The Surprise of Minnesota

After a good night’s rest, it was back in the Jeep and off to Northern Minnesota. Northern Minnesota was as far east as we planned to venture due to the Covid-19 requirements for entering some states since for folk from California. We didn’t really think the requirements included those traveling by automobile, but we didn’t want to take any chances. There would be other years, years without a deadly, global pandemic, to travel across the entire country.

A full day of things to see and do was planned. This included a lot of time in the Jeep interspersed with several stops to stretch our legs, see some sights and hopefully get some good photos. Our first stop of the day was in Fergus Falls to see Otto, the 40-foot long otter  squatting in Adams Park. Otto has squatted in the park for almost 50 years, built by local high school students in 1972 for the city’s centennial celebration. Even though the temperature was quite chilly, the pups had fun running around the park and we got some great pictures.

We said good-bye to Otto and headed to our next stop, an unscheduled stop at Battle Lake. We actually drove through the town at first, but decided we simply had to turn around and spend some time here. Battle Lake was beautiful and the fall foliage we found was absolutely perfect for pictures of the pups. We couldn’t pass up the chance to grab a picture or two of Chief Wenonga, standing tall as he looked out towards the lake. Battle Lake was the site of an Indian Battle in the 1790s.

We continued on to Lake Bemidgi, making a few stops along the way because the fall foliage was just too pretty not to photograph. 

By Lake Bemidgi stood an 18-foot tall Paul Bunyan and his friend Babe, the blue ox. Paul Bunyan has stood here since 1937 when he was built for a winter carnival. Babe was added in 1939. Lake Bemidji provided a stunning backdrop for Paul and his friend, Babe. On a side note, we knew Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, what we didn’t know is that legend says the lakes were made by rain filling Paul Bunyan’s footsteps as he explored the state. Pretty cool, huh?

We finished our day driving through the Chippewa National Forest. We stopped several times to admire the many shades of autumn. Needless to say we did several turn arounds, one of which was to stop and view the mouth (beginning) of the Mississippi River. Mom got a thrill out of this experience since she had the opportunity to see the Mississippi delta while attending a conference in New Orleans a couple of years ago. 

After a fabulous, and tiring, day exploring Northern Minnesota, we made our way back to Fergus and our cabin for the next 2 nights. The cabin, named Gray Duck, was a pleasant surprise. Mom was actually ecstatic… the cabin was anything but what one pictures hearing the word “cabin”. The cement floors were heated, after all we were in Northern Minnesota, the kitchen was modern and very-well appointed, 2 lovely bedrooms, a great bathroom, gorgeous living room with windows from floor to ceiling and a gas fireplace. There was also an enclosed patio off the living room which ended up being my mom’s and the pups favorite place to hang out. Since it was dark when we arrived, exploring the outdoors had to wait until morning.

The next morning we headed out to find Sugarloaf Cove on Lake Superior. The drive to Lake Superior took us past awesome views of a beautiful autumn color palette. One of these picturesque views happened to be one of the many lakes of Minnesota, just down the road from our cabin. Of course we had to stop so I could, hopefully, capture the beauty in a photo.

A few minutes later, we were on our way to Lake Superior. Since this adventure was a last minute addition to our travel plans, we had no idea what to expect. To say we were not disappointed is an understatement. The walk to the lake’s edge was through a heavily wooded area crying out for a photoshoot with the pups.

When the water’s edge was reached, my mom was shocked to see a lake because it looked like the ocean! The pups had fun playing in the water and splashing about in the waves. The beach was more rocks than sand, but no one seemed to care. A  little peninsula stretched out into the lake that everyone was excited to explore. The pups had a great time running through the trees on the peninsula and were well-behaved the many times I made them stop running to pose for pictures. We even traversed out to the rocky end of the peninsula to see what we could see. What we saw was water as far as the eye could see, surrounded by the yellows and oranges of fall.

Mom stayed back on terra firma to take pictures of the exploring escapades of myself and the pups. We spent much longer than anticipated exploring Sugarloaf Cove, but fortunately the only other activity planned for the day was to spend time enjoying and exploring the area around the cabin.

After exploring Sugarloaf Cove, I wanted to go check out a local waterfall. So we got back into the car and drove a few miles to Islip Falls. It was a gorgeous falls, but hard to photograph because we were at the top of the falls rather then the bottom. Which is always somewhat nerve wracking with the dogs. But they behaved while I explored and took some landscape photos. Before we headed back to the cabin.

