July - August 2017
  • Day1

    Day Before Departure

    July 27, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Well, we are 18 hours from departure. My usual plan for one week before our trip is to clean the car and start packing it with essentials. I have everyone start packing their clothes for the drawers in the car and pack their backpacks with sleepwear ("Jammie's" is not an acceptable terms these days particularly because underwear is the sleepwear of choice.), socks, underwear and bathing suits which we need every night in the hotel. I figure out what food we need to pack for the road and for our first major stop. I also clean the house so we come home to a nice house.

    This year is a little different. Last week, we took our van into the shop for an oil change and to check a noise we heard. They have had our van since then. I am picking it up at 2 PM today, Thursday, the day before we leave and we are leaving at 6 AM. UHHHH! The van is not ready. There is another kink in the plan. We have had construction going on for the past year and we are at the tail end of it. While we are gone, the painters are coming in to finish the upstairs and the downstairs. As much as I can say that I am relieved I won't be here while they finish, we have had to prep for them which means making a ginormous mess. No clean house when I come home. UHHHH!

    Literally, Paul and I (and the kids) are getting in the car and driving west and never looking back. It will be nice to not think about it. We will miss our doggies though. Thanks to our neighbor and our dear friend Miss Jen, our doggies will be well taken care of.

    Today, I have been baking muffins, making sandwiches and quinoa, and packing dry goods. I'm picking up the van soon.
    Read more

  • Explore, what other travelers do in:
  • Day2

    Bismark ND

    July 28, 2017 in the United States ⋅ 🌫 20 °C

    July 28, 2017

    Weather: 85 and sunny (arrival at night 65 and moony)

    Hours Driving: 16/17

    States Drive Thru: Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota

    Miles: 1,118

    Restaurants: Good Ol' Applebee's (actually my burger was yummy)

    Movies: Rush Hour 1 & 2

    Games: The Office

    Books: Dream On Amber (liz), Red Herrings & White Elephants (Matt)

    Hotel: Marriott

    We hit the road a little later than we wanted to this morning but traffic wasn't an issue. Today was a long drive day. We put in a 17 hour drive. We have to be in Seattle by Sunday. We left around 7 AM. We hoped for 6 AM. It's more peaceful driving in the morning. The kids have been reading, doing some homework, watched a couple of movies and played a continuous game of The Office. We listened to a book, Paul had a couple of work calls and I slept a short time out of fear that Paul will ask me to drive. He's a trooper. But, when he gets tired, he has to stop. Have I mentioned his sleep disorder? Cinemarkalepsy. The inability to stay awake for a movie. He can drive for 17 hours but is snoring away 5 minutes into a movie. The struggle is real.

    We had a nice peaceful drive today. It really hasn't been that bad. We ate blueberry pancakes and blueberry muffins (gluten and dairy free and delicious, says all) for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch in the car. We stopped at Applebee's for dinner in Minnesota. Not my first choice but it was on the route and they had something I could eat. Everyone was a little slap happy at the table. A little embarrassing (for me anyway). The kid's mission in life now is to rip on Paul. They make fun of how long his stories are, his grey hair and his country music (I'm with them there). He is taking it well. He can dish it out, too. Though, my kids pretty humiliate themselves with little effort. With the exception of Elizabeth. Back to Applebee's, here's what I don't understand. Everyone knows how hard it is to get the darn electronics out of our kids hands these days, right? Why does Applebee's deem it necessary to put an electronic game on the table which Matthew glued himself to the second we sat down. Then, to add insult to injury, he managed to "unknowingly" say yes to purchasing the game that was later added to our bill. Honest to God. They make it that easy? Or...my kids are that....well, we won't go there.

