Friday, July 23, 2010

We're Back!

After a long pause, the journal continues...

Upon arriving back at home in early June of 2009, the Westy needed a break. She sat resting her tired axles from June until March of this year when Cricker performed a much appreciated motor swap. With a new power plant, on Tuesday, July 13 she was taken in a whirlwind road trip to Corolla, North Carolina.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Catching Up, Again...

Alright, so finally an update! The past week has been quite eventful and we’ve covered a lot of country. I have been having too much fun to sit down and write lately, but now we are east bound on I-40 so I have no excuse not to catch this up. Here it goes….
The Ride from Idaho to Yakima
Monday morning we got up early and started driving. We never even got out of the bus before hitting the road, as we were trying to get to Yakima as fast as possible to hang out with Andy. Cricker drove while I packed up the sleeping bags and moved everything back in place behind the back seat. The drive out of Idaho and into eastern Washington was very enjoyable and there was a noticeable change in scenery. The landscape changed from hilly with lush vegetation to a more arid climate. There were vineyards and orchards all around us and it reminded me a lot of central California. I also began to notice huge fields of hops. The hops are grown using a network of elevated cables and grow vertically along strings. (90% of the world’s hops are grown in the Yakima Valley so they were everywhere!)
We rolled into Yakima about noon and found Andy at his place. He gave us a tour of the house and then we went down the street to his favorite taco truck on the corner. We ordered tacos and some interesting taco sandwich thing (Sorry Andy I forget what you called it). The place was a bit greasy and I got a kick out of the “indoor eating area” which was basically an old school bus on blocks. The tacos were great and the sandwich thing was very filling. (This was our first taste of west coast Mexican food, and we have eaten it almost daily for the past week!) After lunch we were taken on a whirlwind tour of Yakima and we drove out the interstate to where he works and he showed us around the shop. We spent the rest of the evening getting dinner and hanging out at a local coffee shop and uploading pictures to the trip album. Our next destination was about three hours away in Tacoma, Washington so we decided to camp in Andy’s driveway for the night and headed out the next morning.
We got on the road about mid morning and headed west on highway 12 towards Tacoma. The drive across White Pass was beautiful and as we headed up the mountain it began to snow on us. The snow and fog was so dense we never got to see Mt. Rainier. We called my cousin Levi, who is stationed at Ft. Lewis and he said he would meet us at REI in Tacoma. We met up there and spent about three hours checking the store out and I spent way too much money! (I picked up a first aid kit though, which I felt was an essential buy!) He took us to his favorite BBQ spot there, a place called Famous Dave’s. It wasn’t Carolina BBQ, but it was delicious nonetheless. Somehow he managed to pay for dinner (Thanks Again!) and then he took us on the base to show us his barracks and introduce us to some of his compadres. We hung out there for an hour or two and tried on some of their combat gear, which was way to freakin heavy to be running around God Knows Where in! Kudos to you guys though….I can see how you stay in shape. I got a quick shower while we were there, courtesy of Uncle Sam and we headed back to the bus. We snapped a few pictures first with Levi though, and got “pulled over” by a parking lot security guard with a headlamp for “suspicious activity.” Haha so we had a good laugh and were back on I-5 headed toward Portland. We drove until we were about 45 minutes from the Oregon border and then called it a night. We caught a few hours sleep at a rest stop and then were back on the road.

