Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mill Iron Ranch

Chancy Wheeldon was one of the first people Blake met when he moved out West to Jackson twenty years ago. He and his family are really good people. Their working ranch called Mill Iron Ranch of 128 acres, goes back four generations and sits in the heart of the State Elk Feed yards that border the Bridger Teton National Forest and the Gros Ventre Wilderness. When the Elk migrate into the State Feed yards, contracted feeders come out to provide hay/feed for them. About a couple ton of feed is put out for the Elk. The state provides funding for the feeding the Elk. The Elk will follow the food. When it runs out, they head to another feeding ground. One time, the contracted feeders wanted to have a day off from feeding the Elk so they put out more feed than usual but the Elk ate it all up in a day.

Chancy is also a fourth generation outfitter and guide in the Jackson area. He also books hunts in the Yellowstone and Teton Park Migration herds.

Chancy’s son, Colby, was our guide on the sleigh with the Belgian horses, Cowboy and Classy. Those horses create a tight bond. If one of them dies, it is like losing two horses. Cowboy and Classy have been together for ten years. Belgian horses can live up to thirty years.

We saw a herd of 1000 Elk on the state feed yards and watched more come over the ridge. He told us stories about the animals on their ranch, the Canadian, Pinnacle Peak pack of wolves that threaten their livelihood and safety, and some family history. A few of the animals have no purpose for the ranch but to look good. Jerry the steer, the pygmy goat and a class A, mini horse were the movie stars. Jerry hammed it up for my camera. His horns were five feet long from end to end. Colby’s great great uncle Harold lived on the ridge north of what is the State Elk feeds. In 1949, a massive snow hit the region. He tried to get off the mountain with two of his Belgian horses and got caught in an avalanche and died with his horses.

Blake wore his bear coat and everyone got a kick out of it. Chancy had a beautiful laugh that is cowboy through and through. His daughter Sadee shot a 5’8” bear in November and would have loved to had her bear made into a coat. (I think it is at the taxidermy being made into a rug.)

Inside the out building were many mounts that Sadee and Chancy shot. The family did rodeo and team rope competitions. The walls were lined with pictures and news articles, too. The kitchen area had an awesome gas grill for cooking the meat. Chancy and Bodie worked the grill with some beers in hand. Man, did the grilling smell good. Good times to be had by all. Happy New Year!

Dancing with Big Horn Sheep

We had a leisurely day in Pinedale on Monday. We cross-country skied Kelley's trail for an hour in perfect weather. Brad fell a couple times but I could not capture it on film. He also swam at the Pinedale Aquatic Center and I think that was the first time I have seen Brad swim. Sorry, no pictures (you probably don’t want to see pseudo, mountain man in a Speedo. Right. We are a bit modest so I don’t you will ever see us in a Speedo and bikini).

Tuesday was a bit longer ski on Tree Loop. The trails had a dusting of snow so Brad had a tough time skiing. We saw three more moose but I was not close enough to take pictures.

After we xc skied in the morning, we headed to Jackson for the day. Halfway there, Blake mentioned that we were in Big Horn Sheep country and within a minute we saw a herd of them. Brad actually pulled over and took pictures from the car. I whined about wanting to get out and get better pictures. No way, he did not want me to get chased and rammed by any of the sheep. There were babies in the herd. Brad caved and I hopped out and quietly went around the back of the van to take pictures. Thankfully there was not any traffic so the big horn sheep slowly walked across the road. Some took a look back at me but nothing more. A pack of coyotes howled in the mountains as I stood outside marveling at the sheep. It was eerily awesome.

Jackson was very touristy with boutiques and shops so Brad wanted to drive through the town so he could drive over to Teton Village to show me the Mangy Moose restaurant. Of course, I wanted out of the van. I did not necessarily need to shop but I wanted to walk around the square and take pictures of all the metal sculptures, the horned arches, and whatever else I came across. Plus, I did need to make some tee-shirt purchases for my niece and nephew and mail some more post cards. I don’t think I ever sent so many post cards in my lifetime. We had an hour to run around the town. I went in this one shop and they had stuffed animals galore and not the kind you want to hug. I am really doing my best with all these kills around me. I was happy for the little walk around town because Teton Village did not provide me with the photo ops as it was pretty much a ski resort village. I had cell reception in Jackson, too, so I blasted off a bunch of texts. With the limited access to wireless, I will have to post pictures later.

