or A STUDY IN GRAY – Day 4

DAY FOUR – Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sioux City, Iowa to O’Fallon, Illinois

Cross Country Map - 4


The day started out great…not!  We missed a turn and found ourselves in Nebraska.  Looks a lot like Iowa.  We quickly corrected and got back on track for the next leg.

WIND, lots of WIND.  Iowa is soooo flat.  It happened to be stormy as well and the wind whipped across those flat lands.  We pulled off briefly so Katie could take a break from wrestling with the steering wheel. Mr. Bill also pulled off.  Keeping the truck and trailer in one lane proved exhausting.  At one point we noticed a north-bound tractor trailer hauling half of a prebuilt home and were amazed he could stay on the road.  Apparently he couldn’t.  Fifteen minutes later Mr. Bill saw the house on its side in the median strip.

Seeing the storm front paralleling the highway as it moved towards us was rather frightening and awe-inspiring.  We all had it in our minds that tornado season had begun and we regularly scanned the sky for funnel clouds.  None made themselves apparent, fortunately.   Many sky pictures were taken, though.

Passing through Council Bluffs, we passed under an overpass with very aggressive sculptures on either side of the overpass.  Anyone know the story?

We continued on into Missouri to Kansas City, where the driver had a strong desire for Chipotle.  As a result of detouring, we missed a turn once in the city and took the scenic route through Kansas City, Kansas, then back into Missouri, we think, where we dined.  Back into the car we got and found our way onto the highway, this time I70.

Passing through St. Louis, I did get a picture of the Arch, but not the greatest.  The day was cloudy so the silver arch blended with the sky.  We spent the night in O’Fallon, IL just east of East St. Louis.  We were treated to a burger and frozen custard from Culver’s – delish and a great finish to day four!

This is how our day began…

8360 the day begins

A storm was blowing in from the West.  We watched as it grew closer, then engulfed us…

Storm's A'coming

Storm’s A’coming

Running Parallel

Running Parallel

Almost Upon Us

Almost Upon Us

We Are Engulfed!

We Are Engulfed!

Council Bluffs, what do the angry sculptures on this bridge represent?

8380 Council Bluffs IA Bridge Sculpture

Heading south and east, the landscape began to roll.

8397 Hills toward the East

Hunting Chipotle in Kansas City, Missouri or Kansas.  We just couldn’t tell!

8404 Which KC

An old barn because it was a little brighter and it is picturesque.  😉

8420 Old Barn

The storm found us again.

8428 Still Stormy

St. Louis – the Arch on the way in and a cool bridge on the way out.

8434 St. Louis Arch

8437 Bridge out of St Louis

The day ended as it began – stormy.

8446 Lask Sky Shot


Father’s Day 2015

Another Father’s Day is upon us.  It always brings up a bit of confusion in my family.  My own parents are divorced so I struggled with loyalties for a time.

I expect my own children do as well.  There is the man without whom you would not exist, but who has not contributed as he could have (should have?) to their growth as human beings.  Much later they acquired a step-father who has been there for them in his own quiet, unassuming way through multiple moves in college and beyond, through auto disasters (can you say “engine puzzle in garage”?), and as emotional support for their mom.

Looking at dad’s from the being-a-parent side of the looking glass, rather than from the being-a-child side seriously changes my own perspective!

Here’s to the Step-Dad’s!

My Step Dad - Harrison Starbird

My Step Dad – Harrison Starbird

My Husband - Bill Vandenbosch

My Husband – Bill Vandenbosch


DAY THREE – Monday, 3/23/2015

Gillette, Wyoming to Sioux City, Iowa

Cross Country Map Leg 3

Ever onward.  Continuing on I90 took us from Wyoming into South Dakota and into the Black Hills.  Rolling plains morphed into beautiful rugged mountains once again.  It was decided a side trip to Mt. Rushmore was a necessity.  We dropped off of I90 and took a rural route through the Black Hills.  I never connected South Dakota with oil and coal, but we were visually educated when we passed derricks, an oil refinery and a coal mine.  Often, trains of coal cars or oil tankers stretched as far as the eye could see.  The land seemed harsh and uninviting, but had its own beauty.

