Our Viva!

Suwannee River Rendezvous Resort And Campground • Mayo, FL • JUL 27, 2018

IMG_0197

Remember that Billy Preston song, Will It Go Round In Circles? Well, our trip really did go 'round in circles, at least in terms of departure and return. On our first day on the road, we stayed at Suwannee River Rendezvous Resort And Campground, and on the last night of our trip we stayed there again. It wasn't planned that way—originally, we were going to get home on August 6. That changed to August 5, then changed again to July 29. But on the long drive home, we cut yet another day to get home on the 28th. We were going to stay at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, one of our favorite Florida campgrounds, but when Linda called as Rick was driving we learned that they had no available spots. That was probably a good thing, because it would have meant a 300+ mile drive to get home the next day. Instead, we decided to drive to Suwannee River which would leave us with less than 150 miles to get home. The downside? 574 long miles today!

We made it to the Florida Welcome Center at 2:45 p.m. We're native Ohioans who have called Florida home for over 10 years, and it felt wonderful to be in the Sunshine State again.

We actually were lucky that Suwannee River Campground had a place for us, because they were nearly full. We were so tired we could manage only a short walk for Zoe.

And now to wrap up this fantastic trip:

We arrived home at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 28, after 72 nights on the road. The house was as we left it, except our plasma TV chose to stop working. The yard looked fine, but there were weeds in the flowerbeds from all of the rain Florida has been getting. The weeds will keep Rick busy for about half a day. We drove 10,217 miles and saw so many amazing sights that we could not properly describe in this blog in words or photos, but at least we tried. And speaking of photos, the ones we post on the blog are just a small fraction of the photos we took. We probably shot close to 4,000 photos, deleted about 1,000, thus adding 3,000 or so photos to our already bulging Photos library on Rick's iMac.

The Viva has traveled through 36 states so far, and we spent the night in 32 of those states. Since buying the Viva, we have stayed in 124 different campgrounds. It's hard to believe, but by the end of this trip we had camped in the Viva over 20% of the nights we have had it, or more than 1 in 5 nights. We are getting our money's worth, for sure! We have visited 32 beautiful National Parks, driven through (at least) 52 National Forests, and seen the amazing beauty of our country up close and personal. Do the same if you ever get the opportunity.

Speaking of photos, instead of yet another campground photo of the Viva, we chose to use a photo of us on Sunday night (Rick's birthday) while dining at our favorite Mount Dora restaurant, The Copacabana. It was too hot for Zoe, and she wanted to stay home in the AC.

If you've followed our adventures on this (and other) trips, we thank you and hope you have been entertained, at least a little bit.

Safe travels to our fellow RVers.


IMG_1248
Comments

Magnolia RV Park & Campground • Vicksburg, MS • JUL 26, 2018

IMG_1235

When the highlight of the day is seeing the water tower in the town of Transylvania, Louisiana, you know the sightseeing part of our trip is over and all that remains between our current location and home are miles and miles of pavement to be covered.

Our original destination today was to have been Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas, and possibly beyond to Hot Springs. But our desire to get home more quickly led our fearless navigator (Linda) to choose a different route, and our fearful driver (Rick) to sit behind the wheel for as long as possible. Driving an RV, even a smaller one like ours, is much more tiring than a passenger car. That was always Rick's theory, until it was confirmed by our new road friends Dave and Norma, the couple we met in Mountain Home, Idaho, who said 200 miles in an RV in one day is stretching it. With our revised route today and Rick's determination to press on, we drove 494 miles. We even had to make an adjustment midcourse, as an accident near Little Rock would have resulted in a 90 minute delay.

The RV park had a nice pool which we didn't try, and a nice dog park which Zoe did try.
Comments

Joplin KOA • Joplin, MO • JUL 25, 2018

IMG_1234

After leaving Dodge City, our plan was to drive most of the day and spend the night in Oswego, Kansas. However, when we arrived at the campground in mid-afternoon, it had a number of abandoned trailers (mobile homes, not RVs), several with broken windows and boarded doors. We decided to press on, and ended up staying at Joplin KOA in Joplin, Missouri. We have now traveled to 36 of the 48 contiguous states in the Viva, including every state west of the Mississippi River.

