Sunday, July 19, 2009

Home, home again...

Well, it's been 8,200 miles, 32 days, 21 states, and more memories than we can ever process right now, but we're home. We left Onalaska, Wisconsin at 12:30pm yesterday, and we just arrived back home safely... 17 hours of straight driving. We are both exhausted, but glad to be in our own bed again. Goodnight (good morning?) and thanks for following along with our trip!

Anyone could see the road that they walk on is paved in gold
It's always summer, they'll never get cold
They'll never get hungry
They'll never get old and gray
You can see their shadows wandering off somewhere
They won't make it home, but they really don't care
They wanted the highway, they're happier there today...
- "The Way," Fastball

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What South Dakota has to offer

Welcome to Bear Country!

This morning began with a drive to Mount Rushmore - a must-stop on any cross-country trip. We checked out the monument, and continued to cruise through the Black Hills National Park in South Dakota.


A scenic overlook in the Black Hills

While driving across South Dakota, we took a slight detour through the Badlands. "Badlands'" is a term which refers to any rocky, uninhabitable terrain, often caused by erosion, as well as volcanic activity. We had visited badlands in New Mexico and Arizona, but those were in the middle of the desert. The South Dakota Badlands are located amidst the plains of middle America, making for very lush, green valleys between the rocky cliffs and hills.

This is Emily taking the picture above

The world's hardest golf course

The Little Tetons

We also stopped at Bear Country USA, a drive-through bear reservation, which allowed us to get up close and personal with some real-life grizzlies, without having to worry about tying our food up in trees (for the record: we learned that this practice is no longer efficient, as bears have learned to climb trees!).

We must have missed the bear party last night

He looks so sweet! Why would something so cuddly want to eat me?!

At the end of the drive-through, we got to get out of the car to see "Babyland," a whole pen of baby bear cubs!

This one was our favorite.

We had dinner in a little town called Murdo, South Dakota. The salad bar was not as fresh as advertised, but the sunset more than made up for it.

South Dakota at its finest


We're about to head to bed (in Onalaska, Wisconsin!) after a long day and night of driving. Tomorrow, we make the long trek home! Goodnight!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota...

The grandest Teton of them all!

Tuesday morning brought us straight to the Grand Teton National Park, just south of Yellowstone. We had originally planned to camp in Yellowstone, but after some recommendations, we chose the less popular (but perhaps more beautiful) Grand Tetons. We set up camp, and hiked up to Lunch Tree Hill. As the story goes, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (on one of his many trips to the Yellowstone area) hiked to the top of the hill for lunch, and after seeing the view of the Grand Tetons, demanded it become a protected national park, as well. Thank you, John D. Rockefeller, Jr.!

The view from Lunch Tree Hill

We headed back to our campsite, where we made dinner. Check out our "backyard"!

We made it to sleep last night, but the low temperatures (37 degrees!) made it hard to sleep late. By 6:45am this morning, we were packed up (and bundled up!) and headed north to see Yellowstone at sunrise.

On our way out, we stumbled upon a few bison grazing by the road.

They're huge!

We weren't sure how close we could get, but we got pretty close!

We left Yellowstone, and pushed on through Wyoming, all the way to Deadwood, South Dakota. Deadwood is an infamous "Wild West" town, where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane stirred up trouble.

An old hotel in Deadwood (The Bullock)

Downtown Deadwood

The most random store, ever.

We ate dinner at Diamond Lil's - a sports bar above The Midnight Star Casino, owned by the one and only Kevin Costner. The food was mediocre, but the Kevin Costner movie memorabilia collection was outstanding.

As we were leaving the restaurant, we overheard some woman admiring this poster, saying "I didn't know Kevin Costner was in Japanes movies, too!?"

Tonight, we relax. Tomorrow, we'll see what South Dakota has to offer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Welcome to Wyoming (Bienvenido a Wyoming)!

Well, we've officially started our "...and back again" portion of the trip.

After a few relaxing days in San Francisco (a special thanks to Mike and the boys for showing us such a great time!), we continued our California visit with a trip up to Napa to check out the wineries and the beautiful views.

