Saturday, June 28, 2008

Home Sweet Home, But Without Toilet Paper

We made it back home yesterday, early evening. Our vacation was awesome. The weather could not have been more perfect the whole time we were there. Sunny and hot. So nice since we hadn't seen the sun since last fall around here. All except for the last two days and by then I was really looking for a nice lightening and thunderstorm. It was mighty windy that night. The kids played outside from dawn til dusk and I sat under the tree reading my book. Loved it. We stayed in the little house next door to the main so we were in our own space. There was good food every evening and eaten together on the picnic bench on the front porch. So nice and very little in the way of pesky bugs.

Dale Jr. finally won a race, even if it was under a green white checker caution.

On both the trip out there and the way back we searched for the Oregon Trail. Along our way we followed the Mormon, California and Oregon Trails. There are interpretive centers in several different spots. We stopped at Glenn's Ferry, ID near the Three Island Crossing of the Snake River, the Baker City, OR site, and the Blue Mountains Crossing, OR. If you follow a map you can get to actual wheel ruts at these three sites. Think about it. This was how the west became populated as it is today, yet there are still traces of the original journey by these thousands of covered wagons. You can still see the path they traveled. You can also see that these traces will disappear, probably in my lifetime. The Oregon California Trail Association has been awesome enough to place markers so you can get out and walk segments of it. The Baker City site was closed but we were able to get out and walk for quite a ways on the trail. There is even an Ezra Meeker marker on the site. He was a man who saw that the trail was disappearing back in the late 1800's so he convinced some people in congress and in local city governments along the way to place markers to show where the trail had gone. So much of it now is gone due to farming, development, road and railway construction, time and weather. I had my daughter get out and walk it with me as I am afraid it won't be there when she is old enough to appreciate it again. She sure had fun looking for markers and we talked how so many of the travelers actually walked instead of riding because the ride was so rough inside the wagon. Plus you needed room for all the provisions. I find the whole thing absolutely fascinating. We did have some misses along the way looking for wheel ruts. You can follow the trail and imagine the landscape as the emigrants saw it by taking roads posted with the route sign and it is worth doing in some spots. Route 30 out of Glenn's Ferry is a nice drive but no ruts and the same with Old Oregon Trail Road that connects from Mountain Home, ID to Bliss, ID. I should have done better research before I left but really I had no idea I'd be so obsessed about it by the time I got to Glenn's Ferry on the way out there. You can pick up a map that shows the route and where you can still see the ruts.

We drove to the Canyonlands National Park outside of Moab, UT on the second day of our trip back home. It was another really interesting place to be. The geography and geology of the site are amazing and worth a visit. We will do the Arches National Park the next time we head out to Colorado. Maybe I'll get my butt in gear and post some of my pictures of our journey. While at the visitor's center at Canyonlands I bought my kids each a passport to the National Parks. I wish I had it last year on their first visit to Yellowstone. (Don't even get me started on how awesome that was.) There are stickers to place in the book as well as a spot to hand cancel the date that you visited. I thought it might be something they will enjoy when they are older.

I met the most awesome helpful people along the way. After traversing the Blue Mountains in the modern covered wagon (Yukon XL) in at least a foot of snow in mid-June, some nice man from the Parts Plus store in Baker City replaced the windshield wipers on my truck and gave me information for buying chains for my stupid fat wide tires that suck in the snow. On the way home there is a visitor's center in Naturita, CO where there is a really nice bathroom and an amazing amount of information in the form of murals and pamphlets and the lady who runs the place. In Moab, UT at the Napa Auto parts Store (Go Mikey!) this honest nice young guy (Employee #3) changed the bolt on my battery (stripped due to the nightly unscrewing and morning reconnection process) and got me all good to go with proper coolant levels for heading into the desert. He could have told me I needed a new battery and I would have bought one, ya know? There was the cheerful waitress Ana at Jeremiah's restaurant at the High Country Best Western in Ogden, UT who was just a doll and took good care of road weary travelers. I don't think I could have met nicer more helpful people along the way. It felt almost eerie in a good way how great people were.

We hit traffic in Salt Lake City, Boise and of course Seattle. The rest of the way was just fine. When we got home there was no one there to greet us but it was just as well because we could just collapse on the couch for a little bit and regroup. The house wasn't too bad, I have seen it worse on return. There were dishes in the sink and the dishwasher hadn't been emptied. There were sippy cup items in it so I am suspicious it is the last load I ran. There was no food (except a couple of Oreos), no clean towels although some laundry had been done but the coup de gras was there was no toilet paper. THEY WERE USING PUFF'S PLUS WITH LOTION TO WIPE THEIR BUTTS! Thank god we aren't on a septic system. I was too tired to go to the store last night so I found fish sticks and french fries in the freezer to make for the kids. We showered and went to bed. Today I mostly did kitchen clean up and laundry in an attempt to reclaim my house. I also went to the store and bought some provisions. I do miss sitting under the tree reading my book.

I just finished the The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman and found it a good read. I had a hard time putting it down so I kept it out on the journey home so I could read it if my mom got out of the car for any reason. The last time I got home from this trip I read Across the Great Divide : Robert Stuart and the Discovery of the Oregon Trail by Laton Mccartney. I found it really interesting. I have been on the hunt in used book stores along this journey for another Oregon Trail book In the Wake of the Prairie Schooner by Irene Paden. I didn't find it so I'll most likely buy it from Amazon. My mom told me a little about it last year, how her dad got the family out along the trail when she was a kid. They used that book as a guide. I might read Undaunted Courage : Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose as I heard a number of positive reviews by all kinds of people since last year. I also picked up some fun titles at the book store in Crested Butte, CO but they are still in the car so I can't share them with you yet.

I hope to feel settled enough by Monday to actually stamp again. Last year I was in a funk for a couple of weeks following our vacation. Hopefully things will go smoother this time. And nothing like a Girls' Night to get me back in the groove of things tomorrow night.

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