Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Washington Wrap-Up: Grab Bag Edition.

Well, it's been fun recounting tales of my recent cross country road trip and the adventures I had during it, but fall is in FULL tilt already here, and there are regular posts to get back to.

 I've had so much fun writing and sharing photos that I've been inspired all over again to try to do one at least    every other day. Trying to go every day doesn't really work when you're also going to classes and y'know, going out into the world and finding the stories. 

That was a little fall teaser, but what I want to do today is share the rest of my Seattle/WA pictures, in no particular order.  Free association! Whatever comes out comes out! Hold on to your hemp hats! 

 So...remember the advice we learned earlier?  This is the thing you should not eat.  Mount Rainier.  I can't say I've ever seen a mountain quite like it, and that it's so alone on the landscape makes it more dramatic. I never got close enough to get the types of shots I'd like to have gotten, but I thought this one was pretty neat. Ben told me that Fuji,Japan is a sister city to Seattle, and one of the similarities is the way that Mt. Fuji stands alone against the backdrop of the city just like Mt. Rainier does in Seattle.   I recently found out there's a whole national park at Mt. Rainier.  This is now on my list of things to do on future WA trips.

The sunset over Puget Sound.  This is something I'd like to watch as many times as I can get the chance.  This picture was taken across from Pike Market, but it reminds me of the feeling I got at dinner that night- knowing you're on the coast or at least near it, and looking out into such an immense horizon...on some level it should be scary, but in a different way it's so calming and so welcome, at least for me.

 This is just a snap of Seattle as Patty and I were wandering our way back to the docks to get to the ferry.  I didn't realize Seattle shut so much down so early...which is how we missed Pike's while it was open, and what also gave us a bit of the heebie's much nicer to be in an unfamiliar city that seems active, and where we were at the time of the photo really didn't seem to be.  Strangely desolate for a big city.  I knew Chicago slept at some point, but I guess Seattle sleeps a little earlier, at least where this photo is taken.
I have a friend I didn't get to meet up with who wants to give me a tour of Seattle and show me the hip spots so I'm hoping to find more nightlife if I take him up on that. 

 You can't spell Seattle without coffee....or something.   There were, just as I'd been told there would be, thousands upon thousands of coffee shops.  There's even TOPLESS coffee shops.  This isn't an extreme coffee drinking sport where they fill the cups up real high and don't put lids on them, forcing you to be careful in your drinking so you don't spill.  No, this is TOPLESS PEOPLE SERVING COFFEE.  I had no idea, first of all, that this occurred...and on top of that...HOT COFFEE...SENSITIVE BODY PARTS!!  And my final thought on that is this...does this not change the whole "laid-back, might be a date, might not" dynamic to "let's grab coffee sometime?"  I mean, if you say that in Seattle, do you have to qualify it by being like "but not topless coffee..." Just sayin'.

 This was later into the sunset the same night, right on the docks by Ivar's.  A pretty pastel palette on the stilling waters, with the soft blue outlines of the mountains in the distance.   This is something to look forward to seeing again and again...
This is a place I didn't get to go, but is on my list for next time. It's right down by the ferry, and people SWEAR by the place.  I'm not opposed to more seafood on the Sound.  I'm like a moth, and I'm attracted to neon, hence the many many neon pictures in this post. :D

Seattle has a really pretty skyline, especially when you're coming in from the ferry.  They even have a ferris wheel like Chicago does on Navy Pier.  Ours is more giant, and has better views, but this is a passable one. :P

You know the whole moth thing I mentioned just a little bit ago?  I also enjoy lame jokes/plays on words.  Hence.

This is Pike's Market.  It was on my list of places to get to, especially since I'd been told there was absolutely nothing like the flower market, and I ADORE flowers. If I had the money, I think I'd always have fresh flowers in my place, year round.  Anyway, due to the wonderful, laid-back dinner at Anthony's, we got to the market after it closed, which I guess was around 7.  I still got to peek around a little, which was fun. 

I'm pretty sure Seattle has a thing for neon, too.

This is something else I want to see at Pike's...during the day this is full of fishmongers tossing fish around all willy-nilly.  I worked in a seafood department once, and had seen a motivational video when I was still working in an office about this place. I thought it'd be neat to see the market at full bore with everyone throwing flounders around.   So I'll add that to the reasons why I need to visit Seattle again soon.  Apparently, the wall of gum is a must see as well.  I don't know how I feel about that.

