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Let’s Recap

July 31, 2010 14 comments

Well now that the first portion of my time in the U.S. is over, I figure it’s time to update my map.  Recall that I consider the drive from Maine out to the South and West “Phase 2” of the trip.  Phase 3 is the drive north to Alaska, and Phase 4 is the indirect journey home.

You may recall I had a general goal of getting to the Washington/Canada border around the start of August.  The gods of timing have been with me on this trip, as I arrived in Vancouver just before the end of July.

Here’s what the map looks like now after 61 days on the road (red diamond marks the start of the trip just north of Atlanta).  I tried to match up my lines as best as I could with the routes I took.

The journey so far

It’s not until I spent the time drawing out the map that I realized how much ground I’ve covered.  A lot to go, yet, but I am still enjoying being on the road.

So after two months of driving, it’s time for some Roadtrip Stats:

Miles so far: 14,800

Oil changes: 5

Total gas expenditures: $1,521 (give or take $10)

Most expensive gas: $4.59/gal – Big Sur, CA

Cheapest gas: $2.45/gal – Joplin, MO

States traveled through: 31

Nicest rest areas: Illinois

Not-so-nice rest areas: California

National Parks visited: 9

Crawfish meals wasted: 1

Time zones traveled through: 5

Nephews met: 2

Close calls with deer: 1

Bear encounters: 0

Longest period of facial hair growth: ~2 weeks

Tolls paid: $121.20

Most expensive toll: $11.00 – Verrazano Bridge, New York City, NY (one way!)

Most expensive admission fee: $17.24 – Ausable Chasm, NY

Website hits: 9,738 (thanks everybody)

Website hits, to date, on my original roadtrip blog from 2005: 13,774

Total miles traveled in 2005 road trip: 11,500

Arrival in California for 2005 trip: Day 11

Arrival in California for current trip: Day 50

Some searches that brought people to this site: zion park facts aliens, my favorite place in the world is my bed, how bad are the mosquitos in the cascade, moon star in endwell hour, something bit my ear, joe’s pancakes

Traffic/Speeding tickets: 0

Flat tires: 0

Car searches at Customs: 2

AAA usage: 1 – battery jump

Nights spent camping: 2

Hotel/Motel/B&B stays: 4

Friends/Family homes I’ve stayed in: 25

How lucky am I with that last item?  I’ve been able to crash at 25 different homes.  Thanks to everybody who has offered a place to stay for this vagabond.

With this current foray into Vancouver, Phase 3 of the trip has kicked in.  On August 1 I head further North.  It’s over 2,000 miles from Vancouver to Fairbanks, so I have my work cut out for me.  But it’ll be worth it.

joe

Day 61: Oh, Canada

July 30, 2010 8 comments

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia

Miles Driven: 315

Total Miles: 14,602

The goal for today, Day 61, was to get to Canada.  But first, I had to check out the Hoh rainforest (recommended by Margaret in Seattle) which is part of Olympic National Park.  I should’ve gotten on the road before 8AM, but I found myself incredibly comfortable lying there in the car under the blanket.  I had woken up originally around 2AM and was up for a while, but then fell asleep and was out for several more hours.  Lesson learned: near 12 hours of lying in a reclined car seat does a number on your lower back.  But it was good to get the rest.

I was only about 35 miles or so from the Hoh rainforest (northwestern section of Olympic), and just by the drive there I could tell I was in for a unique experience.

I made it to the Hoh visitor center area where there were a number of trails through which you could explore the rainforest and the nearby Hoh River.  The Hoh River trail looked especially appealing – 17 miles out to Mount Olympus, ascending you somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 feet.  But I decided to save that for another time, especially considering I wanted to get up to Canada today, not in two days.  I ended up going on a short hike through the forest that, although pretty chilly, was quite interesting.  Yesterday, I thought I saw the most green I ever saw in my life…that feeling was even further intensified this past morning.  Not sure what else to say, but I took a lot of photos.  Very beautiful place.

Just outstanding.  I never got to spend time in a temperate rainforest before and was happy I made it out here.

