Drive Day 22 of #MikeandTobyTravels


We awoke to approaching thunderstorms in Glacier National Park on day 22 of our trip, and we had a long way to drive today. We prolonged the journey out of the park and along the thirty miles of the Going to the Sun Road by stopping to take vista shots of the deep indigo morning, the scarves of cloud, the rain-washed brightness of the roadside flowers. It was fully raining by the time we got to the Trail of the Cedars hike on the floor of the West Glacier valley, where I’d wanted to go before we left, so we contented ourselves with getting an all-you-can eat salad bar at the Lodge down in the valley and a couple of souvenir mugs.

A note about souvenirs: I like to get “fridge friend” magnets. I see them often in the kitchen, and they are fun reminders of a trip. They don’t take much money or space in suitcases. With so many electronics, though, I have to be careful that they’re stored away from anything techie. The other thing I like to collect is mugs. Mugs are a hassle to transport and are easily broken, but again they are used often, fun reminders, and cheap.

Sometimes I buy ballcaps, if the logo is really cool, but I have so many of them now that I can’t keep buying them. T-shirts are a very big indulgence—usually souvenir T-shirts don’t have designs I like, or don’t fit right, and frankly I have two wardrobes: work, and exercise clothes, neither of which fancy souvenir shirts work for. So of the three, I like magnets best as a good choice. What about you?

A note on packing for a big long trip: I found I wore the same set of four outfits (layers) over and over, and had brought a sweater that was too long, a jacket that didn’t fit right (bought online and thus the search for the Viking) two hats that didn’t work, and the strappy sandals I wore one day in to the fancy lunch in Seattle. In future, I’m going to “road test” every single article of clothing I pack a couple of weeks beforehand, and not buy anything online unless I have lead time to return it.

On moving in and out efficiently: the secret to getting in and out of lodgings quickly is having a place for everything and everything in its place. By having a certain spot for the bathroom bag, clothing wrapped in small bundles and my backpack packed with my personal items in certain pockets, I was able to be packed or unpacked in five or less minutes and never be scrambling around looking for things.

On my photography: several have asked how the colors of my photos are so rich. I use my iPhone 5 exclusively and rely on two apps I particularly love: Pro HDR, which works well for scenic vistas, and Camera+, which I like for people and detail photos. I use LapseIt for time lapses and Hyperlapse for action time lapse (such as my driving videos.) I usually boost my photos with a touch (usually 10%) of High Dynamic Range (HDR), or enhanced pixilation. I also like to eyeball the scene and try to match the shades, but boost the intensity (again, up to about 20% more than the phone’s auto sensor picks out.) Yes, I prefer my reality enhanced!

I consider this kind of photo editing the art part of photography, along with creative cropping for best composition. For instance, in the original elk shot I took in Jasper, there were a gaggle of people standing right in front of the elk. I cropped them out, because I prefer a less crowded landscape—in fact, I’d like to forget those other tourists even exist. In photos as with words, what you leave in and what you cut out are what make your work unique. The easiest way to see my particular flavor is to look at my Instagram feed (@tobyneal0) where I post my artiest photos.

A note about health on the road: Mike and I both have some health issues. I’ve got a ton of allergies and am easily backed up, and Mike has a really sensitive stomach and gets food poisoning with anything even slightly old or spoiled. With all of that going on, carrying food with us and trying to keep ice and a cooler going was challenging. Eating out had its problems too, mainly food wasn’t right for my fussy digestion (not to mention too many calories most of the time) but Mike got one of his food poisoning episodes from eating food from the cooler that got a little warm.

There is no perfect solution to this, but the two meals at restaurants a day at least provided an opportunity for the fresh veggies I need and the hygienic conditions Mike needs. Your health issues may be different, but it’s important to plan ahead, bringing extra of all anticipated medications needed and, if you have special dietary needs, bringing supplies is worth the extra space in your bags. For instance, I wish I’d brought a protein shake I could have had for breakfasts in lieu of so many that ended up being carb-laden grease fests because I can’t eat eggs, oatmeal, many fruits, etc.