Mt. Rushmore was most definitely worth the detour.  We wound through the park and were dumbstruck at the destruction done by wild fires, including the Jasper Fire 15 years ago.  We stopped at Jewel Cave National Monument, but really didn’t have time for a tour.  However, we did get an awesome picture of a red squirrel!  🙂

From Mt. Rushmore, we continued out of the Black Hills and back onto the Great Plains and picked up I90 again at Rapid City and headed into the Bad Lands.  Again, what beautiful scenery, but so empty of civilization.

No trip through South Dakota is complete without a stop at Wall Drug, which we did.  We shared a delicious bison burger and fries, took the doggies for a walk, loaded them up and rolled on.  As we were passing one of the filming locations for Dances with Wolves, the shutter button was pressed repeatedly.  Further on we crossed the wide Missouri and passed a field of random sculptures.  If anyone has any information regarding those sculptures, please share!

At Sioux Falls, we headed south on I29 into Iowa and spent the night in Sioux City, IA

Into the Sunrise

7943 Sunrise

Oil Rigs and Coal Trains

7998 Oil Rigs

7935 Infinite coal train

A furry, red friend and wild fire destruction in the Black Hills National Park

8085 Rugged Black Hills

8049 Curious Little Friend

8040 Wild Fire Evidence

The majesty of Mount Rushmore and a rare pic of the elusive Katie.

8121 Mt Rushmore

8132 Katie sticking out tongue

Wide Open Spaces – The Great Plains and The Badlands

8255 Rock Ridge

8274 Badlands

It’s Wall Drug!

8209 Wall Drug

Do you see Kevin Costner?  Me neither.

8296 Dances with Wolves Set

The Wide Missouri and Sculptural Randomness

8322 Wide Missouri


8336 Metal Sculpture Nowhere

Iowa!  Sioux City, here we come. 


8341 Iowa



Thus ended our third day on the road.




An Unexpected Adventure – Day 2

DAY TWO – Sunday, 03/22/2015

Missoula, Montana to Gillette, Wyoming

Map - Leg 2

Map – Leg 2

My disclaimer:  With few exceptions, again most photos were taken at speeds in excess of 65 mph.  I may eventually figure out how to take sharp pictures at these speeds, but don’t hold your breath (I’m not).

Before bright and early we continued our trek on I90 through Montana’s mountains.  We dropped south to Butte and shortly thereafter crossed the Continental Divide, then continued on through Bozeman and Billings.  Not long after Billings, I90 dropped south and we slid into The Great Plains and Wyoming.  Seeing the landscape changing so dramatically over the past 2 days was awesome!.  Whether in the mountains or driving across the plains, what struck me most was the sense of bigness, of huge distances.  Yes, even the sky is big!

Gillette, Wyoming was our stopping point.  We spent the night at the Arbuckle Lodge in a very comfortable and well-appointed room.  The whole lodge was western-themed, right down to the bison head mounted over the fireplace in the lobby and the wagon in the front portico.

Culling the best and most interesting photos from the over 800 I took during the day was quite a chore.  After a major cutting, it was down to 110…still too many for one posting,   😉  Following are what I finally determined to be the most interesting/best of the best.

The day started with mist in the valleys

7110 Misty Mountains 7110

With the sun came wide open spaces and big, beautiful sky

7166 Wide Open Spaces

 7189 Really Big Sky

Sheep and Cattle farmers coexist

7406 Sheep 2

7510 Spring Calves

Landscape changes East-bound

7484 Desert Buttes

7524 Wild Fire

7637 Landscape Change

Yee Haw!  Wyoming, at last and rest-stop!  (479 miles down – 90 to go.)

7684 Yee Haw!


7703 Rest Stop Brook

We saw numerous antelope.  I took numerous 70 mph blurry pictures.  Finally, we pulled to the shoulder and took photos of a grazing herd.