By 9:30AM or so it was time to make moves in the direction of Canada, though I was still quite a bit away from the US/Canada border.  I would first have to navigate the width of Olympic along Hwy 101, and then catch a ferry back across Puget Sound, and then I could head north.  I was making decent progress along 101 for a bit, and then I found a local cafe and I decided to stop for a breakfast.  Best oatmeal ever.

After the breakfast, I got back on the road, but I was delayed quite a bit by road construction.  It wasn’t until 2PM that I made it to the Port Townsend ferry (a different ferry than I took out to the Olympic Peninusla. Ed had recommended this route back across the Sound).  And by then I was too late to catch the 2:15 ferry, so I had to wait for the 3:45 one.  No worries.  I relaxed, read a bit, and got a quick bite.  Enjoyed the scenery near the Port Townsend ferry, as well.

Eventually got on the ferry and we were on the way towards Whidbey Island.  Wasn’t a long ferry ride by any means, but man it was cold on the deck.  But the blue water and mountains made for a nice view.

Mount Baker in the distance

Soon was driving once again, and I crossed Deception Pass which brought me closer to the other side of the Sound, and closer to I-5 which would take me to the border.

Deception Pass

I stopped at a Starbucks near Burlington, Washington.  I took a little break, took advantage of the free WiFi, and then was soon back on the road and it wasn’t long before I made it to the border and Immigration/Customs.

Note the cool Canadian flag display on the left

The last time I crossed the border into Canada (late June, I think it was), the lady asked me how long I was staying.  I responded “a couple hours”, they checked my passport, and I was soon on my way.  Not so fast here.  I was grilled by the customs officer, albeit in a polite manner.  It seems the officers are trained to ask questions in such a way that they’d easily trip up someone who was trying to hide something.  Here’s some of the questions I faced, rapid-fire, one after the other:

  • What is the purpose of your visit?
  • What do you do for a living?
  • Do you have any weapons in the car?
  • When was the last time you had a gun in the car?
  • Do you have any drugs in the car?
  • When was the last time you had drugs in the car?
  • How much cash do you have on you?
  • What are you doing in Vancouver?
  • Who are you staying with?
  • What is his name?
  • How do you know him?
  • Do you intend to sell anything in your vehicle while in Canada?
  • Where are you coming from?
  • Where is your home?
  • Have you ever been to Canada before?

So if any of you are going to Canada to take part in some ne’er-do-well activities, you better have your story 100% straight or this line of questioning will expose you quickly.

I’m not sure if they are that thorough with everybody who comes through, but maybe it was the New York tags and all the gear in my car that makes the officers more inquisitive.  I answered the questions straightforward and no problem, but I think maybe people get naturally suspicious when I tell them I am unemployed by choice and that I’ve been on the road for the past 60 days.  I dunno.  So the officer handed back my passport with a form and told me to pull over to the side and go meet with a customs officer indoors.  So here I knew I was going to get my car searched (you may recall it was searched going from New Brunswick to Maine).

I had to answer a lot of the same questions for a customs officer inside, then he took my keys and went to perform the search.  It was about 15 or 20 minutes later when I got my ID and keys back and was free to continue on my trip.  No complaints about the process.  All the Canadians I have encountered have been extremely polite and courteous.

In Vancouver live brothers Will and Travis.  Will was on my brother Mike’s college crew team, and I met him and his brother for the first time at Mike’s wedding in Oregon in 2007.  Will offered me his apartment to crash at while in Vancouver even though he would be out of town.  Very generous.  Kindly, Travis offered to get me the key and show me around the area when he had free time.

So I arrived in Vancouver, picked up Travis at his job, and he showed me the way to Will’s place.  After dropping off my luggage, we went out and grabbed some Lebanese food.  I haven’t had Lebanese food in a long time, and Travis picked a great place – Al Basha.  Really hit the spot, and one of the best meals I’ve had on this whole trip (I have a picture on my phone, but having trouble getting it to my email.  Trust me when I say it looked, and tasted, delicious).

I’ll spend the weekend here before making my way further North.  Vancouver seems like an incredible place, and I’m looking forward to exploring it.

joe

P.S.  Speaking of my phone – I adjusted my service plan so I wouldn’t be charged outrageous roaming fees while in Canada, but I still will have to limit myself from a lot of voice/txtmsg use.  So if you reach out to me in one of those ways and don’t hear back, know that I’ll probably get a hold of you online later on.

