Monthly Archives: July 2013

Vacation, Day 16

I wrote a letter to Michigan (and that lying Tim Allen) for Day 16. Technically it was written the morning of Day 16, on our sojourn to find breakfast. The morning of Day 16 was a rough one. The bugs were out again, so we broke down our campsite in RECORD time. We’re talking, I think from getting out of the tent, to leaving, it was about 15 minutes. That’s moving. I still got 2 more bug bites though. Bastards.

We were supposed to see Pictured Rocks this morning but a lot of things conspired against us. This includes but is not limited to: Finding breakfast, Lake Superior, itchiness, frustration at having to take a 2.5 hour boat tour we didn’t want to take, things being in Canada. That’s just to name a few.  After the 3rd breakfast place we tried was closed, we got the hell out of there. To hell with Pictured Rocks.

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Luckily, that wasn’t all Michigan had to offer. We also wanted to (and a Michigander in Montana told us this was an absolute must for the fudge alone. There’s fudge there, too?) go to Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw, which they’ll remind you of, many times). Mackinac made up for a lot of what the U.P. lacked. We took a boat to the Island, and then took a tour of the Island by a horse drawn carriage. There are no cars allowed on the island so there is a HUGE biking community and others ride horses. The thing about this city though is, it’s like Charleston, SC or Savannah, but in Michigan. The houses are amazing! The fudge wasn’t bad either.

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My favorite of the houses on the Island

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One of our noble steeds

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A view of the historic fudge shop, and the plethora of bikes!

After Mackinac we got back on the road and made it to Youngstown, OH (right by Lima. Don’t think that was lost on me. I looked for hotels in Lima Heights Adjacent but couldn’t find anything). It was another game of calling around. I swear, I realize it’s summer/holiday weekend, but in the middle of freaking Ohio? How are hotels full? It doesn’t make any sense. Either way, Best Western saved us again. Not our best hotel but after a few showerless days again, and hours on an island, we weren’t at our best either.

The good thing is that we’re only 5 hours from home! Yey for us!! It’s starting to seem exciting to be back, I can’t deny it.

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Vacation, Day 15

We had high hopes for Day 15. We were driving to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We’d heard really cool things and Pictured Rocks sounded like a place right up your alley. So we headed that way, a 10 or so hour drive (again) and let me tell you, you’d think that since the road kind of goes along Lake Superior, that you’d be looking out at Lake Superior for much of your drive. Well don’t get your hopes up. You’ll see about 5 miles worth? Maybe? I feel like I’m being generous. Plus you have to drive slow, plus there are motorcyclists everywhere and you’re thinking, “why are you here? It’s so windy!”

We thought we found a campsite and technically we did. Except that we looked up one campsite and called another accidentally, and then the one we called wouldn’t answer the phone. Luckily we were able to figure out the problem relatively quickly, but adding an extra 30 minutes in the car was the LAST thing we wanted. When we got to the campsite, it was nice except for the swarms of mosquitoes.

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Michigan, Brought to you by OFF!

Yes, swarms. They were everywhere. Evil bloodsucking bastards. To add insult to injury it was also really humid, so being in long sleeves and pants and socks was just super great. And the covering yourself in sticky, gross smelling bug spray, totally even more awesome. Said no one, ever. EVER.

Oh, one bonus about Michigan though, and unfortunately I didn’t take advantage of it, but they still have Bob’s Big Boy! I know. It’s shocking really. I regret not getting the double decker.

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Vacation, Day 14

It’s really awesome how it’s worked out that super long days of driving, have usually rewarded us with something fun the following day (except for you, day 2). In any case, Day 14 was spent in Vergas, as I mentioned, with Zack and my Aunts husband, Mak. It was also 4th of July so I felt like you knew it had to be a good day. Zack and I had plans to rise early, get out our kayaks maybe, anything was possible. Then we accidentally slept until 11:30 (strike one) and Mak made us a super amazing potato/egg/amazingness (strike 2 and 3) that assured us that sitting around and being lazy out in the sunshine on a perfect afternoon, was exactly what needed to be done on day 14. We took a golf cart tour of town and got to view all of Mak and Judy’s property. They have this great barn, and a stage for their annual “Hillbilly Hoedown”. Mak collects Vergas antiques and has all sorts of cool things around his house. It’s really cool.