    We had 5 more hours to Bismarck, ND from MN to spend the night at our go-to Marriott. Day 1 down. Day 2 takes us to Bozeman, MT. It will be hard to be so close to Yellowstone and not go. They kids are begging to go. New adventures await us. See you tomorrow.
    Read more

  • Day3

    Bozeman, MT

    July 29, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    July 29, 2017

    Place: Bozeman, MT

    Weather: 91 and sunny

    Hours Driving: 8 hours

    States Drive Thru: North Dakota and Montana

    Miles: 433



    Games: 20 questions (or 20 insults)

    Books: Dunkirk (Matt)

    Hotel: Marriott

    We had a nice sleep last night. We had our typical free Marriott breakfast which really isn't all that bad (unless you are gluten and dairy-free). They had omelettes, scrambled and hard boiled eggs, sausage, Canadian bacon, all kinds of sweet rolls and breads, oatmeal, make your own waffles, coffee, juices, yogurts, fruits and more. Not bad really. We had a funny breakfast conversation about movie choices. Elizabeth has a very limited genre library due to the fact that most things are too scary for her. For instance, someone getting a paper cut or a lost puppy might stress her out. One of the scariest movies she has seen is Mall Cop. Mmhmm. Way too stressful. So Paul tells her to broaden her movie choices to include some more dramatic cinematic choices. I said that I don't love scary movies but they are kind of fun. (Wendy, you made me watch Friday the 13th) I said that the only thing that is bad is that the scary movies stay with me and chase me up the basement stairs. Ben whole-heartedly agreed. Elizabeth chimes in, "That's what I am saying! I can't sleep or put my feet out of the covers after watching movies like...Abraham Lincoln's death!" If you could see our faces when she said that. We were like, "What??!!" Your choice of movies that makes you feel like something is going to grab your feet is Abraham Lincoln? Four score and ten little toes. This is one of the most strong-willed and driven of our children and she shakes like a leaf at Home Alone.

    Anyway, we are on a beautiful winding highway in the middle of North Dakota with rolling hills of Amber waves of grain and the occasional awe-inspiring interruptions of badland rock formations. Paul and I were cued up for a little "Home, home on the range." by some random words on the side of a roadside hill. How many weirdos sing that as they are passing. Blue skies, wind whipping through our open windows and the nerve jerking "STOP" coming from the back. Now entering Montana only divided by a large welcome sign.

    We have been listening to the audio of the book "Lion" or "The Long Road Home". It is a 7 hour audio book. The title is appropriate for our travels. It is about a little East Indian boy who gets lost from home in India and ends up adopted by an Australian family. It is really good. It conjures up such images of his life and emotions of what he went through. We are enjoying It. The kids are listening while they play in the back. They seem interested every time we turn it on. The kids spent today making their own "The Office Game". Fun to hear them laughing and playiing and talking in the back. They really have been great for how long we've been in the car. They have not complained at all.

    We arrived in Bozeman around 3:30. It was hot but not oppressive. We checked into the Residence Inn Bozeman. Nice hotel. We have a King bed, a pull out and a kitchen. We have a blow up mattress. It is a nice room. The freezer allows us to re freeze our ice packs and chill the food we have. Tonight, we drove to Main Street Bozeman. What a cute little town with many (lots) of nice restaurants. You could stay here a week and eat well every day. We ate, first, at a restaurant recommended by Stone (Paul's brother, Dave), Ted's Montana Grill. We decided to show the kids how Paul and I eat on trips. We like to go to multiple restaurants and sample food from each place. We ordered some bison nachos, grilled shrimp on a bed of greens in a spicy lemon dressing and their specialty fries. We asked our waitress Jacq where she would recommend for our next stop and she told us about a sushi (now we are talking) restaurant a couple of streets off Main that her friend's boyfriend owns called Dave's sushi. You might drive right by it if you didn't see the over flow of locals spilling out to the parking lot waiting for a table.

    It was a cute little place filled to the brim with amazing plates of sushi, nigiri and other delights passing by our table. The boys were thrilled to find that some of the sushi was name Jack Sparrow, Black Pearl and White Tiger. Don't let the names cause concern for the quality of the sushi. The Jack Sparrow was amazing with levels of flavor, texture and temperature. All five of us fought for the last pirate bite. We all agreed that we will crave that forever. It was fried shrimp, advocado, and mango topped with spicy hamachi. The "Broad Comedy role" was yummy too. We had some kind of lettuce cups that were delicious too. Awesome place. My kids love sushi. That is good and bad. Good because we can all go out to eat sushi. Bad because I have to share. Hmph.

