The Great Outdoors

Touring the country with Wilma necessitates an emphasis on activities in the great outdoors.  We seek out scenic drives, scenic trails, restaurants with outdoor seating, and of course hotels surrounded by plenty of grass and walkable neighborhoods.  Although we do miss the museums, downtown hotels, and an occasional environmentally comfortable hassle free meal, we have come to really enjoy our extended time with mother nature.

As mentioned in earlier posts, Wilma’s presence has also significantly increased the amount of our casual social interactions.  Every walk, hotel check in, and (outdoor) meal, invariably  includes a brief conversion (and Wilma rub-down) with a total stranger. Wilma encounters have truly become one of our favorite travel experiences.

Before leaving Spokane we stopped at Manito Park and took a walk through their beautiful botanical gardens (where we met and chatted with a nice retired man walking his Golden).

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We arrived in Missoula, MT (something new) late Monday, had a great dinner at the Iron Horse Brew Pub & Grill, 

followed by a nice walk through the historic downtown, a stroll along the Clark Fork River, and quick drive tour through the University of Montana.

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Of course we had to stop and take a quick picture of our Wilma in front of “The Wilma”, a historic (1921) Missoula vaudeville theatre.

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Tuesday we drove to Bozeman (old) by taking scenic highways 200 and 279.  Unfortunately with much of Montana shrouded by a wildfire haze (as is Oregon), the views were a bit obscured.

On the way to Bozeman we stopped in Helena to see the Capitol bldg (believe it or not this is something old, as we also stopped here on our 2015 trip) and for a quick lunch.

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Lunch under the Capitol Dome

While at the Capitol we met a group of new Interns who were on a scavenger hunt. They needed a picture of one of them walking a dog, and a picture of one of them high-fiving a guy with a beard.  Wilma and I were only too happy to assist!

Arrived in Bozeman in time to take Wilma for a nice long bath at Dee-O-Gee.  Poor thing was just covered in ash and dirt (baths take a lot out of Wilma).

Wednesday we replicated one of our very favorite drives from the 2015 trip, the BearTooth Scenic Byway (hwy 212 through Yellowstone NP).  It rained during the best parts of the drive but the views were just as good as we remembered.

Exhausted from our 7 hour drive, we decided to take a short hike along the “Chief Black Otter Trail” in the Rimrocks above the city of Billings.  The views were nice but, again, largely concealed by the haze from the nearby wildfires.

So we took that hike upon our arrival in Billings in anticipation of a full day of rain Thursday…….which has happened.  So today was spent sleeping in (as dictated by Wilma), working out, laundry, and work. A nice and rare day indoors!

 

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Posted in Montana, Uncategorized, Washington | Leave a comment

Something Old, Something New

During the planning phase of this…..our (very) last extended road trip (maybe), it became apparent that we were not going to be able to put together an itinerary chock full of all new and exciting things to see and/or do.  Between having already seen so much (this will be our fifth time hitting the highway in the past 4 years, and our third with Wilma), combined with the limited number of pet friendly destinations available, we struggled mightily to make this trip unique.  Even the primary reason for this particular trip was not original, as we are once again heading to North Carolina for a wedding (our spring jaunt was also planned around a NC wedding).  So we seriously discussed canning the whole road trip thing and just flying to Durham…………..but that’s just not us.  So knowing this would be our last opportunity for an extended trip, as Adam, Ryan and Kayla (collectively known as our boarders) are soon to be moving to Vegas, we decided we needed a theme to aid in our planning.  Yep, instead of thinking “well, we’ve already done that, or we’ve already been there”, we started thinking “hey, we’d love to do that again, or we’d love to go there again”.  So we put together a trip that includes a really nice blend of new destinations mixed in with revisits to some of our previous favorites. So this will be our “Something Old, Something New” trip, and we are very excited about it!

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We left home on Wednesday and drove to Medford, Oregon.  Why Medford?  Well, for something old……the Johnny Ringo Burger at Jasper’s Cafe.  Really?  You bet!

