August 30 - Minneapolis
WOW - so behind still! Considering the Rapid City tire fiasco, I somehow still managed to make it to MPLS on the day I'd originally planned. It was a very long, 11 hour drive, but I made it! I spent my weeks the spare bedroom of a woman's apartment in a town outside the city called Monticello. It was quaint and comfortable, but not without oddity. The owner of the apartment was... I'll just say unlike anyone I was used to.
First things first, she was very friendly and welcoming. She gave me a tour of her home and let me know that I could treat it like my own and be comfortable. She had a home gym setup in the living room, which sparked an instant curiosity in me, as my fitness has become a critical part of focus over the last few months. We chatted about health, fitness, yoga, meditation, etc - all things that we have shared interest in. I asked her, as a local, what she recommended I check out, and how the COVID restrictions looked around these parts. She proceeded to share that she thought the "whole thing" was bullshit and masks weren't required anywhere, "thank goodness." "I never wore a mask, and I've been perfectly fine. The way I see it, mind over virus! Those who stress so much about it are bound to get sick because stress depletes the immune system. I take my health very seriously and I've managed to not contract it, even while not wearing a mask." My internal reaction: 😲😒😨🤯. Oh. Hell. What have I gotten myself into? Needless to say, I pretty much hunkered down in my room anytime I was "home" and avoided conversation as much as possible. Normally, I would be likely to try and engage in a discussion about these things, but given that I was living with her, I avoided it. Count this as the first time my PNW progressive (read: I believe in science) bubble had been popped by someone in my immediate vicinity that I couldn't just walk away from. There was another conversation at another point in the trip where she told me that sexism and racism in the workplace were self inflicted. BYE.
Outside this chaotic mental gymnastics, I enjoyed my stay and appreciated the neighborhood for what it was. I've been enjoying towns outside of the big cities and venturing in when it suits me.
A Girl About Town
Remembering George Floyd
July 27 - A Quick Return
It seemed only fitting that after hitting a milestone, back in mid-June, I should probably head back to Seattle 😋 After my visit to Rapid City, I decided to skip Sioux Falls fly home. Two of my closest friends were having moments and I felt compelled to return, even if just for a brief time. My intention was for both of these friends to be completely surprised, but one needed the news a little sooner than the other 💙
There were several firsts involved in this trip that made it a little more difficult than your average 3 hour flight. First, I hadn't been on a plane since Feb 2020. Obviously everything was different now, and while fully vaccinated, it was still really nerve wracking to make that kind of move. I have been on long and many a flight but it felt foreign to me. It was also my first time flying with Blue! I had to find him the right size carrier, ensure his anxious little could handle it, and that we wouldn't struggle through any significant inconveniences while without Tesha and all our stuff. And finally, what to do with Tesha! I decided to park her at the airport in long-term parking against my better judgement...but what else was I going to do with her?
Long story short, everything was perfectly fine and worked out extremely well. There was the part that upon returning to Rapid City, I found Tesha with a totally flat tire and got to have the great experience of getting towed, grabbing a last minute hotel, and then stressing over "am I going to have to buy 4 new tires tomorrow?" Fortunately, I did not, and we were back on our way with only about a 5 hours of schedule.
My dear soul sister was having a really tough week. I'd already had the trip planned, but I let her in on the secret to give her something to look forward to. The distance was dreaded for us, and has been tough at times, but we agree that we're spending more time 'together' (texting, video calls, etc) than we did when I was 2 miles away! So while that's been working okay, we both needed to hug each other while there was just a lot of heavy shit going on in both of our lives. I stayed at her house, we did some lunches, dinners and walks together like old times (a whole 6 weeks ago 😂) and it filled our souls to the brim (sorry sis, I'm speaking for you too on this one!)
