yellowstone national park, wy

Like Yellowstone KOA, Yellowstone National Park is absolutely beautiful and absolutely commercial. It’s hard to blame Wyoming for taking advantage to help their GNP, however, we are simply put off by the commercialization of it all. To help the Wyoming and Yellowstone economy we did buy ice cream, cowboy hats, and paid our yearly fee to visit the park.

Today was our last camp in West Yellowstone. We chatted about this trip, how it met or didn’t meet our expectations, what we would do differently, what surprised us, and what we appreciated about the trip and each other. Overall it was a dream we made happen and that in itself is amazing.

buffalo, wy

We drove through Deadwood, following a challenged SUV from Oklahoma just for fun. The Buffalo KOA is kinda dusty, not as nice as usual, really just a stop over to Yellowstone. Good shower and laundry. Honestly, we’re tired of the road and are longing our own beds. Devil’s Tower was cool, but again ___ America’s commercialization of it make a mockery of the amazing landscape.

Tomorrow is Yellowstone, WY.

mount rushmore, sd

So there’s no way to clean this up. What we saw at Mt Rushmore was “A lot of ___ people all lining up for ice cream.” I’m ashamed to single out groups for shaming, I can’t even write the word I’m so ashamed. However, there are groups of people who visit places like this to consume and I suppose we owe them a debt of gratitude for providing the South Dakota economy such a benefit. A bit of research by Finghin revealed that fully 82% of the SD GNP is from tourism at Mt Rushmore.

I was struck by how these white, euro-centric men, imperialists all, looked down upon land sacred to indigenous peoples as if to say, “That’s right LOSERS!”. I found it disgusting in symbolism and a marvel of engineering.

The country is beautiful yet the people made it, as I joked to friends, “Disneyland South Dakota”. The KOA at Mt Rushmore is beautiful too, yet again the ___ people made it ugh. Finghin adds it is “very commercialized from gold panning to buying confederate flags in a self-described ‘Trump Country'” I wish it could have been a different experience for us.

bismarck, nd

WW”M CERORTH Dakota is a lovely place, however if you’re just driving through on the way to somewhere else, be prepared to see a whole lot of nothing. We did have in interesting encounter at a gas station where the worker there lamented having to wear a mask because she wasn’t vaccinated. “I don’t like to be told what to do in that communistic way,” she said. Not being able to help myself I said, “Yeah like speed limit laws, and smoking bans!” to which she laughed, “What speed limits?” I could have added so many more “communistic” laws people take for granted in order to ensure safety, but yeah we’re on our holidays and what would be the point?

Bismarck has a nice museum (North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum) with nice old ladies docents who made us feel right at home. We walked around a bit but did not take any photos inside.

KOA at Bismarck it was just ok. Tomorrow is Mt Rushmore, WY.

minneapolis, mn

Today was a travel day with a sobering stop in Minneapolis to visit and pay our respects to George Floyd, the man murdered by police officer Derrick Chauvin. The site is filled with messages of love and respect and justice. It was a sad and ironically also hopeful in a way.

We’re staying at a decent KOA near Maple Grove. I’m bloody bushed and turning in. Tomorrow is a long trek to Bismark, ND. G’night.

madison, wi

Home to the Badgers, UW Madison turned out to be an awesome stop and has also made the will-apply cut. We took a campus tour with enthusiastic students leaders who told us a bit about the history and goings on. The campus is pretty much in the city center and while Madison has a population of 250K, it doesn’t have a big city feel to it. Located on the shores of Lake Mendota (which freezes so solid you can drive a truck on it) it is picturesque to say the least.

After the tour we ate at the Tipsy Cow where Finghin got his long awaited cheese curds. He was happy.

stevens point, wi

Wisconsin is known for Cheese, Beer, and Liquor, as the sign said, and for us it is a focus of the trip. Not for beer and liquor, but for cheese and colleges and a visit to our good friends in Stevens Point, Mark and Holly.

UW Milwaukee was the first visit and it is a pretty laid back, mid-sized rural campus reminding me of Sonoma State. Finghin liked it a lot so it has made the apply cut. We then ventured to Mark and Holly’s, home also to their kids Merrit and Henry. Mark made chicken breast with asparagus to which FInghin remarked, “You are a man of mystery!”

chicago, il

Ok, Chicago, IL. There is only one reason to go to Chicago and that’s to visit Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs of the NL MLB. Many would argue it is baseball’s Mecca and we cannot argue. Finghin remarked that he had never felt as much passion from a crowd as the fans at Wrigley, and we were right there with them.

