What’s Brewing? So Very Much!

Old Bust Head Brewery

Old Bust Head Brewery

This 13,000 mile 100 day plus journey has prompted one question more than any other – how are CW and I managing to spend so much time together, and still be together?  After 32 years of marriage when we rarely spent more than two full weeks together, we’re still smiling (at each other!) after four months of travel, in a car (…talk about close quarters!) If you’re contemplating anything like what we’ve just accomplished, it’s worth considering how you really prefer to spend your time, and agreeing on some simple ways to make sure you get enough “me” time – however you define it.  (This blog eventually comes round to lots of fun info about beer, brewing and beverages, so bear with me!)

Cooking with Spent Grain - Pizza Crust!

Cooking with Spent Grain – Pizza Crust!

We’re not oblivious to the pitfalls of travelling.  In fact, we think one of the greatest indicators of a potentially successful partnership is surviving the challenges of travelling together.  Those challenges are many and I’ll address those in a dedicated blog – but for now, I want to explore one of the most important ones for me:

Constant togetherness…

 

The Roasterie - So Good!

The Roasterie – So Good!

Boulevard Brewing - Around the Corner

Boulevard Brewing – Around the Corner

On this journeywise adventure, we knew from experience that a key strategy would be to find ways to have some occasional hours (ok, frequent hours) apart, to be on our own or at our separate pursuits.  And since we’re both very comfortable in new places (and really, nowhere in the U.S. was going to feel as strange as some of the other places we’ve been) we knew it would just take a little planning to engineer a few hours on our own every other day or so.

Evans Bros. Coffee - Idaho

Evans Bros. Coffee – Idaho

What helps immensely is that we’ve both created portable businesses: CW as what one of his brewery friends so aptly calls “an itinerant malt peddler,” and me, as a consultant and advisor to food and beverage startups in the organic, fair trade and natural sphere.  Charley does best with in-person calls on breweries, while I can manage primarily with phone, Skype, and email, though personal meetings are great when they can happen.  Our work means engaging with fun and interesting people who are working to nourish the world!

We didn’t consciously start our four-month long journey with a plan for how to incorporate independent time – but we learned quickly that CW’s most successful brewery visits would often take an hour or more, and if I could find a local coffee shop, farm market, or natural grocery to explore for at the very least an hour (and two hours was not at all a bad thing, I came to learn) then we’d both have a better time, with no anxiety for me over “when is he going to get back?!” nor CW worrying that I was getting antsy just when he was about to present the malts and whiskies, and getting to taste stellar beers, all with the point of actually leaving a sample of Copper Fox malt behind!

Tasting Brews Across the USA

Tasting Brews Across the USA

It’s far past time to give CW credit for a lot of the fun and exploring we’ve had on this journey.  Charley’s work with Copper Fox Distillery  http://www.copperfox.biz/index/ in Sperryville, Virginia has taken us (well, him) to over 60 craft breweries in 22 states and 4 Canadian provinces over the past 4 months, as he introduced brewers to the Distillery’s hand crafted, Virginia-grown barley malts.

We started the trip with about 100 pounds of the specialty smoked malts in the back of the car (along with our suitcases and camping gear), and picked up another 30 pounds (plus fresh bottles of the two whiskies) on the West Coast.  Although I’m now used to the slightly yeasty, warm-bread smell of sacks of the specialty malts wafting about in the car, I was happy that we left Boston for home having completely depleted the malt inventory!  CW’s pretty excited about that as well, as it means that across the U.S. and Canada, small and mid-sized craft breweries—now well over 30–are experimenting and creating new beers with Copper Fox’s apple and cherry wood smoked malt, and mesquite smoked malt.   Results of this summer’s visits already include brews on tap or soon on tap at Old Bust Head Brewing, in Warrenton, VA  http://www.oldbusthead.com/  Firehouse Brewing, in Rapid City, SD  http://www.firehousebrewing.com/  Sawtooth Brewing, in Ketchum, ID  http://sawtoothbrewery.com/         The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, in Canmore, Alberta (near Banff)  http://www.thegrizzlypaw.com/      and The Raw Deal/Real Deal Brewing, in Menomanie, WI  http://www.rawdeal-wi.com/  .   If you happen to be nearby any of these, you can enjoy a brew with a Copper Fox smoked malt as a key ingredient, and vicariously join our  “journeywise!”