Back at the cabin, I worked, Mom read on the patio and the pups slept. After everyone rested and got a second wind, we were ready to explore the backyard. There was a path down to a creek behind the cabin, unfortunately it was a bit too late to explore. I was a bit sad that I hadn’t planned for a longer stay here at the Gray Duck cabin. This only means another stay here is in our future, which I’ve already booked. Now after a tasty Italian dinner picked up at a recommended café and reading by the fire it was time to call it a night, for tomorrow we are off to Rapid City, South Dakota.

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Travel Isn’t Perfect

We started our road trip to South Dakota early Wednesday morning, only to have the trip aborted upon starting the Jeep. Would you believe the “change oil light” came on? Yes, I know, I should have had the oil changed before leaving on a long road trip, but I ran out of time. But no need to worry, I just put Valvoline in the GPS and off we went to get the oil changed. It would only be a short hour or so delay and I did have time buffers in our schedule. Unfortunately, the Valvoline the GPS sent us to did not have the oil filter the Jeep needed and so it was on to another place to get the oil changed. This one was on the other side of Denver, so it took some time to get there. Good news though, they could change the oil… once the filter was delivered from the Jeep dealership… Lesson learned- have the first oil change in a new automobile done at the dealership BEFORE venturing forth on a half cross country trip. After a mere 4 hour delay we were finally on the road again!

Today ended up being educational. We lost no time driving out of Colorado and into Nebraska, so much so that we didn’t stop for lunch. Lunch would be in Nebraska. Unfortunately, this was not easily done. Being from Southern California, we were road trippers used to having conveniences right off the freeway and frequently found. Not so in Nebraska. First, Google maps has a penchant for avoiding freeways, and that’s what it was doing in Nebraska. One of the first towns we drove into was the county seat. Surely we would find a place to eat here! Oops, population 17… only 17 people in the county seat? How could that be? The next town, Brewster, had a whopping population of 5! There was no food to be found there either..

About 3 hours later we drove into a much more populous town and knew we would finally find something to make our stomachs happy. We ended up stopping at a small cafe, we thought at first that it was closed  but, lucky for 2 very hungry travelers, it was open. There were no other customers in the restaurant and the only employee was not wearing a face mask. This concerned us since the country was still in the midst of a deadly pandemic. Mom and I wore our face masks every time we left the safety of the Jeep. This was the first time on our trip that restaurant personnel were inconsiderate of our health and safety. We had a dilemma before us. Who knew when we would find another place to eat? And would employees of other restaurants be wearing face masks? We decided to take our chances. We ate our burger and fries on the road and left Nebraska behind. 

So with our stomachs finally full we headed off to South Dakota. On this leg of the journey I learned just how panicked my mom gets when the gas tank goes below an half. And, just how much someone else’s panic can bring on my own personal brand of anxiety. This was driving through South Dakota, and I knew I had to start looking for ways to reroute, to make sure we could get gas. Luckily I saw billboards that said there was gas up ahead in 20 or so miles, and my car said we could go for 100 miles before needing gas. Unluckily, the gas stations did not come up in google maps. WTF, this did not install confidence at all. But, I followed the signs, got gas, and everything was fine. It did mean, I was forced to look for gas much earlier then I normally would have for the rest of the trip. Probably a good thing, but I hate getting gas more then twice a day when I’m on the road. Overall, the day was successful as we arrived safely at our destination, Brookings, South Dakota.

Breckenridge and Beyond

After arriving safely in  Breckenridge, we unpacked the Jeep for our 2-night stay in a cute A-Frame cabin. After unpacking asd settling in for the night we enjoyed the fire that was prepared for us and relaxed by watching the new “Enola Holmes” movie on Netflix. Mom’s and my idea of relaxation included a bit of work while enjoying the fire and the movie. I had a couple hours of work to do and Mom was proofreading a novel for a friend. The pups enjoyed making themselves completely at home in this super dog friendly AirBnB.

The next morning we woke up early (but rather late in my frame of mind) and set out for a hike and some off leash time for the pups at Twin Lakes. The scenery was absolutely stunning. The lake gleamed a beautiful blue surrounded by lovely fall foliage.

The pups had  great fun playing in the lake and rough-housing on the beach.

Storm had a blast swimming out to the spot where Mom and I would toss a rock. Even though she never brought a rock back to us, she did wait for us to throw another rock and then swim out to where the ripples started and back again. It was fun watching her venture out, swimming much more than usual.

After a morning of off leash fun, it was time to return to the cabin, have some lunch and work again. Lose to sunset we off-roaded up to Hoosier Pass, giving the pups another off-leash adventure.

