Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Vancouver (WA) to Sequim (WA) - 209 miles

Nov. 14, 2011 - Home Sweet Home ... We drove through a mix of rain and sunshine the rest of the way home.  We're still seeing fall color in Washington.  It's amazing that we have followed autumn through 15 states on this journey.  We stopped in Hama Hama to buy smoked salmon, one of our favorite stops along the Hood Canal.  As soon as I stepped out of the car, the fragrance of the cedar trees wafted down to me.  We spotted the elk herd in Brinnon.  The Olympic mountains are snow-capped and beautiful.  It is so good to be home again!

Our plan is to drive back to Tucson the middle of January.  We'll pick up our RV and spend several months exploring the Arizona desert.  I'll continue this blog when we get ready to take off again.  Thanks for coming along with us!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sacramento (CA) to Vancouver (WA) - 611 miles

Nov. 13, 2011 - Woke up in Sacramento (CA) and ended up in Vancouver (WA), north of Portland (OR).  It was a really long day of driving!  The scenery got gorgeous again at Mt. Shasta (CA).  The drive through Oregon's Cascade mountain range was awesome.  We're spending the night at Vancouver (WA).  I'm relaxing with wine and chocolates in the motel room.  Tom is surfing with a remote control.  Cooper is perched on the window ledge and Teva is relaxing on the motel bed.  When I asked Tom about the highlight of the day, he said, "Getting out of the car after eleven hours of driving!"

Mt. Shasta through the car window

Pat blogging with wine and chocolates, Cooper on window ledge

Teva, the motel room cat

Twentynine Palms (CA) to Sacramento (CA) - 499 miles

Nov. 12, 2011 - A long driving day... It was interesting to travel through southern California's desert and hill country.  We found a great German bakery in Tehachapi, too.  But, the San Joaquin Valley was a real grind.  It was flat and monotonous with lots of traffic.  We're just putting on miles now.  Both of us are anxious to get home again.

Teva and Cooper, the Subaru cats

Cooper relaxing in the Subaru

Tucson (AZ) to Twentynine Palms (CA) - 402 miles

Nov. 11, 2011 (11-11-11) - It was a busy morning packing the car and figuring out how to winterize the RV.  The first time for anything is always the toughest.  Donna, our next site RV neighbor from Washington, gave me a hug before we took off.  There is an RV community camaraderie that we keep hearing about and have experienced ourselves.  I noticed a sign at the RV park office today that informed RVers to carry a flashlight at night when walking the paved park roads because rattlesnakes will warm themselves at night on the heated pavement.  Yikes!!

Once we had the car loaded with all our stuff and the two cats with all their stuff, we headed west on I-10.  It was such a pleasure to drive the car after being in the RV, which drives like a truck.  We drove through Joshua Tree National Park and spent the night at a Mom & Pop motel in Twentynine Palms, CA.  Cooper and Teva loved exploring the motel room.

(Who knew that a cat would use a litter box at 75 mph?)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tucson (AZ)

Nov. 8-10, 2011 - We spent the past three days in Tucson enjoying the sunshine, watching the full moon rise over the Rincon mountains, and hiking several desert trails.  Tom had to get the battery replaced in our car while we were here.  Towing it hasn't been easy on the original battery!  We found out that we can store our RV at the same RV park where we are staying now.  Great news... We'll pack our car tomorrow morning, winterize and store the RV, and start our northbound journey to Sequim. 

Tom in Saguaro National Park

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

El Paso (TX) to Tucson (AZ) - 314 miles

Nov. 7, 2011 - With the two time changes, we were awake by 6:00 am and on the road by 8:10 am!  We drove out of Texas, across New Mexico, and into Arizona.  We’re staying three nights at the Cactus Country Camping Resort near Tucson.  It is so nice to be in theTucson area again.  It is one of my favorite places.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lubbock (TX) to El Paso (TX) - 400 miles

Nov. 6, 2011 - We're still in Texas!  A 400-mile driving day and we're still in Texas!  We went through two time changes today - Daylight Savings Time and Mountain Time Zone.  We're tired tonight...

Clinton (OK) to Lubbock (TX) - 315 miles

Nov. 5, 2011 - It was another full day of driving, but in strong winds today.  We’re seeing cotton fields and tumbling tumbleweeds as we travel through Texas.  We changed our route at Amarillo (TX) after finding out at a tourist information center that the weather at Albuquerque was cold and rainy.  So we headed south from Amarillo and made it to Lubbock (TX).  It’s warmer down here.  We’re seeing lots and lots of RVs on the road with license plates from Michigan and other cold winter states!  We’re the only ones traveling with two kayaks on top of the car, though.