I don't have an explanation for this other than that I like to take pictures, and I wanted to goof off with the lines and the contrast. So...hey! Pike's Market's women's room wall!

And since I didn't know where to put this earlier...this is what I left in Seattle for Patty- her going away present. This is all hand made by yours truly. I wanted to give her some kind of piece of Chicago so she wouldn't get homesick.  Here's a pro tip: If you draw IL, first of all, it's harder to draw than you'd think, and second of all, if you draw it on the reverse side of your glittery paper, it'll come out as backwards IL, and since you're a procrastinator and it's already late (y'know, theoretically. I wouldn't know anything about this), you'll be really mad that you have a glittery BACKWARDS IL.  Just sayin'.

The outside of the frame is a bunch of different Chicago-y things.  Blue Men, DA CUBS, DA BEARS...da sox...The Trib...all kinds of things.  I had a lot of fun doing this, and I think it'd be fun to do again. Not that I want any more friends moving so far away...but I am glad to say...I have 3 fantastic reasons to go back to Washington if the national parks, Puget Sound and Seattle itself weren't reason enough...and probably one more reason, since I really feel like through the trip, I gained a new friend in Tim.  

It was a fantastic trip, and I really do hope to come out and see everyone all over again, and do some more exploring.  If you ever thought about going to WA...I really hope this convinces you to check it out.  And if you never have...I hope this convinces you to put it on your list.  That and Idaho, and Montana. 

I love to travel, and I love to explore...and I've loved sharing my stories and pictures too.  This is me at my happiest...travelling, writing, photographizing (making up words...)...and being with the people I love. It's not really possible to do this every day...but I want to find ways to incorporate more things I love into my life every day. And hopefully, some of you will come along for the ride.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cityside- The Washington Files 4!

So I think last we left off, we were touring around the city. I love to explore cities, try new restaurants, shop, explore, take pictures (I know, you're shocked) and see the sights.  And while the city is beautiful, and I'd love to explore it more the next time I'm in WA...this may well have been my favorite part of the day. 

Ben took us to Golden Gardens Beach on Puget Sound. It's beautiful, active,  and the weather couldn't have been more perfect.

These two are two of my favorite people, and they're friends of mine going back to high school.  I was in band with Ben, and met Patty on a field trip when she bought a cello from a guy in Chicago who warned us about the demons outside his front door.  We remained close or got even closer after high school and spent late spring, all summer and into fall around bonfires having barbecues and sharing stories. 

 We're not all in the same town anymore- not even all in the same state, so just getting to see Ben again was great. There's something about being back in the presence of your close friends when it's been a while.  We had a little adventure getting *to* Ben when we got off the ferry, but as soon as I got in the car, I felt a sense of familiarity wash over me, and the city didn't seem so foreign anymore.  I'm really grateful for the kind of friend Ben is. We hadn't seen each other for over a year and we don't always talk too much...but it didn't take any words at all to know the relationship we had was still there.   Patty being there made it even better- just felt like a reunion of sorts. 

The park was perfect- there were a lot of people there but the feel of it was that everybody was just out to have fun.  Ben and I always liked to take long walks together, so it seemed pretty natural to be walking along the shoreline catching up, laughing, inventing strange creatures (I didn't forget about the HC, man.) and laughing. There was a light breeze, the sun was nice and warm, and you could make out the outline of the  mountains from the shore. 

So this isn't my best shot by a long shot...but I think it sums up how the day was going.  And anyway, when you're with your friends, it's not so much about how ridiculous you look.  The thing that struck me about this is how happy we both looked.  We were on the shoreline hunting crabs when I took this. 

 Shortly after this, we got in touch with someone else who's really special to me, the fabulous Ms. Wing.   She's a friend of mine I met through other friends, including Patty, and who became very important to me.  She's creative, wise, funny, and warm.  I was nervous to finally get to meet her in person, and when she got out of the car and hugged, I knew the friendship we'd forged over forums and letters and emails was just as strong as I'd thought.    She met us at Anthony's HomePort Shilshole Bay, which is a wonderful seafood restaurant that sits right on the Sound.  Ben came along, and fit right in.   We had cocktails, laughed and talked for way too long before we even opened the menus, and watched some people learning to paddleboard past where we were sitting on the balcony. It was a gorgeous night.