Mural in Detroit

Mural in Detroit

There’s a bit more of the trip to catch up on, but we’ve now arrived back in Philadelphia, and midst the unpacking, sorting, and oh yes, planning the next trip, I’m behind my optimistic blogging schedule.  Soon to come – what did we learn and what’s next?  Stay tuned!

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Truth Be Told…

It was July 21, the 71st day of our journey, and at long last (although that makes it sound as though we were actually eager to change direction…and we weren’t), we headed East, well, sort of!  We had planned to visit relatives in St. Paul, Minnesota after leaving California, but arrived via the states of Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa (yep, 7 states), and (pay attention!) having decided we needed to revisit Boise along the way.  “Ah,” you might be thinking, “they’re going back to Boise.”  And, you’d be right if you’re a tad suspicious about the reason.

YES – We have a number one “our spot” contender (for now) and it’s:  Boise, Idaho!  All this really means is that we know we’ll be going back to visit again, for longer, and in a different season.  No hasty decisions here, although truth be told, we did make a spontaneous offer on a house in downtown Boise, and perhaps for the best, we didn’t get it.  (Why we would make an offer that seems impetuous is a topic I’ll explore in another blog, especially because we did the same thing somewhere else!)  A close second is Fort Collins, Colorado, which feels welcoming each time we visit…but again, must go back for longer and not in the summer.

The feeling in the dusty red RAV4 is surprisingly different now that CW and I are driving into the rising sun in the mornings.  Some of the sense of excitement and exploration is muted – we’re covering a lot of territory quickly, and for now, spending time with friends and family instead of mostly on our own.  Only a few days of the remaining month will be in parts unknown (Canada, again.)

Three weeks after leaving Lake Tahoe, we drove away from St. Paul, rested, happy to have explored family roots and having reconnected with cousins, and now actually eager to travel on to Chicago and Detroit, with a few more visits to friends we hadn’t seen in quite a while.  Enjoy a small sampling of the photos I’m using both to record the journey and remind us of just why certain spots have seemed so very special!

Reno Diner - Right This Way!

Reno Diner – Right This Way!

Lonely Nevada Road

Lonely Nevada Road

Home for an RV!

Home for an RV!

Boise Downtown Lake

Boise Downtown Lake

Utah Agriculture

Utah Agriculture

More Utah Ag...

More Utah Ag…

Utah Sky

Utah Sky

Colorado Sky and ...

Colorado Sky and …

Softball Sized Dandelion

Softball Sized Dandelion

Colorado, Yes!

Colorado, Yes!

Fort Collins Suburb

Fort Collins Suburb

Larimer County Fair

Larimer County Fair

Fresh Eggs...Fort Collins

Fresh Eggs…Fort Collins

Nebraska Road

Nebraska Road

An Old Coca-Cola Sign

An Old Coca-Cola Sign

Wind Power in Iowa!

Wind Power in Iowa!

Minnesota Apples at the St. Paul Farm Market

Minnesota Apples at the St. Paul Farm Market

Cherry Tomato Bonanza

Cherry Tomato Bonanza

St. Paul Blooms at the Market

St. Paul Blooms at the Market

California, Dreaming…

Gallery

This gallery contains 35 photos.

We’re going to just go ahead and put California on a permanent wish list of places to live, and that’s where it will probably stay.  Perhaps if we’d bought that old Victorian in the Haight back in 1981 for $135,000, … Continue reading

Practical Matters: A Place to Sleep

A well-spent day brings happy sleep.                                                                      Leonardo da Vinci

Ah, sleep!  Photos may be beautiful and my prose about the places we’re visiting I hope keeps you interested and maybe even thinking “I want to go there!”  – but let’s face it, we’re on a long long trip (Day 76!), and have to deal with everyday matters, such as – hmmm, where are we going to sleep tonight?

So, to get practical for a few minutes – we’re not on a limitless budget on this trip, so just how are we organizing a place to snooze when it gets dark?

