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One of Those Suckers

June 30, 2015 - Behind The Wheel

On a Tuesday in June without announcement my back went out, the sort of going out that ends with the news of a ruptured disk, sends your spouse to the guest bed for a week, and garners an enlightened understanding of drugs that fall in the respective categories of the good shit and the not so good shit.  Minor care emergency doctors dispense the kind that shoo you out the door with a naively hopeful belief you’ve side-stepped a visit to the real doctor. Avoid them. Head straight to the real doctor, the one that knows you and isn’t afraid to prescribe the knock you on your ass drugs, with a refill for good measure. At times like this, know your true friends.

For my siblings and me as kids, June meant a road trip with surrogate parents (and their two children) – a couple, of no relation who positively contributed to the arduous and long suffering job of converting cretins to socially responsible individuals.  My first travel related memories are due them; the love of road trips surely rooted in those early journeys in the back of a camper-hull-domed-pick-up-truck headed to the likes of unimaginably distant, exquisitely exotic specters of Knott’s Berry Farm and Silver Dollar City via America’s original Holiday Inn, the KOA campground circuit.

The world beyond the ranch to young country bumpkins was an impressive stretch of man-made sensory overload and vibrant, uber pigment-saturated kitsch. The love of road trips stuck. Check on the camping as well. The awe of man made currency denominated achievement however, reversed itself with whiplash gusto, becoming an uber repulsion by the time I took control of my own road trip machine. For the next 18 years, a laughing, saucer eyed boy ensured June’s reign as the year’s first opportunity for a non-family related, purely for pleasure, road trip.

All American Summer Break Road Trip, classic style

In my drug induced deliriously pain free fog, the nostalgic memory of June’s past began its march. Oh how I’d love one of those color swirled round suckers the size of a tractor tire, or a town pennant like the one I brought home with Intercourse, Pennsylvania on it. Surrogate Dad thought it a riot. Real Dad not so much. Despite the glorious passing of several years since June’s death-clutch on the road trip ended with my son’s exit for college, there’s apparently such a thing as mental muscle memory when stoked by good drugs.

Tears stream as I sorrowfully pounce on the fact there can’t be a road trip this June because woe is me I’m not able. And oh God, let’s throw more fuel on this roaring pity party, maybe not even in July or way more tears, August.

Please don’t attempt comfort by reminding me I strive to never travel in June, July or August in order to avoid the drones of people forced to the roads in these particular months. Just because I can’t stand the bumbling crowds, the sniveling kids, the oppressive heat;  just because I sneer at station wagons, flip off grandparents slowing down to not miss the theme park exit, glare at pick up trucks with unsecured passengers in the back, and honk at anyone I see pointing at stupid things…doesn’t mean I no longer believe in the wholesome goodness of the American summer break road trip.

It simply means I’ll do whatever it takes to avoid them.  Unless of course I’m flat on my back, down and out, not physically able, couldn’t drive into the sweating surge of humanity if my solo road trip arrogant self depended on it.  Then I just want some sympathy.  And one of those suckers.

Dogwood City, Arkansas. Wow.

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Late, For Nowhere in Particular

Rolling down some back-road cloaked in the bliss of anonymity, one arm in contact with the wheel at the point that encourages my wrist to flop carefree at the end of it, head bobbling to a slow rhythmic beat that doesn’t match my rousing vocal accompaniment to Life is a Highway that’s cranked up so loud it’s oozing from the Yukon like displaced mortar, I come across this.

Signifying a certain arm flex to the grinding pressure of today’s world, a ballsy show of throwing caution to the wind, a take-this-job-and-shove-it head toss, THIS is temptation.  If you look at it with just the right tilt of your head, you’ll get the same glint in your eyes.  Selling everything I own would enable the purchase of a few acres in any number of states, on which I could move or build a small house, delivering my bobbling head into town once a week for provisions in this.

Run Away From Home!

I don’t succumb. Others in my life would highly disapprove and I highly value these others.  I photograph the Ford and pull back onto the road with a slow-mo melodrama moving frame by frame through my brain. It conveniently loops from the part that shows me walking up to the house, knocking on the door, engaging the owner in negotiations, taking the keys from them and driving away into the sunset in that truck.  My melodramas never include the pragmatic part about what I’d do with all my crap in the Yukon, the Yukon, the exchange of titles, discussing what oil the Ford uses, insurance, etc.

Not many of us ever throw this degree of caution to the wind. But who among us hasn’t entertained the thought of running away from home, even if it’s for a mere few harmless days?  It’s a bit risque and for the first time in my long history of SRTs I see it for that. You’re out there by the droves sending me emails  about the longing to get out there. I fully understand the longing. Few things in our lives are as liberating, empowering, and rejuvenating as a solo road trip.

