July 23, 2009

things that show up when cleaning out your desk

I got a new (to me) desk at work today. My old desk was nice but big and bulky. My new desk is much smaller and actually has more storage space. Plus, it's turned around so it faces the door, which is always a plus! I found a few unexpected things while cleaning out the old desk, which I've had since the spring of 2006:
  • a wedding shower invite from 2007.
  • Twizzlers twizted berry pull-n-peel. I don't even remember this stuff!
  • an Administrative Professionals' Day card signed by all the administrators. It's not dated, but judging by the things they wrote, I'm gonna guess 2007.
  • 40 cents.
  • four boxes of Crystal Light Peach Iced Tea packets plus one box of the Walmart brand knock-off.
  • leftover speech award certificates from when we hosted our district meets in 07 and 08. I'm pretty sure I was supposed to send those back to the NSAA office . . .
  • "The Virtuous Woman," a laminated handout all the female students and staff received last year after the "virtuous woman" chapel. (Yes, there was a "godly man" chapel, too.)
  • a Los Angeles postcard. It's not written on. Why do I have it?
  • an unidentifiable piece of Asian candy. The picture on the wrapper looks like fish, so I'm not taking any chances!
  • a hexagon-shaped piece of metal. I'm sure it was an important piece of something once!

July 21, 2009

recent realizations

  • I really like curry. I mean, I knew I liked curry before, but I've recently started this diet (I haven't blogged about it yet . . . I will sometime), and one of my favorite recipes is curry chicken and rice. In fact, I'm having it for lunch today. I use a yellow curry powder I got at the supermarket, but I hear there are other types of curry, as well. I'll have to look into them.
  • Unfinished websites are really annoying. I was on a camp's webiste earlier today, and the design was great, but most of the pages were blank. Then I realized that's what our website looks like to other people! If only I had time to update it.
  • Cheese breath is embarrassing. I had just eaten a Tilla-Moo cheese snack when someone walked in, and I had to help her at the counter. I suddenly became keenly aware of my cheese breath. But what could I do?
  • While I'm not yet ready to go out and buy cowboy boots, I'm becoming a bit more of a country girl. Or maybe I'm just expanding my horizons . . . either way, I'm ridiculously excited about going to the Burwell Rodeo this weekend!

July 17, 2009

off the oregon trail: thoughts after returning home

  • I’m so glad I took Wednesday off—it would have stunk to get home at midnight and then be at work by 8.
  • While in Bozeman, we couldn’t use any hair products because Sarah’s sister is allergic to scents. My hair behaved reasonably well, so I thought I might try going without any hair products for the rest of the trip. I changed my mind when we arrived in Cannon Beach and my hair went crazy. Duh! Bozeman’s low humidity is what allowed my hair to behave without artificial help.
  • I think Steph and Nate would be perfectly happy to never, ever hear “Don’t Stop Believing” again in their entire lives. It was our unofficial trip song, and I had to belt it out every time I heard it! (Not the original Journey version—which I do enjoy—but the Glee version.)
  • Looking back on the trip, it’s so amazing that we were all able to go on it together. What a gift!
  • If I ever move to the mountains (Montana???), I’ll need a new car. My baby would never survive!
  • I wish Nebraska had good hiking trails. Hiking is fun, but we don’t really have anywhere to hike around here. At least nowhere I'm aware of . . .
  • Can I get a job reading maps? I think I would really enjoy it.
  • It’s surprising how well my sisters did with each other on the trip. I’m not sure that they ever really fought. Surprisingly, Val and I were the ones with the issues on the way home.
  • After all the coffee I had on the trip, I’m going to go through some serious caffeine withdrawals as I go back to my regular one caffeinated drink per day routine.
  • I forgot to mention the coffee we had in Portland. It came from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and it was some of the best coffee I had on the trip. Look for a massive coffee/restaurant review post in the next few days.

on the oregon trail: day 14

We slept in a bit on Tuesday . . . at least until Mom started calling! We hadn’t told her we’d be sleeping in, so she thought calling at 8 would be fine; I think she was a bit confused when I answered my phone with my sleepy voice.

We had coffee at Wild Boar Coffee, just off the Colorado State campus. I really liked my coffee; Val thought hers was good but not great. It was the last coffee we had on our trip.

When Val looked up the Salt Lake City Starbucks, she also looked up a Panera Bread in Denver. Again, she didn’t find directions; she just looked at a map and tried to figure it out. That would have been OK, except that many downtown Denver streets are one-way. Once again, I pulled out the trusty atlas and got us there.

Stephanie had never been to Panera before, so the guy at the counter gave her a free cookie. We enjoyed our wonderful soup and bread and headed off toward Colorado Springs.
Steph loves Panera!