Here’s the rough outline of our decision-making:

  1. If we have friends or family where we’re going, we ask them first if we can stay for a night or two (or three!)  Thank you, thank you to all of those who have hosted us on this journey! (L/B, E/S, J/S, R/C, L/B (not a mistake, there are 2!), C/C – you know who you are!) And, we look forward to reciprocating when we’ve figured out just where “ourspot” is, and have a place for you to bunk!
  2. If we’re headed through a national or state park, and the weather’s supposed to be fine (I am no longer a foul-weather camper), and we’re going to stay at least two nights (not worth putting the tent up for just one night), then, we’ll camp.
  3. No friends, family or camp?  We’ll probably check airbnb (https://www.airbnb.com), which we have enjoyed using over the past couple of years.  Check it out!
  4. If none of the above, we’ll research using Priceline (www.priceline.com/) or our remaining hotel points, and spend a night in a hotel/motel – of which we’ve seen the gamut on this trip so far.

STATS:  Over the first month of the trip, we spent 15 days with friends, 7 camping, 4 in airbnb homes, and 6 nights in hotels.  Haven’t yet had to sleep in the car nor bought an RV!  And are enjoying being part of what is called the “sharing economy.”  (For more on this, check out Tom Friedman’s recent editorial on this in the Sunday New York Times for July 20, 2014 – “Welcome to the Sharing Economy.”)

Off to Utah tomorrow…I know, I know, no word about our week in California and we’re already moving on.  Next blog, the Golden State!  Or perhaps, the challenges of posting blogs while on the road…

 

 

 

Too Good for Words, Oregon!

Just about one month ago, we crossed the bridge to Astoria, Oregon from the Washington State portion of the Lewis and Clark Trail Highway – and no, it wasn’t in our imagination that the weather became misty, chilly, and very unsummer-like.  Just what I’d been hoping to avoid, as one of the “our spot” criteria happens to be a “generally sunny” prospect over the course of a year.  Here it was – a test for just how much flexibility I could encourage in CW, for whom “damp & chilly” has never been a welcome combination!

Nevertheless, Astoria proved to be much fun – a local brewery called Fort George (https://www.fortgeorgebrewery.com), a great local bakery and coffee shop (www.bluescorcher.com), art galleries, a fantastic Scandinavian shop (www.finnware.com), and (more than one!) wonderful independent bookstore – Lucy’s, and Godfather’s –  (http://www.lucys-books.com and www.yelp.com/biz/godfatherss-books-astoria).  With just under 10,000 people, the fact that Astoria supports not just one, but two local bookstores says a lot about the inquisitiveness and interests of the people who make it their home (at least I think so – and hope it’s not just that days tend to be chilly and damp, leading to many hours indoor to fill by reading!)

Lewis and Clark River

Lewis and Clark River

There’s a curious 125’ tall column high on a hill overlooking Astoria and the mouth of the Columbia River.  The amazing spiral frieze covering the outside has a panel celebrating the Lewis & Clark Expedition – I’m sure Captains Lewis & Clark never had such a wonderful view of the landscape, nor did they enjoy their stay in the vicinity as much as we did!  An excursion on another drizzly day took us to Fort Clatsop, which the Corps of Discovery built to overwinter in before their long journey home.   I really love the times during this trip in which the reading, planning, thinking and talking come together in a culminating moment – as it did at Fort Clatsop, where for just a few minutes while inside the dark, damp log walls, I could picture those intrepid explorers cursing the wet weather (it rained all but 12 days of their 3-months at the fort), the endless meals of elk and deer, and perhaps the stinking smell of their forever damp and vermin-infested fur clothes.  Ugh!  They left for the long return home on March 23, 1806 – having not just survived but exceeded all expectations for their journey of exploration.  It’s been an education following some of their trail, and relearning an important part of America’s history.  Sorry if I enthuse – it’s been great!!  (And I am oh so glad that our trip has included mostly dry and sunny camping.)

Astoria Column

Astoria Column

Fort Clatsop

Fort Clatsop

I loved Astoria’s funkiness, including the Fiber Arts “knit-bombing” installation, exploring the old cannery district where there are now restaurants, as well as sustainably-focused shops selling items of recycled sails and other boating-related materials.  Could we live in Astoria?  Probably not, but it’s definitely a place we’d like to return – hopefully, on a sunny day!  “Sun” appears to be a theme for this Oregon-focused blog!

