Pullman to West Point – 2011 (Stage 1)

Instead of heading directly to West Point this time, we started the move to New York with a straight shot to Virginia Beach, VA to see my brother’s family for a couple of days before Ric had to report.

The moving process started on June 6th which happened to be our twentieth wedding anniversary. The boys had gone to Spokane the prior evening so they wouldn’t have to sit in a house being packed and we started the day waiting for the packers to show up. We waited and waited. Finally Ric called the moving company, and to make a long story short – we had our anniversary to ourselves. A different team showed up the next day to get the job done. They packed on the 7th, loaded on the 8th and we left Pullman for Mom and Dad’s house so that we could pick up the boys and start our drive from “The Kan” the next morning.

Day One – June 9th – Spokane, WA to Gillette, WY

By 9:00am the state of Washington was behind us. Our first rest stop was in Idaho at an exit without facilities, which was fine for the boys and the dog. I enjoyed the fact that it was next to the river we’d been following.

Sure beats a truck stop!

Before lunch we had cleared the very pretty panhandle of Idaho. I especially like the town of Kellogg which is nestled into a valley at the base of the mountains just like a story book.

Then we began climbing the real mountains which are gorgeous, but when the speed limit set by reasonable people (not Oregonians) on an interstate highway drops to fifty-five in the middle of nowhere, you know you’re in for some curves. Montana lasts for a long time via I-90. Here are a couple of the highlights: In Butte there is clearly a Butte, and near Bozeman one learns that the naming of the Rocky Mountains was not based on poetic inspiration. It was very literal. The scenery made up for the fact that it was my turn to drive The Dog-Breath Mobile through the best of it. We arrived in Gillette with 11 hours down and 33 to go. Our arrival at The Settle Inn (which was very nice in spite of the corny name), was punctuated by a whopper of a thunderstorm.

Day 2 – June 10th – Gillette, WY to Council Bluffs, IA

Tourist activities are very limited with a 100-pound golden retriever in tow, but Mt. Rushmore seemed like a good idea in spite of my bad memories of the same scene with a freak cat ten years earlier. The day was beautiful.

You pass through this little tunnel on the way up to Mt. Rushmore. Very cool.

The dog couldn’t have cared less about Presidents. He wanted to keep track of his people and make sure he didn’t get left with the wrong set.

Yes – We took the obligatory picture! Surrounded by miles of incredible beauty we flocked like everyone else to the spot where men have made their mark on the landscape.

This is one of many views from the Mt. Rushmore parking area. There are layers and layer of ridges that make up the stunning Black Hills scenery, but there are probably a million more photos of those presidents than there are of the hills. I guess we have a hard time wrapping our minds around seeking out this kind of beauty without a reference point carved out by men as an anchor, and admittedly the presidents are much easier to capture in photos. Panoramas like this make me wish I was a better photographer and cause me to think that photography is absolutely pointless at the same time.

Most of the day was spent working our way through the rest of South Dakota, which was shockingly green. I had never seen it green before, it’s always been beige for me in the past, but this year has been weird for weather. What I did NOT enjoy in South Dakota were the billboards especially for Wall Drug. I refuse to ever stop at there. It is a matter of principal. I feel the same way about South of the Border on I-95 after you cross from North to South Carolina.

Late in the afternoon we turned south on I-29 headed for Council Bluffs which had an Inn that would take big dogs. The landscape had flattened and we had thunderheads to the east the whole way, which made the lighting of barns and fields to the west quite spectacular. Tidy rows of vegetation flashed by like machinery; so different from the fields I’d been swooning over for the last three years but very dramatic. Quaint farm houses and silos dotted our path and it’s a wonder I stayed on the road for gawking at them. In a hundred different places I had that same desire to be a great photographer yet a sense of futility about capturing anything so immense in two dimensions. That’s my fancy but very sincere way of saying: no good pictures of that stretch.

I tried a few from the car at 75 miles-per-hour with my phone but I was apparently holding it at an angle so the flatness of the land failed to come across.

The view straight out the windshield probably communicates that more appropriately in spite of the bugs.

Day 3 – June 11th – Council Bluff, IA to Mt. Vernon, IL

Ric and I got up the third morning feeling our age after two eleven-hour days of driving.

