the pancakes (and eggs and sausage) were great? They were!

After that, we headed downtown Seattle. I loved it there. The Pike's Market is something everyone should experience in their lifetime. Not only were there fish, crab, oysters and clams, but the flowers, fruits and veggies were out of this world as well! Being the holiday weekend, vendors of all sorts were out selling their goods. We really enjoyed just walking around town and taking in all the sites. The weather could not have been any better...sunny and cool. Seattle is another place on my list that I want to visit again for a longer period of time.

I have mixed emotions about heading back East. I so miss family and friends and can not wait to be reunited with everyone, but time has gone by so fast. This trip has been so amazing and special that I don't want it to end. Making "this turn" seems to signal the beginning of the end and I'm not sure I'm ready for that. I know we have some incredible places yet to see, two of our favorites to be sure: Glacier National Park and Maine in the fall, and who knows what else in between. We are VERY excited to be seeing two of our close friends from the Keys, Roland and Sloan Muench, next week in Cody, Wyoming, as well as two other dear friends, Tim and Diane Neal, in Maine next month! I think that will satisfy my homesickness for a bit seeing them all!

Instead of dwelling on the negative (our trip being more than halfway over), I'm going to focus on the positive things left to experience in this next half of our journey. I'm going to slow it down, so to speak, and enjoy every single moment, creature, sunset, sun rise, tree, flower and walks/talks with James. God has richly blessed us in this crazy adventure of ours, and I don't want to waste one moment of it!

My next post will be from Glacier National Park!! We are both so excited to finally get there and I'm sure it will be far greater than our imaginations could ever dream possible!

Love and blessings to you all! God Bless!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A very special Blog!

This is a very special blog because even though it was written by me, Jennifer, James artfully edited and beautifully expanded it with some of his own thoughts and words…thank you, my wonderfully creative husband and writer! I think I will hire him to be my Editor! We hope you enjoy it!

There are moments on this journey when the profound beauty of a place elicits a deep silence of the soul. These are times when beauty steals not only your words but also your breath. Poet William Wordsworth alludes to such moments when he says, “the meanest flower that blows can give thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.”

However, since silent blogs are as useless as a soliloquy for stringless guitar, I have the impossible task of painting a word picture of unspeakable beauty - because we just have to share.

“Organoleptic” is a term I, Jennifer, use to describe the northwest portion of Washington, while James uses “Thin Boundaries.”

Merriam-Webster defines Organoleptic as: "being, affecting, or relating to qualities (as taste, color, odor, and feel) of a substance (as a food or drug) that stimulate the sense organs". I will replace "food or drug" with PLACE, specifically NW Washington.

With its extreme topography and diverse ecosystems, NW Washington commands respect and must be experienced, full-bodied. You must engage all five senses to even begin to appreciate all that it has to offer. Therefore, and sadly, my photos fall far short of capturing the essence of NW Washington, WITH the exception of the sunset photos taken by James...those are truly spectacular. You can't truly “see” this part of the country through the confines of a viewfinder on a camera. You must turn on your own axis, 360 degrees, look all the way up, all the way down, and peer with your eyes as far as you can - only then do you begin to “see.” And, it’s not just the vastness of the place; you must focus on the little things, too. The tiniest of wildflowers or smallest of creatures running through the bush are no less unique and breath-taking.

You have to hear the wild ocean’s waves crashing against sea-stacks, tumbling onto pebble strewn shores, jostling the giant driftwood logs as they bask on the beach and then retreat again back to their turbulent home. As you walk along the rocky shore you can taste the salt of the misting-sea on your lips.

The deep and intense aroma of pine is unique to this part of the country, accurately known as the Evergreen State. There are more pine trees and varieties of pine trees in this state than I have ever seen or dreamed possible. The intensity of their fragrance, mingled with the distant scent of campfire, is intoxicating, maybe even alluring, as any romantic scene one could conjure.

