Summertime in San Francisco

Our first stop as we worked our way into the San Francisco Bay area was in Sausalito. We walked the streets and the piers. We met Diamond Dog Sausalito and his owner. They were a joy-filled welcome to the city. He sang “This Little Light of Mine” and “KUUMBYA!” What can we say …….. it felt like love and individuality were embracing us with two arms!

Under Scott’s excellent guidance (and our GPS) we made our way to our hotel which bordered the financial and union square districts. We let the valet park the car and didn’t see it again until we loaded up to head out on Monday morning. We bought three-day Muni passes which gave us access to the buses, street cars, cable cars and underground trains. Hamsteads do mass transit in San Fran! It took us awhile to get our bearings straight but we managed fine. It was a great opportunity for Griffin and Beck to apply real-world map reading skills!

Overall we had some very good meals in San Francisco. Some of our favorites included seared scallop and pear salad, cioppino, crab and corn bisque in a sourdough bread bowl, crab sandwich, Niman ranch
burger and cubano sandwich. Scrumptious!

My favorite day was Sunday. The day began with our family doing service at Glide Memorial in the Mission district. They serve three meals a day, 365 days a year, to the needy. It’s an impressive outreach program. We made sandwiches for a few hours and then headed upstairs to experience the service. It was a spirit-filled experience for sure. A huge ensemble of singers and musicians fill the sanctuary with soul-stirring sounds. The atmosphere is one of acceptance and love for all. It is always beneficial to step outside of your regular pattern of worship and experience grace and gratitude through another lens.

After Glide we met an old friend for brunch at Starbelly. It was a yummy, local spot. It was so fun to reconnect with him and spend the rest of the afternoon strolling around the famous Haight-Ashbury district. The day was relaxed and an organic San Francisco experience!

Later we walked to a restaurant near the hotel for dinner. On the way back we came upon two young men. They were both totally lost in a world of dysfunction and homelessness. Their eyes were glazed over with the addiction that haunts them. They haunted me. Young men always bother me most- probably because I am the mother of two sons. I felt myself laying awake praying for them, wishing I could do more, knowing they probably have parents and loved ones somewhere missing them. I think that in the pattern of my normal life I become accustomed to or “numb” to the neediness around me. This journey is “out of our norm” in so many ways- including the depths to which homelessness SHOUTS out to me.

I enjoyed San Francisco but was ready to trade it in for more nature!

When I think of San Francisco I think of cool mornings and chilly afternoons as the fog rolls in off the bay. Another iconic image that comes to mind is the Golden Gate Bridge. On Friday we made the mandatory trek to the Golden Gate Park and Bridge. At the park we saw the de Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Stowe Lake and the Japanese Gardens. Then we moved on to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge which was jammed with bicyclists and other tourists. We did find it to be magnificent in structure and had a great view of a variety of Bay activities and sights- kite surfing, sailing, cargo ships and the San Fran skyline. It was really windy, foggy and cold. It is definitely not an adventure for those afraid of heights or wearing skimpy outfits!!

We caught a bus to Chinatown. We ate at a recommended restaurant called Oriental Pearl. It was good food and we were happy to be cozy inside. After dinner we explored Chinatown- taking in the culture, atmosphere, shops and street vendors.

It proved to a long day and we headed back to the Galleria Park Hotel for some much needed rest.

San Francisco is a large and diverse city. One of my favorite days was Sunday and our Glide experience! I am glad we made the stop in San Fran but it won’t be my #1 city.

Saturday was a busy, bustling, crowded day. We did end the day with a jewel of an experience.

That morning we went down to Market Street to catch the “F.” It was a futuristic looking streetcar that actually ran back in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The driver was a real comedian and entertained us along the route to Fisherman’s Wharf.

We ate at Boudins, visited Ghiradelli Square and laughed as the “bush man” scared people on the sidewalk. We also went to Pier 39 where we bought Hard Rock San Fran pins and watched the magnificent sea lions. As we left we watched Paco the spray paint artist that dazzled us with his spray paint and simplistic tools. His talent was amazing!

This day the best was saved for last! We boarded a cruise for a night tour of Alcatraz. It’s hard to put into words how magnificent it was. The wind nipped our faces as the island came into view and we entered the realm of Alcatraz.