Day 60: A fitting end to touring the Lower 48

July 29, 2010 9 comments

Location: Forks, WA  (Note: I was not aware this is the home of that “Twilight” nonsense)

Miles Driven: 148

Total Miles: 14,287

Ed and I intended to hit up a local patisserie for breakfast, but it was closed for maintenance.  Our next best option – cupcakes.  Ed asked if I had heard about the cupcake craze around the U.S., indeed I had.  In fact my friend Mona back in Owego runs a great website of her own where she displays some of her amazing creations – check it out here.

I wish I had more cupcakes for breakfast.  It was delicious.  After chowing down, Ed made his way south to work and I headed north towards Edmonds, Washington, where I was planning to take the Kingston ferry across the Puget Sound to get to the Olympimpic Peninsula.  My intended destination: Olympic National Park.  I had never visited this place before, in fact I had barely been in Washington before, but people rave about the beautiful 922,000+ acres.  And later that day, I learned why.

It was foggy when I crossed via the ferry, but when I got closer to the park in the afternoon the skies had cleared and I had the chance to enjoy a very scenic drive.

Lake Crescent ahead

After driving for a little while, I got out near the Lake Crescent area and took a break.  Sat by the woods and read a little bit, and then spent some time admiring the blue/green (and amazingly clear) lake.

The forest near the lake

big Lake Crescent

I was amazed by how clear the water is.  To illustrate:

Deer in the meadow near the ranger station

I decided to take the hike up to Marymere Falls.  It was pretty amazing…never in my life had I seen so much green.  And there were some pretty huge trees.

It wasn’t long before I approached the falls.  Very beautiful.

I took a video of the Falls thinking it might be hard to gain a sense of perspective from a photograph.  Take a look here and you’ll see it’s a pretty sizeable waterfall:

I headed back and found another trail going uphill a ways.  Figuring I could stand a little more exercise, I went up there and enjoyed some nice views of the forest.

Once again, I was blown away by how green everything was

more big trees

By this point it was already after 6PM, and I wanted to get some more driving in before the day ended.  I got back in the car and headed west on Hwy 101.  Had some more nice views of the lake as I was driving.

I didn’t end up driving much farther.  In about an hour I was pretty damn tired, and I still had a few hours of daylight left.  In Forks I found a rest stop, and I just decided I’d park there for the night.  I could tell the night was going to be one of the coldest experiences of this trip since I was in Maine, so I got prepared with my sweatshirt and blanket (thanks to Kelly for the big green one).

The plan for Thursday is to check out some of the park’s rainforest, and then turn back east and make my way towards Vancouver.  Olympic National Park was a great way to spend Day 60 as my last major destination in the Lower 48 States for the next couple of weeks.

joe

Day 59: The Emerald City

July 28, 2010 14 comments

Location: Seattle, WA

Miles Driven: ~235

Total Miles: 14,139

Around noon on Tuesday I had everything squared away for the next several days of the trip.  I reorganized all the stuff in the car, got some new music and podcasts to play on my stereo, and was stocked up on food and drinks (thanks to Mike, and thanks to Heather’s family for the goodies).  I headed north on I-5 towards Seattle.  Not a far drive by any means, but I took my time, and there were pockets of slowed traffic.  I also took a long break at a rest stop in Washington (which is the first, by the way, where I saw volunteers running a coffee stand), and I didn’t get to Seattle until close to 6PM.

In Seattle I met my friend Ed and his girlfriend, Margaret.  Ed was a year ahead of me in high school, and although that was probably the last time I saw him, he and Margaret welcomed me like I was a friend they’ve known for years.  Margaret is originally from Washington and works for a producer of naturally-flavored sodas, called Zevia.  I’m anxious to try some.  Apparently I’ll be able to find some in Fairbanks, AK, in addition to the Wegman’s back home. 

So Ed took me for a drive around some of the scenic areas in Seattle, and we got out and walked a bit.

Alki Beach

Space Needle

Mini Statue of Liberty on Alki Beach

Sun sets behind the Olympic Mountains

Seattle Skyline. Beautiful City

After a bit of a tour, we made our way to a Thai restaurant called Buddha Ruksa and met up with Margaret.  We shared some great food, along with many laughs.  Ed and I used to play varsity basketball together, and he’s always been a bright guy.  His nickname on the team: “Valedictorian”. 