Seafood when you're right on the ocean was something I wasn't going to pass up, and I wasn't disappointed. I had a seafood alfredo with scallops, prawns, shrimp and was amazing.   But honestly? The conversation, the wind in our hair (though it got cold) and the friendships evident all across the table were the absolute best part.

Towards the end of the meal, the sun started to set behind our table, and it was amazing.

I couldn't have thought of a single place I'd rather be than where I was that day, and it wouldn't have been nearly as amazing were it not for the company. It wasn't the end of the trip, either, but it could have been, and I'd still have been one happy camper. 

You don't always think about how much difference your friends make, but this day it was pretty clear, and pretty easy to just feel it.  So to Wing, and Ben, and Patty...

You made my day.  Your friendship is so, SO important to me, and I'm so glad we got this day to enjoy it. I hope there's many more like it. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The time warp! The Washington Files Part...3?

When last we left off, our intrepid travellers had journeyed their last road, eaten their last gas station sandwich, and panicked about rolling backwards down their last hill.  The author had written her last incoherent runon sentence. (Ok, who am I kidding? I'll probably do that again, and soon!)

There's a bit of a wrinkle in time between the end of the last story and the beginning of this one.  This is because when we arrived, there was a whole day of moving trucks, allergies, restaurants in which at least 2 people were falling asleep at any one time (restaurants with excellent pie, though) and....hotel rooms with Bones and me and Patty.  Good times.  Except the allergies and stuff.  

It was Saturday I had really been looking forward to, because it was my first pure vacation day.   We were headed to Seattle, and not only that, we were about to meet up with two old friends, Ben and the fabulous Winger.  Fair warning: I may split Seattle into two posts....because there were two very separate reasons it was as amazing as it was.

Patty and I got dropped off at the ferry station (port? sea...hut?) and prepared for our first trip across Puget Sound.  It was actually kind of overcast and dreary when we got there.  It reminded me vaguely of The Ring.

These birds? not harbingers. So we dodged a bullet there, I guess.  As an aside, anybody know what type of fine feathered non harbinger friends these are? I'm curious. 

It's strange how foreign things can seem.  The ferry is probably (and somewhat embarassingly) the biggest boat I've ever been on.  I like the way the passenger section is set up. There's good places for you if you're alone or with a group, and there's tables, arcade games, and concessions. There's also window spots and spots on the open deck, if you're a natural born gawker like I am. 

Patty's happy this is significantly less creepy than the El. 

Anyway...the clouds seemed to go on their way pretty quickly, and we got a great view across Puget Sound.  Mountains a vague blue in the distance, sparkling blue waters, and the thick pine forest, busy bridges, and homes scattered along the shorelines.  

It's not too long a trip, not too expensive.  It was a good time to just relax, enjoy the ride, and see the sights. I keep wondering what makes a sound a sound...I'm not terribly familiar with sounds as opposed to islands or isthmuses or peninsulas, etc.  Must be a Washington thing. ;)

Seattle came into view fairly quickly, and from further out, it looked quite a bit smaller than it turned out to be.  We disembarked our fair ferry and attempted to meet up with Ben.  This was easier said than done. One thing I will say about Seattle: If you come in on the ferry,and you're trying to get picked up by a's really not set up well for you to be able to do that. I really have to hand it to poor Ben for tolerating tons of circling on a big scary highway just to pick us up.  

I found that Seattle has the type of vibe you tend to expect from it- young, hip, green and smart.  I didn't expect hills whose steepness  I'd only heard existed  in San Francisco.  Ben navigated through like it was his backyard, and he turned out to be an excellent tour guide.  We learned alot about the various neighborhoods, got to drive through a few of them, and had some "local" experiences- I think it was a really nice mix. 

We got in around lunch time, so we headed out to a Mexican place whose claim to fame is having baby sized burritos. 

I can't decide if this is creepy, amusing, disturbing or all of the above.  Maybe all of the above?

After lunch, we explored Ben's place of employ, an incredibly neat bookstore called The Couth Buzzard.  First of all, I never name things well (see: title of this post) and I find this an amazing, memorable name. But more than that, it's homey.  It has the musty book smell, the shelves on wheels that clear for music performances, local photographers displaying their work, and a coffee counter.  More or less a nirvana for the bookish nerds.  We got lost in there for a while, tried some interesting coffee drinks (I tried something called The Stinger, which is espresso, coffee, cayenne, honey...and something else? milk? It hurts a little, but then you flyyyyy), found a few neat card prints by a Seattle artist, and generally meandered the bookshelves. 