The audio tour informed us as we viewed the prison. The narrators were former prisoners and guards and their voices added an authenticity to the experience. We saw cells and other prisoner facilities. The tour included escape stories and other fascinating information.

Interestingly enough, from 1969-1971, after its use as a federal prison, Native American activists occupied the island. They were making a stand about reclaiming Native lands and Native American rights.

We ended the night tour with the “sounds of the slammer” which was a reenactment of the cell doors closing each night.

All in all San Francisco was a neat experience for us but it was a little too big and crowded. Glide, meeting Andy and visiting Haight-Ashbury (including the purchase of our new stylish hats) were also really fun.

Griffin and Beck

Music of the Moment

At the beginning of the trip, we all selected a song to embody some messages that we wanted to share. So, while we were driving across open fields, windy hills, and ocean views we wanted to each pick another song embodying some messages that we like, or lyrics, or a good melody.

Scott– America the Beautiful, by Willie Nelson. iTunes: (this is not the Willie Nelson version, it is Ray Charles)

Angie- Beautiful Day, by India Arie. iTunes:

Beck- Everybody Needs Love, by the Drive-By Truckers. iTunes:

Griffin- What I Got, by Michael Franti and Spearhead. iTunes:

We hope that you guys find something in these songs like we did!

Good Day Portland

We loved our drive through the Blalock Canyon and Columbia River Gorge on our way to Portland. The hills were scattered with wind giants (wind driven power turbines). It gives you hope that where possible, as a nation we are seeking alternative power sources. We also passed a large number of wind and kite surfers. It is a world famous spot for those sports.

We stayed at the Inn at Northrup Station which is located in the Nob Hill district – the northwest section of the city. The hotel was great and the convenience (a streetcar station was literally out the front doors) was awesome. We spent a lot of time riding the streetcars – getting on and off when the spirit moved us-and exploring the city. The weather over our 4 days was spectacular – 70’s, breezy, sunny and no humidity! Of course we love the southeast that we call home but I do NOT miss the summer humidity!

On our last full day we took a 4 mile hike in the historic Forest Hills area. It was very close to our hotel and an oasis of nature. We joined many other nature and fitness enthusiasts as we jogged/walked the Leif Erikson trail!

I found several great consignment stores and was lucky to find great treats with the right price tag. I love buying clothes that support a true recycle and reuse mindset. We were also lucky to still be there on Saturday morning for the Portland Saturday Market – an arts and craft lovers dream! We all enjoyed seeing the work of West Coast artists and purchasing some great presents for others.

The many people sleeping in the waterfront park stirred my soul. I became mindful of the reality that we may be passing out “blessing bags” but that outreach is followed by our sleeping in a nice hotel, eating wonderful food and buying more stuff. Doing something for others is better than being self-centered and self-focused all the time – but the amount we are sharing is a fraction of what we are consuming ourselves. I consider the time to ponder these deep thoughts and questions as one of the greatest gifts of this trip! I also embrace the opportunities we take as a family to talk about them.

Portland gets two thumbs up from me! Love to all of you!


Our first full day in Portland began with the wake up call and a hectic transit to the docks. Then meeting our guide Lewis we geared up and put the kayaks in the water, and happily got in. We began our journey through the Willamette River main channel to Ross Island. Once reaching Ross Island, we veered to the left and started around the island. About halfway to the other side of the island we came across a mother wood duck and her ducklings. On the other side of the island we encountered some large birds of prey. The journey back to the docks was an experience through the cross winds which took an extra effort and push. It was something different and fun and still a great experience.

