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Happy Thanksgiving!

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On this day of Thanksgiving, I have so much to be grateful for. I am married to my very best friend, I have parents who love me no matter how I screw up, and I have married into a family that treats me like I’ve always been a part of them. I have five dogs that I love like children and who keep me on my toes (all.the.time). I have a roof over my head, good health, and most importantly, a personal relationship with God.

There are so many little things that I take for granted: a functioning car, COFFEE, a cozy fireplace, farmers markets and grocery stores, fresh air, warm wool socks on chilly mornings, legs that can run and jump and hike, music and literature and well-made films that invite me into another world just for a little while, the ability to read and write and breathe.

When you list it all out like that, it is impossible to feel anything other than humbled and grateful. I would do well to remember that gratitude each and every day – not just Thanksgiving.

The dogs are also grateful on this day – here’s what they told me they were most grateful for:

Sawyer :  “Beds. and couches.”

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Wally: “Laps. and couches.”

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Sasha: “Toys. and mom and dad.”  (she’s so sweet…. and smart)

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Ella: “Food. and crumbs. and warm blankets. and did I mention food?”

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Annie: “Mom and Dad. and dirty dishes in the sink…..”

(please ignore the incredibly high pitch my voice reaches in this video … and do you notice how Annie eyes the stove at the very end, already contemplating if she should check for any food up there?)

Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Hunts Head West … The Home Stretch

When I left off, we had stopped for the night in Montana. We awoke and took full advantage of the Belgian wafflemaker at the continental breakfast bar, walked/fed/walked the dogs, packed back up and hit the road. Beautiful blue skies greeted us and the fact that this was our last full day of travel fueled us onward.

We swung through Butte, hopped out quickly to see the Berkeley Pit, and then continued on, intent on covering a lot of ground and making good time.

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(Interesting factoid: this is Berkeley Pit. Once upon a time, it was an open pit copper mine. Now, it is one of the largest Superfund sites in the country – all that water you see is incredibly acidic due to heavy metals leaching into the water and is rising closer and closer to groundwater level every year.)

We crossed into Idaho and paid a quick visit to Coeur D’alene – such a pretty place!

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Before we knew it, we had crossed into Washington, and the miles continued to tick by.

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We stopped for the night in Richland, just shy of the Oregon border. Our accommodations (the Red Lion Hotel) were perfect for the dogs – we had a patio door that exited onto a huge lawn and offered easy access to a ton of green space along the river. The dogs enjoyed a really great walk before settling in for their peanut butter kongs while we settled in for some room service pizza and salad (which was surprisingly delicious!) The beds were super comfortable and I had the best night’s sleep of the entire trip which was much appreciated.

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Breakfast was included with our room and another pleasant surprise – it was a hot buffet with actual well-cooked food, served with a beautiful view of the river. The place was very dog-friendly – practically every other person I saw leaving in the morning had dogs (most of them quite big). If you ever find yoursefl in Richland, you should definitely consider this place (and this hotel doesn’t know me from Adam so rest assured I’m not a covert commercial).

We packed back up and hit the road, excited that we were on the very last leg of our journey!

I was all prepared to take a photo of ‘Welcome to Oregon’ but we actually crossed the border on the bridge going over the Columbia River. There was a teeny tiny green sign that I completely missed – I got this instead:

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Not quite the same, huh?

We made a quick pit stop at the Visitor’s Center and stocked up on every possible pamphlet and brochure on things to do in Oregon. I also saw this gem in the bathroom and it made me think of home (this exact same sentiment hangs in the ladies restroom at the animal shelter I worked at).

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We drove along the Columbia River, traversing from eastern Oregon to Portland and then heading south to Corvallis.

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It felt so good to finally pull into the driveway of our new home. All that driving was over!!

However, that meant that now we got to unpack. oh boy.

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Basically, we just took everything in this truck and shoved it into the garage so we could go through it at our leisure.

The dogs were not helpful at all – I tried to teach them to be little pack mules but they wouldn’t have any of it – something about how they were the ones who pay the bills and do all the work around here.

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Unpacking is not fun. We did manage to unload everything from the truck and start the slow process of bringing it inside and putting it away. Keep in mind that we sold most of our major furniture when we left NC so we had no couch, no dining room table and no washer/dryer. The house quickly descended into total messy chaos with cleaning, painting and the discovery that our adorable vintage oven did not work.

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The rest of the day was a blur but I do remember hitting up the grocery store and somehow a delicious carrot cake hitched a ride home with me. As tiring as the day was, it’s always a good day if it ends in cake.

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With our cross-country journey at an end, we now had a new chapter before us as we started life on the West Coast.

Up ahead on the blog: the epic washer/dryer fail of 2014, house projects (aka covering up puke green cabinets and hideous flesh-colored trim), adventures in furniture thrifting, checking out the coast, and hiking, hiking, hiking!