We continued down I-29 and witnessed the corresponding consequences of all the late-season green in South Dakota. Water was much higher everywhere than it should have been, especially along the river. Trees that looked pretty tall were half submerged and sections of interstate were diverted in several places. I had been puzzling the prior day over how water can find its way to where it needs to go when land is so flat. Apparently every depression in the landscape is fair game.

We passed by one of our old homes – Fort Leavenworth, KS from the other side of the Platte River and enjoyed a stretch of fairly familiar highway until we passed Kansas City.

The boys thought it was fun to see the arch in St. Louis and Ric and I were just glad to make it through that city’s seemingly eternal road construction gauntlet without any major delays.

Our major delay was yet to come, in the form of dog drama.

We stopped for our evening meal at a very clean diner with rows of gas pumps out front. The food was uninspired but passable and Jackson waited patiently in the shaded car. When we got ready to leave, we gave him his food and water and he seemed fine. However, when Ric shut the door and stepped over to say something to me in the other car, he panicked. He had panicked once before in his life – when his collar got caught on the dishwasher rack while he was trying to lick silverware as I loaded dishes. That time, he ran headlong for the door in terror with the rack still attached to his collar and dishes flying every direction. He also initiated a “fight or flight” response that is thankfully very rare. In clinical terms he “expressed his anal glands”. Cats can do this too. It is a spray of scented fluid designed to repel an attacker and although it didn’t phase the dishwasher rack, it sure repelled us. The smell is one you never forget. It was bad in our kitchen, very bad, but it was even worse in the confines of a vehicle. Thankfully, his own bed took the brunt of the outburst. We begged a black trash bag from that sterile diner to stuff the bed cover into and I stood in front of a rapt audience of fueling drivers wiping down Golden Retriever “tail feathers” with facial cleansing wipes from my cosmetics bag. Then it occurred to me to use some of my hair finishing spray to further mask the odor. It smells good and comes in a bright pink can which undoubtedly helped make it an entertaining encore for the facial wipes. Ric drove the next thirty miles of Interstate with the windows down while poor Josh and Si suffered in the back with the panting beast. Hopefully they aren’t scarred for life.

Scotts Bluff came at last and I gave the discombobulated dog got a bath in the hotel room tub – just what I wanted to do after a day of driving! Ric went to a nearby super store, bought pet odor remover and hosed down the inside of the van. That evening we lived with wet dog smell which is not fun, but it was better than the alternative.

Clean dog – still feeling a bit out of sorts, but he wasn’t alone!

Day 4 – June 11 –Mt. Vernon, IL to Charleston, WV

Driving was getting really old so we were open to diversions when we realized that we were passing close by Fort Boonsboro, KY! A Daniel Boone craze had swept through our house early in the homeschooling year as we were studying the settlement of the west. Our boys and the Sears kids were watching episodes of the old TV series as fast as they could devour them. We decided to stop and check it out.

Our boys, thinking how fun it would be to have J.T and Charley along to take the fort.

Inside workers were dressed in period costumes demonstrating what life might have been like back when…

The boys were especially taken with the blacksmith who using his time to make some sort of weapon for a friend of his. They probably wanted to make friends with him themselves when they heard that.

Of course the Wild West is now so settled that a dog can’t set foot where mountain men once ruled, and we weren’t taking any chances with leaving him alone. Therefore, I had to stay in the parking area with Jackson who was distraught over the disappearance of 80% of our party but mercifully not “panicked”.

Our hotel room that evening was a designated pet room as all of them had been, but the others had been very nice and clean smelling. This one wasn’t so I was very thankful that it was the last and I had no guilt about washing the dog bed cover in one of their washers. I have now vowed that if I can help it I will never have my hotel choices dictated by a dog again. I love my dog very much, but I have my limits.

Day 5 – June 13 – Charleston, WV – Virginia Beach, VA

Our final day of driving was blessedly uneventful. The morning stretch through West Virginia and the Virginia Highlands was beautiful with deciduous forests and bachelor buttons growing in the medians. Afternoon brought us into the flatness of the Virginia tidelands and eventually to my brother’s house….the next adventure!

I actually arrived in New York on July 1st after some further wanderings, so stay tuned for a the rest of the traveling story.

One thought on “Pullman to West Point – 2011 (Stage 1)

  1. Oh Lisa, I love that I re-found you via this blog! I was just laughing so hard I was crying and my sides still ache hurt! Thank you for sharing these stories and photos!

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