Day 2.9a If It Walks Like a Duck . . .

OK-so we’ve still jumped in the DeLorean and gone back to the future. It’s still Saturday, only a little bit earlier and I haven’t gone to the creepy motel yet. Still with me?

After a flurry of activity packing up Pearl, we headed once more into downtown Bar Harbor for a last look around and some shopping. BUT FIRST! Ice cream! And not only was it handmade from real Maine blueberries (and real rainbow sprinkles) . . .


but guess who else got samesies?! (Albeit six years earlier.)


Sure, Obama had toasted coconut and didn’t (to my knowledge) share with Bo, but still pretty cool.

So after a quick pop into Bark Harbor to stock up on lobster flavored dog treats, we strolled down the street a little further and I saw an interesting little shop selling things made by local Maine artists. Now I should say that the majority of the stores in this area are dog-friendly, including the ice cream place, but I do understand that’snot everyone’s jam. So I poked my head in to see if Annie and I would be welcome. The place seemed deserted (NOT desserted) at first, but eventually, a lady came out from the back. “Can my dog and I come in?” I asked. “No.” I said OK, and turned to leave, and as I did she mumbled something I didn’t quite catch. At first, I thought she suggested I tie Annie up, which, seeing as it was about eleventy billion degrees outside seemed like a less than ideal solution. But no, what she was ACTUALLY proposing was even more absurd. She wanted to me PICK ANNIE UP!

So I look at Annie and I look at her, and she says “Oh, does she not like to be carried?” And I’m thinking, “It’s a 33-pound dog! I don’t normally carry a 33-pound dog! That’s a lot!” And I’m already carrying the treat bag and her leash handle, so it’s all kinds of awkward anyway, but I try to pick her up, and I’m carrying her, and she’s heavy as crap, and I see things I’m interested in, but my arms are full of heavy dog so I can’t pick anything up, and even if I did like something I can’t get into my purse to pay for it, so the whole thing is just a gigantic clusterfuck and we finally just have to peace out. I still have NO idea how that was supposed to be helpful in any way.

So we leave Bar Harbor and the island, and here’s where things GET REALLY COOL!

So-many of you know that I am a HUGE fan of the Bangor Maine Police Department page on Facebook, and if you’re not following it now, you NEED to be. It’s a brilliant use of social media by people who aren’t even social media professionals. It’s real and it’s funny and it’s open and I aspire to be that entertaining and enlightening.

As it happened, I was about 45 minutes away from Bangor, so even though I was super nervous, I couldn’t pass up the chance to make the pilgrimage.


So I went into their very nice facility and the greeter person wasn’t there, so I had to get on the intercom of a professional facility where people are doing serious, important work and say: “Umm, yes, I’m here to see if I could meet the Duck of Justice?” BECAUSE THAT’S NOT AWKWARD AT ALL!

And after seeing the older cop in the back shake his head and laugh (and learning late that he is the genius behind the FB page), I spoke with a very nice young officer named Daniel who was very kind AND LET ME POSE WITH THE DUCK OF JUSTICE!




ANNIE BUTLER GOT TO MEET THE DUCK OF JUSTICE TOO!! (And she didn’t even try to eat him.) #RespectTheBadge

The whole thing was so cool I was giddy for the rest of the day. I was so impressed with the whole operation and thanked them profusely for their time and service (Because I actually do like most cops Tony.)

Annie was a little more effusive in her gratitude.



Day 2.9(b) You Can Check In Anytime You Want But You Can Never Leave (Your Room)

Allow me a slight detour from strict chronological order. The last entry detailed the events of Wednesday, July 20 – whereas this one takes place on Saturday, July 23-and only in the evening- there will be another one with the awesome stuff that happened earlier in the day. But my outrage and befuddlement is fresh, and therefore I feel it must be documented post haste.

My goal in driving home had been to make it to Connecticut the first day and to stop early enough to get something to eat and relax and maybe do a new blog post. So when we reached Vernon, CT a little after 7 it seemed like a good time to stop.

First, we tried the Holiday Inn Express, but they didn’t accept dogs (although some of their locations do-annoying). After some Googling, it was determined that we had two options: Motel 6, or the Red Roof Inn. I’ve had good experiences at Motel 6 before (not like that, get your mind out of the gutter!), so we headed there first.  As we approached, the first thing I saw was an ENORMOUS carnival set up right next door-FILLED with people and rides and games and . . . carnies. (Note to my overseas readers-carnies is slang for carnival employees, NOT carnivores/cannibals.) Now, this may be my #SummerofBadDecisions, but that seemed like just asking to be sold off into white slavery or waking up married to someone lacking his full complement of fingers and teeth. Not a risk I was willing to take.

So we drove onward to the Red Roof Inn. Which looked pretty uninspiring when we pulled up, but then most cheap motels generally do.

So I go through the whole check-in process, answer a boatload of questions, pay, etc. At the end of all this, the desk clerk (who has ZERO affect, speaks in a monotone, and has had to ask me to repeat my phone number and street name twice) hands me a piece of paper with a room number on it.


