Thursday, September 29, 2011


We’ve moved on from a great stay in Baker City, and I have a fun story from there which I will write and post in a day or two .  First, though, some good news on a couple of our dysfunctional items, and on thoughts on your comments on my prior post:

Our water heater problem is fixed!  It took two stops: the first at the officially certified Suburban water heater repair shop in Boise, Idaho, where they diagnosed our problem as a major meltdown of our AC electric system (we didn’t try to talk them out of this ridiculous idea, since we have already lost faith in their ability to help us); the second to Boise Valley (not mentioned on Suburban’s list of authorized repair facilities), neighbor to - and recommended by - the first place. 

Dave Duncan at Boise Valley RV accommodated us immediately when we showed up in mid-afternoon.  Very personable,  he is one of those guys who has been working with RV’s forever, and you immediately feel he will stick with the problem until he finds it and fixes it.  Within an hour, our water heater was working.  We stuck around long enough to make sure it was indeed fixed, paid the bill, and went on our way.  YAY!  Oh, and Odel got a free t-shirt in Boise Bronco orange (blindingly bright), which is is wearing proudly as we sightsee in Boise.

(Here is another plug for  Please, please review your good and bad service experiences there, and don’t forget to check it out before you pick a service facility.)

While in Baker City, our almost-two-year-old Garmin 255WT GPS died, unable to load its map.  We still had a couple weeks left on our Geek Squad Black Tie Protection Plan, so we headed over to the Boise Best Buy while the water heater repair was underway.  They don’t bother repairing 2 year old GPS units, so we qualified for a swap – our non-functional unit for a new, equivalent GPS. 

Soon after buying our first GPS, I decided that there was one feature ours didn’t have that I would pay extra for: route optimization, the ability to add several stops to a route and have the GPS arrange them in the most logical order.  So, instead of wanting a new “equivalent” GPS, I wanted a new, improved GPS, with the capability to add and rearrange many stops.

For an extra $30, we were able to turn in the non-functional GPS and upgrade to the unit I wanted (which was on sale).  We walked out the door with a new Garmin 1450 LMT with free lifetime map updates, route optimization, up-to-date maps and points of interest, and other goodies made possible by technical advances in the past two years.  We are very, very happy with that result.   While we don’t rely on our GPS for route planning when moving the motorhome (though we do plug in the final route when we have checked out all our usual sources), we’ve come to rely heavily on the GPS when we are in the Jeep, navigating unfamiliar roads.  I’m having a great time playing with the new GPS here in Boise, discovering several new features we will enjoy.

Now, a couple of thoughts on your comments on my last post:

Don’t worry about our windshield.  The crack is off to one side, vertical, not in our line of vision, and has already run from one edge to the other.  We have reported it to our insurance company and we keep an eye on it, but nothing about it changes.  We aren’t worried that our windshield is going to fall out.

Several of you have suggested a residential refrigerator, and we have considered that as a possibility if our current refrigerator requires costly repairs.  Though we boondock infrequently, we DO boondock a week or so at a time once or twice during the year, and don’t want to lose that capability.  Because we boondock so infrequently, and because our motorhome came with a humongous generator which needs to be “exercised” at least monthly to keep it in tip-tip shape, we have never invested in a solar system.  With our current setup, we can boondock for 36-48 hours in moderate weather without recharging if we run our water heater and refrigerator on gas and turn off the inverter when we don’t need it.  Before we would switch to a residential refrigerator, we would need to figure out whether we would still have reasonable boondocking capability (meaning: no need to run the generator more than once a day for an hour or two).

Croft, thanks for the laugh with your refrigerator comment.  We have had BOTH doors fall off (not at the same time, thank goodness)!  That’s a shock, isn’t it?  And of course the entire door has to be replaced because the little hinge that broke is an integral part of the door… sheesh.