I'm glad we know this.

We stopped at a really interesting little space store that's actually a children's educational center too, and we hit a few more landmarks, like the Troll.   

We also got to go to Golden Beach right on Puget Sound. I promise there's more about this tomorrow, but it was a completely gorgeous day- probably high 70s or low low 80s, pure sunshine, wonderful breeze and sparkling water.  This was kind of a theme on this trip. 

We got our toes in the sand, watched sailboats, saw lots of happy dogs playing catch or Frisbee (including one poor German Shepherd who was unhappy to discover he could not, in fact, hold an entire volleyball in his mouth.  He kept trying, but he'd just drop it and whine sadly.) We hunted crabs, sat in the sun, and got a little wistful seeing a cute older couple taking a labored stroll through the park hand in hand. 

We headed out from there and I think, honestly, if the day had ended there I would have been pretty damn content.  But we had much more to do. 

We took another small driving tour and then we met up with the wonderful Wing, who's a friend of mine for at least the last 7 years who I'd known online through other real life friends, and someone who'd been there for me through a lot.  It was exciting to meet her.  We'd told her the neighborhood we were in and she'd suggested a place called Anthony's for dinner. 

It was GORGEOUS.  Right on the water, and we rolled in just as the sun was starting to set over Puget Sound.  The seafood was absolutely fantastic, and I'd had it on my list to get seafood while on the West Coast...I got a seafood alfredo full of the freshest shrimp, prawn, was amazing.  We were there forever, laughing, talking and enjoying the food and company. 

This is the kind of thing that makes me feel overwhelmingly lucky.  Getting to see places like this. Getting to share them with old friends, to laugh and talk and try something new.  To relax...and to get lost in a moment like this.  

Again, I think I'd have been completely happy with the day ending here.  Full tummies, a cocktail, a beautiful sunset, laughter and friends.   I think that's all you can really ask for. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fan-O-Montana! (Kill me for the joke later) Washington Files Part THREE (after brief hiatus)

(Note: Your blogger (moi) had a really intensely *special* week...and made some silly errors...hence the delay in the story.  You may now sit back, relax...and see pictures of things with WORDS!)

This is Honey Badger, aka Fluffy. He was our mascot from the Montana Night Death Drive.  A furball who toughs it through cones, travel, and trucks as if he don't care.  Cuz he don't. He's Honey Badger. He did way better than the humans did on the night death driving.

By morning, and after a great sleep on a giant, fluffy king sized bed. (God Bless the Best Western in Bozeman. Seriously.), my knuckles were less white and my nerves had gone back towards steel from putty.  We were ready to hit the road again.

Tim had gone out to do something earlier that morning and come back to tell me I wouldn't believe what we'd come through and what we'd missed seeing the night before.  I'd had some inkling of the types of passes we'd been going through, but I admit, I really hadn't expected to see this out the hotel's front doors.

There were some wildfires in the area making our view hazy...but there was something great about this moment.  When I was 16, I got my first glimpse of real mountains in the parking lot of a Walmart. While this is NOT the ideal location to see such things, I'll always remember it.  My friend Joe and I, who'd both never been faced with that sort of immensity, gawked from the sidewalk while everyone else went in to shop.

A man in a ten gallon hat (or y'know, perhaps a 2 liter hat?) came out of the store.  Noticing our gawking, he walked over to us and joked "Not from around here, are ya?"

Not much you can do to blend in at that point, so we copped to being Illinoisans who'd never been out of the flatlands enough to see what we were now seeing.  I know he must have been talking to both of us, but the way I remember it, it felt like he was speaking straight to me. He told us too often people that are from CO take the mountains for granted, and don't realize just how awe-inspiring and incredible they are.  He told us not to forget the feeling we had that day, and not to take things like that for granted.

It stuck with me.  It's strange how strangers can impact your lives or impart sudden doses of wisdom, isn't it?
Anyway, that view in Bozeman that morning from the parking lot....reminded me of that.  I wouldn't know for years what it's like to know the faces of the different peaks, or what it was like to curl up inside a kiva carved out of a cliff...but I knew I had something.

This was our third day on the road. I was starting to feel more in charge of Ol' Bumpy, rather than the other way around.

I thought the third day would be the hardest, but it turned out to be the easiest, when all things were considered.

