Avenue of the Saints

Avenue of the Saints is a highway system that goes from Saint Paul, Minnesota to Saint Louis, Missouri.
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When we left the Chippewa National Forest from Walker, Minnesota we headed towards Waterloo, Iowa. We didn’t know if we would make it in one day of driving but in our haste to get back home to Louisiana so our dog could get treated for the ACL tear he suffered while in Sleeping Buffalo, Montana we had to try.
Heading to Waterloo our trip meter read 7289 miles (on 7/21/17). So 7,000 miles in less than 3 months for the #transamericanroadtrip !!
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The Mississippi “Great River Road National Route” is what we drove for a bit of the way after Saint Louis. The “Great River Road” is a well-marked series of different roads and highways that roughly follow the winding course of the Mississippi River. All along the Great River Road, travelers will find white signs displaying the green pilot’s wheel logo. The familiar pilot’s wheel symbol denotes which roads are part of the designated route. The route has been selected for its natural, cultural, historical, recreational and scenic properties.
Illinois River Road was marked from about from Quincy, Illinois to Hannibal, MO. We could see corn and bean crops everywhere along the routes in Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois. On July 22 we hit 7550 miles!
From Hannibal, MO to St. Louis, MO on Hwy 61 there is a Mark Twain Cave and Campground. We will likely visit there next time we drive that route.
We stopped at Cozy C Campground in Bowling Green MO. It was good for overnight. Clean restrooms/ showers, plus ice cream in the office.
We had to make a pit stop in Ste Genevieve, MO to visit The Cave Winery and it was worth it. They have seating for 100 down below the main buidling in a cool cave.
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Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs in Montana

2 Perfect Days in Sleeping Buffalo, MT

The Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs has humble origins. A wildcat oil rigger testing for oil in the 1920s struck hot water at 3,100 feet, according to a 1962 Phillips County history.

“During these years when bathtubs were not as plentiful as now, cowboys in the vicinity made use of the hot water for a ‘Saturday night bath.'”

Then Saco rancher Elbert Davison, whose son had polio, had the idea of building a pool for his son to soak in, which proved popular for others, too.

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The American Legion posts in Saco, Malta, and Hinsdale worked together to capture the natural gas in the water without shutting down the water. No longer would the water ignite at the “burning well.” The resort aspect began as a New Deal, Depression-era project, launching the Legion Health Resort.

While we were there, a vanful of Saskatchewan Hutterites arrived and I got to talk with one of them. Very interesting to meet them and hear about their religion. The handful of other visitors who came were either from Canada or from nearby in Montana. We basically had the whole area to ourselves for most of our visit. I took advantage of swimming/wading while the pool filled up on the first day we were there.

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In recent years the old site, a very run down and stinky place, closed. The reviews we saw on the web were pretty bad so I almost didn’t go. BUT, I found a couple of articles about a Bozeman couple who bought the place and renovated it. I’m so glad we stopped!

The Sleeping Buffalo has three pools, a large one at a comfortable swimming temperature, a smaller hot pool and a cold plunge pool next to the sauna. The pools drain nightly, which prevents staining. In the hot tub, water flushes through every 20 minutes, and in the big pool it’s every three hours. The mineral-rich water flows from the well at 108 degrees and 750 gallons a minute.

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Just a warning that the hot tub is super hot, but relaxing. There is also a sauna.

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Ten motel rooms are under construction, and the Sleeping Buffalo will have a KOA campground with 20 cabins and 75 camping spots. Very soon, Simpson will start work on outside pools. Right now there are three cabins and at least 35 RV spots with hook ups.

The resort isn’t planning a restaurant right now but does offer snack food, pizza and hot dogs. There is also a bar next door.

Be sure to stop at the sacred Sleeping Buffalo rock that marks the turn to the resort off US Highway 2 and know that fishing is available at the nearby Nelson Reservoir.

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The Sleeping Buffalo is between Malta and Saco, Montana at 669 Buffalo Trail. Winter hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday. An adult swim is $8.50. Snacks and towel, etc., rentals are available.

We stayed for three days and had a great time!

 

Next up: East on Hwy 2

 

Glacier National Park: Three Perfect Days

From Tacoma, WA we took I-90 through Coeur d’Alene, ID to St Regis where we transitioned onto a northbound route to Hot Springs, MT. From there we went directly to Glacier National Park. 

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Coeur d’Alene RV Resort in Post Falls, ID was a great stopping point. Level pads, wifi, and a pool.

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In Hot Springs, MT do not stay at Symes Hot Springs! We stayed there and it’s not worth putting yourself through. It’s old, not well kept, dusty, and creepy. The germophobe in me cried all night. The blankets were dirty, the pillows inside the cases had nasty stains on them, the carpet hadn’t been cleaned in years. For the same money stay around the corner at Alameda Hot Springs Resort and if you must visit Symes do so on a day pass. If you stop in during the summer at Symes say hi to Mabel the Great and try to imagine Symes as it was in its heyday and not in its current state.