One of the coolest parts of our time together was accompanying her for her FIRST TATTOO. I'm no stranger to ink and she's been nervous about it as long as I've known her, so this was a big deal. You'll see in the pictures that we each got something special to us - she got "Breathe" in a spot she can always look at, and I got "Dream On Little Dreamer" over my heart.
A reflection on this relationship: for as long as we've known each other, it's always been special and got deep quick. It's evolved over the years from I felt was mentor mentee/ big sis little sis to a true life partnership. We're two sides to the same coin, and I feel that we've both taken the best parts of each other and made them part of ourselves. I loved sharing this experience (and every experience together) with her and it's certainly a highlight of the trip so far, even though I was back in Seattle!
Moment #2 was my best boy's birthday! While not a milestone perse, it was still a perfect excuse to adventure back home. As per is tradition, another friend and I ordered a vegan cake from Cakes by Squirrel, tasty and customized with an inside joke. The two made plans to get together previously, and my dear one had no idea I was in town. Naturally, since I had Blue with me he was part of the plan too. I snuck over with our other friend, came in hiding behind him and let Blue run into the apartment. "What the Hell!?" was all I could hear from the entryway, but quickly followed by a big "SURPRISE" and lots of smiles and laughs and hugs. For the rest of the night, we imbibed on delicious food, wine, cake, and bullshit tv like I said, as is tradition! It was well worth the
Last but not least was Blue's birthday! This could have happened anywhere, but it did feel a little extra special since we were "home." He was treated with a cake, a new squeaky toy and many photos taken 😍 I love my little Baby Man!
July 18 - Right of Geographic Center
As of Rapid City, South Dakota, I crossed the center line of the US! This marks only 25% completion of the route, geographically, but still a milestone worth noting. I only spent a week here, with mostly specific sites I intended to visit. It's been one of the more unique and interesting spots so far for sure.
Badlands National Park
This place felt like Mars, if Mars had been terraformed (I assume). It was dry, hot, vaguely lush, and not super populated. Unlike the other parks so far, I didn't spend a significant amount of time hiking and exploring, as the aforementioned characteristics were a too rough. I managed to get out on a short little loop hike, and stopped more than a dozen times for photos and landscape admiration. Blue was with me this time too, so although pups aren't allowed to be on trails, we did sneak a few out-of-the-car moments together 🐾
Indeed, I paid $10 to park, walk 100 yards, and take a picture of myself side-eyeing and flipping off the OG white dudes of this country. Yeah yeah they formed the country, but as we all know this country is problematic AF. Tourist-must-do ✅
Chief Crazy Horse Monument
Okay now this monument was much more special and memorable. However, it's worth pointing out that Mt Rushmore took 14 years to complete, and Crazy Horse has been under construction for over 70 and is nowhere near completed. Like I said, we're problematic as fuck. I hope to see it finished in my lifetime, but we'll see....
He took up arms against the United States federal government to fight against encroachment by white American settlers on Native American territory and to preserve the traditional way of life of the Lakota people. He died resisting imprisonment.
There was one special part of the trip that was unexpected and took place right outside my Airbnb. I experienced, maybe for the first time in my life a serious thunderstorm - complete with lightning bolts, bone-shaking thunder, and hail. At first it was scary - it was nighttime and the sky was dark and cloudy with incessant flashes lighting up the whole sky, but when the bolts started appearing, it got fun and interesting. Blue in all his small-dog bravery sat on the porch with me for over an hour watching the sky rumble over and over. I could see other people coming out of their apartments or peering out their windows marveling at this natural fireworks show. I don't know if they were locals or visitors like me, but as someone who is used to the misty nonsense rain of Seattle, this was a welcomed interlude to the hot, dry days.
Skip to about the 1 min mark for the sound of a lightning bolt hitting the parking lot (not shown unfortunately) and me comforting Blue (and myself.)
