View from the Interstate

I recently read a blog post done by a person who said they traveled through Montana via Interstate.  Their post talked about how they did not see all the wonder that so many talk about in Montana.  This post got me to thinking about how we travel.

The signs on the interstate don't even hint at the potential places have if you visit.

The signs on the interstate don’t even hint at the potential places have if you visit.

Many of us travel via airplane.   When we fly, we accept that we are miles above the earth and what we see is from a perspective that many will never see.   We also accept that at this elevation we will miss much of what is below us. The most we will get is a mosaic perspective on the earth.

Others of us will travel via auto and the interstate.   When we travel this way we assume that we are getting a look into the world through which we travel.   I had always assume that to be true until I spent my summer on the backroads of Montana.  It was having my summer job and reading this blog that lead me to a new discovery, interstate travel really is only a common denominator for speedy travel.  It is not the way to see the USA.

An interstate was designed to allow a truck to travel from point A to point B with the least resistance.  It was to have the least amount of curves and hills. Business are located along the interstate to save truckers time and milage when traveling from business location to business location.

Knowing the objective of the interstate highway system it makes sense that when traveling to a vacation destination that we too will take the interstate.   We want to get to our vacation location as fast as possible.  When we travel at 65, 75 or even 80 miles per hour down the road we only get a glance at what lies along the interstate.  It also means that we sacrifice the places we drive through. When traveling through Illinois or Montana when we hit a town it will be lined with exits with easy access to the Home Depot, Target and Costco.   Each town will appear to have the same national chain restaurants.   No one would ever claim that McDonald’s and Chili’s are as good as the culinary experience you could find in neighborhoods in Chicago, but if one were to judge the Windy City by the restaurants named along the interstate one might assume that to be true.  The same is true of the viewshed offerings.   What lines the interstate will feel very same, almost monotonous.   This is why people claim the Dakotas are flat, the mountains in Colorado are just ok and Chicago is just tall buildings.   It also explains why driving seems monotonous and hypnotic.   The interstate is designed to be the same on each mile.  When we travel via the interstate; we get the interstate view.

So the next time you go on holiday and decide to drive remember that when you drive though a place and you never get off the interstate for more than gas or to eat you really have not visited that place.

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Travel Recommendations from a Road Warrior

This summer job has made me a road warrior.   I spend four days each week on the road.   Every Thursday night I appear at home with dirty laundry and Monday by 6, I am heading out for another week of work.   Organization is everything in this kind of lifestyle to make sure you take everything you need  when you leave home for work.  Many of the places I visit don’t have much more than a couple of restaurants/bars, a gas station and a grocery store.   No place to buy socks if you forget to pack them.

The surprising but indispensable travel item for me this summer has been my collection of eBags packing cubes.  As a sewer I seriously thought about trying to personally engineer a collection, but in the end I bought mine.    I love them.   My bag has a certain number and size of cubes.   On Sunday, I pull them out and pack each of them and when they are all back in my luggage it means I am ready to go.   Some of my cubes have a spare pair of socks or underwear in them to remind me of what goes in each.  For this job each cube holds one of the five pieces of clothing I put on each day, but I used to be a business suit traveler and think that each cube could just as easily carry your daily outfit.   There is nothing worse than the last day of a professional business trip and realizing you wore the wrong blouse with the wrong suit and the one left does not match the suit you intend to wear tomorrow.   Ranger Sir and I will sometimes travel with just one bag if we go for a night or two.   It is not usually a pleasant experience.   I am thinking a second set of cubes in his own color may solve that problem.   Shop around for your set because the amount the retailers are asking you to pay varies widely.

Everyone has their favorite bag for toiletries based on what they want and need.  Most of us take some supplies from home.   My favorite choice for this is the GoToob products.   First reason for recommending this product is that it is easy to fill.   It actually has an opening you can put shampoo in without it traveling all down the sides.   Second is they stand behind the product no questions.   I broke a top, emailed them and I got a new top.   It is a one time purchase.   Lastly if you travel via airlines it was designed with that in mind.   The only negative is it is designed with words like soap, shampoo, lotion, conditioner on the neck.   Without my glasses in the shower I can read that stuff, so I had to shop around to get assorted colors to work for me.    In spite of that I really do like these the best of all the travel containers I have ever owned.

The fabric I used in this pillowcase always makes me smile because it is so crazy unexpected.

The fabric I used in this pillowcase always makes me smile because it is so crazy unexpected.