Tip: don’t eat spicy curry while laughing, or your nose will resemble a faucet.

Veggie rolls

Garlic chicken aka "crack chicken". So good

Pumpkin shrimp curry

My hosts in Seattle - Margaret and Ed

On Wednesday, I’ll make my way west to the Olympic Peninsula and check out some of Olympic National Park.  Olympic is known for covering a wide expanse of climactic zones – mountains, beaches, and even rainforests.

Big thanks to Margaret and Ed.  Seeing these scenic areas and cool cities is one thing, but that’s nothing compared to the conversations and laughter (and the subsequent near-choking) from meeting up with great people.

joe

 

Day 58: Mazda gets the A-OK

July 27, 2010 4 comments

Location: Beaverton, OR

So as I mentioned in the last post, I had scheduled a car appointment with a local Mazda dealership here in Oregon to a) get an oil change, and b) make sure the car is still in good working order before I leave the country and head North.  The technicians said everything was great except they recommended a new set of tires (in fact, one had a slight bulge).  I probably could have gotten a little more life out of the four exisiting tires, but I chose to err on the side of caution and get them replaced while I was still here in the lower 48.  I imagine it would be a bit more complicated, and probably more expensive, if I chose to replace them in Northern Canada or Alaska.

So turns out I paid $600 total on this car appointment, which included an oil change, four new tires, alignment work, and a new air filter.  Thanks so much to my Owego friends who earlier had given me a $100 Visa gift card.  I put that to good use here, since the bill was originally $700.  In the big scheme of things, not a huge expense, given that I had originally set up a very padded budget regarding car maintenance for this trip.  Even with this cost, I remain under-budget overall.

New tires and ready for the major destination

I couldn’t pick the car up til after 4PM, so I decided to stay in Portland one more night (thanks to Mike and Heather for the extended visit).  On Tuesday, I’ll head up to Seattle (about a three hour drive).  I luckily have a place to stay there with a friend from high school.  Seattle is the last major stop in the contiguous 48 states for the next couple weeks.  From there, I head to Vancouver, British Columbia, and beyond.

Unfortunately, I have to say goodbye to this cute kid

Thanks again to everybody here in Portland that made me feel right at home.

joe

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Days 56 and 57: A second home in Portland

July 26, 2010 9 comments

Location: Beaverton, OR

Miles Driven: ~215

Total Miles: 13,904

After 8AM I was on the road, heading Northwest in the direction of Portland.  I felt a little more relaxed than the previous night after the close call with the deer, and took my time heading towards my brother Mike’s home in Beaverton (suburb of Portland). 

More scenic Oregon

I arrived shortly after noon.  I hadn’t seen Mike and his wife Heather in over a year, and some things have changed since I last visited.  They now live in a nice new home, and now there’s a new addition to the family, baby Nolan. Nolan was born in January, and is my second-oldest nephew after Nico (who you met during my stay in Houston).  Another very cute kid.

little Nolan

Lucky timing for me, Heather’s aunt, Kathy, was hosting a party on Saturday for all the July birthdays in the extended family.  I just happened to arrive the same day of the party, so after a few hours of seeing Mike’s house and visiting with Nolan, we headed over to the party and enjoyed some BBQ with Heather, her family, and relatives.  The folks here in Portland have always treated me as one of their own since my first visit out here around 2006, and I consider this place another second home.  I’m always made to feel very welcome here (and commensurately, always eat very well).

Burt grilling some oysters

Burt grilled up some of his famous jalapenos-wrapped-in-bacon-stuffed-with-cream-cheese, and I quickly devoured several of those shortly after they came off the fire.  Willie, Kathy’s husband, also grilled up some delicious burgers and hotdogs, and I enjoyed those along with all the delicious sides people brought.

Great time at the party.  Played with baby Nolan some more, and got to visit with some of the relatives I hadn’t seen since last Spring.

Mike and Nolan

look at those big eyes

Me with the parents and the little guy

Nolan with his Great Aunt Lorraine

Nolan with Grandma Marilyn

Nolan and Grandpa Burt

Nolan was certainly the star of the party, but the star right behind him was the food at the party.  Absolutely delicious.

