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Showing posts from September, 2010

Rockport Fire

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This past weekend a couple of our good Rockport Texas friends lost their motorhome and just about everything else they owned in an early morning fire. Thankfully they both made it out with only minor injuries... but with only their nightclothes. At this point I don't know the cause of the fire... only that it started in the mid-section of the rig, perhaps near the refrigerator.

These folks are experienced fulltimers who have lived and enjoyed this lifestyle for many years. They knew RV systems, the importance of good maintenance, and were safe and cautious in their approach to the lifestyle. But once in a while bad things happen to good people.

This tragedy reminds me again of the importance of having a "grab bag" prepared and near you at all times. We first heard about this idea when we attended a Life on Wheels conference before we started fulltiming almost 4 years ago. The concept is to have as many of your important and tough-to-replace papers and documentation in on…

What's In a Name?

A recent 'Question for Thom':  Hey TH, what's with this propensity of fulltimers to apply human names to inanimate objects?

You know, I've noticed this too. In fact, it's become so endemic that it's hard not to notice. It seems that it really doesn't matter what thing it is, if it's in or near the RV, it's a target for this naming phenomenon -- cars, trucks, RV, motorcycles, electronic gizmos, appliances, and on and on.

After pondering this for a while, I think it might derive from loneliness, or boredom, or terminal cuteness, or, perhaps an attempt at humor. In reality, it's probably some combination of all of the above. Come on, how can I be lonely or bored when I have Mr. Hoover (my vacuum cleaner) to help me clean, or Mr. Dell (my laptop computer) to help me with my email and paying my bills, or Philomina Blacktank (!!???) to hold and protect my wastes, or Old Blue (my bicycle) to take me for rides, or Buffy (my electric buffer) to …

A Few Busy Days

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I have a few minutes to punch out a quick journal entry... so here goes. Sorry, no pictures either, as the photo editor (aka the Safety Director, Navigatress, and Quality Control Specialist) has been busy either making or pursuing touring plans for the family.

After returning from the Oregon Coast we wandered the Columbia River shoreline in Vancouver on Friday where we also lingered for refreshments at a restaurant's outside deck... and ended up lingering right through dinner. The warm cloudless day prompted a lot of people to come out of hiding and bask in the sun, so people-watching was enjoyable. Mt. Hood stood watch in the East and the river was full of boaters getting an early start to the weekend. One of the nicer days of the week so far.

But Saturday may have been even nicer. We started the day with breakfast at a cool little bagel place in downtown Vancouver, followed by visiting the farmers market just a couple blocks away. Vancouver has one of the nicest farmers markets …

The Cool Coast

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Our visitors from Wisconsin arrived via Amtrak on Monday morning. Believe it or not, the train was actually one minute early... something I certainly didn't expect. Way to go Amtrak.

Dar's Mom and Dad, Marion and Cal, were tired from the two day trip but in good spirits. Nothing wrong here that a good hot breakfast and a nap won't cure.

We'll keep them pretty busy with visiting Andrea and Gage and the two munchkins... their great-grandkids (our grandkids... Ryan and Evan) and some other sightseeing Dar has in mind.

On Tuesday and Wednesday we were over on the Oregon Coast. Poking our noses in here and there, it took most of the two days to explore from Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia, to Newport about 100 miles to the South. Tuesday night we stayed in Oceanside, OR., at a little motel high on a bluff directly above the beach, a perfect place to watch a gorgeous sunset.

The Oregon Coast is among the most picturesque in the world. High rugged capes, large "stacks…

Monday Update

Short post to the Journal...

In a few minutes, we're going down to the Amtrak Station to pick up Dar's Mom and Dad. They wanted to take a trip this fall and, after some deliberation, decided to take Amtrak's Empire Builder out to Washington. They'll be in town for a week.

The weather doesn't look the best for their time here but tomorrow and Wednesday look to be the best for outdoor stuff and sightseeing. The plan at this point is to run over to the Oregon coast for a day or two. It's one of the most scenic coastlines around -- but the trick is to catch it on one of the relatively rare really nice days to get the best experience (and photos). We're hoping.

We've been maxing out our time with the grand-kids of course. And we enjoyed seeing more of our Washington family at a birthday get-together yesterday for Gage (son-in-law) and Shirleen (Gage's Mom). It was a lot of fun.

Journal updates might sparse this week, considering all the activity. But I&#…

US Highway 2 Finale

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Let me now get back to the events of Wednesday, the day we left Grand Coulee, crossed the Cascades, and finished our US-2 drive. The tail-end of the day provided us with an unusual challenge too, but that's another story which I'll get into in my next post.

We left the Grand Coulee area about 9am and headed back to Wilbur. In order to drive all of US-2 we had to get back the point where we got off... and that meant rolling about 20 miles eastward to Wilbur in order to preserve the objective.