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Jalapenos, egg, grilled onions and melted pepper jack cheese, on lean ground venison, nestled on a bed of ranch sauce & chili-cheese Fritos.

Robin found this place in June (road trip #4) and it was by far the best burger I’ve ever eaten.  Tasty, crunchy, and messy, it is well worth the calories.  Sadly, on this particular trip, Medford was literally blanketed in a thick haze of ash from nearby brush fires, so eating outside was impossible.  No worries, I picked up dinner and we enjoyed a nice meal at the TownePlace Suites!

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Here are a few pictures of the environment around Medford.  Three O’Clock in the afternoon…..air quality…Hazardous.

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The one time I was grateful that Oregon does not allow you to pump your own gas!

Our tummies full, we left the next day for a quick two-day visit to see our friends Mike and Ellen France in Portland……something old (road trip #1).

On our 2014 trip, Mike and Ellen hosted us in their home in Portland for a few days.  We had a great time and just love the “City of Roses”, so we decided to make a return trip. This time around we stayed at the Residence Inn Downtown Riverplace which is nicely located on the banks of the Willamette River in SW Portland.  We had another wonderful visit, hiking around Forest Park

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Bamboo Sushi in the West End

Thanks again Mike and Ellen for sharing your beautiful city with us, and for putting up with our frisky Wilma!

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Saturday was a travel day through the Columbia River Gorge (something old, trips 1 and 2, but this time on the Washington side of the river because of more wildfires) to Spokane, Washington (New!).

We drove through Spokane on our way to Coeur d’alane in 2015 and thought it looked pretty interesting.  So after a little research we decided to make reservations at the Oxford Suites, Spokane, located just across the Spokane River from Riverfront Park, the site of the 1974 World’s Fair (Expo 74).

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Oxford Suites on the right

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View of the Spokane River and Downtown from our balcony

We do love a nice “River” city that has nice riverfront trails, and Spokane is no exception. We needed a walk after our seven hour drive so we followed the trail from our hotel to Riverfront Park…..only to find that most of it is closed this weekend for the Tinnabulation Music Festival.  Over 50 bands have been playing non-stop since our arrival!  And being just across the river, we hear it all…….loud and clear.  But to be honest, we’ve actually enjoyed the music and have even recognized some of the songs.  The headliners include John Butler Trio, OK Go, and American Authors…….We’ve been told they are pretty popular groups.

BTW, Tinnabulation originates from the term tintinnabulation which describes the sound of a bell ringing.  The Spokane Clock Tower, built in 1902, is an important part of the city’s history and was refurbished in 1974 for the Expo.  So the festival’s name references the clock tower’s chiming bells.

We did get into the areas of the park that were open so we saw the Pavilion, upper river falls, SkyRide and the Big Red Wagon.

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The Pavilion was covered with white canvas during the fair but was taken down due to disrepair

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The upper falls.  Pavilion and Clock Tower in background

The Riverfront Park is in a general state of deterioration, but fortunately the entire area is undergoing a renovation.  We’d love to come back in a few years to see its rebirth!

Today we spent walking around the Gonzaga University campus (post Raiders game), which is just a few hundred yards from the hotel.  The campus is really pretty and we met several students (who were missing their dogs so they came to pet Wilma), but it felt almost completely deserted…….then we realized most of the student body was probably at Tinnabulation.

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Most people associate Gonzaga with basketball, so here is their gym.

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And it just so happens that Bing Crosby is from Spokane so they named a hall after him!

All in all, Spokane was a very good stop.  Fun city, very walkable, great river trails, and good music!

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It’s fun being back on the road for our Something Old, Something New tour.  Wilma is doing great (no digestive issues) and even went on a short run with me this morning. So far her favorite experience was trying to find Buddy (Mike and Ellen’s cat) and her least favorite thing (so far) are the Portland Streetcars.

Tomorrow we are off to Missoula (something new)!

