Thursday, July 13, 2017
On Tuesday we met Jack, Sue and Ellen in Shelton to do a sister hand off. We ate Sisters for lunch and then took a 2 mile walk through Shelton with a tour map designating the historical buildings. It was surprisingly interesting. Ellen spent the next 24 hours with us before we brought her to the airport, but not without a bowl of ramen in South Center before she left.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Surprise parties are not on the Bulthuis radar. For some reason it has never been a part of our mode of operation. So when our daughter-in-laws schemed up a doozy for our 60th birthdays, we were totally clueless. You could have knocked us over the head and we still would have missed it. The huge 'party next door' with the Nelsons as guests didn't even perk our suspicions. The party was an absolute shock. Under the guise of seeing Emily and Katie's new house, we walked into a room full of family and friends singing Happy Birthday. There were so many people involved in the scheem including my sisters who are not used to deceptive practices. We thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and regretted not being able to connect with everyone who came. Marti had skillfully provided the food and the setting at the Olson's was perfect. The day ended with a family dinner at the Thai Hut in Gig Harbor. Thanks to Steph and Jenny, surprises may become more commonplace in the Bulthuis family.
Monday, July 10, 2017
Breakfast at the motel was great with a ‘chef’ making custom omelettes. We had a long trip ahead of us but we could not leave without a 3 mile river walk. We took I-15 north to Butte and I-90 home. We had never traveled that stretch of interstate and were surprised at the lack of mountain passes. Our last meal of the trip was our only fast food, Carl's Jr. Our smooth trip home was interrupted by a three hour delay waiting out a brush fire on the Vantage bridge. We got home at 2:30 am. 3250 miles of driving, 33 miles of walking, 4 National Parks, 1 National Monument, 4 dumpy trumpies and 3 nice lodgings; we’ll call it a successful Bulthuis road trip!
Motel waffles and Starbucks got us off and running to our last National Park. Crossing Wyoming off the interstate let’s you see a few towns but the landscape is the same. Wind River was very scenic as we approached the Grand Tetons. As usual, we enjoyed the Jackson Lake Lodge Lobby with its panoramic view of the lake and mountains. We hiked for 4 ½ miles along String Lake. The temperature was great and the views spectacular. We will save the Jenny Lake loop for another time, but we did enjoy the pull out views. The town of Jackson was all we remembered and more. It was packed with tourists but we found a nice Thai place to eat. We made reservations for a nice motel in Idaho Falls and headed out for our own evening drive. Idaho Falls was an unexpected delight. The motel was right across from the falls and there was a wonderful river walk including a great Japanese garden. We couldn’t retire for the night without another 1 ½ walk in the coolness of the night.
The apex of our ‘planned’ trip was the Badlands. That required another hundred miles east. As we approached the park at midday, temperatures were hovering over 100 degrees. With some trepidation we chose a mile and a half hike through the strange spires. We enjoyed the surreal landscape but could feel ourselves starting to overheat. On our return route we needed to wait behind a large group of young people trying to descend a ladder. The line would be 45 minutes and we would have wilted. We were bad examples and scrambled down a side path instead. When we got back to the car, it was 106 and we were feeling the start of heat exhaustion. Our stay in the park was short and ‘sweet’ and we high tailed it to our next destination: Wind Cave National Park. We were fortunate to get in a cave tour before closing and enjoyed the mile and a half walk through the 53 degree cave. Wind Cave is an impressive 195 miles of caverns with unique box work formations. A late evening drive brought us to Casper, Wy and the best dumpy trumpy of the trip for $49, which was better than the car option in the heat.
After a real breakfast in the Grand Hotel dining room and a morning stroll through the deserted town, we got serious about road miles and headed for Rapid City. Avoiding I-90, we took a more direct route through reservation land. The Black Hills are a welcome landscape to the dry prairies. After checking into a Ramada in with clean everything, we stopped at a Mexican grill downtown and headed for Mt.Rushmore for the first evening. A feeling of patriotism felt appropriate for the Fourth of July, and as the crowds gathered for the evening ‘light show’ we hiked the loop under the country fathers a couple times. The show was anticlimactic with no sound for a video and a disaster of a sing along. The only redeeming portion was all the veterans coming out of the stands to help in the flag retirement for the day.
Wednesday, July 05, 2017
One of our goals for the trip was to connect with Dan and Judy Mulder. Given our fluid schedule we did not make prior arrangements, but hoped for the best. Luckily, they were available for a lunch meeting that lasted four hours. We ate at the ‘Windbag ‘in downtown Helena and caught up with each other's lives. It was great to connect again. In hopes of a respite from dingy motels, we followed a lead from Dan about the historic Grand Hotel in Big Timber. Big Timber has high sentimental value as Soren, Esther’s dad, immigrated from Norway in 1929 to sheep herd in the Crazy Mountains. The hotel was great. $90 got us a classic room with a toilet and sink, along with a superb breakfast. We ate in the hotel dining room and enjoyed Sonoma chicken and tolerated Rocky Mountain trout. We were serenaded with fireworks on our 3.5 mile walk through the rustic town.
We were anxious to get to Glacier Park, so after a morning Starbucks stop we enjoyed the lakeside drive up to Columbia Falls and the entrance to the park. Esther got her National Parks Passport and her first stamp. We stopped at Lake McDonald Lodge and scoped out the old timber lodge with bark covered logs. Going to the Sun highway was breathtaking and we stopped on the summit to join the throngs of East Indian visitors on a snowpacked trail to Hidden Lake overlook. While we would have liked to spend more time in the park, the priority of further adventures pushed us on to Great Falls and a night at the worst Super 8 of the franchise. ($66, missing linen, stains on the sheet, air conditioning shut off from 10pm – 8am, not to mention a horrible smelling hallway). We redeemed the evening with dinner at Applebee's and a sunset walk along the river trail.
We decided to start our day with a cool morning 3 mile walk along Lake Coeur de Alene. After a quick Costco trip we found ourselves on a stalled I-90. Luckily, our maps app routed us on a 30 mile detour on a mountain dirt road. It was surreal being in heavy traffic on a washboard mountain road. We left I-90 at St. Regis and headed for Polson. We stopped in St. Ignatius mission church and appreciated the fresco paintings. The motel situation looked pretty dire in the Flathead area with Motel 6 at $110 and no vacancies. We found a lakeside dumpy trumpy in Polson for $95. Poop on the toilet seat and curtains too small for the window highlighted this gem. We thoroughly enjoyed our 4.5 mile evening walk and dinner at a lakeside Mexican restaurant.
After Esther worked the morning, we caught a ferry to start our road trip. Our first stop was MS International in Seattle to check out some slate for our new kitchen. Then it was off on I-90 for our adventure. We ate dinner in Moses Lake at a Bistro. Service was bad, but the food was good. We booked a room in Cheney at a dumpy trumpy and hoped for the best. The best was not to be had. But what can you expect for $55. The door was beat up and there was a smashed bug on the wall. We did enjoy a 3.5 mile evening walk through EWU campus. We were shocked to find an ice arena, but enjoyed the cool down.