The tactile sensations of NW Washington can leave you with the feeling of being somewhere altogether different – otherworldly. The cool, sharp, crisp air tickles your skin, while the sun, at the same time, gently wraps you in an invisible blanket of warmth. All five senses are completely and constantly engaged here, paradoxically yet complimentarily...and that is the way it must be.

After going back and reviewing my pictures and Blog entries over the past two months, I do remember loving and appreciating each of the places we have visited. Some of them, Yosemite in particular, still invigorate my heart with memories of awe and wonder. However, I can honestly say without hesitation, this is our favorite part of the journey so far. Washington is! It seems like the rest of the country is tame, well groomed and safe in comparison. Washington, with renegade spirit, bucked against the rule of the land and retreated to the upper most NW corner of the country where it could be wild and reckless and free.

Olympic National Park is unique in that it offers Rain Forest (yes, Rain Forest), Coastal beaches and snow capped mountains. Talk about variety! Our first experience in the Park was the Rain Forest. There are plants and animals here that do not exist anywhere else in the country. We took a stroll through the "Hall of Mosses" to get a feel for the different species of moss, trees, ferns and plants that thrive here. The subtle beauty and mind-numbing diversity caused my brain to swim! It was actually warm in the Rain Forest and we found that to be a very welcomed surprise! Did I mention it is COLD up here?

Our next stop was Cape Flattery, the most northwest point of the continental United States, as our photo of the phone GPS will attest. "Thin boundaries," whispered James as we gazed out at the secluded scene of exquisite beauty. I repeated the words in the form of a question back to him. He explained, "The Medieval Celtic Church use the term 'Thin Boundaries' to describe areas of God’s creation in which the 'boundary' between sacred and secular, created and Creator, is so thin, that the very presence of God seems as close as the air around you. It is a place of extreme beauty, a moment of joy that is felt in the blood. It is a time when words, if they can be spoken at all, are only whispered. There is glory in it." This is Cape Flattery...a Thin Boundary.

Wild and dangerous are another two adjectives I would use to describe this area. This place looks as though God used his finger to clear a path of earth and fill it with raging sea to separate Washington from Canada. The shoreline is extreme, jagged, lined with cliffs lofting high above the sea below. The Evergreens push the boundaries, dare the cliff's edge and almost defy gravity, thus the reason for the thousands upon thousands of gargantuan driftwood logs that line the shores of this place.

We both longed deeply to stay, but night would soon be upon us and time simply would not permit. Since leaving there, I have felt a quiet peace in my heart imparted by the spiritual experience of the moment at Cape Flattery. I hope we will visit this special place again. Until then, I will hold this peace closely.

Yesterday we headed, with Peanut in tow, to Hurricane Ridge, where one can see Mount Olympia. I had seen glimpses of it while driving around the park...wonderful clips of snow capped mountains almost beckoning me to see it in full glory. I couldn't wait. The drive up to Hurricane Ridge is about 17 miles and consists of twists and turns, offering little views of the mountains. I kept saying to James, "On the way down, I want to stop here and there to take pictures," because I thought that was as good as it got. Well, was I ever in for the surprise. The Architects and Engineers who designed this park were truly genius. Upon rounding the last curve to our destination, we were met with the most spectacular view of Mount Olympia. Instantaneously, tears filled my eyes and ran down my cheeks. I literally gasped, it so caught me off guard. This is one of the places where my photos don't even come close to the majesty of the mountains...Olympia will not relinquish her full beauty to a camera. She insists on being visited personally.

We walked around a bit and were reminded that Peanut is not too fond of heights. James held him so I could take photos. I think Peanuts’ being with daddy helped alleviate some of the shivering and shock he seemed to experience the entire time. Silly dog. Unfortunately, because of Peanut, we couldn't walk the trails. The signs posted said, "Pets not allowed as they may frighten the wild life." I cracked up! Peanut frightening anything would be a hoot!