Included in this adventure was a photo shoot of the pups in their Halloween costumes. Before leaving on the leaf-peeping trip, Frankie’s Halloween costume arrived in the mail- Amelia Earhart’s flying costume.

Dad and I then took on the job of building Amelia’s airplane as Storm’s costume. The plan was to take pictures of Amelia, aka Frankie and Amelia’s plane flying across the country, but alas the landing gear and propeller made it clear the plane would not make it out of Breckenridge. Mom and I were sad, but the pups were ecstatic. Perhaps the pups had orchestrated the destruction of the plane? We will never know the answer to that. But I did get the cutest Halloween pictures ever at Hoosier in Colorado, truly at the top of the world.   

The off-roading trip back down to the highway was a bit more sketchy than the trip up since it was getting dark, but the adventurous travelers made it safely back to the cabin for the night.

It was nowhere near as easy to start another fire in the fireplace as the previous night, but after a couple of hours, we eventually succeeded, sort of. There is definitely a trick to getting a good fire going, but we were able to enjoy another relaxing evening in our little A-frame cabin in preparation for the next day’s adventures and our drive to Denver.

 The next morning we took the pups into the town of Breckenridge for some human shopping fun. Now, I have two pups and I must say they both love to shop, especially Frankie. However, the stores either did not allow pups in or were too small to allow pups, so mom and I took turns staying outside the shops with the pups. I found socks, a Tee shirt and a tea-light candlestick made from tree bark, all of which I seriously had to purchase. 

For lunch we stopped at Crepe a `la Carte, right on Main Street.  Mom passed on lunch, but I had a chocolate, peanut butter and banana crepe for lunch and a chocolate and strawberry crepe for later. This crepe restaurant is one of the best ever! A definite “must do” when in Breckenridge.

Before leaving Breckinridge behind on our half cross county “Leaf Peeping” trip. A  leaf peeping drive through the 19 mile Boreas Pass scenic drive was scheduled before hedging on to Denver. I drove the nineteen miles through the pass. It was slow going, made even slower due to our many photo stops.

Although autumn was beginning to make way for winter, we still got some gorgeous pictures of fall foliage and, of course, the pups were almost in all the photos, the reason why we were passed several times by hikers… It did take a bit longer than planned to make it through the pass, but it was more than worth our time.

But now the time had come to say good-bye to Breckenridge and start our trek to Denver. We had a meet-up with Instagram friends later in the evening at the Cherry Creek dog park, one of the largest dog park in the U.S.

We did make it to Denver in plenty of time to have pizza delivered to our hotel room for dinner before heading out to the dog park. Despite several trips to Denver, this was the doggos first trip to the dog park and I was definitely looking forward to it. I could only imagine the zoomies to be had in a 107-acre off-leash dog park. The Cherry Creek State Park is actually 4,000 acres huge and the 107-acre off-leash dog park is all fenced in to keep the pups safe. We met up with 2 friends and 3 doggos and headed out to the creek for some water fun. Several hours were spent here so the pups could zoomie to their heart’s content and meet new friends. The humans chose the long way back to the parking lot to give the doggos more time to run and play. Finally we made it to the parking lot and said good-bye to our friends and headed back to the hotel. Humans and pups alike were exhausted and needed a good night’s sleep for tomorrow was to be a road trip day. Final destination- Brookings, South Dakota.

Little River Inn

A Relaxation Paradise

People who know me, know I love to travel. I’ve been told by friends and family that I only work to support my “habit” and I have to agree with them. This pandemic has forced me to cancel too many trips to count this year. And it’s kinda been killing me, and yes, I get that not traveling is a small sacrifice, but it’s still been hard for someone that escapes at least once a month. Even though I have been working from home for many months now, this pandemic has still been stressful. From not being able to go places, see friends, worrying every time I do visit someone, it’s a huge balancing act of safety, mental health, and just making the best of things. And, I felt I needed to get away from home for a relaxing escape from the craziness that is 2020. So you can imagine how delighted I was to find a weekend getaway right here in California- The Little River Inn. Not only were they open to travelers, but they’re dog friendly too. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I needed this getaway. So sit back, relax and let me share my adventure with you…

The drive to the Little River Inn was uneventful. But as we drove up to the Inn all that changed. Checking in was easy. The staff were friendly, conscious of the pandemic and wore masks to protect me. My only question was “How was I going to access my room?” I wasn’t given a key at check-in!  