My last recommendation is a pillow case from home.   I have made a collection of bright don’t forget me pillow cases, but anything will do.    Pillow cases from home can be used to cover and double up hotel pillows to simulate your personal pillow.   Pillowcases from home can also be used to keep your face and skin away from the harsh hotel laundry soaps.   It also puts another barrier between you and the pillow that hundreds of others have slept on.   Lastly this is what I put all my dirty clothes in to take them home.   It is like having a personal laundry bag to keep your dirty clothes from soiling your luggage and anything you may have clean left in your bag for your next stop in your travels.

Fun Fridays

This has always been a tough time of year because RangerSir works weekends during hunting season.   He is busy doing what is called hunter patrol.   In past years this was a time where we often found ourselves passing in the night.   My days off were the traditional Saturday and Sunday and his were whatever he could grab.   Many nights he would not be home for the dinner hour.   It was not not a near miss either,  it was often closer to 8 when he blew in the doors.   All he wanted was a hot shower and to relax.

Since I have had my hours cut back and I now have Fridays off as well we have set aside this day to have fun together during hunting season.   We have started off our Friday with a Thursday night date.

Date night is tough because we love to eat good food.  There is not an over abundance of places to eat out and with the loss in salary we felt eating out was an extravagance we probably should not indulge in. Instead we have been cooking together on Thursday nights.   We have had all sorts of special dinners, playing music, drinking wine and dancing a little.

RangeSir looking for wildlife.

RangeSir looking for wildlife.

Our Fridays have been like a one day vacation that we have decided to give ourselves.   One week we packed up a picnic and took a half-finished bottle of Thursday nights wine up to the high country to watch for wildlife and huddle under the blankets.    We have explored some places that we have wanted to explore without the weekend crowds, like a little family owned hot springs that is geographically unfit for most folks to visit.   We had the whole place to ourselves.     How cool is that to be outside in the hot springs with all the forest all around?

Saturday and Sunday are my days.   I spend those days so many different ways enjoying my own company,  letting my creative muse run wild or curling up with a book doing nothing at all.

The rest of the week we are like always two ships passing, but it knowing that at least once this week we will both be in the home port at the same time that makes the rest of it all tolerable. Life is full of blessings when you least expect them.

Relaxing Seaside

We recently returned from a trip to the Oregon coast.    We love the ocean and in an ideal world we would retire in the NW or the NE walking distance to the ocean.  This trip was part vacation and part retirement exploration. It was the first time in nearly 35 years that we went on a true vacation.   By true vacation I mean a trip away from home that we were not planning on visiting friends or family.   We were taking time away just for ourselves, and think about what might be next  for us.

It was a relaxing time.   We had no work pulling at us.  We took no computers and set our smart phones to take no business calls or download any work emails.   We were off line.   There was no one we had to see or place we had to be.   It was vacation time no excuses made.

I woke everyday mountain time and was the first one on the beach with the dog.    It was solitude at its best.  The two of us started every day walking miles along the surf.     Each day RangerSir and I would have breakfast at the little house we rented and decided what we wanted to do that day.   The weather was iffy and so it was a day by day event.   We spent part of each day out exploring the area and eating lunch somewhere differently each day.  In five days we had five different chowders.   We poked around  towns along the Oregon coast looking at what they had to offer and how they might fit with our retirement plans.   We always found ourselves back at the beach two or three more times daily besides my morning walk.  We planned our days around the tides.  We could not get enough time seaside.

One of the things we did was kite flying.   Neither of us had done it since we were kids.  The kinds of kites we flew were the paper kites with the wooden crosses and tails made of rags.    The area of  Oregon we were at  has lots of coastal winds. We splurged and bought a kite at the local kite store, nothing fancy, mind you.  We had no idea what to expect, so we did not go crazy, though the store had hundreds to choose from of many colors and designs.   Our new kite was a modern contraption made with ripstop nylon and a built in tail.   Our modern-style kite far exceeded our expectations.  Kite flying was one of those things that we only give ourselves permission to do when on holiday.   We live in an area of Montana with plenty of winds and even more open spaces, so you will likely find us flying our Oregon coast kite again in Montana. We won’t wait so long to fly a kite again.

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And You Wonder Why- Shithead Dog Owners

I tried to think of some other title for this posting, but somehow this seem to be the only thing that fit. I apologize if I have offended you, but I really think it is the best I can do.

I just returned from a week long holiday.    For the first time ever we took our dog rather than board him.   It was an enlightening experience.   The add on fees for places to bring your dog ran the whole gamut, from just a little extra to fees that altered what we would do and where we would go.   I could understand this after all my dog is not perfect, no far from it, but I do think I am a responsible pet owner.  I did wonder why there were not add on fees for kids because I suspect that they can do as much damage as some dogs and there are many more of them that travel.

