Summer Bucket List #7: The Coast!!

Woohoo, we finally made it to the coast! This was the outing I’ve been most looking forward to all year!

This was our first ‘real’ vacation with the babies. We’ve only stayed overnight at someone’s house before, but after the success earlier this summer, we were hopeful that the babies would do okay with a hotel.

It was about an hour and a half drive–west on 26 and then meet up with the famed Highway 101. (In 2001, I drove 101 all the way to LA; that was the last time I was on the Pacific.)

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Our first stop was Ecola State Park in the town of Cannon Beach. This stunning vista greets you to one side:

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And the open ocean is straight ahead. We got out to stretch and to feed the babies their lunch. Happily, we’ve done a lot of al fresco ‘dining’ with them, so they were totally cool eating outside in this new environment.

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Make sure to change your focus settings before handing your camera to a stranger/non-photographer:

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We continued into downtown Cannon Beach and found lunch for ourselves, and the babies had their bottles. Then finally it was time for the beach!! There’s the iconic Haystack Rock behind us. Again, this was a stranger…she almost hid the rock behind us and also shot vertically (I cropped it).

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We rolled up our jeans and dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean! The babies had been cranky but they quieted down with their little feet in the water. No doubt they were trying to figure out what kind of giant bathtub they were in and why it was so cold! Emmett even managed to kick and splash while Andy was holding him up.

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On the way back to dry land, one of Andy’s shoes fell out of the plastic bag I had everything in. I suppose that’s a worthy sacrifice for an adventure. He needed new shoes anyway. He grabbed some flipflops from a gift shop and we made a detour to a mini mall so he could buy some new sneakers.

Then we continued on to our hotel in Tillamook. Babies’ first hotel stay!

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We had a ‘king suite’, so there was a little sitting area across a half wall. We set up the pack n plays there and crossed our fingers that the babies would be able to sleep. It took them awhile to quiet down (which happens plenty at home too), but they slept quite well. Andy and I watched stuff on our laptops with headphones.

Our first stop the next morning was the Tillamook Cheese Factory. For the record, 8am is a great time to visit; hardly any tourists are out yet. 🙂 It was a quick stroll and then we got back in the car.

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You can buy an empty ice cream bucket for fifty cents! I was stoked.

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There’s a little cape to the west Tillamook, and we drove out there to see the Cape Meares lighthouse.

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On the way back we stopped at the beach in Oceanside, a town so small it didn’t show up on the map on my iphone. We had more time this time and so the babies got to hang out and enjoy some quality beach time. IE, playing in the sand. Yes, they definitely ate some.

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And then we went back to Tillamook for ice cream before driving home! Andy got black cherry and I got s’mores. Dee-lish.IMG_1211

Overall, things went really well! It was a great family adventure. I hope we can find a closer beach-type place to bring the babies this fall, since they had so much fun. I loved seeing such pretty scenery and exploring new areas. Can’t wait for our next family vacation!

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Summer Bucket List #2: Mt Hood!

Please make sure to visit my photography page for non-family, beautiful-scenery-only photos!

Last week we finally went to Mt Hood! I’ve been so excited to go there for months. This is one of the two outings I’ve been most looking forward to this summer, and I’m so happy we finally went! We decided to go for the Fourth of July, because we don’t care about fireworks stuff and the weather had been so gorgeous the past week or two. It was actually cloudy when we left our house, and I was really bummed about not having great weather at the mountain. But as we got closer and closer, the sky got clearer and bluer!

The drive was super easy. One hour east of us, on one road, and bam, national forest and big snowy mountain. Amazing. I was giddy. 🙂

First we came to Government Camp, which is a small strip of hotels, shops, and ski places. Timberline Lodge is only a few minutes from there.

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Something’s different about Smokey the Bear…

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(Slightly blurry) stats about Timberline:

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We got there right around the babies’ lunchtime, so we set up in the lobby to feed them on one of the couches. Of course they were very interested in looking around at all the new stuff and hearing all those new noises.