We were tired after 70 days on the road and 350 miles today, so after walking Zoe around the park and taking her to the dog park a couple of times, we called it a night.

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (4 total)
Comments

Gunsmoke RV Park • Dodge City, KS • JUL 24, 2018

IMG_1221

Rounding third and heading for home, Colorado to Florida.

The extra miles yesterday paid dividends by shortening the drive today. We crossed into a new state (Kansas) and a different time zone (Central). We followed the old Santa Fe Trail, Route 50. Not much to see in terms of beauty, as the mountains have flattened out and the colors have turned mostly dull.

As we approached Lamar, Colorado, we did see something horrible, but we smelled the stench first. On our right, stretching for nearly a mile, were thousands of cows standing or lying in a quagmire of mud, manure, and urine, under a blazing sun with no shelter. They were awaiting a trip to the slaughterhouse, and we literally could feel their misery and fear as we went past them. How anyone could see that suffering and not immediately stop eating cows is beyond us. We have never been more thankful to be vegans and no longer contributing to the brutal way those poor animals are treated before they die. Sadly, that was just the first of five or six similar operations we passed.

Our destination was Gunsmoke RV Park in Dodge City, Kansas. As its name suggests, the theme is the old TV show featuring Marshal Dillon, Miss Kitty, Doc Adams, and Chester. Rick was going to tour the Boot Hill Museum, but changed his mind after today's experiences. Plus, tomorrow brings another long drive.

No photos today other than the one above.
Comments

La Junta KOA • La Junta CO • JUL 23, 2018

IMG_1211

First, a big thank you to the Duft family, especially Dave Duft of Duft Electrical Services Inc. in Gunnison, Colorado. If you read yesterday's blog, you know that the grounding pin on the plug (officially an end cap per the electrician) of our shore power cord broke off. After making a temporary fix yesterday (hammers can be handy), we searched the web for area electricians and settled on Duft Electrical Services, as they appeared reputable and were on our route the next day. Rick called on a Sunday night expecting to leave a voice mail message, but the phone was answered by Dave's mom. She took the info and said her husband, Tom (Dave's father) would try to help us early the next morning. So, on a Monday morning and to assist travelers in need, Tom and son Dave first checked with their electrical supplier, who did not have any end caps, then drove to an auto supply store where they had one (and only one) in stock. We drove to their house where Tom, after confirming the end cap they had purchased would work, put us in Dave's capable hands while he went off to attend to another job. While making the repair to our cord, Dave told us he and his wife were expecting a new baby girl. We were so grateful to the Dufts for helping us on short notice that we included an extra amount and told Dave it was to buy his baby a present when she arrives.

Today's highlight was to be Great Sand Dunes National Park And Preserve, but on the way we saw signs for Monarch Pass and the Continental Divide, at 11,312 feet in elevation, and the Monarch Crest Tramway. We pulled into the lot and Linda went to get more information. We never—repeat, never—leave Zoe alone on a trip, so at first the plan was for Rick to take the Tramway, then if it was a great experience, he would stay with Zoe while Linda took the ride. Well…Linda came back with good news…Zoe was allowed to go on the Tramway! All three of us piled in a tram car and took the ride up to the top, at 12,012 feet. The views were absolutely amazing, 150 miles in all directions. Zoe enjoyed the ride as much as we did. Plus, there was a bonus for us at the bottom—free popcorn!

The weather started to look threatening as we we approaching Great Sand Dunes. Like several places before—Lassen Volcanic National Park and Petrified Forest National Park come to mind—we had no idea what to expect. Sand, of course, but a big beach or what? Well, at the end of flat, prairie-like land, suddenly there were huge sand dunes looking almost like sand mountains. If you look at the photos you can see how small people appear against the dunes backdrop. The dunes seemed so out of place…how could they have formed there?

