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If you are (or are planning to be) in the writing business, this is some good advice. Also, for authors looking for an avenue to promote themselves and their work.

Amber Leggette-Aldrich

In the beginning…

When I write, I can put the jumbled thoughts that are
swirling through my mind into written words that can make sense, even if only
to me. Because I must focus to move my fingers on the keyboard, I can take my
time and just let the words flow in a more selected way, and then change the
thoughts into more organized patterns.

The intent is to imagine these patterns as pieces of a
puzzle, and then begin putting them together to form the complete picture. That
is the magic of writing.

When I write non-fiction, the pictures often represent the
emotions in my heart. But they also represent knowledge learned, which came
through seeing, hearing, and doing, my life’s experiences.

One of the books I am working on now came from the experiences I’ve endured on my journey to becoming an author, and I’d like to…

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I have lived in the beautiful state of Alaska for over 25 years now, and from what I remember from history, Alaska was granted statehood on January 3, 1959. When I first moved to the valley I live in, there were no WalMarts, Sears, Targets, or other such nationwide chains of merchants.

The people of Alaska were a hardy, and mostly self-reliant breed, and most lived a very different lifestyle than what was considered to be normal in the lower 48 states. The railroad and shipping industries have played a vital part in the transporting of goods to and from Alaska, and even with the Alaska Highway being opened to the public in 1948, continue to play a major role in the transportation industry.

Transportation costs to and from Alaska remain high, whether by land, sea or air, which has always resulted in the costs of goods being higher than elsewhere in the United States. And this is at least somewhat understandable, if not likeable.

What I want to RANT about is the fact that even while we may be willing (or forced) to pay higher costs for shipping to Alaska, there are still many places that REFUSE TO SHIP TO ALASKA!

In the lower 48 (or contiguous) states, people can order anything they want. Places like Amazon, E-bay, WalMart, Sears, etc. will deliver items right to a person’s door or mailbox.

I felt like Alaska was finally being accepted into the “modern era” when we had our first WalMart built in our valley, followed shortly after by Sears. Then I discovered ordering online…YAY! But we cannot order from WalMart or Sears, or any other major chain for that matter. It doesn’t make sense to me, to be told, “We cannot ship this item to Alaska due to the cost”, when the companies are already shipping to their own stores, WHICH ARE LOCATED HERE IN ALASKA!

I thought I found a happy solution with Amazon and E-bay, even if it meant paying a higher shipping fee than anywhere else in the United States. A few years ago, I even joined “Amazon Prime” (for a fee of course), and was promised “free shipping on ANY qualifying item”.

In the few years since joining Prime, I’ve ordered several items, including a microwave-convection oven. Some items have been sent to my post office box, while some have been delivered right to my doorstep.

Yet in this past week, I tried to order a simple, small shop vacuum. There were several models available on Amazon, including 5 that were “qualified for Prime shipping”. When I placed the order, I received the message, “we’re sorry, we cannot ship to your location”. I tried every one of the models on Amazon, whether it was sold directly by Amazon, or a 3rd party, and received the same message from every single one of them!

I could order all the spare parts, hoses, bags, and filters I wanted. But I could not buy the shop vac itself! I finally gave up, discouraged. I know it doesn’t have anything to do with weight issues, because the microwave I ordered certainly weighed more. And I’ve known people that have received goods weighing over 500 lbs. So I don’t know why I couldn’t buy my shop vac, it is a mystery.

Today, I received a coupon for 15% off the price of a throw rug type item. We’re talking a rug measuring 35” x 26” and weighing less than 10 lbs. I decided to buy it, but as I was placing the order, I put in the zip code, and I got the same message, “We’re sorry. We don’t ship to that area”. I looked on the pull down menu where the states are listed, and Alaska wasn’t even on the list. Yet the company proudly displayed “Made in America” on their website.

Yes, it costs more to ship to Alaska. But the consumer (the one buying the item) is the one paying for it. So if we are willing to pay the higher shipping fees, why are we being discriminated against in buying the items we want to buy?

Sometimes, I just don’t feel like we Alaskans are included as a part of the United States. There are still some folks out there that seem to think we are in a different country.

Once when I was on a trip to the South, a man asked me, “What kind of money do you folks in Alaska use”? I just couldn’t help myself! I replied, “We don’t use money. We just dig up gold nuggets out of our back yards”.

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Last week I wrote a post announcing the release of my friend, Pam Thorson’s new book, “Out from the Shadows”. She is celebrating with a launch party on Facebook on March 28, 2014 from 7 am to 7 pm and everyone is invited! There will be prizes given away each hour, but you must join the party to enter for a chance to win.

Let’s help Pam celebrate, and show our support by spreading the word.

Pam Thorson
Author Bio:
Pam Thorson is a licensed practical nurse, author, speaker, and full-time caregiver. She pioneered in the homeschooling movement from 1982-2006 and authored her first book, Song in the Night, in 2008. Her newest book, Out from the Shadows: 31 Devotions for the Weary Caregiver (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas), pulls back the veil on the unique joys and challenges of caregiving. Pam resides with her family in the Northwest. Visit her here:
http://www.pamthorson.com
http://www.twitter.com/PamelaThorson
http://www.facebook.com/officialpamthorson

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I began writing many years ago, without having any college training or professional background. I just put down on paper what was in my heart and in my head. Several family members and close friends told me that my writing was very good and that I should consider becoming a writer. But that’s what family and friends always say. So I didn’t take it too seriously.