The ride to Oregon and down the coast on 101
We stayed on I-5 through Portland and then picked up highway 18 which took us over to the coast and put us on 101 south. The drive along the Oregon Coast was something I had always wanted to do and it fully lived up to my expectations. The highway runs right along the coast for the most part and rolls gently up the mountains and down to the beaches. The coast line there is different from anything I had seen before, with the mountains being right on the shore and the cliffs dropping into the ocean. The water itself is deep blue, it’s hard to give the whole scene an accurate depiction but the pictures turned out pretty well.
The drive through the redwoods and down the coast
We drove all day Wednesday and made it across the border into California. We wanted to camp in the Redwoods but it was after dark when we finally got there and we couldn’t seem to locate the campground so we continued down the coast to Crescent City, where we posted up in the Walmart parking lot for a few hours.
Thursday we woke up before nine and were on the road quickly. Within an hour we found ourselves in a grove of redwoods that we couldn’t even see the tops of unless we leaned out the window! It was an awesome sight. We took several photo opportunities in the redwoods and had fun getting some unique pictures in the big trees. We stopped in Leggett, California because there were signs up for a tree that could be driven through. They charge five bucks to go through it and we were smack out of cash so we tore the bus apart for change and had just enough to pay without using pennies! The lady taking our money had a good laugh at us. The tree itself was huge but the bus was a little too big to fit through the hole, so we took the box off the top and convinced some bystanders to get in and weigh the shocks down so it would squeeze through. The top still scraped but we made it with me hanging on the front bumper and a few passengers! We made some really cool pictures there and a guy with a Polaroid camera took our picture and gave us the prints. We cruised on down the coast and were trying to make it across the Golden Gate bridge before sunset, but the sun went down and the fog rolled in the bay before we made it. When we finally got there and crossed the bridge, we found out they charge six dollars toll. Neither one of us had a single dollar on us so we asked the toll collector what we should do. She told us since we had out of state plates she would just wave us on, so that was a nice break!
Santa Cruz with Brady
We finally made it to Santa Cruz about 11 pm and met our cousin Brady on the campus of UC Santa Cruz where he goes to school. He was working late on a lab so we snagged the key to his house and crossed town to get some shut eye. We found his place and passed out pretty much right away, he didn’t even wake us up when he got home later.
This catches the trip up to Thursday night. We spent the next several days in California and finally left about 4pm on Tuesday. We are currently about 100 miles from the New Mexico Border on I-40 heading east. The bus is running well, just hemorrhaging a substantial amount of oil now. We are taking it easy, not doing much above 60 mph, so we aren’t sure at what point we will make it back to Franklin County. I apologize again for the long delay in posting and I promise I’ll get it all caught up before tomorrow! Thanks for tuning in!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Yellowstone and the days thereafter