That was in large part due to the AMAZING sights.  I don't have too many pictures from this portion of the trip, since I was doing a lot of driving....but it plays like an HD video in my head still.

All day, we wound through the mountains.  Montana might be sparsely populated, but I find that to be a good thing, because so much of the land is way too amazing to not be preserved.  I think the first four or five hours of our day were all spent weaving through the mountains, alongside sparkling rivers and pine forests.  Just when we thought it couldn't get prettier, the road would open up or we'd be up on a bridge over the Clark Fork River (which we had to have crossed no less than 10 times, I swear) and there'd be absolutely stunning things ahead of us to explore.  I'll never stop loving exploring places like this.  We couldn't get out and run until our legs fell off, but I think the excitement made both of us want to.  I never thought I'd push Montana so high up on the "places I'd like to vacation" list until this particular day.

That was all going to pale in comparison to Idaho though.   Idaho was a little bit scary.  When we'd stopped at a gas station

 (that didn't accept out of state chicks, by the way...since apparently my reading skills had gone out the window by that time...), we'd found out from Patty and her mom that it was going to be an uphill battle, so to speak.    Uphill and full 20 foot moving truck aren't really the BEST combination, dontchaknow.

We did a lot better, nervewise and I think every other way too, without the whole "shroud of darkness" thing going on.  And while we weren't in Idaho was pretty amazing.

We wound up an amazing mountain pass- probably the biggest one we were ever hit, though it was dark through Washington later that night, so I could be wrong...and came down the other side to find C'ouer D'Alene.

I don't know if you'd heard anything about it.   For me, I'd been seeing signs for a while and had been wracking my brain trying to figure out what exactly made the name stick out to me.   It wasn't going to matter once we hit it though.   I wish I had pictures from this part, but if I'd have stopped in Coeur D'Alene or anywhere near it, I think neither of us would ever have gotten back in the car.

Coeur D'Alene kind of pops out of nowhere. You're still in the mountains on the approach, but you've been in the same type of environment for some time by the time you come around that all important corner.  I love the way the road is there.  You can't tell at all what you're about to see.  Then the veil just drops...and you're in what I think could be the prettiest place I've ever seen.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  I think I may honestly have gasped a little bit just out of shock.  I looked for pictures on the internet, but some things just have to be experienced in person.  It's magical, and I don't say that lightly.  You come at it from a pretty decent height, on a bridge.  To your left is a huge, sparkling blue lake. On a sunny day like the one we were's like a sea of diamonds.  The mountains surround it on every side and you can see sailboats and canoes and all sorts of things dotting it.   It's expansive, and dramatic....and the kind of place you immediately want to get lost in.  I remember saying to Tim that he could drop me off there and I'll figure out how to get home.  It wasn't THAT far from my mind.  We both agreed NOT to stop at the exit near there...and I really think it was just because that place has such a draw.   I never wanted to leave.  I remember thinking "This is the kind of place I just want to live in before I die."

I barely remember anything directly after that.  The drive continued to be nice, and very scenic, but that place was hard to erase from our minds.   Idaho being the shape it is, we weren't there for too long.   It did feel kind of amazing to finally cross into Washington.  Aside from Tim being excited about moving in, I felt good about making it that far, and the drive having an end in sight.  Later that night, instead of yet another gas station and more Doritos/beef jerky/gatorade/sandwiches...we stopped for ACTUAL FOOD.

We'd been looking for a Taco Bell (hey, the road does weird things to you) for some time when we found a place with a drive-in.  When we got there, we were kind of done, driving wise. Despite our amazing day of sightseeing, the buttlegs were SEVERE, and the sun had been searing into our eyes since we'd been headed due west for some time at this point.   We took an hour break to get a burger, relax in the car, refuel, and rehydrate.  I can't believe we actually took that long, because both of us were excited for the end of the road...but sometimes, you've been on the road too long to even realize how much rest you need.

When we got back on the road, we were in the flats for a long time.  It started to get dusky, and we both started to get tired. I think the adrenaline had finally worn off.  There were still some thing of note...including the town of George.  (George, Washington...get it?) and Purdy. (Couldn't make it up if I tried).  There were some epic bridges, some winding ascents, and some major bridges.  I was fantasizing about beds, and about not having anywhere to drive the next day. And beds. Majorly majorly beds.