Speaking of residential refrigerators and general RV problems, I can’t sign off without mentioning our blogging friend Judy (Travels with Emma).  She had a residential refrigerator installed last winter, and her blog is a great source of information on the process (click Upgrade Update and Refer Update Part Two to read her posts about the replacement).

Judy is now experiencing the mean mother of all RV problems: her RV’s computer mother board has failed.  Read her recent posts (beginning here, with her post from September 12) if you want to put minor RV problems into perspective!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Odel with OxenEarly in our travels, we had trouble with a slide topper awning, displaced by a heavy wind.  After our neighbor, an easy-going guy in an older converted bus, helped Odel straighten the slide topper, we spent time chatting about the fairly constant stream of minor and major issues that plague those of us living in RV’s.  He told us something that became our mantra: “If I’m 80% problem free, I’m 100% good”.  In other words, everything on/in your RV will never be perfect at the same time, so be happy when your issues are few.

So, though we usually have an item or two or three that need attention from a professional, we’re pretty happy with 80% working – as long as the problems don’t keep us from moving.  Up until a week ago, our list was short: we have a crack in our windshield (which we are ignoring); we have a noisy problem with our door lock (only annoying on a bumpy road).  Our automatic leveling system is automatic in theory only – after the third “fix” didn’t last several years ago, we gave up and now deploy the jacks individually.

Wagon and VCOur hot water heater does a half hearted job when heating with electricity – but does great when heating with gas.  We have an appointment to get this looked at soon (actually, we are at the service facility right now as I write; Odel is hovering over the knowledgeable repairman asking a million questions).

Five or six days ago, we moved into the RV’ers no-mans land: our refrigerator stopped cooling!  Gulp.  Big, big, gulp!

We got home to Lincoln Rock State Park from our trip to Lake Wenatchee to find both the refrigerator and freezer about 10 degrees warmer than usual, above what we consider acceptable.  After we opened and closed all the doors, bumped the temperature setting up to the maximum cold setting, and turned the unit off and on, it started cooling again.  By three days later, it was as cool as we have every seen it (as monitored by three remote transmitters we put inside the fresh food and freezer compartments and consulted obsessively).

Just when we breathed a sign of relief and declared it a glitch – boom, it happened again, as we were enjoying our visit to Baker City, OR (click here to read our review of Mountain View RV Park).  This time, we went into full troubleshooting mode.

Inside the wagonRefrigerator problems are not new to us, and recalls, fires, defunct or balky cooling are the frequent subjects of RV’ers blog posts and conversations (read Paul and Mary’s recent excellent posts on the issue here and here).  Of all the appliances that can fail, an RV refrigerator - which runs on both AC power and propane and requires a DC connection - is the worst.  Not only are you likely to lose the contents of your freezer and refrigerator, but past experience has proven to us that finding the cause of the problem is likely to be a long-term and costly process.  We are once again beginning the troubleshooting steps.  Maybe an easy fix, maybe a difficult/expensive one… we’ll see.

We’d come to Baker City to revisit the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and complete the Hell’s Canyon Scenic Byway drive that we had begun when we stayed in Joseph earlier this summer.  The temperature was in the mid-80’s when we stopped at the Interpretive Center; with the exception of irrigated farms, the rolling hills were brown, dry, and uninviting as far as the eye could see.

IMG_3772“Interpretive Center” is an accurate description for this wonderful center; the exhibits, videos, and interactive displays bring the history of the great western migration alive in a most evocative way.  Driven by the difficulties of life in the southern and eastern US, travelers on the trail faced incredible hardships – breakdowns, disease, accidents, skirmishes, death.

Talk about a new perspective!  We might not have HOT water, but we have water… and from a faucet, no less.  Refrigerator not working?  No need to eat maggoty flour or moldy bacon – let’s head to Safeway, or the nearest café!  Too hot to walk?  Hop in the car; we’ll turn on the AC while we see the sights!

So, while we feel a bit plagued by the imperfections of our modern conveniences (oh, I forgot to mention that our GPS died yesterday, and that our Verizon aircard is giving us fits), life is still good rolling down the (graded, paved) road!

