Tuesday, August 10, 2010


"Along with black bears over 500 grizzlies live in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem."

Hearing of the grizzly attacks just days before my arrival in Yellowstone generated a bit of what Brian coined my "bear paranoia". I'd like to clarify that I don't harbor a blanket fear of bears, but, admittedly, an encounter with a grizzly in my campsite is a scenario I'll do most anything to avoid. Brian totes a can of bear spray in his hip-holster at all times; this is good. However, the notion of there being only a thin layer of nylon separating me from whatever lurks outside was far from comforting. I found I was quite capable of relaxing as long as we were sitting beside the campfire, talking, and shining flashlights on anything that moved...A perceived sense of control. For a moment, I almost forgot about grizzlies; it felt just like camping anywhere. Then bedtime arrived. We changed into our sleeping clothes, the ones without any scents from the day, stored everything safely in the car and tiptoed into the tent. Once inside, everything fell silent. That is, everything but the sound of blood pumping through my body. For the first time, it seemed I could hear each blood cell travel its way from the tips of my toes to the depths of my eardrums. My "bear paranoia" was clearly kicking up to a new level. It was like I instantly developed bionic auditory senses. Not only could I hear every organ in my body hard at work, but each leaf wriggling in the breeze became a threat. Coupled with the fact that I couldn't see beyond the tent walls, panic ensued. Brian and Flynn were fast asleep. I continued to "keep watch" and fell in and out of sleep throughout the night.

When morning came, the campground buzzed with talk of the grizzly who paid us all a visit in the early hours of daylight. I slept through it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Down Jackets and Candy Bars

Unprepared for yet another afternoon downpour, I sought shelter pressed against the wall of a Jackson tourist shop. A kind old couple stood next to me and we quickly struck up conversation. Naturally, the discussion began with topics such as the speed with which weather changes out here, where we call home and how obviously unprepared I was in my tank top and flip flops. Recognizing opportunity for warmth, I squeezed in a bit closer as the wife sandwiched her husband to his left. We laughed about his luck with two lovely ladies flanking his sides, then he gave me advice I will never forget..."You should always be sure to carry a down jacket and a candy bar out here...You never know when you're gonna need either one." I thanked him for his words of wisdom and within moments the rains calmed. We wished each other safe travels and I puddle-jumped my way back to the car before the next wave hit.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Wild West

First and foremost, I'd like to say that Brian is in his element out here! From all that I've learned about the data collection he's doing, it's grueling work; I admire his passion and dedication.

Above is the "Ritz Carlton" of Yellowstone. Relative to camping in the wild, that's exactly how it feels. Protection from the elements, hot showers and internet make for a relaxing break for Brian and his team between bouts in the wilderness.

Saturday night, we camped at Lizard Creek Campground in Grand Teton National Park. A short stroll to Jackson Lake provided Flynn refreshing relief from the hot-box which has become his home in the back of the car. After setting up camp, we went off to explore the park witnessing multiple black bears munching on berries, beautiful views of the Tetons and a rare sighting of a student I taught in first grade 5 years ago! Then...the rains came.

Unknowingly, we sealed our fate by loading all the sleeping gear inside the tent before we left to explore for the rain fly. One thing I now understand; always be prepared for massive afternoon rain showers out here. It soon became apparent this storm wasn't letting up so, on the way back to camp, we fled straight for the nearest general store. Together we figured this was nothing a good tarp and rope couldn't solve. On the contrary, we found our tent flooded and the sleeping bags, pads and pillows previously placed inside floating in a pool of water. Quickly, we reviewed our options and decided to go with innovation. In attempt to salvage our camping experience, we loaded all the gear into the car and cooked the heater for a good hour and a half. Next, we poured out the tent and placed it strategically on top of Cecilia whose moon roof successfully debuted as a convection heater! All in all, we feel proud to have made lemonade out of lemons that day!!

Strikingly similar to the photo we have from rainy Monteverde, Brian and I capture the light and hope in our faces at the prospect of salvaging what otherwise would've been grounds for heading to the nearest hotel. That's just the thing though...there wasn't a nearest hotel.

Thankful Thoughts:

I am thankful Brian has found something he loves to do and am grateful for the time we got to spend exploring together! I'm also thankful for the people who had the foresight to create Yellowstone National Park to begin with...

Friday, July 30, 2010

We Have Arrived!

Flynn is smiling as big as I am!

Entering the hole they call Jackson.

My trusty companion and I have safely arrived in the bustling cowboy town of Jackson, Wyoming! Leaving Chubbuck, Idaho this morning was relaxed and slow going...Yes, you read that right...I said Chubbuck (even spell check is suspicious). I know some of you are scratching your heads thinking..."Wait a minute, didn't she say after BM she was staying in Pocatello?". Well, the room I reserved at the Motel 6 was supposed to be in Pocatello, however, the true location is up the highway in Chubbuck. Funny they never mentioned that over the phone. I did take a spin around Pocatello just to say I was there.