When I started planning this trip, I decided we should definitely visit Focus on the Family. The visitors center was interesting, but the Whit’s End/Odyssey portion was slightly disappointing. It would have been great for an 8-year-old (or for a young family), but we weren’t all that thrilled. Don’t get me wrong—there were lots of interesting things to see—but I had high expectations that weren’t quite met.

After Focus, we went to The Garden of the Gods. Spectacular! We only spent about 45 minutes there, but we could have spent hours!
The formations at The Garden of the Gods were breathtaking!

Steph was wearing a KU shirt yesterday; while we were walking down one of the trails at The Garden of the Gods, we passed two college age guys who started chanting, “Rock Chalk! Rock Chalk! Rock Chalk!” It was hilarious.

We found a Chick-fil-A for supper! We don't have them, so this was a real treat :-)

Finally late in the evening, we crossed into Nebraska! We got Blizzards in North Platte, stopped at one last rest stop, and then drove like mad to get home, arriving at midnight.
At our last rest stop, Val & Steph show their elation at being back in Nebraska.

July 16, 2009

on the oregon trail: day 13

Monday morning, we headed off to Salt Lake City. Val had looked up a Starbucks location, but she hadn’t looked up driving directions—she just looked at a map and tried to figure it out. As we approached Salt Lake, I was driving, and she was navigating. I got off on the road she said . . . which turned out to be the right road, just 10 miles or so north of where we wanted to be; however, I spotted a Starbucks in a strip mall, and we were in business. We decided that, rather than taking I-70 to Denver as I wanted to, we would take I-80 through Wyoming and then drop down into Colorado. My car (Uncle Tommy named it “Toad” before we left, but I can’t call it that because I think of it as a girl, and “Toad” is a terrible name for a girl) didn’t like the mountains at all, and we figured 80 would be less mountainous than 70. All this to say, we looked for a hotel in the Fort Collins area. This time, Priceline gave me the option of looking for a 3-1/2 star hotel, so I did, putting in $50 as my price. I didn’t think any hotel would accept it, but The Hilton did. THE HILTON!

After securing out hotel, we made our way to Temple Square. At this point, Val began driving, while I navigated with my trusty atlas. (I adore maps. I could spend hours looking at them, and I understand them, so we decided that perhaps it would be a better plan to have Val drive and me navigate.) Because of the time (it was after noon, and we still had a good eight hours of driving left), we didn’t stop, but we did drive around, and we saw the Mormon Temple and Tabernacle . . . sort of.
The Mormon Temple . . . what we saw of it!

As we were leaving Salt Lake City, my car got really angry. It got very hot, and lights started flashing, and I was honestly afraid something serious was happening. We began driving in the truck lane, very slowly, with the hazards flashing, and we stopped at the next town for lunch and to let my car cool down. We called Dad, and he said to drive in direct in the mountains, which helped immensely.

We stopped at Coco’s in Rawlins for supper—partially because we knew Nate would be jealous! I didn’t say much about Coco’s before because I intended to dedicate a whole post to it, but that didn’t happen, obviously! Coco’s is in the historic Blake house in downtown Rawlins. (I don’t know what makes the house historic; I just know that it is because of the sign out front!) For the past two years, it has been run by an Asian couple; apparently it’s been several different restaurants in the past 20 years. The cuisine is quite varied—sandwiches, steaks, seafood, pastas, and Asian dishes. The first time we went, I had a French dip sandwich, and Monday night I had chicken fried steak. It was phenomenal! The service is excellent, the atmosphere is cool, and the food is wonderful. So if you’re ever driving through Wyoming on I-80, consider a stop at Coco’s!
Three very satisfied Coco's customers.

We got to Fort Collins around 9:30 p.m., and as we drove through Old Town, we were amazed at how many people were still out and about. The Old Town area looks really cool—it would be fun to explore sometime. Val and Steph had been talking about getting ice cream, so when I checked in at the Hilton, I asked the guy at the front desk where we could find ice cream. He gave me directions to Coldstone and a local place in Old Town; what I hadn’t realized was that Val and Steph really wanted Dairy Queen! I wasn’t about to go back in and ask—I already felt horribly underdressed in my t-shirt and yoga pants. So we drove around for a while without ever finding a Dairy Queen. We did find a Sonic and a McDonald’s, though.
We really did stay here!

The Hilton was amazing. I’m used to Super 8’s and Days Inns—the Hilton was a huge step up! We rode up to our room in a glass elevator. The room itself was awesome. It was decorated beautifully, had a huge TV, a comfy chair, and a nice desk, and overall was just really nice. We definitely enjoyed our stay!
We love our room!

on the oregon trail: day 12

This was the day we had to say goodbye to both Beth and Nate. We went to Bagels by the Sea for breakfast, and then we waved goodbye to Beth and headed for the Portland airport so Nate could catch his flight back to Nebraska. (He is currently on a mission trip in South Dakota.)
Our last picture all together!

