Where Were We Wednesdays (#2)

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Last week, I introduced Where Were We Wednesdays. Each week I’ll post a new photo from some place we’ve visited on our journey. Guess where we were, and you could receive a little trinket we’ve found on our travels. This week’s prize is authentic Mardi Gras beads from a parade in New Roads, LA!

Here’s this week’s photo.

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. This particular picture was from early in our trip, up north.

Last Week’s Winner(s)

The first photo was taken at Ancient Bristlecone Forest in the Eastern Sierras. Jack guessed correctly and wins a postcard! My mom guessed correctly on Facebook so she’ll get a postcard, too. And so will my brother, because he was the first to enter. When you make the game, you can choose a lot of winners. Thanks for playing!

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Where Were We Wednesdays (#1)

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What better way to show off some of the zillions of additional photos we’ve taken than to introduce a new series, Where Were We Wednesdays. Each week, I’ll post a never-before-blogged photo and ask You, loyal blog reader to tell us Where We Were when the pic was taken. The winner will receive a postcard or other little prize. Fun, eh? Maybe? I hope so.

Here’s the first photo to kick things off!

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.

Meet Me in St. Louis

I was sitting in the Shaved Duck, a little BBQ gastropub in St. Louis, when suddenly, for the first time this trip, I felt Far Away.

Was it the brick buildings? The old industrial big city feel? The obvious fact we were so close to the Mississippi? Our two-week stretch in Kansas – where we stayed with Patrick’s friends and family and explored his hometown – was the bridge that connected The West to The East, and now we are really far from home.

St. Louis was fantastic. Who knew? We planned to pass on through, but ended up staying for two nights. Cities can be tricky for budget RV travelers – it’s hard to park, campsites are far from any cool neighborhoods and, above all, cities are expensive. Not so in St. Louis, which boasts an impressive list of free activities, from tours to museums to the zoo. We also found a great little RV park right downtown, delicious food & drink and explored an incredibly unique art space. Grand total? Less than $100.

St. Louis Arch

We were awed by the beautiful mosaics at the Cathedral Basilica, which rivaled any of the churches I’ve seen in Europe. We strolled the halls of the Art Museum and whiled away several hours at St. Louis Zoo, watching baby monkeys and a sweet otter family snarf up frozen fish. But, the most marvelous thing of all, a reason to visit St. Louis in and of itself, was the City Museum.

A whimsical dreamscape created by artist Bob Cassilly, City Museum is unlike any museum you’ve ever visited. It’s more of a playground. Actually, it felt like Burning Man condensed into a single building with a more kid-friendly slant. We went down a ten-story slide. Ten stories! I was so dizzy at the bottom I had to sit down. The next morning my knees were bruised from crawling along secret passageways and through metal mesh passageways suspended over an outdoor courtyard. Enchanted caves. Giant ball pits. Thousands of hotel baking pans reimagined as a wall surface. Turtles. I’m sure this sounds absolutely crazy, so just go visit their website.

And! Beer. Specifically, the best beer we’ve had since Colorado. Schlafly Tap Room offered an abundance of craft beers and a British-style menu that included tasty beer cheese soup and a homey beef pie. I especially liked the citrusy-spicy Christmas Ale and the cask Optic Golden Ale. Patrick favored the Grand Cru. We both liked the Winter ESB, so we bought a growler and have been enjoying it ever since. Schlafly offers free tours of their brew house, too.

World Series champions and a glowing review from Propane Kitchen? St. Lou is having quite the year.

Kaleidoscopes

We woke surrounded by clouds. From the campground at the summit, the sides of Mingus Mountain dropped steeply down to the wide Verde Valley. The evening before, we’d watched gathering storm clouds turn pink over the distant red rocks of Sedona; now the edge of our campsite was a swirl of grey. The wind blew coldly. Rain gave way to the ratatatat of hail, drumming down on the roof, bouncing off the wet ground. It gathered in small white drifts while we watched from the warmth of the Minnie, eating toast with almond butter.