So I ask all of you with latent and repressed open road wanderlust sitting at home fantasizing about the cloak of anonymity, arm draped over the wheel, or resting lightly on handle bars, aren’t you late, for nowhere in particular?

Camp-Out Cooking

May 21, 2014 - Backpacking/Camping
netting one
netting one

As the final camping/glamping post (for awhile), listed below are a few items recommended to be on your camp-out cooking grocery list along with some tips and a select few ‘recipes’ that are practically fail-safe. Here’s a quick reference to all the posts in the Camping series:

See the hard work below? It’s not always possible to 1) do this safely – this guy’s a pro, or 2) have an open fire due to drought/burn bans.  If you can’t have a fire, memorize this word: resourceful.

During the winter I roast hot dogs at home over my gas cooktop. So the trip’s not bust just because of a burn ban.

hard work

Wyoming Campsite

Wyoming Campsite

I made a comment in the post A Little Dirt Won’t Hurt that is not really accurate.  To be diplomatic, instead of stating that camping and cooking don’t mix (which is my opinion), the correct statement would be that I camp to get away from every-day activities, cooking being one of them.

If you spend a lot of time cooking in camp, you can’t do these activities:

Fishing but not really

Fishing but not really

DSC00173

Preparing to arm wrestle – psyching out the opponent

serious napping

serious napping

not so serious napping

not so serious napping

posing

posing

sending a campmate to timeout

sending a campmate to timeout

gazing

gazing

pretending you're a circus performer on stilts

pretending you’re a circus performer on stilts

So if you don’t want to be staked (pun intended HA!) to the kitchen machine, take heed:

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A Little Dirt Won’t Hurt

May 9, 2014 - Backpacking/Camping
No I didn't

-20 F. Film shatters. Digital rebels.

By the time the fire got its lick of the sugary ooze it was too late to save it.  The entire glob let go, the creamy interior flashing briefly as it separated from the blackened gossamer crust crashing one then the other into a gooey splat. Cum-candy gone wrong. Not the happy ending I’d anticipated. Humpty Dumpty’s poem always breaks in at this, the first marshmallow to hit the skids.  Since it looks like a bird took a crap, the Humpty Dumpty trigger is obviously a mis-wire somewhere in the psyche.  It screws up the camping vibe until a waft of molten sugar belch reaches my nose freeing my brain from the HD song long enough to refocus on the sloppy technique that caused the mishap.

Backyard Fire Pit

Campfire Cooking

All that passionate effort, the perfectly timed tiny puffs aimed to put the fire out but not dislodge the softening bolster pillow mass;

salty beads of sweat banding together into a trickle down my forehead as my hand and the stick turn,

dip and contort in order to keep the object intact, the anticipation of the ritual touch to the lips

ooh too hot twirl a few times then back for the final plunge, and now, the indistinguishable charred remains could just as well be calf nuts on the crackling coals.

Camp Cookery

Camp Cooking Essentials

All for what you ask?  Another go of course.  Losing one or three or ten is part of the ritual.

The whippet of green branch is even better prepared now that the tip’s coated with a sticky clump.  It’s like giving someone your hand as they slip from a 10 story window ledge – it’s hopeless but it makes you both feel better in the moment.

The next marshmallow victim has something to cling to as you begin another intricate dance. That’s how it goes roasting marshmallows – casualties are high but the payoff memorably delicious.

A lot of dancing takes place in camp cooking.  Unlike Fred and Ginger, the results are cluggy, less than perfectly orchestrated processes that aren’t much to look at, generally requiring resourcefulness and a willingness to be happy with something under or over-cooked, sometimes even unrecognizable.

Camp Kitchen

camp kitchen

One needs to be willing to oohh and ahhh over anything cooked over an open fire regardless how shitty it turns out.

That may be what camping is all about,,,,

being happy and grateful for your own mediocrity and learning to deal with it.

Which is why camping and cooking in my opinion don’t go together.  Those of us that cook at home need on-staff camp therapists because it’s hard to handle the fact you can poach a perfect egg in your home kitchen but even your scrambled eggs out here would bounce from the nearest pavement [20 miles away].  High tech with one of those heat seeking digital read out guns?  It’ll be accurate. But a smidgen either side of that spot might be 100 degrees different.  Good luck with that.

Uigher Woman Carrying Water

Uigher Woman Carrying Water – Lots of dishes = you doing this

You can buy a camp-cook recipe book but you’ll find a lot of things skewered (the veges will wind up in the fire next to the marshmallows and it’s damn messy handling the food without running water), delicate food items packaged into neat little bundles of aluminum foil to be thrown onto a fire you have no idea the temperature of, to be timed at 15.5 minutes but oh wait you left your wrist watch at home (the proper thing to do by the way), and things like muffins and eggs cooked in an orange shell.  Don’t know about you but when I cook in a less than stable environment I prefer to see the food as its cooking/smoldering/burning.

