Wednesday, February 3, 2010

how to view the whole thing

What does one do when they get two months off work in the winter? How about hit the road. I ventured out on what turned out to be a life-changing experience through adventures such as becoming a cowgirl in Oklahoma, feeding dolphins in Florida, exploring Utah with my dad, meeting a man that was one of the first to invade Imo Jima, putt putt wars in Florida, watching the sun set and rise over the Atlantic Ocean and many many more...

For those of you just reading this blog for the first time, I recommend starting from the beginning because I went through a huge amount of growth and changes throughout this journey. Also, I often refer back to things and events earlier on so you will understand more.

Here is how to read my trip from beginning to end:

Over on the right side of this page you will see the archives.

- click on the arrow to the left of 2009
- click the arrow next to November
- scroll down and start with "time to go."
- Then click on day 1 and go through each day.

Once you finish November, click on the arrow next to December and scroll to the bottom and do the same as you did for November.

I have been told there are a few spelling errors throughout my writing, but I haven't had time to find and correct them so please look past that and enjoy my journey. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget!!!

When I started writing this blog, it was only to keep my mom from staying awake all night in a worried mess. I wanted my family and friends to see that I was OK and make it possible for them to watch my progress without making 20 phone calls each night.

Slowly, it has spread much further than just family and friends. I hope you all enjoy and hopefully take a trip of your own!!!

mom's version

I just found out that my mom was writing a blog of her own the entire time I was gone. I thought I would share that with you so you can see her perspective on my trip.

Go to:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dad's coments

Hi all,

I asked my dad to write a little bit for this blog about our trip together.

Here is what he has to say:

As Dana's dad, I would like to make a few comments on my time with Dana on her trip. Up front, I really must say just how much I have enjoyed her blog. I had no idea that she was so good at writing. It is so natural and free flowing. She tells it like it is in a most amusing, entertaining way. This is a great leap forward over her high school English!

Traveling with Dana from Salt Lake City was a most pleasant and enjoyable experience. Besides being together and sharing things, we got to share such incredible natural wonders as Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. And there were so many other impressive natural structures.

I really enjoyed this sharing because Dana has such a wonderful curiosity. Every detail of a natural scene was worthy of a photo. She saw things that I would have never noticed. This is so pleasant and stimulating. Brings back the child-like curiosity and wonderment.

At night, Dana was so focused on writing the description of the events of the day. At times at 2am. I thought she was being a little too compulsive, but seeing her so interested and inspired was a wonderful experience. Just what a dad could be proud of.

She had never cooked a turkey before, but she exhibited the knowledge of how to get it done and how to find the information to get the job done. And the Christmas dinner was so perfect. The turkey fell apart and was so juicy. AND her making of the Oyster Stew was so special.

I thank Dana so much for all the wonderful experiences of our time together. Yes, she is going to do ok.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Redneck dedication page

As many of you know, I get a real kick out of redneck jokes, probably because they resemble my family so much!

As I traveled, I came across a few redneck sights that I would like to share...

When it comes to walking your dogs in the north Georgia mountains, it's important you fit in...

That there is one heck of a stylish coat missy...

Them Diamond earrings just sparkle off that there duct tape.

Now, it's all fine and good to walk them there dogs, but what ya gonna go home to?

Ain't no worries cuz this home's comin' to you. Thanks to the local school department for their kind donation, them folks got what ya might call a two story retreat!!!

Well, where you'z gonna park that there retreat?

How bout in this fancy place!! Them folk really know how to roll out the welcome mat!!

They don't need no tree lined driveways round here, cuz they recycle!!
BUT it's real important to add a fancy touch...

and leave that there rim in with the dent from hitting uncle Sam's curb.

But where ya gonna eat?
Not to worry, we'z gonna have the family reunion at the local Shell station!!

Now, when you'z done with that there travelin', it's time to go to home sweet home. Grandma put a special flower planter in the middle of the yard for ya...

Them neighbors really know how to fill them trucks with testosterone...
And then there's her car! Notice the Mercedes to the left.

AND last but not least...

It only takes a true redneck to travel with their shotgun sticking out of the suitcase!!!

Night y'all!!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lost Puppy

This is a story of an event that happened while visiting my aunt in north Georgia.

I decided to go to the grocery store and get some milk and other food items. My aunt lives out in the country, and the store is about 20 minutes away so this was going to be an afternoon trip for me.

Since the grocery store is the best place to get a good, healthy lunch, I ordered up a yummy meal for myself and started to head for the tables. BUT it was thanksgiving time and the store looked like a local zoo, so I decided to head for a park instead. THAT WAS THE CRITICAL STEP in the rest of the day's events.

