Day Six: Rocky Mountain National Park to Glenwood Springs

We reluctantly left the Stanley Hotel. But first, breakfast.

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We chose The Egg and I partially because it was nearby and partially because it’s the title of one of our favorite movies. Our waitress was from Macedonia and a sweetheart, but the experience was dampened somewhat when the cashier commented to another customer (not knowing that my husband was standing right there) that our baby’s screeching was due to bad parenting and lack of spanking. (Apparently our seven year old sitting quietly and politely did nothing to endorse our parenting skills.) My husband spoke up and pointed out that thirteen months is a bit young for the beatings to start. But I digress…

It occurred to me that there are a few things I haven’t touched on, so I’ll catch up on some details of the trip:

  1. The Stanley Hotel. It’s on the register of historic hotels. It was built by F. O. Stanley, the Steamer car inventor. It has been visited by Bob Dylan and the emperor of Japan (not necessarily together.) It’s supposedly haunted, including our room. But the only haunting sound we heard was the echo of the baby’s cries as he struggled to fall asleep.
  1. Here’s a picture of what my baby looks like all stuffed in the car with our luggage.

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  1. Altitude sickness. The struggle is real, people. Not for me, but my husband and daughter are suffering from headaches, earaches, and stomachaches. (And all of us are finding it a little hard to breathe after exercise.) A guy at the hotel recommended altitude pills, some all-natural concoction. So far so good.
  2. The wildlife. (The following pictures were contributed by my husband. I’m an abysmal photographer.)

Magpies:

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Peregrine Falcons: (or maybe a prairie falcon. The husband’s not sure.)

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Elk:

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Marmots:

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And this guy:

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Oh, and the moon.

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We finished the park and headed west again, this time on Rt. 70. We drove through Vail, the famous ski town. Sometimes you see places and think, “Oh, that’s why it’s so famous.” Vail was one of those places. Every scene looked like a picture on a postcard. I bet there were some good bakeries there, but we had no time to stop. We next drove through Glenwood Canyon, another amazingly beautiful, breathtaking sight along Route 70, because we were trying to get here:

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Glenwood Springs boasts the world’s largest hot springs pool. There is a 104 degree healing pool and a 93 degree swimming pool. Combined, they are over six hundred feet long by one hundred feet wide. Formally established in 1888, the pools were used for centuries by Native Americans. After WWII, they were used therapeutically for injured soldiers. They are loaded with magnesium, manganese, sodium and several other minerals, including lithium. We were all feeling pretty good after that.

After supper we had Polish food at Polanka.

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Oh, my lands. The pieroghi alone were worth the six day drive. We watched them make our food from scratch and it was so, so delicious.

After supper the group surprised me with a Dairy Queen cake because it’s my birthday. (Also because they know me and cake is always a worthwhile way to win my affection.)

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Apparently this cake was made and frozen in Siberia because we were helpless to cut it, especially with the little plastic knife they gave us.

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My loving family chipped and chiseled to give me a piece. I ate it guiltlessly while they waited for theirs to thaw.

Tomorrow we head west toward the desert. Something tells me I’m going to wish I had that cake again.

Day Five: Colorado Springs to Rocky Mountain National Park

Today was for exploring. With only a two and a half hour drive time, we had a few more minutes to stop and smell the baked goods. We started here in Denver. (Because what else do you do in the capitol of the country’s fittest city but buy baked goods?)

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Victory Love and Cookies was featured on Unique Eats. They sell cookies and breads. We bought cookies, but the bread looked and smelled divine.

Next we moved on to Boulder where I fully expected to run into Mork and Mindy. Alas, I did not. Instead we visited the Pearl Street Mall, an eclectic shopping complex.

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Due to Colorado’s notorious new law, you may be wondering if we saw any able-bodied young people crashed out on a lawn doing nothing but smoking dope. Yes, yes we did. Thankfully I’m from near Yellow Springs, Ohio, so it felt like home.

Forty minutes later, we were in Estes Park, home of Rocky Mountain National Park. With so much rare and natural beauty abounding, we immediately headed for pie.

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And then the park.

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The WOW factor cannot be overstated.

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Speaking of WOW factor, this is our hotel.