    We enjoyed walking the streets and now we are back at the hotel and the kids are swimming. Even though most of the day was driving, it is has been soon forgotten by a great evening. Off to Seattle tomorrow. 10 more hours
    Read more

  • Day4

    Wallace, ID

    July 30, 2017 in the United States ⋅ 🌫 25 °C

    July 30, 2017

    Place: Wallace, ID

    Weather: 77 and sunny

    Hours Driving: 6 hours

    States Drive Thru: Montana, Idaho

    Miles: 361

    Restaurants: The Smokehouse BBQ and Saloon

    Movies: Spies Like Us

    Games: The Office,

    Books: "Lion" (audio book)


    We hit the road for another long drive. 10 hours ahead of us to Seattle,WA. We had our Marriott breakfast and got an 8:30 start. We passed time listening to our book, "Lion". It is so good. The kids even keep telling us to turn it back on. Amazing story.

    We made a stop in a little town called Wallace, Idaho. It was an unexpectedly cute little historic town nestled within the mountains. You could sense the history of the buildings disguised in a cloak of present day like True Value Hardware and artsy boutiques. We ate at the Smokehouse BBQ and Saloon. There you could feel the ghosts of the past within the walls and at the saloon bar top. The walls were covered in a confusion of current day memorabilia and the fading antiquities of long ago. There was no air conditioning on in the restaurant which disappointed our bodies coming in from the 90 degrees outside adding to the feeling of what this place was like a hundred years ago. It was tolerable and not really that uncomfortable. Just disappointing. We decided to try the pulled brisket, half chicken, rib combo and mac and cheese. When the waitress asked us what we'd like to order, we were thrown from a 1890 saloon to a Turkish bath. We know all the waitresses were Turkish because we asked. It was the weirdest twilight zone place. They were exchange students from Turkey for the summer. They hardly spoke English and stood behind this 1890s bar speaking Turkish. Just a little strange. Actually, the food was really good. I had pulled pork. If it's on the menu, I usually order it. Very interesting side stop.
    Read more

  • Day4

    Lake Union, Seattle, WA

    July 30, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    July 30, 2017

    Place: Seattle, WA

    Weather: 77 and sunny

    Hours Driving: 5 hours 34 min

    States Drive Thru: Idaho and Washington

    Miles: 360


    Movies: Spies Like Us

    Games: The Office,

    Books: "Lion" (audio book)

    Hotel: Ginger Houseboat on Lake Union

    We are heading through the east side of Washington state. Between Spokane and Seattle, it is pretty flat. The mountain ranges of western Washington are on the horizon. My excitement is growing, as is Paul's. I spent a lot of time in Seattle because my sister and brother both lived there and I have visited many times. I love it there. Paul has been there a couple of times as well. We went together while we were dating. We love it. In the summer anyway. I have a lot of memories visiting my sister and brother and I can't wait to share it with my kids. We have rented a houseboat on Lake Union. I haven't told the kids. It is a surprise. It is such a nice boat, too. I hope they like it.

    (finishing this in bed)

    The last leg to Seattle was a tough. I should say the last few hours. There was some construction once we got into the mountain passes. Not horrible but after driving 7-8 hours, every minute counts. Paul was losing patience with driving. His moral was falling fast. On the sly, I found a pizza restaurant near our houseboat, placed a carry out for a giant double pepperoni pizza, a salad and a gluten free pizza for me. I wanted to take away the worry of finding dinner once we did arrive. Instead of navigating him to the houseboat, I steered him to the pizza joint. We grabbed the pizza and headed for the boat. Mind you, the kids still didn't know. We told them we were going to eat on the docks by the water and we led them to the very end of the dock where there sat a charming little house on the water. I walked right into the boat, to their surprise. That's when they figured it out. I think the laughter and shrieking meant they were happy and mom done good...again. They ran around like toddlers exploring and taking it in. This boat is so cool. You know how everyone wants a hotel with water views and views of the city and sunsets, well we have it all! We ate on the roof overlooking downtown Seattle as the buildings and sky changed from blues to oranges and then faded to greys only to light back up in the night sky. Before going to bed, we decided to take a drive into town by Ben's request. He LOVES it here. He said he could live here. It is a great place. Tomorrow, we explore town and we can share our experiences with them. Now a slumber on the water. Bucket list...check.
    Read more