As I was leaving the store, I went out an exit that led me to a stop light so it would be easier to go left onto the 4-lane (as they call it down in north Georgia). While relaxing at the light listening to some great Celtic music, I noticed a little sign over in the corner of the intersection that said, "Animal Control" and had an arrow pointing behind me. I simply noticed it and moved on.

After making my left, I scooted into the right lane, since I am known for my old lady driving skills, and was headed up the highway in search for a park. Not a minute later, I saw a sign that said "Dam" with an arrow to the right.

Oooo... I know there is a view up there because I remember attempting to watch fireworks from that spot on 4th of July years ago. Driving at 55 mph made it impossible for me to slow down fast enough to make the turn, so I had to use my U-turn skills and go back. Once onto the side road, I could see the dam ahead. About a mile down, the road started to twist and curve around hair-pin turns. As I entered the last twist, there was this little black dog sitting in the middle of the road. She looked totally lost and was sure to get killed any minute. She was no bigger than 15 pounds and was just skin and bone.

How could I possible pass her up and keep driving? That's easy, I couldn't!! So I set my lunch on the floor, opened my car door and she jumped right in. After I closed the door, I don't think it was more than a minute later, she curled up in my lap and was sound asleep. Oh, my gosh, melt my heart!! She had a squished little nose and was just snoring away!!!

I spent about two and a half hours trying to find her owner, but had no luck. I had remembered that little sign back by the grocery store that said, "Animal Control," and decided that I really should take her there because I thought she had a home and I would leave town soon. Well, once I got there, they had closed 10 minutes before my arrival.

OK- Plan B...

Hmmm... There was no Plan B...

So back to my aunt's with me she goes. The only problem is my aunt has three big dogs that would make chopped liver of this little thing. So I made a nice, little bed for her in my car out of my fleece sweater, got her some food and water, and decided she could stay there until I come up with a plan. When I gave her a handful of food, I have never seen a dog eat food so fast. In one slurp, the food was gone and she drank all the water I gave her. I didn't want her to get sick so I was careful not to give her too much all at once.

Later that evening as my aunt arrived home from work, I sat in the chair and said, "Did you notice anything in my car as you drove in?"

"Um, no. Should I?"

"WELL, I collected a new travel mate today. She is so ugly, she's cute and I couldn't just leave her in the road, so I HAD to bring her home!!"

"Oh, dear!!" She laughed and said, "Maybe you should name her highway."

"Perfect!! But what if she has a home and has been lost for a while and I leave town with her?"

My aunt got the grand idea to check the newspaper. Just to give you a little insight into the area where my aunt lives, dogs are dropped like garbage on a regular basis so the chances of her having a home were small.

In the paper, there was an ad for someone that lost their female pug. "Oh, could it be?"

Unfortunately, the lady said her's was fawn color, but if I didn't find the owner in a couple days, call her back and she would host the dog until the owner could be found. I said, "OK," and hung up. It wasn't five minutes later when the phone rang. It was the lady calling back. She said she called her husband and he told her not to wait and to just get the dog that night. OH MY GOODNESS!! GREAT!! This wonderful woman would take the dog and if the owner couldn't be found, she would keep her as her own pet. YEA!! I love a happy ending!!

I never did eat my lunch. They became leftovers for the next day.

One last little detail- It is a very small world. When we went to Thanksgiving dinner, the hosts ended up knowing the lady that took the dog!

Before I end this, I must add a little redneck story:

The time about 10 years ago when we attempted to see the 4th of July fireworks up on the dam made for a unique holiday experience:

When we got up on top of the dam that year with the entire city's population of 1000 people to see the fireworks, there must have been a miscommunication between the advertiser and the officials meant to set off the fireworks. We all sat there until about 11:00 pm and the only fireworks were the newlyweds standing in front of us. So we decided to bail ship and head for home.

The gas tank was reaching empty so a fill-up was in order.

This led us to where the local rednecks put on a show that the county couldn't compare to.

Now, I'd like to ask you folks out there where the most logical place is to set off fireworks?

The park...

A wide open area...

Your driveway...

The middle of the street...

Or even on a beach?

OH, NO!!

I'm sorry. All those answers are incorrect...

The proper place to set off your 4th of July fireworks is at the gas station next to the pumps!!

AND, let me remind you, it would be best if you do this with a cigarette lit next to the sign that says, "No smoking!"

You can imagine our comfort in filling our tank with pop, crackle, and snap of colorful explosives next to us. "Excuse me, folks, could you hold the fire just a minute while we get a little gas?"

