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?

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