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And now, one final post to cap off The Great Western Road Trip. After 24 days on the road through 3 provinces and 13 states, what did I learn? Well, I learned a lot of things.



  • I need to work on my trip scheduling.

    When I laid out my itinerary my thinking was, I get into town in the afternoon/evening, I have a day in a city, and I leave the next morning. Three days, right? Wrong. I didn’t account for the distances out west. Mornings had me on the road by 7 AM and with few exceptions I arrived at my destination after 5 PM. After that much driving in a day, the idea of jumping back in the car to explore a city is unpalatable at best. Next time, I either need to limit the number of stops I make and allow better for distances between stops, or I need to take more time for the trip.

  • Renting a car was a good idea

    That was 6,400 miles I didn’t put on my 2012 Subaru Outback. I would have made the trip like a trooper, but I’d rather put all that on someone else’s car. (Rental car guy: “Wow. In all the time I’ve run this place I’ve never had someone turn in a car after putting that many miles on it!”) Side note: If you’re in the northwest Chicago suburbs, Mo at the Avis/Budget office in Lake Zurich is a fantastic guy to work with. Friendly and incredibly helpful! (Also he gave me the hookup for the satellite radio for the duration of the rental)

  • The Ford Mustang is a fun car

    Oh my goodness, yes. For mountain driving, for having to speed up quickly to pass someone, for a smooth ride, Mustangs are a blast. I don’t think I would ever own one – it’s a bit impractical for me – I sure as hell plan to rent one again if needed.

  • Convertibles are fun, up to a point

    I had visions of driving everywhere with the top down, feeling the wind around me, luxuriating in the scenery. Well, I didn’t account for the fact that after a while driving at highway speeds you can get a headache from the wind all around you. It can be difficult to hear spoken word stuff, like NPR or audiobooks. And then there’s the sun. Even so, though, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. Driving with the top down on cool mornings, through Glacier National Park and the California mountains, along the California coast – all of these were definitely worth it.

  • Sunburns suck

    Sure, you can apply sunscreen. But you have to reapply it. And you stink of sunscreen, and so do your clothes. I got sunburned a few times early in the trip before I got better at managing things, but that was no fun.

  • Rocks to the windshield suck

    Yeah, I got hit with a rock that created cracks that traveled across the windshield. Twice. The replacement windshield and installation cost about US$500 each time. The good news is that I have full coverage via my Chase Sapphire card, with no deductible.

  • Interstates out west are far more fun to drive.

    I generally maintained a limit of speed limit + 5 mph. This made me slower than the speed demons but faster than that slowpokes, and that was just fine by me. But once you get out west, the speed limits go up, from 70 mph on rural roads in Montana to 80 mph on interstates in Nevada and Utah. That is a whole lot more fun! And yes, I did take the Mustang up to 130 mph on a long, straight section of interstate with no one around and good sight distances to see cops ahead. I could have gone faster, but at those speeds, the car has a bit of float to it and it was getting past the point where I felt safe.

  • Canadians don’t celebrate Canada Day very long

    This amused me greatly. I saw this in both Winnipeg and Regina. Canada Day (their 150th anniversary, so a really big deal) fell on a Saturday. Most people had the following Monday off. In the US, this would be cause for big 3- or 4-day festivals. What I saw was a huge to-do on Saturday, with concerts, fireworks, and big festivities. And by Sunday morning? Gone. The only thing left is some scaffolding around the stages, the rest of it all packed up and everyone has gone home. It’s admirably efficient, if nothing else.

  • There are only two bridges between Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon

    Good lord, what a mess. Portland and Vancouver are separated by the Columbia River, which is huge. There are two bridges: Interstates 5 and 205. That’s it. The next closest bridges in either direction are both 40 miles away. Vancouver is a huge suburb, so you can imagine that traffic can be a nightmare. And yet, I’d still say it’s worth it.

  • I love exploring places that are new to me

    I need to go back to Glacier National Park. And Portland. And Winnipeg. And Regina. And Yosemite National Park. And Denver. I didn’t have enough time to explore these places as much as I would have liked, and I found them and the people there to be wonderful. On the bright side, I now have added to my list of future travel destinations!

  • Salads are a good thing

    Man, being on the road for three weeks is murder on how you eat. I tried to keep things light, but it wasn’t always easy and in the end I still gained 8 pounds. Too much sitting, not enough moving. I was able to find a lot of great salads along the way though, and that helped.

  • Beer is a good thing

    Antithetical to the previous observation, isn’t it? And yet I love trying new beers from different breweries. All told, I entered 60 new beers into Untappd on this trip, which include a good number of flights. A nice side-effect is that I also met a lot of really nice bartenders and brewery employees who were friendly and enjoyed chatting.

  • I need dogs in my life (Jasper, Zoey, Kiska, Nathan, and the other Zoe)

    I missed Charlie and Nora so much on this trip. I’m glad I didn’t take them with me because that would have been a level of complexity that would be quite difficult, but I sure wish I could have. Happily, I got to meet, pet, and play with my friends’ dogs: Jasper and Zoey, Kiska, Nathan, and Zoe. Wonderful pups, all!

  • Very few people in this world get me the way that Ford Shepherd does.

    We drifted apart for a while but now he is back in my life, and for this I am very grateful. Us gay Southern boys need to stick together!

  • Sometimes I need to be alone.

    My itinerary included 14 stops. In 11 of those I met up with friends, something for which I was grateful. Even so, the few stops where I didn’t meet anyone were a nice break. I needed the downtime, even though I spent 125+ hours alone by myself on the road. Sometimes socializing can be exhausting.

  • Death is an awkward subject.