Tasty Marion Berry pie

Thanks to Kathy and Willie for hosting a great party!

The next day, Sunday, was a lazy day.  Everybody got naps, especially the baby, and then later in the day we made our way to Heather’s parents for some of  Burt’s famous grilled ribs.  I was spoiled once again with some great food, and enjoyed relaxing at their home.  It soon was Nolan’s bedtime and we had to head out, and I made sure to grab a last few photos with the folks here.

Mike and me

Here with Heather's family - Marilyn, Burt, and Chrissy. These guys always treated me like one of the family

After putting Nolan to bed, Mike and I headed out to the movies along with Chrissy and her boyfriend, Chris, to watch Inception.  Wow, what a great film.  One of those that really makes you think.  Christopher Nolan, the director, has made some great films including Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Prestige (one of my favorites).  I didn’t think Inception would live up to the hype, but turns out it exceeded it, in my mind.

And so that wraps up my Sunday in the area.  I made a car appointment at a local Mazda dealership here for Monday.  I need an oil change, plus I wanted to get everything looked over before I continued the journey further North.  I’ve covered just under 14,000 miles on this trip and haven’t had a single car issue (outside of my carelessness in Utah draining the battery), so here’s hoping some preventative maintenance will keep things going strong for the trip to Alaska.

joe

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Day 55: My favorite place in the world….plus mosquitoes, and a close call

July 24, 2010 7 comments

Location: near Crater Lake, OR

Miles Driven: ~260

Total Miles: 13,719

I’ve been spoiled by my stays in Northern California.  At Kevin’s in Santa Rosa, I had my own bed to sleep on, and same here at Mara’s in Redding.  We planned to go do a hike at the nearby Whiskeytown Recreation Area, and by 10:30 or so we were out there in the nice weather.  It was a 1.7 mile hike to Whiskeytown Falls.  Not a bad hike, but uphill, so got a little bit of exercise.  Also, it was enjoyable being out there with a group (Mara, her husband Andrew, and the kids – Jack, Emma, Gavin) on a hike, as opposed to just by myself.

Andrew, Mara, and Gavin (hitching a ride)

It was a great day to be outdoors.  Despite a temperature in the 90s, it was pleasant to walk in the cool woods.

Getting closer to the falls

It wasn’t too long before we arrived at the Whiskeytown Falls.  Very impressive.  The first waterfall I’ve seen on this entire trip, and it was better than I anticipated.

Mara and me near the top of the falls

Skilled hikers Jack and Emma

We were back home early in the afternoon, and I got my things together to start the journey north out of California.  Thanks to the family for all the food and goodies they sent with me, and thanks to Mara and Andrew for a great stay.

I headed north on I-5 towards Oregon.  I had not taken this route before, and it was one of the most memorable drives I’ve had on this trip.  Very scenic.  Part of the drive was on the Umpqua scenic highway.

Mount Shasta ahead

I linked up with Oregon Hwy 62 near Medford, OR, and headed northeast towards Crater Lake National Park.  As I mentioned before, Crater Lake is my favorite of the national parks (of the 20 or so I’ve seen so far since 2005).  In fact not only is it my favorite national park, I also consider it, after traveling on four separate continents, my favorite place in the world.

Getting closer to Crater Lake

The story of Crater Lake is pretty amazing.  The lake was formed after a volcano, Mount Mazama, collapsed on itself. Over the centuries, precipitation in the form of snow and rain fell into the crater that was left over from the explosion.  There are no underground sources of water, and so the water of the lake has few impurities in it and has retained the ink-blueish color for ages.

The Native Americans in the area, the Blackfeet, considered it sacred and purposefully did not tell white settlers about the place for fear they would disturb it.  The Blackfeet also said that the bluebird was gray before it dipped its wings into into the deep blue water.

And the story of how Crater Lake became a National Park is pretty fascinating in itself, thanks to the efforts of William Gladstone Steel.  From opb.org:

William Gladstone Steel is considered to be the “Father of Crater Lake” and was instrumental in preserving the Cascade Range Reserve.

