Day 1 on the road.
It always takes me and Adam a few days to decompress and really get into vacation/relaxation mode. Or really, to realize, “hey! We’re not working!” Maybe some of that has to do with the fact that a lot of our vacations are road trips, and we drive for a living. It might be seem crazy to some – that we drive for work, then drive when we have time off. But it’s so different, and we love it. In fact, we love pointing out that we can stop for a break anywhere we want, not just rest areas and truck stops. We don’t have to log our hours driving, on duty, off duty, etc. We can switch off driving whenever and how often we want to. We’re going where we want to go (the biggest one!) and driving on whatever roads we want to. We’re in our beloved Subaru Outback (PJ2) – which we absolutely adore. And best yet? We’re both awake at the same time, and we’re on the same sleep schedule.
But even if we weren’t driving for fun, and maybe chose to fly or something, I think it would still take a couple of days to wind down and really get into vacation mode. This is how our first few days on the road went down:
We finished work up around 9:30am on Monday and went into vacay-prep mode – aka we’re excited, so let’s get our s&*t together and get outta dodge! It was a whirlwind! We did our laundry, dishes (in the laundromat sink), packed our bags (also at the laundromat) did a bunch of shopping, packed our cooler with healthy food and ice, and reorganized the car, leaving as much as we could in the big truck so we had room to breathe in the car. It’s a tough thing to do when you practically live out of your car!
Once we finally finished up our pre-vacation chores, it was getting late and we were hoping for a good night’s sleep, so we decided we’d just grab a cheap hotel room and hit the road early the next morning. Upon searching hotels.com, and finding that one of our standby hotels cost three times as much as it normally does, we scoffed as we realized it was stupid EAA week. All the hotels get insanely, unfairly expensive that week. Almost $300? Awwww, hell no! So we got outta there.
Down the road, we stopped in Abbotsford, WI, which was only a few hours away, and we grabbed a normal-priced room there. We played two games of cribbage and went to bed. We were tired.
Day 2 on the road.
We wanted to find a coffee shop where we could sit, relax and drink a coffee – continue our wind-down. We head into Menomonie, WI, and on our way to the coffee shop we stumbled into a local co-op. I found raw, unsalted pistachios for the hike, which I was pretty excited about. They’re kind of hard to find!
Then we stopped in at The Blind Munchies coffee house. We loved it here. It was decorated with old signs and antiques and they sold some really cool hand-made jewelry and clothing from the Philippines that they used to help fund mission trips. I actually bought a leather bracelet and a new necklace bobble. We sat on a cushy couch and sipped a hot decaf coffee before getting back on the road.
Our next stop was Duluth Trading Company in Minneapolis. Adam loves this place. In fact, we were kind of joking that he might get pulled aside and questioned because everything he was wearing – down to his boxer briefs and socks – were DTC-brand clothing. “Excuse me, sir, do you have a receipt for that?” Haha! It didn’t happen, thankfully. How awkward would that be! He should’ve gotten some sort of discount for being a super-fan, though! He bought a new outfit (both pants and shirt a whole size smaller! Good job, hun!), and then we jet across the parking lot to Caribou coffee to play a game of cribbage and have a(nother) coffee. Hey – we drink decaf, so we don’t have to worry about the jitters and side effects to having too much caffeine. So we go nuts. We love it! And after hitting the road once again, we were starting to feel it, just a little – we’re on vacation.
We drove to Steele, ND and grabbed a room at the Cobblestone Inn – we were able to use a free stay on hotels.com, so that was nice! We hoped for another night of really good sleep and pretty much went straight to bed.
Day 3 on the road.
We got going about 7:30 and made our first stop at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park rest area. I went for a tiny little trail run/hike on a nature trail there while Adam cooked up some brunch for us at a picnic table using his new Coleman stove. He made fried duck eggs and bacon! We also finally found our first new stickers for the cargo box on our car. (We refer to the cargo box as “the lid,” as in “pickle jar lid.”) These little things, like stickers, make us so happy! Hey, we’re pretty simple.
I was actually having kind of a rough day, and I wasn’t sure why. Adjusting my sleep schedule, maybe? I don’t know, but I was feeling kind of sluggish and my legs were feeling mighty heavy during my little pre-brunch trail run. I was starting to question whether or not I was going to be able to actually hike the whole Wonderland Trail. I was also stressing out about not having my permit in hand, and found myself wanting to come up with a few more itinerary options for when we arrived at Mt. Rainier National Park. So, we swung in at a Starbucks, got some coffee, and I went through all my notes. I was pretty much as prepared as I could be, so I decided to just move on and see what happens. There wasn’t really much I could do at that point anyway. Maybe it was just an excuse for another coffee stop.
We wanted to camp some on the road trip part of our vacation, so we figured what better place to do that than Montana – our favorite state!? We pulled into a great little campground in Livingston, MT right before dark. The camp hosts were super-friendly, directed us to the two available sites and even drove over in their golf cart with some firewood for us to purchase. Adam and I were excited to camp, but we got there a little too late to have a campfire. I was planning on getting up really early so I could squeeze in a 5-mile warm-up hike up the Pine Creek Trail, which starts right at the campground. So we got our tent set up, I got my daypack together for the next morning’s hike and we crashed.
Day 4 on the road.
Now it had begun. I felt like I was in full vacation-mode. I think all it took was waking up in our tent! And maybe being in the mountains.
I head out on the trail, which pretty much went straight up. I only had time for about five miles, but I’ll come back here sometime to do more – it eventually winds uphill to an alpine lake, and then a little further yet to the summit of Black Mountain. Even though I didn’t get to hike as far as I would’ve liked (but do I ever, anyway!?), I had an amazing time. First of all, I decided to hit the trail fasted, meaning no breakfast. I felt sooo much better. Maybe my body just needed the short break from digestion or something. Whatever it was, my sluggishness and heavy legs were gone. I felt energetic and bounded up the trail like it was no thing. A little over a mile into the trail I arrived at a big, powerful waterfall. I soaked that in for a few minutes and continued on where the trail wound around and up even more until it reached the top of that very waterfall. I ventured toward the edge as much as I could while feeling safe and tried to let myself just soak in its energy. It felt so good to be there. Then I turned around and booked it downhill and back to our campsite.
While I was gone on my little hike, Adam got a fire going and tried to make pork cracklins, but something didn’t go quite right. They shrunk down to grape-nut size and eventually burned. He’ll figure it out another time. He also pulled out his stove and cooked up some liver and onions for me. I had some for breakfast, and had just enough left over for breakfast the next day, too. How lucky am I that he keeps cooking for me like this!?
We packed up our camp, doused the fire with buckets of water and got back on the road around 10am. We made a quick pit stop on our way out of town at a store called Murdochs – they had everything. I was able to get my 5-gallon buckets that I planned to use for my food caches on the hike – with locking lids, even!
We drove into Missoula and found a little coffee shop called Drum and had delicious cappuccinos, and I tried a new drink called a piccolo. I guess it’s made with a lighter-flavored coffee, so even though it was delicious, I prefer the ol’ cappuccino. Maybe even with an extra shot. We got a couple games of cribbage in while we were there, and after taking off, we drove on, finishing our road trip through Montana (oh, but we’ll be back!)
We drove right through the panhandle of Idaho and into Washington. We stayed at a Days Inn in Ritzville and got some amazing sleep, even sleeping in later than we planned. See? We’re on vacay for sure, now! And that sleep ended up being important because our next day was the start of the Wonderland adventure. We were to arrive at Mt. Rainier National Park. Late, but we were going to get there.
Tonight I love our Subaru, the PJ2. It’s nice to get to really spend a lot of time in it!