Rockies to Redwoods part 2

Thursday, October 4

I believe this is where I left off. What we thought would be a long driving day to Butte turned out to probably be the best day of the trip. First stop was Deadwood, South Dakota. Han was a big fan of the HBO show of the same name so was excited to see it. I was indifferent, but happy to ride along. It was snowing in Deadwood, Han was nearly giddy with how closely the opening of the show prepared him for the location. Then there were buildings with names he recognized and just the overall feel he really liked. We drove up to the cemetery which looked eerily beautiful, but we didn’t get out as we weren’t really prepared for ambling through the cold. From Deadwood, we returned to the original course which was to drive to Butte, Montana.

We drove north on 85 to 212 across the top right corner of Wyoming and into Montana. We stopped at a gas station and had noticed a sign for Devils Tower. We decided, “Why not?” So we hopped on 112 and headed back to Wyoming. There’s nothing like driving a 2-lane highway in Wyoming on a Thursday morning to make you feel like you’re some of the only people in the world. But it was rather pretty and then we saw it in the distance.

Devils Tower

It is so striking. Just this enormous rock out of nowhere. We went to the National Park and drove up as close as we could. There are many native American legends about it which are fascinating, but it’s just a rock from the earth that rose up over the years. It’s pretty awesome.

Devils Tower

On the way back from it, before we stopped in the fantastic gift shop, there was field full of prairie dogs. They were so furry and cute. I wanted one.

prairie dogs!

As we were leaving Devils Tower, I saw a sign that said something like ‘the quickest way to Little Bighorn is through Hulett.’ I joked to Han, “Do you want to go to Little Bighorn?” But then, in looking at the map, if we did go to Hulett, the road would take us right by it. So that’s what we did! We took the 112 back the way we’d come (I think, there was a turn somewhere because we didn’t go back by the gas station), but we ended up back on the 212 that took us through rural Montana. We stopped to get gas in Lame Deer, which is the tribal and government agency headquarters of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. It’s a small town, you wouldn’t even notice it, but I was interested. I’d been on reservations before, in Idaho, but didn’t think much about it. But this time was different somehow. I bought 2 bottles of water and a package of Zingers and it only cost $2.50. I don’t know why. I digress.

We made it to Little Bighorn and paid the entry fee (we should have bought the National Park pass at Arches and gotten into all these free, but who knew?) We took the driving audio tour which was awesome, although it was out of order so I had some trouble following along. Now you probably know that Little Bighorn is also known as Custer’s Last Stand. As you may have guessed, I am on the side of the native Americans. It may be easy to do now, I wasn’t there. But history doesn’t reflect well on much of early America, but I again digress. There were gravestones scattered throughout marking locations where U.S. cavalrymen fell, but I didn’t notice any for the native Americans.   I had noticed this area that I wanted to check out so Han let me out and I went to it. It was a memorial to all the native Americans who had died in the battle with an amazing sculpture and 2 grave markers (they were placed in 1999 and they have since added 8 others). When I got back in the car and we were leaving, I was telling Han about it, and he decided to go back and check it out for himself. It was cold and there was nowhere to park so I took the wheel and let him have time to himself as I had had. I think it worked out well.

Cheyenne warrior grave markers.

By the time we were done, it was close to 5 pm and we still had to get to Butte which was about 4 1/2 hours away, so we hit it. On the way there, it snowed. When you’re driving through snow, it’s hard to not feel like you’re in the middle of a kaleidoscope. It swirls in the most magical ways. At least it wasn’t sticking so the driving wasn’t too bad for Han. When we got to our Comfort Inn in Butte, we were tired. We ordered pizza and watched television and called it a night.

Friday, October 5

Since we were only driving to Coeur d’Alene this day (4 1/2 hours), we slept in and hit the road around 9:30 am. It was foggy as we were leaving Butte, so I really didn’t get to see any of it. The weather cleared up as we drove. One stop along the way was just a pull-over stop to get out and stretch our legs. We were driving through the Rockies again and we pulled off to a place that promised GIFTS! FOOD! We pulled in and saw this:

Testicle Festival

That’s right! We’d landed at the home of the Testicle Festival! We went in and it was several buildings that at some point had become just one big building. The main room was the bar. We both went to the restroom (a little sketchy on my side), bought some waters and headed back to the car. That’s when I noticed the gift shop. I hadn’t seen it when we’d pulled in I’d been so distracted by the poor bull, then I remembered GIFTS! So we went back in. That’s when we found out the Testicle Festival is a yearly shin-dig that brings thousands of folks to this little place that has a small airstrip next to it where the folks camp. There’s live music and general shenanigans. Consider it like a redneck Burning Man. But the Rock Creek Lodge was cool and they specialize in Rocky Mountain Oysters. I figured, “Why not?” So we ordered up some. They didn’t really taste like much, the batter was pretty good, but just your general deep fried food. I ate about 3, and Han ate 1. This guy kept us company.


Before we leave Rock Creek, here’s a final treat for you.