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If you recognize the Stanley Hotel, you might be a Stephen King fan. This hotel was the inspiration for the movie The Shining. (It was also the fancy hotel used in Dumb and Dumber.) It’s as beautiful and iconic on the inside as it looks on the outside. The only drawback is that all of us are sharing a room. It’ll be a battle to the finish. Something tells me the baby might come out on top.

Day Four: Albuquerque to Colorado Springs

Fact: I don’t like the heat. Yesterday when we rolled into town, it was 94 degrees, but after experiencing 97 degrees of high humidity in Memphis, I can finally say that I appreciate the difference in dry heat. Yesterday’s high temps felt downright pleasant and when the sun went down it was almost too chilly to swim. After one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen, I am sold on New Mexico!

We took a pause on heading west and turned north toward Colorado.

Our first stop was Santa Fe. (After backtracking a few miles when we missed the turnoff.) Santa Fe is one of the oldest cities in the country, with strict building codes that mandate everything be built in the adobe mission style. There were shops and art museums aplenty downtown, but of course we had no time to see them.

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Back on the road, we headed to Vegas. (Not that one. New Mexico has its own version.) We ate at a food truck called Skillet.

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Between New Mexico and Colorado, the terrain vacillated from mountains to flatlands and back again. Finally, we arrived.

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Our first stop in Colorado Springs was Focus on the Family. Let me just say that even if you’re not a fan of the radio program, the kids’ play area was AMAZING and a must stop if you have children under the age of 12. Unfortunately we only had ten minutes because they closed at five. (Time, our archenemy, strikes again.)

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Since none of us was super hungry, we headed for Garbanzo—a Denver chain that’s the Chipotle of Mediterranean food.

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But even if you’re not hungry, there’s always room for dessert.

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We drove through a neighborhood where deer strolled casually on the sidewalks.

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*Side note about Colorado: It’s the fittest state and you can feel it. There are no fatties here and everyone walks and bikes seemingly constantly.

To wind up the evening, we headed to Garden of the Gods, a red rock formation that springs up in the middle of green mountains. It’s almost indescribably beautiful. And, being Colorado, there were people climbing them. It was the perfect benediction to a long another long day of travel.

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Day Three: Oklahoma City to Albuquerque

Two things happened in Oklahoma City:

  1. We didn’t eat doughnuts.
  2. We met up with Route 66

But before we were on our way, we visited our alma mater’s sister school in Bethany, which was coincidentally across the street from our hotel. Hi, SNU!

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It was a long drive to the Texas border, but at least the landscape was more interesting than some other places we’ve been. (I’m looking at you, Arkansas.) The rest stop in Texas was huge and beautiful with views like this:

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Unfortunately it also appeared to have the world’s supply of cockroaches and this:

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(In case you can’t read it, there are rattlesnakes. At the rest area. Right next to the playground.)

An hour later, we paused on historic Route 66 in Amarillo for refreshment.

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Cowboy Gelato had awesome gelato with homemade waffle cones. (Homemade waffle cones are one of the hallmarks of a good ice cream place, in my opinion.)

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If you go, I would think twice about ordering anything other than gelato. On the day we went, they seemed to be short-staffed and our takeout chicken salad ended up taking almost a half an hour, putting a time crunch on our already tight schedule.

On the way out of Amarillo, we stopped here, the iconic Cadillac Ranch.

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It’s a bit underwhelming unless you get out of the car and hike up close. This guy looked better.

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West out of Amarillo was flattened cow country. There were cows and windmills and not much else, but it was pretty. Moving into New Mexico, the terrain was more lush than I expected, but that soon gave way to scrub and sagebrush. (But still interesting and pretty.) The terrain began to get rockier, and the rocks bigger, until we realized we were in the Rockies. Since we arrived in Albuquerque on a Sunday, many things were closed. We ended up eating at the Frontier, an iconic Albuquerque establishment with cafeteria-style New Mexican cuisine, also famous for their cinnamon rolls.

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There’s no doubting we’re officially in the west now. We headed downtown to Oldtown Albuquerque, the picturesque portion of historic Albuquerque.

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Not only were people out walking their dogs, having picnics, and cruising with their restored classic cars, but the Tango club was dancing in the gazebo.

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I wonder what the first rule of Tango Club is? They’re probably not allowed to tell me.

