Tag Archives: Road trip

The trip

I’m back after a much needed hiatus. Sorry for the delay – we’ve been busy working around the house and getting things ready for all hell to break loose (i.e., starting school on the 23rd).

I arrived safely in Iowa with my father on Wednesday, August 4th after driving through Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Iowa. We drove over 2,000 miles in 3 days. Because the speed limit through many states is 75 mph, we made great time and still had time for sightseeing.

Our first stop was Yellowstone National Park. This was an unplanned but great detour. It really is on the way from Montana to Wyoming, so it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” as dad put it. I knew there were buffalo, but I had no idea how common it is to also see moose, big horn sheep, wolves, black bears, and grizzly bears. The land was distinctly different from what you see in other parts of Montana and Wyoming, and it seemed to keep changing every few miles. Much of Yellowstone sits at 9-10,000 feet high (for Washingtonians: this is higher than Mount Baker and twice as high as the Steven’s Pass summit), so the altitude takes some getting used to.  And not only is there lodging inside the park, but there is camping! Can you say “paradise”!? There are also lots of opportunities for hiking, swimming, river rafting, horse riding, and fishing! Yes, fishing. And get this: Some of the fish you are REQUIRED to keep! This would be the perfect place for Sim and I to return for a family vacation someday.

The next stop was the 70th annual motorcycle festival in Sturgis, SD. I’m happy to report that Sturgis was quite tame (during the day, that is) and would even be a fine place to stop with children. For 51 weeks of the year, Sturgis is a quiet little town with quaint houses, nicely kept yards, churches, and schools. For 1 week of the year, the town simply fills with motorbikes and vendors. It is basically like going to a really big concert and seeing line after line of t-shirt vendors. Of course sometimes biker gangs get into it and shoot each other, but not from the looks of it during the day. There are some bars and restaurants downtown where people try to line up their hogs, but mainly the area is clogged up with cars that are both parked and driving around. Since there wasn’t much to see, we continued driving.

The final stop was the Badlands of South Dakota. Since my grandma has been babbling on about the badlands for years, we expected it to be really scenic. But the truth is that you pay $15 to enter the National Park and look at a bunch rocks. And on top of that, it takes a couple hours to wind your way through the park and back up to I-90. So unless you REALLY appreciate rocks and geological history, your time could be better spent. The silver lining of this stop, however, was that I got to see prairie dogs for the first time. They are fat and cute, and they make funny little whistling sounds to communicate with each other.

Dad booked his flight out of Iowa for Sunday morning, just to be sure he had time to help with anything that could’ve gone wrong on the drive here (e.g., a breakdown). So we had 3 days to show him around Iowa City, which will be the focus of the next entry.

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Buffalo, Wyoming

It’s Day 2 of the road trip and we’re having the time of our lives. We’re in Buffalo, Wyoming and have traveled over 1100 miles in the last 2 days. We decided to visit Yellowstone National Park today, which was absolutely spectacular. I can’t wait to share the photos and the memories with you all. In the meantime, I thought it would be fitting to share the last story Sim wrote for Klipsun Magazine, which centers around buffalo.

From the porch of their log home on the Lone Boot Ranch in Ferndale, John and Sue Muggy eagerly watch and wait with binoculars in hand for final confirmation that this year’s calves are sucking.  Five of the eight bison cows on the ranch have already given birth and the deer-sized, light brown babies lie near their mothers out in the timber-lined pasture. The Muggys know all too well that the hardest part is still to come. As the clock ticks and the hours turn to days, the Muggys hope the mother bison take to their young or the Muggys could once again be faced with the challenge of saving an orphaned buffalo.

As the Muggys sit on their porch, there isn’t any indication the 20th century every came or went. It is decorated with an eclectic collection of rusted antique farm equipment, and nearly everything has a picture of a buffalo on it.  The massive logs that make up the walls of the house are capped with a pitched roof that extends over the porch, offering shade and a tranquil place to view the rolling pastureland.  The occasional squawk of pheasants pierces the air and a bald eagle passes over in the distance, while a turkey vulture circles something nearby. Stacks of pillows and folded blankets on the wicker benches testify to the amount of time spent watching over the herd from the porch’s vantage point.