Today on the road through Montana (warm temperatures in the 80’s, rolling fields of hay and alfalfa punctuated by the great rolled bundles of harvest, cattle, decrepit barns, and stretches of fir and pine) we talked about whether or not we could have been more efficient or economical on the trip. Eating out at two meals a day and spending nights in lodges most nights really added up, but when we discuss renting a camper, or buying a conversion van of some sort, we run into limitations and expenses that are significant with those too. Gas is higher, the vehicles are clumsy and clunky to drive, and we like to have Mike be able to go off on his explores without having to drag me along everywhere, which we’d have to do with a camper.

Our next trip, we decided, is going to be New Zealand, somewhere we both want to go. Mike did a surf trip by himself there about ten years ago and said the fishing and scenery was insane. They have cheap campervans, so we’re going to do that for that trip. Then, we’ll return to the USA the following year and do Washington, D.C. and the east coast. Or, at least that’s the plan as of this very moment.

Pulled over to get this smoky sunset over the Columbia River in Washington.

Pulled over to get this smoky sunset over the Columbia River in Washington.

Today’s goal is to get as close to Anacortes Ferry Terminal where we take off for the San Juan Islands, and we have driven all day from Montana through a corner of Idaho and into Washington State.

All day, the skies were flat and impenetrable with smoke from fires burning all over this side of the country, and we fetch up for the night at a Days Inn in Ellensburg, Wa., basically a truck stop. The cool green forests of Glacier are a memory.

But back to souvenirs: what kinds of things do you like to pick up to remember a place you’ve been?

20 Responses to “Drive Day 22 of #MikeandTobyTravels”

  1. Tina

    I’ve collected fridge magnets for years. Even thought it clutters the fridge, I’m grateful for the memories they provoke each time I look at them
    (I used to collect miniature tea cups, but none to be found for several years.)

  2. Sandie

    We used to collect fridge magnets – but now my kitchen doesn’t have a single surface they can “stick” to! My fridge looks like it has a metal casing, but it’s actually plastic! Now we tend to bring back a small “nicknack” object which represents the country/area where we’ve been. We have a display cabinet and they are put in there.

    We did a camper van round both islands of New Zealand 15 years ago with 2 friends. We thoroughly enjoyed it and I’d happily do it again. Campsites are well organised there, but many also have mini rooms where people with cars can stop. Consider your options carefully. If we did again, I think we’d opt for the car rather than a van! But it was a wonderful holiday and I’d love to relive it through your travels next year.

    • Toby Neal

      Yeah it seems to work well for me to have a “home base” so Mike can run around more than I want to. I worry how that would work with just the one vehicle. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Janet

    Great tips. Yes, fridge magnets are my choice too! There is a fridge under all those magnets. I find that I wear the same things over as well and overpack even tho I try not to! The eating thing is hard! We have some allergies as well and it makes it very difficult. Not always easy to bring your own food.. I have issues that you do…. especially when traveling. Have you tried the “Natural Calm” magnesium powder? That does the trick for me, something diet alone doesn’t. So excited for your trip to New Zealand! I hope you take us with you! 😉 I would love to visit there someday.

    • Toby Neal

      I have used that magnesium powder before, and yes that’s a great idea! Good for sleeping too.

  4. Cara

    Our fridge is non-magnetic too. My favorite souvenirs are local coffee, a cool locally made mug (I love pottery), but mostly the photo books we make with our favorite pics. The kids travel journal and then add details from those into their photo books.