And I don’t cook in camp things I wouldn’t make at home like anything in a friggin’ orange shell.

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50 Things to-do in Jackson Hole & Grand Teton National Park

 

Teton Pass Sign

 

Higher clearance vehicle recommended

At some point every year, my thoughts turn to it. A hunger to see it, breathe the mountain air, gaze upon the abundant wildlife, dine at my favorite restaurants, and hike favorite trails, inevitably begins to gnaw.  

There is something to be said for the delicious stride of habit’s familiarity.

Some can’t fathom traveling to the same place twice; there is indeed a great deal to see in the world. But even among those with the most severe case of wanderlust, many have a favorite destination – a place whose familiar embrace is longed for.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming is that place for me.  The wonder and enchantment of the mountains and the valley is constant. It’s the intrigue generated by the continual motion of rotating sensory stimulus that causes me to travel there again and again — it is never the same twice.

Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole overlap (one of only two airports in the United States in a National Park).  But I’ve broken the list down by what’s technically in the Park and what isn’t. With a map and this list, you’ll see some of the best the area has to offer.

Mormon Row Barn

Explore!

view from the upper saddle

base camp

Grand Teton base camp

Grand Teton National Park

1. Walk through Jackson Lake Lodge. The wall of windows at the back facing the Teton Mountain Range frame a spectacular view. The wildlife watching at dusk from the outdoor patio at the back is fantastic. Highway 89/191 just north of Jackson Lake Dam.
2. Enjoy a meal on the patio at Signal Mountain Lodge – the PILE of memorable (based on size and taste) nachos and the tequila lime chicken quesadilla are a must. Add insult to injury and get the chocolate pecan bourbon pie to go and one of their palm-sized homemade cookies at the checkout counter.
3. Since you’re already there, drive to the top of Signal Mountain. Teton Park Road south end of Jackson Lake. And yes, you CAN drive to the top.
4. Take the boat across Jenny Lake and walk up to Inspiration Point/Hidden Falls. Teton Park Road.
5. Take a hike. There are many from which to choose and for all fitness levels. From the Taggart Lake hike of 4 miles to the all day not-for-the-faint-of-heart Amphitheatre Hike (rated very strenuous), there’s something for everyone. Taggart Trailhead – Teton Park Road just north of the Moose Entrance gate; Amphitheatre Trailhead – Teton Park Road, Lupine Meadows, north of Taggart trailhead and south of Jenny Lake.
6. Drive to Antelope Flats for wildlife viewing. Road turns East off of Highway 89/191 just north of Moose Junction. Watch for a sign.
7. See the barns on Mormon Row for a classic view of the Tetons. 13 miles north of Jackson on 89/191, go east at the Gros Ventre Road turnoff, then head north on the first road that junctions. Mormon Row is in the southern area of Antelope Flats.
8. For scenery and wildlife viewing, find Schwabacher’s Landing. It’s a photographer’s dream. Highway 89/191 north of Moose Junction.
9. The same goes for Oxbow Bend. Highway 89/191 north of Moran Entrance Station and south of Jackson Lake Junction.
10. Find the spot where the 1953 Western film, Shane, was filmed (towards Kelly).
11. See the Gros Ventre (Grow Vaunt) Slide Geological Area. On June 23, 1925, 50 million cubic yards slid off the side of Sheep Mountain damming the Gros Ventre River and creating Lower Slide Lake. Highway 89/191 just north of Jackson and south of the airport, turn East onto the Gros Ventre Road. Follow the paved road past Kelly.
12. Stand in awe at the Snake River overlook made famous by Ansel Adams. Highway 89/191 north of Schwabacher’s Landing, south of Triangle X Ranch (all marked).
13. Locate the Old Patriarch Tree (about a 15 minute walk off the road). 89/191 north of Moose Junction. If you want the GPS coordinates, you’ll have to leave a comment and ask me for those!
14. Stay at a dude ranch. Any dude ranch.
15. Take a horseback ride. Anywhere.

