Finding Magic in the Northwest

Our blessed journey continued into Spokane, Washington and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Along the way and in both cities we were able to share “blessings bags” with struggling brothers and sisters. We even came across a couple living in   their car. The sad reality is there are many more people struggling all around us than we allow our eyes to see! Are your eyes and mind open?

We absolutely loved our hotel in Spokane. We stayed in The Tower at the Davenport (part of the historic Davenport hotel). The surroundings were beautiful and the beds were heavenly. It was a wonderful place to unwind for three nights and pamper ourselves a little.

Lobby Fireplace at The Davenport Hotel

We had a special package that included a meal plan in their restaurants so we did not venture out to eat in Spokane. The food was enjoyable in the Safari Grill and the Post Ale House.

We spent a day in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho at the famous Lake Coeur d’Alene. It is about 30 minutes outside of Spokane so a very easy drive. It was beautiful. We landed in a city park. We spent some time in the sandy “beach” area. We also spread out under the shade trees in the grassy area. There was an abundance of beautiful scenery, people watching & relaxation. We discovered and enjoyed our first “blended cup of soul” which is an iced & blended combination of coffee, mexican chocolate and cinnamon! Yum! Later in the afternoon a steel drum band started up in the park. It was a tropical adventure in Idaho!

We knew we wanted to go see the last of the Harry Potter movies while in Spokane. Most of you know that we read all seven of those novels out loud as a family and it was a very magical part of our lives in many ways! The movie did not disappoint. The kids talked afterwards about how going to the movie was “bittersweet” because it was the end…the last one…and a closing of a special chapter in their childhoods!

Before leaving Spokane we visited the Spokane River Falls.

Portland is next! Watch out Oregon, here we come!

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.


Water Falls in Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls was a nice stop over.

After staying in our small “boutique” room in Kansas City, the Sioux Falls room was huge!

We went out to eat a delicious meal at Carnaval Brazilian Grill. It was a yummy experience. Scott calls it “red meat city” but all of the boys enjoyed the variety of meats carved at table-side. Beck was a fan of the gaucho outfits the wait staff wore.

While we were out driving we found three new friends to give a “blessings” bag. Once again it was inspiring to see a simple bag of hygiene, snacks and water illuminate someone – things we take for granted!

It poured rain all night and into the next morning. The Hamsteads took over the workout room. We did weights, elliptical and treadmill. I am determined we will stay fit on our travels. After breakfast we climbed under the covers to wait out the rain and watched a movie – a nice break in pace.

Once the rain broke we went out for a late lunch. We also did the sculpture walk in downtown Sioux Falls. Here are a few of our favorite sculptures.


Lastly, we visited Falls Park. We welcomed the burst of water and nature.


To round out our experience I became acquainted with the coin laundry in the hotel. It’s been a few decades since I have had to do laundry in coin machines. The truth is it won’t be the last time on this long journey and is a small inconvenience that’s well worth the trade-off.

Many blessings to all of you!! Love, Angie

Artsy Explorations

Kansas City was a fun adventure. There are several modern, artistic buildings (our favorite was the Performing Arts Center). KC is famous for its fountains and we enjoyed them sprinkled throughout the city.

We stayed in the Westport area which is a fun, artsy area of KC. We came upon a great mural created by the Art Director of the KC Children’s Hospital. Can you find Griffin and Beck?

We started our day on Saturday with a two hour fitness expedition. We headed out from the hotel on a walk/jog. We came upon the Country Club Plaza area and an awesome outdoor park. The park had a paved loop and cross training exercise equipment in stations along the loop.

After breakfast and showers we returned to the Country Club Plaza area to do a little shopping and eat. The heat index was close to 100 but still tolerable. Before leaving Knoxville we created “bags of blessing” that we wanted to intentionally pass out along this trip. Inside the bags we placed water, snacks and personal hygiene items. We gave away our first “bag” to a gentleman we came upon at the Plaza. It was great to see his face light up and watch him dig into his peanuts. We have so much and others have so little. LIVE HOZHO and share!

We also visited the Nelson Atkins Art Museum. It is a massive museum with many floors and numerous exhibits. As we read about and studied the artifacts and masterpieces we reflected on the civilizations, artists & themes they portrayed.


Beck read about and practiced the proper meditation stance.

In addition to the extensive inside galleries there is an outside sculpture garden. Here we are with some of our new friends.

We are also finding time to relax and just be together. It is neat to watch this quality time between brothers turn into a mellow “jam” session.

Our spirit of adventure and mindset of openness is serving us well. We are adjusting to sleeping and getting ready in much less square footage than we are used to and that is good for us! We all take the spaces we call “home” for granted. We are looking forward to wide open spaces and what awaits us in the Great Plains of our country! Here we come, South Dakota!

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:


“Packed in Like Sardines”

We did it. We packed for 11 weeks on the road, and we packed light (we hoped to…) As Mom puts it, “We are packed in like sardines.” That’s the truth too. Here are a couple of shots of the van Thursday morning before departing for St. Louis. Nerves and anticipation filled the van as we hit the happy trail.

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!

Successful Knoxville Kick-off

The Knoxville Kidney Walk took place on Saturday, June 11th.

Our team, Live Hozho, had a good time on the walk. I was also blessed to be able to speak to the crowd about living organ donation and kidney health.

We raised $915.00 for the National Kidney Foundation. WOW!! Thanks to all of you for your support!

Live Hozho- Make the most of all that surrounds you. Live and give with intention!