Needless to say, I think that was the most memorable tank of gas we all have ever filled.

And that leads me to what I will be posting next. -Hopefully tomorrow.

It will be redneck dedication page.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Here is the route I took and below are the costs involved.
I was asked many times what the differences were in gas prices around the country. I wrote down the price per gallon each time I filled up so here are the average prices in each state.

State average price per gallon

West Glacier, MT $3.03

Rest of Montana $2.75

North Dakota $2.71

Minnesota $2.60

Wisconsin $2.65

Illinois $2.87

Indiana $2.51

Ohio $2.50

Pennsylvania $2.65

Virginia $2.57

North Carolina $2.55

Georgia $2.55

Florida $2.75

Mississippi $2.54

Louisiana $2.62

Texas $2.55

Oklahoma $2.49

New Mexico $2.79

Colorado $2.40

Wyoming $2.45

Utah $2.58

Arizona $2.65

Nevada $2.99

California $3.07

Oregon $2.74


Everyone I talked to said they couldn't take a trip like this because it would be too expensive. If you are avoiding adventures because of cost, that is un-necessary! It is what you make of it. The travels don't have to cost you a lot. I saw far more of our country by seeing real life than if I had paid to see all the tourist attractions.

For example, when I went to Williamsburg, VA, instead of paying the $45 fee to see inside the buildings, I saw everything else. If I had paid that money, I never would have discovered the village being built to replicate life in 1775 and was being constructed by period tools.

I ate in grocery stores and hospitals. I know most of you might say that's nuts, but grocery stores almost always have a microwave and the deli usually has some great food on the cold side that they can heat for you. Most of those meals only cost me about $4 and are far healthier than restaurants.

If you want a full meal without the restaurant costs, hospitals have a fantastic option for not very much money. Just go to any hospital and find the cafeteria.
I also kept a cooler in the car where I kept yogurt, milk and anything else I needed to keep cool. If a hotel/motel didn't have breakfast, I would use my food in the cooler.

As far as hotels go, you don't have to stay at expensive places. There are small family owned hotels and motels all over our nation in small towns that need to be supported and are very affordable. These motels are very clean and you will meet some wonderful folks at the same time.

Most people stop in cities because that is within their comfort zone, but these little places are just like home and you get treated as if you are staying in the owner's house. In looking for a place to stay, I would usually stop before a large town or after a large town in order to find the mom and pops.

I did the entire trip on about $4000.

I think everyone should take a trip like this. For all you women that believe you can't do it, I know you can! We have an incredible country filled with amazing people!!! I hope you all get a chance to see it and meet them.

Either tomorrow or Monday I will post some special pictures I saved for last.

Friday, January 8, 2010

How to tinkle like a lady!

This story goes back to when I was passing through Maryland outside of Washington, DC.

I was traveling south on the interstate and I had to use the bathroom in the worst way. I was in an area where there were no easy exits to take. It was all cement walls and other cars as far as I could see.

My balloon was filling rapidly and the liquid was almost coming out my eyes. I hoped and prayed to come to an exit but with none in sight, I couldn't see any other options other than the side of the freeway. Oh, no!! Don't people get arrested for doing things like this? I could just see myself explaining to the judge how nature called.

Hmmm... The search began...

With my belly starting to fill to the point of holding the seat belt away, my list of requirements became less and less picky.

While driving in the right lane so I could swing off quickly, I was watching the tree line for ANY spot that would get me out of view of the bumper to bumper, late morning traffic.

Oooo... There it was like a beacon in the sky. A patch of trees up over a small hill where I could hide.

I think the only time a car pulls off the freeway so fast is if they had a blowout. I flung my car to the side and jumped out, as if it were on fire, and ran up a rather steep hill to the top.

UHHHHHH... From the freeway, it looked like the perfect spot filled with trees on the top of a hill, but clearly my liquid filled body had totally impaired judgment!!

As I reached the top of the small hill, there were trees alright, but the part I couldn't see was the fact that the hill dropped straight off the back side just at the top and those trees were growing from the 30-foot ditch below.

Oh, jeez!! I looked at my car and the lines of traffic and thought, "What now?"

I couldn't possibly make it to an exit, so I had to find a way to make this location work...

It was a rainy day and each step was slippery. I had visions of having to explain to the police how I ended up at the bottom of this large ditch. I was grabbing everything I could to keep from sliding to the bottom.

There is a horrible vine here and throughout the southeast called Kudzu that has taken over and grows something like 6 inches a day. WELL, I can testify that it has a very strong root system!!