Hope you stick around for more!

 

Catch up on the journey: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 & Day 4

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The Hunts Head West – Day 4 (Devil’s Tower!)

The fourth morning of our trip dawned and we rolled out of our cozy rubber-mattress bed, excited to see Devil’s Tower. When we arrived the night before, the entire area was covered in a darkness so replete, we could not see a thing. We stepped outside and I felt like a kid on Christmas morning – Devil’s Tower loomed dramatically over our campground and the entire scene was bathed in the most beautiful early-morning light. I grabbed my camera and ran around the campground like a crazy woman, snapping away, afraid to miss even a second of the short-lived sunrise perfection. I have done you the enormous favor of whittling down to a tiny handful of photos – apologies if these all look the same to you but hey, it’s my blog so I can do what I want :)

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The campground itself was fantastic. Nestled at the base of Devil’s Tower, it provides incredible views and offers camping cabins, tent sites and RV sites. As I walked around in that quiet early-morning stillness, it just seemed magical. I know that sounds a little silly – it is just a campground after all. But there was a quality in the air there – a clearness and purity that just seemed to fill you with a sense of possibility.

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As the sun rose higher, color bloomed from the red rock cliffs bordering the Belle Fourche River.

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The dogs also thoroughly enjoyed exploring the campground- it was basically a giant hound playground of scents. Based on how excitedly Annie & Sasha were running around sniffing the ground, Bigfoot must have been camping nearby and paraded by our cabin with an entourage of raccoons, deer and coyotes. Or maybe just maybe they were picking up on extraterrestrials – I haven’t noticed them building Devil’s Tower out of mashed potatoes so I’m not too concerned. (I hope you’ve seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind – otherwise you have no idea what I’m talking about and that just seems like a very odd statement).

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After the sun finished its wonderful morning performance, we made breakfast and enjoyed our oh-so-fun ritual of packing everything back up.

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While we loaded everything up and walked the dogs for the umpteenth time, my mom went on a scouting expedition for fuel. Hulett, a tiny hole-in-the-wall village a few miles away, claimed to have one gas station but I had visions of pulling up to a defunct, out-of-business station where the moving truck would sputter and die.  My mom headed out in the Jetta to verify whether the gas station did indeed exist and lucky us, it did! So we all headed to Hulett and wow, what a pretty drive! We were rewarded with another view of Devil’s Tower as well as gentle hills occasionally punctuated by that distinctive red rock. Even though it’s quite remote, what an incredible place to live and be able to drink in that view every day.

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We finally got back on our route and settled in for a VERY.LONG.DAY.

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Originally, we had considered going straight across Wyoming through Yellowstone but we knew it would add an extra day to the trip and, with all the dogs and a moving truck thrown into the mix, we wouldn’t feasibly be able to see much of it. Plus, Andrew and I had already decided that we would most definitely be returning to this part of the county in the future to properly explore it. So we opted for the route that our GPS kept barking at us and drove up through Montana.

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Montana went on foooooorreeeeeeever. I think traveling fatigue was starting to settle in at this point and nobody looked forward to another 9+ hours in the car.

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We drove and drove and drove some more, while I scouted out a place for us to stay for the night. Our original planned stop had no vacancy – in the entire town (!) so once again, we continued on a bit longer than we had planned, taking us right past dinner time without any dinner. This may or may not have led to a slight hangry breakdown on my part – (when will this drive end? when will we eat dinner? will I even be able to stand up straight after being stuck in this car for so long? … just your run-of-the-mill petty whining.)  Luckily, my mom squashed my hunger-induced whining with a quick stop for french fries (fried fatty carbs can solve anything!), and we eventually made it to a perfectly nice hotel, ate our dinner and had a much-needed good night’s sleep.

The dogs were mostly perfect angels during all of this, having become seasoned road warriors at this point. Except for Ella. Poor Ella would settle in to sleep in the car, and then a big truck would go by.  Up she would jump, peering out the window trying to figure out what that giant noisy monster was, and it would take her another twenty minutes to settle back down. Then it would happen all over again and again and again, as we shared the road with approximately 80 billion semi-trucks, all speeding by at 90 miles per hour. This did however ensure that she slept through the night at each of our stops.

We were definitely feeling the cumulative effect of driving all day every day at this point. With just a day and a half left to go, we were anxious to just get there already but resolved to be patient and enjoy the remainder of our journey.

Check back in for the final leg of our trip!

Catch up on the rest of the trip here: leaving NC, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

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The Hunts Head West – Day 3 (The Badlands!!)

We’ve reached Day 3! Whoo hoo! This was far and away my favorite day of the trip as we departed Minnesota and spent the bulk of the day traveling through South Dakota. When planning our journey, I had read so many comments from other travelers who said driving across South Dakota was boring  – not to me! I loved it! This was primarily due to the fact that I knew we were going to see the Badlands, one of the main reasons we had followed a northern route to Oregon.

As we journeyed on, we saw a million more wind turbines that stretched into the horizon.

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And we even saw them waiting to be transported (this photo does not do justice to how massive they are).

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More amber waves of grain….

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And then South Dakota!

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We made a quick stop to check out the Corn Palace, which is decorated with murals made out of corn and framed with native grasses.

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They were in the midst of a remodel when we stopped but still pretty impressive to see such large-scale art created from crops.

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We continued onward, taking in the South Dakota countryside until we reached the Missouri River, where we took a doggie pit stop at another fantastic rest area.

 

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Though it was incredibly windy, we were rewarded with amazing views of the Missouri River and even stumbled upon this little gem:

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We hopped back on the road under darkening skies and headed onward. We had hoped to make good enough time to make it not only to the Badlands but also to Mount Rushmore. However, we realized that there was no way we could reasonably do both before it was pitch black. So, we decided to alter our route slightly and make our stop for the night at Devil’s Tower. This would give us more time to check out the Badlands which pleased me to no end. A quick phone call later and we had a pet-friendly cabin reserved at a campground at the base of Devil’s Tower. With our accommodations for the night taken care of, we headed into Wall and checked out the giant tourist trap that is Wall Drug. This store stretches on and on and then on some more. We parked the moving truck and Andrew & Sawyer piled into the car with us for our detour into Badlands National Park (yes, it was a tight squeeze).

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The Badlands …. isn’t that name just plain awesome? It conjures up images of explorers and outlaws and unabashed wildness. When we first saw the prairie give way to this incredible geologic landscape, excitement propelled me out of the car, and I ran to the edge and just stared in amazement at the beauty.

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We had the good fortune to arrive as the sun was leaving which made the most brilliant colors emerge from the rocks.

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The dogs were also fascinated but they stayed in the car for this stop so they wouldn’t disturb the native fauna.

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Every vista was incredible and with the changing light, the sedimentary palette changed too, making for an incredible sunset performance.

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Andrew of course inspected the soil while I just continued snapping away with my camera, trying to capture the magical view before me.

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Even Wally was entranced with the vastness before him.

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The sun finally set and the land gave its grand finale of color – I wanted to applaud at the beauty of it all and yell to God ‘Hey, fantastic job!’

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It was truly one of the most inspiring places I have ever visited in my life. We reluctantly departed but know without a doubt that we want to make a trip back to explore the park more extensively.

We headed back to the moving truck, unloaded Andrew and Sawyer and sped along down the road toward Wyoming. Despite our best efforts, we had still taken a good long time at our stops and as we traveled onward, the hour grew late. Here’s the thing about Devil’s Tower – you have to take this winding, small road that seems to go on forever right through the middle of nowhere. At least that’s what it seems like when it’s pitch black outside. Add to the mix that Andrew decides to inform me on this lonely, isolated road that he’s low on gas. Remember how I’m super calm and collected about vehicles running low on fuel? Yeah. Add to that also that I lost cell reception and really had no idea how much further it would be until we reached the campground. Fun times.

The campground finally FINALLY comes into sight, and I hop out of the car to grab our key from the late arrival box. I’m walking up to the office when what to my wandering eyes should appear but a giant raccoon scurrying under the steps. I freeze then do a ninja-like sprint and jump over the steps, grab the key and run back to the car, where my superhero bravery has gone unnoticed by everyone else. Sigh.

We pull up to our cabin and try to unload our stuff as quietly as possible because it seems as though the entire campground is asleep. The hounds do not comply. But we finally get everyone walked and fed, and the dogs settle in for their nightly kongs.

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The campsite has advertised free WIFI and I attempt to use it to search out accommodations for the next night but sadly, no dice. The aliens probably screw with the signal out there, you know? (Close Encounters, anyone?) So, we hit the hay (or in this case the rubber cabin mattress) and catch some shut-eye.

Check back in for the next post when we wake up to see Devil’s Tower in all its sunlit glory (spoiler: it’s amazing!)

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Catch up on the rest of our journey: leaving NC, Day 1, Day 2

 

 

 

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The Hunts Head West – Day 2

This post could also be titled ‘The Day of Corn.’

We drove through miles and miles and then somehow more miles of corn. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As I mentioned in the last post, we pulled out of Indianapolis in lovely pouring rain and super happy morning commuters who graciously shared the road – well, the rain part was true. The heavy, unobliging traffic separated our little two-vehicle parade for awhile, to the point that I could no longer see Andrew in the bright yellow moving truck. A brief panic attack ensued because ohmygod how will we ever find each other again on this straight flat road going to the same destination with cell phones and CB radios to aid us.