Then I joined a chat room and began joining in a few of the forums there. It was during a time of political debates and elections, and there was quite a bit of tension and heated arguments in many of the forums. So I began a discussion based on sharing humorous stories about my children and animals, as an attempt to cool things down.

Soon there were several hundred people joining in, leaving comments regarding my writing a book of these stories. Several of the comments were from professional writers, and they were encouraging me to become a writer. Me! A real writer?

I had no knowledge of the writing industry, but I asked questions. And to their credit, I found that these writers were more than willing to educate me. Through their kindness, I found some confidence and encouragement, and I began pondering the idea of becoming a writer.

Of course, the picture I painted in my mind was one of me, sitting at my computer, furiously typing out a best seller in a couple of days, while the phone was ringing with offers and pleas from several publishers. I pictured crowds surrounding me in public, asking for my autograph. And I pictured financial success. (Yes, I know that’s funny, but it’s MY picture, so don’t rain on my parade.)

I bought several books on writing, publishing, agents, and marketing guides. After I finished reading them, I think I was more confused than before I started. And I felt a sense of fear, realizing that I had no idea of what I was doing.

I lost contact with the writers I had met in the chat room when the site was suddenly closed for unknown reasons. And things were changing in my life circumstances that were beyond my control. So for a time, I didn’t give much more thought to writing for a living.

But I kept writing, and sharing stories with friends and family. And my biggest fan was always my mom.

Then a few years ago there was an incident which hospitalized my youngest son. There were many people wanting updates and to share loving prayers, but even texting was difficult. So one of the hospital volunteers arranged for me to get access to a computer and set up a webpage where I could post updates and people could leave messages for us. The site was similar to a blog, and I began posting once or twice a day.

The posts were similar to a journal style of writing, and I included my own thoughts and feelings about what was going on with my son. I was writing to share with our family and friends. But by the end of the first week, there were several hundred people that were following this journal, leaving messages of hope and prayers, and requesting that I continue the posts. There were hundreds of people that I didn’t know, I didn’t even know how they found the site. But it was being spread by word of mouth (or computer links) and it continued to grow.

I was a little overwhelmed when I realized that in a short time, there were almost 4,000 people following this journal. And many of them were thanking me for sharing our story, and repeatedly asking me to consider writing a book about our ordeal. My mom was among them.

Over the next year and a half, I wrote the book, “Faith, Hope & Miracles”. And while I was writing it, I was also learning everything I could about the publishing industry. Without knowing any writers or having any contacts in the industry, I knew that it was not going to be an easy endeavor.

When I finished writing the manuscript, I sent it to my mother and asked her to review it and give an honest critique, along with editing. I knew she had taken a few English and writing courses in college, so I felt confident that she would spot any grammar mistakes and such.

When she called after reading the manuscript, her voice was soft and shaky as she said, “Hon, you are a very gifted writer, and you did an excellent job”. At first I thought her emotions were very strong because of the subject of the book surrounding her own grandson. But it was more than that. She told me of how proud she was of me for completing this work, and that she believed in my ability as a writer.

Even when I confided in her that I had no idea of how to go about getting the book published, she said she had faith in me and that she knew it would happen. And she told me to never give up.

After careful consideration, I had decided to self-publish that book. To accomplish that required learning even more about the publishing and marketing industry than I ever really wanted to know, but I was determined to do it. It was a bit overwhelming and even frightening in some ways, but when the book was finally available for sale, I felt a great sense of satisfaction. And I finally realized that writing was what I wanted to do with my life.

I must say that going about it the way I did to become a writer was probably the hardest way. I highly recommend that anyone wanting to pursue a career in writing start by taking writing and publishing courses, and earning some credentials. It is hard enough for a first book to be a success when you know what you’re doing. But when you are learning as you go, and no one knows anything about you, it’s even harder.

I sent a signed copy to my parents and several other family members and friends. But I’m pretty sure that no one was more proud than my mother. It was a little over 6 months later when I finally was able to go visit, and she had my book proudly on display on her living room coffee table, next to her bible.

On that visit, I shared a few ideas I had for a Christian fiction series, and my mother liked the ideas. She said she looked forward to reading the books, and I knew she would always be my biggest fan.

My mother passed away the day after I came home from that trip, one year ago today.

In this past year, I’ve written a few articles and worked on a couple of different blogs. But when it came to working on the series I had started, I seemed to have developed writer’s block.

I managed to scratch out a few paragraphs now and then, but I just couldn’t find the time to really go after it.

It wasn’t until this morning that I finally realized that I have been feeling an underlying depression. I know it’s perfectly normal to grieve after losing someone you love. And in this past year, I have often missed my mother very much, and I’ve cried. But what I didn’t realize was that somewhere in my mind, my writing was, in a way, connected to her.

It’s funny how our brains work, making associations and connections that we don’t even realize are there.

But I also realized something else this morning. I remembered back to when my son was in the hospital and I began keeping that online journal. I knew as events unfolded in that hospital that there was a miracle that needed to be told. I could feel it in my heart that God wanted for me to share it with others, and I felt compelled to do so. I also felt a sense of pride with my mother’s encouragement to continue writing. But in this past year, I have not been doing what I was led to do. I was not honoring my mother, or God, with my procrastination and lack of commitment.

