Visiting America (aka The Lower 48)

How does one respond when a person who lives in a remote village in Alaska says, “Someday I hope to visit America!” The first time we heard this, we were surprised. As time wore on we came to understand the meaning of this statement better. Our first real “Aha!” moment was when Kim was on the phone with a person in California inquiring about a Professional Development opportunity. The lady Kim was talking to told her, “Of course you would need to come to America to take the class.” Wait – she is in California and we are in Alaska – aren’t they both part of America?

Entering America – AKA the lower 48

We are no longer surprised to hear things like this. There is a pervasive gap between Alaska and the lower 48 which appears in many different forms. Things cost more to ship, shipping is often delayed, policies made by government (State and Federal) are either not relevant, or not sensitive to people in remote places. We have gotten used to being treated like we are in a different country when ordering from online retailers but hadn’t considered that others BELIEVE we live in a different country.

This month’s blog is about our visit to the foreign country known fondly as “The Lower 48,” or “Outside.”

In January we had made ambitious plans for a 10,000-mile road trip we fondly referred to as, “Round the Lower 48.” Because of extenuating circumstances, it became the, “To Ohio and Back Again,” road trip. Kind of sounds like a Tolkien novel, doesn’t it? Believe me when I say, “There were dragons!!!

We started off from Tacoma, Washington and headed to Spokane to visit family. We couldn’t resist digging in the dirt and installing a Salsa Garden for the family we were staying with. It brought back so many memories of digging in the dirt on warm summer days from that time when gardening was such a large part of our lives.

Once we were done playing in the dirt, we continued East. Our next stop was Missoula, Montana for another quick family visit and a promise to stop longer on our return. We then continued driving to our overnight stop at Chico Hot Springs near Pray, Montana. These amazing hot springs are warm and relaxing – they are sacred waters which flow freely for all to enjoy. The theme of sacred sites and a prayerful journey would follow us throughout the remainder of our trip.

After Pray, we continued to Medicine Wheel, Wyoming. We had a very beautiful drive on Alt Route 14 through the winding mountains. What an amazing place! We ended up getting there later in the day, and the last few visitors where leaving as we arrived, so we had the place to ourselves. Being alone at the Medicine Wheel to pray for our family, friends, and villages was comparable to having Stonehenge all to yourself. This is an amazing spiritual site worth the visit. Find more information here

To reach the site we had to take a mile and a half hike, which was made interesting, and a little treacherous, by lingering drifts of snow which partially covered many parts of the path. Wildflowers were already blooming on the parts of the path that were free of snow. By the time we got back to our car it had already been a long day, so we headed to Sheridan, Wyoming for our stopping place that night.

Throughout this trip, we established a consistent pattern in our travels: leisurely wake up and departure, and late night arrivals at our destination for the day. We decided we would stop at places we wanted to visit and not worry too much about the time.

A moon shot along our way east

A shot of the Full Moon during our late night travels

On our next day we first stopped in Fort Collins, Colorado to visit with Dr. Debbie Thompson. We had a lovely adjustment in the park, along with a nice lunch, and then continued down to Limon, Colorado for the night.

An adjustment in the park with Dr. Debbie Thompson

The next two days we traveled on into Columbia, Missouri, taking a stop along the way at BB’s Lawnside BBQ in Kansas City, Missouri for lunch. Then we headed on making a stop at the arch in St. Louis, and rested that evening in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

On our final travel day heading east we stopped at St Xavier Church in Cincinnati, Ohio and then continued to our final stop in Delaware, Ohio, where we spent most of a week visiting with our grand kids, resting, relaxing and sightseeing. We took time to enjoy a car show in downtown Delaware, visited the Olentangy Indian Caverns, traveled up to see the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio and stopped by the cemetery of Marion Ohio. The time went quickly and before we knew it we found ourselves packing up to head back to Washington state.

On the way back to Seattle we stayed in places like Altoona, Wisconsin, Bismark, North Dakota, and Great Falls, Montana. We decided we really enjoyed visiting Prairie Fire Pottery in Beach, North Dakota and figured we could really enjoy living in Lewiston, Montana.

Art near Beach North Dakota

Landscape near Great Falls Montana.

From Great Falls we headed back to Spokane, Washington with an extended stop in Missoula, MT along the way to have lunch as we had promised. We had a lovely visit – well, all except for Isabella, who kept trying to hide behind a chair to seek safety from Walter the cat.

Walter laying down the law to Isabella.

From Spokane we headed on to Renton, where we scheduled a couple of nights at the local Red Lion so we could leisurely handle the rest of our medical/dental follow-up appointments. Following that we headed back down to Michaela’s house in Tacoma for a couple of nights.

The Columbia River

Since we were back in Washington early, Kim decided to take a course to keep her Washington CTE certificate valid. So, on Sunday June 25th, we headed to Richland where Isabella and Greg hung out in the room learning more about Java (the software and the coffee kind) and Kim worked through some classes.

The Mountain on our way to Richland Washington

Kim’s basket project she created during the WAMC conference.

Finally, on June 30th we headed back to the Seattle area to accept a generous offer by one of Kim’s friends to house sit for her until it was time to return to Kasigluk. This provided us 3+ weeks to adjust to a slower pace of city life, allowed for Kim to complete a couple more classes for work, and gave us time to pack up a few more of our remaining items we had left behind on our quick exodus to Kipnuk last summer. We also got to unwind with a little biking along the Green River, watch the Osprey’s, visit the mountains, and spend time with friends prior to heading back north. Our two months of summer ended up going by quickly and as the last week of July approached we started getting antsy for our return trip to Kasigluk, Alaska.

Coming up next:
Back to village life!