Category Archives: U.S. Road Trip

Surprised by Montana

29th December 2015

Our trip to Montana proved to be full of surprises, but unfortunately, not all of them were good.  That’s just one of the things I love about traveling, no matter how thoroughly you plan, something always happens that isn’t expected.  Robbie and I continue to re-learn this lesson, but we always adapt and embrace the chaotic harmony of travel.

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Surprise No. 1.  Our first day in Montana, we headed to the small town of Phillipsburg to meet a friend for lunch.  He graciously invited us to join his family for dinner that evening and stay the night as their guests.  After traveling around for weeks in Ruby Sue, I jumped at the chance to sleep in a real bed!  So we followed our host to his home in rural Montana, traversing bumpy, unpaved roads.  A few minutes before arriving at our destination, we heard a clunk, and then the unmistakeable sound of something dragging underneath Ruby Sue.

Once we pulled into our friend’s driveway, we jumped out of the camper and quickly realized the culprit was a rock battered tail pipe dragging on the ground.  Great!  But the surprise didn’t end there, a loud hissing sound indicated the tail pipe wasn’t our only issue.  After following the sound, we realized that the inner rear left tire was leaking air due to a newly acquired nail!  Fortunately, Robbie, our host, and Jack the Lumberjack worked as a team to make Ruby Sue roadworthy again.  The next day we were off to Hamilton, Montana, and then further North toward Glacier National Park (GNP).

One of the highlights of our time in Montana was our visit to GNP.  Located in the northwest corner of the state, GNP is known for its glacially carved mountains and lakes.  To access both sides of the park, we had to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a treacherous road that winds up and around the steep mountainside.  When we arrived at GNP, we were told that Ruby Sue, our pride and joy, was too long and wide to travel the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  We were also told that there was no other form of transportation available to traverse GNP (Shuttles usually run during the peak seasons).  So we decided to buckle our seat belts, roll the dice, and make a run for it.  Our bet paid off in the end, the views in the park were not to be missed, and it wasn’t nearly as life threatening as the Park Service indicated.  (However, we should note as responsible and respectful travelers, we of course recommend that you always abide by posted rules and regulations.)

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Surprise No. 2.  On our way out of GNP, we stopped by a book store to pick up a new sticker for Ruby Sue.  Our plan was to stay at an RV park just outside of the park so we could plug into an outlet and charge up our batteries, however, our plans changed once again.  I know what you’re thinking, what’s broken now??!!  This surprise was actually a good one.  While Robbie and I were in the book store/train station, we started chatting with the clerk about how much we enjoy the area.  As a resident of a nearby town, Whitefish, he encouraged us to attend the town’s Octoberfest, occurring that same weekend.  And surprise, he happened to have two extra tickets, and just gave them to us!  Folks in Montana are so nice!

So Robbie and I pointed Ruby Sue toward Whitefish, found a place to stay, and headed to Octoberfest.  The festival had great beer (obviously), a sampling of traditional German food, and the attendees were from both near and far.  We met a couple from Germany who were cycling the states for their honeymoon.  We also met a family that lived in Whitefish (he’s a professional smokejumper) and they almost had us convinced to move there!  Overall it was a fun night that happened by chance, thanks to our friend in the book store/train station.

I can’t wait for our next trip to Montana, and hopefully more pleasant surprises!

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— Aubrey

Go Weird or Go Home

12th October 2015

People who say, “keep Austin weird” haven’t been to Idaho (and don’t get me started on Nevada). I didn’t start this US road trip thinking “yes! I finally get to go to Idaho!”, but what I really wanted was to be surprised and learn more about my own country. That’s the case with Idaho.

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Pickle’s in Arco, just outside of the nuclear testing laboratory is home to the…. Atomic Burger.

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First off, yes there are lots of potatoes. I happened to travel through Idaho during potato harvest season, so there was no doubt about the potatoes. In fact, the trucks hauling them from the fields were so full of potatoes, I could probably fill my entire house, or at least my first apartment with one truck of spuds. Beyond the endless trucks of tubers, Idaho has something else to offer, dramatic contrasting landscapes.

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For example, Victor, Idaho is just a short drive over a mountain pass from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and offers stunning views of the Teton Mountains (but without the price tag). Head west and the mountains yield to vast agricultural communities full of you ‘betcha, potato farmers. Eventually, the earth’s soil becomes too volcanic to farm, and the “warning, do not enter or you will be shot” signs start lining up along the highway.

Idaho actually leads the nation in industrial research, keenly nuclear research. Our route towards central Idaho lead right through the Idaho National Laboratory, a National Security site sitting on a massive chunk of desolate volcanic soil that rivals Area 51 on the creep factor. Looking beyond the almost alien rock outcroppings, you will spot sporadic installations cooking up who knows what in those laboratories. This testing ground really helps keep Idaho on the cutting edge of technology, in fact, nearby Arco was the first city in the world to be lit by electricity generated from nuclear power.

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Idaho also hosts a relatively unknown, yet aptly named National Park, the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. I’m not sure why the conspiracy theorists believe the moon landing was filmed in Hollywood, it could’ve been shot in central Idaho! Hiking around the craters and lava flows formed from two ancient volcanoes really gives you the feeling you’re on another planet (or moon).

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The lunar landscape isn’t the only surprise Idaho threw at me. The majority of Idaho seems to consist of rugged, wild national forest and wilderness areas, consolidated in the central and panhandle portions of the state. Driving north from Craters of the Moon along the Salmon river through the Salmon mountain range I started to realize that Idaho has just about everything to offer, including pristine wilderness. The next time I’m fighting for a fishing spot on a river in Colorado, I’ll remember the hundreds of miles of pristine river with only a handful of anglers.