Tom stopped by a cotton field today so I could pick a cotton boll.  When I was in sixth grade, my dad picked one while we were traveling Route 66 to California for a family vacation.  I had that cotton boll for a long, long time.  It got lost in one of our many moves.  Now I have one again.  Cooper found it on the dash, though, and started chewing it tonight.  I had to move it to a cupboard!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rogersville (MO) to Clinton (OK) - 383 miles

Nov. 4, 2011 - Back on the road after three wonderful days visiting with family.  We’re heading west now with few diversions along the way.  It was a steady day of driving on Missouri interstate and Oklahoma turnpike to a casino parking lot off I-40.  I’m making a list of future attractions that I’d like to visit when we return to this area, though -  Mark Twain’s birthplace in Hannibal (MO), the Will Rogers Museum in Oklahoma, the Ozarks in Arkansas, sections of old Route 66.  I’m sure my list will continue to grow...

Cuba (Mo) to Rogersville (Mo) - 138 miles

Nov. 1-4, 2011 - We’re spending several days with my cousin, John, and his wife, Margee, in southeast Missouri.  My Aunt Fran is also here.  We have had a wonderful time catching up on our lives while eating delicious home-cooked meals, playing lots of Euchre, sitting around a BIG campfire, and touring Branson (MO).  Tom and John kayaked one afternoon.  I think we may have inspired another person to become a kayak paddler!

Pat, Margee, Fran and John at Branson Landing

Snowball, the map reading cat

The perfect Euchre hand!

Beloit (WI) to Cuba (MO) - 402 miles

Oct. 31, 2011 - On the road again... We left my mom’s house on Halloween morning and drove south to St. Louis.  Found an RV park west of St. Louis in the Meramec Valley.  Our GPS directed us via a gravel road route!  Why does it do that???  We are following the fall color southward.  It is warmer here and the trees still have plenty of colorful leaves.  The days are short, though.  No trick or treaters tonight...

Fall color in Missouri

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mazomanie (WI) to Beloit (WI) - 113 miles

Oct. 11-30, 2011 - We have spent almost three weeks reconnecting with family and friends in southern Wisconsin.  Our RV has been tucked in a corner of my mom’s driveway.  We’ve been living out of Mom’s real house and our house on wheels!

It has been great to be home again... lunches and dinners with friends at favorite restaurants as well as a few new ones... the Friday night fish fry... buying hickory nuts at the local Farmer’s Market... apple turnovers at Skelly’s Apple Farm... hot chocolate and coffee at Mocha Moments with friends... acoustic music at Cafe Carpe and Charlotte’s Web... hikes and campfires with Ice Age Trail friends in Rock County... making homemade noodles with Mom to serve to my sisters for dinner... visiting our college campus 40 years later and being amazed by all the changes... walking into Farm & Fleet just to smell the tires while shopping for jeans and chocolate... biking the Janesville to Milton trail and reminiscing about signing that section for the Ice Age Trail eight years ago... playing euchre, our favorite card game, with friends after a delicious dinner... hugs and laughter and good times... playing checkers... pizza from Tilley’s Pizza in Beloit... a wonderful lunch and Christmas show at The Fireside dinner theater with my mom... being home for Mom’s 80th birthday party... It has been great to be home again.  

Tom had the alignment done on the RV and it is handling much better on the road.  Our plan is to head southwest on Monday, Oct. 31.  We’ll continue on to the Phoenix area where we will leave the RV at a storage lot and drive our car home.  We’ll spend a couple months at our Sequim (WA) home before we return to the desert near Phoenix to continue the RV adventure in January 2012.

Helping Mom cut her birthday cake

Our RV tucked into the corner of Mom's driveway

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Baraboo (WI) to Mazomanie (WI) - 24 miles

Oct. 5-10, 2011 - It was a short drive to Mazomanie, where we will be spending several days with our friends, Jon & Jane Moritz.  We’re looking forward to biking and kayaking and hiking with them in this beautiful place known as the Driftless Area, another reference to the glaciers grinding to a halt here during the Ice Age.

We’ll be heading to my mom’s house in Beloit on Monday, Oct. 10.  We’re looking forward to visiting with family and friends once we get back to our old stomping grounds in southern Wisconsin.

