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Archive for August, 2009


Outside Magazine just declared Colorado Springs the number one best city in the country. (As they maturely state, “It’s simply a pretty awesome place to live.”) Passing through Colorado Springs we only saw the Scenic Office Parks of I-15 as we drove around in vain looking for an Airstream dealership that moved months ago but never updated their website.

We agree that the best thing about Eastern Colorado is the tiny town of Trinidad at the base of the Sangre de Cristos. “Oh, I know Trinidad well,” said Ralph’s mother when we later told her we found it to be the cutest place we visited (this should tell you something about our route).

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When I moved to Portland twenty years ago I thought the Oregon Trail was, well, in Oregon. I’m embarrassed that I was surprised to encounter historic aspects of the trail (and signs of Lewis and Clark) in almost every Western state we visited.

Fort Laramie in Wyoming is (according to the Smithsonian Guide to Historic America, our roadtrip reference bible) one of the West’s most important forts. As a trading post in the 1840s it became a popular stop on the Oregon Trail, one-third of the way to the promised land and the first place to swap an ox in 300 miles. Today, it’s restored to appear the way it looked back in the day and “provides a glimpse of a bygone military era”.

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i’ve got one just like it in my living room

Close Encounters has been on my Top 10 Favorite Movies list for 35 years so I was predictably excited about visiting Devils Tower, our nation’s first national monument. As we drove through Wyoming I waited for it to appear on the horizon the way I did as a child in the 60s approaching Disneyland, watching from the backseat of the family Studebaker for the first sighting of the Matterhorn.

As one explores the world it’s interesting to note how the natural and manmade wonders you’ve come to know in photos and films hold up to face-to-face scrutiny.

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foldable favorite: tikit bicycle

Ralph ordered a new bike to arrive just in time to take on the road trip. He chose a Tikit from the many Bike Friday models because it folded down the smallest and quickest.

Back up. Why a folding bike? Commuters ride them into work and park them under their office desks. Cycle tourists stuff them into a special suitcase (that converts to a luggage trailer), check them on airplanes, and ride around Europe. Ralph slips his into the pouch it comes with and the Tikit travels from campsite to campsite on the bed of the DWR or on the backseat of the tow vehicle. He pops it out whenever the scenery or the mood strikes him to ride.

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journey to the center of america

The wind blew so hard driving into Pierre South Dakota we nearly ran the DWR into a pasture. (Fun fact: it’s pronounced “peer”). Other drivers passed blithely by without seeming to notice but I was frantically searching on the iPhone for tornado warnings.

The next day the wind died down and we left behind a perfect morning at the country’s most retarded state park. Oahe Downstream Recreation Area has two kinds of signage: none or misleading. “Stop! All Campers Must Register at the Visitors Center” reads a small marker posted in the middle of a road where there is no structure or sign of life.

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detroit lakes minnesota

Ralph’s mother, a travel writer, has a lovely home on the water in Detroit Lakes—an unpretentious town with an intimate community surrounding two appealing little lakes where families from Fargo and Minneapolis have been summering for generations. We timed our visit to avoid the two annual events that overflow the local campgrounds with rowdy fans: WeFest, the largest country music concert in Middle America (which the locals call “Drunkfest”) and the 10,000 Lakes Music Festival (“Drugfest”).

When we arrived, DL was just recovering from 10KLF (“Minnesota is the land of ten thousand lakes,” explained Ralph’s mom, “but there are more depending on how many potholes you count.”)

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Seventeen days, 4740 miles, 11 states (not including four feet of Arizona), 510 snapshots, I-don’t-even-want-to-think-about-how-much-spent-on-gas, and one emergency vet visit: Summer Roadtrip 2009 has come to a close. Ahead, seven loads of laundry and nine blog entries to compose. Be back soon.

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