No matter where you're from, where you're going or how long you're on the road, follow this rule and your road trip will turn into the adventure of a lifetime! I also included a few tips to help you along the way.
Did my click-bait work? Hahaha!
My best advice to give any traveler, particularly a road tripper, is to do EVERYTHING. Don't let the words, "next time" ever cross your lips! Travel like it's the first and last time you will ever be there, whether it's a day trip out of town or a cross-country adventure. Do everything, and do it NOW!
My favorite parts of this adventure are not the days we have planned, where we have a set destination for something I found on Pinterest. Nope, it's the travel days. The days between destinations; those are the times where the most memorable moments happen.
Some of these spots are spur of the moment drive-bys. You're driving and you spot something interesting. But instead of just pointing and saying "woah!", pull over, get out and explore! It only takes a minute or two but the memory will stick with you!
Other moments take a little bit of digging, and I really mean a little. As we roll into a new town, I do a simple Google search: "Things to Do in ______". 99% of the time, it will pull up TripAdviser (I can only assume they pay Google quite well). It is definitely not the best site, but it is quick and easy. I usually check out their top ten to get a feel for the town, and do sub-searches from there based on what I find. If TripAdviser shows 3 really awesome hikes, then I will search "Best Hikes in _____". If it is a bunch of lame corporate factory tours and pioneer history museums, then I up the ante and throw in an explicative in the search engine. Seriously, search "Best Pizza in ____" and you get boring ad-funded magazine articles and more god damn TripAdviser pay to display suggestions. Search "Best DAMN Pizza in ______" and you will get real people giving their personal standing ovation to the best of the best. It sounds ridiculous, but it works! Also, I tend to favor the opinions of people not afraid to swear in their excitement.
Using this super secret method we have found some of the best "locals only" spots. I mean, how often am I going to be in Rexburg, Idaho? So, duh, we are going to stop and spend the afternoon at this amazing waterfall swimming hole that is hidden literally 50 feet from the road!
Another helpful search is looking for local events. This method is especially successful under two conditions: 1) during the summer when there are tons of outdoor events, many of which are totally free! and 2) in small towns where pretty much everyone goes to the events, regardless of what they are, because it's really the only thing going on.
So far we have attended "The Bite of Bozeman," "Music on Main" (Bozeman), a concert by some 'famous' country music star (Idaho Falls), an annual music festival called "Riverfest" (Pocatello) and a bluegrass brewery show (Pocatello). All were free! Even when it wasn't our jam, it was fun to people watch and experience a bit of the local culture!
So there you have it! Don't skip the sideshows along the way and do a little research so you don't miss the hidden gems! Road trip perfection <3
It's our country's very first National Park, and it is grand... but not in the ways you think. Here's a rundown of expectations vs. reality and a super cute video of us being dorky tourists!
Yellowstone, in my book, is famous for two things: this guy pictured above, known worldwide as Old Faithful, which actually looks more like this....
Two rows of bleachers in a semi-circle, surround the famous site. There is no way to take an interesting, unique photo of Old Faithful and even if you could, I am sure one of the hundreds of visitors EACH eruption would likely score the same shot. Don't even get me started on the dully unoriginal dad jokes heard from EVERY WHITE MALE in earshot. *Old Faithful shoots up some steam for a second or two* "Oh there it goes, that's it. Time to go!" *Geyser in the distance erupts* "We picked the wrong one! We should be over there!" Now chorus those original thoughts through 20 or so oh-so-proud-of-themselves men. Don't forget the overly pushy tourists that come by the busload. Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were important. Let me step aside so that YOU can get that unoriginal shot right in front of me, thank you.
The second on the Yellowstone "It" list are the brightly colored thermal pools, which on Instagram look like this...
And here is the classic case of expectations verses reality...
Now, I am no photographer. I point and shoot with my archaic Samsung Galaxy IV that likes to shut itself off randomly throughout the day and basically needs to be plugged in 24/7. But come on Yellowstone, come on! Even in person the view is not too much more grand than the "before" photos. It's cool, don't get me wrong. It's just, the hype, the National Geographic photos, the Instagram casual selfies; I expected more.