After checking in, the staff instructed  me to go into the room next to the registration desk. There I found a paper gift bag with my name printed on it. This has never happened before. Curiosity had me looking into the bag. There I found the answer to my question, the bag had a key in it! An actual key, not a card key! Other items in my gift bag included; Keurig coffee pods, creamer, disposable cups, sugar and stirrers all in separate plastic bags. There were also toiletries in another plastic bag and information on what activities available in the area. This simple act of providing a gift bag reassured me that the staff at the Little River Inn cared about me as a person during this scary time. I couldn’t help but smile as the pups and I made our way to our room.

Other awesome amenities the Little River Inn offered was our own parking spot, clearly marked with our room number. Inside the room, there was a towel and 2 extra sheets provided for us.  “Why?” you ask. The towel was to dry off the pups after their adventures to the ocean and the sheets were to place on the furniture the pups wanted to relax upon. This made my heart smile. It’s so frustrating traveling to a “dog friendly” place, only to have “dogs are not allowed on the furniture” as one of the rules. So I knew this weekend was going to be special. There was also a dog bowl and treats. How wonderful! My doggos definitely felt welcome.

The doggos were not the only ones treated to some wonderful surprises. There was a bottle of wine from a local winery for the human in the family, as well as a wonderful surprise in the bathroom… a deep, soaking jacuzzi tub. I knew in an instant this tub would be put to good use this weekend. I imagined myself relaxing by the gas fireplace, after soaking in the tub, reading a book.

There was also a marvelous patio with a breathtaking view of the ocean and I could only imagine how wonderful the sunsets would be from here. The ocean view was so much more spectacular than the views I am used to in Southern California. This view included not only the ocean, but cliffs and lots of rocks.

After checking out our room, the pups and I climbed back into the Jeep and drove the 10 miles to Fort Bragg.

There the pups enjoyed an on leash adventure exploring the glass beach. We also got to experience a gorgeous sunset from the beach before heading back to our room.

When we got back to our room, I went over the breakfast menu that was in the gift bag and ordered breakfast by leaving the menu with my choices clipped outside the door. So before reading until falling asleep, I ordered my breakfast for the next morning.

The three of us woke to a rainy morning. But rain never deters the Pupventure Pack. Before breakfast we once again jumped into the Jeep and drove to Van Damne State Park Beach. The beach was actually within walking distance, but I decided to drive since it was raining. The pups enjoyed their morning beach exercise and adventure. I hoped to see a beautiful sunrise, but with the rain clouds so thick in the morning sky, the sun was hidden. We soon drove back to the Little River Inn since breakfast was about to be delivered.

When I ordered my breakfast, I was also able to request what time to have it delivered, and it came right on time. I enjoyed a lovely breakfast of eggs, bacon, a cheddar-bacon biscuit and a berry cobbler. Nothing to complain about here, it was delicious. After breakfast, it was time to relax on the patio reading the book I brought with me while listening to the sounds of  raindrops and the ocean. The type of relaxation I was hoping to find.

This relaxation could not go on all day however.. We had another adventure in store for us. So back into the Jeep and off to Fort Bragg again. This time, to ride on the Skunk Train. This steam and diesel train has been running out of Fort Bragg since 1885! Our train was the Pudding Creek Express. What a great experience! Masks and social distancing were required so the doggos and I again felt safe. Frankie and Storm were very well-behaved (this was their first ever train ride). They took in all the sights, sounds and train movement for the entire trip. They were exhausted when we got back to our room. It was fun for me to watch the pups and their reaction to the train ride. I was so pleased the pups were welcome on the train adventure!

After resting from the train adventure we decided to explore the many paved trails on the Little River Inn’s property. We just rambled around enjoying the sights and sounds before going to dinner. Dinner was served outside in a tent. Although it was a bit nippy outside, we were all very comfortable enjoying the warmth from the outdoor heaters. The heaters provided ambiance from the flames burning from the bottom to the top of the heaters. The food was absolutely delicious. I highly recommend the chocolate ganache dessert.

The next day, we enjoyed a lovely sunrise from the patio and then another walk along the beach before heading home. Sadly, our Little River Inn adventure came to an end all too soon. The three of us will definitely return again to experience the River Dog Package they offer. I might even invite my parents to join us.

I was looking for relaxation and adventure. The Little River Inn exceeded my expectations on both counts.  

Jeepin’ in Jeep Country

Today was going to be a day full of adventure in Moab as we would be leaving this afternoon heading out to Breckenridge. Yes, I admit I have a tendency to fill our days with as many adventures as the day allows. The first adventure was to be a hike to a beautiful waterfall. I have done this hike before and told my mom that the beginning was a little sketchy, I may have left out how sketchy though. Storm and Frankie didn’t find it sketchy at all though.  

