Jun 30 2019
11:33 am
By: R. Neal

We just got back from a road trip out West. 21 days, 6600 miles, 18 states. Temps from 33 to 102F and elevations from 0 to 9700+ feet. We drove the northern part of CA-1 up the Pacific coast (which is like 129 to Fontana except 200 miles long), US-101 up the Oregon Pacific coast, up to Portland and through the Columbia River Gorge, then back to Seattle, over to Yellowstone, through the Bighorn Mountains and the Watipi Valley in WY, and then the Badlands in SD. Call us the Breeze because we didn't stay in any one place very long. We're happy to be home.

Click here to see a snapshot gallery, or click here for the thumbnail index...

bizgrrl's picture

The pup did great. Her first

The pup did great. Her first looonnnggg trip. She was a trooper.

R. Neal's picture

One of the most notable

One of the most notable things about this trip was the wind. It started in Kansas, continued across Colorado, up to Wyoming, across Utah and Nevada, all the way to the California coast and up through Oregon.

And this wasn't just a pleasant breeze. It was constant 30MPH winds with gusts probably up to 50. And it was cold. Especially on the coast. Not sure I could get used to living in it. Everybody we asked said it's normal all the time. We had planned to hang out on Oregon dog friendly beaches for a couple of days, but the weather was too unpleasant so we moved on.

On the plus side there are wind turbines starting in Kansas and going as far as the eye can see all the way to California. They must be generating some serious gigawattage.

jmcnair's picture

Pacific beaches

I remember being really underwhelmed with Oregon and California beaches. Cold, windy, and they smelled like rotting kelp. I think I'll stick with the right coast.

Rachel's picture

Sorry you had bad weather on

Sorry you had bad weather on the Oregon coast. It's one of my favorite places in the world - and it seems to like me cause the weather cooperates when I visit. Can be windy, tho.

Treehouse's picture


The photos are great. I love the west. Isn't it beautiful?!

R. Neal's picture

It occurred to me on this

It occurred to me on this trip that smartphones are pretty amazing technology that we sometimes take for granted. We used ours to make and receive calls, send and receive texts and emails, navigate (1), play music, listen to audiobooks (2), take pictures, find stores, hotels and restaurants (and place to-go orders), look up interesting info about people and places, catch up on news back home and around the world, and provide a safe and secure wi-fi hotspot (3) wherever we were. Pretty cool for a device that fits in your pocket.

(1) Google navigation works pretty great and includes a lot of real-time road condition info (including speed traps). Except in Seattle. Trying to get to Pike Place market sent us around in circles until we finally used a map and the car GPS/navigation. In fact, directions were messed up all over Washington. Maybe google is messing with Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos? Does Bing have navigation? Anyway, we took a new AAA USA Road Atlas for backup, and referred to it quite a bit.

(2) Audiobooks are great on long drives. Get the "Libby" app and your library card and log in to Tennessee R.E.A.D.S for free, instant access to thousands and thousands of current, high-quality audiobooks that you can download and listen to while tooling down the Interstate without having to pull off and rent CDs from a Cracker Barrel. (Besides, our ride doesn't even have a CD player.)

(3) Some hotels are hijacking your wi-fi and trying to force you to use their networks and portals. It's easy enough to defeat though. Just "forget" their network and log in to your own secure mobile wi-fi. Speaking of security, several hotels we stayed at had unsecured, password-free wi-fi. Who uses that?

R. Neal's picture

Here's some trivia we learned

Here's some trivia we learned along the way.

• John Mellencamp has a highway named after him in his home town of Seymour, Indiana.

• The elevation at West Yellowstone, MT is 6667 feet. The elevation at Old Faithful is 7,349 feet. The highest elevation road in Yellowstone National Park is Dunraven Pass at 8878 feet.

• Symptoms of Altitude Sickness: headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and loss of energy, shortness of breath, problems with sleep, loss of appetite.

• Spring floods in the Midwest delayed planting which threatens 2019 corn and other crop production.

• The age requirement for a Lifetime Senior National Park pass is 62. They are $80.

• Oscar's Bar and Grill in Limon, CO has over 400 types of whiskey. The food's not that great, but 400 types of whiskey.

• The Smoky Hills Wind Farm near Salina Kansas covers 20,000 acres and has a peak production capacity of 250MW. The farm has more than 150 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 1.5MW to 1.8MW. Annual output is about 900,000 MWh, or 900 GWh. Watts Bar annual output is about 13,650 GWh. (Somebody smarter should check my facts on all that.)