Wait, no there’s more. Another reason to visit is Pequod’s Pizza. We stayed at an ok hostel and walked about a mile for the pie and it did not disappoint.

columbus, oh

The turnaround point! Halfway through our trip we land at my niece Julie’s house, home to her husband Bill, my sister Sherry, Julie’s granddaughter’s Kayleigh and Kyleigh, and 5 dogs and 6 cats (5 kittens!). What a busy place!

Julie organized a BBQ where my nephew’s Lonnie and Pat and niece Shannon joined along with Pat’s wife Brandy and their daughter WIllow and the amazing Tess, Shannon’s beautiful, creative, and thoughtful partner. Don’t get me wrong, we were surrounded by wonderfulness from all these loving people. Tess made personalized walking sticks for Finghin and myself and we (well I was anyway) were moved to tears. Such special gifts!

casey, il

We decided not to stay in St Louis but we still saw the Mississippi River, and instead headed to a KOA in Casey, IL where we met Antonina, Papu, and her son Serge, the owb=wers of the KOA.

Antonina is from Ukraine and Finghin was able to practice some Russian with here and she said he did very good! Finghin made me get in a funky boat and he rowed us around a small lake for about 30 minutes.

We liked this campsite a lot.

kansas city, mo

“It’s like we’re a whole different book!” — Clinton Conant, proprietor of Red Beard Coffee, Dodge City, KS

The way we’re doing this trip – drive for 5-8 hours, find a KOA or other reasonable campsite, crash, repeat – we’re really not taking time to enjoy the local vibe and while we’re fine with that, sometimes you find a special place when you don’t really mean to and it makes you want to stay just a bit longer. We found that place this morning in Dodge City, and that place was Red Beard Coffee.

We had a kinda trip hangover and weren’t digging the humidity (Kansas City is worse) and we (I) needed a coffee, a mocha (almond milk, no whip, no foam), desperately. Finghin found a place and the vibe was perfect. Think for Petalumans Acre Coffee without the pretentiousness of being hip. These guys make a great coffee, a great mocha, and have great swag.

I spoke with Clinton Conant and regret not asking for a selfie with him, Mr Red Bread himself. He was friendly and we talked covid and his business during covid, He said during the lockdown the business managed to do well and after 3+years of operating they are doing well. I was so glad to hear that and happy for Clinton. So happy in fact that I bought a cap (above) and a mug! If you’re in Dodge City, go say hi and get something!

Ok today was special for another reason. Today FInghin drove 5 hours through Kansas. On freeways. With no help from me. He’s doing so great and is super responsible. He’s still a lazy teenager, but, you know, he’s really an awesome person.

One of his goals for the trip was BBQ in Kansas City so we went to Joe’s Kansas City BBQ, “The Original Gas Station Restaurant“!

The ribs were great! We got them to go because the place was packed and a line out the door. One of the dining advantages of the lockdown is most restaurants now have curbside figured out and there’s was easy to navigate. We waited about 15 minutes, or about as long as we would have waited to sit at a table inside. We got the bones and came to our KOA and scarfed!

We are beat and gonna watch BoJack Horseman now. Tomorrow is Casey, IL and Friday is Columbus, OH and Sherry!!!!

No images today, well one maybe. Turns out Kansas has a Cowschvitz.

We eventually stayed at a crappy KOA outside Kansas City, KS. Well, i=the KOA was fine (we had a cabin) it was the weather that was crappy. We couldn’t tell the difference between air and water in our lungs due to the humidity.

dodge city, ks

Too late getting to this. Denver to Dodge city reminds us that west is best. The air in Dodge City is heavy, and heavy as in burdensome. I’m in my tent, fighting bugs and humidity, two bad things that when together are awful.

Finghin is faring a bit better, living the dream. He has such a great attitude about most things and is a great traveling companion, so there’s that and it’s a lot.

Tomorrow, Kansas City!

Images below.

denver, co

Our plan initially was to stop for the night in Cheyenne, Wy, however we made a decision this morning to add a day onto our trip by pushing through to Denver from Utah. How fortuitous!

We left the lovely Echo Island RV Park at 8:30 this morning planning to arrive in Denver around 5:30 or so. Wyoming is a little like Nevada: lots of land and not very many people. However while we thought Nevada was a bit barren in all the worst was, we thought Wyoming was just harsh.

To emphasize the point and provide a bit of legitimacy to our thinking, I mentioned to the matron of a filling station that Wyoming was “beautiful”. Yes, in spite of, or maybe because of it, Wyoming’s harshness has a beauty to it that Nevada lacks. It’s not just the vegetation, it might be the sky. Nevada’s sky is like a dry-eyed hangover. Wyoming’s sky has a bit more clarity to it, like morning’s first coffee. It’s dependable, hot, and let’s you get on with it.