The Paragraph about Yellowstone
After coming in the Northeast Entrance, we traveled along the park road to the Mammoth Hot Springs Junction. This route provided us with sights of bison as well as a Yellowstone wolf. The scenery was gorgeous, with snowcapped peaks on either side of us as we drove along. The mountain streams that ran along the road were at full capacity and turned and roiled over the rocks and waterfalls. We crossed the Yellowstone River just before we arrived in Mammoth on a bridge hundreds of feet above a steep gorge. We drove through the small village there and parked the bus at the Upper Terrace. Hiking around the side of the mountain there was a lot of fun and we were able to photograph several of the geologic oddities in the area. In some places the springs created large mounds as they deposited the dissolved minerals on the surface and other places, large elevated terraces were formed which held large pools of steaming water. These pools were particularly beautiful because they are home to bacteria which thrive in the scalding temperatures and color the pools in hues of blue, green, yellow and brown. I loved looking across the pools and seeing the snowy peaks on the horizon! After our hike around the terraces, we returned to the bus to find a family admiring it. We were more than happy to show them all the tricks it does, including popping the tent up! They enjoyed the show and even took a picture with us, but we regret that we didn’t get a photo on our camera! (If you guys read this, could you please send that picture to me at Thanks!) They gave us a tip about how to shower for free at Old Faithful so we headed south through the park after making about three trips around Mammoth to get gas and find an ATM. The drive south from Mammoth to Old Faithful takes you through several basins where there are steaming pools and creeks that run into the river. Some of the geysers and fumaroles are off in the distance and it’s an awe inspiring sight to see the steam rise across the valley. We passed through Norris and Madison Junctions and followed the river south towards Old Faithful. It was getting to be late afternoon and we were aching for a shower. Upon arrival there, we packed up my backpack with the essential shower items and sneaked around the lodges there trying to find the showers our new friends told us about. (We couldn’t seem to find them anywhere!) Because we were tired and hungry and it was getting rather late, we gave up and drove south to Grant Village where we hoped to find a camping site. No such luck. When we arrived there, the entire village was still snowed in! The coin showers there were not open either, so we had no choice but to drive further south. As we drove, the snow was increasingly deep and the temperature kept dropping. The last resort for camping in the park, Lewis Lake, was frozen solid and the road was not even plowed into the campground. So our nerves were getting frayed and patience was running thin right about then. We were over 50 miles from the nearest campground in the park, so we opted for going south into Grand Teton National Park to find a camping spot. We left the park and drove toward Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The Paragraph about Grand Tetons
The atlas we picked up in West Virginia showed there to be a half dozen campgrounds in the Tetons, so we figured we would have good luck finding a place to rest for the night. As we headed into the Tetons, we saw that the lakes there were frozen solid as well. The first 3 campgrounds we tried were just as snowed in as the ones in Yellowstone. We had driven about 100 miles from Old Faithful and the sun was beginning to drop between the peaks of the Tetons. (Patience was really beginning to run thin at this point.) At long last we finally found a campground that was open at Signal Mountain, along the southern shores of Jackson Lake.
The Paragraph about Camping at Signal Mountain
We joyfully entered the campground and were pleased to find about 4 empty spots. Driving through the campground, we saw several people with cameras in hand waving excitedly. Soon, we spotted a large moose munching on some branches between the campsites! We spotted a site beside 2 girls that we had seen on the road earlier. Cricker immediately parked the bus. As soon as I looked around, I noticed that our campsite was completely flooded due to a large glacier that was posed just up the hill. I protested, but he insisted that we were staying there and making friends with our neighbors. So we set up camp and I started making some dinner, which ended up being the other steak from Aunt Connie, which we diced up and fried with potatoes, carrots and onions. After filling our stomachs, our new friends, Liz and Steph invited us over to share their campfire, because our fire ring was completely flooded out. We enjoyed the company and it was fun to meet other people doing a cross country adventure! It was especially neat that they were two girls being adventurous on their own. We were complaining that we hadn’t showered in almost a week and they told us about a hostel in Jackson Hole where we could get a hot shower for six bucks. I knew immediately where we would be headed in the morning. They were heading out early on the way to Utah, so we got up early to get a picture with them. This was definitely the coldest night we have experienced. The condensation on the inside of the bus was frozen to all the surfaces, and after we got on the road it began to melt and dripped all over the place. After cleaning up the dinner mess and packing up, we took a few pictures and left the campground. The drive south to Jackson was beautiful with the Tetons shimmering in the early morning sun. The mountains are breathtaking, not only because of their size, but because they have no foothills and rise directly out of the ground to heights of twelve and thirteen thousand feet. Its almost a surreal sight.
The Paragraph about Jackson