We had a lot of good food in Portland, but some of the best were donuts that seemed to be cursed with Voodoo goodness. Voodoo Donuts is a famous donut shop in downtown Portland. Turns out that we weren’t the only ones that wanted a bite of “heaven on wax paper” as Dad calls it. The line outside the store was long, very long. Timing it on my watch, we waited in line for 45 minutes! By the time we got to the front we spent almost 20 more minutes trying to make crucial decisions, “Which Donuts to Pick?” However our cashier was very nice and was very patient, we did not feel rushed at all. The wait was well worth the reward though! Beck got a Classic Voodoo Doll (the original), a Maple Bacon Bar, and a Tangtastic. Dad got a Maple Bacon Bar, a D.O.B. (Dirty Old B.), and a Buttermilk Bar. Mom got a regular Maple Bar, A Butterfinger Donut (not sure of the official name), and a Bavarian Creme (also not sure of the name). And I got a Voodoo Doll, a Maple Bacon Bar, and an Oreo Donut. Dad, Beck, and I all agreed that our favorite was the Maple Bacon Bar, an indescribably good combination sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy, well it was just plain perfect. Mom’s favorite was the Butterfinger one, which was a chocolate cake donut topped with butterfinger. We were all very satisfied after finishing off our donuts, and despite our efforts, we did not return to the magical Voodoo Donuts in Portland.

Portland was a good combination of unique food and quality time together.

-Griffin and Beck

As mentioned above the drive through the gorge was beautiful and somewhat other worldly at the beginning, grassy with volcanic looking rocks all around. The gorge was shaped by glaciers and is wild looking as the wind blows constantly and the water rushes through a number of dams along the way.

The boys were right about eating some good food, one afternoon as Angie was browsing the consignment shops, we found a cluster of food trucks , which dot the city. We decided to sample a number of dishes and came away with some “heaven on a paper plate.”  Cackalacks Hot Chicken , Viking Soul food wraps, Italian Ice sodas and Hot Box lobster ravioli were our choices. We all voted the hot chicken sandwich the best. The Viking wraps which included one with smoked salmon and dill sauce and another with pork meatballs wrapped in a potato pancake were a close second. We brought Angie a few bites and she liked the salmon wrap best. The food trucks are all around the city and are a great way to taste different cuisines.

One night we came across an outdoor street party called Sundown @ Ecotrust.  They had booths about the environment, green energy, and reliable sustainability. There was a local band called the Dimes, which we all enjoyed along with the food and drinks. It was a great night weather wise and all appreciated the time outside soaking in the atmosphere.

Portland-food, weather, streetcar, kayaking, people watching ….. all in all a great visit.


Meandering through Montana

Cody, WY & Yellowstone treated us well but it was time to move on so we traded in the cattle and bison of Wyoming for horses in Montana.

During our Montana journey we drove through Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest. It was wild to see the mountains there. They looked like pebble stacks with evergreens dispersed throughout.


Our stay in Montana was blessed by incredible weather. Sunshine, low 70’s and nice breezes spoiled us rotten. Scott says that Montana is “beautiful landscapes, casinos, expresso & Subarus.” It’s true – it seems there is a casino and/or coffeehouse around every corner in the small towns and that a Subaru drives past every other car.

We stayed our first night in Bozeman. It was a fun, college town. The original plan did not include a sleepover in Bozeman and it felt “free and adventurous” to be able to make a change in plans at the spur of the moment. We ate some good food at the Montana Ale Works. We found a few brothers to give “blessings bags” and a granola-like town with free-spirited people.

The next day we were off to Butte. All we really want to say about Butte is that we ate at a goodrestaurant called The Copper Creperie and found more recipients for “blessings bags.”

OUR FAVORITE MONTANA EXPERIENCE WAS MISSOULA! We all agreed that it is the most well-rounded city we’ve visited thus far. It is a very cool town and home to the University of Montana Grizzlies. We visited the college and the boys bought sports attire. It is so funny that the opening 2011 football game for the Tennessee Vols is against the University of Montana. We hope Knoxville will show the same hospitality to the visiting Montana fans as we were shown in their hometown.

We visited the stadium and hiked their mountain called the “M.” It has a 620 foot incline and 13 switchbacks. WOW!


We came upon a charity called “Real Change not Spare Change.” I know I have seen it somewhere else- or at least the same concept. They discourage you from giving money to the homeless and to donate to the organization instead. The organization is focused on helping the homeless to transition into housing and a healthier, more stable life. We were lucky because while we were in town there was a campaign going where a local private family fund will match every dollar given to the organization 10 to 1. That is amazing. So we made a donation and are thrilled that its value will be multiplied by ten!!!!!

We really lived a nice pace in Montana. We have begun a fierce, ongoing family Rummy tournament. The boys have been cute coaching each other through what purchases they should or shouldn’t make out of their own money. We have slept well, napped, exercised and caught up on reading.