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Columbia River vista

East of the Cascade range, the state of Washington is very dry.  If you haven’t visited, what you see in your mind’s eye when you hear “Washington” is NOT what the eastern part of this state looks like! 

Heading south from Wenatchee, we traveled roads that hugged the banks of the Columbia River for many, many miles.  Orchards heavy with apples and pears lined both sides of the road, surrounded by dry brown scrub on massive, barren hillsides.  Brilliant green grass flagged riverside parks.  Above it all, giant erector set towers carried popping, crackling transmission wires from the many dams of the Columbia river to the Northwest’s power grid.  Small fishing boats floated tranquilly.  All hail the mighty Columbia!

By early afternoon, we settled into a shady site at Plymouth Park (click here to read our review and see photos), a Corps of Engineers campground in the very tiny town of Plymouth, Washington, adjacent to the Columbia River where I-82 crosses from Washington to Oregon.  Planned as a one-night stop, we walked back to the entry booth in the cool shade of evening to pay for another night’s stay… it was that nice and, with a Golden Age Pass, the price was great. 

Time to harvest apples
Left: Boxes await the new crop of apples near Wenatchee.

Below left: We followed the Columbia river for many miles, sometimes next to the water, sometimes far above it.  This truck was heavily laden with apples.

Below right: irrigated orchards and hydropower transmission lines – typical scenes from the area near Wenatchee.
Apple truck along the Columbia River Electric line and orchards

Our friends Nickie and Jimmy tipped us off to Plymouth Park when they had stayed here a week earlier.  Avid walkers and hikers, they suggested visiting McNary Dam to walk the nature trails there, so that is what we did on our “extra” day. 

The main visitor center at McNary Dam is on the Oregon side of the river, a 15 minute drive from the campground.  The Pacific Salmon Visitor Center is all about fish, the fish ladders at the dam, and how the fish are tagged, clipped and tracked going and coming.  We watched a few fish come through the viewing windows, but there wasn’t much action.   The visitor center itself was almost deserted this time of year - we saw one family and zero staff.  We pulled a trail map out of the brochure rack and set off to explore the grounds.

McNary Dam and Lock from the green OR sideWow!  Acres and acres of thick, lush, green grass transform the riverbank into an oasis.  Wooden platforms offer expansive views of the huge dam, the locks, and the totally brown, barren hillsides and cliffs of the Washington State side of the river.  The benefit and importance of the life-giving irrigation could not be more apparent.

We followed the trails along the bank, through woodlands, wetlands, and past 15 foot high blackberry brambles heavy with fruit.  By the time we finished our walk, the sun was high in the sky, with temperatures headed to the upper 80’s; sweat trickled down my neck. 

Back at camp, I moved my lounger into the shade, snagged my Kindle and an iced tea, and spent the remainder of the afternoon reading, observing birds and bugs, watching the neighbors’ activities, and snoozing now and then.  A great day along the mighty river of the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Perfect appleApples!  Apples, apples and more apples!  And pears, peaches… the orchards of Wenatchee, Washington, are laden with fruit, ripe and ready to be picked.  I can’t imagine where they get the workers to bring it all in; it was common to see signs proclaiming “Help Wanted – Necesitamos Ayuda” along the road as we traveled.

When we visited Wenatchee early in July, cherries were the crop of the moment – but I always think of Washington as the state for apples, and I knew I wanted to return during the apple harvest.  After we set up camp at Lincoln Rock State Park (click here to read our review), we set off for the Washington Apple Commission Visitor Center. 

The Washington Apple Commission is all about boosterism, and we watched their upbeat 16 minute video about apple farming in Washington while we munched on free samples… and learned a few things.  One big surprise: when apple trees blossom, buds grow in clusters.  The first bud to open is the “king” blossom, and all the other buds in the cluster (which looked like 6-10 more buds) are either removed by hand, or treated by hand so that they cannot open so only the king blossom will be pollinated and produce an apple.  Can you imagine?  These are big trees, covered with buds, and 60% or more of those buds need hand removal or treatment.  Who does all that work??  Necesitamos Ayuda!

