Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 3

Even though today was our shortest day distance wise, I feel like we crammed 3 days of touring into the ONE day!!!!! Holy Smokes!

We stared out early (Char had school) in Monterey and HAD to take a quick jaunt down to the Bay for some early morning rays of sun (after the raining cats and dogs of the day before).

Then we hit the road! We took the Pacific Coast Highway 1 from Carmel to San Simeon-ish and enjoyed every single inch of this stunning drive. It reminds me so much of driving along the Amalfi Coast and the breathtaking views and vistas are indescribable!!! Please – if you ever have a chance to take this drive, you will NOT regret it!

Near San Simeon, we stopped along the road at a pull off so Char could go in the water, but we got a special surprise when we reached the burm….ELEPHANT SEALS – whole families of them!!!!!

We continued onward towards Hollywood (after a quick stop so Char could go in the ocean without disturbing the seals) and popped into Fox Studios for a quick picture, then we stalked Johnny Depp’s house (Char is VERY certain this is his house location), then we drove up to the Griffith Observatory for some sunset pictures and to see the “Hollywood” sign. We drove to Anaheim – where we went to Downtown Disney!!!!

See what I mean – it was a DAY!!!!!

Total Miles = 378 miles

States = California

Hours on the road = 12 including SO many stops!!!!

Average Temperature = 65

Coffees = not enough

Playlist = Hamilton and Switchfoot

Major Landmarks = Monterey Bay, Carmel-By-The-Sea, Big Sur, Hearst Castle, HOLLYWOOD & DISNEY!!!!!!

Gas bought = $78.00

Extras = Let’s skip this part (Downtown Disney – LOL)

Hotel = $88.14 – our cheapest stay so far – Holiday Inn Express in Garden Grove – it was okie dokie – but it was clean and safe and that is what matters – oh and the location was great!!!!

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 2

Back to school this morning before we hit the road for Char – she is dedicated – I’ll give her that!!! 5am wake up call to get on her classes on time!

When we left Northern California this morning, it was raining BUCKETS – like the raining cats and dogs type rain that you hear about! It made for fast pictures, dodging rain drops, misty photos, white knuckle driving and lots of laughs! We saw amazing redwoods along the way – a drive-thru tree (maybe with a Herbie car), drove a portion of the Avenue of the Giants, saw some elk, dreamed of seeing Bigfoot, and passed through some beautiful wineries on our way to San Francisco.

We arrived in San Francisco shortly after the skies cleared – just like the Golden Gate Bridge was waiting for us!!!! It was my first time seeing it and it was everything I thought it would be!!!! A great landmark to make time to see!

We boogied over to Lombard Street – you know the one? It is the famous zig-zag street in San Francisco… the pictures I took don’t do it justice, but we walked up and down the street, then drove down it! Char videoed the whole thing from the moon roof (don’t tell).

Finally, just after dusk, we arrived in Monterey Bay. We walked around a bit before checking in to our hotel – ordered takeout from Bubba Gump’s (Char was BESIDE herself – she LOVES Forrest Gump) and hit up an old school candy shoppe!

It was 19 years ago almost to the day that I arrived back in Monterey after Christmas break (Exodus) when I was stationed here in the Army. I met up with my new beau for a couple days before we both had to sign back in after our leave was over. We got married 3 weeks later and the rest is history. Monterey is a special place – I hope Char enjoys it, too.

Total Miles = 476

States = California

Hours on the road = 10 including lots of stops and detours

Average Temperature = 55 – getting warmer

Coffees = 2 (I could’ve used one more!)

Playlist = Quite a few chapters of Twilight and Hamilton (surprise!)

Major Landmarks =Giant Redwoods, San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, our old house in Seaside, CA, Cannery Row, Monterey Bay.

People not wearing masks in public places = This is CA – people where them even in their cars…while they are alone!

Gas bought = $37.00

Extras = $80.00 – trinkets

Hotel = Holiday Inn Express Monterey Bay/Cannery Row – a nice hotel – small – but fits the area – also a little dated on the outside, but we had a room with two double beds and it looked like it has recently been renovated – we had a nice stay. $100.14/ night

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 1

We departed northern Washington early – 5:41am – and started our journey south! We have a big trip ahead of us – 14 days of driving, sightseeing, and enjoying each other’s company.