The weather was rapidly changing from threatening to malevolent, at least if you were unlucky enough to be caught at the top of the dunes when the thunder and lightning were at their peak. Rick couldn't leave without actually walking on the dunes, so he checked the sky and made a mental calculation that he would have enough time to get to the dunes and back before the storm hit. Linda, who has had much experience with Rick's similar calculations in the past, wasn't as confident, but she didn't protest as he set out.

The area leading up to the dunes was like a vast flat beach of soft sand that tried to suck your feet in as you walked. It was not reassuring to Rick to see scores of people streaming away from the dunes toward shelter, and only a handful of people going the same direction he was. Plus, the sky was getting darker and lightning was flashing in the distance. The feet-sucking sand made running or even fast walking impossible, so on he trudged. It took 10 minutes or more to leave the flat beach area and actually start climbing the dunes. He got to the top of a small dune and paused to take several photos, then turned and headed back to the Viva. Rick has a spirit of adventure, but he also has a healthy respect for what lightning can do when you're the tallest (and only!) thing around. Heavy raindrops started falling about halfway back to the Visitors Center. Once back at the Viva it took a few minutes to brush off all the wet sand, but Rick was so glad he had made the trip to the dunes.

As we were driving out of the park the storm really started rolling in. We drove through a patch of heavy rain, then managed to get just ahead of the black clouds that stretched across the sky. They seemed to follow us for miles, like they were chasing us. We were far enough ahead of them that we had time to check in and hook up at the next campground (La Junta KOA), then the storm's fury hit us. Lots of lightning, thunder, and rain, but we were safely tucked inside the Viva. It actually was a fitting ending to an adventurous day.

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (24 total)
Comments

Elk Creek Campground • Gunnison, CO • JUL 22, 2018

DSC_0123

Before leaving the KOA, we watched the final round of The Open (the British Open, for those who don't follow golf). The campground staff allowed us to stay an extra hour so we could see the end of the very exciting tourney.

Just as we were about to depart, the shipment of new words we mentioned yesterday arrived, but they turned out to be the same words we've been using: beautiful, amazing, stunning, spectacular, mesmerizing, majestic, etc.

The main attraction today was Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park. We knew very little about this park, other than it had an intriguing name, and is less attended compared to many of the other National Parks. We did learn that it is called the Black Canyon because parts of the canyon get only 33 minutes of sunlight per day.

We took the South Rim Drive, and stopped at every overlook for photos. The canyon walls are extremely steep, almost perpendicular to the canyon floor far below, so standing on the edge looking down is a bit disconcerting. And to describe what we saw…well, it was beautiful, amazing, stunning, spectacular, mesmerizing, majestic, etc.!

We drove through the Gunnison National Forest and into the Curecanti National Recreation Center. Elk Creek Campground is in a lovely setting, and our spacious site had a huge butte as a background.

We had a surprise when hooking up—the ground pin of our power cord broke off. That cord connects the Viva to the power pedestal, so for a moment we were concerned that we wouldn't have electric service in the Viva during our stay. Although a hammer isn't the first tool that comes to mind when thinking of electrical repairs, Rick pounded the ground pin back into place, essentially putting a square peg into a round hole. It worked, the electric came on, but we knew we had to have the end cap (plug) replaced before we hooked up at the next campground.

We enjoyed a great campfire, then got up around 4:00 a.m. to look at the night sky. It was so dark that we could see millions of stars, and the Milky Way Galaxy was so clear and right above us. With so much light pollution, it's a rare treat to witness such a spectacle in the night sky.