My dog is a house dog and yes he his allowed on the furniture (track dirt that is in his toes).   He barks at folks who walk by our car and when we are home barks at strangers who pull in the drive.   That is the downside.   The upside is he sleeps in a crate, and goes in there when we are away.   He is low to the ground and stands by the door to be dried off and paws cleaned when it is damp out.   He doesn’t bark when left home alone in the crate.   That is the upside.

Having never traveled with a dog before I spent some dough decking him out to make traveling with him easier.   The first thing I got him was a travel crate.   I had planned to collapse his home crate and take it along until I saw the travel crate, then I knew he did not care but I had to have one for this week on the road. It was lots like the collapsing lawn chairs with the bags you sling over your shoulder.  Of course we put his wool blanket from home in it. What was so interesting is that in the evening our dog heads to his crate long before we head to bed and with this one we found the same to be true when we were on the road.  He quickly figured out it was his safe place just like home.  It was a safe consistent place that he knew, no matter if it was a hotel on the road for a night or a house for the week.   Thousands of people will argue against crates and I will continue to argue that it is like a den that canine in the wild seek out.   You are feeding your domestic dog’s wild side.

It folds up like lawn chairs and works great if your dog is used to being crated. If your dog hasn’t already been trained to be in a crate I am sure they would rip their way out in 10 minutes tops.

I also decked myself out with a poop gather for walks since I did not do it at home since he had nearly 25 acres and he choose to do it out of what would be considered the lawn here at home.  One of the advantages of having a country dog. My contraption hooked on the dog leash, dispensed bags and even had a pouch to hold the full nasty until I got to a place to throw them out.    Nothing I hate worse than seeing dog poo that has not been picked up.    (Now you understand my blog title).   I know my dog his healthy and even though picking up dog poo is not my idea of a nice time, I know he is vaccinated, healthy and does not have worms or other intestinal nasties.   I can’t same the same for anyone who is so ignorant they don’t think that they have to pick up after their dog.   If they are that stupid about that simple responsibility, who knows how much more stupid they are about responsibilities that cost money like veterinary care. I was absolutely flabbergasted that the hotel and other places furnished bags and special waste cans and still people were so stupid and lazy as to not pick up after they dogs.   RangerSir was sure I was going to get decked each time a dog owner would walk away from a pile and I would call after them and say hey there are bags there pick up after your dog.    Stupid, lazy dog owners allowed their dogs to poop everywhere and I suddenly knew why the fees…at least most children are potty trained.   Children must toilet train themselves , because obviously if they had to depend on their parents many would never learn if devoted dog owners are any indication.

Now how stupid or lazy can you be? I sure found out on this trip.

It worked out well taking the dog along.   He went with us many times and stayed home in his crate when we didn’t want to take him along, no different than home.    We included him on the daily walks on the beach and we left him home when we explored towns.   He spent his day sitting between the seats watching where we were going in the rig.   When he got tired of that he would curl up and sleep until we got to our  destination. It was a vacation for him and us.   I would repeat taking a dog a long, it worked great for us, but was an eye opener as well.

 

Where were you?

Fourty-five years ago today was the historic moment when man first stepped on the moon.   I was a young girl and not in to all that space stuff, like my husband was, yet I can remember that day. It was a defining moment in history of what we could do if we set our minds to it.

July 20, 1969 Man on the moon.

I was at the cabin on Pike Bay in northern Minnesota.   It was a cabin like so many at that time, without running water or telephone.   I had been there many times and would be there many more, yet this was the only time that we ever had a TV at the cabin.   The portable television with tinfoil on the rabbit ears sat next to the Victrola.  Granny, Uncle Phil and I sat on three hardback kitchen chairs around the snow screen watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon as a Super8 movie camera on a tripod captured it all.

Space travel was real and walking on the moon seemed possible, but until it happened it was just a wee be incredulous.   Suddenly it was real, it had happened and I had seen it.   We, the US of A,  had done it.   As a family full of military men it was a moment of great pride because we had done it first.  We had won the space race ahead of the Russian, in the midst of the Cold War.

It was an amazing time and I got to experience it.

Memories of Vacation Travel

As a kid I traveled with my grandparents for vacation.    My family did not vacation, maybe a family picnic, but destination vacations were NOT in our family’s schedule.   On the other hand my grandparents were always on the move and included me in their travels.   Granny kept track of it and by the first grade I had visited all of the lower 48 but Florida.

I am not exactly sure why my grandparents thought traveling with a small child was a good idea, but the did and made lots of memories for me.   My grandmother would put together a travel kit for each vacation.   I can still see the tartan plaid tote all the goodies went into.   It was all planned to keep me engaged, entertained and maybe learn something along the way.   Things that went into this magical bag were only used on vacations so it was that excitement of see special things and new things each trip.