Once pointed in the right direction again we came to Coulee City, the town on the south end of Banks Lake. There, a 2 mile long earthen dam was constructed across the Grand Coulee gorge to form the lake. Hwy 2 sits atop that dam... Banks Lake to the north, and Dry Falls to the south.

During the great prehistoric floods that created the landforms in this area, vast quantities of water would come rushing down Grand Coulee at speeds up to 60 miles per hour, through the area that's now Bank…

A Big Dam

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As I write this on a rainy (yes, we're back in the Northwest!) Thursday morning, we're camped at a very nice Cabelas store in Lacey, WA., just a little ways south of the Seattle/Tacoma metroplex. We had a long 325 mile day yesterday... longer than planned after my first overnight camp selection at a Walmart just north of the big city turned sour and we opted to battle both rush-hour traffic and rain to make it down here by nightfall. Have I mentioned lately how much I like big cities? I'll write more about yesterday in my next post.

What I haven't covered yet is our visit to the Grand Coulee area of Washington. Since our trek west on US-2 comes within a mere 30 miles of big Dam, and since Dar hadn't seen it yet, we diverted from our path at Wilbur to check it out.

We arrived at the Grand Coulee RV Park by early afternoon and hustled on down to the visitor center after parking. The dam is an impressive thing to see, even if you've seen it before. It was built in …

Sparky Spokane

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As I mentioned in yesterday's post Dar and I trekked on down to Spokane yesterday afternoon. After meeting up with Julianne and Jimmy, we had a snack and then walked through the Riverfront Park area of downtown. The Spokane River runs through downtown and the area was spruced up for the 1974 Worlds Fair -- Expo '74. A few structures remain from the fair but the park that brackets the river is a wonderful asset for the city. Even though it was Sunday there was so much going on and the place just seemed so vibrant.

I don't think I mentioned that J&J had also invited us to a rooftop party held annually by a photographer who's very well connected in the Spokane arts community. And what a party it was. During the afternoon we met a bunch of interesting and talented folks... architects, dancers, painters, sculptors, writers, and many more that aren't popping to mind right now. Everyone was so friendly and gracious and talkative... we had a very good time. We were told…

Life in the Woods

We've been enjoying our camp at the Riley Creek Recreation Area along the Pend d'Oreille (pronounced "Pawn Dor-ay") River in Northern Idaho. Once again the Corps of Engineers came through with a great campground... the best in the area according to the locals we've talked to... which would be why it's so popular. Despite the post-Labor Day, early Fall, after back-to-school timing, the place is packed this weekend. Every one of the 67 sites is full. But it's a weekend phenomenon this time of year, and we'll almost have the place to ourselves by later this afternoon.

Firewood has been our biggest problem. After a busy summer of campers scavenging the woods for every dry stick and twig the only option left is to either bring your own (which all locals do), or buy it. But despite being in the middle of billions of trees and the forest products industry being the major economic activity around here and no shortage of people trying to eek out an existence u…

Crazy Drive to Idaho

Just a short post tonight... and no pics since the photo editor took the night off. We left Columbia Falls this morning about 9am, headed west on US-2, and experienced driving through the mountains the way it used to be in the old days.

In the last few years, if they wanted to build an Interstate Highway across a mountain range they'd pretty much just bulldoze the mountain, put the material from the high spots into the low spots, pour 4 wide lanes of concrete... and you'd have a nice straight stretch of road that was easy to drive but would lull everybody to sleep. Add a few Holiday Inn Expresses, Cracker Barrels, McDonalds, and Flying Js and you'd have a road that looked and felt like every other I-road in the USA. I mean, why go to Idaho if you can experience the same driving sensation you find in Indiana?

The great thing about driving the old US highways... like US-2... is that you drive around mountains, through small towns, and experience how people are living in, ohh…

Plans and Weather

We've extended our stay here in Columbia Falls for an additional day. All the weather forecasters are predicting a wet day tomorrow, Thursday, so we're going to sit tight and wait for the slightly dryer weather expected for Friday.

Maybe I'll dig into a new book...
T

The Bear Drive

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After our working weekend it was time to get out and back into the Park again. So yesterday, Tuesday, the plan was to take US-2 east from Columbia Falls, down around the southern end of the Park to East Glacier, up MT-49 and US-89 to St. Mary, followed by a full-length transit of Going to the Sun Road back to West Glacier and our starting point -- total distance of about 200 miles.We had already traversed US-2 westbound when we arrived in the area last week. But taking the same route by car allowed us to stop at more points of interest, stop more often for photos, and be more spontaneous in our explorations. The real objective of the day was to explore the east side of the park which we’ve really neglected the past few days. One necessary stop was Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier. Built by the Great Northern Railway in 1913, it was the first destination hotel completed and the gateway to the rest of the Park. The East Glacier Amtrak station is immediately adjacent to the Lodge. We v…

A Labor Day for us

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I took advantage of a mostly cloudy and cool day here in Columbia Falls to wash about 1200 miles of grime off the bus-house exterior. We've done more than our normal amount of driving in the rain on this leg of the journey between the U.P. of Michigan and here... and wet roads just make a mess of everything. The poor old toad really gets blasted. Imagine, during a heavy rain, following a bus with your car about 5 feet behind. The big tires of the bus suck up tons of water and dirt from the road, fling it into the air, and blast it all back at the toad at 60 miles per hour. I don't like moving on rainy days for this reason alone.