Day Two: Memphis to Oklahoma City

I have this problem. I’m easily swayed by a restaurant that claims to be “The BEST” of something.

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On a normal day, I don’t eat doughnuts. In fact, I rarely to never eat them. But this morning makes the fourth time I’ve had them this week. When on vacation, everyone has to make sacrifices. This is my burden to bear. You gotta do what you gotta do. And since Alton Brown recently named Gibson’s Donuts in Memphis the best doughnuts in the country, you can see that I had to try them. It’s practically the law.

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Were they the best I’ve ever tried? Well, no. That honor still belongs to Schuler’s, my hometown bakery in Springfield, Ohio. But they were good and fresh and cheap.

Properly fortified, we exited Memphis, crossed the Mississippi, and were officially WEST. We were also in Arkansas.

After the pleasant surprise Memphis turned out to be, I had high hopes for Arkansas. Yes, I certainly had high hopes for Arkansas. <crickets>

Little Rock proved more promising. Famished from two hours of driving, we pulled into the Root Café for second breakfast.

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The food is my favorite kind—made from scratch and locally sourced. And they had an outdoor play area for the kids.

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At the end of Arkansas is Fort Smith, a historic Western town with an awesome play area for kids. The rides are only a dollar and include a carousel and Ferris wheel. There’s also a splash pad and park across the street. As always, we didn’t have nearly enough time to explore, but it made a nice break before we entered Oklahoma.

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Eastern Oklahoma was a lot like Eastern Arkansas, a bit monotonous. The only thing around for miles is livestock. Seriously, we saw a cow trying to cross the interstate. So when you see the sign for the city limits of Oklahoma City, you feel pretty excited. But then, wait for it, the actual city doesn’t start for another thirty miles.

Oklahoma City is known for onion burgers, grilled meat in a pile of diced onions. (Think White Castle but edible and made of actual beef.) In our quest to eat regional food, we searched for the best onion burger and found a pretty good example at S & B’s burgers. (Again no pictures, but when your hungry baby is screaming blue bloody murder, the last thing you think of is whipping out a camera and snapping a photo.)

After food, we cruised through Bricktown, Oklahoma City’s answer to the San Antonio Riverwalk.

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It’s a revamped section of old buildings now filled with art, shopping, parks, and restaurants.

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It’s also another example of something we would love to have explored, if we had more time. You can walk, take a carriage ride or, if you have good balance, try your luck at a Segue tour.

As for us, we went to the hotel to swim and try to get a quality night’s sleep. As a side note, I’ve come to believe that the reason the pioneers only lived to their mid thirties was because they shared a room with their children. Just saying.

Day One: Go West, Young Woman! (Pigeon Forge to Memphis)

There was a time after the birth of our first child when finances were too tight to vacation. This period of time helped me relate uniquely to Fantine in Les Miserables when she sang about tigers eating her dreams in the night. Four years later, we had finally saved enough to take a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway. Vacationing again after so long made us remember how much we love to travel. We vowed to never go without a vacation again.

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The year after our Pacific Highway adventure, we took another trip across the country to Seattle and cruised to Alaska. We began to debate where to go next when–surprise!–we found out we were expecting another baby. As any mother knows, having a baby is exactly like taking a vacation. Except not at all. Last summer our son was born and, instead of visiting new locations and eating out, we went for days without sleep and ate freezer burnt casseroles. It was a magical time.

After a long, dreary winter that felt like it might never end, we were ready to travel again. And after such an adventurous, life-altering year, there was only one place to go–we needed to embrace our manifest destiny and head west.

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After riding in the car peacefully and happily for hours, our baby decided to sing us the song of his people for an hour in the night. We fortified ourselves with coffee and a healthy breakfast (read: doughnuts) and set forth to start our journey. We began from my parents’ house outside of Pigeon Forge, both because it was convenient and because my parents are joining us for the journey. (It sounded like a good idea to them before they realized the baby is in a screaming phase. He sounds like one of the ringwraiths from The Lord of the Rings. It’s the worst sound in the world  adorable.)