It took about 45 minutes to get to Jackson from where we camped. As we rode into town, there were people all over the streets carrying huge elk antlers. We soon found out that there was an auction going on and it appeared to be ran by the Boy Scouts. The Anvil Hotel was on the main thoroughfare and we made it our first stop. The hostel was in the basement and we paid for our showers and received a warm towel, which was a pleasant surprise! We spend about 30 relaxing minutes soaking up the hot water and finally got out looking like prunes. Feeling amazingly refreshed, we cruised around the town checking out the sights and parked the bus on a side street. We walked around for a few hours and checked out some of the local shops. We ended up buying a sticker for the bus and then heading north again towards Yellowstone.
The Paragraph about Old Faithful and the ride up to Mammoth Hot Springs
We drove north, this time with the Tetons on our left for about an hour and came back through the south entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The drive to West Thumb and Grant Village was about twenty miles and was the snowiest portion of the park. We stopped and snapped a few pictures beside the road at a snow bank that was higher than the bus. We drove past West Thumb and continued on to Old Faithful. The afternoon sun and sunny skies made a perfect setting to sit down and relax for a few hours. We took our shoes off and sat on the board walk with our backs resting on the benches and let our feet dangle over the edge. We had just missed the geyser erupting so we had about an hour to wait until it would go off again. We had prepared for the wait and brought snacks and drinks and kicked back in the sun. When the eruption finally happened, it was without a doubt the most peaceful thing I have ever experienced. Its hard to describe with words and the pictures don’t give an accurate depiction of the experience. I highly recommend visiting this natural wonder to anyone. We sat around for a while and enjoyed the setting sun after everyone cleared out and then headed north again towards Mammoth Hot Springs. The drive there was just as fun the second time around and we snapped lots more pictures. By the time we got there, the campground had filled up so we headed towards Gardiner and out the north entrance to the park. The north entrance to the park is marked by a huge stone gate which you drive through, it is pretty neat and towers about fifty feet above you as you drive under it.
The Canyon Campground
We drove through Gardiner without finding a campground and continued on the road towards Livingston, Montana until we came into the Gallatin National Forest. We spotted a nice little campground there and pulled in for the night. It was set against the backdrop of a large hill and towering cliffs above. There were huge boulders that had tumbled down from the cliffs scattered around the campground and we got some neat pictures of the bus in between them. We met a guy that was driving an old red VW golf at a campsite not far from ours and he came over after we cooked dinner to hang out. We found out that he was from Maine and had an internship in Yellowstone for the summer, but couldn’t get in his housing until Monday so he was camping out for the weekend. For dinner, I made a cheese quesadilla and had a grilled turkey sandwich. Cricker made some concoction he called hobos. He claimed to like it a lot but I wasn’t so impressed. It could have just been his cooking skills though, because the ingredients all sounded good. We got up fairly early Sunday morning and packed up our camp and drove north once again. We were hoping to find some hot springs to sit in and relax, but the only ones we found were part of a resort and we were looking for a more natural setting.
The ride to Missoula
The drive to Livingston from our camp took about an hour and it was all gorgeous Big Sky country. I especially enjoyed the ranches and barns that we saw along the road. Once we got to Livingston, we picked up I-90 towards Missoula. Since we didn’t find any hot springs and we were on the road fairly early, we decided to try and make it to Missoula for the evening because I had found out there was an REI store there. The stretch of I-90 between Livingston and Missoula has a pretty sizeable uphill section but we made decent time in the bus. The weather was still beautiful and the temperature got pretty warm so before long we both had our shirts off and were sweating a bit. By the time we rolled into Missoula and found the REI, they had been closed for about ten minutes. We were disappointed but we called our friend Andy that lives in Yakima, Washington to tell him we were in Missoula. He was pretty excited to hear we were so close so he took Monday off work to be able to hang out with us. We decided to try to drive as close as we could to Yakima and then finish the drive in the morning, as it was about five hours. Somehow in the course of things, we missed a critical turn and drove about one hundred miles south in Montana, with a huge mountain range between us and Idaho. There were no connecting roads to get us back on track so we had to drive nearly all the way back to Missoula to pick up our road. So we wasted a good three hours doing that and used up nearly all the daylight, even though we entered the Pacific Time Zone once we made it to Idaho. The drive on Highway 12 through Idaho was a lot of fun, with a long downhill stretch and plenty of curves. The bus handled them well and we made excellent time. We saw all kinds of wild life cross the road in front of us, including an elk, moose, black bear and plenty of deer! We stopped for the night about thirty miles from the Washington border near Lewiston, Idaho at a pull off beside the road.
This catches us up to Sunday night. I apologize for the long delay in this post, but we have been making a lot of stops and spending time with friends the last few days and I’ve been putting off writing as well. I’m still a few days behind but hopefully I can motivate myself to finish it up this afternoon. I’m writing this as we pass through Portland, Oregon. ( Sorry Karen we didn’t stop but it looked like a really cool city!) Stay Tuned!
Also as a side note, it is really fun for us to hear about who all is reading this but we don’t have that many followers on the blog page. So if you would like to give us a shout you can shoot me an email at and we would love to hear from you! Thanks guys.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Pictures