Kayaking at Mirror Lake with leaves on water (Moritz photo)

Biking the 400 Bike Trail (Moritz photo)

Turtle with an Attitude on the bike trail (Moritz photo)

Tom in morning mist on Indian Lake

Sandhill crane in reeds at Indian Lake

Wisconsin River kayak trip

Sparta (WI) to Baraboo (WI) - 81 miles

Oct. 4-5, 2011 - We woke up this morning and decided we did not want to bike a third day in a row.  Looking at the map, we realized that Devil’s Lake State Park is on our way to visit friends in the Mazomanie area.  We found a quiet RV site at Wheeler’s Campground, close to the state park.  It was a gorgeous, summer-like day; so we kayaked on Devil’s Lake.  The lake was calm, reflecting the rocky bluffs dotted with autumn color.  It was a leisurely paddle...

The next morning, we went back to Devil’s Lake State Park to hike the trails on the east side of the lake and discovered that there are steep trails in the Midwest.  We really got a workout climbing 500 feet to the bluff top on stone steps built by CCC workers during the Great Depression.  Devil’s Lake was formed when glaciers left terminal moraines, dam-like piles of earth, gravel, and rock, enclosing a lake between rugged quartzite bluffs.  It was an awesome hike.

Devil's Lake

Tom kayaking on Devil's Lake

Pat climbing through quartzite rock

Rest break after a big climb

Pat at Devil's Door

Eau Claire (WI) to Sparta (WI) - 98 miles

Oct. 2-3, 2011 - We haven’t been on our bikes since we started this trip.  So, we decided to drive down to Sparta to spend a couple days.  Wisconsin has wonderful Rails-to-Trails bicycle trails.  We love biking on them.  Within minutes of getting to Sparta, we were eating a frozen custard sundae at Culver’s, one of our favorite regional restaurants.  Within minutes of parking the RV at the Leon Valley Campground, we were on our way to the La Crosse River Trail to pedal our bikes for a couple hours. 

We were back on our bikes the next day, biking 9 miles to the first tunnel on the Elroy-Sparta Trail.  As we approached the tunnel, there was a sudden rush of cold air surrounding us.  It was an amazing temperature change from the 70-degree day we had been experiencing so far.  We’re seeing more and more signs of autumn along the trail -- chirping crickets, woolly bear caterpillars, gray squirrels gathering acorns and nuts.

We were able to spend an evening with friends, Joe and Sylvia, at their lakeside cabin.  We’ve been phoning friends as we pass through their area, hoping we will be able to connect as we give them last-minute notices.  Sometimes it doesn’t work out, and sometimes it does.  We had a wonderful dinner at their place and got to be entertained by the newest addition to their family - a 6-month old Shih Tzu named Bandit.

Pat in Sparta, Wisconsin

Pat at tunnel on Elroy-Sparta bike trail  

Woolly-bear Caterpillar on bike trail


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tomahawk (WI) to Eau Claire (WI) - 157 miles

Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2011 - Tom and I just spent the weekend in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  My niece started her freshman year at University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire and we wanted to see her and the campus.  My sister, nephew, and mom met us on Friday night at the Holiday Inn.  It was our first night in a hotel since we left home three weeks ago.  We all got the campus/dormitory tour on Saturday afternoon.  It really brought back memories of our college days at UW - Whitewater, 41 years ago.  Those were such great years.  We were young and learning to be independent while having fun and working hard to get through those college classes.  It was great to relive those memories. 

After one night in the hotel, we spent the next night in our RV which was still parked in the hotel parking lot (the price was right).  So, this is what it is like to spend the night at a Walmart parking lot!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Munising (MI) to Tomahawk (WI) - 235 miles

Sept. 27-30, 2011 - Driving through Michigan and Wisconsin in late September has been a special treat for us.  The trees are a kaleidoscope of color - reds and yellows and oranges and golds and greens and burgundies.  We made lots of roadside stops to snap photos.  I’ve missed autumn color during the past eight years that we have lived in the Pacific northwest.  There is nothing like maple and oak trees in Midwest forests to splash the landscape with gorgeous color.  Evergreen trees interspersed with the fall foliage really brings out the contrast of leaf colors.  Ahhh, autumn is a lovely time of year...

While we were in northern Wisconsin, we made a special trip to Maple Hollow.  For years, I have been buying their syrup.  It is the best syrup I have ever tasted.  When I mail order the syrup now that I live in Washington, I pay more for shipping than I do for the actual product!  It was such a thrill to wander through Maple Hollow’s store and maple forest to see the process behind the product.  I love supporting independent businesses and it was a thrill to be at their farm, shopping for their products and chatting with the owners.