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Inside the Barn

 

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My Aunt and Uncles property (part of it)

 

We did get up enough energy to make it out to the fireworks in neighboring Detroit Lakes and once again were treated to a great fireworks show. There were different people having shows all over the lake, so you could see them all over, just about everywhere you looked. That’s always a nice feature when you’re out to watch fireworks. It was definitely a popular spot and we probably should’ve got there way earlier, but we’re experienced with traffic around places and really, this  was nothing comparatively. We stayed for about an hour and then headed back, since we had to be back on the road in the morning.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the best part about Judy and Maks house, by the by. While we were sitting out drinking some coffee I spotted some orange bird. Yeah, orioles baby. All over the place. It was amazing! I’ve only seen one in real life (and regularly in the summers on the ballfield, obviously). And because it was so close our camera was quasi able to catch them! They’re small but they’re there. I promise.

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Oh also, I wanted to mention that I did end up getting both dogs to sit in my lap by the end of the night, Judy! They secretly love me it just takes a day or two to show it.

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Vacation, Day 12

So not to confuse anyone, I just posted “day 12” but it was actually Day 13. I saved my file incorrectly! Whoops! So anyway, this is Day 12, and Day 13 is re-labelled and cool.

I would hardly call Day 12 a drab of a day! Day 12 was full of immersing ourselves in Bozeman (and the surrounding area)! In the morning we went to the National Museum of the Rockies.

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I’m not sure what pictures I can post because there were weird signs about being able to take pictures, so I’m not entirely sure what I can post or not. Either way, it’s a cool little spot. My favorite/least favorite part was this planetarium show we watched. It was pretty cool, which was my favorite, but at some points the jumps they’d do from star to star moved so fast it was making me sick. By the end of the show it was just hard to watch. They also had a dinosaur exhibit and a Yellowstone exhibit. What was cool about the dinosaur exhibit was that as many fossils as there were, they all came from Montana. Pretty cool. The museum is affiliated with the Smithsonian and a lot of the work is done here for exhibits there. As a DC girl very familiar with the Smithsonian and all the awesome museums, this was a nice little slice of home.

I know I said my favorite part was the planetarium, but there was actually something else that was really my favorite. See, I had to go to the bathroom while we were there and when I walked in, I saw one large stall. Then I went in and bam, TWO TOILETS!

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I guess some people think women really do go to the bathroom together!

For the afternoon we went back to the house to do a little managing of our truck/living space/things (because things tend to look less than tidy after spending 9 days in a car). It needed to be done so it was. But, the lameness was acceptable because the evening would be fun FILLED. We hit up dinner in Livingston at this pizza shop called Gills which was really good. We were in Livingston for the beginning of the Livingston Rodeo.

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Here’s a little video of the bull riding that was the finale event:

It was pretty amazing. I’d wanted to do it while we were out here but I was somewhat terrified I’d see someone break their back or see a bone sticking through skin… god forbid someone getting gored. Ugh! Luckily, none of those things happened and no animals were harmed. It was so fun. It was also their “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night so there were breast cancer supporters everywhere! Nothing like having fun and supporting a cause all at the same time!

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And speaking of people being tough enough to wear pink, my favorite part were actually these girls that did like, gymnastics tricks on horses. It was kind of amazing. I took a little montage of videos because they were so close that getting a picture at the speeds they were travelling, was near impossible.

There was also an epic amount of people watching.  We were sitting by this bad step and rather tell anyone (even the guy holding the baby) to watch the step, we just watched. It sounds bad but really it wasn’t. The baby wasn’t injured, and no sno-cones were spilled.