“We’re out of keys,” she says, “so I’ll have to let you in, and if you need to leave your room again I’ll have to let you back in.”


IF I need to leave the room? Like to take my dog out to pee? To get ice? To get dinner or breakfast or just something I left in the car?? I’ll have to get your assistance??

How the HELL do you run out of keys?? It’s just the little plastic card, you’re not smelting it down at the ironworks!!

And you didn’t think this info might have been pertinent BEFORE I checked in? Or warrant a reduction in price??

(Please read the “note” on the “key envelope” and just let that sink in a bit.)

She seems shocked (or puzzled maybe-shocked implies more emotion than I think she’s capable of mustering-even puzzled may be a stretch) when I indicate that this bit of information should have been provided sooner and might have prevented me from registering. Or that this is the single weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me in a seedy motel (and that’s saying something). It becomes clear that un-registering will be a tedious process, and I still fear the carnies, so I decide to make the best of it. I tell her I will be right back and go to the car to get Annie and all the stuff I now need to juggle in one trip (don’t ask). When I return, 5 minutes later, she’s gone. So I make awkward chit chat with some old dude who doesn’t seem fazed in the slightest. At last, she returns and we get settled in our vile room with only chips for dinner as I just can’t bring myself to have to deal with her anymore to go out and get dinner. Or at least one of us is settled.


The AC has to be bumped down to 60 to even be noticeable and the duvet has even more questionable stains than one would normally expect, but we make it through the night.

Come morning I prop my door open with the latch and wander down the hall to see about breakfast.

It’s 7:30AM. The “free” continental breakfast which runs to 9:00AM has been picked clean. There was a woman sweeping up crumbs and I asked if it would be replenished and she looked puzzled, shrugged, and said someone had gone to the “store”. Pretty sure that was the front desk clerk as someone else was trying to check out and her post was deserted. (NOT desserted.)

Side Note: the place I am staying is called the Red Roof Inn, but the WiFi is labeled Quality Inn, so I can only assume the descriptor “Quality” was stripped from it after some massive litigation and now it’s operating under an assumed name using the only adjective it can rightfully boast.

Frustrated, hangry, and annoyed I start to head back to my room when.. WHAT IN THE FRESH HELL IS THIS???


Apparently, George and Martha Washington’s poor relations are trapped in this nightmare hellscape as well? (And suspiciously leaving with a full cooler when the breakfast bar has just been tapped out…)

Connecticut is a freaky trip man.

Day 2.6 The Mainiest Day That Ever Mained

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, but there are actually two cabins on the property I’m staying at-both owned by the same person. My info packet came with all sorts of dire warnings as to what would happen if my dog got on the furniture (I put down blankets) or barked excessively (uh oh). I had been trying my best to keep Annie in check, but there’s only so much one can do when confronted with an aggrieved terrier. The family next door is achingly Midwest wholesome (four kids, two of each, all blond, Mom looks perfectly put together at all times, even when jogging), but with 4 kids in a small cabin on the water that carries sound, again-only so much could be done. This morning I encountered the Mom while I was out walking Annie. She seemed a bit reticent, and I was afraid she was going to complain about the barking (and who knows what went on when Annie was alone for a few hours while I was on the boat cruise Monday). But nope, SHE was worried I was going to complain about HER kids! And claimed she hadn’t heard a peep out of the dog! So I quickly realized we each had as much to lose as the other and we had reached a satisfactory detente.

Anyhoodle. Feeling a bit worn out from all the walking yesterday, Annie and I decided to drive over to the Western “quiet” side of the island to see what that was like. Answer: Very nice!

Driving through the small town of Somes (the first village established on the island after the French/Indian wars, I saw a large banner proclaiming PIES! and a smaller sign that said “Pie Sale, Noon-Gone” Alas, it was only 11:15.

Acting on a tip from Thom that I feared might be out of date, we attempted to find a shop that allegedly sold popovers from 7:30-11:30 every morning all for the benefit of the local soup kitchen. And we did! Only we pulled in at 11:28. Booo! BUT the nice lady said we could take our popovers and fixins to go! Yay!

We decided to take our impromptu picnic out to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse-the only one on the island (and it is still in use!)


By following a short trail to the other side we found a comfortable spot to perch on some rocks, glimpse the light through the trees, watch the boats and the tide, and enjoy our snack.


Unfortunately, eating at the same level as Annie means she decides who gets what size portion.


Still hungry, we opted to drive a little further to the small town of Bernard to try what was alleged to be the freshest and tastiest lobster on the island-at Thurston’s Lobster Pound. The little shack sits right out on the harbor and you can pick your own, still living, lobster from a vat and send him to his ultimate doom. Fun!

Even more of a treat, they offer softshell lobsters which can only be had on the Maine Coast and which are much sweeter than the regular hardshells.



Driving back, we passed the coolest thing-apparently in Maine you can just set up a little cookie and pie stand filled with delectable goodies and a tin box in which to insert your payment. All on the honor system! Have I died and gone to heaven?!