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (24 total)
Comments

Montrose / Black Canyon National Park KOA • Montrose, CO • JUL 21, 2018

IMG_1201

Before leaving James M. Robb-Colorado River State Park, Rick took Zoe for a short run and then completed a 4 mile run that consisted of 8 laps around the campground—can you say boring? Then Linda went for her long walk. Unlike Rick's repetitive, UNscenic campground laps, Linda found a paved walker/runner/biker trail along the Colorado River where she saw two small lakes, a marina, and lots of vegetation. Did she rub it in when she got back? Well, a little! After our respective treks we were even able to watch some of The Open on TV. We enjoyed our stay at the state park and wished we had more time there. But it came time to unhook and set out for the day's main event, the Colorado National Monument.

Okay, we give up! We have simply run out of words to describe the beauty we are seeing! We took many photos, as we usually do, but the photos fall far short of capturing the panoramic views around every turn. And speaking of turns, there were many, often of the hairpin variety. Guardrails? Sometimes. No guardrails? Often, which meant a long drop to the canyon floor if a driver's attention strayed a second too long.

Rim Rock Drive is a 23 mile road that twists, turns, and steeply ascends and descends as it connects the towns of Fruita and Grand Junction, which are only 8 miles apart as the crow flies. To take that 8 miles and stretch it to 23 miles suggests the flight of a very drunken crow. At its highest point, a sign announced that we were at 6,640 feet.

As stated above, we are temporarily out of words to describe the beauty here. We are expecting a shipment of new words that should arrive tomorrow. So, until then, we'll let our photos tell the story.

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (22 total)
Comments

James M. Robb-Colorado River State Park • Fruita, CO • JUL 20, 2018

IMG_1191

We visited Capitol Reef National Park in 2015, but had the misfortune to be there on the very day they were repaving the Scenic Drive…"scenic" meaning it was the best part of the Park. Since today's route was taking us close to Capitol Reef, we decided to go to the Park again with the hope that they wouldn't be repaving…again.

On the way we passed through Fishlake National Forest. Utah is breathtakingly beautiful, with its mix of mountains, valleys, forests, and rock formations in countless sizes, shapes, and hues.

We saw a sign noting that we were at 8,385 feet. We might have climbed higher and missed a sign, not sure, but at that point the temperature had dipped to 69 degrees (for perspective, as we neared our destination for the day the temperature was 98).

We took the Scenic Drive all the way to Capitol Gorge, where the pavement turned into bumpy gravel. Rick noticed a car with a Florida license plate. As usual, he had to ask the couple where in Florida they were from. They responded, "Central Florida," to which Rick replied, "Same here. What town?" They were from Mount Dora, what are the odds! They recently moved to Lake Joanna, about two miles from where we lived in Mount Dora.

At one of the overlooks Rick started talking with guys who were admiring the Viva. They were the Kim brothers, Stan and Alex. Stan lives in Seoul and is visiting with Alex who lives in California. They really liked the map on the back of the Viva that shows all the states we have visited, and also our "TRAVELS" license plate. They both wanted photos with Rick and the Viva, and Rick took one of them, too.

Even after leaving Capitol Reef National Park, the scenery remained stunning and we had to stop several times for more photos. We post on this blog just a fraction of the photos we actually take.

We arrived at the State Park around 5:30. Our spot was very spacious, level, and had a large tree that provided welcomed shade. Despite the heat, Rick had to have a campfire.

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (28 total)
Comments

Richfield KOA, • Richfield, UT • JUL 19, 2018

IMG_1187

We had a 2:00 appointment in Delta today to get the oil changed in the Viva. Before checking out of the campground, Rick ran 4 miles, taking Zoe with him for the first 2/3 mile (she remains on running restriction for the remainder of the trip to make sure she doesn't get sick again).

We departed the campground about 12:45 and went to a local car wash to wash the accumulated dirt and grime from the Viva. In the wash bay next to us, a guy with a pickup truck and a trailer was washing manure off the trailer…which he conveniently left in the wash bay when he left. Yuck!

Then it was off to get the oil changed. We weren't able to find a Dodge Ram Promaster dealer to change the oil, so we stopped at a local Glass/Lube/ Tire place. Our confidence was a bit shaken when the guy who was going to change our oil asked us, as he was about to pull the Viva inside to work on it, if the engine was in the front or in the back. Seriously? But it all went well, and 45 minutes later we were on our way to the next campground, less than 100 miles down the road.

