July 19, 2010

From there to here | Tire safety | Safe sunscreen?

Buffy, standing up through the opened top of her Gogo soft pet carrier

Buffy was ready to roll when we started our four-day road trip from Seattle to Wisconsin. She had a new soft harness, new lightweight pink collar and her favorite dog carrier to ride in, and I guess she was as pumped as a 17-year-old miniature poodle can be. The first day was pretty exciting for her, and she had a little trouble focusing on the necessary tasks of sleeping and staying calm, but the last three days she was an easy rider. She liked the motels, too, though we humans learned that carpets in the dog-friendly rooms are disgusting. They don't smell bad but they are covered with scary spots and look terrible.

Our first night was spent in Missoula, Montana, where The Good Food Store provided our supper. I had a bean burger, and Ken had a tempeh reuben. Mine was just OK — too salty and bread-y for my taste. I know I could have removed the bun, but I was lacking in discipline and overate, instead.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were our lunches of convenience every day of the trip. Each morning I'd repack the cooler with ice, and make two sandwiches for the road — we carried coconut milk yogurt, fruit, carrots and the pb&j in the cooler. We also had a bag of homemade trail mix and some additional pretzels. Dinners we planned to find when we stopped each day.

The scenery in Montana was gorgeous. We were surrounded by mountains, and open land in a thousand shades of soft green and apricot. Remind me to take some photos on the trip back.

Our second night was spent in Sheridan, Wyoming. We had Chinese takeout in our hotel and then went for a walk downtown. The rodeo was happening while we were there, but, you know, vegans don't go to rodeos, so we strolled down the main street to soak up the Wild West feel of the place. The stores were all closed for the rodeo, but Buffy was delighted to just walk around and window shop, and so were we.

How about a pair of gold cowboy boots to go with that wedding gown?

The street was filled with sculpture of every kind from abstract to very literal. The one above is called Granny's Garden, I think.

The rodeo is a pretty big deal and most of the shops had Rodeo signs in the windows.

The above is a bar window. The sign says, "it isn't always the bull who knocks you off your feet."

Even the shops selling non-cowboy-like Tevas and cool socks had ropes and guitars.

If I were a leather-wearing kind o' girl I'd want these boots.

The shops may sell modern goods but the buildings are beautiful, old and historic.

The mint is an icon. Be warned, though, that it's full of stuffed, previously-alive animals.

Wyoming (especially western Wyo.) was a beautiful ride. The third day was scheduled to be our longest as we made our way through Wyoming and South Dakota, and everything was going well until somewhere east of Murdo, S. Dakota, when we blew a rear tire and had to pull onto the road shoulder. The first thought we had was, "OMG where are we?" It felt like the middle of nowhere - flat, open land, few cars. It didn't help that it was 95˚ without an inch of shade. (Why aren't there any trees?) We felt cooked. And, I think we were still a little creeped out by the plague of flying grasshoppers we'd encountered at the last rest stop. There were still grasshopper bodies embedded in the windshield wipers.

A guy in a pickup came to our aid and changed the tire. He was wearing overalls, cowboy boots, and called his wife "mama." In exchange for his efforts he received a monetary reward and our extreme gratitude. I was desperate to photograph him for this post but was too shy to ask if it was OK. I guess I'll never be a photojournalist. :)

Buffy was relieved to be back on the road again but we were shaken, and every road-sound seemed like an impending catastrophe. By the time we reached Sioux Falls, S. Dakota, we were too exhausted to go find dinner so we ate our "emergency" udon soup bowls. The next morning Ken replaced our 9-year-old tires with new ones manufactured in 2010. (See below for a short, informative video about tire age and safety.)

Our first dinner at home was Indian takeout from a neighborhood restaurant. The next day we went to the farmers market and bought summer squash, green beans and cucumber to add to the broccoli and tomatoes growing in the garden our tenants had planted in the backyard. We also bopped into Trader Joe's for greens, carrots, avocados, canned pinto beans and sourdough bread because it was way too hot to cook, and the only thing we could possibly do was make a big salad. You can see the summer squash grated into the vegetable mix. I dressed the salad with balsamic vinegar and let the rich avocado stand in for oil.


Are your tires too old to be safe?
Even tires that are purchased "new" may be years old and unsafe. Old tires are subject to tread separation and can be deadly, according to this report. This isn't what happened to our tire, but having our tire blow out focused our attention on just how safe our tires were as we traveled at high speeds on the highway.


Is your safe sunscreen safe? Is anything safe?
I was a little disturbed to read recently that number 4 on the American Cancer Society's report on knowledge gaps for 20 suspected carcinogens list is titanium dioxide. This is an ingredient that often replaces dangerous ingredients in the newest sunscreens. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are listed in the sunscreens noted as safe by EWG (Environmental Working Group). My new sunscreen has both. Anyone know anything about this?


  1. Oh my--what a trip you had. I am so sorry about the tire! I am glad that someone was kind enough to stop and help and that you have new tires for your drive back. It must have felt nice to finally get back "home" to WI after that trip!

    Have a fabulous visit! Enjoy your time with your friends and soak up all the things you have been missing :-)


  2. I've never been to Montana, but that's great that you found something to eat there! I can't believe your tire blew out there. I call my husband "Daddy" a lot...I really need to stop, don't I? :) Your dog is beautiful.

  3. What a cute Wyoming town! Sorry about the blown out tire, that's scary, luckily the guy who changed it for you was nice and not scary.

  4. Buffy looks so funny there! This is what I imagine her thinking: C'mon people, we got places to be! Chop chop! :P

    We have been to all those places several times! Missoula is not one of my favorite Montana cities though. I take it you guys drove by Bozeman, Montana? That is one of my favorite places in the US! Oh! And Miles City, Montana! There is a horse there next to a Holiday Inn Express that is always willing to eat apple slices if you have some on you! (same horse from my profile picture actually!) Man, I love the western part of our trips!