On  the down side, by the time we got back to the big pie sale around 2:30 they were all sold out. But not to fear, dessert is a pretty big deal here (such that the island-Mt. Desert-is actually pronounced Mt. Dessert!), so we found another random spot where a woman was apparently selling pies out of her house and snagged ourselves a prime blueberry.


Which we enjoyed at our now traditional sunset watching spot at Hadley Point. I especially enjoyed watching the golden retriever, Summer, whose parents were working diligently to get her to pose in front of the sunset so they could take a picture with their very nice camera. After about 5 minutes of that, I saw a blur go down the beach to my left, accompanied by cries of “SUMMER, Noooooooooo” and then a loud splash. After wallowing for a bit she came out and rolled on the ground until she had a full coating of pebbles and sand. Sometimes it’s not so bad to have a dog who hates the water.


Day 2.5: Acadian Ramblings

So here’s the problem I’ve been struggling with this week. Am I on an adventure or a vacation? That sounds weird I know, but hear me out. When I took my trip around the country that was an adventure: I was go go go most of the time, seeing and doing all that I could and blogging daily (at least as internet connections permitted). When I go to the Outer Banks that’s a vacation. I slug about being lazy and relaxing and have never once written a blog. This trip somehow seems like a little bit of both. So I want to blog-and I’m getting great feedback on the blog-but I also hate having the obligation hanging over my head, which is part of why it’s Friday and I’m only now writing about Tuesday. Tied in with that is the pressure I feel to be out seeing and doing when half the time I just want to chill on my deck with a book. But no one wants to read a blog about me reading. Except maybe Seth. It’s been a weird (but wonderful) trip in some ways, and perhaps too long of one for me to have taken alone.

Enough blather-let’s get to it. We made attempt Number Two to drive around and explore some of the park. Which is still MEGA CROWDED and honestly, I’ll never go to a National Park in high season again. Maybe. Our first stop was the legendary THUNDER HOLE, a slot in the rocky oceanside cliffs which is supposed to make LOUD KABOOMS as the water fills it in around high tide. Thunder Hole was pretty crowded. And pretty quiet.


Speculation as to the timing of the KABOOMS ran from an old white dude confidently asserting (in the way that old white dudes can about stuff they really have no idea about) that it happened 4 hours before high tide. Which would cause one to wonder why he was there at 5 minutes to high tide. Some random redneck woman insisted to her party that it was going to happen at the exact MINUTE of the highest tide and was glued to her watch for a countdown. I wandered off and found a sign that the Park Service put up stating it was usually about 2 hours prior to high tide and really only on stormyish days. #ReadingIsFundamental

So I took a selfie with Annie and moved on.


We drove past lots of rocky coastlines:


And finally came to Otter Cove, which, despite the profound lack of otters, is really quite spectacular.



At last, we made it to our destination: Jordan Pond House. Jordan Pond House is a quaint little restaurant inside the park that has been serving popovers on the lawn for over a hundred years.


And while you (and your dog, should you be so lucky) eat, you get to look out at this:

Jordan Pond

Which is nice. BUT FIRST! We had to earn it by hiking the three-mile loop around the pond. So off we set, and fairly quickly the trail veers away from the pond and it’s just walking through woods. And it’s going uphill more than I would expect. And there are a lot fewer people than I would expect on such a popular trail, and most of them are on bikes. Odd. We hike a LONG way and we’ve barely seen the pond and we definitely haven’t made it to the other side, and we’ve got a reservation for popovers in an hour, so I decide to turn back…

(Side Note: How is it TWICE now I’ve been hiking in a National Park and come across someone’s abandoned undies on the trail?!)


I guess I should be grateful they weren’t SOILED like the ones Annie helpfully found in Shenandoah a few years back!

Anyhow, we get back to the trailhead, only to find WE’D BEEN HIKING THE WRONG TRAIL THE WHOLE TIME! There at the bottom was an offshoot leisurely winding around the pond just as I had hoped. Curses!

But there were still popovers to be had. What’s a popover you ask? This:


And this:


The popovers are a bit pricey (but worth it) so I wasn’t inclined to share-even with this staring up at me:


But as fate would have it, the afternoon was a bit blustery and just as a waitress was carrying a basket of popovers past our table, a strong gust of wind blew her cargo over and they came raining down upon us like manna from heaven! Score another for Annie Butler.


We both concurred that they were beyond amazeballs. As was the lobster roll.

Next on the agenda was a stroll along the giant sand bar that connects “Bar” Island with “Bar” Harbor (as I mentioned in my last post).


It’s only accessible for the two hours before and after low tide, so that’s kind of a cool thing, and yet another callback to the somewhat submerged sandbar I walked off of Orcas Island last summer. Other than a few cool shells and lots of uber annoying tourists, there was not much else of note, although it was fun to look back at Bar Harbor through this row of rock cairns someone had left.


The crowds were once again overwhelming me-especially on narrow sidewalks with a dog who likes to stop and sniff every three feet. On a positive note, I CRUSHED my FitBit-highest day ever!