Thanks for your support. Know that we miss and love you!

Wide-open Wyoming

Wyoming ranks 50th in the United States in total population (only 530,000 statewide). You can see and believe that when you travel through it. Lots of land, open spaces and clean, fresh air………………..

As we left South Dakota and entered Wyoming we were welcomed by the Big Horn Mountains. They are amazing. We even passed several geological formations that were identified as dating back to the Pre-Cambrian era (2.3-3 billion years ago). WOW! As we journeyed we saw our first ever snow in July. Of course the boys had to play – flip flops and snow. What a combination!

We settled for a few nights in Cody, Wyoming. Our view and hotel were nice. We visited the Sierra Trading Post and The Buffalo Bill Historical Center. We even found Beck Avenue.

A highlight was eating at the Wyoming Rib & Chop House. The food was scrumptious. We smiled at the LSU mints, Mardi Gras beads and fleur-de-lis sprinkled throughout. The owner is from Baton Rouge and went to LSU. You never know where the SEC will pop up!

The next stop was Yellowstone.

Day 1 – We were greeted by snow, beautiful wildflowers and the largest mountain lake in North America. Lake Yellowstone is beautiful. Once again, pictures can’t do it justice. We enjoyed a hike that bordered the lake. We also met some new friends. Aren’t they cute?

Day 2 – We did a 5 mile round-trip hike to Natural Bridge. We also moved to the main geyser area in Yellowstone.  Old Faithful “performed” on schedule. It spews 4,000-8,000 gallons of water each time it erupts. The other geysers were often colorful. We all visited the Yellowstone Natural Spa and received free sulfur facials (the smell was not the best).

Day 3 – It is refreshing in multiple ways to say you are “chilly” in July. Our biggest adventure of the day was to hike to Artist Point. These pictures can’t capture the force and beauty of the waterfall. It truly was awe-inspiring!

Yellowstone was founded in 1872 by an act of congress. We are all blessed by the foresight of our ancestors!


Beauty in the Black Hills

As we left Sioux Falls towards the Black Hills the storm clouds began to gather across the prairie and it looked like it would be a rainy drive. But before the rain begin to fall we stopped in Mitchell, S.D. the home of the “World’s only Corn Palace”, it serves as multi-use community center and was established in 1892 to display the fruit of the early settlers’ harvest. All of the murals are made of corn cobs and each August there is a festival to show the year’s new displays. A very unusual and impressive art form. Then it began to rain and did so for many, many miles. Our next stop was in Wall, S.D. at the famous Wall Drug, it is basically a whole city block of shops that began as one store that developed over the years as the owners started advertising “free water” in 1931. But as Griffin said ” I did not think it would be so touristy (sic).”  Then the rain stopped the sun came out and we made it to our next destination, The Lodge at Palmer Gulch in the beautiful Black Hills. -Scott

It is hard to describe the vistas through the South Dakota Black Hills and Badlands. Our camera really can’t capture them. Picture the movie “Dances with Wolves” (it was filmed there) – that’s what it looks like!

My maternal grandmother, Gretchen Thompson (aka “Honeybeanie”) had a passion for the Red Cloud Indian School. Although she had minimal “extra” money, she sent money to them monthly. Her wallet was small but her heart and faith were huge! I wanted to stand on the soil of the place she felt so called to support.

It is located in the heart of the Pine Ridge reservation – home to the Oglala Sioux. We made the 2 hour journey from our Lodge (even over unpaved, dirt roads) to visit the school. We toured the grave of Chief Red Cloud, the Heritage Center and donated new sports balls to the elementary school in Honeybeanie’s honor. It is our prayer that the balls will nurture healthy lifestyles and friendships among the children that share them. -Angie

As we entered calmly into The Heritage Center at Red Cloud we were greeted by the arts and music of the Oglala Sioux Native Americans. As we walked around more we discovered the gallery and annual art show. Many pieces spoke out with strong artistic and passionate values. Dad, Griffin and I went into a replica of a school room. The pattern was to force the Native American children to attend white & boarding schools that banned their culture, arts and language. Upon the wall at the back of the room were many pictures portraying the gut-wrenching sight of the massacre at Wounded Knee. The most uneasy pictures were ones of the dead Sioux stacked like sticks.