Vineyards in Napa

The delicious grapes of wrath


Following that, it was north until the Redwoods! We arrived shortly after sunset, and quickly set up camp, played some Scrabble, and got a good night's sleep. It was cool, crisp, and we were shaded by some of the tallest trees we've ever seen. It was so comfortable that we had no problem sleeping til 11am yesterday - a far cry from desert camping!

Our little tent

Emily had to lie on the ground to get this picture. Adam has photographic evidence.

That's a big stinkin' tree.


Our next stop after the Redwoods was a little town called Ferndale, California. It is the former agricultural center of Northern California, and is (more or less) one main street lined with beautiful historic Victorian houses and stores.

Mmm... meat.

This is one tree, carefully manicured. Ferndale is very artsy-fartsy.

After a tasty lunch in Ferndale, we started heading east for the first time in 3 weeks. It was a strange feeling, indeed! We drove until we couldn't drive anymore, and ended up sleeping in Battle Mountain, Nevada last night. Today we drove through Nevada, Idaho, and finally ended up in Wyoming. Whyoming? Why not?

Friday, July 10, 2009

The edge of the America

Wednesday morning, Jared woke us up as he was leaving for work (waking up at 8:30 was harder than either of us remembered)! We said our goodbyes, and got on our way to San Francisco. We opted to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, which takes a few extra hours, but it worth it for the incredible views.

The drive was very windy, very mountainous, winding, and generally awesome, except for the stretch where we almost ran out of gas (Thank you, Big Sur Shell!).

We stopped for dinner in Monterey, a little shore city filled with art galleries, shops and restaurants. We did some souvenir shopping, and walked down the wharf looking for a place to eat. All the restaurants on the wharf offer free samples of their clam chowder as you walk by, so after trying a few, we decided on Abolonetti's for some seafood and antipasto (for the record, neither of us ordered the clam chowder, anyway).

We made it to Emily's friend Mike's house in San Francisco Wednesday night, and after some catching up, headed to sleep. We've spent the last few days in San Francisco, and are truly enjoying it here. Very mild weather, great people, delicious food, and beautiful views.

View of downtown from Dolores Park

Some brightly colored Victorian houses in San Francisco

The Bay Bridge

It's always hoodie weather, here!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Beverly Hills... that's where I want to be!

"They call Los Angeles the City of Angels. I didn't find it to be that exactly,
but I'll allow as there are some nice folks there."
- The Stranger, The Big Lebowski

Los Angeles is a very interesting city to visit - there is a lot going on, it is very hilly, celebrities live there, and it's hip, hip, hip. We got into L.A. Sunday night, and crashed at our friend Bobbie's place in West Hollywood. Monday was spent touring West Hollywood - we had brunch at Toast (brunch is the new lunch), walked down Robertson Avenue, and had a few drinks at Barney's Beanery, where (apparently) Janis Joplin's car was parked the night she died. Rock and roll history, folks.

Monday evening we met up with old friends Megan and Jared, and everyone enjoyed a delicious dinner at Miceli's in Hollywood.

Megan, Emily, and Bobbie

We spent the night at Megan's place up in "Old Hollywood." Check out her view of the Hollywood sign!

Tuesday morning we hopped in a cab and took it right to the VIP entrance at CBS studios (thanks, Bobbie!) and were treated to a live taping of "The Price is Right"! Neither of us got called up as contestants, but our seats were front and center behind contestant's row (check us out... the show airs October 9th)!

The whole Hollywood crew met up again for dinner (and networking... so LA...) at Lucky Devil, and after some goodbyes, we made our way to Jared's apartment to spend our last night in Los Angeles.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Life's a beach!

Treasure Island - Laguna Beach, California

Southern California has treated us well! After two full days on the beach in San Diego (plus some excellent seaside fireworks on the 4th) we started to head up north to Los Angeles, but were sidetracked by a little city called Laguna Beach.