  • Day5

    Seattle, WA

    July 31, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    July 31, 2017

    Place: Seattle, WA

    Weather: 80 and sunny and blue skies

    Hours Driving: 20 minutes

    States Drive Thru: Washington

    Miles: 5 miles max

    Restaurants: Crepe de France (pike place) and The Athenian (Pike place)


    Games: Water tag


    Hotel: Ginger Houseboat on Lake Union

    What an amazing day in Seattle. I knew what I was going to do first thing this morning the night before which actually came earlier than I expected, 5;30 AM though I didn't stay awake. I am not sure if it was the boat or time difference or Marne's texts that Mike was going into shoulder surgery (he is well and recovering). I forced myself back to sleep until 6:51. I made myself a coffee with Elizabeth and we went on the roof of the boat and took in the blue sky, cool breeze, lapping waters under the boats in their slips, the hum of traffic across the lake moving its way into the city and the smell of hot coffee. I'm loving it.

    We got an early start to Pike Place Market for breakfast. We parked on the waterfront because our vehicle (the beast) has difficulty parking in structures so we parked on the waterfront which is lined with restaurants, shops, the aquarium, the ferris wheel and is humming with people walking along it. We planned to park and walk to Pike Place recollecting incorrectly that is on the waterfront. It is actually a couple of streets above. After a really nice walk along the waterfront, we backtracked to Pike Place just as it was coming alive with shop owners filling their spaces with goods. Walking through was easy at this time. We found our way to a crepe shop which seems to be our go-to at Markets. We ate them at Reading Market in Pennsylvania. We had a savory crepe with ham, cheese and spinach and a sweet crepe.with strawberries and Nutella. I had an Americano coffee and a gluten free lemon and powdered sugar crepe. Delish but I'm certain theirs was better. After we looked around a bit, we grabbed some day old french bread from the bakery, some procutto, ham, chorizo and cheeses from the deli and some fruit from the produce and headed off to Seattle Center where the space needle is to have lunch on the lawn somewhere. I rambled that area often with my sister when she lived there and worked at the science center. I was disappointed slightly that it wasn't as recognizable as I had remembered. How things change in 15 years. Not bad changes but disorienting. What a great place for families. We had our lunch on the grass of the children's museum and wandered over to the International fountain that dances to music playing from the heavens. Children and adults were laughing and prancing through the fountain escaping its attempts to soak as if it were alive and chasing you. The kids loved it.

    One the way back, I wanted to take them to one of my favorite little oddities in Seattle that my sister took me to long ago. It actually won me a best summer photo award when I was teaching. The Fremont Troll. The stone beast watches over and under the freeway bridge. it would be startling if you didn't know it was there and you found yourself going up this steep street to a dead end with an enormous creature staring down at you. I must say that he is not scary but rather charming and looks a little strartled as if he's wondering why all of these people and children are one, not afraid, and two, they want to climb all over him. His one silver eue and the crushed VW Bug under his hand only draws everyone in. I love the Fremont Troll and I believe my kids do too and someday they will be back to share the mystery.

    We went back to the boat and the kids swam for 2 or 3 hours. They loved jumping off the roof of the boat. They kayaked and played on the inner tube. We got a call from Rhea, one of my dearest friends who I knew was here in Seattle too, who did in fact have time before their flight to have dinner. We met them down a Pike Place at the Athenian to have nice seafood dinner. Elizaberh and Sophia (their daughter are long time friends) and Paul has know Andy, her husband for ages so we had a great time. They get to be a part of the blog and our blog books that I print. All in all, a great day. I have to get to sleep though because we are waking wee early, 5:30 AM to get to the San Juan islands for a whale watching tour tomorrow. Can't wait
    Read more

  • Day6

    San Juan islands, WA

    August 1, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    August 1, 2017

    Place: Seattle, Port Townsend, San Juan Islands and Friday Harbor, WA

    Weather: 77 and sunny

    Hours Driving: 35 minutes x 2 by ferrry and 2 hours 14 minutes driving (roundtrip)

