Monthly Archives: July 2014

2014.07.24

A cloudless sky this morning. Today: watering, UPS, blinds, computers. And a stiff, sore back.


Heading East – Day 5

Today we made it to Illinois. Again, a lot of driving. I’m pretty tired from the whole trip so I’ll just try to recount the events of the day and call this done. Now that we’re in Illinois the next phase of getting our stuff set up and unpacked will begin. That _may_ be the subject of subsequent entries to this blog. Or not.

Today we slept in a bit compared to yesterday. We knew that we didn’t have to drive as much on the final day. Still, going from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Chicagoland in a day is a fair bit of driving. After our normal ritual of filling the gas tank, cleaning the bugs off the windshield, eating breakfast at MacDonald’s plus one more thing – getting coffee at Starbuck’s – we were finally under way at around 10:00am.

Before moving on from our hotel stay, I should mention that the newer Hilton hotels are equipping their rooms with sleep number memory foam beds. They are interesting but I don’t think that I’d buy one for myself. Last night I discovered that you could adjust the firmness via a dial on the side of the mattress and I dialed my side of the bed up to extra firm. Not a bad night’s sleep but I think a firm, quality, normal mattress is in our future.

On to the drive. Pretty uneventful until we got to Illinois. Some observations:

  • States with primarily cattle vs. farming states seemed to have a higher density of bugs smash against the window
  • South Dakota was the last “primarily cattle” state on our trip. Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois had much fewer cattle, at least along I90.
  • Minnesota is the land of wind farms. We saw an amazing amount of wind farms from one end of Minnesota to the other. Very few in the other states we passed through.
  • The quality of food at MacDonald’s positively correlates with population density.
  • Some gas stations along the way had very cheap prices – as low as $3.419 per gallon.
  • Free breakfasts at Hilton hotels don’t have enough protein, specifically eggs.
  • Sioux Falls, South Dakota is a surprisingly nice town from what we’ve seen
  • Do not drive on I90 from Rockford to Elgin – the longest work zone that we’ve ever seen.

Once we got into town we grabbed some pizza. Although I enjoyed it, I don’t think of pizza as something that great anymore. I’ll be fine not eating it in the future. After Pizza we drove by the house and noticed that they didn’t put the grass in yet. That and a whole lot of other things will start to happen now that we’re in town and our stuff will be showing up on Monday morning.

All in all it was an enjoyable trip. One that we’re happy we went on but we’re also happy to complete it. Now the work of building our new life can begin.


Heading East – Day 4

No pictures today – we spent most of the day behind the wheel in an attempt to get within striking distance of Chicagoland and finish our journey tomorrow.

The day started early – we were up before 6:00am and on the road by 6:30. Google maps told us that we were in for ten hours of driving if we wanted to make Sioux Falls this evening and we already booked a hotel room. First stop was the gas station and MacDonald’s for breakfast. None of which turned out well. I wanted to fill up the tank but the gas station didn’t have that functionality. I had to pay inside and specify the amount of the purchase ahead of time. And all this after waiting in line for a long time on people buying stuff at the gas station. MacDonald’s breakfast sandwiches were on some old, dry english muffins – much worse than the previous day’s breakfast. So we were off.

The Nokia Drive app took us down Route 212 rather than 90 and it wasn’t that great. Pretty much single lane the whole way and nothing along the way for more than 100 miles. We did get a lot of miles done, though, which was the goal for today. Lunch was late and at a drive-through Arby’s that was part of a Conoco gas station. What’s with all the chain fast food restaurants inside of gas stations in these small midwestern towns? They screwed up our order and the food wasn’t that good. I ended up throwing half of it away. Finally for the last leg of the trip we were on 90. We checked into our hotel around 6:30pm. 12 hours in the car today…

For dinner we looked on Yelp and were going to go to a Cambodian restaurant that got some good reviews but when we got there there was a sign that they were closed from July 1 – July 4 for the holiday. Plan B was to drive back to the hotel and see what looked interesting.

We ended up at a Chinese restaurant that turned out to be surprisingly great. Too bad we are only in town for a day.

Tomorrow we aim for finishing our journey back to Chicagoland.


Heading East – Day 3

Today was the third day in our journey from the Seattle area to the Chicagoland area. We started the day in Bozeman Montana and today we decided to do some sightseeing via Yellowstone Park and the Beartooth Highway.

We started in the hotel we were staying at by checking out the free breakfast options. None of them involved eggs so we opted to breakfast at McDonalds instead. After breakfast, filling the gas tank, and cleaning the bugs off the windows from yesterday we were on our way.

We took 90 to 85 and then headed south for Yellowstone. On the way down we nearly hit some deer that darted across the highway. The first of two deer barely made it past us before we got there, with me hitting the brakes as much as I could. The second deer stopped before jumping into the roadway. If that second deer hadn’t stopped I would have hit it for sure.

Much more warily we continued on toward Yellowstone.

