Saturday, August 30, 2014
And so, we have diverted 30 miles off track, to Yakima, to get a hotel room. This this places us a moderately long drive from Burnaby (Aunt Bef) instead of an easy drive. That's not including the border crossing!
Our plan is to check the wait times at the different crossing points when we arrive in Bellingham. Hopefully at least one option will be more or less painless. I don't fancy a multi hour wait with kids in the car.
Friday, August 29, 2014
The local bakery is known for its doughnuts (our motel offered the doughnuts every morning for breakfast, and we went there each day for a lunch dessert) and is kind of reminiscent of the Yum Yum Shop in Wolfeboro (including the disappointing bread). In fact, Molitor and I spent some time comparing and contrasting Flathead Lake to Winnepesauke in terms of desirability for future family vacations. Flathead is less developed (a plus) and, by some definition, is more picturesque. The lake is more round than Winnepesaukee so from any point you can see more of the lake, and the lake's backdrop are imposing mountains that make for simply amazing sunrises. Winnepesaukee has the upperhand in its warmer temperature (Flathead really isn't swimmable by anyone but temperature-immune children) and, in my opinion, the availability of more private, cozier lodging (like Colonial Pines) because there are so many trees right up to the shoreline. Flathead surroundings are, to a large extent, just fields.
Molitor arranged for me to have a massage while we were there, which was the world's nicest gift. Evidently it was a stroke of real luck to get an appointment because the place is sort of a spa destination and the only available time was due to a cancellation; otherwise all the local massage therapists were booked through September!
We couldn't figure out why there weren't more people around, more boats on the lake, when it was so perfect. Evidently we hit the first nice weather in 2 1/2 weeks of cold and rain. And school started while we were there. This time of year is the shoulder season anyway; the massage therapist said the locals consider this the start of fall. As to why more people don't live in Polson: the winter weather sucks. It is foggy for 6 months and you don't see the sun. Check. Won't be moving to Polson, despite its amazing summer and the fact that it seems extremely walkable! Walked to a full service grocery store, several restaurants, the thrift store, and all of (small) downtown.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
We're now in Idaho in a campground that somehow rubs us both the wrong way. Bad vibes from the lady who checked us in. It's right next to the highway. I am right now at most 100 yards from a busy interstate and it's loud. The cabin is nice enough but a little pricy. They charged us extra for kids (what?! Seriously?!) Nothing big. The campground itself is nice enough. Not as rich with amenities as a KOA (E.G. no pool) and yet not isolated and in a beautiful spot. Nor is it cheap. Surely it ought to be at least one of these?
As a base of operations to explore Coeur d'Alene, it will be fine though. It's perfectly pleasant. Alice has a bunk bed and a playground and we might even do some splashing in the creek. Maybe.
Adding insult to injury, or if you want to get picky, the other way about, she bonked her head TWICE. Once climbing around in the stroller her giant head pulled her nearly to her doom as she stood up too high. The second time just an hour or two later she managed to climb onto a chair, and immediately fell off ass over teakettle.
She's reached an age where her ability to get in to physically precarious situations far outstrips her ability to avoid disaster.
No serious harm as near as we can tell though! She stopped crying both times in a couple minutes and was her usual jolly self. Albeit with some bruises!
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Here you can see the happy miscreants, or at any rate imagine them, happily boarding MY BOAT.
We have a habit of eating lunch out at some hopefully local joint, and then preparing dinner for ourselves. A home cooked dinner is partly to save money, partly for health, and partly because taking Beatrice out at dinner time would be too hard.
A motel presents certain hurdles for preparing a dinner. Space and equipment mostly. We've eaten a lot of salads, which are fairly easy (or so it seems as I watch Molitor do all the work) and a welcome relief from our meaty lunches. Last night Molitor elevated himself to a real motel room chef. He cooked pasta and green beans in the microwave. It took a while because we had to feed pasta to 4 and all we had was a 4 cup Pyrex to do it, but it was such a welcome dinner.
We brought a queen size flat sheet with us on our trip. We had already downgraded it to toy status back home. It was our Sheet Car, beach blanket, fort material, etc. It had been So Useful. We have used it as a bottom sheet on KOA mattresses (the cabins come without linens), we've used it for play, we used it to rope off or sleeping area when we were all jammed into Dad's cabin on Winnepesaukee, and we've used it in several motels to separate Beatrice's sleeping area from the rest of us (see below). It doesn't do anything for noise of course, but just having a visual separation is amazingly useful for both her and us.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Wall-mounted soap dispensers. Usually only the cheaper or seedier motels have these. The "fancy" motels (Super 8, Best Western) insist on giving you individual packages of soaps and lotions. At America's Best Value Inn, where we're currently staying, shampoo and soap are mounted on the shower wall, as soap is in a public restroom. It is awesome: so convenient and I assume much more ecologically friendly, as there's much less packaging. And I assume that motels do it because it's cheaper all around. It has so many good qualities, it shouldn't give a negative impression of the motel, but it always does, despite the fact that we prefer it! Our brains work in mysterious ways. I haven't seen Breck shampoo in eons...
