My adventures and mis-adventures as I travel here and there

Traveling with Cat in Car: Partial Success Pt. 1

Miss Ami herself, all calmed down

As if I hadn’t learned my lesson the first time, I decided to try traveling with a cat again. And this time it was for 3 entire days. Well, it’s not as if I had much of a choice. I was moving from Washington state to Michigan and I could: A) leave my cat behind, B) try to transport her by plane, or C) bring her with me in the car. A was not considered, it was the wrong time of year for B (apparently they won’t take animals on planes if the temperature is below a certain point?), so it all came down to C…

I did my research beforehand. There are prescription sedatives, Benadryl, cages, carriers, nail caps, nail clippers, leash tricks, friendly pheromones… It seems everyone who has ever traveled with a cat has their own recipe for success. Having tried the cat carrier option before and been quite unsuccessful, I decided early on that I would not try to cage my feline, but would hold her in my lap. Previous trips to the vet across town using this method had been somewhat satisfactory, though Ami (that’s my cat’s name) usually ended up crying the whole time, hyperventilating, and trying to escape the car with that wild-eyed look that only a traumatized cat can give you. When I talked with my vet about the trip, she told me that usually cats will be quite upset for the first day of traveling but will then get used to it. I hoped this would be true in Ami’s case, but seriously doubted it. In order to help her relax, I decided to give Kitty a good dose of Benadryl before we started driving. This was to be a service to her. As a service to the furniture in our new home, I bought baby blue Soft Paws nail caps and applied them to her front claws (she hated this).

On the day of departure, when the car was packed and the boyfriend and I had naught but to wedge ourselves inside and force the doors shut behind us, I sought out my cat, Benadryl bottle in hand. While the boyfriend, and my roommates looked on, I situated Ami on my lap, poured some Benadryl into the little cup, and dumped it down her throat. At this point what had been a fairly objective and clinical procedure became a wild and gory free-for-all as all pandemonium broke loose! Fur and claws flew in a frenzy as Ami desperately attempted to escape what was no doubt the most cruel torture ever inflicted on any feline ever. I knew I must hold onto her lest I never ever see her again, and in doing so I suffered deep lacerations on my hands and wrists from her blunt back claws! By the time I was able to subdue her on the ground, my blood was mixing with Ami’s fur, she was foaming at the mouth, and spectators were looking on in horror!!! As you can imagine, it was a gruesome sight. I am ever so glad that I had read from the accounts of others that Benadryl will make cats foam at the mouth or I might have feared for her life. She really did look quite awful. Usually a cat to hold herself with pride, Ami looked quite beaten and dejected, a matted little mess on the grass. I instantly regretted putting her through such torture. The boyfriend kindly held onto her while I found bandages for my hands. A couple of the cuts were really deep and hurt like crazy.

Unfortunately, we were already late in leaving, so I only had time to bundle Ami up in an old towel, attempt to wipe the foam from her mouth and the blood from her fur and get into the car.

To be continued….

April 20, 2010 Posted by | Car, Cats, Moving, Pets, Transportation, Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Airports and Flying: What NOT to put in Luggage

Note to self: do not ever put a can of V8 into a checked luggage bag again!

I should have known better, but when we got to the airport yesterday, I threw some unconsumed liquids into a checked bag so they’d make it through security. This included a can of V8 (I love V8!). This unfortunate can of V8 exploded in my suitcase in the air over Oklahoma or Missouri or Illinois and, when mixed with a similarly burst bag of cashews, made a disgusting mess all over my clothes and roller blades (yes, I had roller blades in my suitcase) and crocheting. So gross.

It seems that I will never be completely trained when it comes to modern air travel. I remember my first few flights after 9-11. I made all kinds of mistakes and am just happy that I manage to have a particularly non-terrorist look. On one flight airport security x-rays found two pairs of scissors and a razor blade in my carry-on…. oops. On another occasion I triumphantly attempted to carry a suitcase onto the plane which contained all of my carefully-wrapped Christmas gifts for my family. I was so proud of myself for having everything done ahead of time, just ready to slide under the Christmas tree. The looks security personnel gave me, however, when they saw a HAMMER in one of the packages was nothing like admiration, but rather dismay. How could this girl be so stupid?! Lucky for me, I was able to check my bag, and my dad still got his hammer. Some people aren’t so lucky, however. Yesterday in the airport the boyfriend and I were noticing the mailing service the airport provides where you can put your taboo items in a little bag and have them mailed to yourself. The prices caught our attention: $20 for a liquid bottle??? I guess this helps people to get their priorities straight, as most items aren’t worth that much in the first place. When the boyfriend mistakenly left his overnight bag in his carry-on and had to forfeit his toothpaste and shower gel, only a few tears were shed. What happens, though, when you make similar mistakes regarding more expensive or sentimental items? $20.