    I want to stress that I am not criticizing anyone I met on this trip. I understand, I really do. For most people, Dan’s passing was an event – it is something that happened, and that was it. For those of us who knew him intimately it is a process, one that continues and will continue for quite a long time. Dan did not come up in many conversations on this trip and initially I wondered at this, but then I realized that death is something that we are just not equipped to discuss. It’s awkward, it’s depressing, and we don’t want to trigger any bad reactions. And that’s OK. I realized that the best things my friends can do for me is to just be there.


Out of all of this the best lesson that I learned, though, is that I have SO MANY wonderful friends. To all of you who were able to join me even for a few hours on this trip, thank you so much. You brought home that for all that I have lost, I am never alone. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for this. Thanks to Kellic, Cyn, Mwako, Charles, Lego, Plonq, Atara, Lydia, Andrew, Wolfish, Silver, Tiggs, Thallanor, Tina, Thumper, Hegdish, Drake, Ford, Brophey, Karwood, Partran, Luagha, Baja, Didge, Tyco, Tango, Rooth, Whiteyfawks, Orthrus, Adjacent, Rama, and K. I cannot wait to see you all again sometime soon!


For all that I thought my skills at meeting new people have gotten rusty, it was a nice surprise to be proven wrong. It was great to meet Chris, Jason, Kalypso, Beancat, River Pup, some of the great BLFC staff, and Iberian. Part of the joy of making a trip like this is making new friends, and I was fortunate to do so.


Also, thank you to everyone who followed along on this trip, on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or Dreamwidth. Your comments and kind words have kept me company even if you couldn’t join me on the road.


During this trip I posted a song for each day, which a good friend collected into a Spotify playlist and an Apple playlist. These reflected my moods, my feelings about the trip, the landscape, and the people I met as I drove. I leave you with one last song, then: “No One Is Alone” from Into the Woods.


Sometimes people leave you.

Halfway through the wood…

But no one is alone.



 

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Volo, Illinois


Today’s Song: 65daysofstatic – Supermoon


Something about this song describes the scenery of this entire trip to me – starting off slow through the Canadian Prairie Provinces, then into the mountains and the coast and returning over the mountains, and back to the plains.


For the final leg of the road trip, I made the short (this constitutes “short” now!) drive from St. Louis, Missouri to Volo, Illinois. I was intent on getting home, so drove it as quickly as possible, with only a stop in Dwight, Illinois, for lunch. Continuing my attempts to stick to local places, I went to Dwight Pizza, which had a 4.5 star rating on Yelp. It was…OK. The owner was friendly, possibly overly so, but it was a welcome break from the road.


I got home and unloaded the car, put stuff away, and started a load of laundry, then went to pick up Charlie and Nora from Ma’s. To say they were happy to see me was an understatement.






Thus ends the Great Western Road Trip. The final totals:


6,409 miles traveled


126 hours and 10 minutes of driving


I’ll have a final post with my overall thoughts in a day or so, but to answer the biggest questions I get from friends and co-workers:


Was it worth it? Absolutely.


Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I might rearrange the scheduling a bit, but that was one of the best vacations of my life.


Stay tuned for the wrap-up!

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Florissant, Missouri


Today’s Song: Lazlo Bane – Superman (Theme from Scrubs)


I need you here with me

Cause love is all we need

Just take a hold of the hand that breaks the fall

Well I know what I’ve been told

Gotta break free to break the mold

But I can’t do this all on my own

I’m no superman


Yeah. I think too much sometimes.


This is the penultimate day of this road trip. I started the day on the outskirts of Kansas City. Through he power of Yelp (which is really served me remarkably well on this trip) I found a wonderful little bakery/restaurant in Overland Park called McClain’s Market. I fueled up with a granola parfait and an Americano (ever since I left Canada I’ve been hooked on Americanos – go figure).




Then it was an uneventful drive across Missouri. It scares me that at this point anything less than six hours constitutes a “short” drive. If you do this long enough, I guess that’s what happens. Along the way I finished my second audiobook of the trip, this one also be T.J. Klune (The first was The Lightning-Struck Heart). This one was Wolfsong, which I have read before. It is an intensely emotional book and had me crying several times as I traced the relationship between Joe and Ox to mine and Dan’s. A tough listen, but so, so worth it.


I met up with Rama and K at Sugarfire Smoke House in St. Charles, Missouri for lunch. It’s a fun, quirky place with great BBQ sauces. After that we went back to their place and…didn’t do much. Rama and I sat around and talked convention stuff and watched some TV. It was lovely, and considering that it was 105 F outside it was a great alternative to venturing out. A big plus was that I got to pet Zoe, their 90-pound Great Dane puppy!






For dinner we went to Ferguson Brewing Company where I enjoyed my last beer flight of the trip, which had some unusually generous pours!




After a stop for frozen custard on the way home (because St. Louis), I quickly crashed for the night and slept quite well, with the exception of being woken up a couple of times by some very loud thunderstorms.


Tomorrow: HOME!


Miles Driven Today: 257 miles


Time Driving Today: 4:05


Total Miles Driven: 6,075 miles


Total Time Driving: 120:12

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Lenexa, Kansas


Today’s Song: Mark Knopfler – Guide My Sword (from The Princess Bride Soundtrack)


A contemplative piece from one of my favorite soundtracks. I’ve been thinking a lot during this trip, and this matches up to my mood.


It was another early start today – up at 5:15 AM. After packing up, rearranging my luggage, cleaning the car, and checking out, I was able to walk to the coffee shop just across the street right as they opened at 6:30 AM.




Today was going to be a very long leg of driving, and not much to see or do along the way. Dring out of Denver was slow going.




The only saving grace was that the air conditioning in the Mustang was in excellent working order, which is good because today was a day when it was absolutely necessary!




I made very few stops, pushing ahead as quickly as I can. After three weeks of glorious scenery and being excited to see more, I’ve reached the point where I’m ready to get on my way home. Kansas wasn’t as boring as expected (there’s a lot more trees than I thought there would be) but it wasn’t particularly visually stimulating either. Fortunately between my audiobook and NPR I was able to make the time pass pretty quickly.