Besides the usual road dust and mud, we had a little extra cleaning to do on the bus-house's front end. I often have to deal with your normal bug squishes, but we drove through a section of US-2 in Eastern Montana where the lowest 3 feet of the front end (what you might call the bumper area... if we actually had a real bumper... which we don't.…

Rainy Sunday

While weekend crowds are filling the Park, we're taking a couple days to catch up with all the photos, a video production, and some writing that have backlogged from recent explorations. And a little relaxation and "kicking back" ain't a bad idea either. Stay-at-home days like these are also conducive to better eating. Last night Dar made a wonderful iteration of her alfredo primavera pasta -- loaded with all the veggies we had stashed in the fridge. Yumm!

You might want to check out a couple recent Glacier Park photo albums on our online photo gallery. The one titled "Going to the Sun" really took a lot of work. Dar had to cull through 470 photos from two cameras... couldn't get the "saves" any lower than 175, of which 54 are online. She tells me that a lot of great photos from that day ended up in the trash bin. This is the album with more great photos of our encounter with the Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goats. I believe you'll enjoy the…

Going to the Sun

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We're trying to take advantage of good weather days, so we headed back into the Park on Friday for day 2 of our Glacier Park explorations. The plan was a slow meander up Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass and a hike to Hidden Lake from the Visitors Center at the top.

Glacier National Park was created by Congress in 1910. Early visitors arrived via the Great Northern Railway and stayed in a series of chalets or grand hotels which were also built by the railroad. During the 1920s work began on the Going to the Sun Road. It was designed to cater to a growing number of automobile-borne tourists and to join the East and West sides of the Park. After years of difficult engineering and construction challenges the 53 mile long road was completed in 1932.


And what an amazing road it is. Because it's so narrow and curvy vehicles longer than 21 feet and wider than 8 feet (including mirrors) are prohibited. There are many places where the rock walls intrude into the roadway... which cou…

Gorgeous Glacier

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After our quick move to the new camp yesterday, Dar and I headed into the Park for an afternoon of exploring. We were here 30 years ago with our then 4 yr. old daughter and thought it'd be fun to see how our memories held up over the years. During that first visit, we tent camped along Lake McDonald, stayed at Lake McDonald Lodge one night, and then another night at Many Glacier Lodge way over on the east side of the Park.

We're trying to take advantage of the good weather predicted for Thursday and Friday because things should deteriorate after that. The future looks wetter with a chance of rain every day through next Thursday. So while I'm behind on Journal posts, and Dar's behind on our photo albums, we're going to pack as much exploring as we can before Saturday.

We entered the Park through West Glacier, the commercialized gate community at the junction of US-2 and Going to the Sun Highway. First stop was Apgar Village at the foot of Lake McDonald. With the bri…

Good to Have Wheels

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Slamming car doors... loud laughter and talking... two drunken fools verbally and physically sparing with each other... a crying child... a woman's voice trying to quiet things down... broken glass... and more... cursing... and yelling... and one loud side of a few phone calls. It was midnight and this is what awakened me from my deep sleep. Alert... warning... "sound the alarm"... DefCon 5!... red alert... WAKE UP... prepare for battle.

Our first night after setting up camp at this un-named RV campground near Glacier provided a few tense moments for our intrepid explorers. The "perps" were a young couple, (he was celebrating his 20th birthday -- just a baby), their 2 yr. old child (do the math... babies having babies!), and a couple relatives (brother? brother-in-law? and spouse? girlfriend?) who were there to apparently help this 20 yr. old celebrate this monumental occasion. They, the couple and their kid, were living in a very small RV trailer amid piles of…

Across the Great Divide

This afternoon we crossed the Great Divide at Marias Pass (5,213 ft.) on US-2 at the southern edge of Glacier National Park, and we're now on the Pacific Ocean side of the continent, where we'll be for a few months. Both Dar and I have missed the mountains... the dry air, changeable and unpredictable weather, coolness bordering on cold-ness, the vistas, stark white fresh snow framed by angry dark clouds and the brightest blue sky you can imagine... this is some of what we experienced today. And we relished every moment of it.

Tonight, we're at a small RV Park just outside the west entrance to Glacier NP. The campgrounds in Glacier don't have hookups at all, and since the temps are predicted to get down near freezing the next night or two, we opted for a place with "plug-eens" (power) for our little electric heater. That's one thing we like about this lifestyle... having options.

I'd have included a picture of our campsite here... but Verizon is being …