Grand Teton National Park, WY

Wildlife abounds in Grand Teton National Park. During our first few hours here, we saw a chipmunk eating flowers and a heard of elk, in addition to everything you see below. I am now faced with the terrible decision – which is the cutest National Park animal – a pika or a marmot? Or the Prairie Dogs from Wind Cave?

Yellow Bellied Marmot

We saw dozens of these dapper Yellow Bellied Marmots. I’d like to cuddle them.

Moose mother and calf, Grand Teton National Park, Tetons

Mother moose & calf, feeding beside a waterfall, which is just out of the frame. They’re standing front-to-back here, making them look like a two-headed beast.

Pika, Grand Tetons, Grand Teton National Park

Tiny, chirpy pika peeked out of his (her?) hiding hole.

Moose, Grand Tetons, Grand Teton National Park

Male moose with his growing antlers still in velvet.

Moose, Grand Tetons

Another shot of the handsome, hungry chap.

Buffalo, Grand Tetons, Grand Teton National Park

Big ol’ buffalo just hanging out in the road.

Grand Tetons National Park

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Where Were We Wednesdays (#14)

Each week in WWWW I post a photo of somewhere 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 pen from the Grand Tetons.

Here’s this week’s picture.

Where Were We?

Rules/Hints/Etc.

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

Congrats to my brother, Brian! This photo was taken at Mono Lake.

Zucchini & Parmesan Salad

Snow blanked the shady path on the way to Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Our boots were sturdy, but still we could’ve used the extra security of hiking poles. Later, we stopped at the Continental Divide, and hiked through ear-numbing wind to 12, 875 feet. Snow-capped peaks stretched in every direction. I gasped, equal parts awe and elevation, I’m sure. We spent a few nights near Leadville, CO, at 10,152 the highest incorporated town in the US.

Colorado Rockies, Rocky Mountains, Continental Divide

Coming down out of the mountains we shed coats and sweaters when the warm air of the arid high plains came blowing through the windows. In Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, reached the bumpy way via Hwy 318, a tiny road that switches without warning from pavement to dirt at the CO/UT border, the sun bakes the sagebrush and the rocks are bright red as if collecting colors of the sunset. Damming the Green River formed the long lake there. From our site we watched boats zip around the expanse of water and smelled smoke from campfires made with fallen juniper branches. For the first time in weeks it was warm enough to eat outside.

zucchini parmesan salad

Zucchini & Parmesan Salad

1 small, thin zucchini (about 1 ½” in diameter)

Parmesan cheese

½ lemon

Olive Oil

Flat leaf parsley

Salt & Pepper

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini lengthwise into long, thin ribbons. Shave thin pieces of parmesan, to taste. Aim for about ¼ the volume of the zucchini. Pile zucchini and parmesan in a bowl. Squeeze over lemon juice and drizzle olive oil. Toss. Add a handful of parsley, salt & pepper and toss again. Serve immediately. Serves two. Tastes better when prepared & eaten outdoors.

zucchini and parmesan salad

Where Were We Wednesdays (#13)

Each week in WWWW I post a photo of somewhere we’ve visited during our trip. Guess where we were, and you could win a little prize! This week’s winner will receive that excellent ear of popcorn from the Corn Palace.

Here’s this week’s picture.

Where Were We?

Rules/Hints/Etc.

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

Congrats to Judy! This photo was taken in Chicago.

Turning Over Stones in Wind Cave National Park, SD

Traipsing around outdoors always gives me such a sense of discovery. No matter if the trail is one I’ve hiked a hundred times or if it’s my first visit – there’s always something new to uncover. I may spot timid deer or a find a smooth rock for my pocket, see a new bird or flower. And always, no matter how far off the beaten path, I’ll find a beer can, apparently so much harder to pack out empty than it was for someone to carry it in.

Wind Cave, SD, buffalo, bison

We were roaming with the buffalo last week, where the deer and the antelope play near Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. The prairie was the color of a Yellow Lab and the curves of the distant hills made me want to reach out to and run my hand over their backs. On the advice of a friendly park ranger, we followed buffalo trails out over the grasslands where we spotted bison and meadowlarks, elk and mule deer, and hundreds of prairie dogs that squeak and bark warnings to their pals before scurrying into the safety of their holes.

Wind Cave, SD, Prairie

Prairie Dog, Robin, Wind Cave

Of course, you can also discover other things in the woods. The other day we found a boondocking spot, pulled the Minnie off on a quiet dirt road and explored our small corner of the Black Hills National Forest. Like a raccoon, I’m drawn to shiny objects and the rocks were glinting with mica so I’m poking around, looking for the prettiest stones, nudging piles of quartz with my toe.  I move one large rock and see the corner of a box. Patrick comes in to look, and we pull a small box from its hiding spot. A Geo Cache? The wooden box is wrapped with sodden red ribbon, tightly tied but decaying. Maybe it’s a time capsule? Childhood memories? I’m thinking of that scene from Amélie where she pulls a cigar box from behind a loose tile and discovers someone’s long-lost treasures. Excitedly, we pry open the lid and peer inside. And what do we find? The desiccated remains of a bird. We’d opened a bird casket. That’s what I get for being inquisitive.

We replaced the box in its cairn of quartz and said a quick “rest in peace” to someone’s departed pet bird. I may be a bit less likely to go snooping around in the woods from now on, as I prefer discoveries like a beautiful view or living animals.