Sue is particularly concerned for the young of her favorite buffalo, June Bug.  Juney, as Sue calls her because she was born in June, was an orphaned buffalo who Sue laboriously bottle fed and saved from certain death more than 8 years ago.

Saving an orphaned Buffalo is nearly impossible. For starters, the Muggys must first get the orphaned calf separated from the herd, which is guarded by General Custer, the herd bull. Sue says a bottle-fed calf must eventually be dehorned and will forever be considered a loner.  As they age, female orphaned calves have trouble understanding their role as a mother. Sue knows this from experience because Juney orphaned her first calf, which then died of starvation because the Muggys could not get it separated from the herd.

The Muggys started raising buffalo in 1991 and have been selling meat from their Lone Boot Ranch since 1993.  They currently have two commercial accounts, one with Tony’s Tavern in Custer and the other with the Bellingham Golf and Country Club. Throughout their 17 years in the business, the Muggys have supplied buffalo meat to local businesses including Nimbus, Willows, Boundary Bay, Brandy Wine Catering and Ciao Thyme.

The buffalo the Muggys raise are grass-fed. They say they don’t castrate or inject the animals with any vaccinations other than the necessary deworming. Selling the meat is an integral part of keeping their herd healthy and at a manageable size. They send the weaned yearlings off to a cutting horse ranch where they get to run and graze like wild buffalo. Sue says she tires of the troublesome and rambunctious young bulls and often tells them jokingly “you’re going be the first to go,” when they test her patience.

“If you born a bull around here, you’re pretty much done for,” Sue says with a chuckle.

John says he likes to remind customers that his Buffalo are wild animals and his herd is “trained, not tamed;” they can run 35 miles per hour and jump six feet from a stand still.

Although the Muggys’ herd is relatively large, caring for the herd is relatively inexpensive and Sue says she appreciates the tradeoff. In the summer, the Buffalo mow her 13 acres of pastures and another 10 acres they lease from the neighbors, saving valuable money and time.  In the winter, the 30 buffalo eat about one round bail of grass or hay per week; each bail costs about $45. Buffalo do not have the dental problems cows have, mainly because Buffalo don’t regurgitate their cud as much and have less bacteria and acids in their stomachs, John says.

The Muggys say they believe buffalo meat is superior to grocery store beef in that a consumer knows what they are getting.  The Muggys often reference the film “Food Inc.” and the book “Omnivore’s Dilemma” when talking about the recent awareness of sketchy feedlot and commercial butchering practices.  When they used to buy meat at the store they thought they were buying healthy beef, but have since come to discover that it may have been from a diseased animal or an old dairy cow.  The awareness of the antibiotics used in the beef industry and the unethical treatment and feeding of corn to cows in feedlots has driven them and their customers to eat more buffalo.

John is interested in sharing his expertise on Buffalo with others and finds he talks about buffalo at least four times a day.  He holds classes and informative sessions with students and he and Sue sometimes travel to fairs and other events to show off the yearlings or orphans they have tamed. John says he is working on a children’s book so kids can understand the history and significance of the creatures he has grown to love.

During the informative sessions, John tells people to close their eyes and imagine crossing the great plains on a wagon, the roar and thunder of a million buffalo hooves pounding the ground can be heard, and the vibration of the earth shaking underneath them can be felt. He then tells them to open their eyes and hits them with the cold reality that this experience will never again happen.  He says he intends for the shock factor of his story to make people appreciate the significance and impermanence of things and hopes people imagining what life would be like if buffalo were never hunted to near extinction will make them realize that an incredibly sustainable and healthy recourse has already been lost. He feels his small herd is a living testament to those majestic animals that died so railroads could be built and wars could be won.  He says he believes he is doing more than supplying a healthy alternative to the beef industry; that his herd has a legacy to benefit mankind and he is indebted to them.

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Road trip #2

Tomorrow morning I leave for my second drive from Washington state to Iowa.