As we had just washed the Viva, of course we encountered our first rain in days. The skies looked much more threatening than the weather turned out to be, be we did have some heavy rain for a few minutes.

Our fridge essentially shuts down in hot weather (and it IS hot!), so we stopped to buy a cooler and some ice. We put ice in a bowl, then into the fridge, to help keep it cool, plus we put ice and beverages in the cooler to ease the load on the fridge.

Richfield KOA was very nice. The staff was friendly, our site spacious and relatively level. Zoe checked out the two dog parks, and we had a nice campfire to end the evening.

The route today wasn't all that scenic—as in recent days, mountains in the distance and desert scrub brush in the foreground. No real photo ops, so the link below is to only four photos, two of the approaching storm, two of the Viva at the campground. Better photo ops should be coming soon!

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (4 total)
Comments

Antelope Valley RV Park • Delta, UT • JUL 18, 2018

IMG_1162

Great Basin National Park…

As basins go, this one was great. As National Parks go, this one was just okay. The drive to and into the park was short of spectacular. Miles of foothills and desert sage. Linda often prejudges a National Park by its entrance sign, and the sign for Great Basin National Park is not in our Top 10, or even 20. Visitor Centers in National Parks are usually crowded, but this one wasn't. The Ranger, though, was very friendly and helpful, as is typical of Park Rangers everywhere.

Now, to be fair…we didn't get to experience the two main drawing cards of Great Basin NP—Wheeler Peak and Lehman Caves. Beyond the Upper Lehman Creek Campground (which we drove to), RVs over 24' were not advised, and the Viva checks in at exactly 24'. There was a very steep grade the last few miles—the sign said 8%, the Ranger said 12%. Steep either way. That really wasn't enough to force our decision not to drive onward and upward—that decision was made when our "time to change engine oil" message flashed on our instrument panel. We had 500 miles (or less) to get our oil and filter changed, but the three Dodge Ram Promaster dealers that Linda called could not fit us into their service schedules. To complicate matters, we our now on the turn for home, and soon will face long days of driving with no time for an oil change. We finally found a place (not a dealer, but a service center recommended by a dealer) that gave us a 2 o'clock appointment on Thursday. That necessitated a change in campgrounds. The first one we checked out had a sign on the office that read "if arriving after 4:00, please check-in at the bar." Uh, no thanks! That wasn't even the worst part, but we'll spare you the details. Then we found a campground in Delta (Antelope Valley RV Park) where we could spend the night and still be less than 3 miles from our appointment for the oil change on Thursday.

But it wasn't a totally lost day. We met Rich and Kathy, RVers from California, at the Visitors Center. They were in a 26' Lazy Daze rig, which they were kind enough to let us check out. We liked the layout and the extra room they had. They looked inside the Viva and seemed to like some of its features, too. Before Rving, Rich and Kathy spent a few years living full-time on a sailboat—that would be cool! They were staying at the campground on top of Wheeler Peak, where they should have great stargazing tonight—we read that Wheeler Peak has the best visibility of the Milky Way in the continental United States. We gave Rich and Kathy one of our Viva cards so they could check out our website…Rich and Kathy, if you're reading this, send us an email and let us know what the night skies looked like tonight!

We added another National Forest today, Humboldt National Forest. Also, as we were driving to Antelope Valley RV Park, we saw a huge area of "white" on our right. We say "white" because it looked like snow, which couldn't have been possible because it was over 90 degrees; it also looked like water, but it couldn't have been water because there were no waves, ripples, or movement; then we thought it could be sand, but that didn't seem right, either. Linda searched the web (we had cell service!) and found out that we were looking at Sevier Lake, which is actually larger than Great Basin National Park. We learned that it is an "intermittent lake," which means it rarely has water. In fact, it has been mostly dry throughout its history. What we were seeing was the white lake bed that is a source of dust storms that often occur in the area. As the Kansas song says, all we are is dust in the wind.