Where Were We Wednesdays (#12)

Each week in WWWW I post a photo of somewhere we’ve visited during our trip. Guess where we were, and you could win a little prize! This week’s winner will receive a magnet and sticker from Wall Drug, SD, famous for its free ice water and five-cent coffee.

Here’s this week’s picture.

Where Were We?

Rules/Hints/Etc.

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

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a winner. This photo was taken at Cape Perpetua in Oregon. We’ll save the super-awesome Corn Museum popcorn for another week.

Devil’s Tower Steak Sandwiches

We’ve been on a sandwich kick. A gooey, oozy sandwich kick. A piled-high-and-hearty kick. In Philadelphia we tried two different cheese steaks, one at Sonny’s Famous Steaks and another at Dalessandro’s. Then in Chicago we stopped by Portillo’s and, on the advice of a trusted friend, ordered the Italian Beef, with, hot, add mozz, dipped. What we received was perfectly seasoned sliced beef topped with spicy-hot pickled peppers and melted cheese, all nestled in a crusty roll, then dipped – the whole thing dipped – into au jus. It was a succulent seven-napkin meal.

Out on our own, we found ourselves craving these hulking sandwiches. For an impromptu Minneapolis backyard get-together we made them with thick New York steaks from the butcher shop down the street. In our most recent version, we used London Broil. These are not traditional Philly or Chicago ‘wiches, so we named them Devil’s Tower Steak Sandwiches after the view from our window.

Devil's Tower, WY

steak sandwich, philly cheese steak

Devil’s Tower Steak Sandwiches

1 lb London Broil or steak of your choice, seasoned with salt & pepper

4 shallots, sliced

2 C sliced mushrooms

1 Tbs olive oil

1 green pepper, sliced

½ lb provolone or mozzarella

1 baguette or 4 hoagie rolls

Pepperoncini, to taste, if desired

Iceberg lettuce, shredded

1. Cook steak over grill or in a cast iron pan until rare. Thinly slice and set aside.

2. Slowly caramelize shallots over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are rich and brown, about 15 minutes. Add mushrooms to the pan and heat until they release their moisture. If they get a little brown, all the better. Add olive oil and peppers and cook until everything is tender. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Remove veggies from pan and set aside.  Meanwhile, heat bread. Cut baguette into 4 equal pieces and split.

3. Add meat to pan and divide into four separate piles.  Place slices of cheese on top of each pile. Add 2-3 Tbs of water to pan and cover, letting the cheese get gooey and melty.

4. Scoop the cheesy steak into each baguette or roll. Top with onion, pepper and mushroom mixture.  Add iceberg lettuce or pepperoncini, if desired. If there are any pan juices, pour them over the top of each sandwich. Devour.

London Broil, steak sandwich

steak sandwich

Five Weekends in April

Image

From the rocky coast of Maine, through bare early spring hardwood forests, into the kitchens of great friends, across grassy plains to the rising mountains of Wyoming, we traversed more than 2,000 miles in April. Wonderful as our time has been exploring the East and Midwest, and as many hugs as we’ve been able to exchange with loved ones, high-fives were exchanged when we crossed into Mountain time zone. We’ve missed the West and it’s majestic, sparsely populated places.

Maine, Wolfe's Neck, Brunswick, ME

April 1: Wolfe's Neck State Park, Brunswick, Maine

April 7: Niagara Falls, NY, Niagara Falls, Canada, Rainbow Bridge

April 7: Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls, New York to Canada

METRA train, Chicago, Illinois

April 14: METRA train, Chicago, Illinois

Triple Rock Social Club, Gastro Non Grata

April 20: Gastro Non Grata at the Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Spearfish Canyon, SD, Rod and Gun Campground

April 28: Rod & Gun Campground, Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota

Where Were We Wednesdays (#11)

Each week in WWWW I post a photo of somewhere we’ve visited during our trip. Guess where we were, and you could win a little prize! I’m pretty excited about this week’s giveaway – our winner will receive an ear of “pops on the cob” popcorn from the great Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD.

Here’s this week’s picture.

Where Were We?

Rules/Hints/Etc.

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 the Baha’i Temple in Chicago. Judy, Patrick’s mom, had the correct answer but her loving sons deemed it cheating, as she was with us when it was taken. I’m not going to get in the middle of that…However, Mike Kelso also answered correctly via Twitter. Mike, congrats!

26 Years of PTO: Musings on Vacation Time

Nothing like being on a career break to make a gal think about the importance of vacations. Consider for a moment the typical American vacation package of two weeks per year. Along with handful of holidays, things like Christmas and Labor Day, two weeks is seen as fairly standard. By the time we get back to California, this Propane Kitchen trip will be one full year in length. Meted out in two-week increments, that’s 26 year’s worth of vacation time. If I’d taken some kind of advance vacation time loan, I would need to work nonstop until I was 59 years old in order to repay all this leisure time. And only then would I get another two weeks off. Rather a grim thought, isn’t it?

What’s worse, the work-work-work mentality is often self-inflicted. When I left Annie’s, I cashed out five weeks of vacation time. I’d like to say that was part of a master plan – save up vacation to give this trip a financial boost – but while that was nice, it wasn’t a conscious choice. Even taking into consideration Annie’s generous benefits policy that was nearly two year’s worth of PTO. That’s MY fault. Continue reading