Next destination was to the Mill Iron Ranch for an evening of a sleigh ride and dinner.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday's Road Trip to Pinedale

Back on Sunday, 12/28, Brad drove this whole leg because I was picture crazy and the wind pushed the van around pretty good, too. We drove by train cars filled with coal; later passing the coal mine. We passed many gas fields – Dick Cheney country. Gas prices are the lowest we have seen; $1.29 cash ($1.37 credit).

We saw seven bald eagles, lots of hawks, antelope and cattle. Powder River Pass was the highest point at 9666 ft through the Big Horn mountain range. The gates were up and cleared for driving. The weather was clear and in the 30s. I was in awe with the mountainous landscape. Some of the age of the geology dates back millions of years.

Our next pass 77 miles from Pinedale, WY was through the Wind River Range (Rocky Mountains). The electric road sign warned of “slick roads, strong winds”.

When we came out the other end, it was more of prairie land and small cowboy towns. Through Boulder, WY, I saw my first moose. I jumped out of my seat and tapped on the window with a silent squeal. Finally I could breath and Brad caught a glimpse of the moose. Again, it was like an amusement park car that I could not control. Bouncing up and down from excitement, I wanted him to turn around. Nope. So luckily I had more animals to amuse me; a cattle drive with snowmobiles.

Running with Moose

When I woke this morning, I looked out Blake (Brad's brother) back window to see the view of the town and I saw three moose in someone's yard. Of course I say a Michelee quote; "Does someone own moose?" One was a bull and the two others were cows.

I grabbed my clothes and found my boots and Blake took me down to where they might be as they were a little skittish in the neighborhood.

This first picture is bad as I took it from inside and I thought I turned off the flash but it went off. The others of the moose are automatic so the snow threw off the lighting. Then there is the shot of Pinedale, WY.

Wow, my ass is cold sitting outside Sublette County Public Library. The visitor's center was closed so I walked a block to the library and plugged in outside on a bench. Hopefully the guys find me as my freakin' cell phone does not get a connection (Nextel sucks). I haven't had a connection since Spearfish, SD.

We will be making a crockpot dinner then go xc skiing and hopefully we will see more moose!! Yeah! They guys just found me. Till next time.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pinedale, Wyoming

Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!! We made it. 2300 miles! We are surrounded by four, flat screen tvs with the 4 pm football games, wireless Internet and electricity for my dead camera as I took over 250+ pictures on today's drive.

Where are we? Wind River Brewing Company drinking a Strom Bomb Stoudt (whoa-the beer and the drive just kicked in-humming...) and Our of Order Porter.

Strom Bomb Stoudt - 2006 NABA Gold Medal. Robust oatmeal stoudt, dark, smoth and sweet 7.2% ABV yeeehaaa!

Out of Order Porter - 2007 NABA Gold Medal. Brown porter by style filled with nutty, chocolate and malt flavors finished with a pleasant dryness. 6,7% ABV (Brad's drink, yum-it is good.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Antelopes and Dinosaurs

Another nine hour day on the road; 1,822 miles to date. Here are more drive by photos. Try clicking on the pictures to see a better view of the Antelope or flatland views.

Sasquatch of the Mid-West?!
Two Missouri River shots.

An interesting structure with tombstones?

We got gas at this exit. Within three minutes I am in cruise control at 80 mph and Brad's eyes were closed. Brad's eyes were instantly opened as I shimmied the steering wheel and the van shook at 80 mph as a beautiful pheasant dashed across the highway. Since I was in cruise control and I didn't want to accidentally slam on the brakes, I thought "take your foot of the gas" - but it already was because I was in cruise control. Duh! Luck would prevail for all of us. Also right before we switched, we had a moment of feeling like we were on auto pilot driving through South Dakota. As the passenger, I glanced at Brad and we were both leaning forward just looking around the landscape as if we were in one of those "Jurassic Park" control cars (but traveling at 80 mph). Thank goodness our dinosaur did not eat us.

The antelopes and dinosaur (notice we had a wicked headwind).

We ate cheese & crackers, nuts, chips, and cookies all day. Our meals were simple; NY strip & filet and potatoes. Quick and easy, in and out - (kum and go) in Spearfish, SD.