Free breakfast. Almost every motel (definitely all the national chains and some of the locally owned) provide free breakfast. When we traveled x-country with Alice, Motel 6 offered only coffee. (When free breakfast isn't available, and sometimes even when it is simply to be nice to our waistlines, we have cereal and fruit in the room.) I've discerned what makes a free breakfast good or bad: the presence of protein. Some of them have 20 different items to eat, but they're all (simple) carbohydrates: waffles, french toast, muffins, bagels, cereal, etc. There is simply no way to feel satisfied after such a meal. The rare motel provides protein. If you're going to get fancy, as the Best Western in Wauseon, OH did, you provide steam-table scrambled eggs and sausage. Or if you're my new favorite Howard Johnsons in LaCrosse, WI, you simply purchase giant bags of peeled hard-boiled eggs (and mine didn't even have a green tinge!) and then dump them into a cold bowl. Now THAT was a satisfying breakfast.
Cost. 4 1/2 years ago when we traveled the other way across the country with Alice, we stayed in motels every night. We stayed mostly in Motel 6, as Daddy is in love with them (no complaints from me, either). I remember paying about $50-60/night. Now, travelling with 2 kids (which means we need more space...at least a king bed or 2 queens, and when we indulge, a suite with 2 separate rooms) and in the Northern part of the country, even the Motel 6 for 1 person is going for $75 sometimes. We are spending anywhere between $80 and $120 per night, depending on how fancy (or desperate) we're feeling.
Rags. Several of the hotels in Montana and Wyoming offer rags to patrons, free for the taking. Evidently to clean either your truck, or your boots and guns.This is a new one for us.
Indoor Water Slides. Throughout the midwest, water slides and water parks (often times indoors) in motels/hotels are a huge thing. Because outdoors is warm enough only 2 months of the year? I have no idea where this comes from. We never did take advantage of it (how much would Alice have loved that?), but there's always the return trip.
Monday, August 25, 2014
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Now that we're on the road, short on time, space, and energy, we don't exercise, we use paper diapers, and almost all the food we buy is a convenience food of some sort: baby carrots, miniature cucumbers, those tiny sweet peppers in a bag, prewashed lettuce, cheese sticks individually wrapped in plastic, etc.
Which makes me realize that in many cases it's not really a choice to have a convenience lifestyle, at least not ultimately. If your life is arranged such that you have no time or energy, then this is the only way to get through. We were able to put more effort into our childcare, food, and self-care because we had the time and energy. Which all feeds into our consideration of our future home and future life. We need to choose a town, choose a job, choose a home, and make other values choices that give us most importantly the time to live the life we want. Perhaps at the expense of money, in fact, most likely at the expense of money, but The Convenience Lifestyle doesn't suit us and, more grandiosely speaking, isn't sustainable.
We stopped in Livingston, MT for lunch. Having an internet connection while driving has been, on balance, very helpful. It is, of course, sometimes very frustrating because the connection is slow or nonexistent, but we can use it to search out not only lodging reservations (which led us to the awesome Rodeway Inn last night) but perhaps more importantly, good lunch spots to stop at, instead of being reduced to eating at Denny's or something. Yesterday we visited Pinky's Cafe in Livingston for lunch. The food was fine (they serve only breakfast on Saturdays; "They serve breakfast for lunch! Can you believe it?!") and the town was adorable: a quite large walkable downtown chock a block with cute shops of all sorts. Also a bit mystifying in its source of economic power. Perhaps it's close enough to Yellowstone to get a large tourist trade. It was also 47 degrees and raining. In August. Ugh. Time to acquire some warmer clothing at least for the kids...
We arrived in Butte by 4, I think, and headed straight for Walmart (already documented). Beatrice and Alice, of course, had a ball in Walmart, playing hide and seek either by name or not. Did you know your choices of pajamas for babies in Walmart are either fluffy warm plastic or thin inflammable plastic? Greeeeaat.... But it did have everything we needed, including a very reasonable grocery selection. Our motel is located in Historic Downtown Butte, which is either on its way up or down the boom-bust cycle of copper mining. The old buildings are largely ornate brick constructions and are simply fantastic.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
While we were at Walmart, we also bought lots of food and also several other items we've developed a need for: footie pjs for Beatrice, socks for Beatrice, wipes, etc. After we'd been in Walmart for approximately 10 minutes (and I might be being generous here), Molitor started wigging out. I basically had to force him to stay because yes, our baby really did need pajamas to keep her warm (47 degrees today at noon in Livingston, MT). And yes, we really do need food. I felt quite smug because usually I'm the one itching to get out of Target or Walmart within minutes of entry, whereas today I Was The Mistress Of My Domain and Molitor a mere novice in the face of The Realities at The Intersection of Parenting and Road Trips.