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Vacation, Day 13

This day probably isn’t really worthy of a whole post because it was again, a lot of driving. 14 hours or so. It wasn’t as easy going as our first 14 hour day of driving but it wasn’t the worst. We drove from Bozeman, MT to Vergas, MN. That’s about a 12 hour trip but we took a little 2 hour detour to check out the Enchanted Highway. It’s definitely worth the detour though. Of all the weird places I’ve made Zack stop on this trip I think this was his and my favorite. The Enchanted Highway is basically a very large art project along the way. Giant scrap metal statues line the “highway” which is basically a two lane road. It’s so cool though and a good little distraction.

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Zack and I at “Fisherman’s Dream”

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My favorite – “Pheasants on the Prairie”

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“Deer Crossing”

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“Teddy Rides Again”

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“The Tin Family”

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“Geese in Flight”

Other than that, there’s really nothing going on driving through eastern Montana and the entirety of North Dakota. But if you have to drive through North Dakota, it’s not the worst. It does this weird things in the road which I believe is to prevent too many people from falling asleep at the wheel, where they add these wee bumps to the road which, if you’re prone to sea sicknes or car sickness, is not the greatest thing. I thought I was going to get a little sick and I’m not sea or car sick, normally. Still though, North Dakota, not as bad as southern Minnesota and Wisconsin!

And the really exciting thing is that now we’re in Vergas hanging out with my Uncle Mak. Missing my Aunt Judy (but we’re having fun at your house, so thanks! It’s beautiful here, and one of your dogs is starting to like me).

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Vacation, Day 11

Today was a day of firsts for me, and very well could’ve been the best day of vacation. For our first day in Bozeman, our friend Zach (not to be confused with my husband Zack) took us on a float trip on his boat, which is kind of like a large row boat. Luckily, friend Zach rowed the whole time so that Zack and I could fish the whole way. We put in a town called Carbala and went down down the Yellowstone River for about 13 miles. We went fly fishing with flies that friend Zach makes himself. It was so cool. Even just being on the water itself was wonderful.

The fishing was great too, and I personally caught the biggest fish, a Rainbow Trout. Unfortunately, it was dropped by my husband, now known as “Fish Dropper Zack”. We caught about 10 fish total, but we released them all (you’re welcome, nature). We had way more than that, that we almost caught but those things are slick and make it a little difficult to catch. Exhibit A:

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Fish Dropper Kelly

Zack is a little better…

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Fish Dropper Zack (but only my fish)

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Regular Zach

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A beautiful day on the water

It was so much fun though and definitely a pretty popular activity around Bozeman based on the amount of fly shops!

That evening we went out to Ale Works for dinner with Zach and his wife Heather which was quite welcome after a day on the water. After that we were just about done for the day though. Something about being on the water, as relaxing as it is, knocks the “awake” right out of you. I think my head hit the pillow after I fell asleep! I think that’s a sign of a great day!

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Vacation, Day 10 with Pictures!

Today was our last day in Yellowstone and it was bittersweet. We didn’t see any bears but we did get to see a baby elk, and a lot of the other sites around Yellowstone like the geysers (besides Old Faithful), so it turned out to be a really good day. And the weather was perfect which made it a little hard to want to leave. If nothing else, I know it makes me want to come back! I guess it’s always good to leave more to see.

Since it is our last day, and I haven’t posted any pictures since we started entering state parks, I thought I’d post a few for you to check out as we make our way out of our last National Park. Well, of Yellowstone. Not the rest of the parks. You can get those later 🙂

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As for what we actually did on Day 10, it was mostly just driving around to some of the spots we’d wanted to spend more time at. Most notably the geysers and springs! They’re so cool and the colors in some are just majestic, to say the least. Check out this video of Firehole Spring!

