What happens to a travel blog when the trip has ended? Not much, if recent (lack of) posts are any indication.

I’ve been reluctant to write a final summary, as it would mean the trip is really over. Which, of course, it is. We’ve had a temporary home in a cute little Healdsburg cottage for three weeks now. Patrick zips off to an office every day and I’m so close to being employed I actually attended a meeting yesterday. I’m making the most of my last two weeks of free time. The Russian River slips by just out of sight across the street from our house, and all day teens in bright bathing suits traipse past laden with inner tubes and rafts – summer vacation distilled.

This little gargoyle hangs out at our rental cottage.

Someone once told me people in general like change but dislike transition. They were speaking of politics, but the sentiment holds true for other life changes, too. There’s an uncertainty that’s both exciting and disquieting. It took us a few weeks to relax into our traveling schedule and become accustom to being around each other, and only each other, through all our splendid days. Now we’re going through that transition in reverse, getting back in the swing of schedules, responsibilities, deadlines. And then, in nine (!!) weeks, we’ll make that other big transition, from companions to husband and wife.

For the time being I feel suspended, neither a wayward traveler nor truly settled. It’s too early to know which memories will be enduring. The mind, old sieve, will filter out what it wishes and in a few years I’ll have a handful of solid moments, like a collection of stones. If I concentrate now, I could recount each day. But I’ll lose more and more moments the longer we’re home.

There’s a big hill behind our house. When I hiked up the other day, a squirrel crashed off in the underbrush, and though the air smelled of redwoods and bay laurel, it instantly brought me back to Graham Cave Sate Park in Missouri. In December we stopped there for a walk one cold afternoon, the only visitors as far as we could tell. Hoping to see deer, I was fooled time and time again by gray squirrels dashing through fallen leaves, sounding like animals ten times their size. I look forward to more of those sudden memories.

Friday Dessert Inspiration

I know it’s late in the day, but I have a suggestion for your weekend:

Ice cream sandwich, Propane Kitchen

Miniature homemade chocolate chip cookies, sandwiched together with Straus vanilla bean ice cream, covered with bittersweet chocolate.

Ice cream sandwich, Propane Kitchen

Just smash a few spoonfuls of ice cream between two of your favorite cookies. Freeze for ten minutes while you melt some chocolate chips. Quickly dip your cookie sandwich in chocolate and pop it back in the freezer.

My oh my aren’t weekends divine?

Ice cream sandwich, Propane KitchenI think I am a Sweet Genius. (Has anyone else seen that show? I am so enthralled/weirded out.)

Raspberry Rolls with Limoncello Glaze

Along with things like regular haircuts and lengthy hot showers, while on our trip I missed my KitchenAid mixer. Is it possible to make scrumptious things without one? Of course, but for banging out sticky doughs, the KitchenAid is tops.

KitchenAid, Raspberry Rolls, Propane Kitchen I named my trusty mixer Janet. I know, I know, it’s ridiculous to name your appliances. It started as a joke and just stuck. In any case, before our trip she got a pretty regular workout with butter and flour. Janet is still in storage, so I was fortunate to put my mom’s mixer to good use when I visited.

These luscious, sticky rolls elicited a lot of ooohs and ahhhs and yums on Father’s Day. The dough is slightly sweet, balanced with a tangy raspberry filling. For an extra festive kick, I topped them with a glaze made with limoncello. I found this through the excellent Joy the Baker, who posts seasonal recipes and cooking tips paired with beautifully styled photos. Her blog always makes me hungry.

Don’t let the length of the recipe discourage you; these actually came together quite easily. Let your mixer – whatever it’s called – do the hard kneading work.