I think we really missed some epic sights just before we got into the Seattle/Bremerton area, and I'm a little sad for that.  It was almost a full moon so you could make out hints of what had to be the biggest mountains I'd seen on the trip, and the ascents were pretty long, though not as steep as some we'd come across.  As per usual, the more you want to get somewhere, the longer it will take you.  When we saw the Seattle sign that said we were 40 miles out, we were so happy. Seemed like no time.  We played some celebratory Nirvana and chattered and generally thought about people or beds. Or not driving.

But we had to go to Bremerton. Somehow after the 40 was 20 to Bremerton. Then it'd be another 8. Another 7.  I swear to you it was some sort of trick and it was actually 100 miles.  We pulled into Bremerton around midnight, and we got lost on the way to the house.  Worse still, when we got lost, we ended up coming around the corner only to face a little ski jump followed by a freaking SLOPE up.  Neither of us were in the mood for this, and I had to gun it to get the momentum just to get up.

After shuffling around in the house and trying to figure out sleeping arrangements, then having to recover my was FINALLY time for bed. Time for bed in Bremerton, man.

And how I got to Washington.

Of course, it didn't end there.   But I needed to snooze then, and I need to snooze now.  Most of all...this is long enough.  I guess I'll catch you on the flip side for more Washington files, then. :P

Beds, man.  They're pretty excellent. (You'll never know this in a more profound way than when you're done with a road trip.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lost Highway- The Washington Files Part 2

On Day 2 of the Epic Washington Move Road Trip, morning broke the way it usually does for me, no matter where I a plate that someone breaks over your head when you least expect it.  I've never been a morning person, and the prospect of another 12 hours of driving, not to mention the task of tag teaming the felines into their bags, gathering up the hotel room, repacking the truck and generally making your way on down the road just makes it that much harder to roll out of bed.

Roll we did though. There was a really nice hot breakfast for free at our hotel, and we had a bit more time that morning to roll out of bed with less problems and more showers and...a little bit less chaos.

North Dakota isn't without its charms.  In fact, one of my favorite teachers- my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Anderson, is from good ol' ND. It did have some picturesque farm fields, pretty little rolled bales of hay, striped fields that looked like patchwork quilts, and even the fields of sunflowers my mom had been telling me to look for.  And even though Illinois has those things...I started to feel far away in the good ways.  There's something inside me that feels freer as the land opens up the way it did.   When you can drive for miles without seeing a building, except maybe a few lean-tos or old farmhouses, most with the sunbleached, tattered roofs and walls- a skeleton from the past.   As much as I couldn't wait for the mountains-I never felt good.

 I must say though, that North Dakota wasn't particularly kind to us on this trip.  Aside from construction that put us down to one lane in either direction for long stretches, which is bad enough, there were the narrow guide walls and the tall orange cones to avoid-which is harder when your truck is lane-sized....times when we had to actually drive on the shoulder (I kept praying we were balanced enough not to flip) and times when it was one lane period.

Somewhere in mid-ND, we encountered a guy driving an electrical van and pulling a trailer who....should never have been on the road in the first place.  The way he fishtailed was insane.  He'd weave between lanes, go off onto the shoulder, over-correct, and then when he pulled back on, his trailer would start this terrifying tippy little dance.  I honestly thought we were going to see the guy go over.  It was pretty scary.  We kept a good distance between us, but eventually watching the dance was getting to be too much, especially when other drivers would approach him-we cringed every time, hoping they'd get clear of him before the next time he'd cross the white line or drive on the shoulder.  We called the police on him, and at one point, we thought we saw a car pacing him, but nothing came of it.   I had to pass him, and I don't know that my heart has ever pounded that hard while driving.  I knew the guy could veer over any minute, and it seemed like it was taking forever just to get by.  If Tim hadn't been trying to talk me through it, I would NEVER have been able to make it.

After lunch that day, or shortly before (these things all run together) Tim took the wheel.  North Dakota was going to be ending soon, and we'd finally be in Montana.  Since Bozeman was our stop that night...this was going to be cause for celebration.

Something I never knew about North Dakota?  The far western portion of it is AMAZING.   It opens up into badlands.  It reminded me so much of THE Badlands in South Dakota that I loved so much when we went as kids.  I had no idea there was more than one badlands area.   My heart always jumps when the terrain starts changing, and the dirt starts going red- it's all reminders of where I always felt like I belonged.