On our way, we made a three hour pit stop at the Wildlife Safari in Winston, OR – we had a great drive through safari – then enjoyed some time with the animals in their small walk through park. It is really cute and they have a ton of cool animals!

We arrived in California just before dusk and drove through some massive Redwoods as the sun went down behind the rain clouds – and that road – Route 199 – harrowing in the dark and the rain – twisty and turny – but I bet it is gorgeous during the daylight!!!

This part of California smells good – like cedar and earth – we like it!

Total Miles = 643

States = Washington, Oregon and California

Hours on the road = 13 (including 3 hours at the Wildlife Safari in Winston, OR)

Average Temperature = 48

Coffees = 3

Playlist = Hamilton (this is a given), The Beatles, Paul Simon to include Sion and Garfunkel, Don Henley, Fleetwood Mac and Twilight, the book.

Major Landmarks = Grant’s Pass

Speed Traps passed = 0

Gas bought = $67.00

Extras = $25.25 for food and CA postcards (dinner for the next 8 days – we hit Chester Chicken as it was closing and they gave us about 4 pounds of chicken fingers). Wildlife Safari – $48.00 – entrance and postcards

Hotel = Holiday Inn Express, Klamath, CA – $101.14

Destinations with Daughters – What’s In My Car?

You might be wondering what on earth I packed for a trip across the country. Well, everything but the kitchen sink – almost (you should see the vehicle)!!!

  1. There are some things I couldn’t live without, like emergency equipment. Traveling across country during winter can pose some interesting potential pitfalls; cold weather, snow, ice and wind to name the biggies! I made sure we had extra gas, extra blankets, emergency fire starting gear, water, food, jumper cables, flares and an emergency battery pack.

2. Maps of all kinds. I love Google Maps, but when we left Minnesota headed towards Badlands National Park in South Dakota, all Google applications were down – including my daughter’s Google classroom! So, we opted for some old school technology – MapQuest! It worked until Google came back on line, but what will we do when there’s no internet? Even older school maps. When you are driving 3000 miles, you need Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.

3. Chargers and a set up Bluetooth connection. We have really been enjoying listening to whatever we want on our Spotify account. We have listened to Hamilton about 14 times, the 90s, the 80s, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Eagles, and some 60s. We have also enjoyed listening to a couple of books via Audible. It makes the miles go by even quicker and we have a lot of shared laughs and fun! Chargers – well, for phones, Chromebooks, tablets and anything else we might need!!! What would we do without our connection to the world?

4. Activities for passengers. I’m a teacher at heart, so this opportunity opened some doors to provide Char with some cool National Park and cross country activities to do on the road. Oh, and we have had a few Travel Mad Libs that have had us rolling!

5. Food. If you know me well, you know that I get ugly when I am hangry! And I need proteins – so the sweets that Char likes just won’t cut it for me! I need yogurts, cottage cheese, baby bells, bars and lots of water!

6. Sanitizer of all sorts…..Lysol-type wipes, Lysol spray, hand sanitizer, and way too many masks to chose from!!

So far, we have had everything we’ve needed! Here’s to the homeward bound journey – full of laughs, love, coffee and witnessing the beautiful people and sights of this amazing country we live in!!!

My Christmas Vacation, by Denise Smith

Well, you read about the whole trip west – and I’m hoping you will read about the trip back east – but I wanted to tell you what we did for our two weeks in Washington!

But first – here are a few pictures I took on the way TO Bellingham, through the mountains and down the other side into a land of green wonder! Really, the pictures cannot do this justice – just the moss COVERING the trees alone was spectacular!

Vacation – I did a lot of sitting around (it is not in my nature to just sit around!!!! It is hard to be bored for those of us always on the move), eating, visiting, eating, interspersed with a few fun outings!!

To start out with, when we arrived – the same day and just about the same time as the boys arrived, we brought with us the snow! They rarely have a white Christmas in the coastal northwest – but this year, we shared the love!

We saw some gorgeous sunrises!!!

We exercised our Second Amendment rights.

Along with those granted in the First Amendment (what could be more peaceful than $600 worth of fireworks to ring in the New Year?)

We enjoyed tubing at Mount Baker as well as Axe throwing!!! Super fun for all!!!!

We met new friends/furry family members – Lucy the Bernesedoodle puppy, and Griffey the German Shepard puppy.