• McCarran airport in Las Vegas is named for Sen. Pat McCarran, a proponent of the aviation industry and author of the 1950 Subversive Activities Control Act.

• Toxic plants in California include Pacific Poison-oak, Jimsonweed, Stinging Nettle, Lantana, Foxglove and Oleander.

• Holiday Inn Express has excellent cinnamon rolls for their "free" breakfast. Many, but not all, allow pets.

• The Amana Colonies were started in east-central Iowa in 1855 by a German religious sect seeking isolation and escape from Lutheran persecution. They were self-sufficient for decades, but during the Depression formed the Amana Corporation which produced the first commercial upright freezer, made refrigerators and air conditioners and the first commercially viable microwave.

• The Stockman House in Mason City Iowa was Frank Lloyd Wright's first Prairie School architecture design in Iowa. The house was relocated from its original location to save it from demolition for a Methodist Church parking lot expansion. Wright also designed the Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank buildings there. Other Mason City developers adopted Wright's ideas and built what is now a National Historic District made up of Prairie School homes in natural settings.

• The hotel we stayed at in Cedar Rapids, Iowa was surrounded by the Collins Aerospace company campus. I wasn't familiar with them. The company was founded in 1933 by Arthur A. Collins (no relation to Apollo Astronaut Michael Collins). They made shortwave and AM broadcast equipment. They supplied the radio equipment for Admiral Byrd's expedition to the South Pole in 1933. After WWII they expanded into avionics, satellite voice transmission, and more. They supplied the voice communications equipment for NASA's Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions.

• American Bison, commonly referred to "buffalo," aren't. It's said that early explorers called them buffalo because they resembled buffalo in Europe and Asia.

• There is one Tesla Supercharger station near Yellowstone National Park. It's in West Yellowstone, Montana.

• A single Quaker Oats facility in Cedar Rapids Iowa accounts for more than 18 percent of oats processed in the United States. Mills in Cedar Rapids processed more than 6 billion corn bushels in 2016 – 4 percent of all U.S. corn processed that year. 36.5 million bushels of soybeans were processed in Cedar Rapids in 2017. Three ethanol plants in Cedar Rapids produce 540 million gallons of ethanol worth $900 million per year.

• The Great Salt Lake has a surface area of 1699 square miles. (Rhode Island is 1545 square miles). The surface area of Yellowstone Lake is 136 square miles. The surface area of Fort Loudoun Reservoir is 23 square miles.

• One company in Idaho, the J.R. Simplot Company, supplies more than half of the french fries for McDonalds.

• Barge traffic on the Columbia River system handles 52 million tons of international trade worth $21 billion and supports 40,000 local jobs. The system is #1 in U.S. wheat exports, #2 in U.S. corn and soy exports, #1 West Coast wood exports, #1 West Coast in mineral exports, and #1 West Coast auto exports.

• Cracker Barrels in Portland Oregon serves Mayfield ice cream. When they first started up, Cracker Barrel made a deal with Mayfield that has been in place ever since, according to the store manager. Apparently company history is part of their training.

• Oregon commercial fisheries harvested 300 million pounds of fish and shellfish worth $173 million in 2018.

R. Neal's picture

If I had known that when we

If I had known that when we reached the California border we would be stopped at an agricultural inspection checkpoint, I would have had my passport out and ready to show.

The only other inspection we had was at the Bonneville Dam facility by an armed Homeland Security guard. He asked if we had any firearms, explosives, or (something?). I asked, firearms, explosives or what? Drones, he said. Having none of the above he waved us through, after looking thru the windows into our cargo space.

JaHu's picture

California has had

California has had agricultural checkpoints at the border as long as I can remember. I know they had them in the 60's when my family took a cross country camping trip, and my all time favorite movie " Grapes of Wrath", which was about the Dust Bowl of the early 30's, showed that they must have had them around that time too.

bizgrrl's picture

Hmmm... Don't remember

Hmmm... Don't remember encountering a check point when we drove there last time. But, hey it has been a while. Maybe we crossed the border on a back road on our previous trip.

JaHu's picture

"Maybe we crossed the border

"Maybe we crossed the border on a back road on our previous trip."

From what I just read, that could explain why you didn't encounter it on a previous border crossing. This Ca government website, linked below, says they've had checkpoints on the "major" highways since the 20's.


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