June 30 - Wyoming (mostly) Wasteland
After my NW National Park tour, leaving Yellowstone, I continued on my eastbound path. Next up was Sheridan, Wyoming. Now, this was meant to be purely a stopover; a place for me to work during the week so I could stay put and then travel and explore on the weekend. Well... it was just that. I was only there for a total of 6 days, and frankly the weekend couldn't come soon enough.
First of all, I wasn't actually working (more on that in a later post) and I hadn't planned anything to do other than work and then move on. And it was GOD AWFUL hot. I hadn't experienced north of 80 degree temps since last summer in Tahoe. It was a dry, painful 97 with no AC, no fans in the house and nowhere to escape to since it felt like a nowhere 'city.' I will mention, the reason I picked Sheridan was two fold. First, there's a Supercharger there so I knew that no matter what I ended up getting up to I would have easy access to charging. Secondly, it was about halfway between Jackson and Rapid City, where I was headed next.
Despite the overall "this was a waste of time" vibe I felt about my week in Sheridan, there were some high points worth mentioning.
The lilac bush - right outside the entrance of this airbnb there was a large lilac shrub. The owner had put a little table and chair right up against the bush and this is where I spent most of my time when it wasn't sweltering outside. It smelled absolutely magical. I felt at peace sitting next to it, getting to experience the delightful fragrance anytime there was even a light breeze. Bonus detail: a week or so before I left Seattle, I got a new tattoo - it was Lilac & Gooseberries (if you know, you know). I'm in love with the artistry of it, and despite the undesireable circumstances of my stay, I still felt like I was meant to be there.
The yard - like the Missoula spot, there was a big field behind the house. This gave Blue and I easy access to fetch and zoomies time whenever we felt like. I would also drag his fluffy bed outside with me and he would curl up in it, or in the grass, while I admired the lilac. I feel grateful for this space as he's not a fan of the car, nor sitting around all day.
A catch up - I got a chance to have an extended video call with some of my oldest friends. It was one of those calls that you think might only be a few minutes long, on one topic in particular, but evolves into multiple hour life updates. I've known these two since middle school (they've been "married" since age 2005 and actually married since 2015). The intentional topics we started with weren't the most uplifting or positive, but I appreciated that despite time and distance, my gal pal still leans on me for certain perspective and advice. Mental health treatment, family drama, systemic racism and sexism to name a few. Eventually, her other half joined the call and we talked about work, career life, difficult people, etc. While it was rather heated (we were all riled up) I appreciated their ability to listen, weigh in, and support me with the little context I was able to share.
Devil's Tower National Monument
Devil's Tower earns its own section because it was one of my most anticipated visits in addition to the NPs. For years, I've seen videos and stories of people rock climbing up this strange beast of a rock formation, and it's fascinated me. It was going to be really hot on the date of my planned visit, so I got my ass out of bed at 5:30am (unheard of) to make the 90ish minute drive to arrive before the heat and the crowds arrived.
There's a 1.5 mile hike around the base of the tower, and it winds through some sparse woods, and is on a bit of a cliff that looks out over a nearby Western-esque town. There were only a few other pairs or small groups there, so I was mostly able to enjoy the solitude. There are tales of alien activity around the tower, so I wore my Grogu shirt, alien-eye glasses, put my hair in space buns, and got on theme. This was cute and all, but I learned when I got there that this time of year, near the summer solstice, is a sacred time for native tribes in, around and rom the area. The tower held more significance in those moments than a silly urban legend. I felt sort of stupid, but carried on and took some themed photos. Because of this sacred time of year, there is also a voluntary no-climb rule to honor the space. So no climbers. While I was originally hoping to see a few, I was actually glad I didn't.
It's a wild sight to see this large, geometric pillar coming out of the ground, all on its own. The cultural significance and peace I felt while there was an unexpected blessing.
June 21 - NW National Parks
Being from Washington state, I've been to my fair share of National Parks, State Parks, National Forests, etc. I was fortunate to be able to get out to the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park just a few weeks before I left, Mt. Rainier a few before that, and I spent time in North Cascades throughout college and the last handful of years.