Audio History

We met Aaron and Annie Rodriguez for an evening of reminiscing. Aaron and Stanford (Brad as I know him) participated in Up with People in the 1985 cast C. Aaron attempted to write a book about his experiences in UWP but placed that project on the back burner and decided to try the story corps/audio history path. One major production for the 1985 casts was performing in the Superbowl XX halftime show from the New Orleans Superdome. This is the starting point for Aaron's interviews.

We listened to some of his recordings of other castmates and watched performances. Initially, we were going to go out to eat and catch a comedy show. Listening to their stories and watching the old videos from 1985-86 ended up being a better alternative. I did not know Brad during this time of his life and it had been about 18 years since Aaron and Stanford had last seen each other. We had a great time reconnecting and getting to know one another. As I worked on the blog later in the evening, Aaron took the opportunity to interview Stanford. Here is a video of the beginning of their late night. I cannot wait to hear the recording.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Icy Chicago

Luckily we did not stay in downtown Chicago. The city was an icy nightmare. I took opportunity of the situation and worked out at the hotel burning 200 calories. Then I threw that out the window by eating the leftover pizza. I am not a cold pizza eater but damn this pizza was amazing when cold, too.

So far we have traveled 750+ miles with 11 hours on the road.

View Larger Map

We hit the road around 8 a.m. and arrived in Plymouth, MN about another 415 miles and 5+ hours later to visit a great friend from Brad's Up With People days.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Burt's Place

I was just blogging in my head today about how I would love to be like Anthony Bourdain but I am afraid I am more like Rachel Ray. Or maybe I might be a cross between the two. I seek out those back alley, non-tourist places to wine and dine. I am just not sure that I would venture to eat some of the foods that Anthony has - not even in the States.

So anyways, I was sad about not getting to visit or taste Chicago. We were driving by Gary, IN, when I had to reference my Saveur magazine because some things did not get packed (possible hotels list, restaurants open on Christmas in Chicago, etc...). I re-read and mentioned to Brad that if we don't stay in Chicago, we have to at least eat some Chicago deep dish pizza. I mentioned a Mexican place listed in the 'zine as a back-up plan but I was hoping for pizza. Burt's Place happened to be on the cover of the magazine. I forgot about the article as I was only looking at the listings. I make the first call to Burt's Place and Burt Katz, owner and pizza maker answered. Yeah! They were open on Christmas. I had an inkling that Burt’s Place would be open on Christmas. He gave me excellent directions. This five mile detour on our vacation was the best detour ever.

And, I get to brag about Burt's Place before Anthony Bourdain. (It's not like Burt's Place is a secret as I mentioned he got feature in Saveur last year). Brad was really glad I brought my magazine. He liked that I surprised him with the restaurant on the front cover because I did not tell him who I was calling and he thought were we going to eat Mexican. We thoroughly enjoyed Burt sharing with us that Anthony Bourdain filmed his place in October. We love A.B. and were honored to be taking part in our own “no reservations”. Now we know and experienced one of A.B.’s new 2009 “No Reservations” episode before airing.

I said to Brad; "when we walk in, do you think Burt will know I was the one that called from the road in Gary, IN?" Even without the magazine in tow, Burt will know. We didn't have to walk in. I whipped out the camera again and took an outside shot of the restaurant from the van. It is 4:30 Chicago time and Burt's Place just opened. My flash was a dead giveaway that we arrived. Brad laughs and says Burt's in the window. And later so is his wife.

We were the first customers of the evening. Burt and his wife, Sharon, greeted us as if we just came in for a family dinner. Brad told him we drove all the way from PA for some of his pie and that began a fabulous evening of conversation, food and drink. It was a personable environment.

There is much going on with the decor. The building use to be an old blacksmith shop dating back to the 1900s. Burt has a lot of memorabilia and over-sized gadgets hanging on the walls and set in the window sills. The lighting is dark as you may see in the pictures. My flash washed everything out but I could not resist taking pictures of the pizzas and Burt. (groupie, through and through) I loved the dishes as they are from the International House of Pancakes (which I did not realize is IHOP - duh! I have not eaten at one. I almost think these plates are from really old IHOPS. They just had that feel.). Burt and Sharon actually vacationed in Lancaster County last year and loved it. Good and Plenty was a favorite dining spot of theirs. We had a great time in this local neighborhood eatery.