Pears ready to harvest Apples ready to harvest
Wenatchee Apple Bin Delicious Peaches

According to the video, Washington produces more than 15 billion (yes, that is billion with a B) apples each year.  It looks like about 10 billion of them are still hanging on the trees in the orchards lining the roads around Wenatchee, and ALL harvesting of apples, pears and peaches is done by hand.  It’s incredible! 

Leavenworth LibraryDo you know Aplets and Cotlets?  They are rather odd little fruit candies, been around for years, difficult to describe – a soft, jelled confection, cut in squares and dusted with powdered sugar.  Well, the Aplets and Cotlets factory is in Cashmere, Washington, just up the road from Wenatchee, a stop on our way to Lake Wenatchee State Park. 

We arrived at the factory around 11 am, just in time to miss the factory operation as the workers took their lunch break.  We peeked through the windows at the slumbering candy line, sampled each of the three flavors (aplet, cotlet, and a strawberry version that didn’t have an “et” name), made a few purchases, and continued on up the road to Leavenworth.

Many, many people LOVE Leavenworth, Washington.  I am not among them.

This small Washington town, surrounded by forested peaks of the Cascades, adopted a strict municipal building code for the city center in the 1960’s, modeling itself as a Bavarian village and, thereby creating a tourist attraction.  It works, drawing over two million visitors a year. 

Lake Wenatchee at the state park of the same name.When we first visited Leavenworth five years ago, I was annoyed by the rampant commercialism (how many Bavarian trinkets, music boxes, and t-shirts can tourists buy??) and irritated by the oompah music playing from speakers all over town.  On this trip, I went with an open mind, thinking it couldn’t really have been as annoying as I remembered.  Guess what?  It really WAS!

We parked, walked a few blocks, had lunch in the outdoor beer garden at Munchen Haus (yes, yes, German spelling rules, except for Starbucks, which is Bavarian in looks only) listening to polkas.  Each store we passed sold items ONLY a tourist would buy.  I was SO READY to leave!  But don’t worry, Leavenworth thrives without grumpy Laurie.  :)

Lake Wenatchee, on the other hand, was calm and quiet, just about deserted.  We hiked along the lake shore enjoying the weather and the views, exchanging smiles with the few others visitors we saw.  Just my kind of place.

We pulled out of Lincoln Rock State Park this morning, headed for points south, our refrigerator bins laden with three varieties of apples, Bartlett and Asian pears, and a couple beautiful, perfumed peaches.  Excellent time of year to visit this lush, orchard-covered valley.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Do you remember the TV show Northern Exposure?  If you do, this photo will look familiar to you!

Roslyn CafeAfter we left our gathering of friends in Sammamish, we drove a short hop over Snoqualmie Pass to the eastern side of the Cascades and our home for the next four nights, Sun Country Golf and RV Resort (click here to read our review).   It’s lucky Odel sprinted out onto the course as soon as we were set up – for half our stay, it rained.  :(

So, why’d we pick this particular spot?  Several years ago, we visited with our friends Jim and Diane when they were camp hosts nearby.  Jim gave us a great tour of the area (not far from their summer home base) and we had good memories… throw in the golf course for Odel and we figured a few days of closer exploration was in order.

As soon as Odel headed out on the links, I jumped into the Jeep to do a little of the slow, circuitous exploration that is best done alone – checking out this little road here, missing a turn there, taking a dirt road that looks interesting (but dusty), backtracking because I saw a garden that I liked, or wondered about the trail sign I thought I saw over on the left side… all of that is easier when I am the only person in the vehicle! 