For dinner, I met up with Orthrus and Adjacent at a restaurant nearby. I first met Orthrus many, many years ago over the net. This was the first time that I met him face to face, and got to meet his husband as well. They’re both great, fun guys and the evening’s conversation was wide-ranging and enjoyable.


Tomorrow, the penultimate day of my road trip: a short 4-hour jaunt across Missouri to St. Louis.


Miles Driven Today: 614 miles


Time Driving Today: 8:52


Total Miles Driven: 4,815 miles


Total Time Driving: 98:07

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Denver, Colorado


Today’s Song: Fairport Convention – Meet on the Ledge


Meet on the ledge, we’re gonna meet on the ledge

When my time is up I’m gonna see all my friends

Meet on the ledge, we’re gonna meet on the ledge

If you really mean it, it all comes round again


I like the idea that, in the end, we see all of our friends and loved ones again. It’s a lovely thought.


Today was a day off the road, and a welcome one at that! I was slow to get started, but after getting some breakfast at the coffee shop across the way (it was…meh) I went back to the room and caught up on all of my work emails and tried to gauge what crap-bombs have been dropped in my absence. It appears that I’ll be walking into a bit of a hornet’s next on Monday, but it’ll be manageable. Then it was over to the auto glass place to have them replace the windshield on the rental car (AGAIN). At least it was quick and painless.


Having heard some entertaining things about them on the podcast Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap (specifically Episode 250, “Giraffe Snuff Film”), I drove up to Boulder to check out Decadent Saint/Wild Cider. The ciders were…OK. Nothing that particularly excited me, though the Lemon Basil Cider was pretty good. The Decadent Saint products were far more interesting, though. They are a wine-based spiced concentrate that is made to be mixed with cocktails or diluted and consumed on its own. Apparently they have had a hard time marketing this since there were two different variations of labels for the four products, all with different names. Currently they are calling them “sangrias” although it’s a bit odd to call something that looks like chocolate milk a sangria.






After tasting a flight of them, I picked up bottles of the Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Dark Chocolate. Quite tasty, and I look forward to experimenting with them!


I had checked with Troy, an old friend from college who is well-familiar with Boulder, on places that I should check out. It boiled down to “Go to Pearl Street, park, and walk.” My first stop was at Pizza Locale, where I was instructed to ask for Alex. It turns out that he and Troy are old friends, and Alex was incredibly sweet. We chatted as he worked the bar, and he was very kind when I mentioned why I was taking this road trip. It was a lovely visit, and I left feeling like I’d made a new friend. (Also, he’s damned cute!)


I walked down Pearl Street (and Pearl Street Mall), stopping at a few places that Troy had suggested and finding some of my own. I had to check out Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery and enjoyed a Belgian tripel there. My last stop in Boulder was Hazel’s, a liquor store similar in size to a large Binny’s in Chicago. I picked up some specifically local items that I know I can’t get in Illinois.


I finished up just in time to get on the road for Evergreen, Colorado, where I had been invited to Tango and Iberian’s place for dinner. Evergreen is a good ways out into the mountains – barely a Denver suburb, but manageable. At first I wondered why they would live so far out but as I drove and admired the scenery I began to understand. They have a lovely home there, and I’m sure it’s very cozy and comfortable in the wintertime. We were joined by Rooth and Whiteyfawks, and we had a delicious dinner while catching up on each other’s lives and geeking about various conventions.  It was 10 PM when we wrapped up, and I was pleasantly surprised just how short the drive was back to my hotel – just a hair over 30 minutes. That’s perfectly accessible – heck, they can get to Denver faster than I can get to Chicago from my place!


Tomorrow: The long, long drive across Kansas.


Miles Driven Today: 103 miles


Time Driving Today: 3:27


Total Miles Driven: 4,201 miles


Total Time Driving: 89:15


(There seems to be a large discrepancy between the mileage and time driven recorded by Automatic and the readings on the Mustang. I need to look into this and may revise this tomorrow.)

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Lakewood, Colorado


Today’s Song: Carbon Leaf – 1 Wolf, 2 Wolf, 2 Wolf, 4


This one is all about the wide open spaces of the west, and driving miles and miles before seeing another person. A nice, contemplative piece, I think.


I started the day super-early in Salt Lake City, Utah. It took some doing, but I finally found one of the few coffee shops open at 6 AM in downtown SLC. Then it was on the road on Interstate 80 eastbound. Just as I was passing through a construction zone on the outskirts of town, I heard a *THOK* and looked over to find…




Sure enough, the crack started traveling across the windshield. This is my second cracked windshield of the trip, but at least now I know the routine – get it fixed myself, Budget doesn’t have to know about it, get reimbursed through my Chase Sapphire card (by the way, this card is AMAZING – automatic trip and rental car insurance for anything that you charge with the card. This has saved me thousands of dollars.)


That unpleasantness aside, it was a pleasant and uncrowded drive northeast up into Wyoming, where I stopped for a breakfast bagel.




Next stop: Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. The drive just to get there was pretty in its own right.




I loved the fact that as you drove through the surrounding area the geology was on full display, and Utah helped with this by posting signs along the road explaining different features.




There was a ton of twisty-turns mountain driving, which is so much fun in a Mustang! It helps that there weren’t that many people on the road on a weekday morning so I could pretty much set my own speed, within reason. The views, though. Simply spectacular!




I was originally going to go over the Flaming Gorge Dam and take Browns Park Road overland. It’s an intriguing route, 30+ miles of unpaved road through the middle of nowhere. I had to drop the idea due to 1. Nearby forest fires making it a very real possibility that the road could be closed, and 2. I really didn’t want to possibly damage the dang car any further! Instead, I skipped the dam and went south through Vernal, Utah, where I stopped for a tasty lunch and to make geeky dad jokes.




