I returned from the Epic Road Trip on Thursday, which left me with a week and 5 days until take off. Abby and I have been lucky enough to stay with my brother and his wife and daughters during this time. It’s been really great to spend so much quality time with them. And they live close enough to the city so that I can still see some friends before I leave.
I’ve spent lots of quality time with the girls. On one day we went to the mall. Grace had to stop at Verizon to get a new phone, so the girls entertained themselves in the shop while they waited. They crack me up! After that we went to the mall to ride some rides and have some lunch. They love the mall!
I also had the privilege of being there when Sophia tried riding her bike without training wheels for the first time. She was so excited! It was a little hard, and probably a little scary, but she stuck with it, and did a great job! She’ll be riding that bike on her own in no time!
On another day, we flew kites. What a good time that was!
Sophia was so into flying it all by herself. And she did a fantastic job!
And of course we hit the playground before we left!
We also did a lot of cleaning up…and a lot of videos of cleaning up!
We had a nice Sunday morning Dora session:
Then for Family Day, we went to Traintown, which was a really great time!
Sophia and Nola rode on the airplane ride.
Sophia and I rode on the ferris wheel: Sophia’s first time ever!
At first she was a little nervous and held my hand tightly, but after a few minutes, she was loving it!
Even the ride home was a good time:
That night, we had a little fun with the time-lapse video mode at dinner. Nola got such a big kick out this!
She also enjoyed watching Abby eat her dinner:
We played lots of mermaids together too.
In addition to all the fun family time, I had a chance to see some friends too. Adriane surprised me with tickets to the first night of Phish at the Bill Graham. And it was absolutely amazing. I wasn’t just us geeking out, they really were amazing!
We had such a good time. At one point I tried to take a picture:
Not only did it not do it justice, but I realized that I was also trying to take a picture of the moment. I was enjoying it so much that I wanted to capture it. But I realized that it’s impossible to capture a moment like that. So I put my phone away and decided to not waste any more time trying to capture moments, and I would just try to enjoy them. I think I succeeded.
At the set break, we went upstairs to sit down for a few, and we were amazed by the crowd!
What a great last show before I leave the country!!
Thursday: 5 days left!
Had a full day…breakfast with Erika, lunch with Adriane, hang out with Stephanie & Co, and vet appointment!
One last visit with our friends! I’m going to miss these ladies!
Petunia is one of Abby’s oldest friends. She’s going to miss her!
It was a two week trip through 8 states! I took a lot of photos…and it was really hard to decide which ones to include, so I decided not to decide and I put all my favorites in. Get ready for tons of photos!
It felt like I was sitting around waiting for go time to happen, but then all at once it all came very quickly. I packed up, shipped, and got rid of all my stuff…
And finally on June 30th, I was free:
The Open Road
So I did what any other rolling stone would do. I hit the open road with my dog and my bestie. For two weeks, we drove and camped. We stayed at the occasional hotel and frequented state parks and national forests. And we spent an unusual amount of time in a place called Idaho Falls. Here’s the account of our two weeks on the road.
This was our first destination. Still in California, a nice introduction to our camping scene. I’d been there many times in the winter, but have always wanted to see it in the summer. We spent two lovely days right near the lake.
We set up camp at the William Kent Campground, which is right across the street from Lake Tahoe. I wanted a spot where we could easily get to the lake if we wanted to go see it.
I saw directions for a doggie zip line on a dog blog, and decided to try it out. It worked out great for Abby. She was a little weary of it at first, but once I put down a little bed and gave her a bully stick, she was pretty happy.
I didn’t sleep very well that first night, so I ended up getting up pretty early, and walking Abby down to the lake. It was beautiful!
After the lake, Be and I decided to go get some supplies in Truckee, and then head to North Star to see about taking Abby up a gondola to the top of the mountain. Abby hated the gondola, but with practice she got better and better about getting in it. We figured it would be really good practice for going on the airplane!
We had fun walking around a taking photos:
The view was stunning!
Unfortunately I ended up with a bad cold and a pulled out back. I was in pretty rough shape, but I wasn’t about to let that slow me down.
The next day, we drove straight across Nevada. I think we stopped like twice for gas. At first it was kind of an interesting drive. But after about an hour it became pretty monotonous and boring. There really isn’t a whole lot in Northern Nevada. Lots of open land, and the occasional prison. We were headed to a hotel room in Eastern Idaho, just north of Idaho Falls. We arrived pretty late at night. There was nothing but a gas station open, so Be had to eat gas station food for dinner. I was starting to feel pretty darn sick, so I was headed to bed right away (after a shower, of course).
The next day, we had to do some things in Idaho Falls. It was the closest major metropolis in the area, and we needed to access the internet and I needed to mail some important things (my passport!!) at Fed Ex. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday and Fed Ex wasn’t open. So we did our internet stuff, bought some groceries, and headed north to Targhee National Forest, where we had reservations to camp for two nights.