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (13 total)
Comments

Ely KOA • Ely, NV • JUL 17, 2018

DSC_0862

250 miles today, Highway 93 from Idaho into Nevada, and most of it straight for mile after mile. Not much scenery—mountains in the distance to both our left and right, with the land in between flat and blanketed in sagebrush.

We had a ten minute delay as we waited and then passed through an accident that had happened between two semis, one carrying thousands of Starbucks bags that were scattered across the highway. Hope the drivers are okay.

We left Mountain Time and were back in Pacific Time again, which meant we arrived at the campground an hour ahead of schedule. Our space had a tree that provided a little shade for our struggling refrigerator—temperature today was in the 90s. Dry and dusty here, reminiscent of our stay at Kingman KOA in Arizona. A slow day, like the Wi-Fi, but we do have cable TV that we probably won't watch. No real photo ops today, so no photo link below.

All quiet on the western front, but more adventures tomorrow.
Comments

Oregon Trails Campground • Twin Falls, ID • JUL 16, 2018

DSC_0793

The weather has been perfect for days, blue skies and comfortable temps. Now it's time for hot weather!

A beautiful drive today, Route 30 following the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway and all along the Snake River. We were close to Three Island Crossing State Park in Glenns Ferry but didn't get to see the park. We had heard about the three islands that travelers on the Oregon Trail used to cross the Snake River.

The route featured over a dozen small waterfalls that were a prelude to what awaited us in Twin Falls—the spectacular Shoshone Falls. We have seen countless waterfalls in our RV travels, but we have never seen so many waterfalls in once place. Water, water, everywhere. Make that waterfalls everywhere! Again, spectacular!

Linda stopped at the Visitors Center for information, and what she found out thrilled Rick—the site of Evel Knievel's 1974 attempt to jump the Snake River was nearby, and accessible to the public. More about that in a moment.

Check out the photos of the Perrine Bridge, which spans the Snake River near the Visitors Center. Our new friends Dave and Norma told us that sometimes BASE jumpers will leap from the bridge, something they saw when they stopped here. Well, Rick got lucky. Just as he was shooting a few photos of the bridge, a paraglider jumped off and glided down to the river's edge. You can see in both photos, but more clearly in the second photo.

Although the drive was scenic and Shoshone Falls was spectacular, the highlight of the day for Rick was taking a 1.5 mile hike to gaze in wonder at a pile of dirt. But it was no ordinary pile of dirt…it was the site of Evel Knievel's attempt to jump across the Snake River in his steam-powered Skycycle X-2 on September 8, 1974. The event was broadcast live on closed circuit TV, and Rick, already a big Evel Knievel fan, was at the Agora in Columbus, Ohio, to watch the broadcast. If you don't know the history, there was a malfunction at launch, the parachute deployed early, and although the Skycycle X-2 made it all the way across the Snake River to the north rim, it drifted with the wind back toward the south rim, landing just beyond the river's edge—otherwise Evel could have drowned, because his harness had also malfunctioned, trapping him in the Skycycle. all that remains of the original launch site is a mound of earth and some concrete. A public trail leads close to the site, which sites on private land. The landowners kindly allow people to actually climb the mound, which of course Rick had to do. Nearly 44 years ago he was in Columbus, Ohio, watching a live broadcast of Evel's attempt to jump the Snake River, never even remotely thinking that one day he would be standing on that exact spot. Ah, the benefits of traveling in the Viva!

The owner of Oregon Trails Campground was a friendly guy, who even introduced himself when Linda checked in—a first for us. He also directed us to our spot and talked a bit about things to do in the area. There was an area in the back where Zoe could run a bit, plus we had cable TV and Wi-Fi. A perfect end to another perfect day!

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (22 total)
Comments

Mountain Home RV Resort • Mountain Home, ID • JUL 15, 2018

DSC_0747

Today it's goodbye, Oregon, we'll miss you! An amazing state.