Then it was a long, long drive to Denver. I didn’t make any stops because it was frequently pouring down rain (the first time in this entire trip, amazingly enough!). The drive down I-70 is always amazing though – beautiful views and very cool road engineering. I finally pulled into my destination, the Hyatt House in Lakewood, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, at 7 PM, 12 hours after I left downtown Salt Lake City. This was the longest I’ve driven in one day on this whole trip and I’m glad I won’t have to do that again!


I really like the Hyatt House brand – they have some great room designs.




For dinner I walked across the street to Brodo, an Italian place. The service was very lacking initially, but once the dinner rush died down it got better. I had a delicious steak salad, and got into a great conversation with the bartender about tonic syrups, gins, and aperitifs. It was a great evening.


Tomorrow I’ll be hanging around Denver to get the windshield fixed, then exploring Boulder, Colorado, and enjoying dinner with friends.


Miles Driven Today: 556 miles


Time Driving Today: 10:13


Total Miles Driven: 4,098 miles


Total Time Driving: 85:48

duncandahusky: (Default)

 


Current Location: Salt Lake City, Utah


Today’s Song: This Will Destroy You – They Move On Tracks of Never-Ending Light


This song makes me think of the miles and miles of desert I drove through today, with the promise of mountains in all directions. I expected it to be a little monotonous, but it was actually a beautiful landscape surrounded by the Toiyabe Range and the Ruby Mountains. The contrast between the dry salt flats and the snow-capped mountains just beyond was stunning.


The drive out of Reno was quite lovely this morning, winding up through the foothills.




I put on the 20-hour audiobook for T. J. Klune’s Wolfsong (which I have read before and I know it is absolutely amazing) and this helped the miles fly by. The only downside is that the book will put you through the emotional wringer, and had me crying several times during the drive. I made a couple of stops along the way to admire the landscape.






I stopped in Winnemucca, Nevada for a quick breakfast/lunch at a lovely little diner. Once again, Yelp steers me to good places. As long as you know that you can’t really rely on the ratings for any place with less than a couple of dozen reviews, it’s a fantastic resource.




I rolled into Salt Lake City at 4:30 PM and checked into my hotel for the night, a Hyatt House. I’ve never stayed in one of these before and it’s a nice step up from a Hyatt Place, geared to those spending several nights in one place.


Dinner was at Red Rock Brewery, an easy walk from the hotel. Their beers are quite good, and the warm goat cheese salad really hit the spot.


Tomorrow the trip continues. This will be an interesting leg, SLC to Denver but clipping the southwestern corner of Wyoming then driving into the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, then overland across northwestern Colorado. I expect this is going to be a long one, so I’m going to try to get on the road as early as possible.


Miles Driven Today: 513 miles


Time Driving Today: 7:19


Total Miles Driven: 3,542 miles


Total Time Driving: 75:35

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Reno, Nevada


Today’s Song: Kathleen Edwards – Goodnight California


This is such a great song that sets up a nice groove. This is another case where the emphasis is less on the song lyrics and more evocative of the feeling of driving through the Central Valley and up into the Sierra Nevadas.


I started the day in Manteca, California, heading out north on California 99 to Carson Pass Highway. It’s a good hour just to get to the mountains, but the loom ahead of you the entire time and provide a lovely backdrop and contrast to the flat farmlands all around you.


Then it was into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and wow, that is just spectacular. The road goes up, up, up from the valley to Carson Pass.




The geology of the area is quite unique, as my friend Neowolf pointed out. It provided a nice place to take a break and enjoy the view.




There are some interesting-looking resorts up there, and I am sure that the skiing is pretty impressive as well…providing you can get to the resorts. I saw a lot of “Chains Required” signs waiting to be used and Ford mentioned that the drive can get quite exciting, what with the avalanche risk and all.


After the hours of mountain driving, it was time for a stop in South Lake Tahoe for lunch and an opportunity to enjoy the local brews.




The trip out of the mountains from there was surprisingly quick, though the views were quite impressive descending down the eastward slopes.




I checked into my hotel in Reno (a Hyatt Place, the first of a long line of Hyatts this week – all free! ????). On my friend Ricky’s advice, I sought out one of the local breweries before dinner to check out their offerings. They were all quite good!




Then it was off to meet Tyco and a bunch of other staff from Biggest Little Fur Con, a convention that started just a few years ago here and quickly blew up into 5,000 or more attendees.




Dinner was lovely and the opportunity to chat with these good folks was welcome. They’re a damn smart bunch, and the convention has a good organization behind it. After dinner Tyco was kind enough to provide a tour of the Grand Sierra Resort’s convention facilities with some background on how the space is used and the convention’s relationship with the hotel. After seeing all of this I am not remotely surprised the convention has grown as quickly as it has. The GSR is an ideal venue for a furry convention! I definitely hope to attend next year.


Tomorrow it’s back on the road for the long drive to Salt Lake City, Utah. This is a part of the country I have never seen before so I look forward to seeing some new terrain.


Miles Driven Today: 215 miles


Time Driving Today: 5:11


Total Miles Driven: 3,029 miles


Total Time Driving: 68:16

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Manteca, California


Today’s Song: Kate Wolf – Pacheco/Red-Tailed Hawk


An iconic California song for me, originally by Robin Williamson. Although I didn’t go through Pacheco Pass I did go over the Diablo Range, the same set of mountains, as I headed east out of the San Francisco Bay Area. This to me is summer in California:


Purple clouds turn scarlet in the setting sun

Where sagebrush turns to alive oak and the white tail run

The air is cool as music when the day is gone

And God paints the sky above Pacheco




This morning had me getting up bright and early to hit the road. I was pleased that I was able to find a nearby location of one of my favorite coffee places in the area, Philz Coffee.