Val let him take her phone so he could call if he ran into any trouble. Just as we were passing the tree farm that so fascinated Nate on our way out, he texted to say he was in Salt Lake City waiting for his plane to Lincoln to take off. A couple hours later, he texted again to tell us he was on the ground in Lincoln. At that point, we were still in Oregon! It truly felt like we would never get out of Oregon . . .

When we got to Boise, we needed to find a wireless connection so that we could use Priceline’s name your own price to find a hotel for the night. We were sure that Boise would have at least one Starbucks, but we didn’t know where to find one, so we began our drive around the city. Val pulled out her computer, and we drove slowly to see where she could pick up wireless. We finally pulled into the parking lot of a Red Lion Hotel and “borrowed” their connection. It was very weak, and we didn’t get very far with Priceline, but we were able to find the address for a Starbucks nearby. When we got there, we discovered the connection was only free if you had a registered Starbucks card that had been used in the past 30 days. I have one, but I haven’t used it in ages—in fact, I don’t think it even has a balance. I was about to add money to it when I saw that there was an option to log on with another wireless service. I suddenly remembered a postcard I got from Qwest a few weeks ago, saying that they were proud to announce they had partnered with thousands of coffee shops around the nation to provide free wireless to their customers. At the time, I thought scoffed because I thought that most coffee shops offered truly free wireless; however, I was very glad for that info on Sunday! I entered my Qwest login info, and we were on our way to finding a Priceline deal. I never would have thought of trying Priceline, but right before we left on the trip, a friend showed me the ins-and-outs of getting a great deal. Anyway, my price was accepted at a Red Lion in Twin Falls, Idaho. We thought that was really funny, considering we’d been using a Red Lion connection earlier!

Our “eat locally” mantra fell by the wayside on our trip home—we didn’t want to take any extra time finding places to eat. We pulled off at some exit between Boise and Twin Falls, and we each went to a different fast food place. I got a spicy chicken sandwich at a Jack in the Box. I went there because we don’t have them in Nebraska, so I wanted to try it out. I need to find out what drink normally comes with a combo meal because I was charged an extra dollar-ish for substituting a Diet Coke. I noticed that coffee comes with the breakfast combos. I was amazed at their menu—burgers, chicken, Asian, and Mexican.

Our hotel, which Priceline called 3-star, was basically a glorified Super 8. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! (And the price I paid was considerably less than I paid for either Super 8 on the way to Oregon.) I just looked up the Red Lion website, and I think that we were in one of the shabbier ones . . . I intended to blog, but instead we watched last week’s episode of The Bachelorette, where we saw Jillian finally come to her senses regarding Wes!
Steph & Val relax in our hotel room.

July 15, 2009

on the oregon trail: day 11

We spent Saturday in Portland. Beth had to work again, so it was a good day to go. It was also good because our cousin Kim and her husband Rob had the day off and were able to meet us downtown. We met at the Saturday Market, which would have been lots of fun to browse through if we were shoppers. But I’m certainly not (with some notable exceptions), and neither is Val. I think Steph would have liked to spend more time looking around there than we did.
Waiting for Kim & Rob in Portland. Check out how beautiful the wind made my hair!

We spent most of our time at Powell’s Books. It takes up a full city block and has 9 rooms of books. Nate didn’t buy anything, but Val, Steph, and I all stimulated the Portland economy. A glimpse into our bags—guess who bought what: 1) Mere Christianity, The Case For Christ, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Sense & Sensibility, Betty Crocker Cookbook, The Hiding Place. 2) Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure, The Tale of Despereaux. 3) The Picture of Dorian Gray, Great American Short Stories: From Hawthorne to Hemingway. In a few days, I’ll post the correct answers.
The cousins outside of Powell's: Val, Kim, Rob, Me, Steph.

After Powell’s, we went in search of food. After briefly considering a Thai place, we ended up at a pub that I can't remember the name of. Then we went back to Powell’s, where Kim & Rob left us. Val wanted to keep looking for books, so Nate, Steph, and I walked back to the car to drop off our things; then we went in search of dessert because Nate wanted ice cream. We ended up at a place right across the street from Powell’s: Mio Gelato. This was my first gelato experience, and it was awesome. I saw a sign in the shop saying it had been voted one of the best places to get dessert in Portland, and I believe it!
Nate & I enjoy our gelato. Mine is tiramisu; his is cinnamon.

