UTI remember the time we stopped off along Interstate 80 in the middle of the desert and stared out at the Great Salt Lake in the middle of the vast wasteland. The lake, which is several times saltier than the ocean, might as well have been the Dead Sea to Kay and me, as there was absolutely no signs of life in or around the enormous body of water.

 

 

 

Gary in front of Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah

Gary in front of Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah

 

 

 

 

Just a few miles away, however, lies Utah’s largest city, Salt Lake City, against the backdrop of the snowcapped Wasatch Mountains, where at night, shimmering city lights danced across the desert horizon as we rolled down out of the mountains over 25 miles from town.  In the daytime, we drove all around the city streets, making sure we got a glimpse of the amazing Mormon Tabernacle.

 

Driving away from the Great Salt Lake in the other direction, we penetrated deeper into the formidable Great Salt Lake desert, then dashed by the Bonneville Salt Flats before crossing the Nevada line.

Kay poses in front of the Great Salt Lake in northern Utah.

Kay poses in front of the Great Salt Lake in northern Utah.

remember when Kay and I left Interstate 80 in Wyoming and dropped south on a secondary road only to find ourselves in eastern Utah staring face to face with Flaming Gorge Reservoir.  Massive amounts of deep blue water dammed up out there surely made for quite a spectacle in the desert.  Then our secondary road turned into something from a Roadrunner cartoon as we began winding our way down in elevation around one hairpin turn, then another, then another, then another, then another, then…would you believe 11 hairpin turns in all?!?  Road signs kept us abreast on how many hairpin turns remained at any given time, but the engineers had the last laugh when, as we had cleared the final nerve-racking turn and had begun to relax, we were bedeviled with a yellow and black sign that read “Last One”.  It was only after executing that very last curve that we finally reached the valley floor below at Vernal,

 

We found there’s not much to that part of southern Utah near the Arizona line, in places such as St. George and Cedar City.

 

By far our most memorable Utah experience came in southern Utah near Moab, when we took time out to explore God’s amazing handiwork at Arches National Park, the most impressive myriad of naturally existing rock arches in the world.

Kay and Gary at Arches National Park near Moab, Utah

Kay and Gary at Arches National Park near Moab, Utah

Gary at Arches National Park

 

VTIn my mind’s eye, I can still see us motoring along as “leaf peepers” some winding, country road in Vermont’s Green Mountains, moving past babbling brooks, picturesque little farms and charming country inns, the whole area splashed in brilliant fall colors on maples, birches and oaks.  As Kay and I pleasantly discovered, Vermont in autumn is classic New England at its glorious best.

 

 

 

Kay stands inside a covered bridge in Woodstock, Vermont, during fall foliage season.

Kay stands inside a covered bridge in Woodstock, Vermont, during fall foliage season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember that crisp autumn day when Kay and I dropped into Woodstock, the most adorable little New England village in Vermont, and snapped picture after picture as we stood inside the big covered bridge spanning the rippling river. And who could ever forget lying in a bed of fallen leaves on the village green in Bennington?  Or walking around the little town of Arlington, as if pretending to be subjects of a Norman Rockwell painting?  Or driving through a “leaf shower” on the narrow two-lane road between Londonderry and the breathtakingly gorgeous little tourist hideaway of Manchester in an unexpected autumn gust?

 

We’ve been to a hundred little villages all over the Green Mountain state, from Brattleboro up to Rutland and over to White River Junction, and from Montpelier over to St. Johnsbury and through Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom all the way up to Newport near the Canadian border.  Vermont is not much more than a patchwork of delectable little New England villages and delightful looking farms sewn together on a gigantic Green Mountain quilt.

 

In fact, Vermont’s largest community, Burlington, has a population of only 30,000. Kay and I have chugged through Burlington only to come to a standstill at the city dock at the frigid waters of Lake Champlain on a cold, brisk winter’s day.  Like skipping stones across the water, we then took the opportunity to drive up through the chain of islands in the middle of the USA’s 6th largest lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gary on the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vt.

Gary on the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vt.

Gary on a country road in Vermont

Gary on a country road in Vermont

 

VANeither of us will ever forget that impeccably sublime spring day when we rolled in off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and onto sparkling clean Virginia Beach.  That day the vivid blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean were literally glistening in the warm April sun and Kay and I were singing a song as we moved on into the Tidewater region that includes Norfolk, Newport News and the Hampton Roads area.