I made it to Chris (Didge) and Brian (Baja)’s place a little before 9 AM. The temperature was already in the upper 80s on its way to a high for the day of 107 F. We quickly packed everything up and started the long drive to our destination for the day, Yosemite National Park. It took three hours each way, but it was very much worth it! (Also, it was about 25 degrees cooler!)


Our first stop was at Bridalveil Falls, where I got some hint of just how crowded the park would be as it took about 10 minutes to find a parking space.




Still, it was worth it to get a chance to clamber up the rocks and stand in the fine mist of the falls.




The views all around were simply stunning – the park was definitely everything that I have heard it was. We parked the car where we could and walked over to Yosemite Falls, where we enjoyed the spectacular views and got up-close and personal with the local wildlife.






Chris and Brian were wonderful travel companions, and we had a great time walking around the park!




On the way back we stopped at a Mexican restaurant near their house with a bizarre Christmas-themed menu (“We think they bought it a few years ago and never figured out how to change it.”) but delicious food and a great salsa bar. After that it was back to the house where we watched the last part of Kung Fu Hustle and all of Doctor Strange. The latter was a pretty good movie, but I learned that ambulance and hospital scenes still cause me intense discomfort, and the scene of someone dying on the operating table reduced me to tears. The scars run deep, unfortunately.


No mileage today since Chris was kind enough to drive us in his SUV and I was content to be a passenger. It was nice to see a good bit of country and not have to drive! Day 18 will take me even further east, up and over the Sierra Nevada mountains to Reno, Nevada.


Miles Driven Today: 0 miles


Time Driving Today: 0:00


Total Miles Driven: 2,814 miles


Total Time Driving: 63:05

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Sunnyvale, California


Today’s Song: Eastmountainsouth – You Dance


Another day of not doing much, and that’s OK. It was a lovely, lazy day that was simply perfect.  I hung out at Ford’s all morning, getting an excellent therapeutic massage from River Pup. He is truly outstanding, for all that he is still in school. If you are in the Bay Area, I can highly recommend him – he’s damn good, and I’m heck of a nice guy. Funny thing: we actually hung out together at Mephit Furmeet in 2000 or so 🙂


Lunch was a wonderful get-together with Brophey, Karwood, Partran, and Luagha. it was so great to see these guys again!




The afternoon was spent cooking (well, Ford was cooking, I was assisting and providing company!). Dinner was a delicious pork tenderloin Wellington, roasted Brussels sprouts, and blueberry pie. After that a low-key evening of sitting around chatting in the cool breeze out by the pool. I needed this time, and I needed time with wonderfully dear friends. I’m sad I have to leave Ford and Sunnyvale, but the trip must continue. This trip has been a reminder of the incredible number of close friends I am blessed with, and all of the places that I need to revisit again soon.


Next up: the Central Valley doubling as the fifth circle of hell, and Yosemite National Park!


Miles Driven Today: 0 miles


Time Driving Today: 0:00


Total Miles Driven: 2,814 miles


Total Time Driving: 63:05

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Sunnyvale, California


Today’s Song: Dougie MacLean – Restless Fool


The lyrics to this song aren’t particularly relavent, but the general mood matches mine perfectly these days. Plus, Dougie MacLean is an excellent musician.


On Day 15, I rested. I spent the day mostly hanging out by the backyard pool with Ford and catching up. It was, quite frankly, delightful and one of the highlights of the trip.


In the evening, we met up with Latte, Dax, Smackjackal, Shyhoof, and Izzy for dinner at SoFA Market in San Jose, California. It was wonderful to catch up with these folks and enjoy a delicious spicy tune poke bowl.




After dinner we wandered over to Haberdasher for some craft cocktails. All in all it was a wonderful day!


Miles Driven Today: 0 miles


Time Driving Today: 0:00


Total Miles Driven: 2,814 miles


Total Time Driving: 63:05

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Sunnyvale, California


Today’s Song: Bruce Cockburn – Train in the Rain


This is a great traveling song, and one that makes me think of making steady progress down the road, which is what yesterday was all about. Incidentally, my friend Five-Toed Sloth Bear is collecting these songs as they are posted into a Spotify playlist:



(Also, there is an Apple Music playlist available as well.)


I started the day in cold, gray Crescent City, California. Breakfast was a tasty ham, Swiss, and egg sandwich.


[tweet https://twitter.com/DuncanDaHusky/status/885506524503724032]

This was a good start but the coffee was kind of weak. It got me through to Arcata, California, which is a highly entertaining town. I first heard of Arcata from graduates of Humboldt State University there, and it did not disappoint. It is pretty much the epitome of the Northern California hippie town, but I liked the vibe. I first stopped by a coffee house that was entertaing primarily because the (tattooed, pierced, and awesomely friendly) barista identified the artist and vendor of my current favorite T-shirt that I was wearing. I adjourned across the street for what was supposed to be a light snack, but it was great anyway.


[tweet https://twitter.com/DuncanDaHusky/status/885542667970527232]

It was a straight shot down to San Francisco from there, where I got to experience the fun of rush hour traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge.


[tweet https://twitter.com/DuncanDaHusky/status/885642721297285120]

Getting through downtown San Francisco at rush hour was everything I expected it to be, but 2 hours later I made it to Ford’s place in Sunnyvale. After chatting for a bit we swung over to his boyfriend Bramble’s and picked up him and his roommate Umbral and went out for a wonderful sushi dinner.


Today will be a pretty relaxing day, hanging out at Ford’s then meeting up with friends for dinner. Having a couple of days off the road is going to be a wonderful thing!