But it did leave us pretty wiped out!



Day 2.4 The Fog Comes On Little Cat Feet

Monday morning dawns. At least I assume it did. A thick blanket of fog is coating everything, so I can’t entirely be sure. I may not even be in Maine any more for all I can see. Seems like a perfect morning for a boat cruise! And it’s chilly. Damp and chilly. Wasn’t it just like 100 degrees two days ago? GEE I SURE WISH I HAD A PAIR OF LONG PANTS THAT DIDN’T REEK OF URINE! WHY DIDN’T I BRING MY YOGA PANTS?! WHHYYY??!!  (The cabin I’m in doesn’t have a washer/dryer, and the thought of hand washing them in the same sink I use for food prep wigs me out a little. So I debate my wardrobe options. And I decide to wear the thin hoodie so that I can put my rain jacket on over it if needed. And then I get to the marina and realize I left my rain jacket back at the house. (This happens continually on the trip-I’m always in the wrong shoes, without my sunglasses, lacking a snack, you name it.)

So I get to the dock:

Foggy Dock2FoggyDock

Looks great! Let’s set forth to learn about the local history and wildlife!

Off we go, and the nice park ranger is pointing out all kinds of interesting stuff like: “Look at this 100 year old lighthouse!”


And “Here’s a 6 foot tall osprey nest with a record THREE baby chicks!”



So eventually we male it to Little Cranberry Island which is a cool little place seemingly trapped in time with no grocery stores, no banks, one restaurant (hope you like seafood), no services of any kind, and you can only leave once or twice a day on the mailboat (unless you have your own boat which I’m guessing many do).


Did I mention no grocery stores? This was the closest thing I found, where you can pony up $10 for a small jar of Kraft mayonnaise or $5 for a Diet Coke! Quelle horror!


According to some people I could be one of the proprietors. (Side note: Do you pronounce these two words the same? And if so, do you self-identify as an American?)


My favorite thing though HAD to be the random ass, DIY, homemade mini-golf course some dude had set up in his front yard.


I only HOPE these pictures can properly convey the hilarity:

Tiger Woods


And my personal favorite, Snake in the Grass:


Of course, in true Crazy Person fashion-he has also dubbed part of his house “Trump Tower”:

Trump Tower

There was also a neat old church with some gorgeous stained glass windows made from sea glass and designed by local artist Ashley Bryan (who is an interesting guy worth Googling).


Later we sailed up Somes Sound, the only fjord on the East Coast, but the fog was so dense that all of my photos were worthless (in fact I could barely tell what they were looking back).

But the main thing we saw a lot of was lobsters. The place was lousy with lobsters.

Lobster traps on the water.


Lobster traps on the ground.


Lobster traps in use.



So the trip wasn’t everything I’d hoped it might be, but it was pretty interesting, and I DID learn that sullen teen herring gulls will projectile vomit on you if you even think about fucking with them.#truefact

Afterwards, I FINALLY made it into Acadia National Park to drive the scenic loop road, but after stopping at the first overlook  and BEING PEPPERED WITH QUESTIONS AND RANDOM CHIT CHAT by some oddball park lady who had clearly been stuck out there because none of her coworkers could handle her anymore when all I wanted to do was read the sign and try and absorb the information for the love of god, we saw most of the rest from within the peaceful confines of Pearl.


See that island with the long sand bar stretching to the right? That’s what puts the Bar in Bar Harbor. More on that tomorrow.

The remainder of our evening was spent relaxing on our deck with the refreshments of our choice.

Deck Annie

Day 2.3 The Rain in Maine Falls Mainly on the . . . Girl and Her Dog

We awoke bright eyed and stub -tailed to greet our first full day on the island. In the absence of an alarm clock, it appeared that what woke us was the pitty pat of rain drops on the skylight above the bed (Yes, there is a skylight above the bed that looks up into the trees-how cool is that?). Rain. Heavy rain. Predicted for the whole day. *sigh* I killed some time unpacking, blogging, researching things to do, reading, and putzing about. Truth be told, after two full days of work and driving (and two pretty full weeks before that) it was nice to have a little down time. But I also had a whole list of things I NEEDED TO DO before the week was out.

Finally, a little before 11 there was a bit of a break and I decided to try and check out the local Farmer’s Market that runs on Sunday mornings.


And what a find it was-TONS of fancy cheeses-most of which looked like works of art, honey, yogurt, the sugar snap peas of my childhood, AND a guy selling smoked dog bones and frozen pig tails! What more could one ask for? Naturally, every other small child there wanted to pet Annie as well.

Apres market, I checked the map and saw we were only a short walk from both the local gourmet dog shop AND the fancy ice cream place. So we took a little stroll through downtown Bar Harbor (which is adorable and little changed from its heydey) and while I never could find the two shops we were looking for, I did find a yummy bakery aptly named A Slice of Eden which not only welcomed Annie inside with a treat but also had THE BEST chocolate cake donuts ever.