Rick ran Zoe and then went on to do 4 miles before we joined the stream of bikers packing up and leaving Mt. View RV.

We varied from our preference of taking roads less traveled and instead took I-84. We were still treated to beautiful views, but we only stopped for quick photos once, just across the border into Idaho. The green plants in front of the Snake River? Corn.

Mountain Home RV Resort gave us a level, shaded spot…all of their spots look level and shaded. A very nice RV park.

Not much else to say. We made the turn and are heading home, but still much to see along the way.

UPDATE: there actually was more to say about this stop! Before departing on Monday morning, Rick noticed a Florida license plate, Volusia County, on the rig of the people next to us. He starting talking with them, and Linda soon joined in the conversation. We were talking with Dave and Norma, from Deltona, a couple who truly have been everywhere—they've been to every state and every Canadian Province! Linda was once again in her element, talking travel destinations and travel tips with Dave and Norma, who had a wealth of information to share. We exchanged contact information, Linda and Norma made plans for lunch in Mount Dora, and we'll be taking them for a cruise on the lakes on our boat. New friends from the road, that started with a Florida license plate.

There was a deja vu moment for us when talking with them…we were talking about Antelope Island State Park, Salt Lake City, and Dave described an encounter with a skinny coyote that stayed in the middle of the road as they approached. They got closer, the coyote didn't move. Even closer, the coyote still didn't move. The poor thing was begging for food, so they gave him part of a bagel. The deja vu moment was that the couple next to us the day before in Mt. View RV park told virtually the same story about an encounter with a coyote in Antelope State Park. Even the way Dave was telling it was similar. For a moment we thought he had already told us about the coyote, then we realized we had just heard an Antelope Island coyote story from someone else the day before. It had to be the same coyote!

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (3 total)
Comments

Mt. View RV • Baker City, OR • JUL 13 - 14, 2018

IMG_1124

Goodbye, Washington, we'll miss you! Hello again, Oregon.

If you ever want to see a sea of wheat, take the Hell's Canyon Scenic Byway and you'll see not just acres and acres but miles and miles and miles of soft white wheat—that's what it is actually called. Beautiful golden fields for as far as the eye can see in every direction. There was virtually no other traffic except for an occasional truck transporting its haul from the field, as it was harvest time.

After the wheat fields the road started winding upwards into a blanket of fir trees as the temperature dropped, from 94 degrees to 81 degrees within a few miles. We drove through a winter sports recreation area, with log cabins and a beautiful lake whose name we didn't get. We added Umatilla National Forest to our list.

We passed the Boise Cascade Paper Company, a huge operation. Massive stacks of logs were being watered down—our guess was to keep them wet to avoid the risk of fire.

On long trips like this one, sometimes a change of plans is necessary. Our destination on Friday was to be Grande Hot Springs, but when we pulled into the park there was no shade anywhere. Under a boiling sun, the Viva's refrigeration would have been more like an oven. So, we called Mt. View RV, our Saturday destination, to see if we could arrive a day early and stay two days instead of one. We were in luck, they had a spot for us—but we didn't realize how lucky we were until we arrived at the campground in Baker City. We were just in time for the 19th Annual Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally. Hundreds of bikers had taken over the town and our campground, so getting a spot on short notice for a Friday night was truly fortunate. Zoe loves motorcycles, so she was in hog heaven (see what we did there?). The spot they gave us was near the front of the campground, while our previously booked spot was near the rear—that necessitated a move on Saturday, no big deal. The campground itself was quaint and western-themed.

And speaking of Saturday, it was a wonderful day. We toured the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, an amazing place. We could have spent several days taking in the exhibits inside the building. There were hundreds of authentic items from the early Oregon Trail days, along with artistic exhibits of Native Americans, pioneers, and animals that were so life-like you expected them to move. And speaking of creativity, there was a gallery featuring beautiful watercolors and photographs of Hells Canyon by area artists and photographers.