Mingus Mountain Campstite

About halfway down the mountain, the town of Jerome, Arizona clings to the slopes. Formerly a copper mining location, the little city is now an artist community. The old high school houses studios and the streets are lined with unique shops offering handmade jewelry, prints, clothing and more – a refreshing change from all the mass-produced tchotchkes we’ve seen at other tourist destinations.

One shop in particular is dedicated to enchantment and wonder – descriptors most often applied when talking about places for children, but this store is most definitely for adults. Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes features gorgeous, intricate versions of the classic toy, reimagined in stained glass, brass and smooth polished woods. Though the pieces were intricate works of art, the atmosphere was quite the opposite of a stuffy fine art gallery. We were encouraged to touch everything. We spun small wheels and turned dials, peered into the mirrored scopes, watched as the colored beads and oils and chunks of colored glass formed ever-changing patterns. It was wonderful. As I looked around, I realized everyone in the store was smiling. Have you ever thought about how rare that is? Adults, just smiling, indulging in play and beauty?

Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes

This whole planter box was a kaleidoscope – both the scope and the basin of the box spin to create beautiful designs. The atmosphere in Nellie Bly kept us smiling long after we had driven away, feeling warm and cozy despite the chill in the air. It’s definitely been one of our favorite stops so far.

Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes

Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes

Five Weekends in October

October, as all our months on the road, has passed too quickly. It is my favorite month – bringing the crisp chill of autumn mornings, dry scent of oak leaves, pumpkin everything, sweater weather. Our travels took us over more than 1,500 miles of roadways this month, from slickrock to snow to desert sand. I’m continually amazed at the vast differences in climate and topography, how the scenery across the West is constantly changing.

October 1: Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

October 9: Double Arch, Arches National Park, Utah.

October 16: Highway 550 just south of Silverton, Colorado. You could almost warm yourself by the glow of the aspens in the late afternoon sun.

October 23: The Grand Canyon, Arizona. We hiked five miles and 3,000 feet in elevation down into the canyon, but didn't get all the way to the Colorado River.

October 30: Saguaro, Prickly Pear and Teddy Bear Cholla near Tucson, Arizona.

Yosemite & the Eastern Sierra

A full week of throbbing music, dust storms, midnight bike rides and art exploration at Burning Man made returning to the regular world feel a bit dull. So little neon, few enormous sculptures, no steam punk octopus cars shooting flames. The only obvious antidote to all that human-powered stimulation was to immerse ourselves again in the much more humbling beauty of nature. So, after a quick stop in Eagle Point to deep-clean the Minnie and a whirlwind tour through the Bay Area visiting friends, we set off to Yosemite and the majestic Eastern Sierra. Continue reading

A Month by the Numbers

The 12th marked our first full month out on the road, but we’ve been canoeing on a remote lake and couldn’t document the occasion here.  Some quick statistics from our trip so far:

3,826 – miles driven by Patrick

107 – miles driven by Aimee

113 – miles hiked

5 – states

2 – Canadian provinces

6 – National Parks/Monuments

1,709 – photos taken

5,000 (approx.) – times Aimee has exclaimed, “look at that!”

1 – bottle of wine shattered when the refrigerator popped open on a curve

1 – glass bottle of sticky limeade shattered when the fridge popped open

21 – curses uttered while cleaning up the above

83 – meals made in the Minnie

11 – meals eaten out

1 – parking ticket

22 – nights camped for free

1 – harmonica received from fellow travelers met on the road

4 – old college friends hugged

3 – former colleagues visited

0 – regrets

Cape Perpetua

Glacier National Park

Limited Internet makes keeping this current a bit challenging! The past four days we’ve been in Glacier National Park, hiking and gawking and trying to stay dry. It’s been stormy, with the steep mountains draped in clouds and rain every night. Many of the trails are still closed due to snow.  Still, wildflowers are abundant as if a careless gardener threw open packets of seeds all along the roadways and valleys.  Continue reading