This horrible vine that everyone hates was my new best friend! You see, if I stayed on the top of the hill, the world could see me, so the only way to keep from exposing myself was to drop my body down just over the edge. BUT if I did this by simply stepping, I would slide to the bottom in seconds.

To keep myself at the top, I was like a jungle woman and had the Kudzu wrapped around my left hand, wrist, and feet while I had to drop my pants with my right hand that was free. The only place for my feet, so they wouldn't slide, was up by my hands. I would have won twister for sure!! While attached to this vine, I hung my bare self out over the cliff and watered the plants below.

You realize, my troubles were only half over!!

You see, getting into this position was much easier than getting out!!

I was now hanging there with my back end exposed and my feet and one hand tangled in this vine. How do I get up? If I stood too tall, everyone on the freeway would see my half-naked self! So in true lady form, I cussed a few times, pulled on the vines with my only free hand and managed to get up enough to get my pants up. Then, I had to untangle my totally numb left hand and feet and get to the top without losing my footing.

There I stood at the top of this hill with red wrists and shoes covered in mud, but I didn't have to go to the bathroom for a while!!!

Now, men, aren't you glad you were created with an internal funnel!?!

By the way, I didn't get a ticket or arrested!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Time to unload

The day has come to unload the vehicle!!!

Oh, my goodness. How is it that packing seems so simple and unpacking seems to take forever!?!

Opening the back of my car was like opening a can of worms and that has no bottom.

First things first- just get it out!!!
The temperatures are in the teens and I was freezing so I could only get about 3/4 done, but that is enough for my living room...
My kitties were great help. They couldn't wait to see what came out next...
Bags and boxes oh my!!!
I spent several hours tonight working on this task, but I am tired now and going to crash. Tomorrow is another day and I am sure the stuff will be waiting for me after work :)
Have a great night!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First day back at work

Well, being home is quite the adjustment!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was my first day back to work since Oct. 31st.

I am a total night owl and on this trip stayed up til 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning every night. WELL, today was the hit in the head with a paddle day.

I couldn't go to sleep last night so I stayed up and wrote the blog til 3:00 am.

THEN at 6:00 am...

Bzzzzzzzzzzz Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Bzzzzzzzzzz

Since I have always had an issue with getting up, I bought the loudest alarm the store had about a year ago and put it across the room so I had to get up to shut it off. The theory here was by putting the alarm across the room, I would be forced to get out of bed and couldn't shut the alarm off in my sleep.

BUT, this morning that fancy alarm and location across the room did not keep me from sleeping til the last possible second. When the alarm went off, I went through in my head what I could cut out of my morning routine and slapped the snooze and crawled right back in and was floating in dreamland within seconds.


The alarm was louder this time. Dang it!!!! That was too fast. So again, I go through the morning routine in my mind and decided drinking Instant Breakfast on the way to work would give me about 25 more minutes of sleep so this time I reset the alarm and said, "Now, shut up!!" As if the alarm could hear me.

Slipped back under my cozy mound of comforters and was off in dreamland again in seconds.

Bzzzzzzzzzzzz Bzzzzzzzzzzzz Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

OH, NO!!!!!!!!! Not again!!! There is no way 25 minutes passed!!!


EEEEE YIIII YIIIII I can see I have a little adjusting to do to get back into my old routine!!!!

Now, it is 11:05 pm and I just returned from an evening with friends. I am going to crawl in and hopefully go to sleep early tonight!!!

And you thought the adventure was over!! Tomorrow after work, I plan to start the unloading of the entire house I have in my car.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Day 59- Jan. 2 Crossing Oregon

Good morning on my last day on the road.

I got to visit with so many friends and family that I hadn't seen in years. It was wonderful and felt just like old times!!!

As I drive down the street I grew up on, it made me feel like I have gone full circle. I started in my current life, went through my dream life, and have come here to the place I was raised and formed into the person I am today!!! Oooo... Such a great feeling!!!

It was off to my last breakfast with some more great friends...
Since I put in about 14-hour days this past week and stayed up til 3am last night, I was a little sleepy...

BUT my wonderful friend's conversation brought me to life and into the day. What great people!! I really enjoy their company!!!

After leaving breakfast, the intention was to get on I-84 and head east straight home.


I have yet to drive straight to anyplace on this trip so why change now? I was raised on these lands and had been on the Historic US 30 when I was a kid, but it has been about 20 years and I hardly remember it.

I think a detour is in order!! I couldn't go through the last day without any u-turns or detours!!

This highway led me up a curvy road that lines the ridge towering above the Columbia George...
Where the wind blows so much that the tree branches grow on one side of the tree...
and the stone walls holding the land back are filled with moss... The feeling is historic and moist with large fir trees and stone arched walls lining the highway...
This path led me here...