Raspberry Rolls with Limoncello Glaze, Propane Kitchen

Raspberry Rolls with Limoncello Glaze

makes 12 rolls

adapted from Joy the Baker

For the Dough:

1 C milk (I used 2 percent)

2/3 C sugar

1 1/2 Tbs active dry yeast

1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted buttered, softened to room temperature

2 large eggs

1 tsp lemon zest

1/2 tsp salt

4 1/4 C all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 C for kneading, plus more for sprinkling the counter

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cardamom

For the Filling:

1 1/2 C  fresh raspberries (if using frozen, do not thaw)

1/3 C sugar

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp cornstarch

1/4 C (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, browned and slightly cooled

For the Glaze:

1 C powdered sugar

1 Tbs lemon juice

2 Tbs limoncello

To make the dough:

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the milk to about 95 degrees. Pour the warm milk into the bow of an electric stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment. Stir the sugar and yeast into the warm milk and let sit for 5 to 7 minutes. The yeast will foam and bubble. That’s how you know it’s alive. After frothy, add the butter, eggs, lemon zest, and sea salt to the yeast mixture.  Whisk together flour and spices. Add to liquids. Beat on low speed with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and replace the paddle with a dough hook. Beat dough with the dough hook on medium speed for about 10 minutes.

Dust a clean counter with flour. Scrape the dough out onto the work surface. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of flour and knead for about 2 minutes. Dough will be soft and slightly sticky.

Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Sprinkle a bit of flour on top of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and place in a slightly warm place to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. [Alternate: let dough rise overnight in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before proceeding in the morning.]

While dough rises, grease a 9×13-inch pan with butter. Set aside.

To make the filling:

In a medium bowl toss together raspberries, sugar, lemon zest, and cornstarch. Crush the raspberries just slightly as you stir. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter until it is browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool slightly.

To assemble the rolls:

When the dough has doubled in size, turn out onto a floured work surface and gently knead for 1 minute. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a roughly 10×20-inch rectangle.

Spread the butter over the dough. Spread the filling over the dough. Raspberries will be scattered across the dough.

Working quickly, tightly roll up the dough into a 20-inch long log.  Cut the log into quarters, then cut each quarter into 3 pieces. (This part will make a huge mess; my kitchen counter looked like a crime scene. A DELICIOUS crime scene.) Carefully and quickly lift the rolls into the prepared pan. The rolls will release juice into the bottom if the pan. That’s fine! Cover pan with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rest in a warm place for 1 hour, until puffed.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Bake rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

To make the glaze:

In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, lemon juice, and limoncello. Drizzle glaze over cooled rolls and serve. Rolls are best served the day they are made but will last up to 3 days well wrapped at room temperature.

Imnaha Springs, Oregon

An old Forest Service cabin, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Core in the 1930s, sits near Imnaha Springs in Southern Oregon. It’s a magical place where crystal clear water gushes out of mossy ground to form Imnaha Creek. Now available as a vacation rental, the cabin’s location is idyllic. Lush monkey flowers and miners lettuce line the stream banks, and the sound of gurgling water fills the forest. Lovely as it was, my dad and I didn’t linger. We’d come on a mission – to find King Bolete mushrooms.

Kooky mushroom expert David Arora calls them “the consummate creation, the peerless epitome of earthbound substance, a bald bulbous pillar of thick white flesh – the one aristocrat the peasants can eat!” If you’ve sampled this mushroom, you might find such effusive descriptions are apt for King Boletes, also known as porcini. Firm, meaty, with an earthy aroma, they are absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, little grubs and animals think they’re delicious also; sometimes fresh mushrooms are riddled with bugs. We didn’t find a bounty of boletes, but the one we brought home was absolutely perfect. The real excitement of the day, however, wasn’t of the fungi variety.

king bolete, porcini, oregon mushroom

king bolete, bolete mushroom, boletus edulis

Eyes trained at the ground, searching for mushroom caps, I was more focused on the forest floor than usual. A small spot of softness caught my attention. Can you see it?

fawn, baby deer, bambi,

A tiny fawn, no more than a week old, lay curled in the undergrowth. Young fawns rely on their spotted coat and stillness to hide from predators. Had I been simply hiking, I certainly would’ve walked right by.

fawn, camouflaged fawn, baby deer

I’d never seen any living thing be so utterly motionless. We stared through binoculars, trying to discern whether or not it was breathing. We thought we saw movement in its small body, but it was so hard to tell. We waited for the little thing to blink. To twitch an ear. Nothing.