7820 Antelope Herd

7808 Single Antelope

Rugged Steppe lands of Northeastern Wyoming

7839 E Wyoming Steppelands

Black Gold!  (in the front yard.  Why work the land when it can work for you?)

7886 Oil Derrick

Welcome wagon.

7920 Wagon

Put a fork in it, the day is done!

7927 Wyoming Sunset



An Unexpected Adventure – DAY 1

First, a disclaimer!  As much as I would have liked every picture to be sharp and perfect, I found that nearly impossible while shooting from a car window while traveling at speeds in excess of 65 mph, so I’m looking for a little forgiveness.  🙂

Although my write up begins with my youngest daughter’s cross-country move, in actuality, my adventure began in February with an unexpected visit to Arizona to help my eldest daughter who was recovering from a serious illness.  Initially I was to fly home before catching a flight to Seattle to get fresh clothes and other things I wanted for the next 3 weeks.  Daughter no. 1 was still not up to handling things on her own, so we decided I would stay a couple of more days, then fly directly to Washington State to help the youngest prepare for the move to Nashville.  I am happy to say she has recovered nicely!  A couple of days before our cross country trek, Mr. Bill flew out to help load the truck and drive it cross country (towing a trailer we found necessary to add).

DAY ONE – Saturday, March 21st

Port Orchard, Washington to Missoula, Montana

Cross Country Map Day 1

Cross Country Map Day 1

Such landscape changes!   From the towering evergreens and steep hills along Puget Sound on the Kitsap Peninsula we travelled to the rolling hills of the Palouse West of the Cascades and back into the rugged mountain ranges of Idaho and Montana.  Traveling from the Peninsula around Puget Sound there are constantly gorgeous water views and occasional peeks at the peaks of the Cascades ahead of us and the Olympic Mountains behind us.  My husband and I are used to the more gentle mountains of Virginia and the East Coast and found the views to be stunning and fascinating.

On this first day, we picked up I90 in Washington on the Eastern side of the Sound all the way to Missoula, Montana where we spent the night.  We climbed through the Snoqualmie Pass, then down through the Palouse and across the Columbia River, continued through Spokane and across the panhandle of Idaho south of Coeur d’Alene and into the Bitterroot Mountains and thence into Montana where we headed in a Southeasterly direction through the Rockies to our day 1 destination.

Now for the pictures!

Leaving the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsula – pics taken before.  It was raining as we left – go figure!

Cascades to the west of our starting point

Cascades to the west of our starting point

Puget Sound Waters

Puget Sound Waters

Sunshine east of the Snoqualmie Pass!

East of the Snoqualmie Pass

East of the Snoqualmie Pass

Basking puppies

Sleeping Beagles

Sleeping Beagles

As we came out of the mountains, we passed into a flatter area lush with grasses. 

Landscape Change

Landscape Change

The Palouse

The Palouse

Windmill Army

Windmill Army

Crossing the Columbia felt like real progress!  There was a stunning life size sculpture of wild horses galloping across a ridge on the Eastern side of the river beckoning us into the Old West. 

Columbia Crossing

Columbia Crossing

Wild Stallions

Wild Stallions


That old west feeling was very strong as we passed herds of cattle and were assaulted by tumbleweeds.  Fencing lined both sides of the interstate as well as the median between the East-bound and West-bound lanes.  Initially we thought it was to contain the cattle, but in reality it was to capture blowing tumbleweeds.

Arrested Tumbleweeds

Arrested Tumbleweeds

Spokane kind of snuck up on us when we crested a hill.

10 Spokane

Soon after we crossed the border into Idaho.  We drove around Coeur d’Alene back into snow topped mountains.

Stormy Coeur d'Alene

Stormy Coeur d’Alene

Idaho Mountains

Idaho Mountains

Crossing Idaho into Montana was quick.  The mountains seemed to get higher and the sky bigger.