During these past few days, we stayed with Carla at her Tomahawk cabin in the northwoods of Wisconsin.  It is always a pleasure to relax and enjoy life at her cabin retreat.  It has been so nice to be back in our Midwest homeland.  I love reconnecting with good friends, eating walleye and lake perch again, paddling quiet lakes, and hiking woodland trails.    

Autumn color in northern Wisconsin

Autumn color in northern Wisconsin

Autumn color in northern Wisconsin

Autumn leaves in a small creek

Pat & Tom at Maple Hollow - Merrill, WI

Pat buying syrup at Maple Hollow


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Munising (MI)

Sept. 24-26, 2011 - Spending time in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has been wonderful.  The trees are changing color and getting more beautiful every day.  I love eating fish at the local restaurants; there is nothing like a Midwest fish fry!   

The day after our backpack trip, we all hiked to the Au Sable lighthouse along the shore of Lake Superior.  It was a beautiful hike.  The best part was carrying light day packs on our backs instead of heavy backpacks.

I spent Sunday morning storing our backpack gear and cleaning the RV.  That afternoon we kayaked with our friends, Russ and Clara, launching the kayaks from the shore behind our RV site.  Lake Superior was calm when we started, but really whipped up swells and white caps for our return trip.  While the guys watched the Packer football game in our RV, Clara and I drank chocolate wine and ate chocolate truffles at her RV.  It has been fun to stay in the same RV park with friends, going back and forth to visit.

The four of us explored back roads on a rainy Monday.  The Upper Peninsula has so much to offer for those seeking outdoor recreation.  We drove through Hiawatha National Forest lands, walked on trails along small inland lakes, checked out canoe launches on sand-bottomed, clear rivers, and ate hand-dipped Jilbert ice cream at the Forest Glen General Store.  Evening found us sipping Buttershot Hot Chocolate, hot chocolate with a dash of butterscotch schnapps.  Life is good...

Au Sable lighthouse on Lake Superior

Teva, the sleeping bag cat

Pat kayaking on Lake Superior

Boardwalk Trail near Munising

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (MI)

Sept. 21-23, 2011 - It was such a beautiful hike as we backpacked the Lakeshore Trail at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  It is the premiere trail in the Midwest for hiking and backpacking.  Our weather was not perfect, but the rains only came at night after we were in our tents.  Cloudy days, with occasional sunny breaks, gave us great light for taking hundreds of photos to capture the beauty of Lake Superior with its 200-foot cliffs and sky beaches and maple/beech/pine woods and cascading streams and waterfalls dropping over cliff edges to meet the lake.  It was great to hike with our friends again and spend time immersed along the shores of Lake Superior.  This was Tom's first backpack trip in seven years.  As he hoisted on his heavy pack the second morning, he remarked, "You guys are nuts!"

When we hiked out on the last day, there was an ice chest of cold beer and wine waiting for us in one of the cars.  We had a tailgate party at noon!  Two park employees working on a project at the parking lot thought it was great that backpackers coming off the trail had cold drinks waiting for them!

Backpacking friends at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

A sky beach 200 feet above Lake Superior

Grand Portal Point

Spray Falls
Pat along Lake Superior on a very windy morning

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Munising (MI)

Sept. 20, 2011 - It was a beautiful day to hike five miles with our friends to two waterfalls.  Now we're packing for our Pictured Rocks backpack trip.  There is not much room in an RV to spread out to get the backpack gear and food ready.  Tom baked cookies tonight.  It smells so good in here when he does that!

More to follow after we get off the trail...

Tom & Pat at Mosquito Falls

Champion (MI) to Munising (MI) - 73 miles

Sept. 19, 2011 - Leisurely morning... We didn't pull out of our site until 11:35 am, Eastern time.  It was a short trip to Munising Tourist Park Campground where we are staying for the next week on the shores of Lake Superior.  We have a beautiful view of the lake and Grand Island.  Strong winds this afternoon whipped up lively white caps.  Tom walked along the shore while I finished reading my book.  Russ and Clara Marr rolled in about 7:30 pm from Janesville, Wisconsin.  After they got settled into their site, we had a drink here.  We are looking forward to connecting with the rest of our backpacking friends on Wednesday for our four-day trek at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Our site on the shores of Lake Superior

Autumn color

Monday, September 19, 2011

Saginaw (MN) to Champion (MI) - 238 miles

Sept. 18, 2011 - We put on traveling miles today since the weather has been rainy and breezy.  We’re spending the night at an RV park on the shores of Michigamme Lake along Highway 28 in Michigan, the highway that will take us up to Lake Superior.  The plan is to meet friends on Wednesday for a four-day backpack trip at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  The weather forecast is not looking so bright.