It was only natural that I may visiting National Parks a main point of my travels. I don't plan to visit them all, but any that fall along my route or are not too far out of the way, I will absolutely be visiting.
During my first 6 weeks, I visited a different park every weekend! Here's the rundown...
Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier was first on my list and definitely my most anticipated. It's located in northern Montana, about 3 hours from Missoula. I trekked up there my second weekend of my stay.
Pups aren't allowed in NPs, so I had to board him - for the first time ever! I will admit that I cried for 15 minutes in the parking lot after I dropped him off while being consoled on the phone by a friend. He's a one year old little guy and it was scary to leave him! Spoiler alert: he was totally fine and as excited as he was to see me, he barely wanted to leave with me when I picked him up.
I secured a campsite about 20 minutes outside the park, at an RV Park/Campground. This is a perfect solution for an EV because with the proper adapters you can charge at the 30 or 50amps, which is exactly what I did. This was also my first time sleeping in the back of Tesha! I picked up a Tesmat, which is designed to perfectly fit in the back with the seats folded down. Throw some sheets, blankets, and my comfy bed pillow on there, turn on Camp Mode, and it's an absolute dream. The only thing missing is window shades to block the early morning sun, but nothing an eye mask can't solve.
As I was driving into the park, I was overcome with intense emotion. The views in front of me were awe-inspiring and I was struck with the reality that "I really am doing this" and I felt like one bad ass, independent B. It was incredible to be able to have a new, bold experience after the 14 months of lockdown in my 600sqft apartment.
Glacier implemented a reservation system this year because of the high number of visitors - fortunately I snuck in before the date this was set to start. Though, only about 40% of the main road through the park was open due to snow at higher points. On the first day, I drove as far as I could, intending to hike Avalanche Lake. Well, everyone else had the same idea. I turned around, headed to a different spot in the park and started up toward Fish Lake.
I'm not going to belabor this hike because the payoff was not really worth it. The highlight of the trek was that it was really steep, and a longer hike than I'd done in a while, but I pushed through and prevailed - a proud accomplishment for sure.
When I got done, I popped over to a lodge to grab a snack, sit for a while and admire the beauty that is Lake McDonald and the surrounding peaks. I decided to head back to Avalanche to try and sneak in that hike for dinner and sunset. The hike was only about 2 miles each way and I could see why so many folks prioritized it earlier in the day. Fortunately for me, I think I made the better call. As I crested the final slope to the lake, once again I was hit with intense emotion at the majesty. I really had no words, only tears. I walked along the shore for a while, trying to escape the crowd that was forming on the beach, found a large rock a little ways into the water and settled in. I brought my camp stove and a meal, made myself some dinner and hung out for about an hour until it started getting dark. To this day, this was one of my favorite moments & memories from this trip.
Day two was just a few hours of driving around in another part of the park, off the main road. I stopped to admire the scenes and take a few photos, then headed south out of the park and back to Missoula.
On the way out, I stopped at Glacier Distilling right off the highway. I intended to buy a bottle for one of my coworkers, and ended up doing a brief tasting and purchasing some for myself. Alex, the bartender was really friendly and knowledgeable, and we talked about his journey from Arizona to living and working in the parks in MT. Goals!
If you have a chance to journey out to Glacier - I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. Try to get yourself tickets to get through the whole park, and spend at least 3 days there.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The following weekend, I departed Missoula (sad face) and headed south to Victor, Idaho where I spent the weekend trekking back and forth Grand Teton NP!
