2015 Summer Road Trip: Planning and Overview

In 2013, Will and I were planning an outdoor adventure road trip for his three-week fall break from Barkstall.  Our decision was between Utah’s five national parks, or something centered on Yellowstone National Park. In late summer, my Dad decided he wanted to join us, so we settled on Yellowstone.  That 2013 trip (just Will and Dad and I) was epic and special, and immediately after completing it, we asked Dad, “In 2015, let’s do something special again. What’s your bucket list trip?”

Dad’s desire was to take a journey, by train, through the northern Rockies.  He’s always been a train nut, and the Rockies’ scenery has always been special to him, so we started investigating Amtrak’s Empire Builder route from Chicago to Seattle, again just for Will and Dad and I.

We began planning in the summer of 2014, and we quickly got ridiculously ambitious.  While the Empire Builder served as the basis for our trip, its journey through the Rockies was mostly at night, rendering the scenery much less compelling.  We quickly altered our plans to take the Empire Builder not to Seattle, but to West Glacier, MT – just outside Glacier National Park.  We would then drive to Seattle to end our trip, giving us a greater chance at adventure and more leisure for great mountain scenery.  Getting to Glacier NP by train was relatively easy and affordable: Amtrak offers a Superliner Family Bedroom on the Empire Builder route that gave us a private room with two adult-size and two child-size bunks, converting into a couch and tables during the day, and including meals. We booked it with a departure from Chicago on Friday, July 3.

Glacier NP has been on my bucket list for years as a preeminent hiking destination, but I worried about my 67-year-old Dad and 7-year-old son tackling 10- and 15-mile hikes at altitude.  We talked about it, and they both wanted to do it.  My Dad even secured a full two weeks off work to make the trip feasible by train, the most time he’s had off since forever.

With two full weeks to fill, we started discussing other possible ideas to fill the two week itinerary. My Dad had always wanted to visit Lake Louise in Banff NP in Canada, so we resolved to head north after Glacier.  We wanted to be in Seattle by the end of our first week, so that Pam and Cate could fly there halfway through our trip, and join us for the final week.  My Dad could fly home from there. And my brother Eric and his wife were expecting a new baby in July, so we were hoping to see them also. So we added Banff NP and started considering options for the second week based in Seattle. Vancouver and Victoria Island?  Crater Lake?

NEXT: (Automobile Transportation and Changing Parties)


Snow Day!

We got about eight inches of snow last night – beautiful, light and powdery stuff.  Pam’s office has a policy that they’re closed whenever Champaign public schools are closed, so she’s at home today, and she kept Will 0.4 home as well.

I’m at work after digging out at about 6:30 this morning.  Thank goodness for the snowblower, and thank goodness my father-in-law helped me to repair it this autumn.  I’m hoping to go home early enough to do some photography this afternoon evening.  Last night, as the snow started falling at around 6 PM, we watched a pair of coyotes hunting rabbits behind our house.

Willpower is feeling better after his fourth-month immunizations on Wednesday, although he was very congested last night and had a difficult time sleeping.  Now that he’s off antibiotics completely (for the first time since Thanksgiving, really), he’s starting to have some constipation problems again.  We’re trying to address it with daily doses of apple juice, which he loves.

We’re probably going to try giving him some solid food this weekend.

And two weeks from tonight Willpower will be taking flight for the first time, as we’re going to take a quick family trip to visit Papa Jim and Grandma Angie in Phoenix.  How exciting!


Pam and I haven’t taken any significant time off work since last September’s week-long jaunt to Washington.  Since then, we’ve had three elections, formed a small business, remodeled our living room, put our house up for sale and conceived a baby, and we both keep requesting and receiving more responsibility at work.
In a nutshell, I’m ready for a vacation – Pam keeps telling me that I’m too crabby.

Even though we’re not going on on usual Memorial Day camping and canoing trip (due to Pam’s “condition”), we’re still going to get together with our camping gang over Memorial Day weekend.  And in June, we’re going to Panama City, FL for a week with the Cirks’, reprising the trip we made with them in 2005.

I’m very much looking forward to taking some time and just relaxing a bit.

Journey to George (Washington, that is)

Random stuff:

  • No pictures yet – it’s hard to upload over the Treo.
  • Bozeman, Montana sucks.
  • Walking with a herd of 200 buffalo is surreal.
  • Yellowstone cannot be adequately experienced in just two days.  We could have spent a month.  There are several hundred miles of roads, but the best experiences are off the beaten path.  Pam and I must have hiked 30 miles over two days, varying in altitudes from 10,250 feet to 6,000 feet.  Multiple waterfalls, wildlife, geysers, hot springs, geysers, and mountain meadows.  The scenery cannot be described, and photos fail to capture the full feeling of how overwhelming the beauty is – golden meadows, surrounded by mountains, with much of the area still recovering naturally from the massive 1988 wildfires.  We took 800 pictures, and I’ll upload the best of them later.
  • Our Gorge friends are way, way too good to us.  Feels like family, with instant comfort and comraderie.
  • I always forget something crucial when camping, and this year it was the propane valve for the grill. We wasted an hour in Spokane trying to find a replacement, and found something that barely worked.
  • I never thought I’d miss humidity, but right now I can feel my skin cracking because of the dryness.
  • I love the Highlander Hybrid.
  • More later, probably Monday on the road.

. .

Journey to George (Washington, that is)

We left Urbana at 6 PM, and hustled 450 miles to Miisouri Valley, IA, where we crashed at 1 AM.
Random stuff:

  • Gas prices in Iowa were as low as $2.49 per gallon for mid-grade with 10 percent ethanol.  The ethanol subsidies made the mid-grade cheaper than the low-grade.
  • This Stowaway 2 cargo carrier is awesome.  We’re using it to store our clothes and overnight bags, and even though we went through some heavy rain yesterday, everything stayed nice and dry.  (Thanks, Cirks!)
  • The Hybrid is getting about 22 miles per gallon at an average speed of just over 70 MPH.
  • Iowa has the bumpiest interstates in the nation.
  • Driving through Iowa City on I-80, just after hissing at the University of Iowa signs, we were interrupted by Officer Friendly.  He chastised me for going 79 in a 65, but sent us on our way without even a written warning.  I think he though Pam was cute.
  • By the way: The best way to drive through Iowa:  do it at night so you don’t have to see anything.
  • I love my Treo 650, and the fact that I can use it as a wireless modem via Bluetooth to be online anywhere I can get a cell signal.  (Large portions of western Iowa have no cell service, though)  I got a bunch of work done last night while Pam drove for two hours.  Right now, we’re on I-29, almost to Sioux Falls, SD.  (Hopefully the Treo 700W that I’m getting will work just as well.)
  • The Garman GPS that Bill loaned us is cool.  I’m looking forward to seeing how it does hiking.
  • The cats are with Grandma & Grandpa Adomite, and Fonzi hasn’t killed Bill yet.  And Bill hasn’t killed Fonzi yet, either.
  • We’re just now starting to see billboards for the Corn Palace and Wall Drug – landmarks in South Dakota, and beneficiaries of several hundred signs for several hundred miles.
  • No photographs yet.  Patience.