We kept some old traditions alive (the kids lining up to peek in the door seeing what Santa left….)

Remember I said I ate a lot? This is Rio – I feel like she looks!

The past two weeks flew by – between the food, playing cards, visiting, cooking, grocery shopping and sitting around and playing on my phone, it was a fabulous vacation with family. We are so blessed to be able to spend precious time with our loved ones knowing that, in our eyes, the quality of time we get to spend together outweighs the quantity of time. Live life to the fullest! Words to live by (and love by) in this New Year! May it bring you health, happiness, joy, and adventure!

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Life on the Road

I know some of you are probably wondering what spending so much time alone with my teenage daughter was like – especially for 70+ hours in the car.

Well, I can tell you that is was fabulous! Char is easy going, and neither one of us are drama people, and all this time in the car, and together in general, allowed for some great topics of conversation. Over the past 10 days we have discussed in detail; eating disorders, boyfriend relationships, friendships, future plans after high school, slavery, the American Revolution (thank you, Hamilton – I love talking history), democracy, liberty, responsibilities of citizens, credit cards, financial responsibility, and how to love people even when they are frustrating.

I won’t say that she wasn’t hard to get up a few days (especially when she had to be on line for school at 5am Pacific time), and never mentioned being tired, but all in all, she was a great sport for the activities and experiences we had planned and game for it all with joy!

Now, I do not want you to think everything is always perfect – I admit to being very blessed in my life with my kids and hubby, and the ONLY point of contention we had was the night of the rodeo. I told her it was 7pm-9pm – so when it was 9pm she had it in her mind that we would be done (and Char is a very literal person) – BUT it was the first rodeo of the season and the schedule was running behind. Well, they hadn’t gotten to the part I was looking forward to most; the barrel racing. So, Char started to fuss about it a bit and even saying she would wait in the car for me (yeah, right!) so I got ticked and we left.

After some reflection and stewing about it, I decided that if there is a situation like this again, I will not cave in. I was not asking her to be unreasonable or unsafe and it was important to me that we stay. And I do think she would have enjoyed it. If this is the only thing I have to gripe about, I will take it gladly.

We all learn lessons through life – and this was one for me and for Char. I hope we find another rodeo!

I am really looking forward to our drive home – and NOT because I am looking to leave my in-laws!!! We just had so much fun on our drive out and I know we will have some even cooler experiences as we make our way home. I hope you’ll join us on our journey eastward. Until then, we wish you a New Year that is full of joy, happiness, and health!!!

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – The Tally

Some folks think that domestic travel is inexpensive. I can tell you that it is not. There are certainly ways to cut costs, and the money and language do not create a comfort zone barrier as they can in other countries, but US travel is expensive.

I have been sharing our costs and daily details not only to provide a bit of Jeopardy trivia, but also to give you and idea of what it might cost for YOU to make a similar trip (which I am fully equipped to help you do).

We decided to take the more expensive of our two vehicles (we took the RAV4 which has all-wheel/4-wheel drive instead of our Prius) for comfort but moreso for safety – the Prius is not known to do well in snow and we did have plenty of opportunity to drive in snow during our northern westbound trip.

I packed TONS of snacks and a cooler full of breakfast options for us and every day we either packed our lunch or Char made it for us while I was driving, with the exception of our lunch in Leavenworth. We paid for two breakfasts (at Yellowstone) and had three provided for us at the B&Bs we stayed in and for dinner, one night we ate at Olive Garden, four nights we ate in and cooked, one night (our expensive meal) we ate at Yellowstone, one night we got McDonalds and one night we did takeout. Dinner was by far our most expensive meal since it always required us to get some type of food – but the other meals we really saved.

We did purchase some travel trinkets on the road, but our other non-essential expenditures were our cross country ski trip ($117), the reindeer farm ($42), and a number of gifts we bought for family for Christmas here in Washington.

All told, here is our trip by the numbers.

Total miles driven = 3876

Total hours on the road = 71.5

Total States driven through/in = 16

Gas total = $360.33

Total food purchased = $433.64

Hotel and B&B stays = $1335.07

Trinkets and non-essential expenditures = $608

TOTAL for 10 days of cross country travel for two people = $2,737.04

I know this is not an insignificant sum, but compared to some other expenses we have happily accepted for recent trips, this one is WAY worth it (we loved our stay in Charleston – the Governor’s House Inn was a HUGE splurge for us because our original trip was to Europe, so we stuck with the same budget – and those four nights in Charleston were approximately $2000.00)

This was about $137/per day/per person – FAR less expensive than a nice all inclusive AND the best part?