He was born in 1854 in Ohio, where his parents ran an underground railroad stop. They eventually moved to Kansas and then to Portland, Oregon. It was in Kansas that Steel claims to have first read about Crater Lake in a newspaper used to wrap his lunch. Right then he vowed to see it — and 15 years later, he finally did.

So awestruck by what he saw, Steel made it his life’s mission to preserve the lake as a national park

If you saw this place, I think you can understand why Steel become so dedicated to preserving Crater Lake.  This was my third time at the park, and each visit never fails to disappoint.

I first stopped near the gift shop area to get a view from the southern side of the lake.  I just stood and marveled at it for minutes.

The water looks like a mirror

It was nearing 7PM at this point, so I wanted to go hike in my favorite area before it started getting dark.  I made my way north on Rim Drive, and stopped along the way to grab a shot:

good view of Wizard Island from the side

I found the spot near the side of the road I’ve parked before, and remembered quite well the area I had hiked up twice before.  The first time was back in 2005, and then I brought my parents down here from Portland in 2007 (and kudos to them for completing the hike I did not prepare them well for).

My way to the Northern Rim of Crater Lake

When I had first thought about this trip, in the very early stages of planning, one of my goals was to be taking pictures of the night sky along the rim of Crater Lake, and I already knew the perfect area for it (from my previous travels there).  The one thing I did not account for – the moon. Just a little bit of unlucky timing, as the moon was near full this day and just rising above the horizon as I arrived.  A full moon will wash out a lot of the stars in the sky.  But no worries, I can’t complain about the moon when I’m here in this beautiful area.  “Who knows,” I figured “maybe I can get some nice shots of the lake and moon.”  And definitely can’t argue with the clear skies I had.

The hike was more strenuous than I remembered.  The thin air up in the Cascades hit me hard, and you find yourself breathing heavy after walking 20 feet.  And this time I was hauling a backpack and my tripod, so a little extra ballast probably added a bit to the difficulty.  It was fun, though, being back on this walk I’ve done twice before.

Looking back towards the North

The climb continues up

It’s easy to get fooled as you climb up as there are a series of ridges you have to go over to get near the lake.  You think you see the final ridge ahead, but turns out the hike just goes further up.

And I turned my video on near one of the ridges to show everybody, and this is what happened. Warning, some of my language NSFW.

So beautiful.  I spent a good amount of time up there as the sun was going down.

Closeup of Wizard Island

full moon rising

I looked back towards the mountains and caught the sun going down.

The 93% full moon allowed for some dramatic effects.

Looking back North again

As it was getting darker out, I found myself not being bitten, but rather, attacked by mosquitoes.  I could not escape them, and despite wiping bug repellant on me before the hike, I had them all over me.  Lesson learned: keep my mosquito nets in my backpack.  I grabbed a few more shots of the lake before I couldn’t stand it any longer.

It was becoming increasingly frustrating, as I could not even hike down at a rapid pace without the mosquito swarm after me.  It seems they were all going for my head, too.  I found myself getting angry for the first time in a long time.

Snapped a picture of the trees and Venus in a free second away from the bugs

I hustled back to the car, killed a few more mosquitoes in there, and then began the drive to leave the lake area around 9PM.  It was an unsettling end to my visit, but a good visit, nevertheless.

This roadtrip almost came to a screeching halt about 30 minutes later, as I narrowly avoided a deer on Hwy 138.  I’m talking a matter of inches.  The deer appeared in my lane on this empty two-lane highway.  I couldn’t veer right as it would take me down a small embankment.  I veered the car left as I applied the brakes, and thankfully the deer turned right.  He did dart back to the left, but fortunately I had just passed him in enough time.  Ugh.  Real close call.

I was fairly shaken after that experience and had little desire to continue driving.  Fortunately, I was near an intersection of two highways (138 and 97) and there was a motel there.  I got a cheap room (their last one available), and crashed.

I couldn’t help but think – maybe the mosquitoes were there attacking me for a reason?  Chasing me off the rim so I could get in the car before I was too tired, and thus not affecting my reaction time when encountering the deer?

I probably think too much, but in any case, I am happy to be safe and have a car in good working order.  I guess one deer encounter in about 14,000 miles is rather lucky.

joe