This is an area called Artists Paint Pots and it’s called that because the springs range in colors all over yellowstone. You may’ve seen that one that was mostly brown and orange, and obviously this one is a brilliant blue, but I read that sometimes you can see greens, purples and some bright reds and oranges! It’s so cool. It’s all based on the pH level of the water. There’s a chart to show you the colors the water will turned based on how strong the acidity in the water is. Ranging from tomato acidity to like, battery acid. It’s pretty crazy and a great little way to sneak in some learning on our vacation! National Parks are always good for that 🙂

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Vacation, Day 9 – Kayak Time!

So it took us 9 days but we finally got in the water. You might say the second half of our trip is the kayak part of our trip. Or at least, the water filled part. Today we kayaked around Lake Yellowstone and it was majestic to say the least. We kayaked the West Thumb Basin on Lake Yellowstone, which is this area on the map, below. The first arrow is where we put in and the second arrow is where we kayaked to (and then paddled back to arrow 1).

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As you may not know, the West Thumb Basin is an area of geysers in Yellowstone. It’s the last of the kind of group of geysers around Yellowstone, beginning with the… well, I guess starting up by the Mammoth Hot Springs and going down towards the West Thumb Basin. It’s hard to say because there are areas of geysers/springs all over Yellowstone, but this part of Lake Yellowstone is the same!

It’s really amazing and I love being able to say we did that on our kayaks. It was so peaceful too. The whole time we were out we only saw 5 other kayaks and this lake is enormous so it was nice to really feel like the only one on the water.

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This is one of the few times where I feel like the pictures convey the peacefulness of being out on the water. It was just so calm and such crystal clear water that it was really amazing. I say that, until this giant GIANT storm cloud started brewing when we had just started our return trip.

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This picture isn’t even the worst of it. It looked so much worse and so much darker from our boats. Not to mention, the rangers had told us when we got our permits to watch for storms because while they don’t come often, they come very quickly! That’s the biggest thing that had me worried.

We paddled like our live depended on it (or at least I did, as I felt like I should) but when we made it back to shore it turned out we’d still had at least another 45 minutes before the rain. It was good that we got out when we did though because then we had time to recover from all that hard paddling, and still get the kayaks back on top of the truck.

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That afternoon we did a little more animal searching but to no avail unfortunately. We did see a lot more elk including a huge male off in the distance, but no new animals today. We also started to do al the Non-Old-Faithful geysers, but it was raining and the pictures would’ve been really bad so we decided that would be a Day 10 thing. You can see pictures of some of the geysers and baby elks, here.

The good thing about the rain today was mostly just that it was the only rain we even experienced in the park! We really hadn’t seen any heavy rain since we’d left the Wisconsin (we saw a huge storm in Custer but it never rained). With all the camping we did it’s a miracle we didn’t hit more rain. Especially with it being their spring season.

But anyway, with the rain slowing down and clearly gone off to the west, we decided to head out west to our next campground, Rainbow Point. It’s a great campsite and I really loved West Yellowstone. I was almost mad we hadn’t been staying there the whole time. It’s much more of a “town” than East Yellowstone. Don’t get me wrong, I like solitude and all that, but only having to drive 20 minutes to a Yellowstone “sight” instead of 70, was really nice. And Rainbow Point is right on the Higben Lake (I think, something like that) so it was nice to still be on the water!

Tomorrow is our last day in Yellowstone and then we head up to Bozeman. It should be exciting!

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Vacation, Day 8

Today was our first FULL day in Yellowstone and we didn’t even know where to start. Which resulted in a LOT of driving. Perhaps we should’ve planned things out a touch more but I was trying to be spontaneous. I should know, we don’t do spontaneous well!

The thing we knew we wanted to do most of all was to get up as early as we could to go try to catch some animals in their morning routines. I’ve heard it’s one of the better times to catch wildlife. We went in through the Northeast Gate of Yellowstone into the Lamar Valley. We also took one of the back roads called the Blacktail Plateau Drive. Unfortunately, that whole “get up early” thing, it doesn’t seem to be the case for us. Maybe we just weren’t early enough. who knows. We were early though.