The rotary phone rings loudly. Everyone calls in their order whether they eat in or take out. Sharon answered a “do you deliver” call. When Sharon said no deliveries, she hangs up. Unless it is 35 feet to a table – Burt cackled. We joked we would deliver it if it was on our way but it probably would not make it to the customer. The phone rings again and Burt says it’s the same people. I holler the wife yelled at her husband, you know they don’t delivery. Just order the pizza and pick it up. We all laugh about the calls. (two other tables seated now) .

The pizza - Awesome. That is what we came for - awesome food. Fresh, homemade ingredients. One picture is of a call in before the pie was baked. Ours (onion, sausage, mushrooms) was after it was baked.

This last shot is of me almost stopping myself wishing Burt a "Merry Christmas". I did not want to assume but the Katz's are Jewish. Silly me. So Burt pulled out his "Merry Christmas to all my Gentile Friends" sign and we have a good laugh at my expense.

Road Trip to Chicago

With a ten and half hour trip in the car, there is not much to write about except driving with the flow of traffic got us to Chicago in nine hours. Here are snippets of our day:

Free coffee from Sheetz, wow-bonus. Banana Carmel Cake and Christmas pie for breakfast. Texted. Did Christmas cards and tried not to get car sick (on the windy Western PA-pike, right. Didn't get the cards done, damn it!). Had leftover ham sandwiches and spicy plantain chips. I drove for two out of the nine hours. (Of course, I was sleepy when it was my turn to drive so I sang badly to Coldplay, Blondie, KC & the Sunshine Band, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Rick James, Paul Oakenfold, War, Dave Grohl, ...) We snack on cheese and crackers, yogurt covered almonds, chocolate covered dried fruit, and more chippy snacks. Then I start to stir about Chicago.

We are not going to have any time to enjoy the city so I did not want to be tempted. Yet I had my Chicago! issue of Saveur Magazine and I did not want to miss out on experiencing Chicago. I have re-read this issue for the last month, eventually knowing we would not have time to visit Chi-town. So I resolved myself to not becoming attached to any of the places or restaurants in this issue. Last weekend I read the places to visit section again and got sad. Brad will owe me weekend in Chicago (we will fly the next time).

Packed car

The other sleepy driver
Missing co-pilot
When I saw the signs for Chicago. Since it was a drive by visit, I whip out my camera and took silly pictures. Yesterday, it was in the 50's and I thought I did not pack enough lighter clothes. My hands froze and Brad blasted the heat as I froze us taking drive-by photos of the Chicago skyline.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Caramel Banana Cake

I wanted to reel you in with the cake. Really - I am still hung up on my packing. Argh.

Always have a packing list before you pack. Being who I am, I still needed the packing list even though I was pretty much packed. I went through the bags and noted what I had. It helped as I realized I missed packing long underwear, a swim suit, (hey, there's hot springs in WY), and a few other items I can't remember now. That's another good reason to make a list - my failing memory. Also, I had to be packed as I hoped to leave work early on Tuesday. Two a.m. rolls around as I was adding to Brad's list because I would not have any time to run around grabbing last minute items. Plus, he had to pack the cooler food. Hmmm. Even with adding items to his list, they did not get packed?! Hello! There were some things that were gifts. Ugh.

Luckily I did have time to pack a few last minute items but did not have a chance to peruse my list until we were on the drive to Hagerstown. I missed a lot of little things on and off the list. So I let them go - or so I thought. I borrowed some things from Rox but it is not the same. I forgot that I am vacationing where strip malls pave the U.S. I guess I don't like to buy what I already have at home. (Frugal traveler) Plus, it makes the driving more efficient. We don't have to plan to go to a strip mall to buy face lotion or zip lock baggies or a small shovel! (I hope I am wrong as I've been told we will not need the shovel. I did buy really warm gloves from Costco - did you see them on George? I just can't make a fist because they are so thick.)

We arrived with hugs and kisses. We unwind a few hours before dinner. Crockpot chicken with apples and onions, crunchy coleslaw, salad and I forget whatelse but I remember dessert; Caramel Banana Cake. Yum! I will post the recipes later.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Packing Part Deux

The real packing began Monday night. With 20 things to do before a vacation, I cracked and here's what happened with my worries about all the wool and cycling clothes fashion.

How's it look - Smeeges was intrigued.