Miles Driven Today: 395 miles


Time Driving Today: 8:15


Total Miles Driven: 2,814 miles


Total Time Driving: 63:05

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Crescent City, CA


Today’s Song: Colin Hay – I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You


Portland, Oregon was such a wonderful town I hated to leave it, but the road trip must go on! And so I jumped in the car bright and early, hit the road, and…sat in traffic.



Portland is connected to Vancouver, Washington (a large suburb) and many other suburbs by only two bridges, Interstate 5 and Interstate 205. The next closest bridges over the Columbia River are an hour in either direction. This produces traffic chaos like clockwork, unfortunately (and that doesn’t even take into account that I-5 is also an active drawbridge!).


After a pit stop in Salem, Oregon, for gas and a small bite for breakfast (and coffee, of course), it was onward to the coast.



Well, almost. 5 minutes from the coast I stopped in the tiny town of Toledo, Oregon, for an early lunch. I didn’t realize the name of the place until I saw the sign on the door, but it seemed simply perfect for me! I ordered the “Working Man’s Breakfast” which was potatoes, onions, green peppers, and scrambled eggs, covered in sausage gravy. It tasted a lot better than it looked!




Then it was back on the road, and the Pacific Ocean quickly put in its appearance.




(The pedants of Twitter immediately chimed in with all of the locations in the US that are further west than where I was. I ignored them. Protip: If you are about to tweet something that could easily be prefaced with, “Well, actually…” delete it and sit on your hands until the urge to post passes.)


Then it was the long down the coast on US Highway 101, which will eventually carry me to San Francisco. I stopped at numerous beautiful locations along the way, including the spectacular Cape Perpetua, waaaaay up over the shoreline.




Oh, and there were other sights too!]



South of Florence, Oregon I decided it was time to make up some time so no more stops after that. I rolled in to The Lighthouse Inn in Crescent City, California, at a little after 7 PM. With stops, that was about 12 hours of travel and pretty exhausting! I decided to reward myself with a tasty dinner:





Then it was back to my hotel room, which despite its questionable design choices was clean, comfortable, and quiet. I’m glad I sleep with a white noise generator though because there was a lot of incidental noise from the hallway and upstairs.



I drove a lot in silence down the coast, doing some of that Deep Thinking I knew was part of this trip. I got pretty down because I kept thinking that, despite all of the hours in the car, Dan would have loved this trip – seeing old friends, visiting beautiful locations, and just experiencing the adventure of it all. His smile and laughter are with me always. I’ll need to think more about how how all of this makes me feel beyond “sad”, because it is of course it’s much more complex than that.


One good cry and a sound night’s sleep later, I am up and ready to hit the road. Today will take me down US 101 through Redwood Country and then to Sunnyvale, California, where I’m staying with my old friend Ford Shepherd. I’m looking forward to seeing him again!


Miles Driven Today: 384 miles


Time Driving Today: 8:52


Total Miles Driven: 2,419 miles


Total Time Driving: 54:50

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Vancouver, Washington


Today’s Song: John Powell – Test Drive (How To Train Your Dragon Soundtrack)


Today’s song is a sweeping, exciting piece that reminds me of my experiences and landscapes so far in this trip, and the excitement still to come. It was also one of Dan’s favorite soundtracks and is one of mine as well, so it provides a touchstone for the journey.


Portland was on the agenda for today, and I had a great time exploring  the downtown and surroundings. The weather was amazing if almost a little chilly to start the day.



Knowing traffic was going to be terrible (lots of traffic + only 2 bridges across the Columbia River = so many traffic jams!), I stayed on the northern side of the river and went to downtown Vancouver for some coffee and a small bite to eat. I tried a couple of places and got my first taste of the ethos of the area.



This was to become a running theme, I found. So many rainbow flags everywhere (which, granted, were probably left over from Pride but the fact they were still flying is appreciated)!


Once I decided to brave the traffic, I took a jaunt out of the way, up to Sauvie Island. I wanted to check out Collins Beach there and wasted an enjoyable hour and a half or so there. By lunchtime it was time to head downtown. Thumper had given me some good pointers on where to park and places to check out, which I made use of. After stopping for a cup of coffee because Portland) I struck out for Powell’s City of Books. I had hoped to wander around a bit and maybe get a nice sweeping picture of a ton of books, but it turns out the place is a rabbit warren of interconnecting rooms, each one stuffed to the gills with new and used books. I did find some amusing signage and fun stuff to look at though.




Next it was off to The Brewery District, because Portland has a Brewery District and how could I not go there? I first stopped by Fat Head’s Brewery but didn’t buy anythign because their menu boasted 6-8 different kinds of India Pale Ales and a few boring, less-hoppy beers. Pass.


10 Barrel Brewery was my next stop. I had lunch, which was a BLTAE (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado, and Egg) sandwich, which was surprisingly quite good. They also had a better beer selection, and true to their name their beer flight consisted of ten different beers.



And what is this I see across the street? The Rogue Distillery and Public House! I’ve been wanting to try their spirits without buying an entire bottle, so…



I took my time walking back to my car so I was good to go when I got there! After a short stop back at Thumper and Kalypso’s to do some laundry, it was back into Portland to meet Drake and Hegdish for dinner. We met at a crazy place called McMenamin’s Kennedy School. They have taken an old elementary school and converted it into an entire entertainment complex, with meeting rooms, a pool, hotel rooms, several different bars, a restaurant, and heaven knows what else! We had a leisurely dinner on the patio and had a great time catching up and chatting. They’re both great guys and it was a real delight to see them again!


Tomorrow has me back on the road again, this time driving to the Oregon coast and heading south into northern California. It’ll be an early start once again, because this could be a long day of driving!


Miles Driven Today: 90 miles


Time Driving Today: 3:34


Total Miles Driven: 2,035 miles


Total Time Driving: 45:58


 

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Vancouver, Washington


Today’s Song: Explosions in the Sky – Your Hand in Mine


This song captures more of a feeling for me than anything else – the feeling of driving out across the rolling desert hills of eastern Washington, then the grandeur of the Columbia River Gorge.