 

Flathead Lake is gorgeous. We will stay there next time we go through.

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Kalispell has all the things: Cabelas, Popeyes, Krispy Kreme, Target, Costco, and Starbucks (but no mugs).

Sundance RV, right outside West Glacier,  is where we stayed for one night for hook ups so we could prepare to dry camp in Glacier.

Glacier NP has so much to offer. I promise you if you go you will want to return. The Going to the sun road over Logan Pass is a MUST DRIVE (or ride).

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Look into Road Scholar Tours if you want the Cadillac version of touring this park. If you are doing it yourself, visit the NPS webpage on guided tours in case you want to learn from an expert while in the park. That site has the best boat, bus, hike, raft, and horseback tours available.

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West Glacier Restaurant was decent, better than the food in the Park. Plus they serve elk.

Jammer Tour or Going to the Sun Road Shuttle? The jammer red bus tour is a bit pricey but you get to stop at each site along the way and take photos and hear about what you’re seeing. If you do that your first day you can make note of the trails and scenic views you want to go back and see on the shuttle.

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Apgar Campground was where we camped in Glacier. It was quiet and walking distance to Lake McDonald, Apgar Village, and the Visitor’s Center.

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Make sure you use the bear lockers if you are tent camping!

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Avalanche Lake trail is a nice, moderate trail that I would recommend. It is connected to Trail of the Cedars, which is also nice and wheelchair friendly.

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Lake McDonald is gorgeous and you have to go swimming or kayaing in it.

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Up the road is McDonald Creek, which has a nice, accessible waterfall (near Johns lake trail bridge).

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Bowman Lake is a drive short, very secluded, and breathtaking.

Stop at Home Ranch Bottom on the way to or from Bowman Lake for limoncello, Apple wine, huckleberry wine, and taco Tuesday. I hope these two are there and you get the full “cowboy who makes limoncello” speech.

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For more information on things to see and do in Glacier National Park, see these articles:

A Whole Day in Glacier for a Sightseer

“If you have one day to take in the highlights of Glacier National Park, drive Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR) in its entirety. GTSR is a 50-mile long, two-way road that cuts through the center of the park between the West Entrance and the St. Mary Entrance. Your journey can begin at either location. To return, either retrace your path back over GTSR, or take U.S. Hwy 2 along the south border of the park to create a loop. Along U.S. Hwy 2, you will find scenic views, some restaurants and lodging.” (click link for full article)

Take a Half-Day Hike in Glacier

“Glacier boasts 734 miles of trail. It is safe to say there is something for every ability level. Day hikes abound in every section of the park, from a short lakeside stroll to a hike up a mountain. Bring plenty of food and water on your hike, wear sturdy footwear, and remember the weather can change at any time. Be prepared with both rain gear and sunscreen. Below are some popular trails for a half-day (3-5 hour) excursion. These hikes may take longer depending on your hiking speed and ability. Mileages listed are ONE-WAY.” (click link for full article)

 

Tacoma Dome & Ranier National Park

We visited Tacoma to attend the Don’t Give Up regional convention at the Tacoma Dome.

 

The Tacoma Dome was the perfect location for the convention and we found an RV campground nearby. I will say that those walkways on the upper tier to connect the seats with the corridor… are SCARY.

Sapporo Sushi in Fife had great food. Plus they have little boxes lining the cashier area where you can store your own personal chopsticks. I love that idea.

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But… PhoEver is my new favorite pho place… because their name is everything right now.

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Korum Ford fixed our Ford Expedition when it got stuck in 4-wheel drive. Thank goodness we were camped less than 2 miles to the dealership.

Ranier National Park. There are no words.

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To get the whole flavor of Mount Rainier is about in just one day, you will probably want to do the normal route and head into the park through the Longmire Entrance in late summer. You get old-growth forests, subalpine meadows blooming with flowers, and a look at the rocky scree underneath the Emmons and Winthrop glaciers. Our top four stops along that route were:

  • Whittaker Bunkhouse
  • Sunrise Visitor Center
  • Trail of the Patriarchs
  • Emmons Vista (better than Sunrise!)

 

A shrimp boil was held in our honor… well, they would’ve had it anyway but let’s just pretend.

 

The “Don’t Give Up” regional convention program was encouraging and uplifting. What really made it perfect was actually knowing the friends there. When you travel among our brotherhood you always find loving ones who are hospitable, but there’s something nice about seeing a familiar face in a crowd. All the ones from the hall in Anacortes gave us hugs and made us feel at home at their convention and we love them for that.

