Friday, June 26, 2009

Upper Peninsula

We've rolled along the upper edge of Wisconsin and are well into the upper peninsula of Michigan. As you can see, the view has changed a bit, with trees lining the roadway and the occasional bend to keep things interesting.

I'm going to hop off Highway 2 for the long holiday weekend to visit with some friends just a little way to the south in the Door County area of Wisconsin... Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bemidji, Bunyan, Babe

In the middle of Minnesota is a town called Bemidji, and in the middle of Bemidji is its main attraction: Giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

I haven't heard much out of my traveling buddies from my friends at Archie McPhee over the past few days -- besides "Are we there yet?" -- but they sure perked up at the sight of Paul and Babe.

As you can see, we made quite the photo-op out of it. The things we do for friends!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

North Dakota

If it's all starting to look the same to you, don't worry. It's all starting to look the same to me, too.

North Dakota has rolled past my windows over the past three days, looking much like Montana and eastern Washington before it. The landscape is greener and more lush than I somehow expected, though the straight, flat roads and vistas are still hypnotic. I'm very glad I brought along some books on tape for my iPod!

About the only highlight in North Dakota has been passing through Rugby, the "Geographical Center of North America." I did my best to figure out the legitimacy of the claim, including finding out where they were measuring from, looking at maps, etc.

Basically, I've concluded that it's pretty much arbitrary, mostly just something to plunk down in the middle of nowhere and call it something. The funny thing is that legitimate or not, I was happy to have something to stop at and have a look-see.

The lack of sensory stimulus may account for why I found this moment at my Grand Forks, campground so funny. Only time will tell if it actually is funny, or if it's just something in the middle of nowhere that I'm calling something.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


For the past few days I've been motoring across Montana, a drive which I imagine many folks could justifiably find tedious. I've thoroughly enjoyed the vast expanses of prairie being intermixed with similar expanses of farmland, the occasional farmhouse and the even less frequent small town. I've stopped at all manner of little stores, eaten in fantastic little diners and pulled over in the middle of nowhere just to enjoy the extraordinary views, space and quiet.

As enjoyable as it has been, though, I was ready for something different to look at when I pulled into the semi-significant town of Glasgow and saw this plane sitting on a pedestal in front of a tidy looking little museum. "Dinosaur Bones to Moon Walk" just demanded that I check it out.

Well, maybe not so much, but there sure were a lot of stuffed heads looking down at me from the walls! Next stop, North Dakota!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Over The Divide

The landscape of Washington changes dramatically as you head east. The alpine Cascades give way to the Columbia River gorge and then you're into the seemingly endless fields --mostly wheat -- that extend to the border.

Along the way I stopped at Grand Coulee Dam, yet another place I've wanted to visit the entire time I lived in Washington State. The picture doesn't come close to showing the true size of the facility -- and you're not permitted to take photos anywhere better -- so you'll have to take my word for it that the thing is huge!.

Crossing the panhandle of Idaho seems like it takes mere moments, then you're into Montana and over the continental divide at Marias Pass.

Something about the continental divide feels like the first real milestone, and a good time to give of brief review of how my road rig is performing.

Frankly, I couldn't be happier or more impressed. The truck is a beast, powering over every terrain no matter how steep or flat. It drives amazingly well considering the load it is carrying, and couldn't offer a more comfortable ride. The camper is just fantastic! I've got plenty of room, plenty of accoutrements and plenty of comfort. It's a breeze to "set-up" in that all I really need to do is park it, plug into the power outlet, attach the water hose and I'm done. I'm in and out faster than anybody else by far.

So, all is well so far on US Hwy 2… Stay tuned!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Happy's School Debut: The Rest Of The Story!

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

Aliy recently posted a couple of photos and a little write up about her visit to Badger Elementary School in North Pole, Alaska. There's a little more to the story that you may enjoy, so here goes...

As Aliy and I were getting ready to leave the Kennel for the drive to the school, I asked her what she had in mind for her presentation to third graders. She said, "Well, first I'll talk a little about the dogs, the Iditarod and all that stuff, then I'll bring in a dog for them to meet." I asked, "Who are you going to bring?" She replied, "I usually bring Stormy because she's always so mellow around all the kids. Why? Who do you think I should bring?"

I figured that since she asked me I should go ahead and say it: "I think you should bring Happy."

Aliy laughed out loud and said, "You're kidding, right? Happy will totally freak out with all those kids around! Don't you think?"

"Nope," I said, "I think Happy will be great."

And so it came to pass that we loaded two dogs in the truck and drove down to North Pole: Stormy the mellow pet dog and Happy the unlikely star of the Iditarod. Stormy went inside to visit the kids in their classroom, but you will see in this video that Happy was fantastic, too.