We got to the beginning of the actual hike, along a stream with rocks (maybe boulders) alongside the stream that we needed to traverse. The pups were off leash, running and splashing in the stream and jumping from boulder to boulder, having a grand time. My mother, on the other hand, was attempting to scale the boulders on her butt and not succeeding. She was petrified of falling, breaking a bone and ruining our trip. Even though I kept saying that the hike was flat and easy once past the boulders, mom kept saying that the boulders would reappear on the way back. She did offer to sit on a boulder and wait for us, but I wanted us all to experience the entire trip together, so I decided not to continue on to the waterfall. So, after the pups were sufficiently dirty, wet and tired, we scaled the boulders and returned to the Jeep. 

The next adventure planned was off-roading on Onion Creek Trail. What a fun adventure! The views of the red, white and sometimes even green rocks on both sides of the trail were fabulous. I did the driving and loved going through the streams and splashing! At times I had my mom get out and take pictures and videos of me and the pups driving through the water and splashing. Sometimes this even meant I had to turn around and go through the stream again to get the perfect photo.

The epic stream and splash was recorded on video by my mom. What a huge splash! Just a suggestion though, if you plan on going through a stream and try to get the biggest splash possible, you might not want to have the windows down… Mom got a great video and she wasn’t even upset when she returned to the Jeep to find her seat soaked!!!! My side got wet too, as did the dogs … but to be honest, mom’s seat was absolutely soaked and we had no towels to dry it off. Luckily the weather had warmed from the morning and the plaid jacket she started the day with became a towel to wipe the water off her seat. We both laughed hysterically on our way out of the trail.

Although the morning hike didn’t end up being what I expected, the off-roading trip made up for it and my mom was a great sport. But the day didn’t end there, Mom brought along a road trip book that the pups and I got her for Christmas last year. When she looked up Utah, she found two things listed as things to see in Moab. One was Lin Ottinger’s Moab Rock Shop and the other was Hole ‘N the Rock. Yep, you guessed it, we weren’t leaving Moab without seeing these. The Rock shop was a little difficult to get to due to road construction, but we persevered and made our way to it. So we donned our masks and went into the store to see what it offered. There was everything from “rocks” to “gems” and some beautiful vases made by Native Americans. Yes, you guessed correctly again, I left with the prettiest vase in the shop. Now all I had to do was make sure the vase made it home safely.

After our shopping trip we drove the 11 miles (out of our way) to the Hole “N a Rock. This was a 5,000 square foot house built inside a rock. We decided to leave the pups in the Jeep and take the thirteen minute tour of the house. It started as a diner in 1945 and then it took 12 years for Albert and his wife, Gladys, to excavate 50,000 cubic feet of sandstone for the 14-room house. Albert lived in the house until his death in 1957 and Gladys stayed until her death in 1974. After her husband’s death, Gladys had the words “Hole ‘N the Rock” painted on the huge rock to attract tourists, opened a souvenir shop and began to give tours of the house. Although unexpected and out of our way, it was a fun adventure. But now we had to continue on to our next destination, Breckenridge, Colorado.

Frankie and Storm Go Leaf Peeping – And So It Begins

It is finally September 25th and the trip I have been planning for over a year is just a few hours away. Well, a semblance of the trip I’ve been planning for over a year is just a few hours away. First I have to finish working and then I have to pack up my Jeep Renegade Trailhawk (yep, I got a new car just for this trip), and wait for my mom. Knowing my mom though, she will be here early. So I better finish up the work I have to do…

As expected my parents arrived early, but that means the long awaited trip is nearly here. So after I quickly completed my work, I am ready to pack up the Jeep. With my dad’s help the Thule cargo bin (although my mom calls it a “Bucket”) gets packed up with relative ease and the back of the Jeep gets packed with our cooler filled with soda and snacks for the road, as well suitcases and the pup’s luggage. Yes, the pups, Frankie and Storm have their own luggage. One bag filled with food and treats and another filled with bandanas, collars and the Furminator to be used during the trip on a puppy spa day.

Finally, everything is packed and goodbyes are said. Mom and I head out for the first stop of the trip, Summerlin, Nevada. We won’t arrive there until late as we don’t leave until 4 o’clock pm and it is Friday. That means we will be hitting the I 15 traffic jam as everyone from Southern California heads out to Las Vegas despite COVID 19 still being in pandemic form. But I guess it didn’t stop us, so why should it stop them.

On to Moab

We arrived safely at our destination last night, with enough time to unwind and enjoy dinner. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we are limiting our contact with other people as much as possible, which means we wear masks whenever out of the Jeep and either pick up or order food and eat in the hotel room.