The first thing you should know before we begin is that food is the first thing. Vacation for our family is basically an opportunity to eat food in different locations. Keeping with tradition, we diverted almost immediately in search of gourmet Popsicles. Not only are 2500 people moving to Nashville per week, but it’s home to a booming food scene. Were these gourmet Popsicles worth getting off the interstate and waiting fifteen minutes for the store to open?

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Yes, yes they were.

Refreshed and energized, we again headed west on the Music Highway toward Memphis. When in Memphis, there’s really only one thing to do, one famous thing that people from all over the world come to pay homage to. Of course I mean BBQ.

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I forgot to take a picture of our food because hungry. But it was good. (Side note: trying to find the best BBQ in Memphis is apparently like trying to pick a good doctor. Everyone has an opinion based on personal preference. Then you’re always left wondering if there’s something better out there. If you choose this one, and I think that you should, go early because the lines get long and the seating area crowded.)

In addition to BBQ, Memphis is also known for some guy who used to sing some songs. I don’t know much about him because I’m very, very young. (The closer you get to 40, the more you have to reiterate this point. Young, very, very young.) But he seemed like a good guy, so we though we would give his house a try.

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Do you need to be a die-hard fan to go to Graceland when it’s 97 degrees with one thousand percent humidity? No, but it might help you to not complain about the long lines and masses of people everywhere. The house itself is smaller than you might think. The actual mansion tour is about an hour long, maybe less. What takes forever is buying tickets and boarding the shuttle to the house. (Parking and tickets are across the street from the actual mansion.) As a bonus, we scored a free ticket because my husband is a teacher and teachers are always getting kickbacks and payola like that. It’s why people envy them–for the massive job perks. (Side note to fellow teachers: If you are planning to go, contact Graceland and reserve your ticket at least 14 days in advance.)

I dare you to go to Graceland and not leave feeling a little bit sad, even if, like me, you’re way, way, way too young to remember Elvis personally. Maybe it’s because you realize he died too young and was a talent wasted by poor choices. Or maybe it’s because the last thing you see before you board the shuttle is Elvis’s grave. I guess we’ll never know.

For posterity, here’s Elvis’s kitchen.

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I think he and I could have had some good talks about food. Possibly while eating something fried.

At this point I must insert what a pleasant surprise Memphis has turned out to be. Before our arrival, I had heard rumors that it was basically the armpit of Tennessee, but that’s not true! There are stately homes and old, gracious buildings everywhere. It’s clean and friendly and there’s FOOD. We passed so many restaurants that I would love to try, if only we had the time.

Time, always our enemy when road tripping, prevented us from exploring Beale Street. We drove by and took a picture. Part of it is closed off like Times Square.

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After a long day of driving, there’s nothing better than heading back to your hotel. But first, dessert!

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Muddy’s Bake Shop is a pretty famous joint here in Memphis. (It is not named for Muddy Waters. I know because my husband asked.) The banana pudding was divine. I grudgingly split it with my daughter because she’s at that age where you actually have to give her treats. (My baby is still blissfully clueless of what he’s missing out on. I’d like to stretch that for as long as possible.)

It was a long, fun day from east to west in Tennessee. Tomorrow we’ll have new adventures in Arkansas. (Arkansas, really? We’ll see.)

Cross Country Trip, Alaskan Cruise, part 2: THE END!

I know two people in Alaska: Santa, and my best friend from growing up, Kenny. They both live at the North Pole. Sadly, we saw neither on this trip. In fact, we saw relatively little of Alaska. It’s 14 times the size of Ohio, twice the size of Texas, four times the size of Montana, three times the size of California…you get the idea. It’s huge! I would love to come back again and see more, but getting here is daunting.

Our cruise started at the top of our journey and went south, so our next stop was the capital, Juneau. Juneau is only accessible by boat or plane.

What does one do in a remote capitol first thing in the morning? Find a bakery, of course!

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At 44 miles long, Juneau is the 3rd largest city in the world, though the population is only around 35,000 people. The town had a fun, funky feel to it. It reminded me of Portland—there seems to be a new and young food movement, which is how we happened upon a half dozen other bakeries.

It was so hilly that it’s sometimes called Little San Francisco, and it receives little snow because it’s actually a rain forest. (It also receives very little sunshine.) The town had one fast food drive-thru—a McDonald’s. Their arrival was so heralded that 90% of the population ate there on opening day. That may be the last time anyone over the age of seven was that excited about McDonald’s food.