This day has been hard, and I know there will still be more hard days ahead. I also know that my mother would never have wanted grieving for her to stop me from doing something that is dear to my heart, and something that she was so proud of.

In realizing the connection I feel between my mother and my writing, I know now that I can turn that into a strength. It can be the inspiration to keep writing, even when I can’t think of what to write about. It can be the motivation I need to stay committed to my work, even when I’m too tired. And it can be the strength I need, to pour out my heart on paper, the words of my stories. And it can be a way for me to continue to say, “I love you Mom. Thanks for believing in me”.

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Imagine you are at the end of your life. Today is your last day. What legacy will you leave behind?

It’s not exactly a cheerful thought, thinking about our own end. And for the young, it may seem a long way off. But then again, we never know when our time will come. So what do you want to be remembered for?

If today was your last day, what would you do with it?

Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older (I’m not quite ancient yet, but…) I sometimes ponder these things. Perhaps it’s because I wonder what the future will be like for my children. I do not fear my own death, because I know where I’ll be going. But I sometimes wonder what my family and friends will remember of me. Have I made any difference to them?

I have never chased after fame and fortune, although a little more fortune in the financial area would be much appreciated. But when I look back over my life, I realize the majority of my time and efforts have been centered around relationships with others. But do those relationships matter? Will they be remembered? I hope so.

My family and friends have always been important to me. So after the loss of several members of my family over this past year, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on those relationships. I ask myself, “Did they know how much I loved them?” “Did I make them feel like they were important and treasured”?

I think about the people I will leave behind when I am gone. What imprint will I leave on their heart? And I ask myself, “What do I want them to remember about me?”

There are times when I look at the world around me and think about what I like or don’t like. I think about the things I would like to change. I would put an end to things like hate, oppression, poverty, and hunger. But how? I am only one person, what difference can I make?

I cannot change the world. But I can teach my children how to love others, by showing them my love. I can teach my children how to be just and fair, by how I treat them and those around us. I can teach my children how to be generous and giving, by my own examples. And I can teach them how to share hope and encouragement by sharing it myself.

The world doesn’t know my name, and I may be forgotten entirely in the years to come. But what I leave in the hearts of my children, my family and friends, will be remembered, at least for a while.

The memories I leave may not be a huge thing by themselves, but if they are shared, they can grow.

So if today is my last day, I will spend it loving my family and friends. I will help with whatever needs to be done. I will encourage love and hope in Jesus. These are the things I am spending my time on today. And tomorrow, if it comes.

There is a saying, to “Live each moment as if it were your last”. That is the way I want to live today. I want to give all of my energy, time and love to those around me. I want to make their lives more joyful in any way I can. I will love God with all my heart, and do my best to glorify Him.

Will the world remember me tomorrow? Probably not. But perhaps it will come to know my children, my family, or my friends.

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A Writer’s Exercise Program

By Amber Leggette-Aldrich

  1. Weight Lifting:  Repeatedly lifting a 12oz coffee mug from desk to lips and back. Do this exercise several times throughout the day and evening for firm biceps.
  2. Cardiovascular Workout:  Hitting the delete button by accident and having all your work erased an hour before your assignment is due. This really gets your heart pumping and blood circulating as you jump up and down while screaming “NO”.
  3. Stretches:  Reaching for the computer paper on the shelf behind you and then reaching to put it in the printer. Make sure paper and printer are on opposite sides of your work area for an equal stretch.
  4. Reflexes:  Trying to catch yourself before falling out of your chair from reaching for the paper or printer. This is especially important if your chair has wheels.
  5. More Reflexes:  Trying to catch the cat before he runs across your keyboard and knocks your coffee over.
  6. Toning Work:  Replacing the ink cartridges in your printer.
  7. Squats:  Getting up and down from your chair for frequent bathroom breaks. A sign you are doing well on your weight lifting (see #1).
  8. Frequent Massages:  Scratching your head while staring at a blank screen. This promotes good circulation and helps stir up new ideas, or daydreaming.
  9. Knee Rotations:  Swiveling side to side in your chair while talking on the phone, wishing you were still working on your writing. This can be combined with the Frequent Massages (#8). Then it is considered “multi-tasking”.
  10. Breathing Exercises:  Blowing all the cat hair off of the desk, or sighs of exasperation. Either one will work, so long as you inhale and exhale deeply.
  11. Walking/Jogging:  Daily trips to the mailbox looking for that big fat check from your publisher for your latest bestseller, or your fan mail. (I don’t get to do this one, as I don’t have a bestseller or fans yet.)
  12. Endurance:  Repeatedly getting up and doing this all over again each day because you are a writer. It’s who you are.
  13. Yoga Position:  Giving our self a frequent pat on the back to maintain positive reinforcement of why we do this. Other benefits include, getting to those hard to reach spots when they itch.

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A Free Signed Copy of Faith, Hope & Miracles.

Hey!

I just wanted to let everyone know, my book is on review at Teaching Christ’s Children, along with a chance to win a free signed copy. Check out the link above, and please share it with a friend.

Thanks, and God bless! – Amber

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Well, here we are on the final stretch of our trip. It begins in Bozeman, Montana.

We stopped at the local post office to mail off a few boxes of goodies so that Christian could have a little more room to move. It even cleared out a small space in the back, where I could actually see out the back window for the first time on the trip. (It didn’t last long though, as we found more stuff to fill it back up with. 🙂 )

As we headed out along Interstate 90 toward Missoula, we spotted a sign for Lewis and Clark Caverns and decided to check it out. It was a very nice scenic drive to the park entrance, and beautiful sunshine along the way.