We thought about going to Forest Park on our way out of Portland, but it was already approaching 5 p.m., and I wanted to be back in Seaside well before dark. We met Beth at Safeway, where we bought necessary items for our journey home and brownie sundae makings. Beth had picked up a pizza from Pizza a’Fetta—it was supposed to be half pepperoni and half something fancier, but they messed up the order and didn’t do the pepperoni half, so they also gave us three slices of pepperoni. We also had awesome cheese covered breadsticks.
Nate enjoys his pizza--with all the "extras" off my piece.

After supper, we packed up all our stuff; then we had brownie sudaes (with Tillamook ice cream!) while watching Hancock. Hmmm . . . not sure what I think about that movie. It was not what I was expecting, and I'm not sure it even knew what it was trying to be--comedy, drama, romance, or superhero movie--it had elements of all of them.

July 13, 2009

on the oregon trail: day 10

Friday. It seems so long ago now, but I'll do my best to remember the important details of the day!

Our morning began with a lovely French toast breakfast cooked by Nate. Steph had pancakes because she got it into her head that she doesn't like French toast, due to some soggy, nasty stuff Val and a friend made like 8 years ago. We then went for coffee at The Sleepy Monk. Val thought hers was some of the best we've had; I couldn't drink much of mine--it was too heavy and intense.

Beth had to work (boo!), so we decided to go to the Tillamook Cheese Factory while she was working. Here's the thing I don't enjoy about Oregon roads (and probably mountain roads in general)--Tillamook is 41 miles from Cannon Beach, but it took us 65 minutes to get there. In Nebraska (outside of town), 41 miles = 41 minutes or less. Anyway, we greatly enjoyed Tillamook. I was astounded at the number of people who were touring the factory while we were. We had to park in the RV parking because we couldn't find a space in the car parking lot! We sampled delicious cheeses, watched workers package blocks of cheese, and ate some amazing ice cream. Did you know that Tillamook has the second most popular chunk cheddar in the United States? I can't recall hearing of it before this trip, but it sure seems to be popular in the

After Tillamook, we headed back to Cannon Beach. After dropping Nate and Steph off to shop and hang out on the beach, Val and I drove to Warrenton to go to Ross. (Warrenton is like 15-20 miles north of Seaside, but it took us 40 minutes to get there.) Val had heard about Ross from some college friends, who said it had cheap clothes. We spent probably an hour there, and I found a new work outfit, shoes, and capris. I think Ross can best be compared to TJ Maxx or Marshall’s. We have a TJ Maxx in GI, but I’ve never looked for clothes there. I think I should.

We then went back to Cannon Beach in search of coffee and a wireless connection. We went to Bella Espresso (which Steph says has the best hot chocolate she’s ever tasted), but it was very busy, so we decided to go elsewhere. Val wanted to try the Waves of Grain Bakery, where we’d gotten coffee the day before. Unfortunately, we couldn’t remember exactly where the bakery was. So after wandering around—on foot—for a while and having a bit of an argument about who had a better idea of where the bakery was, we headed back to Bella, which had cleared out. We had more great coffee—caramel lattes—and I blogged about Thursday.

We had another campfire on Friday night; this time we hiked down to a beach that was supposedly “no access.” We parked Beth’s car outside of Ecola State Park and then hiked down a half mile-ish trail. Val, Beth, and Nate skimboarded. Nate was really intense—he even “swam”—even though the water was freezing.
Nate instructing Val on the principles of skimboarding.
She's got it!

Shortly after we arrived at the beach, it started raining. It sprinkled off and on for a while, then it picked up. I was pretty soaked by the time we decided to call it a night. But before that . . . I had my first hot dog in years! I really despise hot dogs, but that was my only option for supper, and I was hungry.
This is how I feel about my hot dog . . .

Once we got back to Beth’s, we watched Don’t Say A Word. More accurately, they watched it, and dozed through the middle 40 minutes. What is it with me sleeping through movies on this trip?

July 10, 2009

on the oregon trail: day 9

Yesterday was a hiking/walking/nature day.

We ventured out quite early in order to see the tide pools around Haystack Rock at low tide. It was well worth our early getting up time. Steph took hundreds of pictures of the starfish, crabs, clam shells, barnacles, and sea anemones. (Well, it wasn't really hundreds . . .)

Haystack Rock. (Not in the morning, but I thought you'd like to see it.)

Then we went to Beth's bakery (Cannon Beach Bakery) for delicious breakfast items and Waves of Grain Bakery for coffee. We then drove to Hug Point, which is under water during high tide. We were able to walk around on the beach and on this rock roadway that people used to drive on before there were other roads around.

Then we went to Falcon Point and hiked a 2.5 mile trail. Along the way, we saw slugs, snakes, and lots of bees. It was fairly easy hike, but it was long. However, we all survived!
What we saw when we came out of the brush at the end of our hike.
Nate & Beth at the Falcon Point trail head.