Anyway, the filling station matron said to my observation, “Yeah, it’s cold and windy too.” I felt justified that a Wyomingan could see the same cup of coffee in that big-sky.

Along the way we had an issue with the truck Hillary. The left indicator light housing came unmoored. So we got out the gaffer’s tape and fixed it so we could continue. It will likely be ok until we’re home.

We cruised into Cheyenne and checked out the capitol building and drove around for a bit and we both thought it was like west Petaluma, our home town. It’s quaint homes and buildings … I dunno, the comparison made sense at the time, but now, eh, it’s a pretty town. So we left and headed to Denver and about an hour into the trip we SAW A FUCKING TORNADO FORM!!! HOLY SHIT!!!

No for real. Finghin called it. He noticed something odd in the clouds and said, “I think that’s a tornado” and I said, very know-it-all-dad-like, “no son, that just rain” when HOLY SHIT IT WAS A FUCKING TORNADO!!!

Again I didn’t have my camera ready to show what the locals do when there’s a tornado. The pullover, just like the tourists, and take images of it. If it wasn’t so scary it would have been funny. It really blew us away and made us grateful for bypassing Petaluma, Wy.

Tomorrow is Dodge City, Ks, and you know what happened in Kansas.

Finally tonight we’re staying in a hotel and eating pizza because TODAY WE SAW A FUCKING TORNADO!!!

Images are below.

salt lake city, ut

Ok, after visiting Salt Lake City (SLC) we stayed Sunday night at Echo Island RV Park and compared to the Winnemucca, NV the Silver Springs RV Park, it was heaven! We had beans and hotdogs prepared by Cookie (Finghin) and camped by a lovely river.

The shower facilities were awesome and we slept pretty well. I’ve given up sleeping on the platform because it’s too unstable getting up there without a proper ladder. Off to Wyoming tomorrow!

Ok, Salt Lake City is simply majestic. I didn’t have my camera ready for some images that will remain in memory like the first group we met who looked like they just walked out of the downtown Petaluma Starbucks, the Gay Pride Parade downtown SLC, the almost naked the roller blade guy, and the coven of LDS sisters offering help around the temple.

We put in 3 miles of walking around the grounds and the impressive state building. The church itself is undergoing a seismic retrofit so we did not get closer than the work barriers. They’re placing “rollers” under the building to help it sustain earthquakes and I wondered what they weren’t telling us!

I got to ask an awkward question about Mormons and LDS. I had heard that LDS (Latter Day Saints) feel the term Mormon is offensive. The kindly sister let me know that, while not offensive, it isn’t proper and it is not how they self-refer.

After picking up a Utah sticker at a souvenir shop where I got to make another awkward comment about how much we were surprised by how SLC seemed a “modern” city, and got to witness, first-hand, in-person, my very first anti-masker. Utah does not require masks in shops but they do require 6′ distance. We were careful in the shop but I wandered too close to a couple and, realizing, I apologized and stepped back. The male of the older couple (well, probably as old as myself) stood his ground! He replied, “I have no problem with that! We have stayed normal the whole time.” The female with him added, “And we’re vaccinated.” I was tempted to ask if for them, getting vaccinated was normal, however I reckoned I had put Finghin through my quota for awkward moments. Ah, what a trip!

A couple hours downtown we high tailed to Echo Island, checked in, got ice, set up camp and it was so very nice until midnight when our neighbor campsite’s dog started barking. It was fine really.

There are photos below.

winnemucca, nv

Well, wifi is sucky in Winnemucca so images won’t upload. Might be a while before we can get to them.

Any who this is the blogging site of our, Finghin and myself, epic road trip from Petaluma to visit my sweet sister Sherry in Columbus Ohio. A year ago Finghin came up to me and said, “Hey, how about a road trip next summer?” Knowing him and his interest in everything eastern Europe, I thought he was intending on talking me into a trip to Turkmenistan. “No!” he said. “Ohio!”

So we left 5 June 2021 and our first night is in WInnemucca, NV, at the Silver Springs RV Park. It’s ok for the night. We’re both kinda tired, the heat and wind here are dehydrating us

Well, wifi is sucky in Winnemucca so images won’t upload. Might be a while before we can get to them.

Anywho this is the blogging site of our epic road trip from Petaluma to visit my sweet sister Sherry in Columbus Ohio. A year ago FInghin wanted to go on a road trip this summer and I assumed he meant eastern Europe, as he’s into everything there. Instead he said “Ohio!” So we planned, kitted out the truck, saved, and made it happen.

UPDATE: photos!

Wifi is spotty so I’m going to leave it there for now. BRB.