If you're wondering how I turned "blah" cellphone snaps into "wow!" photos, let me introduce you to my favorite app. My photographer extraordinaire friend, Jana Obscura, let me in on a little secret called Snapseed (available for both Android and Apple). Okay, it was rated one of the Top 100 Best Andriod Apps of 2015 PC Magazine, so I guess it's not that big of a secret. Still, Snapseed is a free app that allows you to edit your photo on your phone and requires little skill to navigate. My favorite aspect is the ability to adjust the brightness, contrast and saturation of a specific part of the photo. Most photo editing apps just apply the effect to the entire photo, Snapseed is the first I've found that gives you more control.
Back to Yellowstone-- despite my disappointment with the "It" list, there are some really awesome aspects to the park. There are plenty of stupid, stupid tourists trying to take waaaaay too close selfies with wild bison. And even better, away from all the people is a much underrated, gigantic and glorious canyon. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a picturesque fall reviling Snoqualmie Falls, pouring into the lush counterpart to the national park of the same name, the Grand Canyon. It's beauty feels unreal. No fancy photo editing required :)
And here it is, the cheesy and adorable video to entertain you all and perpetuate the Yellowstone National Park mis-expectations!
This post is a little different. There aren't any national parks in perfectly framed photos. No, this is a gritty tale of ramblers, rad homeless encampments, punk rock and meth addicts. You've been warned, enjoy!
Let's start with the neighborhood. We moved into the Walmart parking lot, for what we thought would be a night, maybe two. Thanks to the pup, we quickly made friends with Ross, who inhabits this American gem pictured above, with his two lady pitbulls. We quickly bonded over the dogs, and Jeffrey and I began referring to him affectionately as "the neighbor". Ross picks up the trash left in the parking lot, makes sure to give people a heads up when the cops are trolling the neighborhood and even watches over our home when we go explore. There was also a weird guy living out of his 90s Suburban. He was not super cool by any means, but Rally loved to say hi and he become apart of the neighborhood too. Our other neighbors were more fleeting. A young traveler with a cat on a leash stayed for a few nights, a minivan crammed with five or six large 20 something year olds traveling to "Tennessee... then around the globe over and over". Slowly but surely, we had a collection of old rvs, handmade campers and makeshift homes on wheels, pushing the modern giants to the center of the lot to bake in the hot concrete jungle. (It's okay, they all have air conditioning anyway).
Okay, so we had the neighborhood set. Now it was time to find the punks. I hunted the interwebs for anything resembling a punk show, and badda bing! I discover this place called The Whistling Pig. Okay, this place is a Korean restaurant in downtown Bozeman, that does rad shows after-hours. Unfortunately, the really cool show I found was about 4 weeks out. But, I wasn't about to stop there. I hunted down the place, went in, found the owner and asked if he knew about any good shows in town. Man, did I luck out!!! This guy is a walking encyclopedia of every band, venue and show in the Bozeman area! He told us about 4 different shows in the next 2 days, with a quick breakdown of each band's style. He opted for his suggestion, the open mic at the Haufbrau with a touring band.
Well, it turns out that "open mic" in Bozeman means real bands! It was a crazy mix of a jam band, a few hippies, a dynamic duo playing acoustic crust Cannibalistic Vivisections (spoiler alert: they become our best friends) and a bad ass touring band from Oakland, Butanna, that melted everyone's face with politico-fem-crust punk! I fan-girled hard on Butanna, but luckily I wasn't alone-- Katie and Tyler of Cannibalistic Vivisections fan-girled right along with me! In fact, Butanna was playing a show 2 days later in a town a few hours away. Katie invited us to join and the rest is history!
So we road trip out to Dillon, MT-- a small town in the middle of nowhere-- to a cowboy bar with about a dozen rad locals and a bunch of not-so-cool and not-so-regular small town folks. It was another uniquely Montana experience. A folky opener, the lone punk of Dillon who plays acoustic and harmonica, Billings' grind/crust band Locus and the aforementioned Butanna closing the night.
And I do mean closing the night. Like lying on the floor spinning on backs and champagne exploding everywhere. I kept thinking, "this town is going to hate us," but those regulars were spot on! They loved every minute of it as much as we did! At one point Jeffrey and Tyler had 7 cop cars pull up on them for play wrestling in the front of the bar. The sheriff ran Tyler down and threw him up against the wall, yelling, "You're laying here getting your ass beat and then YOU run away when we pull up? That's pretty suspicious." Eventually, we explained punk rock to the cop and he laughed, shook his head and let him go.