 

 

Packing For CBCG American Road Trip

When the weather gets warm in my neck of the woods I tend to get the travel itch. It gets positively HOT/HUMID by April 15 on the Gulf Coast so I like to head to less humid areas. So far, some of my favorite destinations have been NorCal and the Pacific Northwest. They have such a vibrant culture, great food, beautiful vistas, and mountains!

We are heading west on I-10, north on I-5, and then east on I-90 for the first part of our 2017 #transAmericanroadtrip.  Since I really love to get a mix of everything when I travel to a new destination, I spent quite some time planning and wanted to share what my packing list is for such a trip. We will spend our days driving, setting up camp in the R-pod 180, hiking, lounging, touristing, etc. When we stay in one place for more than a day we will spend time there doing a large assortment of activities, from relaxing on the beach with a drink in hand, to lighthouse viewing, to wandering the grounds of a National Forest or National Park. Needless to say it will be a glorious trip! Below you’ll find a list of everything I packed for three months of travelling around the USA.

Bags

Ever since my first travel disaster where over-packing put a serious damper on my trip (Atlanta to Milan with two 28″ roller bags, a 22″ roller bag and a duffel), I have become a huge advocate of traveling light and bringing versatile pieces that can pull double duty. This trip was no exception! I was able to fit everything for a three-month trip in my Eagle Creek 120L cargo hauler duffel bag, Timbuk2 Wingman, and Sak cross-body purse. My favorite bags to bring along for daypacks and biking packs are the Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable Daypacks and the Timbuk2 Catapault Sling.

Clothing

Even when I think I’m being minimalist with my packing, I always seem to bring too many clothes. That said, I strongly urge you not to bring more than is listed here unless absolutely necessary because chances are you really, really won’t need it.

3 leggings – I brought 2 cotton/spandex and 1 wool. I skipped the jeans, as I find they are bulky and aren’t fun to wear when it’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit out!
1 pair of convertible hiking pants – Again, not jeans.
6 tops – I brought 2 ultra lightweight wool tees, 1 tank, 2 cotton t-shirts, and 1 lightweight blouse.
3 meeting/service dresses – I had 2 knee length dresses and 1 maxi dress.
1 swim cover-up –I brought a sarong which can also double as a towel if need be.
1 swimsuit – If you’re heading to the beach for most of your stay, bring 2.
1 workout outfit
1 nice evening outfit – blouse & capris for an evening out or a nice meal.
Underwear/socks/bras – I brought 1 brown and 1 black, as well as a sports bra (they should cover all of your needs), 7 pairs of underwear and 7 pairs of socks. These can all be washed in the hotel sink if you’re in a pinch!
2 pair pajamas
2 pairs of sunglasses
1 hat
1 lightweight sweater and/or scarf – I covet the Chrysalis Cardi as a double duty scarf, but for now I just brought a red silk blend cardigan.

The weather out west ranges from arid desert to coastal rainforest so I recommend bringing lightweight layers that will work for all the temperature zones you’ll travel through. Fabrics that are good to have in this kind of weather are wool, linen/cotton and quick drying sports fabrics.

However, evenings out can get downright chilly to this Gulf Coast girl at times, so I would recommend bringing something lightweight but warm to keep you cozy during the evening. I ended up buying a fleece jacket and neck scarf at the Redwoods National Park.

Shoes

I do a lot of walking on my trips to make up for the calories I consume so I recommend bringing comfortable walking shoes, my preference is Birkenstock, just be sure they won’t give you blisters.

1 pair of trail/cross-trainer hiking – I brought La Sportiva shoes.
1 pair of strappy evening Naot sandals/wedges (or flats if those are more your style).
1 pair of walking sandals – I brought Birkenstocks (which I basically live in).
1 pair shower shoes/ hot tub flip flops.

Toiletries and First Aid

Don’t worry about forgetting something because you’ll definitely be able to purchase it there!

Makeup/Toiletries

Anything that is in your usual beauty routine. I would also suggest that you make your mascara waterproof and that your lip balm has SPF in it!
Skin – I brought travel sized bottles of: Face Cleanser, Face Moisturizer, SPF 50 Sunscreen, Body Butter (it is SO DRY out there), and Hand Cream.
Deodorant
Denman brush – this bad boy is able to brush out any knots that may be in your hair, which will be useful when your hair is all tangled up from that salty sea water.
Hair ties and bobby pins
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Wipes – These are great for freshening up and wiping off your face/body around lunch time when you may be all sandy and sweaty but aren’t ready to take a shower yet.
Bar of soap – Depending on the hotel, they may offer some complimentary soap as well. I have sensitive skin so I brought my own Dove bar soaps.
Travel sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner – I simply fill GoToob bottles with my shampoo from home.
Insect repellent – love Burt’s Bees repellant.
Emergen-C – This stuff is a dream when you’re feeling dehydrated or under the weather.
Small pack of tissues – I always carry this in my purse. You never know when you’ll be using a sketchy bathroom.
Small bottle of hand sanitizer – See note above.
Tampons – Consider the Lunette Cup instead of tampons.
Razor.

