Monday, June 18, 2018

Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, day 1

We drove from St. Louis to Mammoth Cave today, a relatively short 5 hour drive. We went straight to the park to get tix for cave tours tomorrow. With tix in hand, we walked around the grounds a bit. There's not much to see there above ground. However, there are a couple places where what looks like an ordinary pool of water is actually a flooded entrance to the "longest known cave system in the world." One such pool is pictured here:
 The forested areas above the caves are typical eastern US deciduous forest. I've spent a lot of time in places like this, so it was nice to just walk in the woods.
 Through one break in the trees you could see a bit down the valley. The biggest difference between the hills here and those back in Walla Walla is that they are densely covered in forest. You don't really get to see the underlying geology.
 We had dinner at Bucky Bee's BBQ in Horse Cave, KY. High quality, small-town Kentucky pulled-pork BBQ:
 Sunset at the campground was lovely.
But, pet peeve about campgrounds, it is not cool to locate the tent sites so that tent campers have to walk past 250 yards of cushy RVs, lined up one after the other, each with their very own toilets, to get to the public bathroom. Here's hoping I don't have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

Looking forward to tomorrow's underground tours. I'll take what pictures I can.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

St. Louis, MO

We left our KOA campsite in Salina this morning about 8:30am. Campsites are interesting in the way that for a day at a time an ad hoc community is created and dissolved. We did laundry and met a couple from FL that toured the country with their sailboat and competed in races. We got to talking about Rachel and her friend Shubham who has a productive mango tree in his backyard. Turns out these folks too had a productive mango tree and further, they had a bunch of their mangos with them on the trip. They shared a bunch of them with us. So I had some very fresh, ripe mango for breakfast this morning.
 As is our habit, we stopped in a small town for lunch during today's drive. Today's stop was in Boonville, MO. One really neat thing about Boonville is that it is a stop on the Missouri KATY rails-to-trails project. At 260 miles, it's one of the longest such projects in the country. Laura and I walked along the trail for a while and wished we had our bikes with us so we could see more of it. I met a guy that was riding the entire length of the trail for a long weekend. He took a train to one end with his bike and his gear and was riding back to the other end where his car was parked. Here's a typical "stop" along the trail.
 Here's a farm that can be seen from the part of the trail we walked:
 This is the restored original railway station from when the trail was still a rail. It's now a bike shop:
 This old-style brick warehouse is now a kind of whole foods grocery store:
 After lunch we finished our day's drive at Laura's Aunt Judy's house outside of St. Louis. There, along with Aunt Judy, we met two of Laura's cousins, Chris and Will and Chris' children Thuy-Anh, Thao-Anh and Jamison. All great kids, we especially enjoyed getting to know them. We played Yahtzee and Judy rolled 3 Yahtzees! We got to know Thuy-Anh and Thao-Anh a bit.
 It was a typical hot, humid day in St. Louis. There was a water gun battle:
 After that, the Yahtzee, Thao-Anh is the best most animated dice roller:
It was really great catching up with these fine folks. I hope we can stay in touch a bit more moving forward. Thuy-Anh is in a dual-language program (spanish) at her elementary school. Maybe Laura and I can stay in touch and share a bit of our Spanish experience with her.

Tonight we're in a Days Inn in St. Louis--taking a break from the tent for a night. Tomorrow on to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky and back into the tent.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Salina, KS

Yes, that's Salina (sal-eye'-nuh). It's a town about the size of Walla Walla in the middle of Kansas. Largely an agricultural town that, unlike Walla Walla, lacks the tourism component. We walked the downtown "main street" this evening and it was pretty dead. A lot of store fronts either closed or struggling. It seemed to be a vision of Walla Walla without the colleges or the wine industry. To their credit, there's clearly a group of people trying to keep the downtown area vibrant. Here are a few pics. The first one, strategically placed in front of the Dept of Corrections Parole Office seems to be a message to folks on parole:
 This statue along "main st" is a bit more uplifting:
 This one, the guy in front is branding a steer, is sure to be a big hit with the PETA folks:
 And, finally, here a shot of me in front of the official vehicle of the state of Kansas:

A constant here in Kansas seems to be 30mph winds. Here's a possibly comical timelapse of Laura and me putting up our tent in a brisk wind:

Speaking of wind, the drive along I-70 east from Denver to here was into a stiff head to cross wind. The miles-per-gallon display in the Honda was alarmingly low, about 23 mpg. Of course, the stiff head wind along with the 80mph speed all day probably didn't help.

It's pretty warm this evening and more humid than anything we've experienced so far on this trip. We're definitely transitioning to the typical hot and humid summer climate of the eastern United States. Fortunately, there seems to be no risk of thunderstorms this evening and we head off to St. Louis tomorrow where we will stay in a hotel!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Rocky Mountain National Park

We got up early today, went to Safeway to get lunch for the trail, drove up to the Glacier Basin Park & Ride inside Rocky Mountain National Park and caught the shuttle up to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. There, we hiked up to Alberta Falls and then looped around to Dream Lake, Emerald Lake and finally ended at Bear Lake. Total distance about 8 miles. We had lunch at Dream Lake--just a couple of sandwiches that we bought at Safeway. Here are a few pictures. First an obligatory wildflower photo:
 Next one of the few remaining patches of snow up there:
 This was my favorite vista of the day, though there were many beautiful panoramas. This is looking up Loch Vale:
Along with ground squirrels, birds, marmots, and brook trout, we saw these bull elk hanging out the Alpine Visitor Center:
We're hoping to pull up stakes (literally) tomorrow early and driving to Salina, KS.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

On To Colorado

Today was a travel day from Capitol Reef NP to Rocky Mountain NP in Estes Park, CO. We're camped in the "Estes Park Campground at Mary's Lake".