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There were a lot of murals in Alaska, as well as a lot of flowers, and rhubarb, tons of rhubarb.

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Back on the boat, we searched for entertainment. Without alcohol and gambling, our closest friends became karaoke and trivia. Have mercy. Apparently the only words to “We Are Family” that we know are “We Are Family.” There are verses, lots of verses.

The next day we landed in Ketchikan. In both Juneau and Ketchikan, the cruise lines had built up little touristy meccas immediately in front of the boat. It was challenging to get past these and see the true heart of the city. In Ketchikan, we walked up the hill to a park and saw some salmon spawning. We also saw some harbor seals and bald eagles. We have bald eagles where I live, but this was the first time I ever heard their beautiful (and loud) call.

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This guy and his mate were in the center of town, totally undisturbed by people.

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These seals came in for a closer look at the kayakers.

Ketchikan had a dearth of bakeries. Let us observe a moment of grief-filled silence for their lack.

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While we’re on the subject of food (as if we’re ever not on the subject of food), let’s talk about the cruise. For years, I had heard about the awesomeness of the food on cruises. After having experienced it for myself, I can tell you that this is both true and not true. There is a. lot. of. food. Tons. Even if you only open your mouth to breathe, someone, somewhere will try to stuff a piece of food in it. I respect that. Most of the food is okay. Some of it is good. Occasionally it’s excellent. Mostly, it’s just a lot.

There’s breakfast, a breakfast buffet, lunch, a lunch buffet, a formal supper, 24 hour room service, 24 hour pizza, and 24 hour ice cream. Thankfully there’s also an awesome workout room that’s better equipped than my local YMCA. (And with a better view.)

They were big into celebrations on the cruise. The waiters sang to my parents for their 50th, and to my sister and brother-in-law for their 25th.

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*Cruise tip: Bring a travel clock. There’s no clock in your room and no way to wake up for those early score excursions, should you choose to take them. Speaking of shore excursions, choose wisely. Most are overpriced, crowded, and touristy. Personally, we had much more fun exploring on our own.

Our final stop was in Victoria, BC, which I recently discovered is an island. Sadly, we arrived too late for many things, but it was still pretty.

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There was this soda shoppe that made milkshakes. Finally, some sugar on this vacation!

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The next morning we were back in Seattle. What’s the logical thing to do when you’ve spent a week being force fed like a pate goose? Immediately look for more food, of course!

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Piroshky, Piroshky: Russian pastries so good they named them twice. The huge line was a good testament to how great these things were.

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We were foiled in our attempts to get crumpets, so we got Greek yogurt instead. What’s so great about Greek yogurt, you may ask. Well, this is unlike any yogurt you’ve ever had. It’s perfectly smooth and creamy with only a slight hint of tang. Think of the best most perfect custard you’ve ever had, make it ten times better, and you’ll be close to this yogurt.

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Next we tried Dahlia’s bakery. They’re known for their ($35) coconut pies. We tried a pie bite. It was meh, but the triple chocolate cookies were good.

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Finally, the piece de resistance, the thing I’ve been hoping to try on my previous visits–insert drumroll–Top Pot Doughnuts!

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Friends from back home will be wondering how these compare to Schuler’s…plug your ears if you’re unwilling to read this blasphemy…they were better. At least the glazed and sour cream old fashioned were better. Schuler’s still holds the title for chocolate covered cream filled, but these glazed were amazing. They tasted like the inside of a popover–perfectly soft, rich, and custardy. They were awesome and the perfect end to our wonderful vacation.

How do you wrap up such a marvelous trip? What was best–the breathtaking, marvelous sights? The view of our marvelous country? The food? It was the food, definitely the food. Of course family time trumps all of these things. Not only did we get to take the trip of a lifetime, but we did it together. And we ate. A lot. Thanks for reading and sharing with me, Vanessa.

Cross Country Trip: Alaskan Cruise, part 1

We made it across nine states and two time zones, through several national parks and monuments, navigated a couple of hotels that could flatteringly be described as fleabag, and yet none of that was as daunting as getting on the boat.