Iron Horse trailI found several “places of interest” (for some reason, that always reminds me of the law enforcement phrase, “persons of interest”) for Odel and I to explore the following day.  The first was Iron Horse State Park, one of the many rails-to-trails projects we have seen in our travels.  Originally part of the Chicago-Milwaukee-St.Paul-Pacific Railroad, the trail extends more than 100 miles – plenty of room for us to stretch our legs.  :)

I had noticed the trail running along adjacent to the golf course where we camped; when I took a walk there, I wondered about this mileage marker: 2091 miles from Chicago!  During my exploration in the Jeep, I found a well-interpreted section of the trail in South Cle Elum, and we returned there together the next day.

South Cle Elum had been a major stop for the trains, where crews changed, locomotives were serviced,  and cars added or removed.  There was a passenger depot, a bunkhouse, a roundhouse and a turntable.

Round House RuinsA big surprise?  A 200+ mile section of the railroad that ran over Snoqualmie Pass (and through tunnels) was electrified in 1920, using electric motors (and the resulting overhead wires) in the locomotives!   During the lifespan of the railroad (summer of 1909 through March of 1980), this line was traveled by steam locomotives – first fired by coal, then by oil - electric locomotives and diesel locomotives.

We followed the trail around the grounds of the Cle Elum yard, where only the passenger depot (beautifully restored) and the electrification building still stand, reading the history of the now very quiet grounds.  In less than a century, the rail line was built, the tunnels blasted… the variety of locomotion developed and replaced… the railroad overtaken by the competition of trucks… the railroad company bankrupt and the rails abandoned.  It is a story we see often in our travels: abandoned homes or ranches falling into decay, abandoned businesses boarded up, with paint peeling…  it is always interesting to imagine the dreams of the people who built the homes and the businesses.   So much energy expended! 

Baby Burger at the BrickAnother rail trail is just a few miles away in Roslyn.  Here the story was coal mining, and the trail runs past slag heaps (which we saw) and mine ruins (which we didn’t see).  Of far greater interest to us by now was lunch, and we knew just where we wanted to go in Roslyn: The Brick.  If you remember Northern Exposure, you will recognize it as the bar/café where the characters of Northern Exposure so frequently got together (both the exterior and interior were used in filming).

Our fond memories of The Brick came from our visit with Jim and Diane.  We were surprised when, during our tour of the area with them, Jim said he’d buy us all (6 of us) burgers for lunch!  We trooped on in to The Brick and Jim went off to order our burgers. 

We almost fell on the floor laughing when they arrived – two baskets of three tiny burgers each, one for each of us!  (Diane Gruelle, I think that is your hand in the photo!)  So, in honor of our friend Jim, that is what I had for lunch, the appetizer threesome of burgers; Odel ordered a regular sized burger and we both had a local microbrew, thinking of our friends and that day.

Inside The BrickThe Brick has a beautiful bar, and a sign above our table provided a little history on the place:

“Welcome to The Brick, the oldest operating saloon in the state of Washington.  The Brick was built in 1889 by Mayor Peter Giovanini and is a hometown product made from brick manufactured in the Roslyn community. 

'”The back bar was shipped from England around Cape Horn and was purchased in Portland, Oregon.  It is more than 100 years old.

“The longevity of the chairs and tables is owed to Sears & Roebuck – acquired shortly after the turn of the century.”

In some ways, Roslyn reminds me of Bisbee, Arizona: each town founded on mining (coal in Roslyn and copper in Bisbee), with a long history of labor strife and struggle, each town falling on hard economic times when the mines were no longer profitable.  As artists and other independent souls moved in and began to rehabilitate the homes and commercial buildings, each town has created a new identity.  Both worth a visit!

More flowers than I have every seen on one house!

The Coal Miner’s Memorial in Roslyn.

Roslyn Flower House Coal Miner's Memorial

The following day, we were off reasonably early in the morning to visit Ellensburg, 30 miles away.  The draw?  The Saturday farmer’s market, of course!  Here was more evidence that summer is on the wane: plenty of corn and tomatoes, but the winter squash were abundant, too… and then the sprinkles started!

