25 July 2012

Now that we're home, some statistics...

The ferry ride home was both relaxing and successful. All of us were eager for a day or two away from the car and the Alaska Marine Highway System is a pleasant way to spend a bit of time, so it was a win all the way around.

All along this excursion, we've been asked a whole lot of questions about our road trips; everything from how we maintain our sanity, to how much it costs, to how our kids handle the drive, you name it. Now that we're home, I thought this a perfect time to outline our excursion in a strictly statistical manner (in the spirit of a similar post). Hopefully, this will give everyone a better picture of how we do what we do.

  • We left 57 days ago.
  • We drove (round-trip) 8,064 miles.
    • 365.4 gallons of gas were used.
    • $1438.16 was spent on gas at an average rate of $3.94 per gallon. (Note: fuel is significantly more expensive in Canada)
    • We averaged 22 miles per gallon in our 2005 Nissan Pathfinder, carrying the equivalent of 6 adult passengers (in weight) both directions.
      • In order in maximize our gas mileage, traveling speed was maintained at 65mph or the posted speed limit, whichever was lower.
    • An average day on the road was 8.5-9 hours of driving, which is 10-11 hours with stops included.
    • The average distance traveled per day was 520 miles. (Note: this average does not include any in-town driving, once we arrived in Cleveland.)
  • Car maintenance totaled $515.90. (Note: this total includes a replaced tail light, in addition to oil changes/tire rotations and general safety checks.)
  • Tickets for 2 adults, 2 children, 1 pet, and 1 15-foot vehicle (round-trip) from Sitka to Prince Rupert, BC with a state room each way are $982. (Note: enormous gratitude goes out to Cindy for bearing the financial burden of this part of our trip.)
  • Pet-friendly hotel rooms for 11 nights were rented at an average rate of $117 per night. (Note: Canadian hotels are significantly more expensive.)
    • Coupons, AAA discounts, and hotel search aggregator websites were used to find the most reasonable rates available.
  • Meals while en route averaged about $60 per day for 20 days.
    • Most breakfasts were provided by hotels.
    • Snacks were purchased in advance of departure to deter extra spending.
    • Meals varied from fast food to ethnic restaurants, depending on availability and time.
  • International transaction fees accrued for using a US credit card in Canada totaled $19.36.
  • We had a total of 6 border crossings between the US and Canada.
    • Nika failed to bark obnoxiously at the fifth crossing.
  • Two veterinary visits were required for border crossing, totaling $245.74 (Note: pet travel papers are valid for only 30 days.)
  • Cat-sitting services while we were away totaled $100.
  • National Park fees totaled $56
    • 2 US National Parks, 2 Canadian National Parks, and 1 Natural Wonder of the World were visited on this trip.
Note: none of these dollar totals include our time in Cleveland, except gas.

  • The children amused themselves with books and toys about 20% of the time on the road, sight-seeing about 50% of the time, eating 10% of the time, sleeping 10% of the time, and asking about the next hotel 10% of the time.
  • The alphabet game was played daily (sometimes more than once).
  • There were no more than 5 sibling disputes in a single day.
  • iTunes purchases, including audio books and music for traveling totaled $185.74.
  • Porter began and completed potty training during this trip. (Note: earlier attempts were made and failed.)
  • Nika made 0 messes on this trip.
    • Unless you count hair. Ugh.
License Plate Game results:
  • Every US state, except Hawaii
  • Colville Indian Reservation (WA)
  • US State Department
  • Canadian Plates
    • Alberta
    • British Columbia
    • Manitoba
    • New Brunswick
    • Ontario
    • Quebec
    • Saskatchewan
    • Yukon Territory
  • Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil

Overall, it was a good trip. We saw some cool stuff, spent time with family, met some new people, and had plenty of time on the road to hang out with each other and enjoy just being ourselves. Some of the best adventures aren't about the destination, so much as the people you travel with.

Then again, it's always nice to come home to your own bed.