I slept in a little late this morning, then met up with (carazy Canadian birder friend) Tina for coffee, a pastry, and some more pleasant conversation. I could talk with her for hours, and she is simply delightful company! All too soon, though, it was time to hit the road.


Granted, I didn’t go all that far! Less than an hour down the road I decided to stop at Hermiston Brewing Company for a quick lunch and a beer from a local brewery. On the way I stopped by McNary Dam, which was scenic in an arid kind of way.



Then it was on for lunch! I had a halibut wrap with a salad, which was immediately offset by all of the beer.




The beer was…whelming. Ah well, you can’t win them all. In the interest of speed I then took to Interstate 84 and headed west along the Columbia River.



The scenery started to pick up as I approached the Columbia River Gorge, and the landscape become more and more beautiful.



One nifty random thing along the trip: I popped to the northern side of the river into Washington because gas is substantially cheaper there. After I filled up I chatted with the cashier, who was curious about my Illinois license plates. I explained that I was on an extended road trip looking for cool things, and she directed me a short ways back the way I came to check out Schreiner Farms, a free exotic animal farm where you can drive in and see then animals (from your car). This was a fun, random break in the trip!



After that it was back over to the Oregon side and I received a lovely welcome as I headed west.



Based on Thumper’s recommendation, I stopped at Multnomah Falls and hiked up to the top. It’s a 1.25 mile hike with an elevation rise of about 700-800 feet. A moderate workout, but welcome all the same after sitting in the car all day!




After that invigorating hike, I fought my way through rush hour traffic to Thumper and Kalypso’s place. They are kind enough to put me up while I am in town and I am incredibly appreciative! We got a good dinner at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. Great cider, and decent beer too.



Tomorrow I plan to dive into downtown Portland and wander around and find neat things, which is my general approach to new cities. I expect lots of coffee, beer, cider, and who knows what else?


Miles Driven Today: 227 miles


Time Driving Today: 5:09


Total Miles Driven: 1,945 miles


Total Time Driving: 42:24

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Richland, Washington


Today’s Song: Nickel Creek – Where Is Love Now?



If I could wait here for you

Without hope or knowing what to do

Watch the light fade away

Without fear or knowing what to say

Cry the tears from my eyes

Leave me here long enough to realize

Where is love now?

Where is love now

Out here in the dark?


Yeah. This covers a lot of my feelings over the last few months.


Day 10 found me driving from Kalispell, Montana to Richland, Washington (part of the Tri-Cities, with Pasco and Kennewick. Paging Mercy Thompson…). It brought quite an interesting range of terrain. I got an early start to the day; the drive through the Flathead River Valley along Flathead Lake was absolutely beautiful.








I stopped for lunch in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I’d had a hankering for grilled cheese so I decided it was time to indulge.




I’ve been having problems with my phone’s battery reading fluctuating wildly and randomly shutting down. In the morning I backed up my computer to my laptop and after lunch I found a spot in a coffee shop and sat down to do a full restore. That whole process took almost 90 minutes, much to my chagrin. Still, it was nice to sit and relax for a bit too.


I got into Richland at around 4 PM, and met up with Tina (aka “crazy Canadian birder friend Tina” for those who follow Ursula Vernon). We had a great time chatting and finally adjourned to a local winery/restaurant that was really, really good.




I had the wild mushroom and herb risotto with grilled chicken and it was very well-done – nice creaminess, and the mushrooms were so meaty and flavorful that the chicken was an unnecessary addition on my part. We each ordered a flight of reds and while some were so-so, we found a couple that were quite good, to Tina picked up a few bottles.


After dinner we retired back to Tina’s hotel room and spent the rest of the evening chatting, catching up, and generally having a nice, low-key time. I enjoyed it immensely.


Today, after I meet Tina for breakfast, I will be making the relatively short (~4 hours) drive to Vancouver, Washington, which is right across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. I look forward to taking my time and finding cool stuff along the way!



Miles Driven Today: 386 miles


Time Driving Today: 6:58


Total Miles Driven: 2,104 miles


Total Time Driving: 44:13


duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Kalispell, Montana


Today’s Song: Spirit of the West – Canadian Skye


A great song from one of my favorite bands, this evokes to me the wide open prairies, the exuberance I observed for Canada Day in Winnipeg and the Calgary Stampede. I listen to this and I think of the miles and miles of fields flying by under the wide Canadian skies.


With this I complete my swing through Canada, and I can reveal a bit of an easter egg – following Canadian content rules, all of the artists posted while I was north of the border were Canadian.


This was a big day – my last day in Canada and my first venture into the mountains. The more I travel the more I realize I am just not made for the flatlands. Mountains make my spirits soar. I drove the entire way through Glacier National Park with a big grin on my face because I was loving the drive so much! I took an enormous number of pictures even before and after Going-To-The-Sun Road through Glacier National Park – it took me almost 3 hours to go 50 miles because I was stopping so often. I have some excerpts below, but you can see a map or an album of all of the photos.


I was up and out of Lindsey and Richard’s place in Chestermere by 7 AM. After a brief stop for coffee, it was straight down Alberta Highway 2. The tiny town of Pincher Creek turned out to have a wonderful little coffee shop that had the best breakfast sandwich (the bright yellow yolk shows how fresh the egg was, and it tasted great too!).




The foothills gradually turned into small mountains as the landscape rose up around me.




There was about a 15 minute wait at the Chief Mountain border crossing, but I just had a brief conversation with the officer and I was on my way.




Following a light lunch at a little cafe in St. Mary, Montana, that made a fantastic strawberry-rhubarb pie, it was off into Glacier National Park!