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First we had to make our way from our hotel in SeaTac to the pier in downtown Seattle, no easy task. Shuttles have been set up for this purpose and make a tidy profit, none of which goes to put seatbelts or shocks in their vans. Then you arrive at a giant terminal where—for a fee—a kindly porter will take all your luggage and make it disappear. Next you step inside the vast building, and that’s where the real fun begins.

We were herded; we were prodded; we were swiped and searched. It was all very Ellis Island.

Finally we were urged onto the boat and like the cattle we resembled, we settled in at the feed trough while our rooms were prepared. There were people, so many, many people. By this time we were so overwhelmed and desensitized that we may have been strip searched and de-loused. I don’t recall. All I know is that there were cookies, and they weren’t very good; if the lunch buffet was any indication, things didn’t bode well.

They picked up a little when we were allowed to go to our rooms. You know that scene in Titanic when the boat starts filling with water and the peasants are locked in steerage? Our room was a floor beneath that one.

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Actually, it was quite cozy. The bed was king-sized and it had some clever storage so that our suitcases remained out of sight. The lack of windows made for excellent sleeping conditions to those who are averse to having any light in the room. (If you’re like me and light bothers you, take some tape to put over the tiny lights in the room and the peephole. They’re more apparent and distracting in the otherwise pitch blackness.)

The first night and all of the next day, we were at sea. For someone who has never been on a cruise and may be wondering if you would enjoy it, here’s a handy test:

If you’re an extrovert who loves to meet people and enjoys food, then a cruise is your Utopia.

If you enjoy being pampered by a staff of 900 men and women whose only purpose is to serve you round the clock—including twice daily room cleaning and 24 hour room service—then a cruise is for you.

If you’re the type of person who hates to plan vacations and would prefer to have someone tell you when and where to show up, then a cruise is for you.

If you love alcohol and gambling, then a cruise is for you.

If you’re an independent introvert who doesn’t drink or gamble, like strangers, crowds, being touched, served or waited on and finds great joy in planning vacations, then a cruise might not be for you. (Guess which one I am!)

Despite the fact that a cruise might not be a great fit for my particular personality, it was a great experience and quite possibly the best way to see our particular portion of Alaska. Some of the things we saw are only accessible by plane or boat. And after an initial adjustment, I really began to warm up to the resort-like atmosphere of the boat. After a while, you begin to resent anything you have to do for yourself. It’s a good thing the cruise was only 7 days. Much longer and I might have started to refer to myself in the third person like the queen. “We would like our water refreshed now. We are ready for our turndown service.” But I digress…

The “fun day at sea” was made difficult by the ever-present yet low-grade nausea some of us experienced while we adjusted to our sea legs.  The day was foggy and cold, not ideal for relaxing on a deck (something unheard of with a 5 year old anyway.) We attempted to fill our day with fun ship activities. Carnival offered a lot of them, as well as a camp for kids. We took advantage of that for a short time here or there. They did a good job stocking the room with toys and planning games and activities for the kids. One day our daughter had her face painted like a tiger; another she was wowed by a magician.

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The employees were wonderful. Most of them were Asian, some were from Eastern Europe and a smattering were from the UK or US. All of them were kind, warm, helpful, and friendly. They made the journey pleasant and joyful, even if it was a strange adjustment to be waited on constantly. Even though we saved for the vacation for a long time and tried to budget carefully, the solicitousness of our servers often made me feel excessive and frivolous. This was made worse when we found out that many of them were highly trained professionals in their own countries–doctors, lawyers, etc. Our waiter was an electrical engineer, and yet he served us with professionalism and good attitude. It was an unexpected lesson in humility. And there was this.

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On the second full day of the trip, we cruised into the Tracy Fjords.

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The water is jade green from silt deposits. (Jade is coincidentally the state stone of Alaska.) The white chunks are chunks of ice.

We saw humpback whales, orcas, eagles, goats, and this glacier.

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As beautiful as the fjords were, we were ready to get off the boat. The next day was our first stop at Skagway. It was adorable! The town is home to only a few hundred fulltime residents but full of charm. It still looks like a Wild West frontier town with wooden boardwalks and wooden buildings.

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We took the Yukon Gold White Passage train, retracing the steps of the old gold seekers. The scenery was beautiful.

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Clearly, we were all spellbound.

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Next up: the capitol and more naps, many, many more naps.