My bag looked something like this minus the picnic fixens.

Each year there was a game card for license plates.  Like almost all the games it was on the cards that hose were wrapped around in the box they were sold in.   Some years it was a list of all the states and Canadian provinces, that could be in alphabetical order, or admission to the union order.   Once in awhile it was even a map with no state names. It was before photocopy so it would mean Granny would draw the US with all the states on the card.

I had a magic whiteboard about the size of a piece of legal paper.   It was drawn on with special crayons, that I would be able to rub off.   There are two memories that stick out in my mind about that whiteboard because I used it to communicate with other drivers.   I would often write honk your horn and hold it up in the window to other drivers.   We must have been tooted at more than any other car.   Once a group of nuns were following us.   The nuns and I carried on a conversation for miles using my magic whiteboard and paper they had in their car.   Don’t think about safe driving distance or the fact there were no seat belts in the car as I was doing all of this.

My bag was full of maps.   My Gomper (Grandpa to the rest of you) had studied them before he left and Granny was the designated navigator.   Yet I too was expected to follow us along on the map.   Gomper would ask me what’s the the next town?   How many towns till we get there?   We turn of on route 78, what is the town just before our next turn?   It is still the way I navigate, by towns.

There was a little notebook that I was to write in each day.   I would give a small mint to read about the world from the perspective of a child and what I recorded in those books.  When I was very small I would dictate my daily notes to Granny, who I assumed was faithfully writing it all down and not actually jotting grocery lists.

There was a collection of hose cards with the alphabet faithfully printed on them.   These were for all sorts of games involving the the alphabet, some of them competitive between my Granny, Gomper  and me.    It was the days before Lady Bird Johnson cleaned up  the highways from signs and we would see who could first find all the letters of the alphabet in roadside signs, motor court motel names, or anything else she came up with as possible.

There were travel bingo cars.   They were a collection of commercially made cards with themes of what you were looking for.   I think we had three of  the sets.   One with signs, one with numbers that you found on license plate, one with vehicles of all sorts , and one with objects like windmills, pigs, barbershops and the like.   This last card would likely be pointless on today’s modern interstate system. Each of us had a card and Granny ran Gomper’s card as he was the driver.

There was a card likes this roadside objects. We also had one with license plate numbers, and one with vehicles (convertible, dump truck, cement truck, tractor)

Then there were the memory games that we played and went on forever.   They were of the nature of my father owned a grocery store and in it he owned…..   You worked your way through the alphabet and each person had to repeat all the previous items.    We would do all sorts of things hardware store, farm, church and we did not let you have bananas in church so you needed to be listening and thinking about what you might have for that letter.  I wonder if that is where I get my good memory from.

All of you know that I could not carry a tune to save my soul if you had a gun to my head.    My grandparents on the other hand could sing wonderfully.    We would sign songs in the car; the only time in my life that I have ever been encouraged to sing out loud.   I think most of our songs were somewhat religious in nature (I suppose that was the minister who was driving that made that happen).   I remember this little light of mine, found a peanut, and of course Jesus loves me.    We would also sing in round which I only remember a few of those row row row your boat,  three blind mice, allouette,  and Frère Jacques.   That was the only French I ever spoke or sang.

Lastly there was a new collection of activity books.   They were full of dot to dot, mazes, find differences and color pages.   Most of this went unused as I was a car sick girl who never got better with time.   There were hundreds of “Gomper Stop the Car!” moments in my life.   I have barfed along more roads than any little girl should have.    I traveled most of the time hanging over the seat between Gomper and Granny looking forward.   If this did not do the trick I stood in the on the floor in the front with my face in the AC vent right where the front window met the side window with Granny gently stroking my hair, looking forward breathing slow and deep.   (Another of those OMG moments when I think about what if he had had to stop suddenly).

When we traveled recently for vacation these memories all flooded back.     It took Granny lots of time to plan to to not have a bored child in a car for often over ten hours a day.   That planning gave us all time together in ways the regular life did not allow.   It made for special bonds and special memories of places and people.   I was one lucky little girl growing up.   Today when folks travel with children it is with portable video, iPods, iPads  and when kid travel with their heads down.    They have no idea where they have been or the changes that have passed them by.     To me, who has no children, it seems sad that they have done exactly the same kind of thing they could have done for the travel time as though they had never left home.   In fact at home you would not have likely let them watch videos nonstop for eight hours.   Maybe Granny and Gomper’s travel method would not work for hours on end with today’s children, but a few hours of it might be nice on your next vacation.  You might be making memories you will never know about until years later.