By the time we made our purchases and drove home the “back way”, foregoing I-90 for a more scenic route, the clouds were low and threatening.  The sprinkles of the morning turned into steady rain as the day progressed.  We headed back to the Iron Horse rail trail during a too-short break in the rain on Sunday, and 36 hours of steady cloud cover and cool temperatures did make us wonder:  is summer gone in Washington?

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Fred with smile Jo with smile
Laurie with smile Odel with Smile
Linda with smile Margaret with smile
Steven with smile
I mentioned that we did a lot of laughing when we visited with our friends last week. Every time I look at this goofy series of photos (courtesy of Steven, plus the photo Fred took of Steven to the left), I get a big (real) grin on my face.

When we left Seattle, we traveled east and are currently camped on the edge of a golf course.  We arrived on a beautiful, sunny day and Odel headed right out to the links.  Now, as I write this, clouds are hanging on the mountaintops and golfers are wearing rain gear. 

We’re inside, staying warm and tossing out ideas for our travels between here and Sacramento, 4 weeks away. 

Smiles and safe travels, wherever you roam.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Odel, Margaret, Linda, Steven, Fred, JoOh, what a week it’s been! 

Last Thursday, we arrived at Tall Chief RV Park (click here to read our review) for a gathering of friends, in the works for a couple months.  Linda and Steven (who live here) have camped with Margaret (who lives in Phoenix) in the past.  Margaret is a close friend of Fred and Jo (the Wandering Wishnies, fulltime RV’ers) – I think they met when their paths crossed on a trip to Alaska. 

We have camped with Fred and Jo in the past (we originally met via our blogs, then in person in Tucson), and Margaret (and her late husband, Ian) helped us find the condo we rented when we had our motorhome “freshened” in Phoenix.  I think we all originally met Linda and Steven via the internet, and Odel and I had lunch with Linda and Steven in Coupeville not so long ago.   The connections are a little complicated, but typical of the RV’ing life.

So we all kinda’ know each other, and like each other, and thought a gathering would be fun…

SeattleFun doesn’t begin to describe the week we had.  Is there a word for “congenial times ten”?  Besides our shared interest in good food, wine, cooking, pets, all things RV and travel, our senses of humor seemed to feed off one another.  I laughed so often I had to massage my face at the end of each evening to relax enough to fall asleep.

In between all the eating and drinking, we managed a day of sightseeing in Seattle – a 3 hour cruise through the locks on Lake Union, out into Puget Sound, and back to the downtown docks, followed by a hike up the stairs to Pike Place Market (jammed with tourists).

Our group included some very talented photographers, so I took way fewer photos than usual, knowing our time together would be more than adequately documented.  Except for our day in Seattle, I kept my hands off the camera, simply enjoying the company and experiences… so no photos of the great meals we shared, of Linda’s and Steven’s beautiful lakeside home, of our evening trip on the Pine Lake “party boat”.

Speed Limit Pike Place Peppers

Entering the lock on Lake Union

Colorful peppers at Pike Place Market

It was a great gathering.  Special thanks to Linda and Steven for pulling it all together for us – we had a never-to-be forgotten time.

Tomorrow we head east, returning to our regularly scheduled programming.  :)  

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Glorious Mt. RainierWow!  Mt. Rainier was eye-popping on Wednesday, not a cloud in the sky!

At the end of our stay in Astoria, we had two days to travel up to the Seattle area for a long-planned gathering of friends.  With a forecast of warm, sunny weather, it looked like we had a good chance to see Mt. Rainier from bottom to top.  We found a new-to-us campground, reasonably close to Mt. Rainier (even closer to the east side of Mt. St. Helens) and off we went.

Odel on snow at Mt. RainierTaidnapam (pronounced Tide-na-pom) Park (click here to read our review and see photos) situated on Riffe Lake, is owned by Tacoma Power, the power supplier for the city of Tacoma.  When we arrived on Tuesday afternoon, it was less than a quarter full, most of the campers having left on Labor Day. 