 

 

 

Kay on a beautiful Spring day on the Virginia coast

Kay on a beautiful Spring day on the Virginia coast

 

 

 

 

Farther up the road and on the same perfect springtime day, Kay and I took part in a stroll around the streets of Colonial Williamsburg, enhancing our springtime verve with a little revolutionary spirit.

 

 

 

Gary listens to a patriot at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

Gary listens to a patriot at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

 

 

 

 

Gary plays an imaginary flute (above) and gets put in the stocks (below) at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia

Gary plays an imaginary flute (above) and gets put in the stocks (below) at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia

 

Gary in stocks in Williamsburg

 

And if that wasn’t enough, later that evening we chugged up the hill outside of Charlottesville to see if we can see Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

 

Elsewhere in eastern Virginia, we’ve trucked by major population centers such as Richmond straddling the James River, Petersburg going toward the Carolina line and the D.C. suburbs of Arlington and Alexandria along the wide Potomac.  Along the backbone of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western Virginia, Kay and I have slid down from Harrisonburg south on Interstate 81 through Staunton and hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway for some luscious scenic treats, including driving through a virtual tunnel of those lovely lavender flowers and a sensational panoramic vista of the great Shenandoah Valley before checking out what’s down below in Roanoke.

Kay stands overlooking the Shendoah Valley on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

Kay stands overlooking the Shendoah Valley on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

 

WAKay and I have felt the cool breezes of the Puget Sound as far up as Bellingham and as far down as Tacoma and even Olympia.  And of course we’ve messed around the big city of Seattle, be it strolling the hills of the University of Washington campus set on beautiful Lake Washington, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic trying to get down Interstate 5 while passing underneath the Space Needle or beside the Kingdome, riding one of the Washington State Ferries to get over to Bremerton or dropping off an RV in Lynnwood or Everett.

 

Kay and I always thought the Puget Sound was an attractive environment, with lots of blues and greens painted in the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest, but it’s also a complex place that can’t be summed up in one paragraph.

Kay points to the Space Needle in downtown Seattle, Wash

Kay points to the Space Needle in downtown Seattle, Wash

 

The immediate Tacoma area was a hangout of ours, where we fanned out to work on site at places like Federal Way and Gig Harbor, but we also made deliveries in nearby Fife and Kent.  Puyallup was a boyhood home of mine, and I actually remember it well.

 

Charming little Port Townsend, with its waterfront wharf, quaint shops and literary prowess (it’s the headquarters for Liberty magazine), is also on the Sound, and we took in all of the above when we were there, right before taking the ferry over to Whidbey Island.

 

Perhaps our favorite single spot on Puget Sound was Deception Pass, and is it a beauty!  There’s just something about the way the green, forested hills and cliffs mold themselves into little coves in the green-blue waters.

Gary at Deception Pass, Puget Sound

Gary at Deception Pass, Puget Sound

 

But the highlight moment could have been when we were driving along near Shelton and Kay looked up and we spotted it rising in the east – impressively majestic Mt. Rainier.  That sighting inspired us so much that we had to go right over to Puyallup to snap pictures of the solitary, snow-clad mountain peak.

 

 

 

Kay with Mt. Rainier in background, Puyallup, Wash.

Kay with Mt. Rainier in background, Puyallup, Wash.

 

 

 

 

We’ve driven across the majestic Cascade Range and saw its icy mountain streams and savored its cool alpine air, across Snoqualmie Pass and Stampede Pass and through the towns of Cle Elum and North Bend.

 

Over on the Olympic Peninsula, we circled that sucker completely driving in our car, looking for acceptable work locations.  There are more mountains over there, the Olympic Mountains, albeit smaller than the Cascades.  We drove by temperate rain forests, the town of Forks, and idyllic Crescent Lake before checking out Port Angeles.  A couple of times we took that ferry over to Victoria.

 

Driving east out of Everett one summer, we made it through North Cascades National Park, which also has some remarkable mountain scenery.

Kay on the banks of the Columbia River at Vantage, Wash.

Kay on the banks of the Columbia River at Vantage, Wash.