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While they were eating, a small tour group came through right behind us, led by what was easily the dumbest guide ranger I’ve ever encountered. I hope for everyone’s sake that either it was her first day on the job or she was filling in for someone else at the last minute. She was reading from some papers, peppered her sentences with “ummm…” and “sooo…” and “….yeah.” She had a couple ‘facts’ to share, but they were incomplete. She tried talking about the stone structure in the middle of the lodge and one of her audience members had to tell her the term ‘mason.’ She also was trying to explain the phenomenon of the timberline–‘if you look up the mountain, you don’t see any trees, and if you look down, you see lots of trees. So trees don’t grow past here’–without actually using the term timberline. Which, I might suppose, is probably where the name of the lodge actually came from. Just a guess. Anyway. Andy and I kept giving each other looks like, “Really?!!!”

Anyway, we didn’t have time to walk around or anything, but of course I set up a family photo:

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Huge cougar carving–out here was a balcony with a southern view of the foothills and Mt Jefferson.

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We were starving and had a quick lunch in Government Camp, at one of the hotel ‘restaurants’ (really more of an overpriced diner). The babies sat in those wooden high chairs for the first time. So cute! They were VERY interested in our water and our food too (but we only gave them sips of the water).

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Our final stop was a short hike along Little Zigzag River to a small waterfall.

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Walking through the woods and listening to the running water was so beautiful and peaceful!

The falls were small but lovely nonetheless.

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We finally headed home after that, and the babies dozed in the car. I also fed them there, in the backseat. It worked really well and I am so glad to have that option in our pocket for future outings!

Headed back to civilization:

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It was a really great day. I can’t wait to bring the babies back next summer when they’re toddling around!

Lessons from the Market

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Even though spring officially started over a week ago, Mother Nature really kicked it into gear this weekend. Clear blue sky, temps into the 70s. In March! In Portland!

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We decided that it would be a crime not to enjoy the weather, so we decided to have a Family Outing. I’d heard about the Portland Saturday Market and thought that might be a nice thing to see. I figured we could stroll the market a bit and hang out at the waterfront park area afterward.

So after the 1pm feeding, we loaded up the babies and all their gear and headed downtown. (To give you an idea about how long it takes to feed two babies and pack up their stuff, we didn’t leave the house until 2:40.) This was actually the first time taking them downtown and our first non-restaurant outing. And we’ve only done two of those in four months, so this ‘excursion’ was actually kind of a big deal.

We parked in the garage closest to the market, but not before driving through small streams of pedestrians on their way to and from the waterfront. We got the babies set up in the stroller and set off in the sunshine.

Oh, and I have to tell you about my newest baby ‘invention.’ I was a little worried about the sun and heat while they were stuck in their car seats in the stroller, so I fashioned my own sun covers: muslin blanket draped over the top, held in place with a chip clip! I think it was pretty ingenious, if I do say so myself. 🙂 And it seemed to work pretty well too!

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Anyway, we arrived at the tent area under the bridge and ran into what felt like a wall of people. It wasn’t, but A) it’s been awhile since I’ve been in a big crowd of people, and B)it was the line for the bathroom, so it was nothing to sneeze at.

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My heart sank just a little bit as I realized that this was going to be more difficult than I’d thought. I mean, obviously I’d expected crowds. But maneuvering the stroller through the throngs was harder and took even more time and patience than I’d anticipated. Especially when I would say “excuse me” several times to someone and they either ignored me or didn’t hear me. (And I always said/say Excuse Me–I would never expect to or try to barrel through people.) I had to go really slowly and weave in and out of people all over the place. It was really annoying. Though I’m sure all the people thought I was really annoying and stupid for having this big stroller in such a place.