It seemed like we spent hours picking out our site… too many choices!  We finally settled on a long, level site and set up camp.  Roof-mounted satellite TV dishes don’t work here, and we didn’t have a local NPR radio station, either.   Surrounded by tall pines, without our usual ties to the “outside world”, it felt like real camping (well, except for the full hookups and cell service!).

On Wednesday, we were off to see Mt. Rainier.  We haven’t been in that national park for five years, but had fond memories of the sunshine, the beautiful lakes and trails, and the lush gardens of wildflowers.  Yesterday, we had a repeat performance.

The good thing about visiting the park after Labor Day was the absence of huge crowds of people.  The bad thing was the road construction!  Highway 12, the road from I-5 over to Yakima and the main route to Mt. Rainier, had big electric signs announcing delays of up to 2 hours.  Fortunately, we turned off of highway 12 to Taidnapam Park before we tangled with the serious road construction.

distant waterfallThe main road into the park is closed, so the only access to Paradise, the most visited area of the park and home to the visitor center, is through the west entrance.  For us, that meant a drive north on highway 7, also undergoing (thankfully, minor) construction.  Once in the park, access to most of the eastern side was difficult (or impossible) – but our goal was Paradise (isn’t everyone's??) and we persisted.  We found a parking spot in the visitor center parking lot, ate our picnic lunch in the sunshine, watched the park’s overview video, and headed off up Deadhorse trail towards the glacier-covered mountain.

If I ever take a photography class, it will be “How to Photograph Lush Wildflower Gardens With Your Little Pocket Sized Digital Camera”.  Photographing the massive bulk of Mt. Rainier, shining (and melting) in the warm sunshine was easy.  Capturing the beauty of the multicolored, multilayered wildflower gardens was impossible (for me).  Small creeks burbled through moss and flowers; tiny waterfalls trickled down rock faces through hanging gardens.  We crossed crusty patches of snow now and then, and stopped frequently to exclaim at the incredible views of Mt. Rainier.

At the end of our trail. close enough to the glaciers to hear the sounds of distant ice chunks falling, we caught our breath and turned back.  Behind us, unseen as we huffed and puffed our way up the trail, snow covered Mt. Adams shimmered in the bright sunshine like a mirage in the far distance, another of the great volcanic cones of the Cascades (Mt. Adams is the second highest mountain in Washington; Mt. Rainier is the tallest).

Since I heard from so many readers about the layout my photographs from Astoria, I thought I’d also post the Mt. Rainier photos as an album – this time, in a slightly different format.  I like it.

Monday, September 5, 2011


The bridge to WashingtonThe Weather Gods surely smiled on Astoria this weekend!  A gloriously HOT (mid-80’s) Saturday was followed by a beautifully sunny Sunday.  Foggy Monday morning gave way to sunshine and 70 degrees in the afternoon (while the fog bank hung over the beach, a few miles to our west).

Odel gets his toes wetWe took full advantage.  We visited Ft. Clatsop (where Lewis and Clark and company spent a cramped and dismal winter at the end of their western explorations), then took our lunch for a picnic on the beach at Ft. Stevens State Park.  We walked the paved Riverwalk along the Columbia River in Astoria, and took the narrated ride on the historic Riverfront trolley – where we learned that the entire town of Astoria, first built out of wood on pilings in the Columbia River, burned to the water line in 1922. 

We browsed the Astoria Sunday market.  We visited the Astoria Column and took a drive over to Sunset Beach.  We watched huge freighters in the deep water channel of the Columbia River, where they exchanged the Bar Pilot for the River Pilot.  We walked and gawked and enjoyed a few meals out.  We sat in our chairs on our lawn at Lewis & Clark Golf & RV Resort (click here to read our review) and enjoyed the view and the sunshine. 