Alright I finally am having some luck getting pictures uploaded! Check them out...

Catching Up!

Wow so the last three days have been a wild ride! To get everyone up to speed…. We got off of I-90 at Buffalo, Wyoming and fueled up. We picked up Highway 16 West out of Buffalo across the Bighorn Mountains and stopped for a photo opportunity at Powder River Pass (Elevation 9,666 ft.) On the way down the back side we drove through the Wind River Canyon. It was amazing to be driving underneath huge red cliffs that towered above us. Cricker, because he is half mountain goat, scrambled up to the cliff face and got some great shots of the sun casting shadows into the canyon. We continued on 16 toward Worland and arrived in Cody for the night around 10 pm. We immediately located the local Walmart and spent about 45 minutes inside warming up (Remember folks, the bus has no heat or insulation in the front!)(It was freezing at almost 10,000 ft and got colder when the sun went down!). Cricker told me that camping in the parking lot was perfectly kosher and that Walmart even encouraged it. I had serious doubts about his announcement, so I did a little research online and found a few forums entirely dedicated to Walmart camping. Satisfied with that information, we set about making a hot dinner. I elected to use my backpacking stove, which had been riding under the seat all the way from Virginia. For anyone who has ever used a liquid fuel stove, you know that you have to get it started by having a huge flame for about a minute to get the fuel to draw. Well I started this process on the little pop out table on the side of the ice box, and I immediately sensed that things were going downhill fast! Evidently the nut on the bottom of the fuel injector had worked itself loose, and liquid fuel had spread all over the table and onto the bus. About the time I had a three foot flame going, the entire table caught fire and there was a great deal of excitement! I grabbed the flaming stove and carried it far away from the bus as Cricker swatted the flames out on the bus…. Wow. The cart return guys were really eyeing us for a while after that. Haha. But I tightened the nut and let the stove heat up and in short order we had chicken noodle soup (Thanks Mom!) and turkey sandwiches. The hot meal was worth all the excitement! We popped the top up and crawled into bed around midnight. As it grew light out in the morning, I could hear people stop their cars every so often and oohh and ahh and chuckle about the bus. When I finally woke up, I had to use the restroom sooo badly, I ran into the store to take advantage of the amenities that our great asphalt campsite offered. While I was washing my hands, I couldn’t help but laugh at my face in the mirror. I was definitely “That Guy” you see at Walmart and wonder where the heck he came from…
So that was my first trip inside. I put on my jeans and changed shirts and Cricker and I went inside to stock up on groceries. The greeter just laughed as we walked in. 45 minutes later we had the cooler and icebox stocked, and Cricker had purchased a new zero degree sleeping bag. We refueled at a Shell station and headed across town in Cody to find a wifi connection where we could upload some pictures. We got coffee at Mcdonald’s and were able to pick up an unsecured connection from a local hotel. A good three hours went by there while we uploaded pictures, posted the link to our blog on the Samba, and I checked my grades….A fairly positive experience! There is a good story about some old ladies who were getting icecream and coffee…. But its too much to type here.
We left Cody heading towards Cooke City, Montana on Highway 296. This has without a doubt been the most amazing experience of our trip. Words don’t do justice to the views. If you ever visit Yellowstone, I highly recommend going in the northeast entrance. I’ll post pictures so you guys can see for yourselves! The skies were blue and the temperature was in the mid sixties when we left Cody, but by the time we were headed up the mountain to Cooke City it was blowing snow and freezing cold. (Ok, here is the back story to why we went to Cooke City…. We stopped in Pleasant Hill, Ohio to see our cousin Karen and she was visiting some friends of hers. We hung out for a while with them (the Boothes) , had pizza and when it was brought up that we were headed to Yellowstone we were instructed to look up some friends of theirs (Rick and Catherine Porter) who live just outside the park. To make a long story short, we just showed up in Cooke City having never talked to these people, and had to ask around to find them because their phones were out!)
The night/day we spent in Cooke City, Montana was by far the most fun we have had since leaving. The view of the mountains rising above us was breathtaking and the town was quite possibly the coolest place I have ever spent the night. We showed up at the Hoosier Motel and met Rick, who had no idea who we were or that we were coming to visit him. His wife, Catherine had just left to visit her parents down the mountain, but he invited us in and we sat around telling our story until she showed up. She was just as surprised but excited to have visitors from the East. We showed them the pictures of our travels and traded contact info. We spent the afternoon and most of the night going to all the local hang outs that were open at this time of the year. Miner’s Saloon has fantastic burgers, we got the quarter pounders, but immediately wished we had opted for the half pounders! Many hours were spent poring over the atlas and dozens of great stops were circled and discussed as well. Even some of the locals offered advice about routes to take and places to see. We headed to bed before them but we snapped a quick photo first, which will definitely be posted. We slept on the street in front of the motel and the night was surprisingly warm although we awoke to a light snowfall, which I enjoyed immensely! We were up before our hosts, so we spent a few hours walking around town and having breakfast at Buns ‘N Beds- a great cup of coffee and filling breakfast burrito! After dropping off some post cards at the post office and checking out the Cooke City Store, we bid adieu to our hosts and wandered on down the mountain into the Northeast Yellowstone entrance. (The park pass is paying for itself, already halfway!) Thanks so much Rick and Catherine for your hospitality! We had a blast and both of us will definitely be back… Ill never want to go into the park from another entrance!
This catches everyone up to Friday about noon. The Yellowstone adventures deserve their own post so that’s coming up ASAP. Im typing this from Canyon campground, a few miles north of Gardiner, Montana where we stayed last night. If breakfast doesn’t get in the way you should be up to speed with us in a few hours! The service is not great here but ill try to at least get a picture or two up!
Thanks for keeping up with us, sorry about the delay in the blog. We kinda dropped off the side of the earth for a few days there!

Thursday, May 14, 2009