Monday, December 22, 2008


This is the first time that I have not pre-packed for an extended trip or vacation. I did not create a packing list, either. Okay, let me take that back, I did pre-pack. I forgot I placed every wool sweater I own (those made in Guatemala wools) and pants that I could wear long underwear under (maybe 3?!), on the floor of my closet last week. I guess I will be wearing my cycling thermal gear to stay warm. How unfashionable.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mid-West Vacation

How many wool sweaters do I pack?! And why the mid-West after winter solstice? Family and friends. I have a week off to begin with as MU is closed for the holidays so I was able to request another week to make the vacation drivable. Woohoo! It shall be an adventure. We started packing the xc skis, hats I usually never wear in the East, the survival cooler, goodie-food bag and blankets. The malted milk balls, yogurt covered almonds, half dozen of speciality chips and cheese and more nuts will be enough to live on for two months. Alright, I am making Toll House cookies and banana bread, too. Maybe we will through in some fruit and veggies if we have room.

I will never know cold until I hit Chicago, Jackson Hole and Hamilton/Missoula at this time of year. Yeeeehaaaa! Happy Winter Solstice.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Reason for an Awesome Pot Roast

The cut of meat was a standing rib roast a.k.a. prime rib! So it was not my magical cooking.

Thank goodness I did not throw it out. Now I will have to make the dish with the chuck roast cut. Hopefully it will only be noticeable in my wallet and not on my taste buds.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pot Roast

The dish may not look appetizing but it was damn yummy. I am not a red meat, pot roast kind-of-gal and I chowed. Brad pulled the roast out of the freezer a couple of days ago and then decided to south for warmer weather. As I looked in the fridge last night for a snack, I saw the roast. Damn. I gotta cook that thing or out the window goes some good meat and money. Cooking all that food for one sucks but it all worked out in the end.

I had to shop for most of the veggies this morning. Fine, I love market so off I went at 6 a.m. With veggies in tow and a sugar cookie (the shortbread kind/not cake-like sugar cookie)
stuffed in my mouth, I was off to throw everything in the crock.

Nine hours later after cooking on low, I had a fabulous meal.

Recipe from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook:

'Skye's Braised Pot Roast with Vegetables"

Cooker: medium oval or large round Serves "6 to 8" (or 3 cyclists)
Setting & cook time: low for 8 to 9 hours

As usual, I did not follow the recipe to a "T".
1 tsp salt, 14/ to 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp paprika (I used a handful of my homemade cajun seasoning)
3 to 3 1/2 lbs boneless chuck roast, trimmed of as much fat as possible and blotted dry
1 rib celery, coarsely chopped (I threw in 2 ribs)
1 large onion, cut into wedges
2 to 3 carrots, cut into 1 inch thick coins (whatever - I scrubbed and chopped into hunks)
2 to 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch thick coins (market did not have parsnips, I bought a ruttabega-peeled and cut into wedges)
4 starchy potatoes, peeled or not (NOT-need the nutrients and lazy) cut into 8 pieces
1 cup of beef broth (I had a 14 oz can of chicken broth)

Put the veggies into the slow cooker with the potatoes as the top layer.

Combine salt, pepper & paprika. Rub all sides of the roast with the spice mix.

Place the meat on top of the potatoes. Pour the broth over the veggies and meat. I had an eggplant that needed to be cooked so I added that around the meat so it would not dissolve. If it did, the juices and veggies would still taste good. The eggplant did not dissolve but when I placed them in a bowl with the other veggies, juice and meat, they did disintegrate.

Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours.

I chose this recipe because I did not have to "brown" the meat and I am usually at work for 8 hours so I did not have to worry about the meal drying out. Prep time is not that long, just cleaning veggies, maybe peel and for sure - a bit of chopping. I would say that you do NOT need to add extra liquid as I did by using the whole can (14 oz) of broth. I was lazy and did not want to put the extra broth in the fridge and I confess, I was worried the liquid would evaporate. There was more than enough juice from the meat and veggies that 1 cup of broth is sufficient.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving in Medway, MA

We ventured north for my favorite holiday with friends. Traffic moved along at a good clip with Brad leading the way cutting the drive time down by half an hour, arriving in Medway, Massachusetts around five and half hours.

Once we arrived at Andrea's house, we snacked on cheese, nuts, hummus and tortilla chips. Karen and I devoured the chips as they were Doritos. We NEVER buy Doritos but I must say they are probably a closet favorite food. Andrea also had bowls of halloween candy throughout the house and we cleaned those bowls out in no time. And that wasn't by pocketing the mini heath bars, snickers, etc. They all went in my BELLY!

So it was a fabulous time of feasting and touring Boston.