Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 399 Reflections on a Road Trip

Following the old cult of happiness advice that I have mentioned often in these podcasts to enjoy the anticipation, actualization and reflections of life it is time for me to reflect on a recent fall road trip.

We just completed a two and a half week road trip in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Oregon. It is time to reflect.

How far did we go? I have't a clue. We did't keep track of milage but let me just say we went slow. We measured our distance by days not miles. Some days no miles other than on our bikes on a trail or the streets of some town. One day we did drive 300 miles. That was a record for us but we were coming home. We drove from 9:30 in the morning till almost 6 in the evening.   A long day for us. We did manage to work in a nap and a stop for lunch, a walk through a farmers market in Ellensberg, Washington and stopped for coffee but it seemed like a lot of time on the road.

Our plan of attack worked well. We usually drove one or two days and then enjoyed a three to five night stay in a home exchange. They were all great. We paid for lodging five nights out of  17. One of them was in an old historic hotel in Prairie City, Oregon. Just one hundred dollars and we had great espresso across the street, dynamite meal three doors down and biking in the evening through ranch land that was world class. This is in eastern Oregon. It is wide open cattle country. I love this part of the west. Prairie City is a small town that I had never heard of but when we decided to try to find espresso and then saw the hotel and had the feeling that lived in this place we decided to enjoy the late afternoon and evening. End of travel for the day.

Our trip started with a drive in a pouring rain over the Cascades. We couldn't even find a coffee shop in Omak and had to settle for sitting at a picnic table next to a drive in coffee kiosk before driving across the Nez Pierce Indian Reservation. I love this drive along the Columbia River. We spent the evening in Grand Coolee. We always stop here when we go east. We stop at the visitor center and listen to a tape of Woody Guthrie singing "Roll on Columbia, Roll on" This dam was the construction project ever attempted by man up to that time. And the time was the 1930s - depression. It is a massive project that brought all sorts of young, tough folks to this western Coolee where they made electrical power that would change the face of the Pacific Northwest. It is still inspirational.

The following day we had lunch in downtown Coure deLaine, Idaho. We strolled the streets and then roamed a block off main to discover their new downtown park right on the bank of the lake. It is a beauty. The citizens of that town have built something that generations will appreciate. We lingered.

That evening we were in Missoula at some retired friends home. Conversation sparkled. Other friends stopped by and took us out to dinner at a fancy place overlooking the city. Seeing old friends for just a couple of hours has to be one of life's special pleasure. It is so much fun to catch us.

Our next stop was in Butte where they had the largest copper mine in the world just over a hundred years ago. The mine is now closed and the city has a host of empty buildings and houses. I like the old town build on a mountain side and love to stop here to just to soak up a feeling of days gone by. We did visit the Berkeley pit filled with poisonous water. It is one of the largest most polluted places in America. Birds die if they land on the water. We moved on after a great lunch at "The Garage" restaurant.

Our first home exchange was in Bozeman and it was a beauty. A craftsman style just six blocks from downtown. We had three sets of folks to visit in this town and went on hikes or bike rides with each. We really enjoyed conversations and adventures with these locals. Bozeman is a place we had wanted to explore for years and we finally took the time to wander the streets and hikes that are close to town. It would be a great place to live. Then we were off to Yellowstone.

This was about a hundred mile day. We stayed in Gardiner at the  North Entrance. My niece is a ranger in Yellowstone and she gave us a brief yet very informative tour around the Mammoth area. It always helps to go with someone who knows what they are doing. We paid for a guest house that night and enjoyed Pizza and beer just across the street.

The following day we took a slow drive through Yellowstone thanking our forebears  that made this a national park. We had been there before but it is always beautiful and has a natural way of slowing you down and causing you to gap in wonder. We even saw two grizzly bears but it was the gorgeous  fox by the side of the road that really held our attention. The sun came out and the fall foliage radiated beauty. It stayed with us for the rest  of the trip. Colors, colors, colors. Colors and space that what stands out. I love the space that the west has to offer. You can look for miles in all directions. Sometimes on the small roads we could stop right in the middle of the road  and get out to complete silence and space. It is a wonderful experience.

By evening we were in Jackson Hole in the Tetons. We had to pay for lodging here. It was fairly expensive but a beautiful place at Spring Creek Ranch just six miles from downtown. We had booked the place on line and got a tremendous discount on price. Jackson Hole is a beautiful setting and the Tetons are certainly majestic. We had a great bike ride the following morning up through an Elk refuge at the edge of town. Jackson is an expensive place but we are certainly glad we included it in our trip.

This is where we turned west. We were making a loop. I think I'll just stop there this week and continue the reflection next episode. A road trip is such a wonderful thing. We didn't rush it and I don't want to rush the reflection.

This is Retirement Talk with something to think about.


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