Finally we moved on, trying to find a few more mushrooms. Thwarted, we circled back to see if the fawn was still there. This time I crept closer, and watched as the fawn took a big breath. I also saw it twitch its nose almost imperceptibly. It’s easy to see how people think fawns are injured or abandoned; I easily could’ve picked up this tiny fawn. But the doe was undoubtedly somewhere nearby. The fawn was simply acting on survival instinct to remain still and wait for its mother to return. It was incredible to be so close to something wild and beautiful.

Our single King Bolete was quickly sautéed with butter and viognier, an elegant addition to simple rice bowls. We kept talking about the fawn, our thoughts on a small, dappled body in a spot of green.

camouflage fawn

We Were There

Already I’m nostalgic about this trip, and it isn’t even entirely over. Patrick calls me “pre-sentimentalist.” One small thing I’ve enjoyed is when I’m listening to Talk of the Nation or Car Talk or some other radio show where people call up to say, “I’m Ellen from Magnolia, Arkansas.” Or, “This is Chris from Albuquerque.” “Jenny from Staunton, Virginia.” And we’ve been there. All these places, these small large sleepy urban ramshackle hipster remote towns we’ve seen. I feel like the whole country is mine now.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There were so many correct answers to our final WWWW – trusty chose our winner – congrats to Chris! This photo was taken in Zion. And thank you to everyone who has followed along and played each week.


Eagle Point, OR

Before I met Patrick, I lived alone for many years. I was accustom to my own company. I filled my spare time with books and baking and strolls to the market and simply putzing around the house. Friends, too, of course, but I relished coming home to my little apartment at the end of a night out or holing up every once in a while. Now I’m out of that habit. For the first time since before we kicked off the trip, I was absolutely alone for more than 24 hours over the weekend. I’m chicken-sitting, and Patrick is visiting his family. It’s been lovely and strange to be surrounded by so much quiet, to not have to collaborate on the day’s plans.

snap peas, gardenin

It’s not lonesome.

I read a huge stack of foodie magazines. I pulled weeds. I took a morning hike. I made dinner out of half an avocado and a handful of fresh garden peas, all sprinkled with olive oil and sea salt. Peaceful.

fresh eggs, organic eggs, beautiful eggs

But, I find I talk to myself. And to the chickens.

Sparkles the Chicken, Speckled Sussex, Chickens.

heritage chickens

Forests Everywhere


In all the woods that day I was
the only living thing
fretful, exhausted, or unsure.
Giant fir and spruce and cedar trees
that had stood their ground
three hundred years
stretched in sunlight calmly
unimpressed by whatever
it was that held me
hunched and tense above the stream,
biting my nails, calculating all
my impossibilities.
Nor did the water pause
to reflect or enter into
my considerations.
It found its way
over and around a crowd
of rocks in easy flourishes,
in laughing evasions and
shifts in direction.
Nothing could slow it down for long.
It even made a little song
out of all the things
that got in its way,
a music against the hard edges
of whatever might interrupt its going.

I love that last line. I’m trying to make music with hard edges, too.


Where Were We Wednesday (#16 – The Final Photo)

This will be our last WWWW. Our trip is winding down; the Minnie is back on the West Coast and we’re each going to spend some time with our families before we return to the Bay Area. Where did this year go?? I’m constantly amazed by how quickly the weeks pass. After nearly 11 months on the road, our thoughts are now turning to next steps, job searches, having a home that isn’t on wheels. For our final WWWW, I’m highlighting one of our very favorite spots and will put together a prize package with some fun souvenirs from across the country.

Here’s this week’s picture.

Where Were We?


Enter by posting in the “Comments” section. Guess as many times as you wish. Winner chosen at random from all correct answers. It might help to look back at our Itinerary or our Facebook albums.

Last Week’s Winner

This photo was taken at Yellowstone National Park. Congrats to Staci, who answered via Twitter, and was chosen by!