Of note, Bar Harbor is extremely chill and mega dog friendly, and many stores had this sign in the window:


Eventually we hit the pier, and stumbled upon Shore Walk-a half mile gravel path that winds between the ocean and some of the fancy pants old school mansions that line it. The day was pretty overcast, and at several points during the walk, the skies opened up and we got drenched (glad I left my rain jacket in the car) but the views were still pretty spectacular, and sure beat anything I can walk by on my lunch hour (sorry random chunk of Berlin wall) .


After the shore stroll we wandered back into Bar Harbor proper, but by then the sun had come out, the streets were TEEMING with huddled masses, and I was about 5 minutes away from having a hangry meltdown.

In short order we found a spot to enjoy a tasty clam roll and requisite Diet Coke. Of course traveling solo-ish means random strangers feel compelled to start talking to you. I was beset upon my an older woman (with her even older and more feeble looking husband in tow) who yammered on in a seemingly friendly manner until I asked a question of her man. As soon as he attempted to stutter out an answer she promptly admonished him that he needed to be calling the park immediately to reserve a spot for them on the afternoon’s lecture unless he needed her to do it herself.*heavy sigh* Annie and I made a quick exit.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful, and come 7ish we strolled down to our local beach where Annie endured the standard forced paw wetting that accompanies all our visits to the shore.


(The water here is ridic clear).

Just another perfect Maine evening watching the sun set.

Day 2.2: The Maine Event

After taking Annie for a quick amble around the motel grounds (where we spotted both the VIP smoking lounge, and the setup for perhaps the world’s saddest parking lot party) we were back in Pearl and headed northward.

Smoking LoungeBBQGrill

Where we were confronted with traffic, traffic, and yet more traffic. I had really thought once we got out of the DC-NY corridor we would be free of such gridlock, but such was not to be the case.

We stopped briefly in Massachusetts, where I grabbed a smoothie at Panera and Annie foraged for a snack behind the pizza shop.


New Hampshire was weirdly obsessed with making sure we all knew how to access booze and gambling, even on the Lord’s Day.


And then, at long last, we were in Maine. And it gets real deserted real quick in Maine. And here’s where things get awkward. You see, I’ve always prided myself in not holding back on this blog, fully sharing all my personal quirks and embarrassments for the edification of you, the reader. But I’ve got some new readers these days-specifically my boss and some of my professional colleagues (shout out to Jon Yankee and the FJY Financial team!), and so I REALLY struggled with whether or not I should share this next bit. But it’s in the blogger’s oath that the reader’s entertainment and enlightenment must always come first, so push forward I must, no matter the cost to my dignity.

The long hours of driving had grown a bit tedious, and i thought it might be advisable to pull over for a rest and a stretch. I found what appeared to be a fairly deserted day parking lot for whatever passes for a train in Maine (moose drawn wagon?), and after a quick catnap I took Annie for a walk to empty her bladder. It quickly became apparent that I needed to do the same, and as I grumbled inwardly about having to drive around some more to find a bathoom, a light bulb went off! That’s what I have my SheWee for! For those new to the blog, this is a SheWee…


I… errr.. positioned the device, but perhaps it had been too long, or I was distracted, because apparently I did it wrong, because the next thing I knew HALF THE PEE WAS RUNNING DOWN MY LEG! #SheWeeFail

So now I’m in some random parking lot in Maine with pee all down my leg and soaking my jeans. Awesome. (Luckily it’s a pretty deserted parking lot). So I do a quick rummage through my suitcase and find some shorts to change in to, and decide that this debacle calls for a Diet Coke to soothe my nerves. Now normally I would head for a McDonald’s in this situation, but all I can find is a Burger King, where I find . . .

What the Actual F**ck is this now??


America, we have sunk as low as we possibly can. Naturally I bought some. And now I’m sitting in a Burger King parking lot with pee on my leg and eating Mac and Cheetos. How have I sunk so low?

To me, they were vile and chemical tasting, but Annie nearly bit my thumb off trying to grab hers.


Yadda yadda yadda, driving, driving, driving, FINALLY we arrive and it is GORGEOUS here!

This is the view from our cabin:


Which overlooks this little beach I could walk down to…


And then it’s only a ten minute walk to an even better beach where Annie and I went to watch the sunset over Frenchman’s Bay. And as we sat on my Jake:Half Man/Half Alligator beach mat on the rocky shore, I flashed back to sitting on that same beach mat on a very similar rocky beach watching a sunset just over a year ago. That was on Orcas Island off the coast of Washington state, a country and a life change ago, but it felt just the same.


Day 1.2: On the Road Again: Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut

*tap, tap* Is this thing on?

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged  I’d actually forgotten my password!  (And yes, I know I haven’t TECHINCALLY finished blogging our last road trip which ended 13 months ago, but such is life) But we are back!  Annie and I set off this afternoon on a northward journey-destination Acadia National Park in Maine. From all accounts (and photos) it’s an absolutely breathtaking area, AND super dog-friendly, and it’s the one of the few things I regret not being able to pack into my journey last year (another biggie being Vancouver).