My father has volunteered to come with me for the sake of safety. Frankly, I’d rather be alone to enjoy the scenery, clear my head, and drive at my own pace. But I know a young blonde woman in a red BMW might attract the wrong kind of attention, especially if (knock on wood) I broke down. I’m not sure if my dad will be much help though – he’s like an older version of Kevin James in Mall Cop. What’s equally scary is that he, along with his boss, who sadly (and literally) was dropped on his head as a baby and is mentally challenged, are security guards for a local refinery. One is unable to run, one of afraid of the dark, and one is unable to complete the paperwork. I know, it’s kind of funny to think about a grown man who is afraid of the dark (until you realize you’re a horrible person for being so judgmental and then feel incredibly guilty and thankful for having all of your physical and mental faculties). But it’s also not funny because it’s an OIL REFINERY. Just recently a refinery in a neighboring city had an explosion that killed multiple people. And my father’s co-workers, only weeks ago, suddenly discovered that the “sea mist” blowing onto the windshield of their SUV was peeling the glass off the windshield as the wipers glazed over it… because it was a DEADLY chemical. Thank goodness the windows were closed and the vents were not sucking air in. I forget the chemical’s name now, because so many float around their household in conversation, but it gets in through your pores upon contact and eats your bones. Suddenly this road trip isn’t sounding so bad.

As mentioned, my dad is quite a handful. He’s not a role model in any sense of the word [not because of his career difficulties, but his acerbic (thanks GRE study guide! Even if NONE of the 500 words I memorized showed up on your stupid exam] personality. But I’m learning to accept him as a person; a human being who makes mistakes. A lot of mistakes. If I just accept him for who he is, I think it will make the trip a lot better. When he wants to be, my dad can actually be a fun person too.

I should also mention that THIS WEEK is the annual Sturgis motorcycle festival in South Dakota. I’m not sure if we should be scared or excited. But if I live through it, you might just see some pictures of bikers on the blog.

If all goes well, we will arrive in Iowa on Wednesday night. I haven’t yet setup internet service at our place (because we’re in the country, okay? Going from regular internet to satellite internet, etc requires research to get a good deal on something that works well). So I’ll be online later this week.

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The road trip

Just before our move I dreamt about a baby elephant. I usually don’t remember my dreams, but this one was vivid and occurred just before I woke up. Some people consider elephants to symbolize good luck. And good luck we received.

Our trip began on Sunday, June 13th. Sim drove the van with the little blue trailer, bless it’s heart, in tow. And I drove the Jeep with the snowmobile trailer in tow. Did I mention that we brought Sim’s snowmobile? It is a Ski Doo 800 longtrack. It has frequented the Cascade mountains, the top of Stevens pass, and the top of Mount Baker – crevasses and all. I love the mountains but was very excited about the prospect of flat land. To my surprise, “flat” isn’t really an adequate description. In fact, anyone who tells you that the Midwest is flat is a big fat liar.

With the rising heat, the Jeep overheated on lookout pass in western Montana. Despite having the heater blasting to clear out the engine, the pass was terribly steep and long. With the hot air and a heavy load there was simply nothing I could do. She, who we have dubbed Penelope, has 236,000 miles on her (thanks to Sim’s fine tuned automotive skills), and we’d like to have her around for the winters here. So I had to pull over on the shoulder of the mountain on a corner. There was nothing but corners and curves, so I didn’t have a choice. What a rotten area to overheat. I was only .7 miles from the top, but the temperature shot up so quickly and I was moving so slowly that there was no chance of safely reaching the summit. Sim parked the van at the top of the pass and jogged down the shoulder to find me. By then, the engine had cooled and we were able to put it in 4-low and creep up the mountain on the shoulder. This was exactly what I was afraid of.

Montana *was* beautiful but the Rocky Mountains took FOREVER to drive through. There were non-stop mountain passes. So through aversion therapy, I was rid of my addiction to mountains. Fuck you, mountains. You made my trip a living hell.

We blew through Wyoming and expected to reach “the plains” any minute. Just over the next hill we should see the plains, the flat land, the heart land. Any minute now. Okay, enough hills. Enough! WHERE IN THE HELL IS THE FLAT LAND!!!??? We kept driving and driving that night. I began to feel a bit delirious, like a leprechaun looking for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. “Where is me heartland!?”