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As we made it through the first ‘aisle’ of the market, we saw the food area and turned that way. Oh dear. Those were definite walls of people, in a space not meant for it. So I wove around the ends of all the many lines, and because of where other people were standing, there was a single-person sized space to walk in. And since a steady stream of people was coming the other way, I just had to stand there and wait for like thirty people to pass. Meanwhile, Andy was already far away, further into the crowd.

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When we finally made it through that gauntlet, I agreed to wait with the babies while Andy went to get something to eat. While I was standing in the hot sun, I spotted someone with an Ergo. I barely restrained myself from literally slapping my own self. OH MY GAH why did we not bring carriers??? We are serious dumdums.

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Fast forward a good half hour or so. We had made it across the street (slowly) and Andy got a bit of food (slowly) and then we went back to the waterfront grass area (slowly) and found a shady spot. We used their sunshade muslins as ‘picnic blankets’. He left to get more to eat and I hung out with the babies.

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Except that about five minutes later they started crying. Screaming. Both of them.

Now, to be fair, it was close to their eating time. And of course we had packed their bottles in the stroller, so in theory I was prepared. But I wasn’t expecting to jump right into feeding them both by myself with no ‘equipment’. They can’t really eat lying flat down, so I did what I’ve done at baby group–prop them both on the diaper bag (precariously, because together they’re almost the same width as the bag itself) so they’re angled a bit, and hold the bottles. While hunching and leaning over and trying to help Malcolm, who continued screaming. Thankfully Emmett calmed down after a minute or so, so there weren’t double the screams to worry about. The bottles were still pretty chilled too, which probably didn’t help matters. Thankfully they’ve never seemed to be too picky about milk temperature.

It was at least ten very long minutes of shrieking crying before Andy came back and he jumped in to work on calming Malcolm. It took a long time and was frustrating–every time he would quiet for a moment and Andy would try the bottle, Malcolm would start crying again.

We guessed that poor Malcolm must have finally gotten overwhelmed. They’d never spent this much time outside, they certainly had never eaten outside before, and in general they’ve rarely eaten anywhere except our living room and bedroom. (And all those other times they’ve been a little fussier or distracted.) Plus all the noise and people–which they’d been totally quiet about for the previous 30-40 minutes, but I guess compounded with some hunger must have all added up to too much for that little baby.

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Finally Malcolm was able to eat again, though it was slow going. And of course he spit up all over Andy like three times. Emmett was happy enough but really distracted and kept chewing on the bottle rather than drinking from it, so I finally lay down to help my back.

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When they were both finally done eating, it was about 5pm and we made our way back to the garage. The streets and the parking lots were much quieter and emptier by then, so we made a mental note to keep our timing as late as possible. (I don’t even want to think about how much more crowded it could have been had we been there in the late morning instead of early afternoon!) And as we drove home, I felt completely drained and exhausted, and was literally slurring some words.

Oh, and ps, we only had a total of three encounters of people cooing over them/asking about twinness. I guess that’s not bad?

Overall, it wasn’t the fun and carefree weekend outing we had envisioned…but it had gone okay, sort of, all things considered. At the very least we learned some important lessons for future excursions:

1. For the love of all things holy, bring carriers. DUH. Crowds and double strollers don’t mix.

2. Bring our own food and water. Lines and exhaustion can be avoided.

3. Bring more blankets/pillows/something to put them on/prop them up with. (Not sure how to fit that in the stroller basket along with the diaper bag…)

4. “Heat” bottles to room temperature before putting them in the insulated bag, so they’re a better temperature when it’s time to eat.

5. Later is better. Though it’s a delicate balance, because later also means fussier.

6. Try feeding them in the car maybe, so it’s quieter. And their car seats are familiar, if not a place they love to be.

Do you have any other hard-earned nuggets of wisdom for going out and about with your wee ones?