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We didn’t actually get to take a tour of the caverns due to time, but we did enjoy the visitor center and our talk with the park ranger. He talked to Christian and peaked his interest in bats, explaining to him about how critical it is to protect the bats from certain diseases that are currently wiping out many of the bat populations around the country. Christian bought a little toy bat to help remind him of what he learned. We also bought a DVD about the caverns to watch later since we didn’t get to see them.

After we left the park, we continued on the scenic route which was a loop that led back out to I-90. It was getting very hot, and we were truly enjoying the air conditioning along with the scenery.

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After a few hours we stopped for gas in a little town off the interstate. It was one of those where you have to exit the interstate and drive a mile or two into a town. As we were pulling back out of the gas station, I spotted a sign across the road that made me laugh, and I had to take a picture of it!

You know you’re in a western town when, instead of used “car” lots they have…

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I know some of the local folks were probably laughing at us as we made a U-turn in  the middle of the road to go back and take pictures of the sign.

Later, we stopped for a lunch break at a quiet rest area.

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The name of the river was Clark Fork, and it was a very winding river, as we crossed it so many times we lost count.

A couple of hours later we stopped at another rest area. As we were pulling into a parking spot, a couple was getting into the car next to us to leave and they were being followed by a little ground squirrel that seemed to be begging. As we watched, it looked as if the little squirrel was going to follow their car until we got out. It came right up to us. We noticed there were about 20 other squirrels nearby, hanging around some bushes, and they didn’t appear afraid of people.

I know it is not a good idea to feed wildlife, and normally I wouldn’t. But these little creatures weren’t exactly wild anymore, as they have become accustomed to handouts (and their antics were too cute to resist for Christian). We had a couple of pieces of bread, so Christian began to toss a few small pieces out to them. Within seconds they came right up to him and started taking food from his hand. He thought this was really cool.

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We continued on along I-90, and soon came into Missoula, Montana where there was a wildfire in progress. The smoke was thick in the air, making it hard to see and breathe.

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Soon after we crossed back into Idaho, it began getting dark. We pushed on to Coeur d’Alene, which has grown quite a bit since the last time I was there. We stopped for a bite to eat and then spent the night in a Wal Mart parking lot.

Early the next morning, we picked up a few more supplies and then headed on to Canada. We stopped in Bonners Ferry for gas, and ended up making some new friends. The place we stopped at was called Wild Horse Mercantile & Saloon, a family owned and operated store. We spent over an hour there, browsing the handi-crafts and talking with the store owner, while Christian played with their grandson. He was ready for a break from us “old ladies”, and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to play with someone his own age.

Soon after leaving Wild Horse, we came to the Canadian border. I’ve heard many horror stories about crossing borders, but didn’t think we had anything to worry about, other than it may take a while if they wanted to search our car. We all had our passports ready when we got to the gate, but they also wanted to see my divorce/custody papers allowing me to take Christian across the border. I had to use those papers to get Christian’s passport in the first place, so I didn’t bring them with me on the trip. (I’ll know better in the future, though it’s not something I would normally plan to take on a trip with us.)

The border agent was friendly and helpful at least, and after asking Christian some questions, was able to call his dad to verify that it was alright for me to take him across the border. There were no more issues after that, and we crossed safely into Canada.

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A short time later we stopped for a quick lunch. One of the snack items we had purchased before leaving Coeur d’Alene  was something Christian had never had before…

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Amy couldn’t believe that he had never eaten a Twinkie, but I’ve always tried to limit the processed foods and sugar because he has a rather negative reaction with hyper-activity. He said they tasted “kind of weird” and he wasn’t overly fond of them.

We were soon on our way into Banff National Park, enjoying spectacular views along the way.

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As we entered into the town of Radium Hot Springs, all of a sudden traffic came almost to a stop. As we creeped along slowly, we finally saw the reason…

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This small herd was seeking shade from the hot afternoon sun, and didn’t seem to mind sharing the town with all the people. I think all of us tourists that had a camera handy, were all taking pictures as we drove by.

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We were getting excited about stopping at the hot springs for a good soak, as none of us had been there before. I had been by there back in the winter of 1994, but it was already dark and snowing and I drove right by, not knowing it was there.

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Water from the actual hot springs have been piped into this large pool, making it easily accessible. There is also a regular swimming pool on the other side of the building for a cool dip as well. We spent a couple of hours between soaking and cooling off, before heading on again.

As we drove along, we found a few places to stop for pictures, and Amy took a moment to dip her toes into the ice cold water in one of the rivers.

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She said, “That water is too cold”, as her feet began to go numb.

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By the time we entered Alberta, the sun was going down and we began looking for a place to stop for the night.

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We crossed over into Jasper National Park, and then crossed the 5,000 mile mark of our journey.

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We found a little pull off where we took about a 5 hour nap in the car. The next morning we continued our drive through Jasper, stopping on occasion to take in the sights.

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Even though it was a cloudy day, the scenery was still beautiful to look at, and we also began to see more wildlife.

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Well, that last photo wasn’t real wildlife, but they had a wonderful restaurant and gift shop there, where we spent too much money. 🙂 And this next picture does qualify as wildlife.