    States Drive Thru: Washington

    Miles: 70 miles

    Restaurants: Downriggers


    Games: Pictionary


    Hotel: Ginger Houseboat on Lake Union

    My eyes slowly opened at 5:15 AM as morning breaks over Lake Union and a pink light fills the windows of the boat. I slept well and I don't think I was anxious about waking up in time for the 6:10 ferry to Bainbridge Island. I waited for my 5:20 alarm to play The Cup song. The gentle clapping at the beginning of the song is a nice wake up sound. If you choose not to wake, "I got my ticket for the long way round..." Anyway, I started the coffee pot and roused the crowd gently so as not to conjure up the sleeping meemies who stick around with their grumpies for a while. Matthew carried a few complaining meemies right on to the ferry. You've got to love them away.

    Getting to the ferry on time was the only thing that worried me because I didn't know if it would be busy though I've been on the ferries many times with my sister and going to Whidbey Island to see my brother and MIssy (and Cody and Mitchell). If we missed the 6:10, we might not make the drive to our 8:30 appointment with the whales. It was actually easy-peesy. Rhea also reassured me the night before how easy it would be especially at that insane hour. There was no wait, we drove right in and headed for the deck for coffee and hot chocolate and a 35 minute ferry ride (and a hot chocolate spill by an unnamed child-probably the meemie did it). Now we are driving for a little over an hour to Port Townsend to make our 8:30 meeting time. We should be early.

    We in fact arrived early to a cool marina of big boats and little boats, sail boats and motor boats, old boats and new boats. The air was cool which led us to believe it might be even cooler on the water. We checked in and boarded our boat. We were assigned a 6 person table in a boat that probably holds, at most, 60 people. There were about 35 on today. Our hosts were great. They were super friendly and knowledgeable. They served their specialty Blueberry Buckle and various warm and cold drinks. If you purchased their mug for $5, you get unlimited drinks for life. We bought them and told the kids that they had to come back someday with their families and get a free cup o' Joe or hot chocolate. They were excited about that.

    We left at 9 AM with a chill in the air. We cruised out looking for whales. We spotted a few on the way out to Friday Harbor. So cool to see. We cruised through the San Juan islands and stopped in Friday Harbor for lunch. I would recommend this town. Super cute. Good restaurants and shops. Harbor town. Looked like Maine a bit. We had lunch at Downriggers on the deck overlooking the harbor. Ahhhhh. I had the most delicious mussels. Paul had a corn tortilla encrusted halibut salad. I loved that too. Elizabeth had clam chowder and a salad (and half of my mussels). She said this clam chowder doesn't beat her dads again. Matthew had a delicious looking chicken sandwich and Ben had spicy chicken wings (all over his face). Even the cute young girl cleaning away his mess giggled at the spectacle he made with the hot sauce. We had a great lunch and headed out for our second half of the day.

    We traveled to Anacortes and through Deception Pass at Whidbey Island. Seeing naval base brought back memories of visiting my brother, Missy and Cody and Mitchell. I listened for Prowlers. My nephews could hear my brother's planes from miles away and plug their ears before I knew what was happening. I digress. We found a pod of Orcas feeding on a seal or something so says the naturalist. We sat and watched them for a while. Super cool. We got back around 5:30. I should mention that the weather was amazing. It got warmer throughout the day on the water though like swimming through a warm spot in the water, we kept going through periods of air that was 20 degrees cooler. Also, the water was a calm as anything. Our typical luck like kayaking at Pictured Rocks on the calmest Lake Superior (unheard of). Our guide today said that last week, their were 6 foot waves (and people puking). Our water was near flat most of the time. Thank goodness because I'd be a poker. I get carsick looking at a car. Even though we had a great day, at the risk of bad weather or choppy water, you might considered the 1/2 day trip just in case. That is hard to say though because Friday Harbor is cool.

    It was a great day. The kids all said they had a great time. Even though we didn't see tons of whales, they really enjoyed the whole day trip. There were no complaints about getting up though we had two nappers on part of the trip (see pictures). We are heading back to the houseboat now to BBQ some steaks for dinner. Already getting sick of eating out. Our biggest issue. We got issues...but you got em' too. Tomorrow, we are off to Portland via Mount Rainier and Mt. St. Helens.
    Read more