Where my eyes and mind almost couldn't take in everything because the views are so expansive. Seeing this today was like seeing it for the first time. I don't remember these views, and while I drive I-84, that borders the Columbia River through the valley, several times a year, it is a whole new look from up on top of the ridge.

Crown Point jets out into The George giving you views from here in Oregon to across the river into Washington...

and west to Portland...

and east as far as the river flows...

But my favorite view was sitting down on the sidewalk and looking through the stone wall.

After Crown Point, the road dives down around sharp curves...

and through trees covered in florescent green moss...

and stone hills that are cut away to make way for the road.

The water flows out of every crevice in the ground and the landscape is formed by creeks...

and waterfalls...

The entire scenic path led to the most famous waterfall in this area, Multnomah Falls...

As I stood to take this picture the mist was so heavy, I had to squint my eyes and wipe the dripping moisture of my face frequently.
Here at the falls, there is a trail that leads to the top and has a lookout to the left of where the water comes out of the trees. As far as my memory goes, I have never been on this path so guess what I decided to do with the afternoon!?! I knew I had a 5-hour drive from here, but I can't come this far and skip it!!

Up the path I go. This led me through a forest of big ferns and little ferns...
and rock formations that I couldn't help but climb in...

and tree roots I had to hang from.

Now, I thought the path was only 1.5 miles, but let me assure you, it was only a reminder to get my tail back to the gym when I get home!

Huffing and puffing and counting each step were my methods. I did everything possible not to think of the distance left, but when I felt like I had climbed Mt. Everest, I was only at switchback 4 of 11. This called for drastic measures...

I whipped out my cell phone and called my aunt. She said, "Oh, why don't you call me when you are not hiking and are back in the car."

"OH NO!! I called you to get my mind off this hike straight up!!"

The next thing I knew, I was at switchback 8 of 11 and then when I got to the point I had decided the trail would never end, I spotted the approach to the viewpoint overlooking the falls.
YIPEE!!!!!!!!! I made it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is the view on the other side of the deck in front of the river just before it falls off the mountain.

It is a little hard to get the perspective of things in this next picture, but the falls are on the left and I am looking straight down to the bottom. You can see the parking lot and viewpoint at the bottom where I took the first two pictures.

The river leading to the falls was beautiful as it wove through the moss filled, dense forest.

The strange thing to me is I grew up here and I don't ever remember the moss. I guess when you are born and raised someplace, you look past things like moss and how incredibly moist it really is.

On the way down the hill, I couldn't resist a photo op like this...
After all this fun, I had to use every ounce of being in me to get back in my car and head home :(
Faster than I wanted, I crossed the Washington border...
and got onto 395 headed north.
But when I got home, I walked into a house filled with love and joy. My incredible mother had taken the time out of her busy schedule to turn all the lights on in my house, turn my heat back up to normal, decorate with balloons, and left me dinner and dessert!!! How nice was that!!!! Gosh, I have a great mom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm really not ready for this trip to end. There's so many more people to meet and places to see and explore.

The purpose of me taking this trip was to get the travel bug out of my system.

WELL, it did the exact opposite!!! It made the travel bug blossom bigger than ever!! I have come up with bunches of other types of road trips to take...

1- A 4-wheeling tour of the states.

2- A tour of factories to learn how things are made and where they come from.

3- A kayaking tour of the lakes and rivers.

4- A treasure hunting tour searching for gems and stones.

5- A visit to the ranches and farms of the US and see how they are different and get to know the lifestyles at each.

6- A beaches tour!!

7- I have got to go down the east coast in the fall!!!

Oh, my goodness. My skin is jumping with excitement for another adventure!!! But for now, I am settled in my living room in denial that it is all over. Notice I said, "For now." I will get back out there!!!

It is like I never left and this whole thing was a dream.

I drove a total of 11,175 miles and covered 27 states.

Yes, I did almost all of it alone. My aunt was with me for one week and my dad was with me for 5 days but the rest of the time it was me and the open road.

I will be posting for about one more week with some fun stories and pictures that I never put on here during the trip, a page about costs and gas prices across the nation, and a questions and answers page.

If you have questions or things you are curious about, you can write me at and I will post answers on here at the end of the week. Since this program knows it is an email, it is putting an underline under the whole email address, so you can't see the underscore after "elpie" and before "ma." Make sure to put that underscore (_) in or it will never get to me. The underscore is located next to the = key. Just hold down shift and push the button and it will show up.

Good night!!