21 July 2012

Prince Rupert, British Columbia (Day 54)

After putting in 9 hours on the road, we have arrived at our final destination before boarding the ferry home. We are all happy to be at our last hotel, relieved to be finished with the driving, and exhausted from the journey. We board the Taku tomorrow at 4pm for a leisurely 34-hour cruise back to our island paradise.

Our drive today was beautiful, however uneventful. Today's stretch of countryside definitely caused us to feel closer to home. It's nice to be back in the land of trees, and ocean, and 60 degree weather.

We will spend tomorrow afternoon checking out what Prince Rupert has downtown, before boarding our ferry home, but I should remind you all that we are still on International rates until we leave and will have no cell phone or Internet service while on the ferry. We are due to dock in Sitka at 4:15am, July 24th.

20 July 2012

Prince George, British Columbia (Day 53)

It seems like we've been here before!

After a 9-hour day of driving, we're staying in the same hotel we visited a month and a half ago. Today was a rough day, as we were all pretty tired. There wasn't anything of great note to share from the drive, except that we traveled about 715 km, almost exclusively on the same road (BC 97), which is the continuation of the road that we drove from Grand Coulee to Kelowna! I'm happy that I don't have to spend a third day driving on a route 97.

Tomorrow will take us to Prince Rupert, ending the driving part of our journey about 22 hours ahead of necessity. This gives us some time to recuperate, reorganize and clean the car, and take care of last-minute business before hitting the ferry home on Sunday!

19 July 2012

Kelowna, British Columbia (Day 52)

It's been a very busy, exciting, fun, and exhausting couple of days!

Our first stop yesterday took us to Yellowstone National Park, which was nice all on its own, but we specifically went through there to visit with this amazing young lady right here.
Seren & Porter with their "sister"
This is Mary-Gray Mahoney and we think she's pretty neat. She was one of our very first advisees at Orme, but she has just finished her BA in English at Willamette University in Oregon. Rather than sitting around, wishing that she had a clue what to do with her life, she is working for Xanterra and seeing some really spectacular places while working the front desk at the Lake Lodge Cabins in Yellowstone. She hopes to see a little bit of the world before settling down and we approve. In fact, we couldn't be prouder of her approach to life and hope her travels will lead her to enormous success and fulfillment.

After spending our lunchtime with MG, she had to get ready for work and we needed to get back on the road, but we decided to take in some scenery along the way. This is an easy task to perform in Yellowstone.

And surely, we couldn't leave without seeing Old Faithful.

The kids had some time to run around, too.

Later on, after we left the park, our poor Nissan Pathfinder reached a landmark of its own.

That night, as reported in yesterday's post, we stayed in Missoula, Montana.


This morning we drove straight to Spokane, where we met up with some more of my relatives, Robert & Joy Ruiz.
Sitting at Olive Garden with Uncle Robert & Aunt Joy
Aunt Joy is my mother's youngest sister and Robert is a licensed orthodontist. They have two children, Brandon and Heather, who were sadly out of town during our visit. After lunch, we walked around a park in Spokane and took in the scenery and there were plenty of water attractions to keep the kids cool on such a warm day.
Playing in the fountain


Crossing the bridge with Uncle Robert

Playing in the sprinklers
Aunt Joy was sweet enough to bring us fresh-picked cherries from the orchard near their house. So after we said our goodbyes and drove our separate ways, we had a very refreshing (if not messy) snack in the car. Somewhere during this time, we made a wrong turn and, instead of heading North, we wound up heading further West. This navigational error took us a bit out of our way, but we ended up seeing some pretty cool stuff at the Grand Coulee Dam.
Back of the dam  (Lake Roosevelt)

Back of the dam

Front of the dam


As seen crossing the bridge
 So that was our day. We are holing up for the night at a Canada's Best Value Inn in Kelowna, British Columbia and I must say, it feels good to be so close to home.

18 July 2012

Missoula, Montana (Day 51)

It's 11pm, here in Missoula. The kids are still working out the last of their wiggles before falling asleep and Stephen and I are exhausted from a long, exciting day.