Fiber Artists Installation

Fiber Artists Installation

Cannery Poster

Cannery Poster

Fish Scale

Another Kind of Fish Scale!

From Astoria we made the 2-hour drive to Portland, following the Columbia River much of the way.  The Pacific Northwest is stunningly beautiful – the varied greens (from bright emerald and apple green to dusky peat and mossy green), of the trees, valleys, and farms and the blues, greens, grays and browns of the rivers and lakes, highlighted against the sometimes startlingly blue sky, is breath-taking.  It was with much anticipation that we arrived in Portland, a city that I have developed a crush on over the past twenty years or so.   In Portland, wonderful friends from expat days in Paris hosted us, sharing superb Oregon wines, and generally acting as perfect “Portland is Your Spot” sales agents.  We’ll see…

Oregon was “too good for words!” So, the following photographs illustrate many of the enticing aspects of Oregon – for it’s become a contender in the search for our spot…

The Portland Art Museum has  wonderful permanent and visiting collections!  (http://www.portlandmuseum.org)

Omega by Linda Benglis

Omega by Linda Benglis

The farm market – located just outside the Art Museum – is super!

Farm Market Bouquet

Farm Market Bouquet

Blue, Red, Black, Berries!

Blue, Red, Black, Berries!

The Willamette Valley is well-known for its wines, but we also discovered the wines of the Applegate and Umqua Valleys, and explored Medford, Ashland, and tiny Jacksonville.  In Ashland, we were lucky to get tickets to “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” with an all-female cast in a wonderful performance  at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  (https://www.osfashland.org/en/productions/2014-plays/the-two-gentlemen-of-verona.aspx)

Wine Barrels

Wine Barrels

Willamette Valley Shack

Willamette Valley Shack

And then there was the outdoors – mountains, beaches, and dunes to explore.  Misty day?  Didn’t matter – the hiking was a little cooler, the leaves and berries glistening just a wee bit more with the dew.  We’ve been trail-snacking by foraging for berries (blackberries, mostly) – in Canada, Washington, and now Oregon.  Here we found yummy, ripe salal berries on a trail to the beach, and remembered reading that the Corps of Discovery had been given “salal berry bread,” by the native tribes – we were, after all, still communing with Lewis & Clark!

Snack! Salal Berries on the Bush

Snack! Salal Berries on the Bush

Anemones

Anemones

On the Dock

On the Dock

Stranded Jellyfish

Stranded Jellyfish

Coastal Beauty

Coastal Beauty

Driftwood

Driftwood

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

CW - Leap Into Lake

CW – Leap Into Lake

There were many moments in Oregon when I felt graced to spend time in nature’s cathedrals.  Oregon is beautiful.  And, yes, right up there near the top of the list!

Wildflower

Wildflower

Love in the Mist

Love in the Mist

Oregon Roses

Oregon Roses

CN - Last Summer Snow!

CN – Last Summer Snow!

 

Back in the U.S.A.! Ahhh.

Glimpse of Mt. Rainier

Glimpse of Mt. Rainier

Ahhh, Washington!  The state, that is.  Now this is a place we could live.  We’ve been here many times, and seem to keep coming back.  That should tell us something.  But…we haven’t experienced the full range of seasons, and that’s a project we plan to undertake in the coming year or so:  identify those special places that we feel we might call “home” for a while, and then settle in each one of them for a trial run.  Not everyone is lucky enough to have that flexibility and we’re grateful that we do.  We blew through Washington this time, staying with friends in Seattle who are long time East Coast transplants, and excellent, practical guides to their city.  What did we find or reconfirm this time around?  Good coffee?  Check!  Great farm markets?  Check!  Water sports? Check!  Museums? Check!  And the list goes on, and on, and on.  Will Seattle or somewhere close by prove to be “our spot?”  Time (lots of it there, in the rain, and the wind, and the gray, and the sunshine…) will tell.