This morning we are up early to head out to Moab, Utah.The drive was uneventful until we passed a dirt road along the I 70. This was a road that I had often thought about taking since it included driving through tunnels cut into the mountainside. I mentioned this to my mom, who was driving at the time, and she said, “Let’s turn around and do it.” And so we did.

It was a fun drive and we were able to get out, stretch our legs and get some fabulous pictures. I got pictures of the pups and the Jeep, the pups and some fall foliage and the pups with the tunnel. Yes, my pups are definitely the subjects of 99.9% of my pictures. After this little respite it was time to get back on the road to Moab. 

We arrived in Moab in the late afternoon. Just in time to take a scenic drive along the Columbia River, enjoying both the views of the river as well as the fall foliage. Then we decided that we would drive up to La Sal viewpoint and hopefully we would make it in time to photograph the sunset.

We did make it up to the top in time for the sunset. It was chilly and breezy. The sunset was gorgeous and many photos were taken. After the sunset and the photo session ended we started the trek down the mountain to our hotel for the night. By this time it was pitch black except for the headlights on a curvy mountain road. At one point in time, we saw two eyes looking at us from the side of the road and both my mom and I wondered if a bear was staring at us! As we got close enough to make out who was sharing the road with us, we saw not a bear… but a black cow! Now we had something to laugh about.  

Just a few notes on traveling during the pandemic. If you are going to know what risks you are taking.

  1. Always wear a mask around those outside your bubble.
  2. Have hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes available to use and use them.
  3. Wash your hands regularly.
  4. Research safer activities.
    • Outdoor activities where you can maintain social distancing are the safest
    • Camping is the safest way to stay somewhere over night, if you aren’t going to camp,
    • Airbnb or the equivalent, with no host contact is the next safest.
    • If that doesn’t work look for hotels that do not have central air, and the door opens to the outside, like all those motels you normally try to avoid, and
    • last a hotel with interior doors and central air is the lowest on the safety list.
  5. When checking in and out and walking around wear your mask.
  6. Avoid spaces that social distancing is impossible like elevators if you can.

While these may seem obvious, I really wanted to point out while I did decide to travel, it was not without a plan. I also was originally going to try and meet up with different friends I knew along the way, but with COVID, I decided to limit that, and only met up with a few friends, out doors while social distancing.

Getaway House – Nov. 2019

Some weeks are just harder then others. More things to do, more deadlines, more traffic, really just more of everything.

Knowing that the weekend was just around the corner and the pups and I were headed up to the mountain was the only thing that kept me going.

Friday finally came along and I packed up the Jeep, grabbed the dogs and took off. To arrive 2 hours later, more traffic, so much traffic.

Getting to the tiny cabin was a relief. We arrived right as the sun was setting. The perfect time to take a breath, and leave the week behind. The tiny cabin itself was adorable. The perfect size for the three of us. With cute little touches like a red refrigerator and a box to keep to keep your cell phone to really experience detaching for the night.

But the best thing about the cabin was the full wall window right wear the bed cove was built. It made it feel like you were outside, but surrounded by all the comforts of being inside including temperature control and queen size bed made for reading and watching the family of deer frolic outside the window (much to the pups dismay).

It was nice to have a little kitchen inside with a two burner stove. And dog bowls under the sink. Perfect for cooking up a meal for the three of us. Trust me the dogs enjoyed some turkey dogs that night.

Outside there was a firepit, since it was just me we stayed inside and did not take advantage a fire, but we did take advantage of the walking trail that satisfied our needs for leaf cronching and mountain views.

Overall, it was a perfect little escape from a stressful week. And I cant wait to visit another Getaway House in the future.

DIY Folding Kicksled for Mushing

Kicksled building steps

3 2×2 white wood

4 1×2 7 ft poplar wood

1 1×3 8 ft poplar wood

8 3.5” hex bolts 1/4 by 20

8 3” hex bolts 1/4 by 20

6 3” lag bolts 1/4

6 wing nuts (optional)

24 drywall screws course 1.5 inches

1 1” hinge

1 90 degree bracket

24” bungee cord

1 rubber mat

1 pair skis

Washers

Nuts

1. Determine comfortable measurements for your stance. We decided to do the handles 42” high. And 17” from the inside of the skis

2. Even out top of skis if necessary

3. Bolt a 30” 2×2 strip to the ski. Counter sink the bolt into the ski. Repeat for second ski.

4. Clamped pieces together to get final measurements before attaching. We decided the seat height should be 10” from the ground. The back upright 42” 2×2 and the side pieces 42” 2×2 to the brindle.