Posted in Oregon, Uncategorized, Washington | 1 Comment

The Dash Home

On (the) 9/11, I was scheduled to fly home from Denver where I was attending a business meeting.  I had a presentation to give, a shuttle to catch, and a relatively quick flight home.  But as those of you who were also out-of-town that fateful day may remember, renting a car (or truck, van, U-Haul), or buying a bus or train ticket, was nearly impossible.  So a few days later, two other Bay Area attendees and myself were finally able to get a rental car and make the long drive home…straight through.  It took us about 20 hours to cover the 1,300 miles.

We all remember the particulars surrounding our lives during that period in time; where we were, who we were with, what we did, and how we felt, were forever stamped in our memories.  For me, that drive west on Hwy 80, filled with sharing stories with other disconcerted travelers, nonstop listening to news and talk shows, and speculating what happens next with my travel companions, was a big part of my indelible experience.  So, having to get home quickly from Denver again, (we had scheduled a flight to Houston that coming Friday), and making our way to hwy 80 and headed west, again, I couldn’t help but do a bit of reminiscing (this is where we stopped for lunch…..this is where we got out for a walk, etc).  All of which has little to do with this particular trip, other than the sharing of a memory.

Of course this trip, so many years later, was not going to happen in 20 straight hours. Our first stop was the Hampton Inn, Green River, Wyoming.  Not much to say about Green River other than we had a nice view of some cool rock formations from our room, and the dog friendly hotel didn’t have any grass growing on the premises (very frustrating for those of us traveling with dogs).IMG_1417

We got up early the next day, took Wilma for a walk to a nearby dirt lot, and started on the long drive to Elko, NV.  Getting back into the swing of things, Robin found a great sandwich place in Salt Lake City for lunch, and we stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flats for a quick walk (104 degrees) on the salt.

Arrived at the TownePlace Suites in Elko (lots of grass), found a Quiznos for dinner, and Wilma found a properly confined spot in our room in which to rest.

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The next stretch of hwy 80 took us through Northern Nevada to our final stop (on this trip), the Best Western Plus in Truckee, CA.  We figured the biggest challenge that day was going to be finding somewhere for lunch, as there are not a lot of good dinning options on that part of hwy 80, but Robin managed to find “the best Greek food” in the small town of Fernley.  We were a little concerned when we found out that the restaurant was located in the food mart of a Union 76 gas station, but it turns out the place is pretty popular and the Mediterranean Platter was great.

Unfortunately we soon learned that hwy 80 was closed at the NV/CA border due to a brush fire, so we had to take a detour up the Sierra’s on the windy Mt. Rose highway. The delay cost us an hour or so but Wilma handled the road just fine and we enjoyed the great views of Lake Tahoe as we passed through Incline Village.

Probably the best thing about the Best Western was its close proximity to the Fiftyfifty Brewing Company.  We were able to walk next door and enjoy a really good beer flight, burger, and chicken Caesar salad.

Arrived home safely on Wednesday afternoon, unpacked, did laundry, repacked, and caught a flight for the Roland Wedding in Houston (which was great fun and a wonderful event.)  We even found a great Cajun restaurant for dinner Friday night.  That’s fried crawfish and shrimp etouffee, and fried catfish.  The oysters and gumbo were gone before I could get the camera out!

3,650 miles, 13 beds, 2 wildfires, 1 waterfall, 1 skunk, 1 dog fight, 1 spilled coffee in the Range Rover, 1 Savior (thanks again Andi).

Best hotel Stay:  TownePlace Suites, Elko, NV.  Great customer service, nice upgrade.

Worst Hotel:  TownePlace Suites, Layton Utah. We’ve become very sensitive to smelly hotels.

Today we started planning another road trip (back to Durham for another wedding) for this fall!  Shhh…..don’t tell Wilma!  We’ll be back!

I’ll end by sharing a video of the ritual Wilma and I have when we first arrive in a new Hotel room….