The day was clear and sunny and our drive around the park proved to be a continuation of awe-inspiring vistas. Crescent Lake leaps out at you as if in some 3D movie! James remembered this lake from his previous trip to Washington and told me of it, but no words can be used to portray its beauty. We walked a bit and then decided to head back to the coast with hopes of catching another spectacular sunset.

However, the weather had a surprise for us. As if driving through some invisible wall, we were one moment in bright, sunny, clear skies and the next, under thick, dark and foreboding clouds that created an almost eerie feel in the air. It was perfect! We visited two beaches we hadn’t seen the previous day, and, though I’m sure they are beautiful in the sun, they presented an all-together different experience shrouded in the thick fog. There is an island right off shore called James Island, which is just below Cape Johnson…I think that means we should move there! The island is awesome…you will see from some photos. It was a perfect way to end a perfect day.

Praying everyone has a safe and happy Holiday Weekend! We love you!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A long, long, LONG way.

We are in Westport, Washington; approximately 3,500 miles (exactly 3,496.46) from our starting point in Islamorada, Florida. Pretty amazing. This is the furthest we will be away from home the entire trip. Of course, we have traveled many more miles than that; we figure about 5,000 miles in the RV and 6,000 in the Miata, but as far as point-to-point distance, we have reached the maximum. We have seen some amazing places, visiting with amazing people and experienced many amazing moments during this trip, and I have tried to share most of them with you via this Blog and photos. We still have a lot more to see and do, so please continue to stay tuned!

Oregon was fabulous. We spent a total of five nights/six days there I have to say that it was probably the most relaxing (or lazy, to be honest) of the States we have visited. The biggest day came when we drove to Crater Lake. We actually drove so much, that after 11 hours in the car, with 3 more hours to go, we decided to stop off at motel. We had Peanut with us, so it was a no-brainer to do so. James and I have a king size bed at home, but in the RV we have a queen (and it isn't a full Queen), so when checking in, we requested a king size bed. They didn't have one. They had a room with two queens, so as much as we love being in the same bed, we opted to each have our own queen bed for the night. This turned out to be a good thing since I tossed and turned all night long...probably because James was in the other bed.

Crater Lake is the bluest lake I have ever seen. The lake was formed after a volcano erupted and then died. It is the bluest blue you will ever see anywhere. And it is cold. So cold that there isn't much to do there but drive around and see the Lake from different sides, which is what we did. There were Pennacles and waterfalls too that we saw. I am so glad we made the drive. It is something to behold and I hope everyone will have the opportunity to see it one day. None of you will be sorry.

The other days spent in Oregon were in Gold Beach and what a wonderful place that is. Out of the five days in Oregon, we only had 2 days of rain and from what I hear, that is pretty darn good. As in the Keys, or south Florida for that matter, you can always tell the tourist from the locals. In Florida during "the winter" months, the locals have lost their tans, turned in their shorts and tank tops for khakis and long sleeves and talk about how chilly it is, while the tourist are tan...well, I should say, burnt, racing around in their bathing suits, tank tops, or for men, no top at all, and soaking up the rays, even if it is only 70 degrees, which is cold for us Floridians. Well, the same holds true here, but completely opposite! The locals during the summer months (now...I guess), are all in their shorts, short sleeve shirts, skirts and bathing suits, while we the tourists (at least the ones from Florida) are bundled up in jeans, sweaters and coats freezing our back-sides off! Every time a local says anything about summer, my brain goes haywire! My appendages swear it is late fall with winter right around the corner! It just doesn't compute!

