Jackson Hole – Wyoming

August 18, 2010

I had three good intentions going into this trip:

– Drive slowly
– Feed myself
– Camp

I’ve been doing quite well on the first two. But as you know, the camping thing hasn’t happened.

I was thinking that near Jackson Hole, on the way to Yellowstone, would be a good time to start camping. But a good reason came up as to why I didn’t.

I had a date.

A mutual friend set us up. She was driving across the country, coming back to San Francisco after spending the summer back east. Our paths were crossing on the evening of August 17th, in Jackson Hole.

We had a very nice dinner at, of all places, the Rendez-Vous Bistro.

Going into it, I had a traveler’s inferiority complex because she’s been driving twice as much as me each day and her blog posts have been twice as long. Even worse, I was 30 minutes late because I messed up the navigation on my iPhone and was trying to find a dot located on the wrong side of town.

It’s amazing I’ve made it this far. (Less amazing that I’m still single.)

Anyway, aside from that dinner, I can’t say I’m a big fan of Jackson Hole. It’s more like a fancy Frontierland than a real place. Of course I chose to stay at the Pony Express motel, so I’m not exactly helping.

The landscape is remarkable, though. I had never known why it was called “Hole”, but when you’re there, you do have the sensation of being in a hole surrounded by mountains.

I will end by pointing out that taking pictures was not initially one of my good intentions. It is now, but I haven’t completely gotten used to it.

Idaho Falls – Idaho

August 17, 2010

The road to Idaho Falls was a good one.

At one point we pulled over to admire a vista and to stretch our 6 legs. I was about to let Kettle back into the car, but instead he walked to the back of the Mini and laid down in the car’s shade. I joined him, sitting against the back bumper, and we watched the cars drive by.

It was nice change of pace. It’s good to listen to your dog.

The big treat, though, was visiting the Craters of the Moon which, in the words of President Calvin Coolidge, is “a weird and scenic landscape peculiar to itself.”

What does “peculiar to itself” mean exactly? Peculiarly peculiar?

It’s indeed a weird, scenic, and peculiarly peculiar place. It was formed by lava flowing up from a long fissure, creating vast fields of lava rocks. If you ever wanted to climb a volcano without having to climb a volcano, this is the place for you.

My hope was that I could get a picture of Kettle pooping in a the Craters of the Moon, so that I could say something to that effect in the caption, but it didn’t happen.

Our brief stay in the Idaho Falls Motel 6 was quite pleasant. Charlie Rose was on the TV, and I made a salad from the the Boise Co-Op bounty. The faucet in the sink produced barely any water – so I washed the lettuce in the shower.

Before leaving the next day, Kettle and I paid a quick visit to the falls of Idaho Falls. Kettle didn’t go in the water, but this time I didn’t blame him.

Tonto and Silver

Watching cars

Where did you take me?

One small step

One small step ...

Seriously, where would I go?

Peculiar to itself

It Didn't Happen

The Lone Mini

Leaving the Craters. Heading for the Falls.

Quick rinse

Power wash

Power wash

Dinner at Chez Motel

Ho Hum

No thanks.

Boise – Idaho

August 16, 2010

I’ve never been good at geography.

So imagine my reaction when, on my way from Nevada to Idaho, I saw a “Welcome to Oregon” sign.

I almost turned around and went back.

But I recovered, and we made it to Boise where we stayed at a Shilo Inn. I had never heard of Shilo Inns before, but in Boise you can’t throw a potato without hitting one.

This one, although pretty run-down, was right on the Boise River. A trail along the river was only 20 yards from our room. So Kettle and I went for a couple nice walks. He didn’t go in the water, though. He doesn’t like to get wet. If he ever does go for a swim during the trip, it will be big news, and you’ll be sure to hear from me about it.

From the motel I set up my Google Latitude account so that curious onlookers such as yourselves can see exactly where I am. I assure you that my not turning that on until after Nevada was completely coincidental.

I also searched to see if there was an Apple Store in Boise so I could see about getting the pictures off my old iPhone. Alas, there was not.

By the time I was ready to leave Boise, I was also ready for lunch. Boise has a nice downtown, and I took Kettle to “The Falcon Tavern” where we ate outside. It was the first time this trip that someone cooked for me – I’ve been eating motel breakfasts, snacking on fruit and nuts for lunch, and making a salad for dinner.

I had a Turkey and Shitake Mushroom melt. It was good – probably almost as good as the burger I didn’t order because the waitress didn’t know if the beef was from happy (grass fed) cows. That was the first time I’d ever asked this question at a restaurant. But when you travel, you often do things differently. And I was feeling so fortunate to be traveling around the country that the thought of making a cow suffer a miserable life just so I can have a cheaper hamburger was too hard to swallow.

After lunch I went to the Boise Co-Op and bought more fruit and vegetables – locally grown (they looked weird) tomatoes, purple bell peppers, avocados, green onions, yellow squash, and pluots.

With my cooler now full of color, I was ready to leave Boise. And so we drove off.

But we had only gone a few blocks when, in the corner of my eye, I saw I sign that said “Apple Specialists”.

The only reason the car behind me did not smash into me when I hit the brakes was that there was no car behind me.

I parked, threw an iPhone into each pocket, and went in.

There was a geeky looking guy with a goatee, dressed all in black. Perfect. I asked him for help.

He pointed me to the cute girl at the register.

Three things immediately went through my head:

1) This cute girl is not going to know the answer.
2) I’m going to look stupid in front of this cute girl.
3) I get to talk to this cute girl.