We’ve followed and harassed that Granddaddy of all Rivers, the Columbia River, all over the State.  Although its headwaters are up in British Columbia (which we saw up there) it’s at its widest in Washington.  We were there to see it dammed up at Grand Coulee Dam, largest dam  in the world.  We’ve seen it winding its way through what they call the Tri-Cities area (that’s Kennewick, Richland and Pasco).  We’ve seen it where it’ll blow your mind in the middle of the state as you drop down from the heights of the grade and peer down at that damn long bridge spanning it at Vantage.  And we’ve seen it near its mouth over at Skamakowa where I used to visit when I was a kid.  It was our favorite big river of all time.  The Columbia.

 

 

 

Gary on Grand Coulee Dam, Columbia River

Gary on Grand Coulee Dam, Columbia River

 

 

 

 

On the Pacific coast, we got to know the little harbor town of Aberdeen.  The only other time we saw the coast in Washington was up on the Olympic Peninsula.  There sure is a lot of driftwood on the Washington coast, we both noted.

 

Over in the east, it’s more Rocky Mountains, as Spokane is hugged up against Idaho.  I remember camping in the forest – and getting chilly at night – near Spokane.  To get from Spokane over to Seattle, we had to go through Ritzville, Moses Lake and Ellensburg.

 

It’s a completely different world down in the corner at Clarkston, but we took some time to drive around that town that seems so isolated from the rest of Washington but serves as twin city for nearby Lewiston, Idaho.

 

WVI’ll never forget the cool April night in the Potomac Highlands when Kay and I stole away around midnight to lovely little Harpers Ferry, where we sat holding hands on a train trestle high on a bluff overlooking the Shenandoah River gazing up at the full moon shining on the shallow waters rippling over the rocks below – Almost Heaven in one of West Virginia’s most romantic sites.

 

Kay at Harpers Ferry, W.V.

Kay at Harpers Ferry, W.V.

Our trips through Charleston, weren’t quite as memorable, but the little city cut into the mountains on the banks of the Kanawha River isn’t too shabby a sight. Virtually all of West Virginia is rugged but very scenic Appalachian Mountains, and we’ve motored through just about every part of it, from Princeton, Bluefield and White Sulphur Springs on the Virginia line through Beckley and central West Virginia to Huntington on the Ohio River across from Kentucky and Ohio, and to Morgantown near the Pennsylvania line.

 

 

 

New River Gorge Bridge

New River Gorge Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One possible runner-up to the enchantment of Harpers Ferry: the time we were winding our way through the mountains in central West Virginia and got to look out over the New River Gorge and the bridge spanning it that’s the second-highest bridge in the country.

 

 

 

 

 

WIOver the past few years, we’ve made Kay’s home state of Wisconsin the crossroads of our travel across the northern U.S.

 

Appleton is Kay’s hometown and also the place where the both of us first left for the excitement of the road.  And although Kay and I first met in Appleton in the warmth of summer (1994), and although we’ve been back to that cozy little city on the Fox River a half a dozen times, every one of those times has been in nippy, typical Wisconsin weather.

Kay at Wisconsin

After the Packers won the Super Bowl in 1997, Kay and I could be found on a blustery day in Green Bay taking pictures in the empty parking lot of Lambeau Field.

 

 

 

Wisconsin-born Kay at edge of town (above) and at Lambeau Field (below)

Packer fan in Green Bay: Wisconsin-born Kay at edge of town (above) and at Lambeau Field (below)

 

 

 

 

Kay at Lambeau Field

 

In our incidental travels through the Badger state trying to get into or away from good ol’ Appleton, we’ve come through the state’s biggest city of Milwaukee on the shores of cold Lake Michigan bound for Chicago; Oshkosh right beside Lake Winnebago on US 41 that carried us from Milwaukee up to Appleton; La Crosse on the Mississippi River as we headed west into southern Minnesota; my former stomping grounds of Mondovi as we’d come into the state from the Twin Cities; Stevens Point in the center of the state that meant we were over halfway “home”; Superior that lay just before Duluth, Minn; Marinette as we’d come down from Michigan’s U.P.;  the unlikeliest way, into the port of Manitowoc from a Lake Michigan crossing; and Lake Superior as we attempted a northern route out of Wisconsin.

 

 

 

Kay stands at a Wisconsin dairy farm

Kay stands at a Wisconsin dairy farm

 

 

 

 

We also tinkered around in Wisconsin from Beloit and Janesville in the south, where we spent my first new millennium birthday, to Madison in the middle, where Kay used to attend college, and Wisconsin Dells a little further up, to Eau Claire out in the west.