We left Oregon yesterday. As I said, we had a very lovely and lazy time there. And guess what else is lazy in Oregon? Cows!! You know the commercial that says, "Happy Cows come from California?" Well, LAZY cows come from Oregon. A strange thing to notice, I know. But, I sure have seen a lot of cows on this trip and the ones in Oregon fascinate me! Cows in every other State are all walking around, eating, meeting at a watering hole or just staring at passing traffic, but in Oregon, every single farm or pasture we drove by, 90% of the cows were laying on the ground...doing nothing. After the first few I noticed, I made it a point to observe each one and sure enough, 90% of them were lazin' on the ground! Now, when we came to Washington I wanted to make sure it wasn't the climate, altitude, air or whatever, so I paid attention to the farms...and all the cows, with the exception of a few calves, were up walking around. So, it must be Oregon. Odd. Very odd.

I believe there is a stretch of Oregon, half way up the coast and spans maybe 100 miles that never sees the sun! I say this because the park we stayed at last night, the Beachside State Park, had large patches of moss growing...on the roads! You know that area hasn't seen sun or a dry day in a long time. It was very foggy and rainy when we arrived and that I was most thankful for. Unfortunately about 15 minutes before we arrived, I experienced my first ever (and I pray my last) cluster migraine. It came upon me as sudden as a lighting flash and felt as if someone took a pickaxe and began hitting me in the side of the head. That a snap of the finger. And, I have never ever felt such horrible pain in my life. I have to say it scared the heck out of me...all kinds of thoughts go through one's mind like, "Is this aneurysm? Stroke?" James knew immediately something was wrong and wanted to go directly to the hospital, but I just wanted to get to the park and see if it would pass in a little bit, and if not, then off the ER we would go. Well, after taking two migraine pills and moments of James squeezing my head (I will explain later), I started feeling some relief. I knew then it was a cluster migraine. The rest of the afternoon/evening is a fog to me, but I'm all better today.

Oh yeah, the "squeezing the head" [not what you know it to be, Cindy]. When I have a migraine, as with many other migraine sufferers, compression on the head really relieves a lot a pain. As a matter of fact, the SkyMall Magazine (found on airplanes) actually has a device specifically for this purpose. It helps. A lot.

We woke up the next morning (today) with the same fog, rain and chill in the air. There is no way I could live in that part of Oregon! We decided to pack up and head off. After about 2 hours of driving, we finally hit sunshine again! Ahhh! What a relief! Oregon has the most stunning and dramatic beaches and shorelines, as well as this small seaside towns that look like someplace out of the past. Such beauty and danger, which leads me to believe (and hope to be true), why they (the State) has named so many of their Parks and Rivers with the word "Devil" in it. We came through "Devil's Elbow State Park," "Devil's Punchbowl" and over several rivers or creeks with the same devilish word. I have to say...I didn't like it much. I don't like Satan. Can't stand him. So, to be driving up the coast and seeing the word "devil" a lot, I got annoyed. But, then it reminded me of something...Satan is always all around us...and usually in the most beautiful of places trying his best to make them ugly. Well, he didn't succeed. Every park, river and creek were still stunning, I just could do without the titles!

James continues to build his Handy Man skills as little things on either the RV or Miata break...he always fixes them. The roads in Oregon and Washington are a piece of cake compared to the ones in California, so he has no worries now about driving any road that shows the least bit of curves on the map...been there and CONQUERED that! I won't drive the big rig until we reach the middle part of the US where the streets are level, straight and perfect. West Coast folks got off easy!!

We are about 50 miles into Washington right now and it hosts some incredible beauty as well. Tomorrow we plan to take a drive up to Olympic National Park and then drive up to the most northern and western point in the United States...might as well since we have been to the most southern point...Key West! The weather is far...and the campground we are in for the next three nights is pretty nice as well. It has a heated pool...might have to try that out in this cool air!

We will continue to read our book, "Travels with Charley" and hopefully begin another after that is done. I never realized how much more "life" you give a book when you read it aloud, or hear it read aloud. We are both enjoying it immensely! We need to be in Glacier one week from today, so our time here is truncated just a bit, but not much.

Hope everyone enjoys the Labor Day Weekend...stay safe...there are crazy people out there! I should know, we are two of them! Hahahaha! We love and miss you all! God Bless!