Going-To-The-Sun Road is a 50-mile road through Glacier National Park. It is an engineering feat, and the views throughout are nothing short of stunning. At the gate to the park I found out there is a $30 fee to use the park for a day, or for $80 you can get an annual pass good 12 months from purchase. Considering I’ll be going to Yosemite National Park next week and knowing the dire financial straits of the National Park Service, I was more than happy to purchase an annual pass. Even if I never use it again I feel it’s money well spent!


I hate to do this but it’s crazy late and I have to be up early in the morning; I will refer you to my Twitter feed for photos (and videos!) inside the park. The trip was incredible and one that I hope to repeat when I have more time (those lakes beg for some quality kayaking time!).


Tomorrow I am off to Richland, Washington. Not much there, but it’s a good stopping point along the way, plus I will be meeting up with a friend for dinner. It should be a great time!


Miles Driven Today: 331 miles


Time Driving Today: 8:26


Total Miles Driven: 1,718 miles


Total Time Driving: 37:15

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Calgary, Alberta


Today’s Song: Shark Tank – Out For a Rip (NSFW!)


This song speaks to the quintissential Prairie Province Canadian. Yeah, redneck as all hell, but who cares?


Today was crazy busy, but I had so much fun! I started out the day at an auto glass repair place, where they replaced the windshield on the Mustang in a little under 90 minutes.




Next, I joined Lindsey, Richard, and Lindsey’s father at the Aviation Row Hoedown BBQ to celebrate the arrival of the Calgary Stampede. This took place in one of the hangers at Calgary International Airport, and they had pulled up a Beechcraft 1900D, a BA RJ100, and a Bombardier Dash 8 for everyone to walk around, go in, and check out from top to bottom. It was a really nifty experience! (Love the jet-shaped grill too!)






And then it was time for the day’s main event: The Calgary Stampede!




To crib info from Wikipedia, the Stampede “attracts over one million visitors per year and features one of the world’s largest rodeos, a parade, midway, stage shows, concerts, agricultural competitions, chuckwagon racing and First Nations exhibitions.” Think the Texas State Fair with a bunch of stuff added. To say it’s enormous is an understatement. We spent 6 hours there today and saw maybe a quarter of the grounds. Still, we had a great time! We met up with two great guys from Edmonton, Thallanor and Tiggs, and enjoyed goofing around, eating terrible food, and drinking a bit more beer than was probably wise. Also: a fun dog exhibition that was definitely geared to kids, but it’s always great to see dogs having great fun as they run through their paces.








And now I’m back at Lindsey and Richard’s place. They are en route to the airport for an insane quick weekend trip to Montreal (their flight leaves here at 1 AM!), so it’s just me, the cats, and Kiska (who smells much better after her bath, by the way!).




I want to thank Richard and Lindsey for their wonderful hospitality. I know that they had a lot going on this week between work and other plans and it really meant a lot to me that they were able to take the time to put me up in their oh-so-comfy guest bedroom and hang out. I had so much fun, and I was reminded again that Calgary is a wonderful city, and I am blessed with some very dear friends here.


And so my visit to Calgary comes to a close. Early tomorrow morning I hit the road bright and early, going south out of Calgary and headed back into the United States. Ideally my travels will take me to Glacier National Park and Going-To-The-Sun Road; we shall see how that works out. I have multiple possibilities in mind just in case. From there it’s on to my destination for the day, Kalispell, Montana.


Miles Driven Today: 20 miles


Time Driving Today: 0:51


Total Miles Driven: 1,387 miles


Total Time Driving: 28:49

duncandahusky: (Default)

Current Location: Calgary, Alberta


Today’s song: Life Is a Highway, by Tom Cochran


Life’s like a road that you travel on

When there’s one day here and the next day gone

Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand

Sometimes you turn your back to the wind


Yeah, this song speaks to me as I drive on this trip.


No long-distance driving today! Instead, I wandered around Calgary and found cool stuff, which is what I enjoy doing in interesting cities.


Breakfast was at a nifty espresso/wine bar. I decided to forgo the wine since it was 9 O’Clock in the morning.




While getting breakfast I got a call from the guy I rented the Mustang from (Budget/Avis in Lake Zurich, IL – highly recommended!). He told me to go ahead and get the windshield crack repaired. This was good since I noticed that the crack was continuing to travel the length of the windshield. My next stop was to the most highly recommended windshield replacement place on Yelp (hey, you’ve got to start somewhere!). There were extremely helpful and ordered the replacement to arrive tonight. I’ll be there at 8 AM tomorrow to have them install it.


My next stop was Nose Hill Park. This is a gorgeous park that rises just to the north of downtown Calgary and offered great views of the city and surrounding area. I slathered on some sunscreen and went for an extended walk around.




From there it was lunchtime. I was in the mood for something light but filling. Pho it was!




A few more stops around town later and it was back to Lindsey and Richard’s place to relax a bit and shower to get all the sunscreen off. I rested a bit in the afternoon and got caught up on social media and laundry.


Dinner was a delicious Mexican dinner at Salt and Pepper, followed by a stroll through the Inglewood neighborhood. We stopped by a lovely little liquor store that had my number: “Oh, that gin looks interesting to you? Here, I have some you can try…”




In case you were wondering, it was astounding. I bought it. And then came, “Oh, if you want to try a really high-end gin, how about this…” I did. It was So. Damn. Good.



So I bought it, of course. Whoops!


And tonight? I see hot tubbing in my future!


Tomorrow is going to be busy. Lindsey has invited me to join her and Richard at a Stampede BBQ at her employer (y’all will love the pics!), followed by meeting up with friends and going to the Calgary Stampede where there will be so-so beer and copious terrifying food!


Miles Driven Today: 111 miles (lots of driving around town!)


Time Driving Today: 2:09


Total Miles Driven: 1,367 miles


Total Time Driving: 27:58


 

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