Cross Country Trip, Day 10: Seattle to Bainbridge Island

We started our day by heading to Bainbridge Island. Not because we necessarily wanted to see the island, but because ferries are a must do and the best way to see Seattle’s skyline, or so everyone says.

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Are you a honkaholic? If so, Washington would like you to stop.

I’ve ridden in ferries before–to Put-In-Bay on Lake Erie and Monhegan Island in Maine. They could have fit in this one with a few of their friends and still had room to spare.

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This is one small portion of the giant, giant vessel. Commuters find them so boring that they remain in their cars and sleep. We took our car; don’t do that. The downtown is within an easy walk of the ferry station.

Here’s a bit of our view on the way:

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Bainbridge Island was a cute little town that’s worth a look. The stores were quirky and interesting.

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And especially this:

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I love, love, love premium ice cream. Not only does it taste delicious, but it doesn’t use artificial ingredients. My dye-sensitive daughter was able to eat strawberry ice cream for the first time in a long time.

Next we went to my favorite place in Seattle.

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First we went here.

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A crumpet is like a mix between a really good English muffin and a pancake. It was griddled, drizzled with melted butter and honey, and so good that I almost forgot to take a picture until it was too late. Must learn to make crumpets.

We hoped to see the guys throwing fish, but no one was buying. (Cheap, cheap people.) These guys were playing, though, and they were good.

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At the market, you can get some of the most beautiful flowers you’ve ever seen for five bucks.

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Along with fruit and vegetables.

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It’s like your neighborhood farmer’s market on steroids. With the original Starbucks.

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And the original and ridiculously long Starbuck’s line.

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Supper was my favorite clam chowder from Pike Place Chowder. It’s worth the drive or flight from wherever you live. Seriously.

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Tomorrow we board the boat, and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to the food the view. I’ve heard a lot about Alaskan cruises and the amazing food unbeatable scenery. I can’t wait to go to a midnight buffet be with my sisters and their families again. We’re going to gain a lot of weight have a lot of fun.

Cross Country Trip, Day 9: Spokane to Seattle

This is the hotel dog, Penny, clearly an energetic rapscallion.

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Washington is farm country again. Unlike Ohio, Washington has kindly labeled their crops with little blue signs so you know what you’re passing. So far we’ve seen peas, alfalfa, potatoes, and my old friend, corn. I look forward to these signs with breathless anticipation…It’s possible that the scenery is a bit boring along I90.

Interspersed with the crops are orchards. Orchards are something else I have idealized. Occasionally my husband and I talk about chucking it all and buying an orchard. Then we look at our garden and houseplants and decide we should learn to keep those alive before we take on a thousand trees.

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We stopped at a fruit stand in Ellensburg.

Cherries are the thing here. I love sweet cherries; it was hard to pass them up, but we’re going to Canada. Bad things happen to people who smuggle fruit across the border. I’ve seen Locked up Abroad. I’m not going out like that.

Farther west the landscape turned scrubby and arid again, and there are a few dozen windmills standing watch for their Don Quixote.

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Soon the scrubby hills gave way to more mountains and pines. This difference in eastern and western halves of the same state is foreign to me. In Ohio, the only difference between the east and the west is that Canton roots for the Steelers and Toledo is uncomfortably close to Ann Arbor.

The first thing we saw in Seattle was this guy.

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A fascinatingly ugly troll holding a VW under a bridge.

We glimpsed the Space Needle as we drove past. It’$ po$$ible to $ee in$side the $pace Needle, but we cho$e not to. I’m not $ure why.

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Next we stopped at a landmark store called Archie McPhee’s.

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It was filled with odd things like this:

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Supper was at Ray’s Boathouse Cafe on Puget Sound. The view was spectacular, and so were the oysters. (Oysters are to Seattle what Lobster is to Maine.)

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We grabbed a cookie and tart to go before heading down the street for ice cream. On the way, we ran into a festival. (Still not exactly sure what it was for, but it was a chance to soak up some of the local culture.) The ice cream was Molly Moon, a local place that uses high quality ingredients. The chocolate was awesome.

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Oh, and it was next door to this cupcake place, Cupcake Royale. They were good, too. So far Seattle and I are getting along just fine.

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