We went to Seasons Cafe & Deli for lunch. Beth and Nate shared a sandwich, Steph had a French dip, and Val and I both had bagels w/ cream cheese. Then we went to Bella Espresso so I could blog.

We spent most of the afternoon in Ecola State Park. First, we drove out to Indian Beach, where portions of Twilight were filmed. Then we went to another area of the park where we found a picnic table to sit at, and read, slept, and chatted for a while.
The Twilight Beach. Even I recognized it, and I don't remember much about the movie except that I couldn't wait for it to end.

Around 8 p.m., we drove out to Camp 18 for supper. It's modeled after a logging camp, and the food was spectacular. (Have we had any food that hasn't been spectacular? I don't think so . . .) Val said something complimentary about it, and then she said, "And you can quote me on that!" but we can't remember exactly what she said. It was along the lines of: "I wish I lived closer to this delightful establishment so I could come here every day." We were all very tired, and something set us off while we were waiting for our food--Beth and I were laughing so hard we were crying!

When we got back to Beth's, Nate baked cookies for Beth while watching Muppet Treasure Island. Then we crashed for the night . . .

Nate had to be as close to the TV as possible while still working in the kitchen . . . he couldn't miss any of the movie!

We're spending tomorrow in Portland with our cousin Kim, so I probably won't have time to blog about today, tomorrow, and Sunday until Sunday night, provided our hotel (which we're going to get through Priceline sometime along the road on Sunday) has wireless.

About the coffee rating system (which my dear brother asked about) . . . it was a nice, though highly mockable, idea, but with the lack of internet access we've had, I haven't taken the time to do it. Perhaps when we get home I'll catch up???

July 8, 2009

on the oregon trail: days 7 & 8

We’ve had an eventful two days! We left Spokane at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. But before we left, I took plenty of pictures of Sharon’s yard and living room for Mom to see. What a good daughter I am!

We stopped for gas and coffee about an hour into our journey. The Starbucks we stopped at was connected to a Mexican fast food restaurant, which gravely concerned Val. She felt better when I pointed out the two places just shared a building—it wasn’t like they made the coffee and the tacos in the same area! My coffee was OK, but Val compared hers to McDonald’s coffee . . . and she doesn’t have a high opinion of McDonald’s coffee!

We stopped at a Walmart for supplies, and then we went to McDonald’s for lunch. There, Nate and I got our first taste of Tillamook ice cream—delicious! We’ll be going to the Tillamook Cheese Factory while Beth works on Friday.

Many people warned us about the road between Spokane and Portland. I came away from each conversation thinking “barren wasteland” . . . but that really wasn’t the case. Sure, the drive wasn’t as breathtakingly beautiful as much of our drive has been, but it wasn’t so bad. Part of Washington actually reminded me and Val of Kansas.

Our drive became more interesting once we hit Oregon. We followed the Columbia River, and the view was, at times, spectacular. We stopped at Multnomah Falls, which I’ve wanted to see ever since I read the Robin Jones Gunn book Echoes in high school. (Should I even admit that? Anyway, part of the story—which I recounted in great detail for my fellow travelers—takes place at Multnomah Falls.) It was not what I was expecting. Beautiful, yes, but I think the Hidden Falls has it beat.
Multnomah Falls

We finally got to Cannon Beach around 7. Beth met us at the park, and we walked over to Pizza a Feta for supper. It was the cheapest meal we’ve had yet—we each ordered one piece of pizza, and our breadsticks were free because they were out of the “real” ones and had to substitute—and it was delicious. Then we went to see Haystack Rock, rented a movie, and went to Beth’s apartment.
We're finally with Beth . . . and we're cold!

I slept through most of the movie—Inkheart starring Brendan Frasier. I can’t remember the last time I slept through I movie I hadn’t seen before, but I was suddenly exhausted! Val slept through some of it, too.

Following the movie, we all crashed . . . me and Val on a foam mattress, Steph on a loveseat, and Nate on an air mattress. Poor Nate got the shaft everywhere else, even sleeping on the floor in our motel rooms, so we decided to be nice to him at Beth’s ☺

This morning, we slept in—a wonderful thing! Then we headed to Astoria, where we had brunch. We went to Coffee Girl, and we were all quite impressed. I had a bagel sandwich—cheddar cheese bagel, cream cheese, turkey, and cheddar—and a latte. Both were excellent! Nate, Steph, and Beth all had paninis, and Val had yogurt with fruit and granola.

After Coffee Girl, Beth took us to see the sea lions, only they were nowhere to be found! Then we went to the Astoria Column. I think it has some sort of historical significance, but I don’t know what! It’s a very tall tower that you can climb to the top of. For me, coming down was a lot harder than going up. The staircase was spiral, and I got really dizzy going down. Beth bought Val and Nate little airplanes to fly from the top. Nate’s won, though Val’s also flew a very impressive distance!