Montana Mountain Vista

Montana Mountain Vista


Big Sky

Big Sky

Stay tuned for Day 2 next week!

Washington State – Shades of Green

This is the last post of the last trip out to Washington state . . .I promise!

Something that strikes me anew on every visit is how GREEN it is. Virginia, where my home is, is very green even in the hottest part of the summer. But it has nothing on the greenness of the Olympics and the areas around Puget Sound. Of course, I have never seen so much rain either! I think the green and rain are linked. Just sayin’. 😉

Layers of Green (another pic of Mt. Rainier)

Layers of Green (another pic of Mt. Rainier)

The amount of moss is astounding to an Easterner such as myself. There is a whole industry delegated to the removal of said moss from roofs. Those moss bubbles look so soft, almost velvety. And there are lichens. The mosses and lichens like roofs, rocks, even fences. I took a close up of the variety of mosses/lichens between two fence slats next to my daughter’s driveway. The space is only about 2 inches wide. Look how many colors and varieties!

Soft Bubble Moss and Fence Lichens

Soft Bubble Moss and Fence Lichens

Speaking of green, this little lake reflected back – not blue sky, but the surrounding greenery.

Green Reflections

Green Reflections

Tromping through a tree line to get a closer look at a river, were vines and more mosses on the woodland floor.

Woodland Floor

Woodland Floor

This lichen looked like spaghetti to me and this shade of green is just gorgeous!

Rainier 2 Green Spaghetti Lichen 2

Lastly, the yellow of the turning leaves against the darkness of the evergreens is so vibrant! It took lots of clicks to pick up that vibrancy. I hope it is reflected properly on your computer screen.

Rainier 2 golden tree

Thank you for letting me share with you!

Mt. Rainier, Finally – Part Two

Per my previous post, after spending much time taking pictures from Sunrise, we headed back down the mountain.  The switchbacks are awesome.  Although aware that the road is steep, it really brings it home when you can look up at the spot you were mere seconds before!



Upon reaching the main road, Katie said, “Mom, you need to see this!”.  So, instead of heading back, we went the other way.  A few miles up the road, we came upon a little mountain lake.  It was so quiet and serene.  On a warmer day it would be a perfect spot to picnic.  Naturally, the camera turned itself on!

Mountain Lake

Mountain Lake



After wandering around and taking pictures, we really did head back down and towards home.  Every so often we pulled off to take in more scenery, including Mt. Rainier.  Please forgive me my many photos of the peak.  Since this visit, Katie’s life is undergoing changes.  Her husband has taken a job in Nashville and she will be joining him there as soon as their home sells.   Although I plan to help with the move, I won’t have an opportunity to see the mountain up close again.  So glad I took so many pics!

A bit further down the road was a pull-off where you could look back at the mountain with the river running below and the opportunity to capture the infinite mountain ridges.

River From On High

River From On High

Ridges to Infinity

Ridges to Infinity

These next three photos show how closeups of a particular feature changes perception.  This first picture is a distant shot of the peak.  Note the “bump” to the left of the main peak.

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier

The zoom on the camera shows that what appeared to be a tiny bump is actually quite large.



And the max zooms shows that that feature is enormous.  That ridge looks sharp enough to cut!

Up Close and Personal

Up Close and Personal


Continuing on down we drew even with the river, and yes, we stopped again and explored a bit.  Katie is so patient with her Mom!

Bubbling Waters

Bubbling Waters

The flora is so different from home I had to take a couple of close ups.  The lichen is such a beautiful shade of green, I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate the color in my home.  The Aspen leaves turn a rich golden shade.

Spring Green Lichen

Spring Green Lichen

Golden Aspen Leaf

Golden Aspen Leaf

Lastly, back in the car and no more stops.  “You get what you get from a moving car, Mom.”

The road home:

Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound

And the rest of the ride was a blur:

Take..Take it...Quick!  It's Just a Blur.

Take..Take it…Quick!

Where have your travels taken you?