Armed with NyQuil, nasal spray, Advil, and a variety of gels and patches for my back, we set up camp and hunkered down for a night of toasting marshmallows and drinking wine.
One of the hosts stopped by and warned us about bears: “You’re in bear country now, so you need to put all your food away when you aren’t using it”. We were well aware of the bear situation, and were taking the appropriate precautions. But it never hurts to get a reminder…especially since he said there’d been a bear sighting not too long ago near our campsite.
The bears probably stayed far away because there were thunder storms and fireworks going off that night. Abby was a trembling wreck, but the next morning she slept like a baby! Then more thunder storms started early in the morning and we had a big downpour, so we jumped in the car and headed north into Montana to hit the West Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone National Park Day 1
We spent two days checking out Yellowstone. We drove into Montana and through West Yellowstone and bought some gifts in the gift shop. We took pics on the giant bear, and bought stuffies for our nieces and nephews.
Then we entered the park and drove around. It was like another planet! We weren’t allowed to really get out an walk around too much with a dog, so we mostly stayed close to the road. But even so, there was so much to see. There were all kinds of different little roads you can take to go see geothermal attractions. Some were crowded, but some didn’t have many people at all. This whole part of the park is just such a spectacle! The photos don’t really do it justice, but I tried.
We pulled off into a random roadside boiler:
And then we found Biscuit Basin, which was so incredible! I’ve never seen anything like it. I truly felt like we’d landed on another planet.
I was so amazed by all the colors:
And the absolute otherworldly feeling of this place:
It was incredible!
And very special!
We spent another night in Targhee National Forest, and then headed back down to Idaho Falls. There are not photos from Idaho Falls. There’s nothing to really do there except shop, use the internet, and mail things. Which is what we needed to do. It was a good hour out of our way. It had a decent Starbucks where we could use the internet (for one of Be’s online classes) and where I could get a signal so I could make some phone calls. And finally, it was a Tuesday and I could have some passport photos taken for my Sri Lankan visa and send my passport to DC with Fed Ex. We spent entirely too much time in Idaho Falls, but it was a necessary stop, and it all worked out fine, because we ended up in a pretty fantastic spot after that….
Grand Teton National Park
After Idaho Falls, we drove east toward Grand Teton National Park. I’d been dying to see it, and was so excited!! We originally had plans to camp in Montana that night because it was the 4th of July holiday weekend and I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to camp in GTNP. Once we saw how long it would take to drive to Montana, we decided to try to find a place on Jackson Lake.
As we approached Grand Teton NP, we came across Jackson Hole: one of the most spectacular views out there.
The approach to the Tetons was amazing.
By this point, we had been in the car for a few hours, and we were completely taken by the Tetons. So we were really hoping to stay close by.
And we lucked out! Things were pretty full all over, but we found an opening at Colter Bay Village. Not only did we have a spectacular view right on the campgrounds,
but it was a little more built up than the other places we’d stayed, so we could eat at the restaurant, take showers, and visit the general store for supplies. We were really grateful for the amenities, and ended up with a totally decent spot for camping.
Abby liked it well enough, but eventually, she found her spot on the table!
We decided to stay here for a second night. It was nice to stay in one place, and the place we were in had a shower, so that really swayed us. Oh, and of course the amazing view didn’t hurt:
Yellowstone National Park day 2
The next day, we drove up to Yellowstone. This time we entered from the South. It was a really nice day out. We drove around, and ended up spending a chunk of time at Old Faithful. The place was so packed. Apparently we were there on their busiest week of the year. It was kind of neat to walk around and see all the different types of people there. We got some snacks and headed over to the visitor center to check things out. And then it was time to see the geyser!
You can’t bring a dog very close, but we got a really great view from where we were standing.
After Old Faithful, we drove around some more. We stopped off at Lewis Lake to dip our toes in the water. And Abby got to have a nice lake drink.
After Lewis Lake, we just drove some more and saw some pretty nature stuff:
After another round of showers and a gourmet Spam Sandwich for dinner, we went to sleep! We had to be fresh for out very long drive across all of Wyoming and into South Dakota!
South Dakota: The Black Hills
After a long, long day of driving, we made it! We were exhausted from all the driving and it was getting late. We really didn’t want to have to set up a campsite in the dark, so we decided to stay in a hotel. We wanted to check out Deadwood, so we figured this would be a good spot to stay for the night. We got a great meal and a decent deal on a dog-friendly hotel for the night. It was all much appreciated!
After Deadwood, we headed to Mt. Rushmore. Dogs weren’t allowed in the actual monument area, so Abby and I stayed in the parking lot while Be went in to check it out. I got a pretty good view from the lot, and Be said I wasn’t missing a whole lot in there, so we left after that.