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Posted in California, Nevada, Uncategorized, Utah | 1 Comment

The Family (not a) Reunion

The Martin siblings (Robin, her sister Debbie and brother Mark) had been planning this family reunion for as long as any of us can remember.  Finding just the right location that is not only accessible for everyone, but that also provides sufficient activities for a teen, a couple of college students, a handful of millennials, young parents with a one year old, and us older folk, is not an easy task.  So after much thought, discussion and debate, the group finally settled on Vail, Colorado.  Next task…….finding a date range when it would be convenient for all 17 invitees to attend the five-day event.  So after much thought, discussion and debate, the group finally settled on July 5 – 9.  Reservations were made, activities booked, and all were looking forward to a great reunion.

But of course “the best laid plans of mice an’ men often go awry”.  Brother Mark and his family had to cancel last-minute (everything is now alright), which was really very sad and unfortunate.  So with only 2/3’s of the group present, we felt we could not call this a family reunion.  Hopefully that event can be planned for a future date.  This event turned out to be 2 related families who happened to be spending a few days in Vail at the same time…..AKA “the family not a reunion”.

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Wednesday was arrival day, and between the horrible traffic from Denver to Vail, the delay getting into our room, the “this isn’t the type of room we booked” issue, the “this room doesn’t have air-conditioning” issue, and recovery time from very early travel day mornings (aka naps), everyone did their own thing for dinner and turned in for the night.

The next few days were filled with long walks, an ATV adventure, pool time, bike rides, a hike up the mountain (very impressive Debbie, Zach and Jordyn), gondola rides, a concert, shopping, eating, eating, eating, and more eating.

Every day started with the 7 am wake up call provided by the local garbage company’s recycle trucks picking up glass bottles below our windows, and ended with ice cream at one of several parlors in the beautifully quaint Vail Village.  Our last day happened to be our 38th wedding anniversary, and Debbie baked an incredible cinnamon roll heart for all of us to share for dessert.

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It was a great trip, we had a lot of fun, but we really missed the Martins!  Hopefully the siblings can give it some thought, have the discussion a few debates, and come up with another plan!

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Today we picked up a very happy and well cared for Wilma (thanks again Andi, from the bottom of our hearts) and made the long drive to Green Valley, Wyoming.  Hoping the hotel’s garbage gets picked up late!

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Posted in Colorado, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Denver With The Kids

With the great weight of our “what to do with Wilma” problem lifted off our shoulders, and the huge sense of relief knowing that she is being well cared for, we happily found our way to a King Soopers (groceries) and our Airbnb home near Cheesman Park and waited for the kids arrival.

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Looks like I’m photobombing a picture of the kids.

We barbecued burgers and sausages for dinner, told our day’s stories, had a few drinks, and settled in for the night……everyone safe and sound!

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Our place in Denver

Sunday started with a nice homemade breakfast of eggs, scrambled with leftovers from dinner, and then a trip to the Denver Zoo.

The zoo was fun (aren’t all zoos fun?).  We saw several shows, and Kayla really enjoyed the Giraffes, Elephants and fish exhibits.

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After our afternoon naps, Emily, Adam & Ryan treated Robin and I to dinner for our 60th birthdays.  They found this great place called Vesta, located in the LoDo (lower downtown) neighborhood near the ballpark.  Everyone got their favorite dishes including Kayla.

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Kayla got the edamame, mac & cheese, and ice cream

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Completely stuffed, we still had dessert (so sorry no pictures, but we had Spring Creme Brulee, Vietnamese Coffee Mousse, Sticky Toffee Pudding, and of course Kayla’s Cup Cake Ice Cream).

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Revived due to our sugar highs, we came home, put Kayla to bed, and watched the movie “Inferno”.

Monday started with the discovery of mouse poops on the dining room table and in the kitchen!

To be honest, after Wilma throwing up to start our trip, her skunk encounter, her diarrhea, and the catastrophe at the dog sitter, a little mouse poop didn’t really bother us. We cleaned up and bought a few traps.  Much easier to clean up than dog poops!