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This was actually the 3rd bear we saw, with the first ones being young cubs that quickly disappeared into the trees before I could get a picture. This bear was trying to push his way through the barbed wire fence when we came upon him. As soon as he made his way through the fence, he turned around and looked at us. He watched us for several minutes, I guess making sure we weren’t going to follow him. And then he vanished into the woods.

We crossed back into British Columbia and finally arrived in Dawson Creek, which is where the official “Mile 0” of the Alaska Highway begins. When I was there in 1994, I bought a miniature replica of the mile post statue which I later gave to a friend. I wanted to buy another one, but it seems it is no longer a big deal to the town and we could not find any place that still carried these souvenirs. While asking around the town, one place was suggested as a possibility, but they were closed.

So we settled for our own pictures of the mile post marker in the center of town, and moved on.

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By the time we left Dawson Creek, it was almost dark and beginning to rain heavily. We made it as far as Fort Nelson before stopping for a nap. We left Ft. Nelson around 4:30 am and continued on. By then we were all getting a little tired of being in the car, even feeling a little grumpy. But we were determined to make it to Liard Hot Springs, our next stop over.

The weather was clearing up a bit, and there were more photo opportunities along the way.

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It was a bit of a surprise to suddenly see a small herd of mountain goats trotting across one of the bridges towards us. We stopped to let them pass, and to take some pictures.

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We soon crossed the 6,ooo mile mark and stopped for a little celebration and to stretch our legs. We also said a special prayer of thanks.

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We saw a few animals with radio collars while driving through Canada, but this little fella and his momma captured our hearts. The baby played “peek-a-boo” with us, being bashful, and the momma had a torn antler on her right side that hung down. It didn’t appear to bother her though.

Shortly before we made it to Liard Hot Springs we came across a herd of wild buffalo. Everyone had to stop as we were coming up on a construction zone and had to wait for the pilot car to let us go. I felt a little sorry for the guy on the motorcycle. Being that close to a wild buffalo in a car is one thing, but this guy had no protection.

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Even after the pilot car began to lead us through the construction zone, we still had to stop for the pedestrians.

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We came across this old fella taking a dust bath to ward off the bugs just before we reached the hot springs.

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We made it to Liard Hot Springs Lodge around 3:30 pm, ready for a good soaking and a hot meal.

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Liard Hot Springs 1

This is the upper end of the springs, where it is hottest. There used to be another pool farther up years ago, but it was closed down.

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This was down at the lower end of the springs where it is much cooler. There is a cold spring that feeds in here, making it ideal for children. The whole spring is shallow, maybe at chest level at the deepest.

This next photo is from a visit in the winter of 2004, which was the first time I visited here.

Liard Hot Springs 4 winter

Soaking in the springs was so nice, I didn’t want to leave. It really is amazing just how good it makes tired old bones feel! Many of the people we met here made the trip for the specific purpose of healing and the overall health benefits.

One of the people we met was a school teacher from one of the villages on the Kuskokwim River, here in Alaska. She was visiting the hot springs as therapy to avoid surgery on her back. It turned out that she was also a rock hound, like Christian, and they quickly sparked up a friendship. She showed him part of her rock collection, and gave him a first hand lesson in geology, along with sharing the locations of a few places she thought we might be interested in visiting.

Christian also made friends with a few children around his age, and they mostly stayed in the lower end playing in the cooler water.

After soaking for a couple of hours, we went back to the lodge for dinner, and then returned to the springs again for a couple more hours. I had the most restful night’s sleep in many years. The next morning we soaked again before breakfast. I don’t think any of us wanted to leave.

We left Liard late morning on July 29th and drove into the Yukon Territory, and on to Watson Lake to visit the Sign Post Forest. I had been by there before too, but in the winter time the snow was very deep and I only saw it from the road driving by. This time, I got to go walk around inside.

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What began as an ordinary mileage post in a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers camp in 1942, has now become a famous stop for tourists from all over the world. It started with a post used for distance between camps and cities during the construction of the Alaska Highway. In 1943 a homesick soldier added a sign with the name of his hometown in Illinois to the post, and it started a tradition with people from all over putting up signs from their hometowns. Many more posts have been erected since 1943, and the “forest” continues to grow each year with signs being made from everything one can imagine. There are now over 72,000 signs there, and of course, we added a sign of our own (the front license plate) to mark our journey.

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When we left Watson Lake, Amy and Christian were going to take a nap. But just as they were starting to fall asleep, I came across a brown bear just off the side of the road. I hit the brakes kind of hard, waking Amy and Christian up, and I turned around and drove back slowly, past where the bear was. He was busy digging for grubs and didn’t pay much attention to us. I turned around again and came back, driving slowly on the shoulder of the road until we were right next to him. (Thankfully, there weren’t any other cars around at the time and I was able to stop and turn around easily, which we did quite often for pictures.) This was one of the best photos I got, having been waiting for an opportunity like this. I didn’t want to push our luck and make the bear angry, so after a couple of pictures, we moved on.

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Brown bear 2

Not long after seeing the bear, we again crossed the Continental Divide for the 7th time.

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We were planning to drive straight through to White Horse, but stopped for a few gorgeous sunset shots.