Seattle Farm Market Offering

Seattle Farm Market Offering

Street Art

Street Art

We followed up on a serendipitous meeting we’d had while in the Grand Tetons, where we met artist Ian McMahon, who had just installed “Cascade” at the Suyama Space (http://www.suyamaspace.org/installations/ian-mcmahon-cascade) in downtown Seattle.  We visited the installation of two fragile, beautiful plaster curtains, which were illuminated by the sun coming through ceiling height windows…curtains that draped like fabric yet were solid and lovely, perplexing, intriguing.

 

Cascade: Plaster Curtains Installation

Cascade: Plaster Curtains Installation

Art exploration was a theme on this visit to Seattle, where we encountered formal works like Ian’s, and found others – like the popsicle street sculpture and the fragile shattered window, below.

Shattered:  Street Window

Shattered: Street Window

We left Seattle determined to get back to the Lewis & Clark Trail, which we’d last seen in South Dakota, many weeks ago.  We headed south from Seattle, planning to rejoin the expedition’s path near the mouth of the Columbia River, at a place William Clark called “Dismal Nitch,” pretty much summing up how they felt as they finally approached their goal of the Pacific Ocean in late 1805.  No fresh food, rotting clothing, miserable weather, and a race to see if they could reach the coast before the final trading ship of the season had come and gone.  They didn’t.  A storm kept them confined to the north shore of the great Columbia, and they missed the ship, though as we know, the Corp of Discovery eventually did reach the magnificent shore of the Pacific Ocean.  Dismal Nitch was still kind of dismal in 2014 – we were there on a windy, misty, gray day, and we spent just a few minutes looking at the river and signage about the Expedition, then zipped across the river to Oregon and the Corp of Discovery’s Fort Clatsop – their winter home.  We were now in Oregon, where I (at least) have high hopes of making our own fortuitous discoveries!

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”   Martin Buber

The Wonderful State of…Idaho

Uh oh, this is going to be a long one!  Grab a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy!

There’s a long narrow strip of western Idaho that’s lush, gorgeous, and green, all the way from Boise in the south to tiny Bonner’s Ferry up in the panhandle near Canada…and after 4000+ miles, it’s along that route that we found a few places to add to an “our spot” list.  Let’s start with Boise!

But, wait…long before reaching Boise, Idaho’s capital city, we drove across the southern part of the state from Jackson, Wyoming.  We traversed miles and miles of high desert, with occasional cows, scruffy grass, and dusty hills interrupting the ruler-straight highway vista, until before our eyes, as if in a science fiction movie, appeared the following signs:

Mystery Signpost

Mystery Signpost

A Must Visit

A Must Visit

How could we not stop and visit?  What the heck does EBR-I stand for?  We learned it means Experimental Breeder Reactor One – the very first in the U.S.  In 1951, EBR-1 created enough electricity from nuclear power to light 4 200-watt bulbs.  The EBR-I museum is a time capsule of the 1950’s, and a superb short lesson in the U.S.A.’s nuclear power history.  Even with the warning that residual radioactivity (“not harmful”) was still decaying away but bound to certain places in the facility (those areas marked so helpfully by a purplish triangle), we spent about 45” wandering through the original nuclear power plant, exploring the former core of the breeder reactor, playing with the “grabbers” used to handle the fuel rods, and murmuring over the antique looking chains, pulleys and massive hooks that were used to move material around in the new atomic age.  The pioneering scientists who worked here were at the very edge of technological exploration, and it was a remarkable and unexpected lesson along our road.  If you’re ever on Route 26 in Idaho, do NOT pass this by – you may learn something, and you’ll certainly feel like you’ve become an extra in the 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove. Curiously, the film was made the same year that EBR-I was decommissioned…

The Twilight Zone TV

The Twilight Zone TV

Dials, Switches & Buttons

Dials, Switches & Buttons

Pretty Nuclear Lights

Pretty Nuclear Lights

 

Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion

Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion

 

 

 

 

Atomic City

Atomic City

 

 

 

 

 

We reached our stop in Sun Valley not long after the EBR-I visit, travelling from desert to the mountains and through the small towns of Hailey and Ketchum, both towns growing rapidly and increasing in price for real estate – thus not candidates for “our spot!”  We were generally dissuaded of any thought of settling in the Sun Valley area, though it was beautiful and there are great community activities (concerts, films, book talks) many of them free due to the beneficence of the Holding family who now own the resort.  They’ve built a wonderful outdoor concert venue and continue to play a major philanthropic role in the town.  For those with any political or U.S. history interests, here’s a tidbit:  Sun Valley Resort was developed by Averill Harriman, when he was chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1930’s, long before he begin his famed political career.

