I love traveling overland.  To me there’s nothing better than a long road trip or an extended train ride.  Recently we were able to combine these two joys into a three week loop of the Northern U.S.  After my race in Montana, we got back on the eastbound Amtrak Empire Builder.  If you’ve never taken a long train ride, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.  No one is in a hurry on the train.  No one is stressed out.  There are no airport security hassles, no checked baggage fees and no uncomfortable flights to endure.  Instead, passengers share stories and snacks with each other.  There’s plenty of time to read, write, play cards and just let the mind wonder as you look out the window and watch the world pass by.  It all feels so very civilized, like what I imagine travel to have been like a hundred years ago.














After two pleasant days on the train we arrived in Pittsburgh.  My Mom picked us up at the station with our new car (her old car).  Yoshimi decided to name the new wheels Cookie and we promised my Mom that Cookie would have no trouble fitting in with all the other Subaru’s in Portland.  We spent a few relaxing days in Pittsburgh, enjoying my Mom’s home cooking and paying a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Falling Water.

Mom & Yoshimi at Falling Water

Autumn in Pennsylvania














We were depressed to learn that the cost of building Falling Water was exactly what we paid for our condo a few years ago.  Before we left I was able to squeeze in a couple of maintenance runs on a rails-to-trails path along the Allegheny River near my Mom’s house.  And then it was time to pack up Cookie and begin the long drive back to Portland.


On my own, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to go to Kentucky, but because of her love of the TV show Mad Men, Yoshimi insisted upon it.  Now wait a minute there, Shawn, doesn’t Mad Men take place in New York?  You’re right, it does take place in New York, but you see the characters spend much of their time drinking bourbon and bourbon, my friend, is made in Kentucky.  See it all makes perfect sense now, huh?

We camped at Taylorsville Lake State Park and visited six different bourbon distilleries in our three days there.  We hit up some of the big boys like Jim Beam and Wild Turkey, but our favorites were the lesser known distilleries, Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill and Woodford.  I was able to get in a few trail runs in the state park and one evening bumped into this old timer on horseback sipping on a Bud Light.

Kentucky Cowboy

Yoshimi's bear, Kumako, relaxing with Jim Beam















After Kentucky we hightailed it through four states on our way to Colorado and the People’s Republic of Boulder.  We checked into a private room at the Boulder International Hostel, nestled right in the heart of fraternity row.  There’s plenty to love about Boulder, what with the Flatiron Mountains towering overhead and the idyllic Boulder Creek meandering through town.  There’s lots of cyclists, lots of bookstores and lots of sunshine, a perfect little utopia.  I could see why some of the best trail runners in the country make Boulder their home, but for me its trails were total lung busters.  I would love to do one of Colorado’s classic 100 miles races, like Leadville or Hardrock someday, but I think I’d need a couple of weeks to acclimatize first.

Boulder lung buster

Yoshimi "trail running" in her gold moon boots















Leaving Boulder, we passed by the Coors Brewery, Vail Ski Resort, and some roadside buffalo and antelope on our way to Moab, Utah.  We didn’t realize that it was a holiday weekend in Utah, but luckily we were able to find what had to be the last camp site in and around Moab.  The Up The Creek Campground was a bit overpriced at $30 a night, but at least it was located next to the Bark Park doggie daycare center, which was convenient for early morning wake up howls.  Over the next two days we visited Arches National Park (incredibly beautiful, easily accessible and way overcrowded) and Canyonlands National Park (otherworldly, overwhelmingly huge, and almost completely empty).  We both preferred Canyonlands.













From Southern Utah it was an epic 18 hour drive back to Portland and back to work.  October is the perfect time of year to do this kind of trip.  There were few tourists(except at Arches), the temperatures were mild and the autumn leaves were in their full splendor.  If you need further inspiration to start planning your own overland adventure, here are a couple of articles I wrote a few years ago for the Oregonian on train travel and road trips.