We were booked to go to Badlands National Park next, but we wanted to check out the Crazy Horse Memorial before we left the Black Hills National Forest. We needed to take a bus from the parking lot to get up close to the memorial, but we had Abby with us so we couldn’t do that. With my telephoto lens, I could get a pretty decent shot of the profile. And then there was a cool visitor center with lots of neat artifacts to check out. I was especially interested in the family tree of Crazy Horse. They had the whole thing displayed, as well as portraits of Lakota Indian Chiefs.
The Crazy Horse Memorial has been a very long term project. It was started in 1948, commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, and is currently operated by a privately owned non-profit called The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. Once finished, this sculpture could be the largest in the world. It is very far from being completed. I head at the visitor center that the Federal government offered to take over the project, but the foundation declined the offer because they wanted to keep the US government out of it. There have been too many examples throughout history of the US government not keeping promises, and this sculpture is too important to risk.
They also had a great display of beads!!
For not being able to go see the actual monument, it was a pretty cool place.
But now it was time to leave the Black Hills and head for the Badlands!
South Dakota: The Badlands
I was very excited go get out to The Badlands!! On our way there, we passed by a very small town called Interior and stopped at their only store for a few supplies. It was really the only town around there, so we didn’t exactly have very many options!
We camped at Cedar Pass Campgrounds and it was amazing. It was such a different landscape than anything we’d seen so far, and certainly very different from anything I’d ever seen in my life!
Some places give you a special feeling. Like you’ve been here before but you know you never have. Or the feeling that something important happened where you are standing and it somehow gets transferred to your body. This is the type of feeling I get when I travel to certain places. It’s one of the reasons why I love to travel.
The Badlands gave me one of these types of feelings. I am so glad I had the chance to visit this very special place and to experience it before I leave for Sri Lanka.
The weather was windy, warm, and dry. We definitely needed to use the stakes to keep our tents down!
We were surrounded by prairie and badlands. It was a remarkable landscape!
This was the most relaxed we’d seen Abby the whole trip:
She loved laying in the strong summer breeze!
That night, the sky was clear, and we had such a great view of the moon:
The next day, things got hot really fast, so we broke down our camp pretty early and headed further into the Badlands for a drive.
And we took so many photos!! It got too hot to take Abby out of the car, so when we got out, we’d just leave her in the car with the AC running. She loved it!
We kept driving around, and came to more spots to have a look. This place looked really special, so I decided to scatter some of my mother’s ashes in here. I think she would have really liked the Badlands, and she’d like it that I made her a part of them.
Soon it was time to leave South Dakota and head south to Colorado…and again, a long drive through Wyoming!
It was indeed a long drive, but we finally made it to Peak One Campground in White River National Forest. It was worth the drive, because this place was amazing!! We got in sort of late because we wanted to go to Breckenridge for some supplies, and then we got a little confused about where our campground was. But once we were settled, we were so happy with it!
By this time we were getting pretty good at setting up and breaking down our camp:
In Breckenridge, I found their Crossfit…right in the middle of a bunch of cannabis shops!
Again, Abby felt right at home:
It was too bad we only had one night here, because we really loved the campsite and would have liked the chance to explore more. But at least we had a chance to tap the Rockies!
And we had some lunch at a yummy restaurant in Frisco before hitting the road:
We also did a little bit of exploring down at the lake too. It was so pretty!
Before we knew it, we were Utah bound!!!
Moab and Arches National Park
We were amazed by the drive to our campsite. It was on Diamond Dinosaur Prehistoric Highway, which ran right next to the Colorado River on the boarder of Arches National Park. It was all walk-up camping, so we just kept driving until we found an open campsite. We finally found an open spot in Drinks Canyon Camping Area (I think!). The view was amazing:
Unfortunately Be got stung by a wasp and I cut my finger pretty badly. It was hard to get too comfortable after that, but it was still a pretty magical place!
The next day it got very hot very quickly, so we broke down camp and headed into Arches National Park. What an amazing place!! I took so many photos, it’s hard not to share them all.
This was definitely one of my favorite places. It was too bad we could only stay for a day. Next stop: Las Vegas!
We spent two days at a very comfortable hotel on the strip. After all the camping, this was such a welcomed change of pace! *and it was dog friendly. We didn’t do a whole lot. We showered, ate, went to the pool, ate some more. We were so exhausted, we didn’t really have the energy to go see what it was all about. But we really enjoyed the amenities!
After Vegas, we drove to Santa Barbara for our last night of the trip.
Final Day: Los Padres National Forest
We could have driven the 8 hours back to the Bay Area, but it was nicer to break it up and have one last camping night. The first campsite we went to wasn’t so great, so we found another one near by, which was just right. We got there a little late in the day, but still had some time to build one last fire and hang out for a few hours. It was a really nice ending to a really nice trip!