Quote from the book, The Wind in the Willows:  “There you are!  There’s real life for you, embodied in that little cart.  The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs!  Camps, villages, towns, cities!  Here to-day, up and off to somewhere else to-morrow!  Travel, change, interest, excitement!  The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!”


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Teva's Travel Log

Help, I’m a prisoner in mobile kitty jail!

This is Teva the cat writing now.  About a week ago our humans, Tom and Pat, picked my brother Cooper and I up after breakfast and carried us out to the motorhome thing that has been in our driveway for a couple of months.  We’ve been on a few short trips before, but I heard the humans talking about a 2 1/2 month trip.  Tell me it’s not true.

We’ve been on the road just over a week now and it hasn’t been as bad as I first thought.  I ride up front with the humans, either on Pat’s lap or on the dashboard.  My fluffy brother, Cooper, rides in the back on the bed looking out the window.  We do get a lot of attention (brushing and food) in this traveling house.  And the humans have given us all kinds of new toys, mostly little mice we can toss around.  They also brought along the laser light to entice Cooper.  That cat is such an airhead, he’ll chase that thing for hours.  He really believes he can catch it.  Usually I don’t want anyone to know I’m related to him.

Oh, and wait until you hear what Cooper did yesterday.  That knucklehead jumped out of Tom’s window just after Tom had expertly backed the mobile house into a campsite.  Cooper decided to make a run for it.  He got a few feet from the mobile house and realized he didn’t know where he was, so then ran back and hid under our mobile house.  There are some good places to hang out up in the frame (I’ve been there myself when the humans used to let us out at the big non-moving house.  They changed their minds about letting us out after Cooper stayed out for two nights and came back with a nice scratch across his nose.)

While Cooper was under the mobile house, Tom tried to coax him out and back inside the motorhome.  Finally with some smelly wet cat food and Cooper’s favorite - cantaloupe, Tom was able to grab the knucklehead.  Oh, did I mention that I got thrown in the bathroom, so I wouldn’t escape from the mobile house while the humans opened the main door in case Cooper might come back in on his own.  Ha, like that’s going to happen.  Well that’s news from mobile kitty jail for now.   To be continued...

Cooper & Teva on their cush-y perch at back of RV

Teva hanging out in upper cabinet

Teva, the dashboard cat

Lake Itasca (MN) to Saginaw (MN) - 161 miles

Sept. 17, 2011 - We drove the car back to the Mississippi River headwaters after a breakfast of applesauce pancakes.  It was the first time I stirred homemade applesauce into the pancake batter; it was really good.  There were a lot of people at the headwaters this morning.  I’m so glad we had the place to ourselves last night.  The river is higher than normal, so there wasn’t a place to plant our feet on each side of the water.  We saw the Mississippi River several more times as we headed east on Highway 2.  It is a long and winding river...

We stopped in Grand Rapids, MN to take a few photos for a friend of ours who lives in Sequim.  She was raised there 80 years ago.  It was fun for us to get out of the RV and walk the downtown streets.  We discovered an old school that has been turned into a museum and shops.  Judy Garland was also born in Grand Rapids and there is memorabilia about her.

We’re spending the night in an RV park near Saginaw, Minnesota.  It got dark here by 7:30 pm.  Yikes, is Fall on the way?

Great MN sweet rolls - Yah, For Sure, You Betcha'

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Larimore (ND) to Lake Itasca (MN) - 149 miles

Sept. 16, 2011 - We are now in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes.  We stopped at a small grocery store along the highway and bought two sweet rolls - a jelly-filled Bismarck for me and a glazed cinnamon roll for Tom.  We ate them as soon as we got back to the RV; they were Oh, So Good!  You just can’t get sweet rolls in the West as good as those made here in the Midwest.  My friend, Flo, says it’s the flour in the Midwest that makes the difference. 

Tonight, we’re staying at Itasca State Park near the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  The forests here seem so much smaller to me now that we are living in the Pacific northwest with its huge trees.  After we backed into our campsite, Cooper escaped from an open window and hid in the framing under the RV.  It took Tom a half hour to coax him out.  After that little drama, Tom and I escaped in the car for a scenic drive along the lake.  We discovered that the restaurant at the Douglas Lodge was serving walleye.  It was a wonderful dinner, complete with a wild rice salad.  Mmmmmm...Oh, So Good!

We still had daylight, so we headed over to the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  It was so cool to see the clear water of Lake Itasca flow over a rock spillway to begin the Mississippi’s 2,552 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico.

Tom at Mississippi headwaters - Lake Itasca, MN

Pat at Mississippi River headwaters