As the bar started it's last call, this stoic Jesus + Andrew W.K. looking guy invites us all back to his trailer park for the after party-- the whole bar. Apparently this is what happens every weekend here, and I am definitely okay with that!
And as if we are gluttons for punishment, we returned the next day to surprise Rum Rebellion on their first night of tour. Even better, our new bestest best friends Katie and Tyler got to open for them! It was a weird night, to say the least. About 20 cowboys rolled in punch drunk from a wedding party, bridesmaids in tow. They were disgusting sexists assholes so I won't spend anymore time on them. I deduced the ladies weren't much better after overhearing choice comments like, "OMG like don't talk to me, you've got GREEN hair!". THE BRIDE, however, was simply amazing! She hiked up her dress and tried her hand in the pit. Her best friend laughed nervously and pleaded that she "didn't know how to do it" when the Bride tried to get her to join. The Bride replied, "You just jump around in a circle!" Seeing that the friend wasn't quite convinced, I looked at her, smiled and said, "That's literally all there is to it!" She looked at me and said, "Well she would know! Okay!" They both jumped around, happy as could be. It was adorable.
You think the story ends there, but there's moooore!
Back in Bozeman, we kept stalking-- er hanging out-- with our friends, making a few new ones through them along the way. Cannibalistic Vivisections played another show with their buddies with the best band name ever, Hetero-phobia! After the show we went back to Tyler's, drank too much whiskey and malt liquor and partied til the sun came up, well almost. 5am, we head to the porch for the smokers to get their fix. As soon as we open the door we are met with a super stressed out lady clinging to the outside of the fence. Tyler instantly starts asking if she's okay, if she's safe. She frantically asks if she can come inside. He agrees, she runs to the kitchen, starts hiding from the windows and sits on the floor, cradling her knees, hands firmly gripped on a kitchen knife and a hammer. She keeps telling us that "he" is after her. Tyler and Jeffrey check the yard and see a massive guy in a wife beater coming down the street towards us. Tyler waves his gun in the air like a lunatic and tells him to get lost. I'm sitting on the kitchen floor, holding this woman's hand (they hammer and knife are set aside) and listening to her confused, emotional words. "He's after me! He has a gun! He's trying to kill me!" she keeps saying. "We need to call the cops, I don't want you guys to get hurt. He's trying to KILL ME!" At this point, I'm drunk and trying to provide good feminist support. We call 911 together... I mean... this guy is trying to KILL HER. A while later, the cops show up (they sent ALL FEMALE COPS, just so you know... you know for lady problems, fucking PD). Well, the first cop comes in, and addresses her by her name (which I hadn't even known yet). Then, she addresses the cop by HER NAME. They have a casual conversation, bringing up past events over the last few days-- like this happens on a daily basis. The cop pulls me aside, tells me she has mental health issues and a history of drug use. I ask her if she poses any safety issue, I am told no, so we agree to care for her for the rest of the night.
After the PD leaves and things settle down, she tells us how her ex-husband isn't the one trying to kill her, but a hired hit man that has been following them on their "date" all night. Also he filmed her having sex as blackmail and he has hacked the last 6 i-Phones she has bought. At this point I ask her, "Do you use meth?" Her reply, "No. Never!" I tell her, "No judgment here, just wondering." "Oh! Well, yeah, I mean just a little earlier today. But you know..."
It all makes sense now. She slept off her night of internal terror and was on her way in the morning.
This is our lives now. We now know every dog park south of Great Falls and Rally girl is loving it!
Jeffrey and I LOVE that Rally enjoys playing fetch. I've never had a dog who would be bothered with games before. It's a lot of fun and after she's all tuckered out, she becomes the biggest cuddle bug!
She also swims, which is SO awesome! It took her a while, and she would only go as far out as I would. But, eventually her desire to chase her stick outweighed her timid-ness of the water! She jumped all the way in and was good to go!
Cheap eats, street festivals and puppy love! I think we found our temporary home away from home ❤
Bozeman, Montana, thank you! Thank you for a small town feel with the hipster comforts of the big city. Thank you for midweek music in the streets, food truck festivals, rodeos and music festivals. Thank you for giving us a thousand reasons to blow our trip budget having the time of our lives!