Wyoming Cutthroat

snake river overlook B&W film

Jackson Hole Area

Home Away From Home

Big Smile, Tiny Cutthroat Trout

 From the Top

16. Get pictures at the top of Teton Pass (8,341 feet), in front of the famous Teton Pass sign with the cowboy pointing towards Jackson Hole (especially fun during the winter when the snow covers most of the sign). Approximately 11 miles west of Jackson on Highway 22 and just up the mountain from Wilson.
17. Speaking of Wilson: grab a cappuccino and bagel at Pearl Street Bagels (my fav? everything bagel with sundried tomato, olive oil cream cheese + an oatmeal craisin cookie) and eat it on the picnic table just out back.  There’s also a Pearl Street Bagels in the town of Jackson but it lacks something (even though the food is just as good) compared to the Wilson location.  Also in Wilson, eat at Nora’s. Shop at Fish Creek Interiors. Get a soda pop at the General Store.
18. See the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Just north of Jackson on 89/191. Be sure to check out the gift shop.
19. Drive to the Curtis Canyon Overlook. In Jackson behind the hospital, take the Elk Refuge Road. It’s a dirt road that makes a forced turn to the north – after that change of direction, take the first road east. Wind your way into the backcountry until you see the sign and the overlook. Great place. I once photographed an eclipse from there. And big horn sheep.
20. If you know how to flyfish, then wet a line here. If not, take a lesson or a guided trip. Check out Jack Dennis or several other flyshops for their offerings.
21. Take a drive on the Moose-Wilson road. Make sure you have binoculars for the wildlife. North of the airport on 89/191, take the Moose Junction exit. Before you get to the Grand Teton National Park gate, you’ll see a sign for the road on your left.
22. Wine tasting at Dornan’s; pizza at Dornan’s; cookies at Dornan’s (inside the grocery shop). North of airport on 89/191, take the Moose Junction exit. Dornan’s has a sign just past the turnoff.
23. Raft down the Snake River (through the Canyon). Several outfitters to choose from.
24. Chicken pizza at the Brew Pub (Snake River Brewery – downtown Jackson). Any beer at the Brew Pub – micro brewed on the premises.
25. Latte & Bagels at Pearl Street Bagels (one in downtown Jackson and another location at Wilson)
26. Stay at Wyoming Inn (Red Lion Inn), or the Four Seasons, or the Snake River Lodge & Spa, or the Wort Hotel.
27. Try Pica’s restaurant near Albertsons in downtown Jackson. There’s a florist and a few other shops next to them. They have great Mexican food, terrific margaritas. The fish tacos are my favs.
28. Breakfast at Bubba’s – biscuits and gravy, pancakes – best I’ve ever had!! Great omelets.
29. Any meal or snack at The Bunnery (downtown Jackson)
30. The Blue Lion Restaurant! Have the stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer and the lamb shank for an entree (downtown Jackson).
31. Dinner & oyster shooters at the The Rendezvous Bistro. My husband loves the green oyster shooters, I love the red ones. Try both. (South of downtown Jackson)
32. Massage at the Rusty Parrot (downtown Jackson)
33. Take in one of the many festivals. The Fall Arts Festival is in September. Film Festival in September/October. Music Festival in July and August. 
34. Lunch at Sweetwater Restaurant, on the patio (downtown Jackson).
35. Shop at Skinny Skis and Teton Mountaineering in downtown Jackson – my two favorite shopping excursions in the world (go up the stairs in Teton Mountaineering and you’ll find their sale items).
36. Check out Cloudveil’s flagship store (they’re headquartered in Jackson). It’s on a corner in downtown Jackson, but off the square.
37. For fun, unique, home interior shopping and small colorful gifts, check out Wild Hands for really neat artsy colorful objects (downtown Jackson), Paradigm Interior Design next to Pearl Street Bagels, and Jackson Lighting.
38. Shop at The Bootlegger in downtown Jackson.
39. Take a sleigh ride on Elk Refuge in winter.
40. Order an Arnold Palmer wherever you eat (it’s a tea/lemonade mix and very Jackson).
41. Tram ride to the top of the Teton Village mountain (Rendezvous Mountain) and hike down, or NOT.
42. Enjoy lunch or simply a walk through at Teton Village’s Mangy Moose Restaurant. The Idaho trout fish and chips are memorable as is the full sized stuffed moose hitched to a sleigh hanging from the ceiling.
43. Dinner at the Bar J Chuckwagon on Highway 22 (on the way to Teton Village). You’ll get a real chuckwagon meal (fit for a king), a wagon ride, and a cowboy music show.
44. Hike to the top of Snow King (ski mountain in downtown Jackson) and if you can’t do that, take the ski lift – GREAT aerial view of Jackson.
45. Hike up High School Butte and watch the handgliders take off.
46. Find the Sleeping Indian (hint: Sheep Mountain).
47. Find the town square’s live webcam and wave to friends at home (stand on the corner near the stagecoach office and wave to the cam on top of Jackson Trading Company); sit in the town square, admire the elk horn arches (all naturally shed), and people watch.
48. Attend the Shootout every summer evening at 6:00 p.m. (downtown Jackson)
49. Find an art gallery brochure and take a self-guided tour around the galleries located on the Jackson town square.
50. Attend a rodeo.

Jackson Hole Hill Climb

51.  BONUS!  Attend the World Championship Hill Climb (snow mobiles — great fun).

 

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

 

Hard Life

 

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The Grand Climb

 

Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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