What a great souvenir, it’s just a nice Testicle Festival apron!

no it’s not

We made our way to Coeur d’Alene to our hotel, a Hampton Inn & Suites right on the Spokane River. We had a balcony that looked out on the river and it was awesome. When we were just getting out of the car before we checked in, Han pronounced, “I’d like a nice steak.” So when we were in our room, I went looking for a good restaurant. (By the way, this day was when the baseball postseason started so from here on out, you can bet we’ve got the MLB At-Bat app fired up on the iPhone or have the game on in our room.)

Luckily, the restaurant we selected opened at 5 pm for dinner, so although it was early, it was awesome. We selected the Cedars Floating Restaurant. Here was our view.

view from Cedars

We started with the crab & artichoke dip. Delicious. I also had a locally brewed pale ale which was quite tasty. For dinner, I went outside my comfort zone and ordered the shrimp-stuffed sole. Han got his steak: a NY porterhouse that looked amazing. My fish was decadent and quite good, very rich.

shrimp-stuffed sole w/ veggies and wild rice

Plus it came with salad and bread. My god, we were stuffed! After dinner, we drove around the town and the lake area. It was all very beautiful. It reminded us both of Lake Tahoe.

sunset over the lake

closer to the lake, nice sunset shot

We went back to the room and hung out, then when I felt I could move (and felt like I needed to!), I walked across the street to this little mall and got us some Cold Stone. Yum! It had been a great day.

Saturday, October 6

The next day took us across Washington (state 10) to Marysville, which is north of Seattle. We checked in to the Best Western Tulalip and relaxed a while. We had plans to visit Han’s family that evening as well as a friend of his from high school, Jenny. We made our way to Joy’s house around 7 pm. James & Anthony were there (they live there), Jamie & Thomas & the baby, Aubrey, were on their way as was Joy. Also there was Jeff, Joy’s boyfriend. Jenny arrived shortly after Jamie, Thomas & Aubrey. That baby is definitely one of the family. She looks a lot like DK did when she was a baby. It was a good night. Han’s stepmom was in CA so we didn’t see her, but I think it was good for the siblings to all hang out. It was the first time since their dad had died. It was a good visit. We had grilled burgers, hung outside by the fire, and just caught up. We ended the night with a family photo (thanks, Thomas!)

Anthony, me, James, Han, Joy, Jamie & Aubrey

Sunday, October 7

We got an early start on Sunday and headed south, first stop: Astoria, Oregon. This is where they filmed the classic 80s movie, “The Goonies.” It was a beautiful day and the drive into Astoria across this awesome bridge was pretty dramatic! We drove around Astoria for a while. We even went to one of the houses they used in the filming of the Goonies. We also went to the Astoria Column.

Astoria Column

where we saw this view!

view from Astoria Column park

The view is just from the park, we didn’t go up in the Column. We did make another stop: Joshephson’s Smokehouse. We bought some hot smoked wine-maple salmon and some hot smoked garlic pepper salmon and ate it while standing outside our car. It was so delicious! Han also bought some hot smoked oysters which he ate happily as we drove out of Astoria.

It was time to go down the coast of Oregon. My dad & I took a trip down the coast around 20 or 25 years ago, and I remember needing to pull over nearly every 5 minutes to take photos because it was so gorgeous. I was so excited to do it again and for Han to see how incredible it is. I don’t know if I mis-remembered or what, but it just wasn’t the same. We drove down 101, but the road is not directly on the coast. I suppose if we had turned off and gone into the state parks along the way, we would have been able to see it, but I didn’t remember having to do that with Dad, so it never occurred to me to tell Han to do that. We drove through Seaside and checked it out, then on to Cannon Beach, same thing. We stopped in Tillamook at the factory, found the free samples, then left. There were a lot of people there! In looking at the map now, it looks like we could have taken the 131 to get closer to the coast. Next time! At points, the 101 goes way inland. Dad & I must have stayed on the roads near the coast. Anyway…I was disappointed with the scenery, and it put me in a bit of a funk unknowingly. We got to our destination,Newport, Oregon, and into our hotel, a Best Western right on the beach. It was a great room. Then we knew we wanted seafood for dinner. The ladies at check-in told us of a local place so we went there. When we drove by, it looked kind of like a cafeteria and we were both turned off. It was about 7:45 pm and my disappointment was catching up with me. I’ll skip my scene and say that Han brilliantly called the place (Local Ocean) and asked if we could get something to go. We could. Crisis averted. We took our food back to our room and it was amazing. I’d gotten fish & chips and Han got the fishwives’ stew. Super yummy.

Our room had a little balcony that we kept open that night so we could hear the sound of the waves. Here is the view the next morning.

Newport, Oregon

Monday, October 8

The morning didn’t go so well. Han was out of clean clothes (we were going to do laundry at Joy’s but her washing machine had just broken) and I was still miffed by the disappointment of the scenery. I’ll skip the drama (again), but we soon righted ourselves as we continued south through and out of Oregon. We did get to see some of what I had thought the whole time in Oregon would be.

Port Orford, OR


looking north