Anyway, moving on...the stretch of driving today was astounding! I oooooohed and aaawed all the way! This is beautiful country out here! I look forward to exploring more with Briunski this weekend! On that note, I don't believe the bears and buffalo of Yellowstone offer wi-fi so I may go a couple of days without updating. Rest assured, I'll take lots of pictures and touch base when we're out of the woods!

Thankful Thoughts:

I am thankful for all the scenic wonders our country has to offer and for the money dedicated toward taking care of our roads.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Niagara of the West

Shoshone Falls...shaped by a flood that ripped through the canyon about 15,000 years ago.

The falls tumble 212 feet to the canyon floor (50 feet higher than Niagara Falls).

Successfully ahead of the thunderstorm, I resumed my plan to check out Shoshone Falls. I'm glad I did! Although, this time of year, the river's flow is diverted for hydroelectric power production and for irrigation, the grandeur of the falls was striking! Flynn enjoyed free time to run in the park and, although we endured a little rainfall, it felt wonderful to stretch our legs!

Summer Storm

Add ImageAt 3:27 pm today, the National Weather Service doppler radar indicated a severe thunderstorm capable of producing quarter size hail, and destructive winds in excess of 70 mph.

The following advice was provided, "If you are in the path of the storm, take immediate action to protect life and property. Seek shelter inside a sturdy building and stay away from windows."

Sure thing...The advice would've been helpful had I not been driving along a two lane highway smack dab in the middle of it all. Lightening and thunder struck everywhere and often, the sky was black and the winds aforementioned were no exaggeration! In my 30's I've realized more than any other decade that life takes the path it is meant to take. Of the many things we cannot control, Mother Nature ranks high. With this in mind, I put both hands on the wheel, repeated deep breathing and hoped to beat the storm. As Mother would have it, I did.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Survived BM

Good morning! In the event you need somewhere to sleep between Winnemucca and Elko, Nevada there's a little place called...Battle Mountain. To prevent you from whizzing past this nondescript desert town, the initials 'BM' are enormously displayed on the hillside off of HWY 80.

Trivia: Battle Mountain is not a mountain. It's also been said that the battle after which it was named never happened. Once awarded the prestigious title "Armpit of America", BM (aptly initialed) offers a Chevron gas station, pizza for purchase at the liquor store, McDonald's, and a noisy, yet dog-friendly Super 8 Motel. A few dive bars and small casinos line a dusty block tucked behind an alarming number of aggressive pick-up trucks. Spending one night here doesn't exactly give me expertise to report on all that Battle Mountain has to offer, but, from what I can tell, their best feature is the sunset.

Nonetheless, I'm thankful that BM offered Flynn and I a safe place to rest.

Day 1

There's no better reminder that you're never truly alone on the road than cavorting among the masses at 10:00am in East Bay traffic. All chaos aside, Flynn and I made a smooth exit out of the Bay Area...only a smidgen behind schedule. Wait, we're on vacation...schedule schmedule!

Latin rhythms (Brazilian to be precise) followed by some old Widespread Panic carried us through to our first destination...Truckee, CA. We arrived in a timely fashion for our lunch date with Sarah and Geoff. After a quick tour of their adorable new home (see photo below), we enjoyed delicious deli sandwiches picnic style in their backyard. It was a wonderful break in the drive and, as always, we had a great time catching up!

Before leaving town...I stopped in for a visit with the Wilson clan! Having recently grown their family by 1, their home was filled with all the touching sounds of a newborn girl. Reese Aila Wilson is only 5 days old
today and couldn't be cuter!

As this day comes to a close, it's time to enjoy some microwave popcorn, lock the doors tight and get some much-needed shut eye (may not be easy given the clatter outside my door). I'm thankful for a beautiful day, all the love and friendship in my life and a safe first day on the road.
Ni night!!


Here in my room with a cup of coffee and a towel on my head I mentally and physically prepare for the hours I'm about to spend sitting in the car. Flynn gave me one bloodshot glance then gently returned his head to his pillow and closed his eyes. I know exactly how he feels. Ah well, Carpe Diem!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Funny how much preparation goes into a simple road trip with your dog...Turns out, finding accommodations for my sidekick has proven challenging, expensive and time consuming!! In the name of safety and comfort, I've persevered through the search for "dog-friendly" hotels in towns I've never heard of. After hours spent searching the internet (internet... I'm extremely grateful!), I've got my full itinerary organized by day, distance and places we'll be laying our weary heads each night. Flynn is a lucky guy...He better pack his swim suit and I suppose I'll have to discuss with him the rules of the mini-bar.