Don’t just assume, however, that you can forget what’s in your bag and then either surrender it or mail it to yourself when the x-ray spots it. Sometimes you can be prosecuted or prevented from flying even if the banned inclusion was an honest mistake. Furthermore, security personnel can decide at their discretion whether or not you may keep a taboo item to mail home or whether they must take it from you forever. It’s a good idea to stay updated regarding what is currently allowed and what is not.

Hey, does anyone have funny airport stories? Stupid things you mistakenly left in your carry-on? I’d love to hear them. A good compilation of stories like that would be extremely entertaining!

One last thing: You know those funny booties airports provide for you to wear on your feet when you have to take your shoes off? The ones that look kind of like shower caps? Well, I tried those for the first time yesterday and kind of fell in love temporarily- they were so comfortable! As a person who spent her entire childhood barefoot, I sometimes bemoan the constriction of shoes (while at the same time having an insatiable love for shoes, which is weird). The booties made me feel like I was going barefoot all through the airport, but without getting my feet dirty or stepping on icky feeling dirt and crumbs. So I kept wearing them. I wore them…. probably longer than anyone who is normal would dare (people gave me funny looks)… but it felt so nice that I didn’t care!

While on the topic of acting a little insane in airports, let me share my favorite bit of airport weirdness, courtesy of Nalts:

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Airplane, Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lester, WA: the Ghost Town’s Latest

Now just a glimpse of its former self, the ghost town of Lester, Washington was once a thriving community located in a picturesque spot in the Cascade Mountains near Stampede Pass.

Lester, WA

Lester, Washington was born and prospered at the hand of the Northern Pacific Railroad which began traveling over Stampede Pass in the 1880’s-1890’s. The town was named after the first telegrapher at the station. In the 1950’s when railroad activity began to decline, Lester’s population also embarked on a downward spiral. Finally, in the 1980’s, all railroad activity across Stampede Pass ceased. That along with legislation by the City of Tacoma (the town was located in Tacoma’s watershed) forced the eventual death of Lester.  The road was closed, the residents were asked to leave, and Lester, WA became a ghost town

Gertrude Murphy, last living resident of Lester, WA

There was one woman, however, who refused to sell her land to the watershed. Gertrude Murphy, a former school teacher of Lester, lived out the hundred year lease on her house, unwilling to leave her home. Gertrude fought in vain to save some of Lester’s buildings as historical relics and, when her own house burned down, relocated to a cabin outside the center of Lester, spending summers there until her health prevented it. She died on October 2, 2002 at the age of 99. She was the last living resident of Lester, and was celebrated as such, receiving former students, reporters, and welcoming visitors who came to see Lester. Some feel that the last remaining bit of Lester died with Gertrude, but the children and grandchildren of its late residents still remember the stories of a school, library, train depot, tavern, ranger station, and houses that were at one time occupied by over 1,000 residents! Indeed, many people remember their grandfathers working for the railroad to Lester, their grandmothers living in cabins among the trees, their parents attending dances on Saturday nights, and the town lives on on their memories.

In recent years, rails through Lester are being used again by the Burlington Northern.  Tacoma watershed authorities have reluctantly agreed to allow foot traffic into Lester, and the children and grandchildren of former residents can hike into this memory-filled ghost town to remember the people whose lives began and ended there.  I, too, was interested in this mysterious little spot in the forest along the Upper Green River.  My first and second attempts to visit it were ill-timed and wholly unsuccessful, but I persevered. Lester, WA was my ghost town obsession.