But I'm not going to share all of that with you tonight. You'll have to wait until tomorrow for a real update. Oh, it will be worth it, alright. Adventures were had, memories were made, pictures were taken, friends were reunited... It was a very good day.

But it's late and it's time to sleep now. There are plenty more adventures to be had tomorrow and the updates will come.

17 July 2012

Cody, Wyoming (Day 50)

Spearfish, South Dakota was a great place to spend the night. The Days Inn was worth every dollar, and the community was full of very pleasant people. From there, we headed directly into Wyoming. Our trip was basically I-90 all the way to Sheridan, then US-14 to Cody. A handful of quick reflections:
  1. Sheridan has a cute downtown, but the people are weird.
  2. Whoever made the decision to label the sediments visible while climbing the hogbacks on US-14 was a genius. As someone who geeks out on geology, it was awesome to be able to read the deposition dates, periods, and names of the different rocks.
  3. When you drive down a 10% grade for 14 miles, your brakes will get hot. Somewhere around 10 miles, they will be hot enough to smoke, and you will be able to char a tissue on them.
Now, some pictures, courtesy of JoElle!
Looking east from part way up the climb into the hogbacks.

The view into Big Horn Basin (part of Big Horn County). Not the small canyon in the midground.

Man, it sure is pretty for a place I wouldn't live.

Two adorable children blowing off steam and working out kinks from the road.
Tomorrow, we're going through Yellowstone National Park. Seren and I are both excited about the chance to see our first geysers, but the real reason for this massive detour is the chance to see a former student who's working at Yellowstone for the summer. Yeah, we're the kind of people who would go to the biggest national park in the country just to visit someone. We haven't seen her in a few years, so we're all looking forward to it.

16 July 2012

Spearfish, South Dakota (Day 49)

I'm going to start by backing up a few days to share with you a very special lady we met while we were in Cleveland...

This is Ruth Wertheimer. Papa Nate thought pretty highly of her and we do too. Stephen and I are very grateful that Papa Nate's last moments were happy ones spent with Ruth. She is truly a gem and it's easy for us to see why Papa was so fond of her. It's also easy to see that Seren and Porter had plenty of fun with her. They spent several afternoons at Ruth's home, going swimming and reaping the grandmotherly attention. We are both pleased and honored to count Ruth as a part of our family.


Our first day on the road was a busy one. Our first stop was in Fort Wayne, Indiana to visit some aunts, uncles, and cousins of mine.
Front booth (left to right): Alayna, Seren, & Porter
Back booth: Taylor & Jerilyn 

Richelle & JoElle

Jerilyn, JoElle, & Valerie

Uncle Jerry, Uncle Don, JoElle, & Aunt Pat

Taylor & Seren

Jeremiah & Porter

Then we stopped just outside Chicago, Illinois for the night, so we could spend some time with Papa Nate's big sister.
Aunt Marcine, Uncle Arty, Seren, & Porter
The following days were filled with the typical road trip activities.

However, we did make a short detour today to check out a national monument.
Mt. Rushmore National Monument

Gutzon Borglum was the crazy immigrant who carved his way to infamy.

Apparently, Gutzon did not do any of his own cleanup after blasting the mountain's face off (pun intended).

Porter's best "I'm not impressed. Where's the hotel?" face.
I did try to get some pictures of the Black Hills, because they are very beautiful (both geologically and botanically), but I couldn't get any decent shots due to an overabundance of kitschy merchants and tacky buildings. Nevertheless, it was worth the detour.

Tonight we're staying at the Day's Inn at Spearfish, SD and it has not provided a single disappointment. Doing these kinds of trips, we really only expect the bare minimum, but we have come to appreciate hotels that go the extra mile to provide a comfortable space. If you ever drive through South Dakota on I-90, the Spearfish Days Inn will provide such a space.
Playing "horsey" at the hotel

Silly kid
We're aiming for Cody, Wyoming tomorrow. Stay tuned for more adventures from the road.