70.5 hours in the car with my teen age daughter – priceless! (I write about this in another blog coming shortly…)

Take the road trip. LIVE your life. And this has absolutely nothing to do with COVID and convincing people to not be afraid – this is a LIFE thing! How many opportunities do we miss out on because of fear? I will not live that way and I truly hope to instill a sense of responsible adventurism in my kids. One of my all time favorite movie lines is from Shawshank Redemption when Andy Dufresne tells his buddy Red that folks should, “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin'”. I will live.

PS – my sister has a 3 year old and 5 year old and for her, the thought of being STUCK in a car with her little angels for this amount of time is paramount to purgatory – someday, Becks – the road trip will be for you, too. Love you!

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Day 9

Today is our last full day “on the road”, although we really aren’t traveling. We are spending the day in Leavenworth, WA enjoying the adorable town and then going to visit Santa and his reindeer at a nearby farm.

I love traveling because I learn so much….did you know that this cute little Bavarian town used to have a western feel? In the late 1960s, this old western town was severely feeling the loss of income and tourists when the rail industry decided it was done dealing with frequent avalanches in the area and moved their route around the town/region. So, in 1967, the BAVARIAN town was born out of necessity to sustain a booming industry of tourism. And boy did they hit the nail on the head.

I also want to give a huge shout out to our hosts here at Haus Rohrbach Pension. This adorable chalet, dropped right into this little Bavarian wonderland, was custom built in 1978 by the original owners after they toured the Bavarian regions in Germany. They saw an opportunity to capitalize on the thematic genius of this tourist town, bought 13 acres on a mountainside, and built Haus Rohrbach Pension (they were a family with 12 children – the hills are alive with the Sound of Music, anyone?). Mike and Carol, the current owners, visited this little slice of paradise through the years and purchased the property in 2000.

They have carried on many of the traditions that came before them and improved on others (breakfast is Mike’s “engineered” version of the Dutch Baby – his is magnificent with a soufflĂ© feel that is light and airy, yet filling and wholesome! Top that off with Carol’s home made raspberry preserves and breakfast is a thing of wonder). One feels as though they have entered a travel warp when they step inside this B&B – if I didn’t know better, I would think I was in Bamburg or Wurzburg, Germany on my river cruise again! When you step inside the quaint en-suite rooms, you may first get the impression that they are dated – but I can tell you from experience that they are SPOT ON with what you find in the Bavarian/Alpine regions for accommodations for travelers. If you have an opportunity to visit these fine folks, do not miss out! Oh and in addition to the amazing breakfast, they offer nightly desserts! Visit them at

This morning we headed to town to get some daylight snapshots of Leavenworth and also pick up a few gifts. We got some gluhwein – mulled wine served warm on a cold winter’s day – and enjoyed an al fresco lunch! I HAD to have bratwurst and sauerkraut (and rosemary sea salt fries) – and even though I am not a beer drinker, when in Rome….or Bavaria.

To top off this wonderful day, we visited the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm and fell in love! Not only were there chickens, draft horses, and reindeer, there were tiny ponies that just wanted to snuggle! Hubby – when can we get a farm?

Tomorrow we reach Babue and Papa’s house (Kelly’s mom and dad) and the “Waning West” part of our journey will be done. BUT, we still have our easterly travels to make – so don’t go far! Also, before the New Year, I’ll post a recap of our westward adventures to include a cost total and my favorite bits and pieces!

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Today’s food expenses – $75.00

Gifts for family and a few souviniers – $309

Reindeer Farm – $42.00

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Day 8

We left the Glacier area around 8:30 this morning to head further west. Our journey took us back through some mountains and valleys to Flathead Lake, Montana – and WOW – how beautiful!

Just off the western arm of the lake on route 28 I fell in love with a valley – I think this has to be my next home.

We hit the beautiful mountains of Idaho with the border crossing and crossing into the Pacific Time Zone. It is strange that there is a place where at the very same time it is 10am one foot to the east and 9am one foot to the west. Humans sure do try to control everything!