The lonely clearing

In August of 2009, I was at a turning point in my existence, about to make a decision that would change the trajectory of my life forever, and I needed time alone to think, to just be.  A pause before a leap.  I knew that the solitude of Lester would be the perfect place for such a thing, and the way it called to me with a voice of adventure made it impossible to resist.  I jumped into my less-than-trustworthy car on a Saturday night and drove the 4 hours to Lester, arriving after dark.  I turned left at the fork in the forest service road before reaching the Lester gate and then turned left again and bumped down a barely used set of tracks between trees into the forest, inadvertently subjecting my car to a couple of large rocks hidden between the ruts by long grass.  I drove until I reached a dead end at a small stream.  I crossed the stream and pitched my small, borrowed tent in a clearing that almost appeared to be meant for such a thing.  I cooked dinner in my lonely campsite using the crudest of utensils and crawled into my sleeping bag.  It was my first time camping alone (and in a ghost town, no less) and I felt small in the empty forest.  At least I hoped it was empty.  I drifted off into an uneasy sleep before hearing a sound, a loud disturbing sound that grew louder and louder every second and shook the ground underneath my prone body until I felt  that I must ask myself a question that I SHOULD already know the answer to: DID I pitch my tent on the railroad tracks?!?

Build small fire, sit close.

The stream I camped by

I guess this USED to be a road....

I don’t know how late I slept in the morning, but after my frightening experience with the too-close-for-comfort trains during the night, I felt I might have needed the extra rest…  Reloading my car and retracing (more carefully this time) my tracks from the previous night, I made my way to the Lester gate, feeling incredibly satisfied that at last I was going to give Lester my undivided attention and the time I knew it deserved.  Armed with my camera and a backpack of snacks and water, I slipped through the gate and hiked down the dusty dirt road…

This road must have once led to this.... remnants of civilization right here at my campsite.

The first two times I made it to the Lester gate, there was a trailer parked here on the right-hand side.

You're on foot from here

Lester is at the end of this road.

car I found alongside the road

stove inside the white house

I think that drying rack used to be green...

Notice the soap and towel dispensers. I thought that odd for a house.

back porch of the house by the tracks

I spent the rest of the day exploring every nook and cranny of Lester- imagining what the town must have once looked like, searching for clues as to what the residents may have left behind.  The only remaining buildings (besides the new warehouse, which I didn’t try to enter) are a couple houses close to the south side of the tracks, the nearly tumbled outbuildings of those houses, and a house, trailer, and shed which are obviously more recently occupied though now given over to mice and decay.  I spent hours tromping through the woods searching for anything the might be missed from the road, but all I really found were a few masses of twisted metal.  The ground in the trees undulates in a curiously rippled sort of way and I believe it is due to the way the town was bulldozed to the ground.  I wonder what one would find if they dug down.  I did find an interesting old car along the road on the way to Lester in a spot that appeared to be an old dump of sorts.

Upstairs in one of the houses- notice all the mouse droppings. The smell of mouse urine up here was overpowering! Gross!

view of yellow house from back porch of white house

cheerful red

posted inside barn

Most of the barn is gone.

Some of it is still standing...

...but not for long!!! :O






foot traffic is forbidden from this point

It used to be a slide. Was there a playground here once?

I think we all know what this was.

tart but delicious


my edible souvenir

When my curiosity was finally sated, my skin sun burnt, and my clothing filthy, I walked back the way I came, triumphantly bearing a few stalks of persistent rhubarb harvested from a long-abandoned garden (I cooked and ate them with strawberries and they were delicious!)

I hope you enjoy this sampling of the pictures I took.  I feel that Lester is definitely worth the trip.  I found the area beautiful, peaceful, and a wonderful place for the imagination. Oh, and I returned home relaxed, renewed, and ready to make my decision. Thank you, Lester!

© Travelnole and Travelchick-girl unstoppable, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Travelnole and Travelchick-girl unstoppable with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

April 2, 2010 Posted by | Attractions, Ghost Towns, Lester, Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 110 Comments

Cooking Carob Cake and Granola in Michigan

Well, friends, after arriving in Michigan and giving myself about a month to settle in, I am again turning my attention to blogging. I must say that the trip here (more on that later) and the initial adjustment period have been surprisingly smooth and, dare I say, easy? The sky will probably fall now that I’ve said that, but really I doubt it. Life (no, God) seems to have touched everything around me and turned it to gold. I’ve never been happier!

Yesterday was The Boyfriend’s birthday. I’m a traditional, occasion-observing sort of girl, so I wanted to give him something. Easier said than done for a guy who readily admits he already has everything he wants and wears a large corresponding smile at all times. Nevertheless, I had a few ideas and set about making them happen. Being the penniless, jobless loser that I am, I thought it would be perhaps a bit more economical to give a gift of homemade food (and, let’s face it, even the man who has everything still needs to eat). Granola (which he’s obsessed with) and carob cake (he loves carob so much it’s almost disturbing) were on the menu. And here’s where the link to travel comes in (you were wondering, weren’t you?): when you uproot yourself and move across country, sometimes you really miss the places you used to buy food!