So we sallied forth from Reston and immediately ran smack dab into typical disastrously awful DC traffic. It took ages just to get to Maryland. Where we were greeted by this:


Not a good omen. But we persevered. Most of the drive was uneventful-typical boring Mid Atlantic highway travel. It was cool seeing the lights of NYC off in the distance though-always gives me a little jolt, and reminds me it’s been too long since my last visit.

Once we got past the city and all of its attendant hullaballoo I decided that my eyes wee growing weary, and even though we hadn’t covered quite the distance I’d hoped, it was time to make camp for the night, and with Siri’s help we found the closest pet-friendly, slightly seedy motel that was available (I do love a good slightly-seedy motel). Might be Motel Sixing, but it feels like Turks and Caicos.

I knew the place was a little rough around the edges, but I neve imagined they’d actually cater to Wildlings…


I walked into the lobby and was greeted with all manner of violence and destruction on CNN, but then the super-friendly desk clerk dude said: “There’s a pet fee, but we waived it,” and I decided to just focus on the kindness and generosity in the universe for the next nine days at least, and let the bad stuff sit on hold.

So Annie and I take a stroll around the sketchy parking lot for her evening ablutions, and she’s sniffing around a dumpster under a tree when I hear a weird voice from the shadows. I kind of ignore it, and it gets louder, and I am finally able to make out a woman squatting in a corner smoking a cigarette, and she says, “Watch out-I saw raccoons over there.” “OK, thanks.” “They attack people too…” So… that should make our stay a little more interesting…

So far I haven’t been able to recapture the magic of the Original Campervannie trip. But I do have my SheWee and my Selfie Stick, so I remain confident we can pull it off.



Day Sixty Four: Hungry Like the Wolf: South Dakota (Badlands National Park, Mitchell, DeSmet)

Events of Monday May 18th, blogged Friday October 2nd.

It’s a cold dreary day here in October and it put me back to how the weather was in South Dakota, and it seemed like the appropriate time to chip away a little more at the blog, especially if I ever want to start one for BAWOTD!

Alrighty then. When last we left Annie and I were bunkered down in Marigold trying to stay warm despite the frigid conditions in Badlands National Park. When we awoke it was, quite literally, freezing. Although the wind had died off a bit, it was still gusting with gusto. Several tents had blown over during the night.

FullSizeRender (1317) - Copy.          FullSizeRender (1316) - Copy

That one guy sat propped beside his sad little tent had actually slept in his sad little car all night. He didn’t look like he was having the best time cooking up a hearty breakfast, so I decided we would be on our way. Others were less enthusiastic.

FullSizeRender (1315) - Copy

And understandably so, when we did stop to do some exploring the wind almost took Annie aloft!

FullSizeRender (1318) - Copy

As we drove along under the heavy, low-slung clouds, the gray prairie grass seemed to mirror the shifting patterns as it danced in the wind and melted into the horizon. And then . . . one of the coolest things ever . . . I spotted a WOLF! He had blended near seamlessly into the grass and he slunk through as gentle as a breeze and for a moment I thought my eyes were still too blurred with sleep to see clearly. But there he was.

FullSizeRender (1321) - Copy           FullSizeRender (1320) - Copy

What ensued was a frantic attempt to both exist in this magical moment while also fumbling and grasping for the camera because: OHMYGOD OHMYGOD OHMY GOD… it’s a freaking WOLF! I have to capture this because it doesn’t exist until I post it on the blog . . . and OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD whyyyyy is the camera always in selfie mode . . . relax and focus on the beauty . . .  TAKETHEPICTAKETHEPIC HURRY BEFORE HE VANISHES!

It’s a very lucky thing we were the only ones on the road. Before I knew it he had vanished over the edge, but the feeling of wildness didn’t dissipate for some time.

There were other critters of varying degrees of coolness . . .

FullSizeRender (1322) - Copy

including my closest encounter yet with some random buffalo, which two days ago would have merited Number One on the highlight reel, but today was only a runner up.

FullSizeRender (1325) - Copy          FullSizeRender (1319) - Copy

FullSizeRender - Copy (442)

We stopped to walk out onto the prairie, which is an experience I’ve fantasized about ever since my girlhood obsession with Laura Ingalls Wilder. Even though it was brutally cold, the air buzzed with the sounds of summer insects.

FullSizeRender - Copy (441).         FullSizeRender (1324) - Copy

After we left the park, it was a long, long, very long drive across South Dakota.

FullSizeRender (1326) - Copy

The good news is the Speed Limit was 80mph. The bad news is some maniac thought that wasn’t quite fast enough and came within a hair’s breadth of sideswiping us, and then several other cars as he zoomed down the highway. Luckily the SDPD was hot on his trail and I saw him pulled over about 1/2 mile down the road.

Anyhoodle-we finally reached our destination- a purported “corn”acopia of kitschy old timey cool that several people had hyped up to me . . . The World’s Only Corn Palace!!!

FullSizeRender (1323) - Copy.         FullSizeRender - Copy (443)

. . . now under construction. Womp Womp.