I explained my problem. It stumped her for maybe 10 seconds, but then she figured out what to do. I went back to my car, brought in my laptop, connected it to the old iPhone with a cable, then we imported the pictures with iPhoto. Easy.

Well, at least I was right about 2 and 3.

Oregon makes Kettle look small.

Local Color


Claire. Hero.

Winnemucca – Nevada

August 15, 2010

Aside from it’s name, Winnemucca doesn’t have much going for it.

But I’m probably not the best judge, since my short time there was spent almost entirely in the motel room beating my head against a wall.

I had taken two great pictures in Reno: one of Kevin and his girls (the girls are SO cute), and one of the two poodles in rainbow attire (more noteworthy than cute). I really wanted to show them to you.

But I suffered technical difficulties. I had taken the pictures on my iPhone. The old iPhone. The old iPhone that I failed to sync with iTunes before I purchased the new iPhone. And purchasing the new iPhone meant deactivating the old iPhone, then updating the new iPhone by syncing it with iTunes. Which is why I really should have synced my old iPhone with iTunes before switching to the new one. As hard as I tried, and tried, and tried, I could not get the new photos off the old, deactivated phone.

And my day had started so well in Reno.

Okay, I’ll say it … things went a muck in Winnemucca.

Reno – Nevada

August 14, 2010

My motel room smelled like garlic.

It was my fault.

My dad had chopped up 2 weeks worth of garlic for me (that’s a lot), and I had it in a ziplock baggie which, apparently, was not air tight. During my drive to Reno, the garlic baggie sat in my cooler, building up fumes. Opening the cooler in my room released a pungent garlic bomb. Apologies to Kettle and to the next few occupants of room 157.

I left San Francisco at 1 pm. I was running late because I had important rendez-vous scheduled in Reno that night  …

The rendez-vous was with my friend Kevin and his family. They were also driving across the country, but in the other direction. Reno would be their last stop, and my first.

[If you were on the initial followingalex mailing list way-back-when, then you may remember that Kevin orchestrated the creation of the Lizzy List!]

Kevin is a Psychology professor at Colgate University in New York, but will be spending the next year back home on the peninsula because he was asked to be a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. This is the coolest job ever. Kevin says his only task is to: “think big”. To that end, he is supposed to have lunch each day with “the other fellows.” The other fellows specialize in anthropology, economics, political science, psychology and sociology . By chatting with each other at lunch, they can share ideas and think big together.

Kevin says I can join him for one of those lunches.

I’d like to, but I think I would feel small.

Anyway, a few days before I left, Kevin and I had agreed to meet at the La Quinta Inn in Reno. When I arrived, Kevin was playing in the pool with his two delightful daughters, Abby and Julia, with his wife Allison looking on. I introduced Kettle to the girls, then Kevin and I went out for a beer. We had breakfast together the next morning, then Kevin’s family left the way I had come.

But Kettle and I weren’t done with Reno.

After breakfast, we went to Wingfield Park for a 9am yoga class out on the grass. Kettle sat under a tree and watched – happy as a clam. The weather was perfect, the park was green with a river running through it, and there was the positive energy of people setting up for a festival. It was the opposite of a depressing casino.

Walking back to the car, we encountered two poodles wearing rainbow sweaters. Turns out that the set-up going on in the park was for a Gay Pride festival.

Our next stop would be Winnemucca, located in the middle-top of Nevada. But before leaving town, I stopped at an Apple Store and upgraded my iPhone 3G to an iPhone 4. Finally! For the 2 weeks before leaving, I’d been trying to get one, but the stores in San Francisco were always sold out.

With my new phone in pocket, I walked across the parking lot to where a Farmer’s Market was just shutting down … just in time to buy some of the remaining items: tomatoes, zucchini, brussel sprouts, and peaches.

I had expected nothing from Reno, but what I got was everything:  a visit with a good friend, a vigorous yoga class in a beautiful park, a happy dog, a new iPhone, and a bag of fresh produce.

I proceeded to thoroughly enjoyed the 3-hour drive from Reno to Winnemucca – relishing my perfect morning, admiring the dramatic desert/mountain landscape, and breathing in the occasional waft of garlic emanating from the cooler on which I rested my arm.

Julia - Kevin - Abby

Kettle wouldn't go near them.

I’m 43 and ready for a road trip. My dog is 3 and ready for a road trip.

Timing is everything.

So we’re going to drive around the country.

  • The route: Up to Montana, over to Northern Michigan, down-right to Washington D.C., down-left to Texas, back to San Francisco.
  • The car: 2006 Mini Cooper, solid white, basic model.
  • The companion: Kettle, a 90 pound Shepherd/Rotti mix. Mellow, easy-going, and likes car rides.
  • The cargo: Camping gear, clothes, dog-related stuff, a cooler, and a laptop. The camping gear is crammed into the small space behind the back seat, and the rest is piled in the passenger seat. A foam dog pad takes up the whole back seat, and Kettle takes up the whole pad.
  • The impetus: Eddie and Brenda (see “The Crew of the Avalon” on followingalex.com) are having a bunch of people over to their house in Northern Michigan during the last week of August. I’m going to join them, then visit friends in D.C. and Texas.
  • The time-frame: My plan is to just drive a few hours a day. This way the driving is more pleasure than chore. And I’ll have time to both see sights and do some work as I go. I’m thinking the trip will take about 6-8 weeks.

I will be alone for a long time, so in order to keep from talking to myself too much, I plan to talk to you as well. I hope that’s okay.