The next morning we awoke at a rest area on the prairie. As it started to get light the land began to hum with the sounds of summer. Crickets were singing and birds were chirping. The air was cold and smelled fresh from the light rain. We pressed on through South Dakota in search of the flat land. Meanwhile, we started to wonder why everything was green and full of trees. What is going on here? South Dakota, along with all Midwestern states, is considered desolate and inhabitable by all of the west coast. But low and behold, it is beautiful and full of life.

We reached Iowa that afternoon and officially concluded that South Dakota is beautiful. Like the whole state – gorgeous. We assured ourselves that it must get flat in IOWA, not South Dakota.

Up and down, up and down, we went. Our old vehicles growled as they pulled the trailers up a steep hill every five minutes. I expected the van to blow up in front of me at any second. And Sim remarked at his surprise to repeatedly see the Jeep behind him. As the heat rose we began to see cornfields and get excited. We were in IOWA!!! This was the first time either of us had seen anything like this. Like South Dakota, everything was lush and green along the rolling hills. Again, where is the flat land!? We know flat, people. We’ve driven through the cornfields and potato fields of Eastern Washington, which is technically classified as a desert due to the miniscule amount of annual rainfall. THAT is flat. THIS!? This was definitely NOT flat.

We arrived to Iowa City that evening. Because of the rolling hills and thick tall trees, we couldn’t see the city itself, however. We continued 5 miles north and turned on Newport Road. After turning into our new driveway and parking we both looked at each other in disbelief. We had made it. 2,000 miles, in 3 days, with 6 dogs.

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The Clampets

We started the trip expecting to cross some significant mountain passes in both Washington and  Montana. Neither of us had traveled beyond western Montana before, so we diligently studied topographic maps to plan for the swells in elevation. This is necessary because (a) our vehicles are aging, and (b) we were both hauling incredibly heavy loads. Sim, in fact, devised a plan to extend the sides of the little blue trailer upward so it could hold more stuff. By the time our mattress was loaded on top it actually sat a few inches taller than the van itself. Sim’s mom joked that all we needed was a rocking chair to look like the real Beverly Hillbillies. And not soon after, her neighbor Joe stepped out to admire the eye sore and referred to us as the Clampets. “That’s right, you anal retentive Volvo driving jerk – the Clampets ARE here!”

It was also during this stay with Sim’s mom, Donna (aka “The wonderful being of light in our lives”), that the dogs got ahold of another mole. Sim came to its rescue this time and pulled it from the jaws of death. He proudly burst in the kitchen, holding it by the tail, to show mom and I. Donna lit up and didn’t miss a beat – “Go put it in Joe’s yard” she said, her eyes gleaming. Ha ha ha – revenge for all his years of annoying anal rententiveness! Oh the lovely little nastygrams scribbled on Post It notes and left on the front door. “You left your dog outside for an hour this evening and it barked nonstop.” “Oh really, Joe? Go f*** yourself!” Sim crept around the front yard, well, as much as a 6’2” man can “creep” around in broad daylight, and went to the side of Joe’s perfectly manicured lawn. Upon release, the mole quickly hid itself under some foliage and began to dig away. Not soon after, we all came out of the house to find Joe diligently scrubbing the rims of his car, no doubt with some obnoxious apparatus like a toothbrush. As he smugly worked away I smiled, imagining the look on his face as mole holes begin to sprout up all over his perfect lawn. Sometimes you have to make your own karma.

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Fanny Mae

It is with great indignity that I announce my intent to wear a fanny pack.

When I worked at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT center, I detested all F.P. wearing ass clowns. But now I have to travel across the country with 6 dogs. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to load dogs in/out of a vehicle and walk them (as they pull and stretch out your arm, only to have your heavy purse continually fall to your elbow or wrist)? It is irritating. But there are certain things I NEED. Keys, wallet, cell phone, Burt Bees lip balm, a pen and pad, mini-tube of sunblock, nail clippers, and leftover Hooters wet naps.

There is no way to escape the inevitable. I must wear a fanny pack. Since 80s fashion is now back in style, it should be a cinch to find one. Even Coach makes a designer fanny pack. If I had a digital camera I would take pictures, but I don’t, which will really make documenting our trip and our first year in Iowa challenging.

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