Cross Country Road Trip Legs 8 and 9: Idaho and Oregon

I can’t lie, I was disappointed to be anywhere after the day at Yellowstone–anything was going to be a letdown. The fact that there is a whole lot of nothing in Idaho does not help.
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We took I-20 to Craters of the Moon National Monument. The road went straight for awhile and then skirted a series of brown mountains. Eventually we got to Craters of the Moon National Monument. Spoiler alert: it was still empty!
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This is where a series of volcanoes erupted/exploded all over the plains of the Snake River basin. The mountain-y bits are still technically there, but they’re really small and unassuming. One would not guess that they barfed endless fields of lava for miles and miles.
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Surprisingly (or not, really, since volcanic soil is quite rich), many trees and plants have sprung up. (Some died, like this, but plenty seem to be thriving.)
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Seriously, endless miles of lava and nothing.
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After a couple hours looking at various views of lava, we continued our journey westward. We passed into Oregon and had dinner, and then drove another hour to a motel in La Grande for our penultimate night.

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On the way we apparently drove onto Mars.

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LEG 9
This was our final leg. It was also our shortest driving time–less than five hours. So we purposely had a leisurely morning and figured we’d stop along the way. There was actually some kind of Oregon Trail Pioneer Park soon after we started, but unfortunately it was closed. By this time we had come far enough west that we were out of Martian country and back into trees, at least for a little while. We were still on I-84, which we’d picked up before Boise the day before. That freeway actually follows the Oregon trail at a northwestern angle and meets up with the mighty Columbia River.

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This made me think about a wonderful book I read as a teenager, Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo. It’s a historical novel of her entire life, and it is so completely fascinating. Obviously the Lewis and Clark expedition is a huge section of the book, and one of the parts I remember most is the end of their journey when they reach the mouth of the Columbia, and it’s teeming with people and fish and big water.

Obviously we weren’t anywhere near the mouth, and by now the Columbia has been tamed many times over by dams. But every time I see it, I think of what the river must have seen and wish I could see it like that.

Anyway! It was also exciting to reach the Columbia because it meant we were that much closer to our end point. And then Mt Hood appeared! I love mountains, and Mt Hood is an especially pretty one (though of course Mt Rainier is always number one in my heart). And the combo of mountain and river made me quite happy.

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Add to that the lines of wind turbines along both sides of the river, and I was enthralled. We saw wind turbines in Iowa, Illinois, Wyoming, and now again in Oregon, and every time I was struck by how beautifully elegant they are, and how exciting it is that people are harnessing nature’s power without pollution. Even better that it’s happening both on land already in use (farms/fields–turbine footprints are quite small!) and on land that seems to useless. It really adds something to the landscape. I hope all the states continue to grow their wind farms!

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We arrived in Portland before 5pm. It was a Tuesday. We checked into a hotel for two nights, since our things wouldn’t be arriving until Thursday. Though it was exciting to reach our destination, I was mostly sad to see the end of our adventure. This whole thing was a transition into this new life, a middle ground of being of nowhere, and arriving in our new city meant that it was time to face the reality of all that’s coming, and a new kind of permanence.

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Cross Country Road Trip Leg 7: National Parks!!

This was the leg I was looking forward to the most, and one of my biggest reasons for doing the cross-country drive in the first place–Yellowstone! Mister M had never been (I’ve been through I think three times? The last one was a half day on my 2005 cross-country drive), and I have this much nicer camera now, and who knows when we will next be able to visit this kind of natural wonder.

So we got up early, had breakfast (one of the best features of the Hampton Inn!) and headed out of Jackson toward the Grand Tetons.