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Next, we bought some sandwiches and salads at Whole Foods and headed to Washington Park where we had a nice picnic and Surrey ride around the park.

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This is not as easy as you would think!

Next up….the Rockies v. Reds baseball game at Coors Field.  The park is really nice and the game lived up to the Coors Field reputation of giving up lots of high altitude induced home runs.  We had a great time, ate some good ball park food, and mostly enjoyed the post game fireworks…..Kayla seemed to like the show but definitely not the noise!

Today we started with a trip to the Children’s Museum of Denver, which proved to be a lot of fun for all of us.  The museum had great interactive exhibits on water, bubbles, rockets, energy, fire stations, and even dentistry and kitchen teaching.  I (I mean Kayla) liked the bubble exhibit best.

We noticed that the Denver Botanic Gardens is just a few blocks away from our Denver home, so Emily, Robin and I walked over to enjoy the gardens.

Our farewell to Denver, 4th of July dinner, was pizza and beer at Wyman’s no. 5, just steps away from our home, and ice cream at Liks. Tomorrow we are off to Vail!

Happy 4th of July!

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Andi To The Rescue

On Thursday’s drive to Denver we decided to take a slight detour so we could see Boulder, and have lunch on the much acclaimed Pearl Street Mall.  Sadly, we quickly discovered that dogs are not allowed in the Mall area…Ugh. Then it started raining….so we just got back in the car, drove around the CU campus, which looked amazing, and made our way (hungry) to Denver. Bad omen…..hmm.

Arrived in Denver and got settled in at the Residence Inn and Suites Cherry Creek.  Robin had a strong urge for Sushi and we were lucky to find dog friendly Hasu Sushi & Grill, which had a nice outdoor seating area. My favorite was the Cherry Creek Roll (Lobster salad, king crab, spicy tuna, and avocado).

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Cherry Creek Roll on the Left

Friday brought a nice, albeit brief, break from the recent heat wave.  So with temps hovering in the upper 70’s we took a long morning walk to the Cherry Creek retail district for coffee, and scones.  Then, after lunch at Big Smoke Burger, we took Wilma to a do-it-yourself dog wash and got her nice and clean for her pending week-long stay at the dog sitters.

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I have to admit that Wilma did get a piece or two of my chicken sandwich

Later that evening we had a really nice dinner with Andrea (Andi) Tropper.  Andi is the daughter of my best and oldest friend Al Pearlman. Andi and her husband, James, just moved to Denver about one week ago, so we were happy to meet with Andi (James is on a two-week hike on the John Muir Trail), see how things were going, and report back to her parents, Al and Ruthie. Happy to report that Andi is doing great and very excited to be in Denver.

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So much fun to have a beer with my friend’s children!

This coming week is our mini-vacation with our kids and granddaughter in Denver, followed by the Martin family reunion in Vale.  Both events are not conducive to having a dog present, so we arranged to have Wilma stay with a dog sitter in Denver for the week; something we find a bit nerve-racking, but the sitter’s reviews were great, she has a large closed in backyard, and is home all day taking care of dogs.  So we were hopeful that Wilma would be happy, entertained, and well cared for after we abandoned her for our own personal pleasure!

Well, our hopes were dashed big time!  As we were parking in front of the sitter’s home, we saw another couple at the door, dropping off their dog.  They must have been regulars because they were in the home only a couple of minutes.  As we passed by, I said something (to the couple leaving) akin to “looks like our dogs will be getting to know each other”.  He replied something akin to “I hope my dog is good to your dog”.  Ok, um, he must have a weird sense of humor…right?  We get to the door and we could hear A LOT of dogs in the backyard barking up a storm.  Our sitter starts explaining that she has more dogs than usual but several will be staying only a couple days…….she got a few emergency requests.  I remember hearing something about cancellations, a trip to Italy, and how she just can’t say no.  So this was concerning…..we saw at least four other dogs in the yard, all of which rushed the back door as our sitter went to open it for Wilma. She quickly realized two of the larger dogs in the yard (including the new arrival) were way too anxious to get to Wilma, so she tried blocking them from entering, but her efforts were futile.  Before we knew what was happening, the dogs were literally attacking poor Wilma.  Robin was trying to get Wilma out of the house, I was trying to get the dogs off of Wilma, the sitter was trying to keep the other dogs outside.  One dog in particular was in full attack mode and had Wilma by the neck.  I was able to grab it by the collar and keep it in place while Robin got Wilma out of the house.  Wow…….that could not have gone any worse!