Friday, August 22, 2014
We drove through the Badlands, actually stopping to walk on the formations and take pictures once instead of seeing the whole thing at 45 mph. We ended up at Wall Drug, in Wall, SD, for an early lunch. This thing is a huge tourist destination (you might say "trap," but it is unabashedly so) that is signed along Rt. 90 for well over 100 miles. It was totally worth going to because it was fun, served a really quite special homemade donut, and the Hot Beef Sandwich lunch special was yummy to split with Molitor. It had ridiculous attractions like a 6-foot tall jackalope, fake stage coaches, and a water fountain thingy that delighted Alice.
Then on to Mt. Rushmore, which was simply wonderful. I was ecstatic both to see it (it is awesome) and to be able to cross it off my list of Things I Must Do One Day! It's a national monument, but they have conveniently skirted around the National Parks Pass (which we have) by saying that entrance is free, you just have to pay for parking. Hmph. A ton of foreign visitors. Alice really liked two Indian women's saris but was too shy to tell them.
We piled the kids back into the minivan at about 4 pm, waaaay past their nap times. They fells asleep easily (Alice insisted on wearing the Bose noise-cancelling headphones, which really ARE useful when Beatrice is fussing; she wasn't this time so it was just a very adorable affectation), and we did a quick, FREE drive-by of Crazy Horse. We weren't willing to spend the $22 or, more importantly, wake the kids, to see more.
I suggested we push on past Custer, SD, which is right by Crazy Horse to the next town, 30 miles away, Newcastle, WY. It turned out okay, but for a while it looked dicey, because much of that 30 miles was under construction. The driving was breathtaking, though. Classic western landscapes. I think I saw Clint Eastwood in the distance...
Now we're packing up at the Fountain Inn in Newcastle, having spent a pleasant night here. Amazingly, the first motel we tried, the quaint Pines Motel, was sold out! On a Thursday! The Fountain Inn is kind of a relic. There's a defunct giant fountain out front, and also a defunct indoor skating rink on the property, as the front desk clerk told me. I got to explore all of these at 5:45 am as I walked around with a very awake Beatrice. Beautiful morning, though. At 4300 ft. elevation, the sky is spectacular as the sun rises.
Alice and I drove through town to get groceries this morning, and it is a cute, though clearly poor western city. I'd say pretty much everyone drives a Gigantic Truck.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
The plates are always delicious (mmmm, salt!) and super fun to eat, and it's great fun to patronize such establishments. But let's just say both Molitor and I were very happy to get to our motel tonight (the pretty umremarkably Fountain Inn in Newcastle, WY) and construct a salad out of romaine hearts, a can of white beans, sweet peppers, and a white wine vinaigrette. Yes, we carry ingredients for a vinaigrette and just make it right on top of the salad (something I learned from Jacques Pepin!).
It's hard to resist getting the house specialty, but what we wouldn't give for one that wasn't beige.
"If I were a princess, then..." -- How many adults grasp the subjunctive contrary to fact, eh?
"In the process of making <such and such>, I ..." -- Uh, yeah. Again, not many adults work multiple clauses into their conversational sentences.
I have already taken the minivan in for an oil change (and, as it turned out, air filter change) in McHenry.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Poor Alice got stung by her first yellow-jacket this evening. It was terrible to watch her cry and scream, but quickly applied ice and Tylenol and a story about how Bernard got stung by yellow jackets had her back on her feet in about 15 minutes.
On our drive here, we crossed the Missourri River, and just after crossing we stopped at a gigantic tourist trap, Al's Oasis. A lame recreation of an Old West outpost, but it gave us a damn fine bison burger. We had to drive through part of the Badlands to get to the KOA, though we'll do much more of it tomorrow. They are just extraterrestrial looking. Alice judged them by whether any of the older girls she knew would be able to climb them: Paige and Molly (Finn's sisters) and Emmie and Hayden (Parker's sisters) were all deemed able or, usually, unable to climb certain formations.
Tomorrow we will drive the entire Badlands Loop and then see Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse. Still figuring out how to do this while still accommodating the need for afternoon naps.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
A while ago we decided to ease the dinner time quandary by buying some dinners in a can and simply heating them on the camp stove or in the motel microwave. This is wonderfully convenient and delicious. Hormel chili, Dinty (Google automatically wrote that as "Dingy" amusingly) Moore beef stew, Chef Boyardee ravioli. We eventually decided to buy canned beans to dilute the dinner, which reduced the bad stuff.
Only problem is that there is So Much Salt it's impossible to drink enough water to match. So the morning after our first Hormel Chili dinner, I woke up with a wicked headache.
Eating out of boxes, cans, and jars to save money and for convenience (and probably to be healthier too, as hard as it is to imagine) gets old pretty quick. Molitor tonight managed to put together a meal with a fresh salad (along with canned soup... There are just some realities of dinner in a motel room). And our on the road lunches of crackers and cheese, raw veggies and hummus, and fruit haven't lost all appeal yet.
We splurged on another Best Western suite tonight. We're thinking we'll alternate regular room (cheaper) and suite (separate room which makes bedtime easier). This one has a jacuzzi. I have no truck with jacuzzis or saunas, but Molitor loves them. Somehow I don't think he fantasized about 2 kids and a cheese quesadilla...