Back to the trip!  Two days passed quickly with friends who are long time Sun Valley residents and gave us a good look at what life in this lovely mountain retreat might be like.  We had a great hike in the lower mountains and an even more fun time participating in trivia night at the local dive bar…how lucky for us that many of the first questions were about Japan!  CW continued his local/craft brewery tour with a visit to Sawtooth Brewing in Ketchum.

Sun Valley might have been our spot – 20 years ago, when prices were lower…  We left for Boise after an amazing breakfast in Stanley, Idaho, a rafting and hiking base about an hour northwest of Sun Valley… with all that sunshine, an outdoor deck, great coffee, and good friends – it was a very hard combination to leave.

Stanley Bakery Menu

Stanley Bakery Menu

Eccentric Idaho City

Eccentric Idaho City

Misty Road to Boise

Misty Road to Boise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve been to Boise a couple of times, and always left with a lingering feeling that we could perhaps find our spot there.  How does it meet the informal checklist? (A checklist that is going to have to take on substance soon, if we’re going to keep track of the growing number of locations that have whispered to us “stay here” or “come back…”)

Let’s recap some of the criteria:  access to hiking and the outdoors; culture; cultural diversity; a sustainable economy and food system; community; education; health care; climate…among a few others.

It seems CW and I are not the only ones exploring.  I was amused to read this article in the New York Times!  www.nytimes.com/2014/06/14/your-money/Finding-the-Right-Place-to-Retire.html

The Boise farm market was great fun, as was the Boise Art Museum, which has an exhibit called “Crafting a Continuum” until August 9, 2014.  (http://www.boiseartmuseum.org/)  The ceramics, wood and fiber exhibit explores the permeable boundary that has developed between craft and art, asking us to accept functional, beautiful items as pieces of art (I have no problem with that – in fact, if a piece of art can be touched, caressed, and drawn into daily life, all the better!)  Anyway, a gem of a museum, and an unexpected and appealing part of downtown Boise.  More on Boise if and when I recap all those “our spots” that we find along the way.

We travelled north and enjoyed a few days on Lake Coeur D’Alene, again, courtesy of some very kind friends, and yes, “C D’A” is also an “our spot” candidate.  The drive was gorgeous all the way there, and while we’ve been super lucky with the weather so far, I think it would be great even in the rain.

Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge

Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge

Farm near Kootenai

Farm near Kootenai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonner's Ferry Building

Bonner’s Ferry Building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a couple of days on the water and exploring the towns of Coeur D’Alene and Bonner’s Ferry, we got our passports in order and headed for Canada.  À bientôt!

The Road to Canada

The Road to Canada

Into the West…

Welcome, Wyoming!

Welcome, Wyoming!

Much of the drive across Wyoming was flat flat flat, with the glorious presence of vast cloud banks.  I’m reading “Open Road” by Phil Patton, and he says “At 65 miles an hour, experts say, the driver sees five times as much sky as at 45.  Roads are drunk with the principles of perspective.”  So far, so true!  We’re not home-hunting in Wyoming, but headed west for the Grand Tetons and more camping, so we we’re testing the 65 mph views (or better, as speed limits here hover around 75 mph and so the perspectives must be that much better!).

About the Clouds...

About the Clouds…

Though we’re on a local food/farm to table/craft-brewing oriented journey, we’re learning that “local” doesn’t necessarily equate to “good,” though it more than often does mean quirky or quaint, and usually “nice.”  The Broken Wheel Truckstop and Restaurant was a refueling station, with a basic truckers’ breakfast (we passed up on the steak and eggs) and kind waitresses who kept pouring the coffee.