On the way to the Pine Ridge reservation we passed through the Wind Cave National Forest. At first we saw the rolling vistas and then popping from them the prairie dogs and herds of American bison. On the way back we stopped at the Custer State Park. At Legion Lake Dad, Griffin and I canoed and mom rode a hydro-cycle. -Beck

Wow. Those three letters are the first to come to my mind when I think back on Friday, our second full day in the Black Hills. We were not about to let an opportunity to see Mount Rushmore pass us by. Friday morning we left our lodge to travel 10 minutes down the road to one of the most iconic images of American patriotism, pride, and joy. All of us have seen pictures of the famous monument, but it takes on another element when you walk up the walkway to the terrace and realize that it’s real. You’re looking at it, it’s right in front of you and you just take a step back and take it in. We went into the museum and watched a video about Mt. Rushmore and looked around at some of the exhibits. We then went down to the Sculptor’s Studio, where we saw the 1:12 scale model, for every inch on the model would be a foot on the monument.

After we explored around for a little more, we got back in the car and headed to the Crazy Horse Monument, which has been over fifty years in the making. Upon arriving, we learned that we were in store for a blast on the monument between 12-1pm. We went in and watched a video, and came out onto the viewing deck in time to watch 863 tons of rock being blasted off the monument. After watching the blast, we went into the gift store, and Beck and I found out that there was a huge pile of rocks taken from Crazy Horse blasts. Beck and I each got a cool rock, and were able to take home a piece of Crazy Horse. Like I said, not just Friday but all of our stay in the Black Hills was fun, and to sum it all up: Wow.


Gateway to the West

And so it has begun. As Beck puts it, “I’m still a little jumpy and unsettled.” We have gone on trips this long before. We’ve gone to Nashville for a weekend and comeback. We’ve gone to Birmingham or the beach for a few days or a week. We have never been away from home for any longer than two weeks or less. It is really gonna settle in when we’re about two-three weeks in. We started the trip in St. Louis, and it turned out to be very fitting. We went up in the Arch and it was pretty awesome. Did you know that it is the tallest monument in the United States at 630 feet? Well now you do. We took lots of pictures and had a good time in the opening adventure of our journey. I’m looking forward to passing through the gate and continuing to move West. Through the Gateway.




The trip began with a 10 hour drive to St. Louis and the crossing of the Mississippi and like many others the sight of the Gateway Arch.

Day one consisted of checking in to our hotel, the Drury Inn and Suites, as well as a stop to eat at Imo’s pizza for dinner.

On the second day in St. Louis we visited the Arch. Once inside, Mom went to get the tickets while Dad, Griffin, and I visited a part of the museum about the Louisiana purchase and what went on in Missouri and the West. The misery that the Native Americans endured because of the white men saddens me. For the promises we made, none were kept. In the quote on the left Tecumseh was talking about the Louisiana purchase, and truthfully saying land cannot be bought nor the air, or water, for it is for all. The Arch tram cars were quite a ride. Like a very very steep Ferris wheel, that rose 630 feet off the ground. And at the top, you are able to look out of a series of windows. And then the much quicker ride down. It was a great experience overall.



Gateway to the West-St. Louis, what an appropriate first stop for our journey. We are all excited about the experience we are beginning.

St. Louis- The Arch, Forest Park-Art Museum, sushi, Ted Drewes forzen custard. In addition, Angie was interviewed by a reporter from the Missourian Newspaper about living kidney donation and kidney health.

Until next time-Scott


Photo Gallery:


Our Songs: Their Words

Music is such a gift to all.

It is a powerful avenue for language, emotion and inspiration.

We intend to capture our mood along the way by selecting songs that speak to us at the time.

Knoxville, July 6, 2011 – Starting Out

Scott: Roam – The B52’s

Angie: Hold Us Together – Matt Maher

Griffin: Hey Hey Hey – Michael Franti & Spearhead

Beck: Heaven – Brett Dennen

Listen along and enjoy the ride!

Welcome to

A warm welcome to everybody! Follow our adventure here, and check back for the latest on what the Hamsteads are up to.