The only pictures we took were at the first rest location we came to. Here’s a picture of Ou next to some purple flowers that she liked a lot:

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Following that first stop we pretty much drove straight through to the hotel. It was quite a nice experience though

We went through Yellowstone from the north entrance to the northeast entrance. Along the way we saw some incredible scenery and some actual wildlife. Our first wildlife encounter was with a pair of elks. They were about 50 feet from the road. The second encounter was much closer.

We rounded a corner and saw a bunch of people at a rest area taking pictures toward us on the road. When we looked to see what they were taking pictures of we saw a buffalo eating grass about 2 feet from the road. We passed about 8 feet away from it. Pretty amazing! The buffalo was very nonchalant, kind of like “This is my park, deal with it.”

Driving toward the northeast entrance we saw many many buffaloes, some very close to the road we were driving on. Pretty cool.

Leaving Yellowstone via the northeast entrance you are pretty much forced to take the Beartooth Highway. That was another amazing experience, albeit a scary one. That road goes way up in the mountains, above the tree line. The roads are narrow and winding. We really didn’t make good time but that was probably expected. At the upper elevations of the road there was still quite a bit of snow on the ground.

One point about that drive – once you start it you are pretty much committed to going all the way. There’s really no other place to go except all the way through it.

We were really happy that we picked a nice day like today to make this drive. At another time of year or with harsher weather it could have been a real nightmare. And we were also glad we had a full tank of gas before we started. There’s pretty much no place to stop along the way. Well there is a campsite/general store call “The Top of the World” that isn’t even close to the topmost elevation of the road. That’s about it. Pretty amazing views, though.

Coming down from the Beartooth Highway we were ready to just head for the hotel and take it easy for the rest of the evening. We checked in and had a combined lunch/dinner at Famous Dave’s in Billings. We’re hoping to get to bed early tonight because we decided we’re going to try to complete our trip by Friday evening. That means 10+ hours of driving tomorrow…


Heading East – Day 2

Today was the second day of our trip east. We started in Ellensburg, Washington and ended up at Bozeman, Montana. In between we spent some time at various rest stops, ate some Thai food that we didn’t like much in Spokane, stopped at Starbucks twice, ate Arby’s for dinner (In the car. While driving.), and saw some really beautiful scenery through dead-bug-ridden windows.

Since we were super stiff yesterday from spending too much time in the car without any stops for stretching, we resolved to stop more frequently and stretch our legs. In the morning we did this by stopping at the rest stops that we encountered along the way. Here is Ou during our first rest stop stop:

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For lunch we wanted to get Thai food and we were passing through Spokane at lunch time so we looked up the top rated Thai restaurants in Spokane on Yelp and found that one of the three four-star-rated ones was less than a mile away. So we decided to have lunch there.

Lunch was underwhelming. We are real Thai food aficionados so our standards are high. This restaurant just didn’t cut it. We had four items: Tod Mun appetizer, Pad Ped Squid, Lad Nar Talay, and Thai iced coffee. The appetizer was the only thing that met with our approval. The Pad Ped Squid was OK but really more like curry than Pad Ped. The Thai iced coffee was way too sweet to be enjoyable and the Lad Nar Talay was way too salty to be enjoyable. If this was one of the top three Thai restaurants in Spokane then we don’t think Thai is a strong point of the restaurant scene in Spokane.

As we drove along after lunch Ou was feeling sleepy so we decided to look for a Starbucks. We found one on the map but when we got there we discovered it was inside a Fred Meyer. Probably not the best indicator of a good Starbucks. We both got caramel frappachinos and they really weren’t that great as well. Food and drink wise, the day wasn’t going so well.

After we got coffee we realized that we had to get going fast if we wanted to get to Bozeman at a reasonable hour so we started driving straight through without stopping as we did in the morning. At dinner time, we stopped outside of Missoula and got Arby’s and Starbucks (this time from a real Starbucks store) and consumed them while driving. A little messy but not too bad. And the coffee was much better this time.

Finally we rolled in to our hotel around 9:30pm. We would have made it sooner but there were many work zones on the way where we had to slow down considerably. But we did make it to the hotel at a reasonable hour. The 580 miles we drove today was good progress on our way to Chicago. Tomorrow we plan to make it to Billings, Montana via Yellowstone.


Heading East

The reason that I left Microsoft was to relocate back to the Chicagoland area. Finally today we are ready to head back.

By the time we got everything ready to go it was about 7:00pm. We drove east on I90.

As we approached Snoqualmie summit we heard they were going to close I90 for an hour for rock blasting. We were hoping that we would make it past the summit before then so we wouldn’t have to cool our heels for an hour when we could be making progress. Luckily we made it through the summit before 8 and didn’t get held up.

At about 9:30 we decided to stop for the evening. We made it as far as Ellensburg. We stopped for dinner at Dairy Queen.

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While at Dairy Queen we searched for a place to stay for the evening and settled on the Ellensburg Best Western. They were almost out of rooms so we had to take the room with a Jacuzzi in the living room.

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This type of room seemed a little strange to us but we needed a place to stay. Everything else was OK.