I was loving it- watching the small canyons turn bigger, the red dirt mix with white rock, and the bands of color and dancing light.

I didn't know what to expect for a lot of this trip.  I haven't really been to North Dakota before, nor Idaho, or much of Montana...this was the first time, at least in my eyes, we were hitting paydirt...the first time that the scenery started to really take your breath away.  It was the first time we climbed, and the first time we were on roads that cut through canyons and wound like the rivers.  Watching Tim experience it for the first time I remembered how I felt....boxed in by something so much bigger than you could really put a finger on without being there....small...sometimes scared by how big it all was.  In the truck, that feeling was magnified.  Ol' Bumpy being what he was is not the most nimble of things, and on the ups, gravity really isn't on your side.  Without a good foot to the gas, there was always the chance you'd be pulled down a hill instead of going up it.

There was something neat about experiencing someone else having their first time in the mountains...I think it's the closest you'll ever get to feeling it again, but without the uncertainty that you had when it was actually you.  I tried to balance my need to take pictures of everything with helping my fellow trucker as much as I could.   I gotta say, it's hard to tear your eyes away from things like this sometimes though.

These are the places I always want to run away to.   Along the river there.  Just forget about the road, the truck...where you're going....and run out into the wild and explore.  Follow the river around the bend, step onto the tops of mesas, peer into the valleys....stay.   My friend Lewis was biking through Idaho/Washington around this time, and I saw a picture he took of his campsite along the river in of these days I'll have to follow that pull and take off under the blue skies, walk out on the horizon, and sleep by the rivers.  This goes on my list of thing I absolutely MUST do in my life.

We finally crossed into Montana, and decided to switch drivers.  Took a much needed break in the little welcome center, where I ran across this:

We didn't get to do those things....we had places to be, y'see.  But...I'd definitely lost my interest in sitting on a couch.   Just as soon as the land opened up like that, so did I, and all I wanted to do was explore. 

The rest of that day passed without much incident.  We headed into Montana.  I knew Montana would be quite desolate from my trip through there with my parents, and I remembered right. 

Montana is unique in that you can travel for hours without ever seeing anyone else.  As an aside? A lot of weird names for towns there.  Home on the Range, Cracker Box, Diamond Ring...

The desolate nature of the place was good for thinking, for sightseeing, and for relaxing...until it got dark. 

One thing that you don't realize when you live in the suburbs is how dark dark can be. I learned this living in New Mexico, but I've been back long enough so that when we were plunged into it...I wasn't ready. I don't think Tim was either.  The pair of us spent most of that night white knuckling our way through mountain passes, with our headlights the only light sometimes.   Tim would call out which way the road would curve ahead, so I could concentrate on the two lonely beams of light in front of me.   It's at this point I realized how great a team we were becoming.   Tim was just as scared as I was some of that night- worrying about elk, how Ol' Bumpy would handle steep grades, since they were the first we'd encountered on the trip, which way the road was going...and how much higher we'd be climbing.  I can't say I enjoyed that trip through the darkness, but I can say it really cemented the partnership, and made it clear that 2 were so, so much better than one for things like this.   

I still remember Tim asking me during a rather tense set of switchbacks if I needed quiet to concentrate or if he should talk to me.  I honestly wasn't sure I knew, but then I realized the silence was making me more tense.  So I said "No, talk to me."

About two minutes later- I'd assume this was the time it takes a stressed out brain to think of something...out of the darkness beside me I hear....

"I like Batman."

Though I didn't have the capacity to chuckle at that point, I remember it switching my brain out of panic mode.   It took me a good minute or two to respond....but soon we were talking about the Nolan trilogy, the comics...and even doing Christian Bale impressions.

It took us HOURS longer than it took Patty and her mom to get to the hotel in Bozeman, and even with the Batman conversation, we'd reached the end of our ropes, stress-wise.  Looking back...I think it was kind of neat that we did that. I know I felt like I accomplished something...I know I felt like we conquered the worst of driving conditions, and could probably  handle anything...and we knew that even if the road was like that the next day, we'd at least have the sun to guide us. 

Still, pulling into that hotel was one of the biggest sighs of relief I've sighed in quite a while.  After a quick shower, a stroll to shake off the nerves, yet another gas station sandwich, due to the late hour....and some pepsi...we turned in, having earned ourselves the title of Road Warriors

Thus ended Day 2.  Join me for the third installment tomorrow. Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel.