Monday, October 10, 2011

Michigan and Beyyyyond!

It's been so long since we've been in Michigan (or so it seems) I had a real kick of re-reading my previous entry about Evil Lake. I should mention the remainder of our stay in Sleeping Bear was amazing and it has been one of my most cherished memories on this trip. The weather got hot that week we were there and we floated almost every day, getting a nice tan and lots of exercise.

We even took Spike with us on one float because we had seen a family the day before with three different dogs. Of course, their dogs were a lot smaller than Spike. And we had one heck of a time convincing him to walk DOWN the river rather than slamming our tubes into the banks alongside. He nearly impaled us on several downed trees but although it was anything but relaxing, it was actually pretty fun. Or challenging, I should say. Figuring out the best way to tether him between us or attach him to one of us was a continuing evolution of our best critical-thinking skills. Spike did his best to thwart us but he was pretty much unconscious for the rest of the night. Age is catching up with him.

We figured out the river route and never had to see Evil Lake again. The story is funny in hindsight but it was really just a small blip on our Michigan radar. The region is beautiful and though others protest that the winters are miserably bitter, it is hard to believe in the midst of their glorious summer.

Once we left Sleeping Bear, we were delighted to discover our friend Lynda and her girlfriend, Mary, were only two hours south of us. We met up for lunch and had a play date with the dogs. It was really wonderful to see her and to meet Mary. They seemed very happy and our time together was all too short.

Once we left Lynda, we continued at a more break-neck pace to New York to see Rupert. We planned an extended stay and did end up staying for 4 full weeks. His roommates were utterly delightful and we had a really good time watching Battlestar Galatica (all 4.5 seasons) and puttering around with friends. We spent some quality time with one of Whitney's old roommates from when she attended RIT and it was fantastic to socialize with people again. Though we've loved the solitude of traveling together, we have missed the opportunity to share our stories with other people and just to engage in general. While in New York we went to Letchworth State Park (one of the most beautiful parks on our trip) and drove to Syracuse University to check out the M.F.A. program.

Oh yeah, I'll have to follow up on a post about our newly evolved plans for the future. Whitney and I have finally figured out what we're doing with our lives! Or at least... for the next couple of years. :-) Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A detour

So after three weeks in Rib Lake, we've finally pried ourselves away. Whitney's mom has been reminding us at every opportunity about a beautiful place called Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan. So we decided since we were in the 10-hour drive neighborhood, we'd visit it. I'm so glad we did! Along the way we drove through the Upper Peninsula and saw Lake Michigan. It was my very first time seeing a Great Lake and I was blown away by how beautiful and clear the water was. There were a million little waysides and we parked for a bit and walked down to the SANDY beach and frolicked in the very warm water. The sun was shining and life was good.

We drove through the day and arrived at the Ranger station close to midnight and parked in the parking lot. In front of the office were two men who were camped out in sleeping bags and what I thought was a pile of their stuff. "Hmm... they must be backpacking through the state," I thought naively. The office opened at 8AM so I set our alarm for 7AM just in case and we got some shut eye. The night was fitful, Spike kept stirring and waking me up. By the time 7AM rolled around I was NOT in the mood to get up but decided to peek out and see if the guys were still there. THERE WAS A LONG LINE AT THE OFFICE! I jerked Whitney awake and we fled out to the line. There were at least 7 households ahead of us already and only a limited number of spots available! I was stressed we weren't going to get a campsite and we almost didn't. We snagged one of the LAST sites available and if we didn't have such a small trailer, we would not have fit in the spot. Luckily, it all worked out and we sought out a local McDonalds and took advantage of the free wi-fi while waiting for the people to clear out of our spot.

After we set up and got settled, I crashed for a nap. I never sleep well when we're boondocking on the road and sleeping in parking lots and for one reason or another, the past couple of nights had been fitful. So I took a needed nap and then we made dinner and went to sleep, determined to explore the next day.

The weather was beautiful, in the high 70's and we struck out to a little Canoe and Tube Float shop we had passed the day before. We checked out the tube rentals and then decided to buy our own so that we could float as much as we wanted. So we drove the Exped down to Lake Michigan, the end of the river and biked 3 miles back to the campsite, picked up our tubes, and walked to the launch point. By this point it was late and by the time we got in the water, the wind had picked up and it was a little cold. But the float was very beautiful and as it was my very first float, I was quite pleased. So we float, float, and float. Then the river meets a lake. A lake I have since dubbed EVIL LAKE.

Evil Lake was beautiful enough and the water was very shallow so we began walking toward where the river began again. Well the shallowness didn't last and we decided to get back in our tubes and paddle the rest of the way. I had bought a little plastic paddle at the shop and it didn't look that far to the next part of the river so we took turns paddling. Well, as we started getting out into the middle of the lake, the wind had whipped up a little more and while it wasn't too bad, paddling with one small cheap paddle wasn't making very quick progress. We paddled for over an hour and started to get tired. We were looking pretty close and I thought maybe if I hopped in the water and swam while Whitney paddled, we could make better time. I am a strong swimmer and felt pretty confident that I could just hop back in when I got tired. Yeah. Genius.

So I hopped out of the tube which promptly CAPSIZED and dumped all of our provisions into the lake. The bungee cord we had used to tie the tubes together came undone and I reached out to grab my tube and missed, hitting it and launching it away. I started to swim after it but the wind had caught it and I quickly became aware I would not be able to catch up to it. I also felt my muscles were very sluggish because we had been paddling for so long already. I turned back and saw Whitney and her tube were much further away than I thought. I couldn't help but think of side cramps and my fear of drowning kicked in. We were in the middle of a lake with one tube and no one in sight. The shore was not too far but I was so tired I frantically splashed back to Whitney and the tube. Here, I almost lost it. I almost drowned a couple years ago on a camping trip and I had sudden flashbacks to that feeling of drowning. Thank god the water was very warm. I clung to the tube and started to feel on the verge of an anxiety attack which made it hard to hang on to the tube. I began to feel certain we were going to drown. Whitney urged me to get up into the tube while she hung on. I was barely able to pull myself up but once I did, I used the paddle and directed us to the shore. I should also mention that Whitney has a HUGE fear of water plants. Like huge. As we drew near the shore, we saw there were a LOT of plants and Whitney began to scream and almost began to cry. At that point I saw the water wasn't deep so i hopped out and let her go to the tube while I slogged towards shore. Well.... the shore was not really a shore, it was a DEEP muddy mire. On the side of the lake we found ourselves on the trees and brush were overgrown all around and there was no place to really get out. I sunk hip deep into the mire and the sucking action almost made it impossible to struggle free. So as Whitney is squealing on the tube, I am struggling with evil lake quicksand. So I start to scream. On the opposite side of the lake there was a boat ramp and a house and while there were a couple people standing there, my previous shouts had not roused their attention. Fortunately, just as I'm about to burst into tears, I see someone get into a boat and start out into the lake. So Whitney and I start screaming for help, waving our stupid plastic paddle in the air. He eventually sees us and I point toward my tube, which has had a luxurious float to another part of the lake. The gentleman retrieves my float and the comes up to us and I ask if he'll tow us to the river. He obliges and I almost cry with relief. A water tow has never felt so wonderful and safe. In his motorboat, even though he was going slow, it took us 10 minutes to get there and I couldn't help thinking "we would have NEVER made it with our paddling efforts."

By the time we got to the river, he informed us he has had to do that on many occasions for people who get stuck in the lake with their tubes. He pointed us to the next boat landing and told us we could walk to the main road. Relieved and freezing (the sun was below the trees by that point) we floated and paddled down the continuing river. Along the way we came very close to several fishing herons and i felt a weird sense of relief and peace. Considering we had come so close to drowning (or so it felt) I was surprised at my sense of contentment then. Now I realize it was probably the mad rush of endorphins associated with rescue. So we got out at the next landing and had to hike back to the main road and then walk all the way back to our campsite. Whitney had to bike back the 3 miles to the Exped and bring it back. We collapsed into bed, didn't even eat dinner, and passed out, exhausted but thankful.

Today will be better. Now we know the layout of the river and where the next landing is where we can get out and park our Exped without going to the lake. And we'll get an earlier start. Adventures aside, we are sore and aching from our paddling efforts but I feel a weird sense of accomplishment at braving danger and surviving yet again. But, as my aunt sternly warned me, 3rd time can be the charm and as my greatest fear is drowning, I think next time I come toe to toe with a lake, I'll be bringing a life jacket or getting out, braving a long stroll through the woods instead.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Minnesota and current

Determined to follow-up my other post with another timely and prompt post...

After the disgruntled jaunt through South Dakota, I was looking forward to a change of scenary. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Upon entering Minnesota, we parked overnight in a Walmart parking lot and were immediately hit by ANOTHER emergency weather broadcast and a hellacious storm. In this case it was a devilish case of wind and extreme rain. The wind was rocking our trailer to a degree which made us both very nervous. We cowered inside the trailer and during a particularly bad ruckus, Whitney burst into tears and wailed "it's a TORNADO!" At which case I had to tell her to stop screaming and pull herself together all the while scared to death that it WAS a tornado because our county was on tornado watch! Very stressful. Next morning we went to the gym to take showers and what not and when we got there, we couldn't use our electronic key pass. Come to find out from the lady inside, the systems were down because they were struck by LIGHTNING. Mind you, the gym was 3 blocks from where we were parked.

Here the humidity reached a fever pitch and was pretty miserable. We camped in a place called Blue Earth -- at their fairgrounds which was quite nice with hookups. Unfortunately the heat and humidity made it impossible to really enjoy ourselves. Next morning we boogied out to Minneapolis and caught the last closed-captioned showing of Harry Potter Pt. 7 Pt. 2 and LOVED it! The following day we headed to Mall of America.... which, as expected was a mall. But we were really disenchanted with the huge amount of people that crowded it. We snapped some pictures of the awesome Lego statues and left, continuing on to greener pastures.

We drove out to Wisconsin where I found a free place to park at the Wood Lake County Park. It was a nice enough place with a swimming area but when we got there it was packed. So we boondocked for the night until people dispersed Sunday evening. Then it was just us and one other trailer, which we parked next to because of safety and because our spot was private enough to set up an outdoor shower. WE proceeded to be EATEN ALIVE by mosquitoes no matter how much bug spray or bug repellent incense we lighted. The humidity was also terrible and after our third day we got pummeled by more lightning and thunder. At this point we were also getting a little creeped out by our trailer neighbor. In the 3 days we had been there we hadn't seen a single person come or go and all the trailer windows were opened. We began to entertain ridiculous notions of someone dying in there or something. On the 4th night we got hysterical. Walking to the bathroom meant being in PITCH darkness as lightning raged overhead. On our way back, I couldn't even bring myself to look at the trailer and scene shots of Texas Chainsaw Massacre began running through my head. It didn't help that Whitney swore she had seen someone in the woods outside our trailer with a flashlight. By the time we got to the trailer we were terrified and spent a night in complete agony, unable to sleep due to the bugs and the head and the thunder. The next morning we abandoned our spot and fled for Rib Lake where we found a nice, well-lit campground with hookups for $15/night.

We proceeded to fall in love with this little town of Rib Lake. It has all the amenities we need, including wi-fi spots, a laundromat, a homemade hand dipped ice cream parlor, a coffee shop, a mini farmers market.... and a beautiful lake next to a cemetary. We've been here for over a week and are planning on staying another week. This weekend is "Ice Age Days," an annual carnival thingy and on Saturday, the nearby town of Tomahawk is having a 4-H Show.

Next, we'll be off to CHICAGO!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tsk, tsk, slacking updates

Hello all! I know, I know. I've been slacking quite a bit on the updates. Last you heard I was in Wyoming! Well, we are actually in Wisconsin now.


After leaving Big Horn we drove north to the Badlands and Devil's Tower.

Devil's Tower was very neat but again the heat was really dreadful. We did one hike around the base and then had to call it because I was afraid I was going to get heatstroke. Quick note: I have never sweated so much in my LIFE as I have on this trip thus far :-D Loving it!

On our way to the Badlands, a massive storm front began moving in and we were witness to one of the scariest sights I've ever seen. As we drove into this massive storm system the Emergency Broadcast system is blaring about severe thunderstorms, winds in excess of 60 mph, golf ball sized hail, and DEADLY lightning. As if regular lightning weren't so deadly. And as we're driving, the lightning is in fact striking down ahead of us, ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ROAD. Now, had we not been driving through the National Park of GRASSLANDS or some such ridiculous thing, we would have just stopped. But we happened to be the only metal thing of any significant height for miles around. We also had been driving for a long time, were in the middle of no where, and looking for a gas station. Our options were limited to pushing ahead. I've never been afraid of lightning or thunderstorms. I find them a beautiful natural spectacle. But I was afraid for our safety. We arrived safely and endured a night of rolicking winds and terrifying thunderclaps. That being said, we only stayed one night as it was too much for my nerves to take at that point and there was a break in the weather. It was also terribly hot with crippling humidity. Whitney managed to get a shot of the lightning.

So we continued on to South Dakota, drove by the monument....

Oh YEAH. Side note here: I was very disappointed with western South Dakota. Everywhere we went they made every attempt to gouge us for money. It costs $11 to see Mount Rushmore. $11!! And there's no discount for seniors or disabled people. There is also no alternative place to park to view the monument from a distance. All along the highway are posted signs "no stopping here, no standing here, etc etc, we're big douche bags." Basically, you're telling me, poor people are not allowed to see the monument? And don't give me this "it's for the upkeep!" nonesense. We've been to plenty of sites and other historical monuments that don't charge nearly as much! Please don't tell me you couldn't charge a flat $5 rate or something more affordable. In addition, Crazy Horse is ANOTHER $10 on top of that. Way to take advantage of national pride and the massive influx of people you get. Dicks.

Anyways, moving on. So we drove along and were bombarded by more storms. The rest of South Dakota was pretty boring EXCEPT! *fanfare* for the CORN PALACE! Yes, a palace decorated with ears of dried corn! It was actually quite nice and a fun little eccentric stop.

Yep, the rest of South Dakota was boring so we jammed through it and hit.... Minnesota!

Stay tuned.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Swimming along in the Wyoming Heat

Aha! We have resurfaced after 6 days in Yellowstone National Park and 2 days in Bighorn Canyon. Reception has been scarce of course so it feels strange to actually be interacting with the technology grid once more. We're stopped in Sheridan, Wyoming and taking advantage of some free WiFi offered at their visitor center. I'm using this opportunity to offer some updates, clear my e-mail, and transfer all the massive amount of pictures we took the park! I'm thinking I may need to utilize my flicker account to deal with all the pictures instead of just trying to post them haphazardly here or on facebook.

Yellowstone National Park was a blast and I can see why it remains one of the most visited places in the United States. There is so much to see and so many trails leading to amazing beautiful places. Actually, I was shocked at how little we actually hiked. All of the major attractions are right off the main roads with lots of parking and very comprehensive facilities throughout the park. Actually, the main attractions are so accessible that there is absolutely no reason that ANYONE should not be able to enjoy the park and all it has to offer. Many roads are paved, wheelchair accessible, and I was impressed with the wide variety of accommodations made available. We saw two bears, countless bison, and less elk than I thought we would. The weather was perfect in the 70's and 80's with a lot of breeze which made the heat bearable. It even rained one day which was a relief and cooled things off considerably. It also didn't stick around too long so it worked out! The geysers were amazing and interesting in their wide variety but by the end I was a little geysered out. You can only take so much sulphur and billowing heat.

Bighorn Canyon National Park turned out to be a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, a far cry from the crowds of people we experienced at Yellowstone. Bighorn has its own beauty however with rust red cliffsides and geological structures that were very beautiful. There was also a lake to swim in, however, it was also swarming with BUGS. I mean, LOTS and LOTS of bugs! Most were fine and of the grasshopper/locust family but there were some scary spiders and Jurassic park sized mosquitoes to contend with. Our natural oil bug spray held up really well though and we'll be needing a restock on that pronto. Bighorn was extremely hot and very windy in the evenings. It also offered utility hookups at a steal of a deal which we took advantage of to watch movies and.... drumroll please.... I FINISHED A NOVEL! As in, I succeeded in writing the remainder of a novel I have been laboring over for some time now. Whitney also worked a lot on her novel and together we were quite the writing pair! It was quiet solitude and just what the doctor ordered.

Well, my butt is numb and my stomach is growling so off I go!

Saturday, July 9, 2011


So our trip has been off to a hectic start. Moving out sapped whitney and I of a lot of our initial enthusiasm and whitney is still recovering from numerous bruises and physical scrapes (though she seems to be steadily accumulating more courtesy of our trailer :)) However, even with the craziness that has been the beginning, I think we're hanging on.

We've made it all the way to Spokane with few problems. Most of my problems have been physical stemming from a nasty sinus infection and special lady cramps. As a result I've been pretty grumpy and struggling with general irritation.

I'll post more at a later time. After a gym workout and shower its time for lunch before we head to idaho!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


In all my excitement for our adventure and upcoming joy, I had refused to allow the prospect of "hard work" get to me. Sure, we had to move out of our house 3 days after our wedding. Of course we would have to lug all our personal effects to Gig Harbor. And yes, there was the chaos that was sure to be the first few days un-tethered from true domicile. But I REFUSE TO LET THAT RAIN ON MY PARADE! ....until now. I'm exhausted. Whitney is covered head to toe in hideous and painful bruises and both of us are suffering from a variety of strained muscles.

Side note: the wedding was AMAZING. It exceeded my wildest expectations and was a true showcase of how wonderful our combined families are. We are so grateful and blessed to have the family we do and to have been able to share our love with them.

That being said, we danced so long and so hard that the following morning I could barely walk. Whitney's sister had feet that looked like they had encountered land mines, what with all the open wounds. So our physical well-being had naught a day to recoup before we had to suddenly begin lugging boxes and all sorts of ridiculousness out of our rental home. So although we are at the beginning of our journey, it feels like the first week will simply be spent lounging and resting in some beautiful place while we recover. And that's just fine with us! :-)

More pictures and adventures to follow!