Quick story before I dive into the park. During the drive, I had one of the scariest experiences of my life! Even though it was late May, the mountain passes between Montana and Wyoming were cold. Small detail about batteries, they do not do well in the cold. I had to fully charge Tesha 3 times (~300mi) and was nearly depleted between chargers, even though they were less than 150 miles apart. This sucked, but was not the scary part. On one particular pass, the higher I got, the lower the temperate. The coldest was about 23 degrees. The roads were only lighting covered with snow, but very incredibly icy. There were almost no other cars on the road, but I still had to drive very slowly. It was also snowing/sleeting and as soon as precipitation hit my windshield it would freeze. My windshield wipers crusted over with snow more than a handful of times, and I had to pull over and scrape it off so I didn't lose visibility completely. Mind you, I was dressed in leggings and Birks because it was 60+ degrees in Missoula. Anyone who drove by likely thought I had a death wish. So there I am, driving very slowly, watching my windows freeze over and my battery depleting quicker than I'd ever seen. Last thing I wanted was to get stranded in this scenario. Throughout the drive, I also lost traction a few times - something that is really hard to do in a Tesla. Granted, I was probably driving too fast for the conditions (no more than 40mph, but still). At one point, a small Uhaul truck sped past me on the left side, blasting my windshield with slush and grime. I could see and hear it crack and freeze almost immediately, right as I lost traction again. I say with no exaggeration that I was sure I was going to die. I screamed, white knuckled the steering wheel, leaned gently on the break and hoped for the best. Needless to say, I am very much alive, but I had to give the grim reaper a huge middle finger to get him off my back. Poor Blue was buried in his car seat under a blanket, and bless him, he was very consoling once I regained composure and dug him out of his hideout.
So anyway - I rolled into Victor, dropped Blue at his weekend getaway, and checked into my Airbnb. This time it was just an extra room in a house, given that I'd only be there two nights and gone most of the days. I snagged some food and promptly went to bed, a big next day ahead of me.
Jenny Lake is one of the most popular spots in Teton as it's easily accessible and beautiful. The first leg is a portion of the lake, plus two offshoots to Hidden Falls and Inspiration point. This segment of the trail was packed with people which is not ideal, but being alone in bear country doesn't feel great either, so I endured. After I finished the crowded areas, I continued around the lake. I only encountered a few people, but more importantly I encountered some cool wildlife. I'm disappointed to report that I did not see any Moose or Bear, but I did see some Bald Eagles flying around a burned tree, building a nest and soaring and diving around their space. It was nice to stop and watch them for a little while, enjoying the silence. I wrapped up the hike coming in at just under 9 miles. I drove into Jackson and found a dope spot with local beer and vegan pizza. My server saw my phone number on my reservation and we got to chatting about Seattle. He had the skyline tattooed on his arm and said he'd lived there for about 15 years. Homies!
Day 2 was rainy and shitty out, so a drive through the park felt like the right call. I turned on my favorite music, sang at the top of my lungs, and took it all in. A lot of the park was closed because it was early season still, but that made it nicer for me. The sun peaked out at various times, and I was actually able to get out and do another, short shoreline hike out at a distant visitor center. When I made it back to the park entrance, I picked up Blue and headed north again, back to Bozeman, MT. This was a stopover spot to hold me in place and give me a space to work until I went to Yellowstone the following weekend.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Finally, on my list of NW NPs is Yellowstone. This park is the most visited in the whole US and they do not have any crowd management solutions in place. I also went on Memorial Day weekend, in a semi-post-COVID time. I've been here before, in the winter, and had an absolutely incredible time - snowshoeing, watching the geysers, talking to Bison from afar, etc. This visit was nothing like that. It was basically Disneyland. I spent majority of my two days in my car, waiting in lines of traffic. I was fortunate to meet someone who worked in the park and we went for a walk around the Norris geysers at sunset. I got the full tour and local insights into the park. Outside of that, I ended my trip early because sitting in my car was not how I wanted to spend my day. On my way out of the park, I encountered a herd of Bison and spent a good hour watching them and taking photos. Truthfully, those two experiences still made the visit worth it. National Park Service, I beg you, please implement a res system for Yellowstone, or do like Denali does, and make the whole park a shuttle system!