Five Tips for Finding the Best Campsites, No Reservations Needed

The long Memorial Day Weekend was the official start of the summer camping and outdoor recreation season. Now through September, parks and campgrounds across the country will be more crowded as families take advantage of warm weather and closed schools. Have you reserved a campsite at your favorite destination? If not, you might face competition. A recent study by the Outdoor Industry Association indicated nearly 49 million people spent at least one night in a tent or RV in 2011, and camping continues to be a recession-friendly vacation option.

Advance planning isn’t always an option, though. In our more than 300 nights on the road, we’ve only had reservations twice. Here are our top tips for finding great campsites.

Camping, boondocking, Eastern Oregon, Ochoco National Forest

1. Arrive Early Many parks offer select sites on a first-come, first-served basis. Show up when the camp office opens and you’re likely to snag a site. We were able to get spots at a popular Oregon coast state park, Zion, Bryce and even Yellowstone this way.

2.  Or Get There Late On the other hand, you can also get great sites by showing up late in the day, after camp staff has had the chance to process no-shows and reservation cancellations. At Arches National Park, where sites at the single campground are booked months in advance, we were turned down when we arrived hoping to find a spot at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday. A few hours later, after people had canceled their unneeded sites, we were lucky enough to get two nights in a beautiful site surrounded by red rocks.

Arches National Park, Arches Campground, Arches at Night

3. Know Your Public Land Looking for pristine views and solitude? Free or low-cost camping is available on National Forest or BLM land, where you’ll find a variety of sites from full-service to unimproved. It’s typically legal to camp anywhere on public land, though you should always obey posted signs. What you’ll give up in amenities you’ll more than make up for privacy. Our most beautiful campsites weren’t in real campgrounds at all – throughout the West, especially, we found myriad spots that met our highest Camp Site Wishes – free, waterfront, with a view. Gazetteers from Benchmark or DeLorme are invaluable for knowing exactly where public land boundaries fall. If you choose to boondock, please be respectful. Stay of forest roads. Pack out your trash. And, make sure to bring extra drinking water or a water filter; potable water is not often available.

boondocking, free campsites, Colorado

4. Go During the Off Season If you visit Yosemite National Park in July, it’s going to be crowded. Ditto for the Grand Canyon. Zion. The Great Smoky Mountains. Want to see more sights than busloads of tourists? Visit during the off-season.

We stopped at Mammoth Caves in December and participated in two guided tours. During the summer months, these walks sell out every hour, sending huge groups of 120 people traipsing down into the caves. Our tour? We had eight people. Not only did our guide spend more time answering questions, she also took our tiny group into a few areas off the standard tour route. We saw and learned more than we ever would have during the crush of summer high season. Now is the perfect time to start planning a post-Labor Day trip.

Can’t wait that long? Consider visiting spots off the beaten track. Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota offers great cave tours, hiking and wildlife sightings, with a fraction of the annual visitors as better-known parks.

5. Embrace Technology Constantly checking in on a Smartphone may not seem like a true camping experience, but we’ve found a few apps that make packing a phone charger worth the effort.

  • CampWhere – location-based service offers detailed descriptions of public campgrounds for both tent campers and RVers. Lists reviews, amenities and contact information.

  • AllStaysCampRV – lists public, private, government and public land campsites, as well as rest areas, service stations and scenic viewpoints. Also provides details on casinos and Wal-Mart stores that allow overnight camping. This app is geared more to RVers, but tent campers can also find some good information.

What are your favorite tips for finding great campsites? We’d love to hear them. Happy camping!



Where Were We Wednes…Thursday (#15)

A day late but that’s just how it goes sometimes. Each week in WWWW I post a photo of a place we’ve visited during our trip. Guess where we were, and you could win a little prize! This week’s winner will receive a souvenir pin from the place where the photo was taken. Patrick has been collecting these pins throughout our trip; he now has a straw hat so laden with them it’s too heavy to wear.

Here’s this week’s picture.

Where Were We?



Enter by posting in the “Comments” section. Guess as many times as you wish. Winner chosen at random from all correct answers. It might help to look back at our Itinerary or our Facebook albums.

Last Week’s Winner

Alas, no winner last week. This photo was taken at Left Hand Brewery in Longmont, CO.