Most days of the year it’s an architectural marvel with marquee lights and onion domes and an ever changing array of mid-western mosaics crafted entirely out of corn and its related bits and pieces.  But I had stumbled upon it in the midst of a renovation when the onion domes were dismantled and stacked in a corner and the mosaics were in transition.

FullSizeRender - Copy (444).         FullSizeRender (1327) - Copy

It was still pretty cool and all, but not quite the mega blast of awesome sauce I had envisioned.

FullSizeRender (1331) - Copy

I did get to pose with a buffalo for the second time that day though, which is nice.

The inside was in an even sadder state of disarray . . .

FullSizeRender (1333) - Copy.         FullSizeRender (1334) - Copy

But even the gloomy weather and halfassed displays couldn’t dim this dude’s enthusiasm . . .

FullSizeRender (1328) - Copy.         FullSizeRender (1330) - Copy

I followed the handy path across the street . . .

FullSizeRender - Copy (445)

and treated myself to some cheesetastic gift shop delights like a corn shaped pen, roadkill sausage, and an adorably corny shirt.

Mitchell itself was a cute little town, about the size of Purcellville with a real Mayberry sort of feel to it, and cool touches like this proselyting clock.

FullSizeRender - Copy (446).         FullSizeRender (1338) - Copy

FullSizeRender (1337) - Copy.         FullSizeRender (1336) - Copy

 The weather was still cold and windy and it discouraged lingering, so we set off down the open road en route to our final destination of the day . . . DeSmet SD – the setting for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic By the Shores of Silver Lake, and Little Town on the Prairie, and my chance at last to see the places I had read about so many times.

By the time we got there, most of the official exhibits had closed down for the day, but Annie and I did get to walk the grounds of the Ingalls Homestead they moved to in 1880 which was pretty fantabulous. Also, if it was this stinking cold in mid-May, I have a whole new appreciation for the pioneers.

FullSizeRender (1339) - Copy.         IMG_6819

I headed into town to get the lay of the land and a few provisions, quickly ascertaining that there were no non-scary indoor lodging options, so campervannie it would have to be. Did I mention it was super cold?

FullSizeRender (1341) - Copy

Locating a campsite took a more than expected amount of research, until I randomly stumbled upon a FREE, yes, you read that correctly, TOTALLY FREE campsite at the aptly named City Park in the next town over. I parked literally across the street from a row of houses, there was no one else anywhere in sight, and the bathrooms were locked, but I had my SheWee and some cereal and even functioning internet, so we were set for the night.

FullSizeRender - Copy (447)

The cooler needed cleaning, the van needed organizing, and I was growing despondent about the trip nearing its end, but it was too cold to deal with any of that. Instead, Annie stole my pillow then cuddled down into the sleeping bag with me and we settled in to watch Game of Thrones on my laptop and drift off to dreamland.

FullSizeRender (1340) - Copy

Day Sixty Three: Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing: South Dakota (Custer State Park, Wall Drug, Badlands)

Events of Sunday, May 17th, blogged Tuesday, September 15th.

It rained a bit more overnight, which was lovely to listen to tippity tapping on the roof of the van as we dozed in the early morning hours, but by the time we crawled out of bed it was sunny skies all around. And this is when I made the most egregious of errors! I neglected to fully peruse the schedule to see that there was in fact ANOTHER FREE PANCAKE BREAKFAST being offered! Amateur!

FullSizeRender (1285) - Copy

We got a relatively early start as I was hoping the animals along the Wilderness Loop Drive would be more active closer to dawn. And, as luck would have it, we spotted a pronghorn antelope right by the side of the road, a cool looking cow, and even some buffalo enjoying their morning ablutions.

FullSizeRender (1287) - Copy.       FullSizeRender (1288) - Copy

FullSizeRender (1290) - Copy     FullSizeRender (1291) - Copy

Our intended destination was an area of Custer State Park known as French Creek, which was supposed to offer a pleasant wooded hiking trail. As we ambled along the path, we encountered a very friendly older couple who turned out to be local farmers. They regaled us with stories of how inexpensive and low key Mount Rushmore used to be –  in the not too distant past you could just drive up and enjoy a cup of coffee or simple breakfast while basking in the glory of the giant heads. All for the low, low price of free. The farmers were suitably unimpressed with the fancy new plaza and behemoth parking garages with attendant massive fees. They were also suitably unimpressed with Ted Turner, who, I came to learn, is the second biggest land owner in the country and holds claim to almost 150,000 acres in South Dakota alone. His total holdings equate to roughly three personal Rhode Islands!

FullSizeRender - Copy (433)

While the humans were chit chatting, my intrepid explorer dog had sussed out that our trail was coming to an abrupt end only about 1/4 mile from where it started.

FullSizeRender (1286) - Copy

The rains of the previous few days had created a creek overflow and a current even my newly minted water dog wasn’t willing to power through.