5. Bolt uprights to the wood piece with 3.5 inch bolt. Use wingnuts on end of bolts as this piece will be collapsible.

6. Attach 10”1×2 uprights at the other end of the 30” piece.

7. Bolt the 42” piece to the 10” upright and the back uprights.

8. Repeat with other ski.

9. Attach the two sides together by using 2 17” 2×2 strips. We places them at 16 inches and 32 inches.

10. Attach 2 22.5” 1×2 20 inches from the back and at the base of the back. And connect with bolts a 22.5” 2×2 for the brindle at the end of the 42” horizontal piece.

11. Put in the “triangles.” Figure out where you want the long piece from the brindle to near the top of the back uprights. Put a hypotenuse from the base of the 10” upright to the brindle. Put. Hypotenuse from the 10” upright to the 42” upright. These are all to hopefully ensure this doesn’t pull apart.

12. Attach handles to the uprights.

13. Cut 1×3 to 22.5” and screw in seat slats.

14. Make the brake. Attach hinge to 1×2 measure where the piece will be out of your way. When kicking. Attach bracket to other end. Attach hinge to front of seat.

15. Attach bungee around the 1×2 and screw into the seat.

16. Glue mat strips to back of skis

17. Weather proof sled.

One of our guide images for the sled.

The final product.

I took the sled out with the dogs and it held up perfectly. Some things we need to work on is more weight in the front. And a longer brake. But since this was our first attempt I’m rather happy with it.

The total cost for us was about $125. I found used skis on CraigsList. The rest of the items were purchased at Home Depot.

Happy Sledding. Can’t wait to use it again next season.

Traveling Solo With or Without your Dog.

The first time I travelled on my own I was 17. I had been accepted into a student ambassador program along with a group of individuals that I did not know for a three week trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland. There was two home-stays during the three weeks and many other stops along the way. I remember the weeks leading up to the trip. I was so nervous. I had never gone anywhere with out my friends or family. And while I was going with a group of people, it wasn’t like I knew these people at all. I remember crying because I was so scared, how was I going to do this. I was shy, I didn’t know anyone, and I was going to be in multiple foreign countries. While I was there I had the best time. I made friends with the people in my group, I explored museums and some small towns on my own, I had my first taste the possibility of traveling solo.

Cut to present day. It’s just about 20 years later and I travel solo (or with my dogs) the majority of the time. The more I talk to people, the more I realize I’m in the minority of people willing to do this. And the biggest thing stopping people (especially women) from solo travel is fear.

Honestly, traveling solo is always a bit scary. But it’s totally worth it because traveling solo doesn’t mean you will actually always be alone. I have a few examples of what I mean.

Last summer I decided I wanted to spend a month in Washington. So I planned, budgeted, researched, and booked a trip. This trip happened to be with my two dogs, and it was a long one. The day before I left my mom visited to make sure that I had everything, cause that’s what moms do, and just like when I was 17, I had a moment that involved tears because my support system was going to be in a different state. Then the next morning, the dogs and I got in the car and started the trek up north. Prior to leaving I had contacted people I knew threw different adventure dog groups and made tentative and set in stone plans to meet up while I was there. This meant that I had time to spend hiking and exploring on my own, people to hike and camp with, and people to go out with or at least local suggestions of places to go. I went to the Space Needle, on an Underground Tour and a Mariners game on my own. I also enjoyed a summer thanksgiving dinner with a friends family and a bbq at the lake. It was such an amazing balance of solitude and company that I would do it again in a heart beat.

Prior to my Washington trip I took a weekend to drive through Utah and Colorado. Which I’ve done a few more times since the first trip. But this first trip. I stopped in Zion and Bryce National Parks on the way up. I got to spend exactly the right amount of time there, I didn’t have to wait for anyone, or hurry along because it was just me. From there I drove to Dillon, CO and had some moments on the drive. Like almost running out of gas. And working myself up to pure panic at a rest stop because this episode of Criminal Minds just kept running through my head. But I made it to my hotel safely. Nothing bad happened. And I’ve done the drive since then. In Colorado I met up with a friend. We went on a morning hike with the dogs. And then I went on my own way to visit another National Park.

I recently went to London for the weekend, I flew out on my own but I had a friend living there for a few months that I met up with. So while in London I was not on my own. However, if I had been I don’t think I would have done anything different. I took her on a Sherlock Holmes geek “tour” then we walked along the Thames, waiting for a walking tour through the East End. On the walking tour we met another solo traveler who joined our group as we went from one pub to another. The next day we took a tour to Stonehenge and Bath. It was amazing. I enjoyed being able to go to these places with someone. But really, I could have gone on my own. If I felt like it I could have talked to the other tourists on the bus with me. Or I could have soaked it all up on my own.