Back in Walla Walla, Washington, we had a store called Andy’s Market. If I could be back there at this very moment, I’d kneel down and kiss the ground it stands on. Andy’s Market had all the fresh local produce, all the inexpensive bulk everything, all the vege and vegan alternatives that I could ever ask for. It’s not a chain and it’s not to be surpassed, apparently. I needed all these nuts and dried fruit and carob and I had no idea where to get them! Everyone here shops for food at Meijer, which is the Michigan version of Wal-Mart (not considered “The Devil” because it’s not nationwide?….). Besides that, there are a few other familiar and not-familiar stores. I finally found carob at both Hillers Market and Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods also has a very small bulk section where I was thankfully able to find the nuts I needed. They also had a bit of cheaper price on the carob goods. That, coupled with the fact that they carry Vegenaise and liquid aminos, means that I’ll cross Hillers off the list and rely on Whole Foods as my substitute (albeit a poor one) for Andy’s. Whole Foods in no way measures up to the variety or price of the bulk foods section in Andy’s Market. Sigh.

All in all, I’m not sure that making homemade granola and carob cake are the most economical ways to go, but they are definitely the most fun! I found the cake recipe in the April 2010 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Dorothy Olsen of Provo, Utah won the $25,000 grand prize for her Whole Wheat Chocolate-Blueberry Cake. Being all at the same time a fan of chocolate, dessert, and healthy eating (hypocritical maybe?), I had to try it out. The only change I made was to substitute unsweetened carob powder for unsweetened cocoa powder and vegan carob pieces for semisweet chocolate pieces.

This cake is rich and decadent.  The Boyfriend and I love the way the whole wheat flour tastes in it!  Very wholesome.

Whole Wheat Chocolate-Blueberry Cake

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (or carob powder)
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate pieces (or carob pieces)
  • fresh blueberries or Blueberry Sauce (see recipe below)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In medium bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In blender combine water, blueberries, and the egg.  Cover and blend until smooth.  Add to flour mixture.  Whisk until well combine.  Pour into greased 8x8x2-inch baking pan.
  2. Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Invert onto serving platter.
  3. In small microwave-safe bowl combine dessert topping and chocolate pieces.  Micro-cook, covered, on 50% power (medium) 1 minute.  Stir until smooth.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Pour onto cooled cake, spreading evenly.
  4. Cut cake into squares to serve.  Top with fresh blueberries.  Serve with Blueberry Sauce.  Makes 9 servings.

Blueberry Sauce: In blender combine 1/2 cup frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed, and 1/2 cup fresh blueberries.  Cover and blend until smooth.

I found the granola recipe, Easy Homemade Granola, on this website.  I slightly modified it by also adding 1/3 cup walnuts (LOVE walnuts!) and cutting the brown sugar to 1/8 cup.  The granola turned out REALLY SALTY! so I’d recommend cutting down on the salt as well.  Maybe 1/2 tsp. in instead of 1?  Otherwise, it was delicious.  The Boyfriend adds some plains oats to his granola anyway, so that probably helps with the salt factor.

Easy Homemade Granola  (from “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup whole almonds
  • 1/3 cup whole hazelnuts
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the oats with the cinnamon and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until completely combined.
  4. Pour the honey mixture over the oats mixture and use your hands to combine them: Gather up some of the mixture in each hand and make a fist. Repeat until all of the oats are coated with the honey mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out evenly, but leave a few clumps here and there for texture.
  6. Bake for 10 min, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the almonds over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.
  7. Bake for 5 min, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.
  8. Bake for 10 min, then remove from the oven. Let cool completely. Sprinkle the raisins and cherries over the granola.
  9. Transfer it to an airtight container, where it will keep for one week.

I noticed on the Andy’s Market website that you can order things online…. Hmmmm…. I may try that.  Until then, I’ll be crying on the inside every time I walk out of Whole Foods.

© Travelnole and Travelchick-girl unstoppable, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Travelnole and Travelchick-girl unstoppable with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

April 1, 2010 Posted by | Detroit, Moving, Travel, United States, Walla Walla | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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