    • Toby Neal

      Love these ideas, and the real artwork thing is something I do when I can, but more expensive. I did get that wonderful beaded barette this trip from the First Nations ladies…

  5. Geneva

    Yes, I to, collect the magnets, although I also have collected coffee mugs, t-shirts, etc. whatever catches my eye! Packing has always been a chore, I think it is a female thing. Also, if I am traveling from Florida to a town up north, I never know what temps to expect. Yes, you have to remember meds, antacids, because waking in the middle of the night with acid reflux, in a hotel room, with no meds is a disaster, feels so bad. Definitely take us with you on your New Zealand trip.
    New Zealand is another place I will never get to visit!.
    Take care.

    • Toby Neal

      For sure, Geneva, I so enjoy the process of blogging, and it helps me have a deeper experience myself. Aloha to you!

  6. Fran

    Like you, we like to collect magnets because they’re so portable. We also like mugs, but we only get them on road trips, not when we’re flying, because of packing space. I do like souvenir tee shirts, which I wear when I work from home. I look for interesting, unusual, and very comfortable tees. I have way too many though, so I only buy them now if I really like the color/style.

    My big travel goal is to visit New Mexico, because then I will have been to all 50 states. Weird, I know, but once I realized how close I was to visiting all the states, it became this thing I had to do.

    Thank you so much for this wonderful blog. I have enjoyed your travels, the photos, and your candor so much. Like your books, I like that you didn’t try to make everything seem perfect, because we all know we are not perfect and life is not perfect. When you tell a story, I feel like I am sitting with you, seeing what you’re seeing, experiencing everything with you. Your writing is a gift, and I thank you for sharing it with all of us.

    • Toby Neal

      Fran, thanks so much for your incredible gift of encouragement. I love having you in my life! xox

  7. Melanie boudar

    Stopped collecting magnets when fridges went to stainless and they don’t stick. I usually buy jewelry on a trip, a necklace or pair of earrings if they are unique to the area. I still like shirts but will only splurge on a well made shirt with a design I love.
    Enjoying all your travels except I’m concerned about Mikes leg / circulation from so much driving. Your images of fields with hay bales, old barns, roadside flowers , big sky with clouds is the America and Canada I love and unfortunately you have to drive to soak that immensity in.

    • Toby

      Yes, it’s a concern since his blood clot is still there. I checked his leg just last night and it’s okay, thank God. Mahalo for coming along!

  8. Holly Robinson

    Ah, Toby, I love traveling vicariously through your wonderful blog posts! I collect small watercolors from the places I’ve been, when I’ve got money, and when I don’t (most of the time), I collect rocks that I bring home to put in my garden or on my bookshelves. The rocks were inspired by my grandmother, who had a rock garden in Ohio created in part with rocks she and my grandfather had collected on THEIR camping travels in the early 1920s. I still have some of those rocks!

    • Toby

      Holly, I thought it was only heart-shaped rocks you collected! I love this idea and especially since it’s free. Thanks for this, and thanks for being with me in my heart so many times as I traveled I thought of you!

  9. Jennifer J. Chow

    The photo is lovely! I like buying magnets for friends who are into decorating their fridges. I’m also a sucker for bookmarks 🙂 Personally, though, I collect barrettes (because they can then double for putting up my hair).

    • Toby

      I collect barettes too, but it’s hard to find good ones in most places. I was able to buy a wonderful beaded one by a First Nations (Native American in US) woman in Lil’Wat, BC, that’s my favorite memento of this trip.

  10. Robin Bedwell

    I collect magnets as well but instead of the fridge, I use my filing cabinet in my office… I also collect post cards which I put in a spiral notebook(s). We also collect some t-shirts (try to get ones that my husband and I share so we don’t have so many). My husband and I like to collect a bottle of local wine from places we have been and display in our dining room (this is difficult when you are flying).
    I have loved following along with you on your journey, I have been to the Glacier National Park but it was under many feet of snow and we could only go so far. One of the best memories was the fact where we did get to drive, the snow on both sides were “cut thru” and was at least 12 feet tall…. It was an eerie feeling but awesome…

    • Toby

      Wow! I’d like to experience that. And I highly recommend visiting the park in the summer!