On our first morning in this lovely town, a family friend of Jeffrey's treated us to our first meal out in a while at the most adorable breakfast spot called The Western Cafe. It was a lot like the hipster restaurants in Seattle, or well most any city these days, expect that it was unironically kitschy and awesome-- and just $8 a plate!
The next day we went downtown to check out the area and grab a cheap dinner with the dog. I use BringFido.com, an awesome website that lists pet friendly places in any town, and was happy to discover Bozeman (despite Montana State laws) is quite dog friendly.
Well imagine our delight when we discovered Main Street downtown barricaded off, festival banners waving high across the street and a steady stream of happy people walking towards the entrance! We happened upon the Bozeman Food Truck Festival. It was a great collection of about 10 food trucks and a dozen or so booths from local restaurants-- and it was 100% dog friendly! It was our first chance to see how Rally would do around large groups and she did amazing! Jeffrey and I enjoyed sampling the local treats such as the giant slow roasted turkey leg pictured above, and Rally got a dog bone to munch on too.
The very next day, the same street was barricaded for "Music on Main", a weekly event held every Thursday all summer long. The music is bar quality cover bands at best, but at least it makes people come out and enjoy each other's company in the evening sun.
Also, I'd like to take this moment to say, Bozeman is one of the most liberal cities I've been too. It blows all my Montana stereotypes out of the water. We saw this guy putting up a banner that read, "The Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus". We immediately cross the street to take a picture, where the man, who introduced himself as Brian, told us it was a charity project. We donated $1 for a photo under the banner and trusted it would indeed go to the local food bank. Once home, I did some research on the internet, and this project just makes me so happy! Apparently, the Tea Party group from a nearby small town wanted to have a protest during the Main Street Fourth of July parade in Bozeman, protesting government spending and taxation. In Tea Party tradition, this also includes loads of racists and hateful picket signs. Ironically, this protest would cost the taxpayers of Bozeman just over $1000. Brain and 65 others gathered and created the Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus under the promise raise money to pay for the Tea Party protest street closures. They raised the money with an additional $1500, which was donated to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. Well, the dueling protests between the Tea Party and these "gay loggers" was too much for the city to handle, so they made a rule that only one organization could apply for a protest permit per day. Brain quickly applied for next year's Fourth of July permit, leaving the Tea Party guys straight outta luck. Well played Bozeman, well played.
The best thing about Bozeman, is that there is SO MUCH going on, we didn't even experience everything! We arrived just one day after the Big Sky Country Fair, the self-claimed largest fair in Montana State. While our stay, they had a big outdoor music and arts event called the Sweet Pea Festival. It was a bit out of our price range and genre, but again, it's great to see people coming out and enjoying the arts together. Then the next weekend they had the Bozeman Stampede, which I am kicking myself for missing! $13 for a seat in the grandstands to watch cow wrangling, horse riding and everything else I don't know about rodeos! We did manage to see the fireworks display from our RV spot in the good old Walmart parking lot.
All in all, Bozeman made us feel at home. The next blog will touch on a few of the great people we met during our stay. And we found punk rock, so it's gonna be good! Much love to everyone back home. As much as we fell in love with Bozeman, we still love Washington and miss everyone very much <3
It's good old fashion road trip feels for a while! Montana is a perfectly weird mix of epic natural beauty and podunk towns separated by odd historical markers, like The First People's Buffalo Jump State Park.
Case in point, here in East Glacier we found, not the world's largest spoon, but the world's largest PURPLE spoon (maybe). No need to get the lawyers involved on this one, folks. Just a maybe, no official Guinness book mumbo-jumbo.
I pushed all the little kids out of the way to try my hand at riding in the saddle at the visitor center. Okay, there wasn't much competition. But, I still FELT like a kid 😊
Soon enough, we made it to the fairly large city of Great Falls, MT. I think we were both relieved to be in a "real city" again, so we made it our home for about a week. Great parks, lots of Pokemon Go stops and full cell reception. We got some new parts for the RV (air filter, carburetor and spark plugs) and turned the Walmart parking lot into a makeshift shop.
It has been pretty dry in Montana this summer, according to the locals. Just outside of Great Falls, a hay field caught fire. This is the view from the Walmart parking lot, probably 20 miles away from the source. Everything was dark and the air whipped past. Dry lightening storms flashed all around us for 3 nights.