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I like Idaho because it’s different, and a little weird, and that’s cool. It’s wild, diverse landscapes constantly surprised me, and they even made me feel like I was on the moon.  So, keep Idaho weird.

— Robbie

WY Not?

1st October 2015

After living in Colorado for 8 years, I thought I had seen everything there was to see when it came to the outdoors.  Robbie and I love to go hiking and camping every summer and we try to see as much of our beautiful state as possible.  But I have to tell you, visiting Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks really opened my eyes to what the Rockies have to offer outside of Colorado.

First of all, the parks are massive.  Yellowstone alone covers over 2.2 million acres across 3 different states. We were there for almost a week and barely scratched the surface of Yellowstone.  Second, the Teton Range is a spectacular sight, and not to be overlooked.  I didn’t know mountains like that existed in Wyoming (most of the terrain I’ve seen in Wyoming has been pretty flat).  On our drive into Yellowstone we started seeing the frosty white jagged mountains, quite a shocking sight in September.

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The amount of wildlife we saw was the highlight of our trip. Robbie and I visited Alaska last year and we didn’t see a fraction of the wildlife we saw in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. We photographed a couple of grizzly bears (from afar), bison, elk, deer and even a moose! I have wanted to see a moose for so long and finally got my chance.

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However, it wasn’t perfect. There were some downsides to our visit to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. One downside was the sheer volume of visitors. Even in September, we were amongst crowds of people everywhere in the park, and September is considered the shoulder season! Unfortunately, National Parks are generally pretty strict when it comes to pets. Pets are not allowed in most places throughout the park, including trails, which made it hard for us when we wanted to check out a unique sight and had to leave Lucy in the car. She’s not a huge fan of car rides in general, so more time in the car was not her idea of a good time.

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We definitely plan to visit Yellowstone and Grand Tetons in the future, however, I think we will do things a little differently next time. For example, we stayed in Yellowstone first, but looking back, I would have started our journey in Grand Tetons National Park. Grand Tetons National Park is located south of Yellowstone, so it makes more sense for visitors traveling from the south to begin the experience in Grand Tetons National Park. We figured out a little too late that it was counterproductive to backtrack to Grand Tetons after staying in Yellowstone.

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It’s also well worth planning and booking your campsites ahead of time, but it’s not required because of the numerous “first come, first served” campsites. We like to plan as we go, so using non-reservable campgrounds worked in our favor. However, in order to get a good campsite, plan to get to the campgrounds early. And by early, I mean before 10 a.m., so you can snag a site from someone who is just heading out.

Old Faithful!

Old Faithful!

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The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Finally, we would have liked to stay at different campsites throughout the parks during our stay instead of staying at one campground. As I mentioned before, Yellowstone is massive and it’s hard to see everything in the park. Combine that factor with the amount of people in the park, and it will take you all day to cover 20 miles. Staying at different campsites throughout the park will allow you to be able to visit the attractions nearest you and you can avoid having to drive long round-trip distances.

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Overall, our trip to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks was amazing. We are excited to return some day and visit the places we were unable to see the first time around.

Another moose shot, just because :)

Another moose shot, just because 🙂

— Aubrey

Lately

21st September 2015

Wow, so a lot has happened since I last posted. The last time I posted I talked about Robbie and I’s time with All Hands Volunteers in Nepal. After we concluded our time with them, we were able to travel to a couple of other places in Nepal before we left. We visited Pokhara, in the western area of Nepal, and Bhaktapur, which is just outside of Kathmandu. We were able to get some well-deserved rest as well as enjoy the outdoors and historical sights of Nepal. We enjoyed the rest of our time in Nepal (for the most part) and headed back to the states ready to see our family and friends.

The view of Pokhara from the World Peace Pagoda

The view of Pokhara from the World Peace Pagoda

The World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara

The World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara

Women standing in line to enter the Bhimshen Mandir temple to pray for the good fortune of their husbands or future husbands. Robbie was wondering why I wasn't standing in line with them.

Women standing in line to enter the Bhimshen Mandir temple to pray for the good fortune of their husbands or future husbands. Robbie was wondering why I wasn’t standing in line with them.

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Since we’ve been back in the U.S., we bought an RV (officially named Ruby Sue), took a road trip down to Oklahoma to visit family and friends, and just recently headed west to see more of the U.S. That’s right, we are on our U.S. road trip and our first stop is Wyoming.

Oklahoma!

Oklahoma!

Llama that lives on Robbie's uncle's property.

Llama that lives on Robbie’s uncle’s property.

Our dog, Lucy, soaking in the muddy waters. She loves the mud but hates the bath afterward.

Our dog, Lucy, soaking in the muddy waters. She loves the mud but hates the bath afterward.

Robbie caught a fish!

Robbie caught a fish!

Then I caught a fish!

Then I caught a fish!

We are slowly making our way up to Yellowstone National Park, located in the northwest corner of Wyoming. But first we stopped in Laramie, Wyoming, home of the University of Wyoming Cowboys and some decent street art. After sightseeing and a steak dinner, we headed to Medicine Bow National Forest. We pulled in after dark so we couldn’t see much. However, the next morning we work up to a beautiful backdrop! We would have liked to stay longer but we needed to make it to Yellowstone before the end of the day so we moved on. If anyone in Denver is looking for some decent camping nearby, Medicine Bow NF would be the place!

Street art in Laramie.

Street art in Laramie.

More street art in Laramie.

More street art in Laramie.

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Views from the Snowy Range Pass in Medicine Bow National Park.

Views from the Snowy Range Pass in Medicine Bow National Forest.

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The newest member of our family, Ruby Sue!  She'll be our home for the next few weeks.

The newest member of our family, Ruby Sue! She’ll be our home for the next few weeks.

We finally made it to Yellowstone where we plan to spend a few days soaking up the sights. I will post again soon about our trip through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

— Aubrey