    Flat tires are scary! I'm glad someone helped you out. That's the nice thing about those less populated places, everybody is just nicer overall. And everybody waves at you from other cars!

    We have *almost* gone to Glacier a couple of times, but for some reason or another it hasn't worked out. Maybe you guys can hit Yellowstone on your way back? If it makes you feel any better, Yellowstone would have been insanely crowded in July. It would have been the national park version of Woodman's supermarket! :D

  5. Courtney,
    It was a long trip but I love traveling through Montana and Wyoming - S. Dakota not so much. So far, being back home has been great. I've seen so many friends and am loving it here, in spite of the heat. :)

    Somehow, "Daddy" seems different than "mama." But maybe you could call him Daddy-o. :)

    Situations like this always make me feel so incompetent. I wish I was the sort of person who could just change the tire myself. We're both hopeless at stuff like this.

    I like Bozeman much better than Missoula, too, and we'll probably go there on the way back. They have the coolest coop there. I've never heard of Miles City but will look for it on the map - I'd like to meet that horse!

    I like your reference to Woodman's. (I never go there by the way because it's way too big. Even the parking lot gives me goose bumps.) You have to go to Glacier because it's so gorgeous. Even when crowded, you can still hike pretty much alone if you stay away from the most popular trails. On the other hand, I almost didn't hike a very popular trail because there were too many people, but I went anyway, and it was so unbelievably spectacular that I stopped seeing the other hikers and only saw the scenery!

  6. Aw, Buffy is a cutie! I can't even imagine taking my dog on a 4 day car trip. We take him to NJ when we go visit our families. It's only a 12 hour trip, but Nico makes it difficult. He likes to tangle himself up in his harness and the seatbelt. I can't even figure out how he does it.

    Your trip sounds like fun! I would love to go on a road trip and drive through some of those places.

  7. The countryside is just lovely, and I love all the old, historic buildings. Glad you are enjoying being back at home. How nice that your tenants had a garden!

  8. Kiersten,
    Thanks! I couldn't imagine taking Buffy, either, but I also couldn't imagine leaving her behind because I just don't trust anyone to take good enough care of her. The thing that's made all the difference in traveling with her was the purchase last year of a soft dog carrier that fits on the back seat. (She's a small dog.) I close the front and side doors but leave the top open so she can sit up or stand if she wants, but she stays inside, making for a much calmer ride. I have a comfy pillow inside, and she also uses the carrier as her bed at home. It's called a Gogo soft crate.

    The Western states really are beautiful, and I love the scenery as well as the historic "old West" towns. I'm loving being back home, but we have to go back in August.

  9. Sounds like an awesome trip. One of my dream places to go is to Montana and Wyoming. I have to admit, those are some pretty cool looking boots. Like you, if I wasn't vegan, I would want them. :o) Yikes..the tire blow it is a bit scary. Thank goodness you had a nice man to stop and come to your rescue...btw, Buffy is too cute!

  10. Buffy is adorable, it's cute that she got so excited.

    I bet the ride was beautiful, but I would have been freaked out too to be stranded in 95 degree heat with grasshoppers. Glad someone stopped to help...

    Your road food sounds yummy, and in fact all the food you describe here is making me hungry!

    Hope you enjoy your time in Wisconsin...and I'm looking forward to more updates from the mid-west.

  11. Buffy is 17!!??! WOW! What a beautiful and amazing girl she is. I hope my dogs all live to that ripe old age - and beyond! Growing up my family had 2 miniature apricot poodles. They both lived to be into their teens and they were the sweetest little ladies.

    It looks like you had THE BEST time. That food all looks incredible delicious...I'm drooling!

  12. Andrea, this is such an interesting post. I'll never see these places, so it was so good to see your photos.
    Buffy is so sweet looking. In your last post, I kept thinking I was seeing a sheepskin rug on the back of the chair, but knew it couldn't be!
    That meal looks good!

  13. Michelle,
    I hope you get to go to Montana and Wyoming - especially to Glacier National Park in Montana. It's so gorgeous there. Wouldn't it be great if we could find vegan boots like that?

    Fortunately, the only grasshoppers still with us when the tire blew were the ones impaled on the windshield wipers. Ugh.

    So far, we're having a great time in Wis. seeing old friends.

    Buffy really is an amazing girl at 17. She's the sweetest girl in the world!

    Buffy did look like a rug in that photo! She was right under the window and it was really hard to get a good picture. She likes to sleep on top of the sofa back. :)

  14. Bozeman rocks! Last time we went there we saw another health food store (besides the coop) called Huckleberry's Natural Market, but we were running a little late and we couldn't stop to check it out. Bummer. Mr. Wing-It and I will definitely visit Glacier some day! We will have to do what you did and zone the crowds out! :D

  15. If we go to Bozeman I'll look for Huckleberry's, assuming we have time to look around. You can find plenty of back country trails to hike at Glacier where you won't see a soul. But some of the more popular trails are famous for a very good reason! We did both for a nice balance of solitude and outrageous beauty.

  16. Sounds like you managed to enjoy much of the trip (as did Buffy) despite the blown tires and closed stores. The scenery does look beautiful! This post got me wishing I could go on a road trip, too.

  17. River,
    If we go to Bozeman I'll look for Huckleberry's, assuming we have time to look around. You can find plenty of back country trails to hike at Glacier where you won't see a soul. But some of the more popular trails are famous for a very good reason! We did both for a nice balance of solitude and outrageous beauty.

    As much as I love Wyoming and Montana, driving for four days is hard. I like it better when we have places to visit along the way, but this kind of road trip is geared to reaching a destination rather than enjoying the trip.


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