Laguna gets a bad rap due to the MTV show of the same name, but its actually a very hip town, home to many artists and independent businesses, as well as some of the most quiet, peaceful, beautiful beaches along the California coast. After two days on Pacific Beach in San Diego (which had a louder, harder-partying crowd), Laguna Beach was just what we needed. Taking the advice of Emily's friend Sandy (a native Lagunan, and our virtual tour guide) we parked outside the Montage Resort and Spa, and walked down to Treasure Island Cover, beneath the resort.

We spent the day reading and relaxing on the beach, and after a tasty dinner at the Coyote Grill, we left Laguna at sunset, and headed up to Sunset (Boulevard, that is).

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

...from sunny San Diego!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Arizona... more than iced tea and department store jeans.

Wednesday morning we woke up in New Mexico, and made our way out to the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. There were a few things we wanted to check out in the park, so we took the scenic drive through the whole park. First, we stopped off at the Painted Desert, a brightly-colored expanse of land, where we were planning on spending the night. The storms in the distance were not too promising, though...

The Painted Desert looks kind of like like prehistoric scenery - you can really imagine what it must have been like when dinosaurs roamed the land...


We kept driving, and the colors of the land quickly began changing from reds and browns to blues and grays (or is it "greys"?). We got out and took the Blue Mesa trail down into a canyon, where we got a good look at the blue-tinted mountains, as well as our first good look at some petrified wood.

They teach about petrified wood in school, but it's hard to imagine it unless you actually see and touch it. Some of it looks just like giant logs, wood-grain and all, but some of it has been completely replaced by brightly-colored gems and minerals. All of it is rock-solid.

After a long walk through the Crystal Forest trail (to see the petrified wood up close), we had to decide whether or not to camp for the night. Despite some ominous clouds and drizzles early on in the day, the park rangers eased our concerns, and we hiked a mile down into the Painted Desert to set up camp.

We were all alone in the middle of the Arizona desert, and it felt absolutely amazing. We cooked a delicious dinner (by "cooked," we mean "boiled water and added it to the freeze-dried camping food pouches we brought with us," but it was delicious nonetheless), and had one of the best nights of sleep on our trip.

The thing about camping in the desert is that going to sleep at night is very pleasant (cool weather, nice breeze), but waking up to the desert sun can be pretty rough. By 7am, it was nearly unbearable in our tent. We packed up, and proceeded to do one of the most grueling uphill hikes either of us has ever done. To reward ourselves for such a great feat, we stopped in Winslow, Arizona for breakfast. Next stop? The Grand Canyon.

Getting to the Grand Canyon was tough - Adam's GPS ("Alice") took us on a scenic drive up there (sometimes she gets a little confused...), but we ended up seeing a part of Arizona we didn't even know existed: the Kaibab Forest.

Trees? In Arizona? Who knew?! And not just a few trees - a whole forest! We finally made it up to the Grand Canyon, and believe us... it's big.

It's hard to describe how big it actually is, even in pictures, but all it took was one look and we both finally understood. Unfortunately for us, we happened to visit during peak Grand Canyon visiting time, and the parking lot/canyon viewpoints felt more like the zoo than a national park. Once we'd had our fill of grand-ness (and canyon-osity), we continued our trip west.

We stopped for supper in Seligman, Arizona, which happens to be "the birthplace of Route 66." Emily has been trying to drive on Route 66 since we left Atlanta, so she was very excited to find out where we were. We ate at the Roadkill Cafe (located on the site of the old O.K. Saloon), and had a cool photo shoot around some of the historic buildings and sites in Seligman (including an old Route 66 jailhouse)

Gotta love the sepia tone...

After some grub, we pushed on to Cali-forn-i-a. For our entire trip through the desert, we had been told it was "monsoon season," but aside from a few little rain showers, we hadn't seen an actual monsoon. Luckily, Arizona treated us to one right before we got to the border. It started with some dark clouds and lightning, and quickly became a total downpour. Check out this video - watch the visibility level after the lightning strikes.

To all the worried mothers reading, this is also the point that we pulled onto the shoulder and waited for the storm to pass.

After that, it was a smooth trip into California. We spent the night in Bakersfield and drove down to San Diego this morning. We got a beautiful day at the beach, and are heading to bed looking forward to another one tomorrow!