Breakfast Spot

Breakfast Spot

On the other hand, sometimes local means both kind people with a mission and really really good coffee.  Being “West” also means they get to have some real fun with their branding.  I liked the cowboy-themed packaging of the Brown Sugar Coffee Roastery in Riverton, Wyoming (http://brownsugarcoffeeroastery.com/)  and their coffees are FairTrade USA certified too!  NOTE:  if you’re curious about why I care about Fair Trade, check out :  http://fairtradeusa.org/  for more about what Fair Trade means to the small growers and farmers around the world.  Also, my earlier blog about our visit to the Fair Trade/organic farmers in India might be of interest!

Howdy, Pardner!

Howdy, Pardner!

Primed by Brown Sugar’s coffee, and hours and hours of driving later, we gained our first view of our home (tent) for the next two nights in Grand Teton National Park.  And found there was a little more snow than we’d planned on!

The Grand Tetons

The Grand Tetons

A Little Snow...

A Little Snow…

Here’s where words, at least mine, can’t measure up.  Our hike around Jenny Lake…

And the Hikes!

And the Hikes!

And then, we were off to Boise, Idaho and a wonderful weekend of wedding celebration activities!  Was it the wedding and reuniting with friends, the farmers’ market and wonderful museum that gave us pause, and had us house-hunting?  More on this, next time…

Home, Home, (Tent) on the Range…

We haven’t yet found even one spot to add to our “settle down wish list,” but we’ve enjoyed plenty of places that are perfect for exploring!  We left Yankton heading northwest across South Dakota, at first following the Missouri River, and Lewis & Clark’s journey.  Hours and hours (about 4, to be more precise) we were thrilled when the formidable peaks of Badlands National Park came into view.  We had a great hike that stretched the legs and let us clamber among the rocks and prairie grass as we learned about the geological forces that created the Badlands.  Our first buffalo sighting of the trip, too! And then, it was on to Rapid City, for an overnight stay before our first camping foray.

Badlands Ahead

Badlands Ahead

Wall Drug is a famous stop in South Dakota, with dozens of signs posted along the high way for miles and miles before you actually arrive.  I was fully prepped for the 5 cent coffee by the time we arrived (and for those of you who are following my Instagram posts – the doughnut!) Wall Drug is a funky huge maze of a store, and worth a visit if you are anywhere in the area.

Wall Drug's A'Comin!

Wall Drug’s A’Comin!

Lassos at Wall Drug

Lassos at Wall Drug

A short overnight stay in Rapid City was the first real exploration of a possible future home…yep, but I think it was just a brief fling!  Art Alley (check out the winsome blue baby at the far end of the alley) was an unexpected and fascinating discovery as we walked to Firehouse Brewery for dinner.  There are also life-size sculptures of the U.S. Presidents scattered around the city for discovery.

Art Alley Rapid City, SD

Art Alley Rapid City, SD

Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore

We passed Mt. Rushmore as we drove towards Custer State Park, and it was a “rush” to see the massive sculpted heads hovering over the highway.  Nope, didn’t stop by to get a closer look, truthfully – because we were so taken aback by the $11.00 parking fee that would go to a private parking concession…really?

From Mt. Rushmore we drove into Custer State Park via the Harney Peaks entrance, to camp and do a little hiking.  It is beautiful – Harney Peak is South Dakota’s highest point at 7200’, and much of the rest of the park is above 5000’.  The jagged, formidable looking peaks stretched to a beautiful cloud-filled sky, and we set up our tent at Central Lake for the next two nights, at 4600’.   Custer State Park is home to thousands of free-range buffalo, and though it’s nothing like the herds that roamed the prairies in millions in the 1800’s, the sight of these huge, magnificent animals was awe-inspiring.  And it’s calving season!

Harney Peak Area, Custer State Park

Harney Peak Area, Custer State Park

Ponderosa Pine Bark

Ponderosa Pine Bark

 

Beauty on the Trail

Beauty on the Trail

Stand Off!

Stand Off!

Buffalo weren’t the only “wildlife” we saw, as we left the park – the donkeys? mules?  were pretty funny.   Leaving South Dakota, we stopped in Custer at the Bitter Esters Brewhouse, and enjoyed, really really enjoyed, the Spent Grain Crust Pizza (check out my Yelp review for more), before heading on the long, straight road to Douglas, Wyoming…more on this, next time.

Road West with Clouds

Road West with Clouds