Happy just amazes me. First she runs the Iditarod as her first race and finishes, then here she is "Happy Dancing" her way through another difficult first experience around a lot of kids. When you see how she handles their "up close and personal attention" at the end of the video, I think you'll be amazed, too!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Smack-Down in Cashmere

The little town of Cashmere, WA, is home to the purveyors of world-famous Aplets & Cotlets. I've always wanted to stop there for a look-see, and this road trip seemed like the perfect opportunity. What I wasn't expecting was the "smack-down" that ensued between two of my traveling buddies from Archie McPhee.

It all started out so well with an interesting and informative tour of the Aplets & Cotlets production facility, followed by a thorough, personal and very entertaining tour of the retail store.

I bought a few samples and returned to my rig, where I was forced to referee quite a ruckus that had ensued between Mr. Bacon and Monsieur Tofu.

Apparently, the lads had taken it upon themselves to argue the merits of Aplets & Cotlets, with Monsieur Tofu taking the vegetarian position and Mr. Bacon claiming outrage at the absence of any pork-product.

I'm afraid I had to rule this one in favor of Monsieur Tofu.

Just down the street, however, was Country Boy's BBQ where a huge bronze pig adorns the entry way. It was clear there would be no peace in my life unless we stopped there, so that Mr. Bacon could have his own victory in the battle of food stuffs.

Thus, the smack-down in Cashmere ended in a 1-1 tie… Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

US Highway 2 -- "End-to-End" -- Underway!

I started out in earnest this morning, driving north on I-5 and turning east at the beginning of US Highway 2.

The road pretty quickly heads up into the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, and the alpine ambience is very distinct.

I've driven this portion of US Hwy 2 many, many times before, but being the first few miles of my "End-toEnd" road trip gave it a very different, much more significant feeling.

In anticipation of my road trip, my good friends at Archie McPhee have given me a few traveling buddies, including a "Bigfoot Action Figure." As you can see, the Bigfoot theme is a pretty big deal in the Cascades area and my new buddy fit right in.

My first stop was for coffee, of course. I could't resist the promise that my first coffee stop on US 2 would be my best, and the barista was happy to pose with Bigfoot for the record.

So, I'm on my way and the US 2 hijinx have begun in earnest!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

US Highway 2 -- "End-to-End"

For my first road trip, I've decided to drive US Highway 2 from end-to-end!

US 2 is an east–west U.S. Highway spanning 2,579 miles (4,150 km) across the northern continental United States. US 2 consists of two segments connected by roadways in southern Canada. Unlike some routes, which are disconnected into segments because of encroaching Interstate Highways, the two portions of US 2 were designed to be separate in the original 1926 highway plan.

The western segment of US 2 has its western terminus at Everett, Washington and its eastern terminus at St. Ignace, Michigan. The eastern segment of US 2 has its western terminus at Rouses Point, New York and its eastern terminus at Houlton, Maine.

That's the technical info -- pulled straight from Wikipedia by the way -- but the "lore" is quite more involved. US 2 is the only major east-west road across the uppermost US, and it serves as the transportation backbone of that latitude. There was much talk back in the 60's about it being upgraded to Interstate standards, but the lack of population -- and, I suspect, political capital -- meant it never happened. Instead, it is called "The Hi-Line" by most folks in the know and it is a classic US Highway.

My interest in US 2 is multi-facted. Mostly, I drove part of the Hi-Line on the first Voyage of Macgellan and was so fascinated by it -- and its environs -- that I feel compelled to check out its entirety. Small populations sparsely located... What could be more interesting than that! Also, it's the middle of summer and I don't like the heat, so a northerly route has appeal. Finally, I feel the need to head east to check in with my family and this seems like a good way to get there!

I'll be hitting the road in earnest tomorrow and intend to drive it end-to-end, including a stint through Canada to "connect the dots." I will do my best to post updates from time to time along the way... Stay tuned!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Macgellan Update: Back On The Road… Literally!

As you all know, these are "interesting" times with lots of things in flux: economically, politically and socially. As a scientist, I am intrigued by systems under pressure. As a philosopher, I am inspired by stimulus and response. As an explorer, I am compelled to go take a look for myself.

So, I have decided to hit the road... Literally!... and have put together the "road rig" you see here, comprised of a Ford 350 Super-Duty pickup truck -- whom I have named "Darth" for what I hope are obvious reasons! -- and an Arctic Fox 990 camper.

My plan -- insofar as I have one -- is to explore the cultural topography of North America. My premise is that "interesting" times of flux provoke vastly different stimulus and response among a large population across a vast land mass. With this rig I have assembled the capability to pursue my premise wherever it leads me.

There's obviously a lot more to this story, but that's all I have to report at the moment... Stay tuned!