 

WYOne of the highlights of our  years on the road has got to be dropping down from Montana into the wonder and awe of Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone seemed to have it all, as Kay and I marveled at rushing rivers, deep canyons, cascading waterfalls, wide grassy meadows, deep blue mountain lakes, assorted colored hot pools, steaming geysers, high mountain peaks & cliffs, rock formations of all kinds and an abundance of foliage and wildlife.

 

I’ll never forget the remarkable timing as Kay and I were strolling up the wooden walkway the very moment Old Faithful was erupting, and how we both looked at each other and grinned, sensing the specialness of what we were witnessing. Then there was the large buffalo who strode alongside our car as we neared the South Gate, as if to escort us out of the park.

Kay at Yellowstone in Wyoming

Kay at Yellowstone in Wyoming

Kay at Yellowstone in Wyoming

Kay at Yellowstone in Wyoming

Kay at Morning Glory Pool

 

Adjacent to Yellowstone happens to be another one of America’s scenic jewels: Grand Teton National Park.  We drove south through thick evergreen forests and alongside breathtaking Jackson Lake, its aqua-blue waters reflecting the majestic and towering Grand Teton Range that rise at the lake’s backside.  As we made our final approach to the captivating little western town of Jackson Hole, we witnessed an unforgettable sunset over the Grand Tetons, the sky aglow in bright colors of blue, orange and red. After refreshing ourselves in Jackson Hole, we left Wyoming’s high country behind and meandered our way alongside the Snake River to slip away into Idaho.

 

 

 

Kay as cowgirl in Wyomin’

Kay as cowgirl in Wyomin’

 

 

 

 

Kay and I have also transversed Wyoming on Interstate 80, starting at the western cowtown on the great plains, Cheyenne, and then navigating through the canyons and ravines to get to Laramie, past Rawlins and the point where the Great Divide Basin crosses, and then shooting over to the high desert town of Rock Springs in the southwest corner of the state.  We’ve taken that pass through the mountains at Rawlins and went up the chute to Casper, in order to leave the state around Lusk, going into NW Nebraska.  And finally, we’ve taken crossed the state in the northeast corner of the state, passing through Sheridan and Gillette but getting a chuckwagon breakfast in Buffalo and moseying up to see Devils Tower.

 

 

 

Kay at Devils Tower in NE Wyoming

Kay at Devils Tower in NE Wyoming

 

 

 

 

YTI remember the feeling of intrigue we both felt when we found ourselves completely surrounded by high rugged mountains that rose almost 20,000 feet in elevation and realized we had wandered into a truly exotic, remote, but overwhelmingly beautiful, frontier – Canada’s Yukon Territory.

 

 

 

 

Kay at Sign Post ForestAfter driving some 300 miles with no signs of civilization, we rolled into little Watson Lake when the mercury dipped 40 degrees below 0, Fahrenheit.  So we couldn’t stick around in the elements long enough to get a good snapshot of the Sign Post Forest there, an assorted array of sign posts from towns and cities all over the U.S. and even the world.

 

Another 300 miles up the Alaska Highway Kay and I dropped into the exquisite little frontier outpost town of Whitehorse, on the wild raging Yukon River, surrounded by more high, rugged peaks.

 

As long as I live I won’t forget the time we were coming out of Haines Junction and began climbing up through the mountain pass just as it started snowing. When it started snowing harder the higher we got, we began to get concerned. Then, sure enough, in a matter of minutes, the snow in the road was too deep for

 

 

 

 

 

Kay poses outside some log buildings along the Alaska Highway in the Yukon Territory.

On the Frontier: Kay poses outside some log buildings along the Alaska Highway in the Yukon Territory.

us to maneuver and there we were, in the middle of the Yukon, in a heavy snowfall, on top of a mountain pass, unable to move.  We thought it was over.

 

Then, fortunately, help arrived and soon we were trucking along behind a snowplow on the way across the mountain to safety.

 

 

Kay at Kluane LakeOn the other side, the scenery turned absolutely wild and the beauty was totally mind-boggling. The landscape was unlike anything we’d ever seen before, and the mountains were everywhere we looked, far higher and infinitely more impressive than any we’d ever seen in the states.  And what a heart-stopping scene it was when we rounded that bend and saw Lake Kluane in amongst those same mountains, which had to be of the most stunning and pristine sights not only in North America, but probably in the entire world. #

 

 

 

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