The list of what we didn’t do is almost as long.  We passed on the Columbia River Maritime Museum since we toured it last time we visited Astoria – but if you come to Astoria, it should be number ONE on your list (just my opinion)!  We didn’t get out to see the Salt Works, where the Corps of Discovery boiled sea water to extract precious salt.  We didn’t make it to the Flavel House Museum or take the self guided tour of historic Astoria.  See?  I knew there would be a reason to return!

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Good spacing at Lewis and ClarkIn our working lives, Labor Day was somewhat bittersweet – the last summer holiday weekend.  At our house, my large vegetable garden was completely out of control by Labor Day, plants toppled over, dried out, yet producing madly, well beyond my ability or desire to continue harvesting.  Soon the huge maple in our front yard would drop a smothering load of leaves on the small lawn.  In the workplace, vacations were over and everyone buckled down once again… in other words, a time to GET BACK TO WORK!

As retired, fulltime RV’ers, Labor Day is one of our favorite holidays – once it is over.  National parks clear out as kids head back to school.  Weekend campers return their sleeping bags to shelves in the garage until next summer.  For us, it means a return to spontaneous travel, knowing we are likely to find a campsite at any park we choose to visit – no advance reservation required. 

But first we need to get through the holiday weekend!

Though we often choose an Elks Lodge to settle into for a holiday weekend, this year we decided to splurge on a high-end (for us!) RV park, Lewis & Clark Golf and RV Park in Astoria, Oregon (click here to read our review and see photos).  Astoria, celebrating it’s Bicentennial this year, is situated in northwest Oregon, where the truly mighty Columbia River meets the Pacific ocean – the farthest point of Lewis and Clark’s explorations.  The area is saturated with national and state parks, historic sites, and hikes, anchored by a charming small town filled with museums, shops and historic buildings.  Though we have seen the highlights on previous visits, I’m sure we will be leaving many sights unseen once again when we pull out on Tuesday.

Lost Black AngusWe broke the trip from Eugene to Astoria into short legs, spending Thursday night at beautiful L.L. Stub Stewart State Park (click here to read our review and see photos) on the Vernonia/Banks State Trail near Banks, Oregon.  We’d heard nothing but good reviews of L.L. Stub Stewart State Park, a fairly new state park that happened to be on a route we’ve never taken - Hwy 26 from Portland to Hwy 101 on the Oregon coast - so we were looking forward to our short visit.

First day/first leg: traveling north on I-5, we hit a HUGE traffic jam, both northbound lanes of interstate 5 at a complete standstill.  We have a CB that comes in handy at times like this (and remains off the rest of the time) and we heard that both lanes were closed due to an accident.  According to CB chatter, an accident occurred at the spot where the Oregon Highway Patrol has holding a memorial for 3 OHP officers who died at that spot ten years ago. 

I later looked up a news story about the accident (which you can read here): “More than 100 people, including family members and half a dozen police and fire agencies, gathered Thursday just off Interstate 5 for the dedication of Oregon’s first highway memorial sign..” remembering two OHP officers who lost their lives in a traffic accident at that spot 10 years ago.  Ironically, the event was timed to kick off a safe driving awareness campaign over the Labor Day holiday – instead, it was delayed when a Subaru hit the back of a pickup truck as the truck driver slowed at the memorial site.  I wonder if the placement of subsequent highway memorial signs will be handled differently?

Another traffic jamSecond day/second leg: another accident, on a narrow winding stretch of Hwy 26 (the most narrow portion of the highway, which was a very good road).  This time, traffic flowed unimpeded in our direction, but a long, long traffic jam snaked up the hill in the eastbound lane, blocked by a crumpled pickup truck being loaded onto a wrecker.  Be careful out there!

We settled into a beautiful site at Lewis and Clark Golf and RV Resort at 1 pm, then spent the next few hours reading volumes of area information we’d been given at check-in – followed by a delicious dinner at Bridgewater Bistro, tucked in along the waterfront under the towering Astoria-Megler Bridge that crosses the Columbia, connecting Oregon and Washington.  Excellent way to kick off the holiday!