As we came out of the mountains we rolled into Washington (and this stinkin’ border sign was IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HIGHWAY – our last stinkin’ state sign of our journey west and it was in the middle – OY VEY!) and reacquainted ourselves with prairie lands. The vastness and diversity in our country’s topography has never been lost on me, but during this trip I have truly marveled at how one minute we can be cruising down a snow covered mountain pass and the next making our way through “amber fields of grain”.

We arrived in Leavenworth, Washington around 4pm Pacific Time. We checked into our Bed and Breakfast, met our hosts and boogied down into town to get a bite to eat. I don’t know if you have ever heard of Leavenworth, but it is a little Bavarian town plopped down in the middle of the Washington mountains. It is ridiculously adorable and during the Christmas season, it is ridiculously busy!!! Here are a few pictures from us walking around tonight – day pictures will be on tap for tomorrow.

Every mile that goes by I feel more and more thankful for this life I have been given and cherish each and every hour I have spent on the road with Char. We have had some pretty great conversations that I would never have had with her if we wouldn’t have been “stuck” in a car for so many hours together. I am so excited I get to drive east with her a couple weeks.

Another detail that hasn’t been lost on me is that I feel totally at home on the road. I have joked that I am a first world nomad – and I think it is true. When I am traveling I have time to search my soul – driving for hours and hours on end provides ample opportunity for such introspection. I wonder why I am so restless; always needing to be busy – why I feel underchallenged and underachieving and yet, overwhelmed in my daily life with mundane tasks. I’m not sure if these answers will become evident as I travel on, but I’ll keep an open mind and an open heart and continue to be in awe of this great country in which I live.

Total Miles = 462

States = Montana, Idaho and Washington

Hours on the road = 8

Average Temperature = 42 degrees

Coffees = 1

Playlist = Hamilton the Musical, Twilight on audiobook and Slathbog’s Gold

Major Landmarks = Flathead Lake, Montana (gorgeous), Spokane, Washington, Columbia Basin

Speed Traps passed = 0

People not wearing masks in public places = This was hard to judge mostly because of Leavenworth at night – most people I saw in crowds were wearing masks. (BTW – I am only commenting on this aspect of what I am seeing traveling because I think a lot of people are worried about how the rest of the country is handling the whole mask thing – personally – I don’t care if you wear a mask or not – let freedom ring – but I will wear mine in public – especially right now as we are traveling across country. I do not want to be exposing myself and others that we are going to visit to something I picked up along the way – but I do not have a specific personal commentary on the good, bad, and ugly of masks – I just want to be informative)

Gas bought = $52.07

Extras = $63.00 (snacks on the road, coffee and dinner in Leavenworth

Hotel = $309.88 for two nights. We are staying for two nights in Leavenworth, WA at Haus Rohrbach Pension – a quaint Bed and Breakfast style Bavarian chalet perched just outside of the downtown area of Leavenworth. Char and I are in the Windsong room – a sweet little room with a queen sized bed and a day bed for Char.

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Day 7

After a lovely night’s sleep in our little log cabin in Columbia Falls, we awoke to do a little exploring.

Much of Glacier National Park is currently untouchable due to weather (Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed past the northernmost point of Lake McDonald as is typical during winter), but we took advantage of what we could and did a little hike and marveled at Lake McDonald and the spectacular cedar forests that call this area home.

I couldn’t get enough of the small, colorful, smooth rocks of the lake. At its middle, it is blustery, but at Apgar (the lake’s southern end), the lake is super still.

This evening, we went to a rodeo!!! It was so much fun and I had the best time! Even though we were strangers in a strange land, I felt at home – America honored throughout and God revered in public. Not everyone would agree with me, but that is why we live in America.

It is really hard to capture the action of a rodeo in pictures, but I tried. Yes, there are a lot of people. The rules were you had to keep on your mask while moving and seated unless you were actively eating and drinking. Many people were actively eating or drinking, but Char and I kept our masks on the entire time and had our 6 foot bubble and felt comfortable doing so. There was a mixture of people masking and not; a feeling of “you do you” and those who would not be comfortable in a crowd during these times certainly would not attend.

Today’s expenses – $70 for Huckleberry ice cream for Char, a huckleberry pie to bring to Papa, and some souvenirs. $24 for the Rodeo entrance fee.