Wilma was understandably completely freaked out (as were we).  She got in the car and the safety of her crate and hunkered down. Robin went to inspect her for any damage, and I went to find the sitter who was talking to the neighbor across the street (one of the little dogs got out when we left and went across the street).  The neighbor was complaining about the noise and telling her something about the neighborhood noise ordinance.  I told her that this wasn’t happening…..she said “OK”, and went back into the house.

So now what?  We are supposed to be moving into a “no pets allowed” house in just a few hours, the kids are landing soon, and here we are in Denver with no place to take Wilma. Then Robin remembered Andi.  The Pearlman kids grew up with Yellow Labs, and Andi mentioned at dinner how she really wanted to get a (big) dog but that they were going to wait until her and James were more settled in Denver.  She is a Speech Therapist at the local middle school so she’s free for another month, and her apartment complex not only allows dogs, they have a dog park, including an agility course.  Andi to the rescue!

Andi graciously agreed to take Wilma in for the entire week.  I don’t know if it was Robin’s sobbing pleas, or just Andi’s natural empathy and love of dogs, or maybe all of the above, but we will be eternally grateful to her for her willingness to take in our traumatized pup (from her traumatized parents)!

Thanks Andi for saving our trip and our dog.  Al and Ruthie, you guys did a fantastic job raising a wonderful daughter!

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Not Our Typical Drive Between Cities

The vast majority of our drives between destinations, on trips with Wilma, are kept relatively short. and therefore do not include side trips.  Occasionally we come across something interesting but it’s either too far off our route or not dog friendly (shame on you Barringer Crater!).  Yesterday we passed on an opportunity to visit the Golden Spike National Historic Site (where the Union and Central Pacific Railroads joined their rails in 1869….any Hell On Wheels fans out there?), as it would have added several hours to our six-hour drive to Layton, Utah, and it was still too hot (mid-90’s).

So most of our drives are really pretty boring, our research relegated to the discovery of dog friendly restaurants or nice picnic areas for lunch and exercise. And that’s OK……it’s what we signed up for; we love (most of the time) traveling with our beloved Wilma.

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Attention!

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Yesterday, however, our drive included a couple of very interesting events…..one expected, the other not so much.

First, located just a few miles off Highway 84 near Twin Falls, Idaho is the “Niagara of the West”, Shoshone Falls.

 

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Well, it’s no Niagara Falls, but it is pretty spectacular nonetheless. The falls are on the Snake River, just a few miles from where Evel Knievel attempted to jump his motorcycle (skycycle) over the Snake River Canyon in 1974.  We didn’t attempt to find that particular site, but I’ve read that the dirt ramp he constructed is still there.  Maybe next trip…

 

The next (unexpected) event just appeared in front us as we were approaching the Utah border.  Apparently the thunder-storm that cooled off our stay in Boise the other night, also set off a few wildfires, one of which happened to be closing in on our route.

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This was the closest we have ever been to a raging brush fire, and it was truly impressive in its power and scope.  We were grateful we were able to get through before they closed the highway.

So it turned out to be a pretty exciting and scenic trip to Layton.  Lunch, BTW, was in the Burley, Idaho Jimmy John’s parking lot…..not too exciting.

Today we drove to Rawlins, Wyoming.  We had a Subway foot long sandwich lunch at a nice park in Green River, and Wilma continues to poop normally (no pictures)!

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Lunch in Green River, Wyoming

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Main Street Rawlins, Wyoming

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Turns out they have great Thai food here!

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