Next, we crossed the Astoria Bridge, which doesn’t go underwater as Nate thought his mother had said. The Astoria Bridge connects Oregon and Washington. Once in Washington, we went to Cape Disappointment State Park. Surprisingly (at least for this Nebraskan), the park was free for day users. We hiked to two lighthouses, saw Waikiki Beach, and visited a General Store. Evidently, the Cape Disappointment lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse still in use in the United States.

I was pretty tired after the park, so I was glad for the 45 minute car ride back to Seaside. Once back in Seaside, we went to this store that sells sweatshirts for $12.99. I was amazed at the selection! Val, Steph, and I all bought sweatshirts.
The sisters in our cheap hoodies. Val said we should "look like we were from the 1800's."

We wore the sweatshirts tonight when we went to Cannon Beach. We ate at Bill’s Tavern. Steph and I got the homemade root beer. I must not have very sophisticated tastes because I’d take a good Sam’s Choice root beer over Bill’s any day of the week! All of us save Beth had burgers . . . and they were really tasty.

Nate wanted to run on the beach, so he did that while we girls got coffee, this time at Bella Espresso (which is where I’m posting this blog from). Steph thought the hot chocolate she got there was some of the best she’d ever had.

We met Nate at Haystack Rock, then we built a fire on the beach. We made s’mores and Jiffy Pop, sang songs, talked, and laughed. It was a great way to end the day!
Beth starting our fire. A mother and daughter bought us lighter fluid in exchange for watching their wood while they went to buy lighter fluid for themselves.
Nate making our Jiffy Pop. The instructions specifically said, "Do not use over an open fire."

July 6, 2009

on the oregon trail: day 6


That's what I've decided after spending parts of five days in that lovely state. I guess we should only count four of those days, though, because the first was just an overnight in Cooke City, and that "city" definitely didn't make Montana look good!

We left Sarah's at 10 this morning. Our first stop was, you guessed it, coffee! This time, we went to City Brew. Decent, but The Leaf & Bean is still the best coffee we've had on this trip.

Our first real stop was at Wheat Montana. We all got great cinnamon rolls for breakfast.
Nate & his cinnamon roll.

We ate lunch in Missoula. My friend Camilla used to live in Missoula, and she told us about some places to eat downtown . . . except I must have taken a wrong turn, as we never ended up downtown! Instead, we got sandwiches from Quizno's and ate on the road. Camilla had also told me about a breathtaking view along Highway 93 about half an hour north of Missoula. We braved the road construction (seriously, road construction has been everywhere on this trip!) and made our way north. We reached the observation point and saw . . . that it was too overcast to see much. All was not lost, though, as our subsequent drive back to I-90 along highways 200 and 135 was, in my opinion, the prettiest drive so far. We ran parallel to a river most of the time, and the view was simply gorgeous.

Google Maps, which has lied to me several times on this trip, gave us really odd directions to my mom's cousin's house in Spokane. At one point, it wanted us to drive down a dirt path! Nevertheless, we made it just before 6 p.m. After dinner, Sharon and her family took us on a walk around the neighborhood. They've been so hospitable--we had a wonderful evening!

As I write this, Steph's sleeping, and the rest of us are watching a movie. We'll leave (relatively) early tomorrow morning . . . soon we'll be with Beth!

on the oregon trail: days 4 & 5

I was having too much fun in Bozeman with Sarah to take the time out to blog, so here's the recap of our 4th of July weekend. (Sarah, you may need to make corrections!)

We slept in slightly on Saturday, then we embarked on our amazing hike. We stopped off first at Wheat Montana to get sandwiches, then we went over to The Leaf & Bean for coffee. My Big Sky Latte (caramel, chocolate, and espresso--like a Milky Way) was good, but not as good as the one I'd had at the other Leaf & Bean in town the day before.

We went hiking at Highlight(?). It was a mile-ish trail up to a waterfall, and we were able to walk right up to the falls.
Me and Sarah by the falls.

After returning to Sarah's house, we just hung out for a few hours. One of my favorite things about vacation is how time seems to slow down--in a good way! The afternoon seemed very long and very refreshing. We watched Transformers, which wasn't as stupid as I was expecting, and I halfheartedly blogged (see my last post--that's why I had Steph take over!).

In the evening, we went to Big Sky to see a free concert. I can't remember the band's name, but I really liked them. (Val would like you to know that she "danced" in the front row.) We had to walk across a field to get from the parking lot to the pavilion, and I promptly stepped in a (hidden) mud puddle. So my shoe was wet and muddy all night. Actually, it's still muddy, as I forgot to wash it off when we got back to Sarah's!