So here are a few of my travel tips:

1. Leave the fear at home. That doesn’t mean not to be cautious. Pay attention to the areas you stay in, be alert when walking around alone, etc. but don’t let fear keep you from living.

2. Find tours that interest you. Chances are there are other solo travelers taking those same tours and you have a chance to make new friends for the tour, the trip, or longer.

3. Sit at the bar and have a drink. Yes, that does mean someone will probably talk to you. That’s okay. Hopefully it’s someone local and you can learn about something cool to do. My favorite bar experience was watching a baseball game with Frankie at this outdoor bar down in San Diego. I think I talked to 90% of the people at the bar because of Frankie. Which was way outside of my comfort zone. But it was also fantastic.

4. Try new things. I’ve taken paddle boarding lessons, archery lessons, etc. on my own (or with my dogs) these lessons are a great way to be social while traveling by yourself.

5. Just go. Yep. That’s it. Just get out and do it. Yes it’s scary. And exhilarating. And nerve wracking. Honestly, even on a trip where things just didn’t go as planned. I’ve never regretted taking the trip. So really just do it.

If you have questions about traveling solo with or without dogs, let me know.

How to Plan a Short Vacation with your Dog

I travel a lot. It’s not always for long. In fact some of my favorite trips are weekend getaways. But I definitely pick up and leave the normal working world often, at least once a month, and most of the time I do it with my dogs.

I still remember planning my first trip with Frankie. I saw photos of people stand up paddle boarding with their dog. And I just had to do it. But I didn’t even know where to start. So to the internet I went. Trying to find somewhere I could rent a board and take Frankie paddling with me. I found a place in San Diego, and from there the idea of going out of town with Frankie was born. But really, the question was how do I travel with a dog? I had never done it before. And I happened to have a human only activity in San Diego that weekend. So the planning started.

For this trip, really any trip, I start with what my budget for the trip is going to be. This is important because it determines where I’m going to stay. Do I need to find dog friendly campsites? A budget hotel? Should I go the Airbnb route? Or am I splurging on a fancy place to stay.

Once my budget is in place I start my research. And I am a research nut. I want to know anything and everything about where I’m going. This means dog friendly restaurants, activities, beaches etc. For this trip I knew I wanted to go paddle boarding and I need a doggie daycare open on a Sunday to watch Frankie while I went to Legoland. I also wanted to take Frankie to an off leash beach before paddle boarding so she would be a little tired before we went out on the water.

Some of my favorite websites to look for dog friendly things to do and places to stay are BringFido.com and DogTrekker.com (California only). Starting with websites like this. It can lead you to some great ideas of places to go with your pup. Especially places to eat. Which in California can be tough. It is normally too hot to leave your dog in the car for even a short amount of time. So you want to find places that allow dogs. Once you find the places that interest you. Check out their websites to make sure they really are dog friendly. If the website doesn’t list it, I suggest calling them to confirm. I’ve found some of my favorites restaurants this way. Also, be prepared to spend all your time eating outside.

For this trip, Frankie’s first weekend away, we stayed at the Hotel Indigo. We stayed on the weekend and this hotel is a really high end hotel. Especially for a super dog friendly hotel. I picked this hotel because they had a package that included doggie day care, a dog bed, and dog cupcakes on arrival. I was definitely splurging on this trip. There was also a dog friendly bar on the 9th floor. It overlooked Petco Park. So Frankie and I hung out at the bar one night watching baseball on the television as the game was going on across the street. The bar was amazing. The staff and patrons all loved Frankie. There was an artificial grass yard there for the dogs. It was a great experience.

My advice for anyone traveling with your dogs is this.

1. Plan a budget.

2. Research, research, research! Not only do I look at what is dog friendly, I look at all the reviews. Whether it’s a hotel, restaurant or dog park. The reviews are crucial to my decision making process.

3. Don’t be afraid to try new things. I personally love paddling with my dogs. As well as going to bars or pubs with them. Frankie and Storm are instant conversation starters so it challenges me to be more social.

4, Plan out your stops on the road if you are going to need them. Since it’s hot where I live I love Petsmart and Petco for bathroom stops.

5. Bring items from home to keep your dog comfortable. I like to bring chews and my blanket.

6. Have fun!

Hopefully some of my process is helpful in planning your next trip. Soon I will describe how I plan longed trips with the pups as well. If you have questions, I am happy to answer them.