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By the time the last bit of twilight was fading, we were crossing the line into Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. Amy and I were discussing the days events when all of a sudden we both said, “Look!” We were both pointing to a bright green light flashing down through the sky. We’ve seen “shooting stars” and the like before, but they don’t usually last as long as this did. We never did hear any reports of what it actually was, but from what we could tell, it was a “fire ball” from a comet. (If anyone has any information, I would appreciate a comment on it. The location was just outside Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, around 11:00 pm on July 29, 2013)

We filled up with gas in Whitehorse and were laughing about all the bugs splattered on the grill of the car and gas can on top of the car. I had to keep using the windshield wipers and stopping to scrape the windshield in order to see where I was going. I thought Alaska bugs were bad! These were all collected between Watson Lake and Whitehorse.

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We spent the night just on the other side of Whitehorse in a rest area. We left around 3:30 am, determined that we would make it back into Alaska that day.

Just after sunrise, we came to Haines Junction and stopped for gas. There was a place I had stopped years before just past Haines Junction by Kluane Lake called Soldiers Summit. It was a serene and relaxing setting, almost mystical in the winter time. It was where the Alaskans and Canadians met in the building of the Alaska Highway, and they marked the spot with a memorial to all those who had contributed. It was just as peaceful in the summer time.

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Yes, we hiked up the trail anyway (with a can of bear spray in hand).

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View of Destruction Bay at Kluane Lake from trail head.

I knew we were getting closer to the border and home when we left Soldiers Summit. Perhaps the few cars in front of me were thinking the same thing, and that could explain why we all were going a good bit over the speed limit when we came to Burwash Landing. All of a sudden brake lights started coming on, including mine.

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Now someone there has a sense of humor (and artistic talent), and I have to admit, I was laughing so hard I could barely take the pictures!

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We stopped for a brief rest in Burwash Landing and visited the Natural History Museum before continuing on. We were getting into what felt like familiar territory to Christian and I, and we were beginning to get very anxious to get home. Amy was still very enthusiastic about the scenery, as it was very different than where she lives.

While passing one of the many lakes, we spotted a couple of pairs of swans swimming along.

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Swan Lake Canada

When we were getting close to Beaver Creek, the last town before the Alaska border, we were talking about our journey. The subjects of a message in a bottle and time capsules came up. We started thinking about marking our trip in a unique way, something that might be discovered someday by a future generation.

We came up with the idea of writing our names on a few rocks, along with the names of all the places we’d been and the date, and throwing them into Beaver Creek. Perhaps no one will ever find them, but then again, perhaps they will.

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We threw our rocks into Beaver Creek and stopped in town for gas. Soon we were at the Alaska border. (Thank you Jesus!)

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We still had several hundred miles to go before reaching home and we were getting very excited. It didn’t take long to reach Tok Junction, and I knew our trip was coming to an end. When we stopped in Tok for gas, we were greeted with a lightning storm and heavy rain. It wasn’t as spectacular as the ones we had seen in Arizona, but for Alaska, it was pretty cool.

Not long after we left Tok, the rain stopped, but I could see the storm clouds following us.

By the time we reached Glen Allen I was getting pretty tired. But I knew we were getting close now, and the anticipation of getting home kept me going.

As we pulled into Glen Allen, we crossed the 7,000 mile mark.

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The storm clouds had caught up with us, and again we were seeing lightning and hearing thunder. As we headed down the road, the storm shifted to the east toward Valdez and we entered into partly sunny skies.

Just before we got to where we could see the Matanuska Glacier, we were treated to a light rainbow.

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Matanuska Glacier

In another 45 minutes we were back in Palmer, Alaska…home at last! We had gone 7,165 miles in 14 days of driving time. We were exhausted, but it was the trip of a lifetime and we had a blast.

I feel very blessed to have been able to take this journey with Christian, and in a way, I consider it a gift from my Mom. I will always treasure the memories that were made along the way, and I will always be thankful.

I hope you have enjoyed my sharing our journey with you. I know hearing someone else’s stories and looking at their pictures is never the same as being there yourself, but perhaps through our trip, it will stir some excitement and desire to take a journey of your own. Perhaps you might even explore some of the same places we did for yourselves.

At any rate, I’d like to thank you all for your kindness in taking the time to read about our adventure. And again, if you have any comments or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you. I probably won’t post again for a few days, as I’m still behind on some chores. But such is life.

Take care, go make some happy memories, and God bless! – Amber & Christian

 

 

 

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I hope everyone had a great weekend! Ours was rainy, but nice. We went on a picnic with our church Sunday after the service, and had a great time. I also spent several hours researching a few writer’s sites and learning. I told Christian that it’s a good idea to never stop learning and he looked a little troubled. When I asked him what was wrong, he said, “Well, my brain’s already getting kinda full. I don’t think I’ll have anymore room left in there by the time I’m done with high school”. 🙂

And now, back to the road trip.

As we continued on through Idaho, we stopped for a few pictures and a little snack.

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There was a little pullout area along the Snake River with some gorgeous views.

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A memorial plaque for Vardis Fisher, a western novelist from Idaho. One of his books, “Mountain Man” was the inspiration for the movie “Jeremiah Johnson” starring Robert Redford.

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Christian tries to escape from Amy’s bear hug.

By early afternoon we were on the Grand Tetons Scenic Byway, and it was quite the beautiful drive. The vegetation was becoming much thicker and greener, and it was beginning to feel more like home.

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An Osprey poses on her nest for a quick picture.

As we crossed the line into Wyoming we stopped for a break and more pictures. Christian was getting a little restless, so he ran around in the pull out area for a bit of exercise.

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After a quick bite for lunch, we continued on our way. Christian took a brief nap, until our next stop as we were coming into Jackson Hole.