The transition from the spectacular desert of Utah to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado was interesting. We also had a chance to cross over, near Breckenridge, the TransAmerica bike route that Laura and I rode about 8 or 9 years ago.

After setting up the campsite, we went up to the RMNP Beaver Meadows visitor center, but it was closed. We headed back into Estes Park and went to their visitor center (still open!). Spoke to a knowledgeable volunteer there and we now have a strategy for what to do tomorrow in the park.

We took a walk around Lake Estes as a remedy for sitting in the car all day. We're getting up early tomorrow to pack lunch and catch the shuttle bus into the park.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Capitol Reef, part 2

Really windy outside, so I'm doing this on my laptop in the lobby building of our campsite. We hiked a fair bit today around the park. Learned that the correct spelling for the park is "capitol", not "capital". It's "capitol" because there's a rock formation here that looks like the capitol building in DC. I'm not really sure which one, haha, but here's an archetype of the kind of formation (it might be this one off in the back leftish):

Not sure why it's called "capitol reef", there's no ocean here. We did go to a ranger presentation last night on the history of the area with an emphasis on women. There were a lot of examples. Many were the wives of Mormons in the area. The lecture ended with an admonition to remember the wives whenever reading about the Mormon men that settled this area.

We hiked up the Grand Wash this morning. The floor of this steep canyon can flood catastrophically and the evidence of that was all around us as we hiked.

It's not possible to provide a photo that really does justice to the scale and beauty of this canyon:

Similarly the longer vistas are striking, but these photos fail them miserably:

We ate at "The Saddlery" next door this evening--our first restaurant meal of the trip. Basically bar food. Had a hamburger and fries that were very good. The real puzzle about this place is that it is in an absolutely massive cinderblock building and the restaurant inside uses the fully open interior (I'm guessing 5000 sq ft). Tables were separated from each other by 30 feet. The wait staff really got a workout serving in this place. Not sure what the story behind the overly large building was (in a small town there's always a story).

We're thinking of heading back to the park this evening for the ranger presentation--frogs, lizards and snakes.

We'll be heading on to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado tomorrow. A very different climate from Capitol Reef (it was pushing a dry desert 100 degrees today).

Finally, I learned today that there is a competing blog by someone named Laura Schueller called VillaWalla that promised to corroborate every word of this blog. Or, more likely, set the record straight.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Capitol Reef

We just got back from a ranger presentation on the night sky at Capitol Reef National Park here in Utah. It's very late, so this will be quick. The night sky is amazing. Here's one shot with my cell phone (there are some artifacts, but it gets the idea across):

There are really beautiful rocks to be seen by day too:

Worth a visit. We'll be hiking in the park tomorrow. Goodnight!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Leaving Home

We left Walla Walla this morning around 9am. Weird. Exciting. Sad. We don't expect to return until sometime in July-August of 2019. We weren't very good about finding people and saying goodbye this past week. If we missed you, we already miss you. We were lucky to see our neighbors Casey, Tessa and their daughter Scarlet on the way out this morning. Scarlet gave us hugs. She knows we're going away for awhile, but at 3 years old, she doesn't really know.

Short day driving today. Good weather. Had lunch at a park in downtown Baker City, OR. The last time we were in that part of the world was for the solar eclipse last August.

We're currently camped at a private campground outside of Twin Falls, ID called Anderson Campground. Not a destination location, more an inexpensive place to spend the night. Very windy, had to position the car as a wind break to keep the tent from blowing away. A tent that was set up down range from us, collapsed after a while and those folks just packed up and left. I think we're past the worst of it now.


Hoping for a good night's sleep in the tent. Already one time zone east of home.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Point of This Blog

Some of you may remember that we lived in Budapest, Hungary during the 2003-2004 academic year. During that time, I kept a bit of a daily diary which you can still find here:

The diary was mostly a documentary project for the family to help us recall some of the details when we're all old and grey. However, friends and family also seemed interested, so it became an easy way to keep in touch. A lot has changed in the 15 years since we lived in Budapest. In particular, high-quality, on-line blogging software is much more accessible. Fifteen years ago, I basically wrote the Budapest web pages from scratch--which is why they look so primitive. This time around, I'm going to use this Blogger platform to document the year.

On June 11, 2018, Laura and I will leave Walla Walla and not return for at least a year. I'll be on sabbatical leave from Whitman College working on my mathematics research as well as the development of a new introductory course in machine learning for the math dept. Laura will take the year off from formal employment, but will be working remotely on a project for the WA state 2-year colleges.

We're relocating to Seville, Spain for no particular reason other than we'd like to learn to speak Spanish and live in a relatively warm climate. We applied for and received year-long visas from Spain (that was an ordeal). We also have rented a small 2-bdrm apt in downtown Seville through AirBnB. We arrive in Spain on July 2 and Seville on July 4. Former Whitman student, math major, good friend and all-around great person, Halley McCormick, will be living in our house in Walla Walla for the year. She'll be looking after things while working at Garrison Middle School.

Between July 11 and July 1, we'll be driving across country towards Miami, camping and visiting with folks along the way. The big goal is to leave the car with Rachel in Miami for the year (since she doesn't have a car and we certainly won't be needing it).