We left Big Sky before the concert ended so we could watch the Bozeman fireworks. We ended up watching most of them from the road and got to the fairgrounds just in time for the finale. After a late-night Wendy's run (yes, I know--not local food), we all crashed.

On Sunday, we went to Sarah's church in Belgrade. Afterwards, we went to lunch at La Parrilla. They serve massive burritos, among other things. While Nate only ate 3/4 of his, Val polished hers off in record time!
On our way to Sarah's church.

We spent several hours being lazy--sleeping, reading, talking on the phone. I read the latest Karen Kingsbury book, which I loved. (But then, what Karen Kingsbury book don't I love?) We then ventured out to another coffee place--Wild Joe's. It was good, though not quite as good as The Leaf & Bean. Then we drove around Bozeman, seeing the sights.

On our way back to Sarah's house, her sister called to invite us to watch as she and her kids shot off fireworks. Nate & Steph stayed back to that Steph could work on her college class and Nate could work on his Rubik's cube. We watched some great fireworks and ate some great (local!) ice cream sandwiches. Then Sarah, Kristin, and the four of us sat around in the living room talking and laughing for a long time--I think we were very tired, because everything seemed funny :-)

July 4, 2009

on the oregon trail: day 3

We left our motel in Cooke City at 10 a.m. After filling up with exorbitantly costly gas, we headed back into Yellowstone. (While I think Nate and Steph were just fine with going back--and perhaps even wanted to see some stuff, Val and I would have been more than happy to kiss Yellowstone goodbye for good. However, only one road goes through Cooke City, and our options were Yellowstone or a long, windy road that would have added a few hours to our trip.)

Yellowstone in the day is certainly a lot better than Yellowstone at night! We decided to skip Old Faithful as it was four hours away from Cooke City, but we thought about going to Norris Geyser, which was sort of but not quite on our way. However, it started absolutely pouring, and we decided the sooner we were off the crazy windy mountain roads, the better.

We had planned to meet college friend Sarah at Chico Hot Springs, but because of the rain, we just headed to Bozeman. We stopped for lunch in Livingston, at the Rib & Chop House, at Sarah's recommendation. Once again, it was great food.

And now Steph will take over to tell you about the rest of our day . . .

Once we arrived at Bozeman we met the lovely Sarah Sporleder who as I remembered was quite tall. We unloaded the car and were reminded of how Becky (probably for the first time ever) over packed even Val. It's true people. Becky packed 4 bags including her purse. 4! I made it with 3 including my purse but I had to pack my college class stuff so I don't think that a backpack should count. Anyway we then sat and chatted for a little bit and Nate decided to take a nap. I believe he had a food enduced coma since he ate enough food for 3 people at breakfast and then had a decent sized lunch. The rest of us went on an adventure through Bozeman to find me a hoodie. We were unsuccessful but I did get to see an Old Navy, Target, and a sporting goods store. Then we picked Nate up and headed to a movie.

We saw The Proposal. It was the second time for Becky, Val, & me, but it was Sarah's first time & I think her sister's as well. And in case you were wondering ...yes Nathan Mark Ritta saw the chick flick with us. I about died as I watched him ask for a ticket and again when we sat down. It truely was the highlight of my yesterday.

After the movie we went to MacKenzie River Pizza Co. to have two very delicious pizzas. We got the Rancher and the Cottonwood. I had to pick off a couple of things like peppers and tomatoes but Nate gladly took them. We almost finished the pizzas but still had to take some home.

Then we had to find some coffee for Val & Becky. We went to the Leaf & Bean which was Becky's favorite so far and Val's as well (I think). Nate said his was good but it wasn't his favorite. Upon receiving the cups of coffee we walked a little ways down Main. There were so many cute shops- I really hope we can go in some. We reached our cars and came back to Sarah's.

I worked on my class a little bit and Nate went for a run. We called mom and then Sarah and Becky went for a walk. Then ever so slowly people droppped off to bed. The last ones up were Sarah, Nate, & me. We were watching Stardust. Sadly, Sarah left as well a little before half way through. Nate & I finished it and went to bed...or should i say couch.

And that, dear readers, was our day. Peace OUT.

July 3, 2009

on the oregon trail: day 2

No internet access last night--we stayed in the middle of nowhere, so here's the update on yesterday's activities:

We decided to sleep in a bit, since our trip the day before took 13 hours. After a quick trip to Walmart and a drive through Starbucks, we headed out toward the Grand Tetons. The drive to the Grand Tetons was spectacular. The drive up Highway 191 from Rock Springs to the Grand Tetons was one of the prettiest drives I've ever been on.