FullSizeRender (391) - Copy

So we were soon back in the campervannie and headed out for another long day of driving . . . destination THE BADLANDS!!! (cue ominous music)

FullSizeRender - Copy (435)          FullSizeRender (1292) - Copy

The highway offered up its usual array of eccentricities, not the least of which was the random appearance of Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Kennedy randomly rising out of a field like some sort of bizarre Great Pumpkin Head Diet Mount Rushmore Lite aberration.

FullSizeRender - Copy (434)

That was cool and all, in a rando sort of way, but I was on the hunt for the Big Kahuna of shlocky roadside attractions, the granddaddy of them all . . .

FullSizeRender (1294) - Copy.          FullSizeRender (1293) - Copy

That’s right people we were headed straight for Wall Drug, the South of the Border of the West, the one of which Bill Bryson wrote: “It’s an awful place, one of the world’s worst tourist traps, but I loved it and I won’t have a word said against it.”

FullSizeRender (1297) - Copy.          FullSizeRender - Copy (436)

For the uninitiated, here’s the backstory. Way back in 1931, a dude named Ted had just gotten his pharmacy license, and he was looking to open his own drugstore. One problem –  the only place he could afford was in a town even smaller than mine (231 people) smack dab in the middle of podunk nowheresville South Dakota. Oh, and it was the Depression, so people were flat broke. OK, maybe two problems. All may have been lost were it not for our newest BAWOTD . . . MRS TED! Mrs. Ted (aka Dorothy) came up with the brilliant idea of offering free ice water to tourists traveling by on their way to Mount Rushmore. Fairly soon business was booming, but the two were not ones to rest on their laurels. Stage Two of their brilliant marketing scheme was to erect catchy billboards up and down roads for miles around, and even into neighboring states. The billboards had clever slogans and posed curious questions, and Ted and the Mrs basically invented social media back when the information superhighway was still just an actual highway. Wall Drug went viral midcentury style! By 1981 they were giving out 20,000 cups of water a DAY, folks around the globe were erecting “X Miles to Wall Drug” signs, and the place had become a veritable theme park. Today there are myriad gift shops, restaurants, animatronic displays, a giant brontosaurus, and even a chapel.

FullSizeRender (1299) - Copy.          FullSizeRender (1296) - Copy

I treated myself to a buffalo burger and a blueberry pie but once again, just like in Graceland, there was every cheap souvenir imaginable (including socks advertising their 5 cent cups of coffee), but nary a pet accessory in sight.

FullSizeRender (1298) - Copy

After taking our leave of Wall Drug, it was a short but unbelievably blustery drive to our final destination of the day –  Badlands National Park.

FullSizeRender (1302) - Copy.          FullSizeRender (1303) - Copy

The wind literally took my breath away.  (You can see Annie’s ears are practically in flight in that last photo) It was like a physical entity – ripping the van door out of my hand and pushing me down walkways. But it was exhilarating! If the wind hadn’t blown my mind, the views would have –  it was like no place I have ever seen before. Totally hostile, inhabitable, barren . . . and totally amazing.

FullSizeRender (1311) - Copy        FullSizeRender - Copy (437)

FullSizeRender (1301) - Copy

Every twist and turn of the 20 mile drive through the park revealed a stunning new rock formation, but my hands down favorite spot was this grouping of stunningly colored mounds, gleaming like jewels amongst the arid white wasteland. They’re called the yellow mounds, and the different colors represent the different types of soil laid down over hundreds of thousands of years.

FullSizeRender - Copy (438).          FullSizeRender (1305) - Copy

FullSizeRender - Copy (439)

It’s hard to believe much life can survive in this treacherous place, but a variety of mammals, including this pronghorn, call it home. Centuries ago rhinos and sabre tooth cats wandered these rocks, and they now contain the country’s richest fossil beds.

FullSizeRender (1306) - Copy

Did I mention it was REALLY FREAKING WINDY?!

FullSizeRender (1308) - Copy           FullSizeRender (1313) - Copy

It was so miserable out that there was barely a soul to be seen anywhere, so we scofflawed the rules a bit and Annie and I took a tiny walk out onto the Door Trail. The term “trail” is used loosely on this parched, cracked moonscape – as no actual path can be maintained, you have to keep your eye out for numbered markers and scramble your way between them. You can’t get too lost as the area is so wide open, but I’d still not want to wander out very far alone. It was truly otherworldly.

FullSizeRender (1310) - Copy           FullSizeRender (1307) - Copy

FullSizeRender (1314) - Copy

Before long it was getting dark, and the wind seemed to be picking up, if that was even possible. We headed to the campground area, and with the park dude just about to leave for the day he instructed me to have my pick of sites and then “feed the Iron Ranger” with my payment. I was stupefied to see that some mad fools were actually camping in tents! It couldn’t have been more than 50 degrees, and the wind was probably gusting to that number as well. I spotted one poor tent that had blown over and it’s occupant had been reduced to sleeping in the front seat of his tiny hatchback car. Annie staked out our spot, ears and bandanna a’flapping, we gobbled a quick meal, and Marigold gently rocked us to sleep.

FullSizeRender - Copy (440)