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As you can see, there were a lot of low-lying clouds in the morning. We stopped by the first visitor center and looked around, got our National Parks passport stamp, and the clouds starting burning off. We stopped at several turnouts along the main road to gawk and take photos. We went to Jenny Lake and followed the little trail to the lakeshore.
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The clouds eventually all went away and we had this to see. So beautiful! Especially after the boring/barren landscape we’d been seeing for a week!
More driving north, and then, finally Yellowstone!
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Of course we started with Old Faithful. We arrived at the visitor center at 2.30, and the sign proclaimed its next eruption would be approximately 2.40, so our timing was perfect! We found a place to watch and waited for probably ten minutes or so until the steam finally became a tall spray. It was a really short one, timewise, though–I remember them lasting a lot longer. Regardless, it’s an impressive thing to see.
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Mineral Spring
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Grand Prismatic Spring–I hadn’t seen this one before. It’s the huge, multicolored one you always see in photos from above (like this), and it’s so huge you can’t see most of it from ground level. You can see and hear the water bubbling and there are huge gusts of steam that race off the surface.
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Otherwordly trees
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Fountain Paint Pots was our next stop. The bubbling and popping is so neat!
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Our last stop was the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon.
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Just before that, we saw this elk grazing near a parking lot.
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On the way out we saw a bison!
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We saw another one in a meadow too, and later I think I saw a bear further up this river, and then again further on, another bison and another elk grazing in a meadow. Earlier in the day, two huge deer leapt across the road in front of us.
We exited the park around 8pm (after a 45 minute traffic jam, probably caused by those animals either crossing the road or causing the drivers to stop and gawk), which was later than we’d planned. But the time was so worth it!
We ate dinner in West Yellowstone, which is just over the Montana border.
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Then Mister M drove fast along the dark roads to Idaho Falls for the night.
It was the longest day we had, though it was the fewest number of miles, and it was definitely the most naturally fascinating!

Cross Country Road Trip Legs 5 and 6: Nebraska and Wyoming

Leg 4 actually finished in Nebraska. We ate dinner at a Mexican place outside Des Moines, Iowa, and then continued on. Originally we’d planned to stop in Omaha, just over the border, but decided to push on to Lincoln, 45 minutes further west. (We did this the next three legs, to make the next day’s drive a little less. I suppose that continuing on longer might have counteracted that a bit.)

 Omaha’s welcome
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So for Leg 5, Nebraska started off with some corn, but on flatter land, and then the land turned to scrubby ranchland, and then to scrubby wasteland of nothing at all.

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It was nearly 100 degrees that day in Nebraska. Zero clouds to mitigate the relentless sun, and no trees or anything to provide shade.

My little car finally had to protest. We had already noticed the coolant temp gauge had gone up from a quarter to a half, but it hadn’t gone anywhere near the red zone. However, eventually the overheat light came on. Still no red zone, no steam or smell coming from the hood. I tried not to panic. Mister M read the manual and it said to stop driving immediately. Of course I couldn’t do that, as I was on a freeway in literally the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, the exit for Potter was only a couple miles down the road. We turned off the AC and pulled into a service station. The light went off and we ended up staying there for about half an hour to give the car some rest. We consulted quickly with the technician and he said it was probably ok to keep going.

Potter, Nebraska

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It was eighty miles from Potter to Cheyenne, where I’d already called a Midas. Nebraska’s speed limit is 75mph, which is awesome, but for that eighty miles, I stayed between 60-65, and we kept the air-conditioning off, the heat up, the windows down. The harsh plains wind blasted my left ear as I made myself stay calm. No warning light came back on, the coolant gauge stayed about the same.

We made it safely to Midas. I had them do an oil change and a coolant flush. I hadn’t added any coolant in who knows how long, or a coolant flush. This is a bad job by me, and it made me a little scared and very grateful that my little car had made it so far without any problems.

The Midas guys in Cheyenne were fantastic. We actually went to a second location after the first was done, so they could fix the gasket that was still leaking. (This was the THIRD TIME I had paid to fix the same leaking gasket! Gah!!) So it was another chunk of money, but well worth it. Now I knew the car was good, functioning the way it needed to, and I felt safe continuing on the journey.

But even better than that was a new friend I made there. The resident kitty walked in to the waiting room and after less than a minute of walking around and meowing at us, climbed up on my lap, padded up my belly, and started kneading and purring. She was so soft and cuddly and friendly! I loved her!

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That night we drove on to Laramie, with a full moon and downright chilly air. What a relief to be out of the hot midwestern sun!