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We stopped in the town of Jackson Hole, WY for a brief tour and some souvenirs. This was a very busy season for the town, and along with us, it was full of tourists. It was difficult to look around at the sites while driving through, as I didn’t want to run over anyone, and finding any parking places was almost impossible. But from what I did see, it was a pretty neat town.

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This was one of the archways in Jackson Hole, made entirely of antlers. There was another archway of antlers with a little bench seat under it at the other corner of town, but traffic was too heavy to stop for a picture.

We didn’t stay long at Jackson Hole, and soon we were entering Grand Teton National Park.

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A beautiful stained glass window in the Sacred Heart church by Jackson Lake.

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By this time it was getting late into the afternoon and some clouds were beginning to form in the distance. It was still very hot, and we were all getting a little tired. We had hoped to find a camping spot for the night, but all the campgrounds were full. So we continued on a little farther.

Soon, we found ourselves at the entrance into Yellowstone National Park.

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All of the campgrounds in Yellowstone were also full, as were all of the lodges. We drove around near the entrance to the park, checking out some of the scenery and watched a gorgeous sunset.

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As we watched the sun set, we decided to turn around and go back to Jackson Hole, hoping to find a motel for the night. We passed the 4,000 mile mark just before we got back to the town.

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As we drove back into town, there were several other people looking for a place to stay as well, and the town was just about full. We finally found a room at The Buffalo Inn, and I think it was the last room left in town…other than a few $300+ rooms that were out of our price range.

After a good night’s sleep, we had an early breakfast and headed back to Yellowstone. We knew we wouldn’t be able to see all of the sights, so we decided ahead of time to choose the ones that we knew we wanted to see. We were already off of our schedule for returning to Alaska, and we didn’t want to make Amy miss her flight back to Virginia. So we selected the route we would take on the eastern side of the park, headed for Old Faithful.

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Christian had become excited about how many times we were crossing the Continental Divide, and the different elevations. We were feeling more at home in these elevations.

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We eventually made it to the Old Faithful visitors center. Christian had started a National Parks Passport book, so each time we stopped in one of the parks he would get his passport stamped and get a sticker for it. I wish we had known about the program when we started our trip. He missed out on several stampings back on the East Coast and down south. He also missed out on the stamp from the Grand Canyon. Guess we’ll just have to make another trip. 🙂

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Inside the visitor center were many educational displays, including interactive areas where children (and adults) could learn about the different types of geysers and how they are formed. The information on geothermal effects was fascinating to all of us, and the rangers were wonderful!

Old Faithful blows about every 90 minutes or so, and announcements are made over a loud speaker system letting visitors know about 15 minutes ahead of time. There are several bench seats available for a close up view of the geyser, but if you want a seat, you better get there earlier.

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As you can see, there were already quite a few people that were waiting patiently to see Old Faithful blow. We were able to get in close enough for a few good pictures. I took a video of the whole process, but it’s too long to post here. Here is a shot I got at the beginning of the eruption. The water sprayed much higher than this at the peak of the eruption.

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After we left Old Faithful, we found another area with several smaller geysers and hot pools. There was a boardwalk leading around the area, giving a close up view of both old and new formations. I was intrigued by the variations of color formed on the surface of the ground from the different minerals that were bubbling up in the water.DSC01192

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I was also amazed at the plant life that is able to grow amidst the hot conditions here. I don’t know what type of flowers these are, but their beauty and ruggedness amazed me.

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Towards the end of the boardwalk, we were all getting hot and were ready for a quick dip in the river. Just before the end of the boardwalk we saw a couple of geese emerging from the edge of one of the springs.

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After we played in the cool water of the river, we continued on through the park. The road followed the river for a while, and there were several more hot springs & geyser fields along the way, along with a few beautiful waterfalls.

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The little creek running through this area was being heated by the geothermal activity underground, causing a lot of algae to grow in the creek bed. It gave the appearance that the water itself was an emerald green.

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As the sun began to set we were seeing wildlife emerging from beyond the trees to graze.

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By the time we came to Mammoth Hot Springs at the north end of the park it was already dark. So I didn’t get any pictures there. But the little town there was filled with elk. They were walking along through the streets and parking lots, totally unconcerned with people or traffic. The hotel there was full, so we decided to drive on through to Livingston, Montana, the next town, which was also full. We ended up driving on to Bozeman, Montana before we found a motel, and it was almost midnight by the time we arrived.

We slept in the next morning and then had breakfast while we did our laundry. We also realized that we had been collecting so many souvenirs, the car was getting quite full. The carrier bag on top was full of camping gear, the back was full of suitcases, coolers & supplies, and Christian was running out of room in the back seat where he had his little “nest” made up. So we decided it would be a good idea to box up and mail some of our goodies to make more room.

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It’s amazing how much stuff 3 people can collect in such a short time! (I’m still trying to figure out where to put it all.) And so with that, I’ll stop here for today. I hope you enjoyed sharing our journey through Yellowstone. It was an absolutely splendid trip, but again, I wish it could have been longer. We only saw a small portion of the park, but I hope to go back someday and spend a couple of weeks exploring the rest of the park.

The next posting will be of the home stretch, through Canada and back into Alaska. Please feel free to share any comments or questions about our trip. We’d love to hear from you!

Take care, love one another, and God bless! – Amber & Christian

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Good morning all!