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As in, the sun was rising.

 

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We saw heards of buffalo and deer

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Baby Boofs

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A petrified tree, which was more like a petrified stump, but I guess it’s important for something.

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And this squirrel who hung out with us while we were stopped on the Blacktail Plateau trying to find some bears.

 

 

Nothing we hadn’t seen before, really (yes, we apparently became jaded that easily! How does that happen?). We decided that since the animal viewing wasn’t going so well we’d take in some more of the sights. We went to some of the geological features Yellowstone is known for (the Mud Volcano and Sulfur Cauldron).

We didn’t realize we’d do some animal viewing while checking out the volcanic sites, too. Apparently not only are tourists fans, but so are the boofs. Zack and I just decided that buffalo are very full of themselves and like to pose for photo ops at all the picturesque locations.

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We then tried to scope out a few of the smaller lakes, and the Lewis Falls area to look for areas to kayak. Lewis Falls was beautiful but definitely not a great area to put in if you don’t feel like having an all day paddle.

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Our attempt to do some kayaking was foiled by some cooler issues, some “where should we kayak” issues and some “I’m hungry and I want to get out of the car” issues. So, we packed up and headed back to our campsite. We didn’t realize the night before that there’s a little beach there so we checked that out and Zack, as he is want to do, decided to look for some rocks along the banks. As I was stolling up the beach I could hear the excitement in Zacks voice that he’d found something. I turned around and he was holding up a geod that had broken open. It completely changed our “nothing is going right with this day” mood, so it was a welcome part of the evening!

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We also did something we’ve never done while camping. We made spaghetti! Usually we just bring dried foods or buy some hot dogs. We have done steaks on the grill camping too so I don’t know why I thought spaghetti would be even remotely difficult. We had all the equipment we needed (car camping is a beautiful thing), so I figured why not give it a shot. It turned out perfectly! It was a super easy one pot meal and it had probably 10’s of percent less sodium than the dried food, so we both liked that.

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Tomorrow we’re going to attempt to kayak and maybe fish. We’ll see what the day has in store but I know it’s going to be another beautiful day!

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Vacation, Day 7

It’s a day less than halfway through our trip, and it was our first day in Yellowstone! We arrived to our campsite around 2:30, but just on the way there we had already seen some elk and buffalo. If I thought the buffalo were everywhere in Custer, it was nothing compared to Yellowstone. Not a bad thing. Now, the distance of our campsite to Yellowstone? Well, I don’t want to be negative, but lets just say it’s not the closest one to the park. The website said 20 minutes from the East Yellowstone entrance, but it’s a solid 70 to any of the things you go to Yellowstone to look at.

What it felt like…

Despite how far we were from the Park we decided to venture back in and knock Old Faithful out of the way right off the bat. We knew it went off regularly but figured since we didn’t actually know when it was supposed to go off, we’d just get there and see what happened. Well, within 5 minutes of getting there, it went off! It was great because it was later in the day (I think we caught the 7:30ish eruption) so it wasn’t as crowded as it can be in the summer. We then went to find some food and when we finished we decided to just run back over to the geyser and see if maybe we could catch it going off one more time. Sure enough, within about 10 minutes, there it went again! Talk about luck!

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And to top off the whole night, on the drive back to our campsite, which was a long one, we spotted 2 foxes looking for food in this meadow! It was adorable. I could’ve watched it for hours!

Seriously, hours. it was almost 10pm though and we had 2 hours to get back to our campsite (yes, you read that correctly). As could’ve been predicted by anyone that knows me, I fell asleep on the way back while my noble driver headed onward, back to the campsite.

The great thing about the campsite is that it’s right next to a rushing river so it almost sounds like the ocean when we’re in our tent. Just makes me think of all the other vacations I want to take this summer.

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