Travels with Ikumi
August, 2002

This is a picture of us with Ikumi and her father, Yoichi.  Ikumi is a college student and lives in Sendai, Japan.  She had seen us in the NHK television documentary about RVing in America. 

She asked if she could come to America and travel with us as part of her graduation thesis.  She is a student of anthropology and is very interested in learning about other cultures and international travel.


To make a long story short, we said "sure, we'd love to have you come along with us," and so she flew to America.  Neither she or her father had ever been to the U.S. before.  Together, they visited San Francisco then flew to Seattle to meet us.  We think that Yoichi wanted to check out what his daughter was getting into.  Because of the media, a lot of people in Japan think that the U.S. is a dangerous place to visit.  As Ikumi told us, Japanese people think that the U.S. is full of guns and "hooligans".
We toured some small communities around the Seattle area.  Yoichi was interested in seeing what American neighborhoods and daily life is like. 

Here's a picture taken outside of the Flying Frog Antique store in Snoqualmie, Washington.

After two days of sightseeing, Yoichi flew home to Japan and left Ikumi with us to see the vast countryside. 

We were about to leave on our two-week tour with Ikumi.  Our stops would include Yellowstone, Bryce, and Zion National Parks and end up in Las Vegas.

The morning we were going to leave Seattle, I E-mailed the White family; (they are other family in the NHK documentary,) to see what part of the country they were in.


Cheryl and the boys packed up the trailer.  Ikumi was amazed to see how everything worked.  I hitched up the truck and we all got in to go.  As I pulled the shift lever into drive, my cell phone rang.  It was Jenn White.  She said they were in Issaquah just outside of Seattle.  I said, "we are on Lake Samamish, just outside of Issaquah".  Turns out we were less than 5 miles from each other.  So before heading out, we met them for lunch.

Then we headed off for Eastern Washington.  We stopped every chance we could to show Ikumi things she had never seen before.   One stop was at the Grand Coolee Dam.  We stopped along the wheat fields in Eastern Washington where Ikumi said she had never seen such flat land.  We saw big dust devils, picked wheat out of a field, saw deer, coyotes, and more.

Near Yellowstone, as we approached Bozeman, Montana, a large thunderhead passed over providing us with a spectacular light show and very heavy rain.  It was getting dark so we treated Ikumi to a night in a Walmart parking lot.  (We're the ones in the middle.)  Walmart is well know in the RVing community for allowing RVs to park overnight, except in towns where RV park owners associations have convinced city legislatures to outlaw such parking.  Now, you might think this is a cheap way to camp for the night, but it's really not.  We've spent as much as $400 in the store on more than one occasion and rarely do we get away for under $30, especially at the 24-hour stores.
Well, here we are in Yellowstone again.
We've been here five or six times now so I won't bore you with another set of Yellowstone pictures, but there are a few good "Ikumi meets Godzilla", ( I mean buffalo,) stories.

We know that a big herd of buffalo are usually in one part of the park, and we were lucky enough to be there when they were near the road.  One big bull was crossing the river, coming in our direction.  He dropped out of sight beneath the bank of the river.  We hoped he'd pop up over the bank and come up right in front of us.  Sure enough, he did.
I told Ikumi to get out of the truck for a picture, but by time I turned the camera on she was back inside.  As the buffalo came to the front corner of our truck, he looked to the left and then to the right to decide which way to walk around the truck.  I darted around the back and took this picture as he passed within inches of our front grill.

Ikumi had never been near such a huge, wild animal.  It was very thrilling, but much too close for her.

Here's Ikumi's favorite hot pool and Old Faithful, of course.  She liked the beautiful aqua blue color.  We also got to watch a beaver cutting down some small tree branches and swimming the branches back to the beaver lodge.
Although that's not us in this raft, we took Ikumi rafting.  She said this was the first time she was ever on a river and the first time she paddled a boat.

We originally had planned to drop Ikumi off at the airport in Salt Lake City, but she wanted to see Las Vegas. 

That added several hundred miles to our two week trip, so we only made one quick stop in Salt Lake City.  That stop was at the Kennicott Copper Mine.  The open pit mine is over a mile deep and several miles across.  It's a spectacular sight.  Cheryl says, "been there -- done that." 
Our next major stop was Bryce Canyon National Park.  The elevation here is about 6,000 ft (1,830 meters) and hiking the short trail to this view point is quite exhausting.

It's a great view.  We could see the whole canyon and look down on the spires and hoodoos.

The next day we attended a ranger narrated walk to the bottom of the canyon.  Ikumi is in red and Cheryl has a blue shirt. Mitch and Max are on the next switch back below.

Here's another view of the trail.

The best part of Bryce Canyon was the two nights we spent at Ruby's Inn.

Ruby's Inn is one mile from the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park.  They provide lodging, an RV park, a nightly rodeo, a western dinner show and a chuck wagon dinner. We decided to try out the chuck wagon dinner. 

We boarded one of the three covered wagons and began "our journey into the old west".  Along the way we saw some deer, but then crossed onto an Indian burial ground.

The covered wagons were surrounded and the show began.
After a delicious chuckwagon dinner, the cowboy music and dancing began.  The folks at Ruby's Inn are well organized.  First, the staff, which consists of a lot of young cowboys and cowgirls, (actually college students on summer break,) push the tables out of the way and perform some great western music and dance.  Next, they cleverly target the teenagers in the audience and pull them out for a square dance.  After that, the adults and children are invited to dance, and soon the entire audience was square dancing.
Ikumi had lots of fun.  She told us that this was the first time she had ever danced.  Every day was a new adventure!
Next stop: Zion National Park.  Here, we saw mountain goats on the trail, (it looks like a miniature goat whispering in her ear.)  Zion has some outrageous hikes -- it's one of our favorite parks.  This trail, like several others, takes you up the side of a steep red rock mountain that overlooks the valley. 
We also found Zion to be a haven for Black Widow spiders.  All of the picnic tables in the campground are constructed using two inch steel tubing for the base. The open ends of the tubing come up just under the bench and table top.  The spiders hide in the tubes during the day and come out at night.  I checked several of the tables and found Black Window webs at the opening of every tube and spiders in over half of them.  There was at least one spider on every table I checked.
So here is this month's mystery challenge.  How can you tell if a spider web was made by a Black Widow? There may be more than one way to tell.  I'm looking for the answer I was told by a ranger.

Finally, we're at the end of our trip -- in Las Vegas,  We visited all of the usual attractions, but won't bore you with pictures.  What impressed Ikumi the most was the 114 degree F, and one day 116 F degree temperatures.
For our international readers, that's 46 degrees Celsius.  Our trailer and its contents heated up to 125 degrees F (52 Celsius).  RV's, no matter how well insulated they are, are not made for this kind of heat. 
Even with the air conditioner running continuously, we can't maintain a comfortable temperature inside.  Ikumi could not believe how hot it was.  For us, it was actually a little easier to stay comfortable in -20 degree F (-29 degrees C) in Alaska, than it was in this heat.
Time for good-bye, but not a final good-bye.  We plan on taking a trip to Japan someday and Ikumi plans on returning to America in a couple of months.

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