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The best thing about Wyoming was that it was blessedly cool. Look at those beautiful clouds! We hadn’t seen clouds for almost a week at this point. Wyoming definitely has some big-sky country to it. Also, most of it is completely and utterly empty.
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We did drive past this huge row of wind turbines set along a ridge. Gorgeous!
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Finally we entered the Bridger-Teton National Forest and feasted our eyes on GREEN!

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 We arrived in Jackson nice and early. Because it was Labor Day weekend and also it’s just a busy place, we decided to book a hotel a couple days in advance, and pay full price. We used Priceline for almost every other night (or a cheap motel a couple nights), but there was no way that we wanted to risk that in a place as popular and limited as Jackson. We stayed at the Hampton Inn, which became my favorite hotel this past year with all of my work trips. It was charmingly western–check out this fabulous antler chandelier!
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We had plenty of time to walk around the town square (which is pretty much all there is to see of Jackson) while it was still light out. We grabbed a drink at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and took pictures of each other sitting in the saddle barstools. There’s also a display case of a stuffed bear that some badass killed with his hands and TEETH. Good lord!
We had dinner on a tavern patio overlooking the square:
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We were quite tired and went to bed early in preparation for a big day of national parks the next day!

Cross Country Road Trip Legs 3 and 4: Illinois and Iowa

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Driving out of Ohio in the morning was pretty. We hit Indiana.
 Nothing much there but corn.
In Illinois we saw our first wind turbines. They are so pretty and elegant! Plus so good for the environment. Well done, states who have lots of wind turbines in their fields!
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Speaking of fields, as you probably know, this has been a terribly hot and drought-ridden summer throughout the bulk of the US, especially the parts that are covered in corn and soybean fields. The soybeans were still pretty green, but most of the corn was dying or totally dead. Here’s my cousin showing a stunted, dried ear from the field across the street.
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We spent two nights with my aunt and cousins, hanging out and talking. Got to know the four boys that my cousins have–they are great kids, and wow, they never stop moving!
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I also finished the baby sweater I began in July at my other aunt’s house in Illinois. I’m going to say it again, because it’s that big of a deal. I FINISHED A SWEATER! It’s tiny and full of mistakes (it’s supposed to be long-sleeved, for one), but I finished the damn thing! This is a huge milestone in my crafting ‘career’!
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This is not necessarily for one of mine; I don’t even know how big a baby this would fit. Oh, and this was the first time I had to pick up stitches to create cuffs–that made me nervous, but Mister M’s mom is a knitter and she helped teach/talk me through it when we were there at the weekend.
Anyway, having two different sets of family rest time on our roadtrip was wonderful.
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After a short return after a forgotten item, we drove northwest and finally hit I-80 West into Iowa.
We pulled off just over the border to go to our first Steak n Shake! I had this ridiculous s’mores shake.
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Following lunch, we went to find the Mississippi River. This town didn’t have a terribly picturesque riverside park, but it sufficed for our photo purposes.
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I realized a month or so ago that I had only been taking those headless weekly belly shots and ignoring the life I was leading while pregnant. Now, I hadn’t had been having much of a life lately, but starting on this roadtrip I sure was! So I have purposely been trying to get a few shots of me and my belly out and about, doing things and going places. I think that will be a fun thing to look back on for me and the littles–where I took them before they were out. 🙂

Anyway, later on, we stopped by the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. Mostly to get another stamp in our National Parks Passport. But we stayed for a few minutes and looked at some of the buildings.

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 The teeny tiny house where he was born:
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Parts of the whole village are preserved or rebuilt, which is kind of neat. Here’s a blacksmithy built in the 1950s with materials from the 1870s. (Hoover’s father was a blacksmith.) Check out the different size shoes–far left is a donkey, second is a ‘normal’ sized horse or pony, and third from left is a draught horse!
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Iowa was all corn in rolling hills. It was actually quite lovely.

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