Other

E-reader/books/magazines – My iPad is the best purchase I have ever made! It allows me to download my Kindle books so I never need to worry about packing a ton of heavy books.
iphone and earphones
GoPro Camera and memory card
Chargers for all of your devices
Waterproof phone case – my iPhone 7 is waterproof.
Selfie stick – I just bought one and it is SO much better than long-arming it.
Reusable water bottle – It’s so important to stay hydrated wherever you go! I love Hydro Flask because it keeps your water cold for 12 hours.

Additional Packing Tips

Use packing bags and cubes (like from Eagle Creek) to save space in your suitcase, compress, and organize your things.
Put all liquids in a ziplock bag to avoid leaks.
Make sure that all clothing pieces work well together – try to stick to neutral colours, with 1-2 accent colours.

 

Las Cruces, New Mexico

The drive from Fort Stockton, Texas to Las Cruces, New Mexico was lovely. Driving west on I-10 gave us nice views of the Sierra Blancas to the south and the Organ Mountains to the north. 


I want to go back and hike there. 

Driving through El Paso was crazy. Lots of people in a hurry. Saw two almost accidents. Waved at Mexico from the interstate (it was so close!). Also, we are now in Mountain Time. 


Right past El Paso I saw a Camping World RV lot so we stopped. Wouldn’t it be great to do this road trip with a travel trailer? Then we wouldn’t have to chance iffy budget hotels. Hmmmm. I liked this Launch Mini Extreme 18QB model by Starcraft. Only 3,100 pounds!

Anywho, on to Las Cruces!


Along the way we reserved at the EconoLodge using the Hotels.com app and the hotel definitely exceeded my expectations. The rooms have just been updated so that was a nice touch. Their staff is friendly and the breakfast area looks promising. The price, though, is amazing! I’d definitely recommend if you’re on a low budget road trip. 

We noticed Titan limping when he got out of the SUV and worried it was because he is recovering from surgery and perhaps reinjured his knee. The husband quickly realized that during his walk outside of Camping World he stepped on a prickly seed pod and removed it. Titan walked a little better. Then in the room we saw him limp again. Upon closer inspection there were a couple of the prickles in his paw pad. We used tweezers to extract them. We have to add tweezers to Titans bag especially when he is well enough to go hiking with us!


I’ve wanted Vibram five-finger shoes for hiking for a while now and we found a retailer at Ride On Sports here in Las Cruces just a couple miles from the hotel. I found my size but they only had orange ones. So I’ll order on Amazon and have them sent to the hotel at the Grand Canyon South Rim Village. 

We ate dinner at Pho A Dong (which the blurb in the menu says means “Asian Soup” but I’m skeptical). 

It’s owned by a Vietnamese immigrant family that moved here in the 60s. Downer was that they didn’t serve wine. The food was flavorful, though. The husband got beef Pho and I got Hu Tien Xao Mein (Soft Fresh Rice Noodle).


 It was so good that I forgave the low tech menu insert update. 

All in all I would recommend Las Cruces as an overnight stopping point. It’s the perfect size, has a lot of amenities close to the interstate, and even some outdoor opportunities if you want to go hiking. 

In the morning we head to Scottsdale, Arizona. 

Our TransAmerican Road Trip

So there we were, all prepared for a 3-month Mexican road trip…

Then we tried to cross the border and import our vehicle and get our tourist and resident visas stamped. No go. We were told to go back and get additional paperwork. Back to Louisiana? It’s not so far… but what if this difficulty is simply a reminder that when life hands you lemons that you should make a lemonade spritzer?

So we went back to the hotel in Cotulla and got over our feelings. We looked for the silver lining and guess what? It was right there all along.

It started with the realization that neither of us has been to the Grand Canyon. You know what else? We think it *would* be amazing to visit.


We’ve got friends and family spread out all over the US in some pretty amazing natural settings that we haven’t ever really gotten to enjoy. For instance, places like NorCal, the Oregon Coast, Glacier National Park, the Rocky Mountains, Arkansas Hot Springs, and the AppalachianTrail are all places that we would love to see.

We’ve got time, a beast of a vehicle, and all of the great wide unknown. So we decided to reframe the situation and see the huge window opening just as one door was temporarily closed. We’ve made a two-week tentative plans to head west to CA then north to the PNW.

First, we are off to the Grand Canyon by way of Fort Stockton, TX, Las Cruces, NM, and Phoenix, AZ!