We stopped for lunch in Jackson Hole at Jedediah's House of Sourdough (I think--the picture we took just says "Jedediah's.") We girls had breakfast food, and Nate had a massive burger that he forced himself to finish. (Nate said that burger was giving the best burger he ever ate--at a restaurant in Cannon Beach--a run for its money.) We ate out on the patio--it was a beautiful afternoon and a beautiful setting. Of course, we got coffee on our way out of town. (And I could have spent a lot more time in Jackson. Very touristy, but very cute.)

At the visitor's center at the entrance of the Grand Tetons, we heard about the Hidden Falls. Using our handy map, Nate determined that it would take us 15 minutes to hike to the falls. Nate's 30-minute round trip hike turned into 2 hours and 30 minutes! So perhaps Nate isn't so good at judging distances . . . Nevertheless, the hike was beautiful, and the falls were stunningly gorgeous! I will definitely post pictures of them later.

We got back on the road at 5:50. At that point, we thought we might go to Old Faithful before going to our hotel. A couple hours later, after going through lots of road construction, we decided just to head for the hotel. Finally, at 11 p.m., after hours of scary mountain driving (which Val handled masterfully!), we pulled in to the Super 8 at Cooke City. I was mistakenly under the impression that if a town was big enough to have a Super 8, it must also have fast food. Not so. Cooke City was TINY. It mainly consisted of motels and bars. So, we had granola bars and crackers for supper at 11:30.

Of the two parks (Grand Tetons and Yellowstone), the Grand Tetons was definitely my favorite. There's not much to do in Yellowstone other than drive and take pictures of wildlife. We did have a herd of bison cross the road right in front of us--that was pretty cool.

July 2, 2009

coffee across the country: day 1

Val and I love coffee, and we both agree that Barista's (where she works) serves some of the best coffee we've ever tasted. One of our goals on this trip is to find truly great coffee. All the coffee we taste will be compared to Barista's--is it better, just as good, or worse?

Rating system: (devised by Val, in terms an ice cream lover can understand. Why not coffee terms? Good question!)
*****--freshly baked fudgy brownie covered in Breyer's vanilla ice cream and my great-grandma's amazing homemade fudge sauce
****--a ColdStone Creamery favorite
***--your favorite DQ Blizzard
**--an ice cream bar
*--sugar free, fat free, freezer-burned vanilla ice cream

Our first coffee stop was at Barista's, and the coffee was, of course, excellent.
Overall rating: **** (only because we can have it all the time--and we need to leave room in case something better comes along!)

Our second coffee stop was in Laramie, Wyoming, at Turtle Rock Coffee, Etc. The atmosphere was great--we loved the decor--but the coffee wasn't in the same bracket as Barista's. My Irish Cream Latte was comparable to what I can get in Central City--which is to say it's good, not great. Steph's smoothie was "pretty good," and Nate really enjoyed his Cappuccino/Espresso Bean gelato. They also have an extensive sandwich menu (and, as you can see from the picture, pasta!). It's located just off the interstate on the west side of Laramie, and while the coffee itself wasn't anything to brag about, I'd still say it's worth a stop.Overall Rating:
** (Val: "The atmosphere was cute, but the flavor was not good.")
*** (Becky: see comments above)
*** (Steph: "My smoothie was good.")
??? (Nate: he went to sleep while we were discussing this)

July 1, 2009

on the oregon trail: day 1

This morning, my two sisters, cousin Nate, and I embarked on our great cross-country adventure. We'll be traveling to the Oregon coast to visit Nate's sister Beth.

Before we could leave, though, my car needed to be fixed. On Sunday, the cable that allows my driver's side window to roll up and down broke . . . with the window completely down! My dad took my car to a body shop on Monday, and Gary (whom I would recommend!) had it fixed by 7:30 last night.

I'd told Nate that we would meet at my parents' house at 7:15 a.m. I knew that we wouldn't actually leave by 7:15, but I had no idea we wouldn't make it until 8:15!

In our quest for great coffee, we made our first stop at Barista's in Grand Island. We knew the coffee would be great, so I guess we weren't really searching for great coffee at that point!

We met up with recently married friend Sydney for lunch in Ogallala. This was hopefully one of our only fast food stops on the trip--we want to eat at local places as much as possible.

I had no idea how beautiful Wyoming is! The topography changed practically the instant we crossed the border. I won't post all the pictures here, but I'll put some up on facebook. I said, "Look at how beautiful that is!" about 25 times today.

We had supper in Rawlins, and I'll do a separate post about that later. It was amazing.

Now we're at our hotel, and I'm pretty impressed. Definitely one of the better Super 8s I've stayed in, and the front desk people are really nice. Val was thrilled to discover there's a Starbucks next door.

Tomorrow we'll head to Yellowstone!

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