But, with fire anyways comes furiously gorgeous sunsets. This one is about 5 minutes outside the city alongside the shore of a mud pond.
And again, another beautiful sunset at the Lewis & Clark trail monument at the Great Falls visitors center, where the old ladies were all in a tizzy over a French couple "sitting here for HOURS using the WiFi". Haha, I tried to explain how happy I was when we found free WiFi in Canada, but they clearly didn't understand. I changed approach and said it is useful to pay bills and check work email while on the road, because "real life doesn't stop when you're on vacation". This tactic had marginal success, and I tried to keep a straight face until we got out the door and stated cracking up😂😂😂
For those who don't follow us on Facebook, a very exciting addition was made to our family last week! Introducing Rally, our shelter rescue, seven month old pup. Her paperwork says she is "retriver mix" but we're more convinced she's a beagle-pit-cattle dog mix. A true loveable mutt.
We had planned from the beginning to adopt a dog while on our journey. It might sound crazy to add a dog to our tiny living situation, but with both of us on permanent vacation for a bit, we knew we would have a great opportunity to bond, train and love Rally without real world time constraints.
Most shelters recommend taking "a few days off" from work to help establish basic boundries and bonding. But, with a pup who was found at 3 months on the side of the road, brought home and loved by a family and then turned in to a shelter at 7 months, we are very thankful to have a few months with her all to ourselves. Her seperation anxiety is out the roof, but with time, she will know she has her forever-home.
And really, isn't exploring the great outdoors just the best way to bond with your new furbaby? Plus, her seperation anxiety has made her a very good off-leash companion. We can't get more than 4 feet away from her before she come barrelling after us!
Even better, our tiny living provides two great situations for us and Rally.
#1 - When we're home, she is ALWAYS within eyesight. Training is much easier when we can catch her in the act, or if we are lucky BEFORE she even does it. We don't have any surprises waiting for us in the next room (there isn't any other room!) and all consequences for boundry breaking are immediate and focused.
#2 - Because our home is tiny, we get outside more. She gets her morning walk and play with Jeffrey, then a bit of quiet time while we get ready for the day (checking email, catching up on social media, blogging). After that, we are out and about with Rally until sunset. We love being the only ones in the off-leash dog park at dusk! It's a great way to test her off-leash skills with us in a safe enviornment. By the time we get home after sundown, all three of us are tuckered out and ready for sleep.
It seems like a pretty good match for all of us!
Hey guys, look. .. we made it! No tow truck needed this time! Alright, the Crust Bucket isn't exactly problem free, but she got us to Glacier National Park. We came across the eastern side of the park, and had a nice but somber drive through old forest fire remains, skeleton trees that once stood proud and tall prior to the 2006 fire. It was particularly moving for me because my first and latest visit to the park was in the summer of 2005. So much had changed, and so little had been replenished in the last ten years.
Once we set up camp, we took the little truck on the infamous "To the Sun" route, the only major road that allows visitors to drive THROUGH the middle of a national park! Unlike the eastern side of the park, the western side and inside the park itself are full of life. The dark greens of the pines contrast sharply against the clear blue skies and stately grey glacier mountains.
We drove to the summit of Logan's Pass, where a very silly, bickering and adorable old couple took a photo of us in exchange for theirs. I looked at them admirably as we walked away, smiled at Jeffrey and said, "That'll be us someday." He laughed and said, "Pretty sure it already is," and immediately recoiled to brace himself for the punch I delivered to his nearest arm.
And just before we were about to head back down, I FINALLY saw a mountain goat-- which I had been clamoring on about for days! Look how freaking majestic he looks!
However, the icing on our glacier treat was by far the romantic mountain top star gazing adventure. My phone camera isn't much once the sun goes down, but let me tell you-- it was one of the most beautiful and memorizing sights I have ever enjoyed. The Montana sky, so large and clear, not a cloud in sight. And dark too! It took forever for the sun to finally fall behind the mountains and over the horizon, but when it did, boy oh boy! Darkest night I've ever seen. The stars just kept coming and coming the darker it got. Satellites too, flying by like tiny fireflies on a mission. We even saw a handful of shooting stars! It was magical, really.
That's all for now. Thanks to everyone following along on our (mis)adventures! Glad we could share a happy story with ya'll this week. Up next: Central Montana!