Once again, I find myself apologizing for the delay in posting. It seems that my whole schedule has gone haywire, and I am behind in so many things. All I can do is take things one step at a time, and do the best I can to get caught up. And so…here is the post for today.

When we left the Grand Canyon, we were all pretty tired but filled with a sense of awe and wonder. Even despite the fatigue, our excitement remained high in continuing on with our journey.

After just a short nap in Cameron, we continued on heading north. We passed the 3,000 mile mark and found ourselves on the north rim just in time for the sunrise. Words (nor my pictures) can accurately describe the beauty that surrounded us.

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The full moon setting, just before sunrise.

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The 1st rays of light began to show the beautiful surroundings.

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A short time later, we crossed the line into Utah and stopped for breakfast.

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While we were eating, we were looking at our map and deciding our best route for the day. We had decided to take a little side trip that ended up leading us toward Zion National Park. The patterns and colors of the landscape along the way were simply amazing!

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The effects of water, wind, sun and time has created spectacular caves that were in some cases, used by ancient peoples for shelters and special ceremonies.

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This particular cave has been turned into a tourist attraction with a very strong theme of capitalism. Not that I’m against making money or anything like that, but I would have preferred a more natural setting here.

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In itself, the place was pretty, though we decided to skip taking a tour here, as we would most likely have spent a fortune on the souvenirs. We continued on our way, stopping to collect a few small rocks and small bottle of the orange sand we found along the roadway.

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I know, we’re cheap tourists. 🙂 (Not really, we spent a small fortune on souvenirs and I may come to regret that as I pay this month’s bills.)

I have to admit that I had never heard of Zion National Park before, but when I saw the name on the map I remarked to Amy and Christian, “The bible mentions the name Zion several times, and even though I know it’s not the same Zion, we gotta go there”. And we were all glad we did!

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I’m not really sure why this cow was in a herd of buffalo, but I thought it was cute. (Yes, I’m weird that way.)

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There was a small wildfire up in the hills to the left of the park’s entrance, and we stopped to watch as the helicopter scooped up buckets of water and then dropped them onto the fire. Having been a firefighter for Forestry has given me a real sense of appreciation for what these guys do, and it always fills me with a sense of excitement to watch them in action.

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After the fire was out, we continued on with our drive through the park. We were told that the Grand Canyon was viewing things from the top looking down, while Zion was viewing things from the bottom looking up. That was a very accurate description. (Please excuse the quality of the pictures here. Most were taken from inside the car as we were driving along, and I haven’t edited out the mirrors, etc.)

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We drove through 2 tunnels in the mountains. I quickly decided that going into a tunnel without headlights and wearing sunglasses is a very scary experience, and I do not recommend it!

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There were several trails throughout the park for day hikes, but most of the parking areas were full, as was the parking lot to the visitor’s center. I would recommend that during peak tourist season, if you want to do more than drive through the park, go early in the day. It was hot enough that we didn’t really want to get out of the air conditioning and do much hiking that day, but there were several areas that I would like to explore more.

At the other end of the park we entered a small village filled with several stores and galleries. We stopped at a small market and bought a few items, including some locally grown fresh fruits. As we were reaching the end of the village, one gallery caught our attention with several unique looking windmills.

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A few miles further we came upon a theme park setting of an old western town, set up as a tourist attraction.

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By the time we passed through here, it was getting late into the afternoon. We drove on through fairly flat desert area and onto Salt Lake City. I was getting tired, so Amy took over driving while Christian and I took a nap.

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Our 1st view heading into Salt Lake City

The main purpose for going this route was to collect a small vial of salt from the salt flats, another cheap souvenir. Unfortunately, our map was a little vague as where the salt flats were, so we never made it there. We did get to see the Morton Salt Plant though.

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That’s one big pile of salt at the Morton Salt Plant!

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This fella was off of the side of the road on our way back from the salt plant, and was kind enough to pause from his dinner and pose for a picture.

The next picture is very poor quality, but hey, I’m not a professional photographer, AND we were doing 75 mph down the highway at the time so I didn’t expect too much. It still shows the brilliant colors of the sunset as we left Salt Lake City. 🙂

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In all honesty, the only reason I had for going into Utah in the first place was to collect some salt. I didn’t really know much about the state, and had no idea of the beauty we would find there. In spite of the disappointment in not getting our salt sample, I am very glad we went.

 Amy continued driving on into the night, as Christian and I fell back to sleep. I woke up briefly as she pulled into a truck stop for the night. I don’t know exactly where we were, and we were too tired to care by then.

We slept for about 5 hours and then I took over driving again. We crossed over into southern Idaho just after dawn and stopped for breakfast in Blackfoot. When we finished, we drove through the town and found the “Potato Museum”. It wasn’t open yet, so we took pictures out in front with the giant baked potato.

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After a few nights of little sleep, we were all feeling a bit goofy. During our stop at the museum, Amy showed Christian the fine art of mouth prints on glass.

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 Christian quickly picked up the skill and added his own imprints.

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This was the start of our journey to Yellowstone National Park. We were all enjoying ourselves immensely, creating memories and sharing laughs along the way. We probably entertained a few folks along the way, and maybe annoyed some others.

I hope you all enjoy the posts of our journey. I said earlier, I am no professional photographer. But I tried to capture some of the beauty and our moments together. I will post more pictures and updates on Monday of our trip through the Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. Until then, may you all have a beautiful and fun filled weekend, and God bless! – Amber & Christian

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