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Fortunately, our separation only lasted for a few minutes as we left the city, Andrew caught back up and my crazy inner control-freak simmered down to a reasonably normal level.

We soon entered Illinois, and the clouds finally parted, granting us beautiful sunny skies.

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We also saw the first of many MANY wind turbines.

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We stumbled upon an amazing rest stop, where we walked the dogs and breathed in the fresh, crisp autumn air.

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There were walking paths going a fair ways into the trees and excellent plant diversity, which gave the dogs plenty to sniff and explore.

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Though we could easily have lingered longer in this beautiful setting, we loaded back up and sallied forth in search of food. Some quick Googling found that Culver’s had veggie burgers! And sweet potato fries! And something called cheese curds!

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While the cheese curds were slightly disappointing (basically a big wad of very rich fried dough with a little speck of cheese inside), the burger hit the spot and was a pleasant surprise. Fast food eateries are not known for their plethora of vegetarian options, and despite my wishing otherwise, french fries do not count as a real meal. So, if you’re a road-tripping vegetarian crossing the Midwest, check out Culver’s … although I would be the last person to judge you if you stopped somewhere else and made french fries your meal.

We continued on, and this was our view for pretty much the rest of the day:

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C-O-R-N. corncorncorncorncorncorncorn. My mind flashbacked to undergrad when I worked for a corn-breeding project, walking up and down, up and down row after row of corn. My fellow manual laborers would walk the rows searching for new shoots which we would quickly place a bag over to control pollination. At the end of the day, you would close your eyes and all you would see were those little green shoots – you would dream about those little green shoots. Driving through these Midwestern cornfields evoked a similar feeling – I would close my eyes, see the field imprinted on my retina, open my eyes and still.see.the.same.fields. It was kind of eerie – I knew time was passing and that we were actually moving but the view never seemed to change.

The view eventually did change as we crossed the mighty Mississippi – sadly, this was the best my phone and I could muster which does not do justice to the grandeur of this body of water.

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We entered into Iowa, where we were greeted by (you guessed it!) more corn!

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But we also saw plenty of awesome barns along the way which stirred up my barn envy. I really want a barn – preferably red and falling apart just enough to be charming without being a pain to maintain. Can we make that happen?

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We pushed on through into Minnesota and here’s where things get a little bit less than awesome. I had decided to wing it with where we would stay each night because I wanted to allow for any unexpected detours, exhaustion, etc. and not feel tied to getting to one specific place. I had researched multiple places that we could stay along our route through Minnesota and we had a ‘goal’ destination, a backup destination and a last resort destination that would have us getting in pretty late. Long story short, after numerous ‘no vacancies’ – we ended up at last resort destination, with the Jetta coasting in to the parking lot on fumes (FYI, I consider anything less than a quarter of a tank to be fumes – and heaven forbid if that little light comes on …. all out panic ensues).

We repeated our dog walking/feeding/re-walking routine which is easy enough when you have one dog but when you multiply that by 5, it takes time. Especially if you have a dog who refuses to poop on a leash – Sawyer, I’m looking at you. This dog will walk and walk and walk and do nothing, wait until you get back inside and then whine to finally go take care of business. There’s always one, isn’t there?

By the time the dogs were taken care of, it felt pretty late for us east coasters and some of us may or may not have been cranky and slightly hangry. A tiny bit of snarkiness may or may not have invaded our responses to each other as we waited for the little microwave to heat up our dinner. But once we all had sustenance, we returned to normal. (In full disclosure, my mom was a perfect saint and the previous sentences do not apply to her. And Andrew, well, he kind of was fine too. Don’t do the math.) We scarfed down our gourmet microwave meals while the dogs enjoyed kongs stuffed with peanut butter for dessert.

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The dogs had been such awesome little troopers so I broke out some new toys that we bought specifically for the trip. They loved them! A little too much. You see, the thing about beagles is that they are a lot like hobbits. Their things are their things and they like to keep it that way.

Wally fell head over paws for the shark toy pictured below and assumed it was his and only his. Unfortunately, Sasha & Ella had other ideas and promptly stole it. Instead of actually playing with the other dogs (as I had naively envisioned), Wally did what he does best and cried about it – literally. He does this half-bark half-crying noise that is just absolutely pleasant to listen to.

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Sharkie was quickly retrieved and hidden for the remainder of the night.

We all slept well that night – Annie only played guard dog for a brief period right in the dead of the night – and we woke up, refreshed and ready to tackle another day of travel.

Check back in to read about our journey through South Dakota & Wyoming!

(Wondering where we’re traveling and why? Catch up on our journey here & here)

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