Outside the Interpretive Center, we saw a circle of covered wagons, a recreation of a gold mining operation, and a bat cave. Well, a depiction of an old mine that bats have claimed as their home. Rick then took a long hike on the Panorama Point Trail, and also saw the actual wagon wheel ruts left by travelers on the Oregon Trail. Talk about walking in history's footsteps.

Back in town, we headed to the downtown area to check out all the cool motorcycles, and of course Rick started dreaming of owning a bike again. As the 7th anniversary of his Harley accident is rapidly approaching, another bike probably isn't in his future. Zoe was enthralled by all the sites and sounds.

We stopped for a wonderful vegan pizza and local beers at Paisano's, then it was back to the Viva for a relaxing evening watching all the bikers come and go. We had friendly neighbors on both sides of us, with one couple having two huge Dobermans who wanted to play with Zoe. That didn't happen, though, because we were still reluctant to let Zoe run herself ragged with other dogs—the memory of her illness in Las Vegas remains on our minds.

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (23 total)
Comments

Crow Butte Park • Richland, WA • JUL 12, 2018

DSC_0691

More dam pictures, a likely farewell to Mount Hood, drying airplane propellers, a daredevil hang-glider, sour grapes, a taste of the grape, an endless river, lost(?) birds, and threats of death and destruction when we're just trying to get a little sleep. Let us explain…

We (mostly Rick) like taking photos, so it's "dam pictures," not "damn pictures." Linda might know the name of the dam in the linked photos below, but it's late and she's asleep, Rick is writing the blog and the name is not in her notes, so we'll just leave it at…we took another damn dam photo.

Mount Hood is fading into the misty distance and we probably won't see it again, so this time it really is goodbye.

Drying airplane propellers…this one will be hard to explain. If you're Facebook friends with Rick, you know that he likes to post jokes on his Facebook wall, the cornier the better (for him, not his audience). He saw the huge electricity-generating windmills dotting the hills and thought about coming up with a joke about an airplane factory out here that hangs painted propellers on big poles until the paint dries. Okay, it's a joke/work in progress…

But as we were looking up at the windmills (or airplane propellers) we saw a daredevil hang-glider who was maneuvering among the windmills. A wrong turn into a windmill blade and there could have been two hang-gliders instead of one…

Sour grapes…we had been looking forward to stopping at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, as it's a brand that's one of our favorites. It was on our route, but when Linda called to confirm that they were offering tastings today, we learned that the facility in this area is a production/blending plant only, and not open to the public.

A taste of the grape—we have enjoyed Columbia Crest wine in Florida (it's distributed nationwide), and the Columbia Crest Winery was also on our route today, so we stopped there for a tasting. We think it's mandatory that wineries out here are built on a hill with a long winding driveway leading to it. At least that has been our experience. The parking lot was filled with cars, but there was a separate lot for RVs. There was a large patio with tables and chairs, so Rick and Zoe waited while Linda went inside to see if someone would put up one of the table umbrellas for us so we'd have some shade. The staff told Linda that we were welcome to come inside, that it was too hot for us and our dog on the patio. What nice people! It also helped that we were the only ones there for a tasting at that time—the cars in the parking lot belonged to employees.

The tasting room was beautiful, with Italian tile, French tapestries, and large redwood beams in the ceiling that had been repurposed from an older winery. We enjoyed samples of Columbia Crest wine, and left with two bottles of red, along with a Columbia Crest wine glass. Again, they couldn't have been nicer to us.

An endless river—the Columbia River, which we drove alongside seeming forever again. 'Nuff said!

Lost(?) birds… we saw pelicans in the Columbia River! We swear, we saw pelicans! Well, we had just come from a wine tasting…but they looked like pelicans! We were going to check the web (internet, not the birds' feet) when we got to the campground to see if they were indeed pelicans, or just a bird that looked like a pelican, but when we arrived we had no cell service, and no campground Wi-Fi.

And finally, threats of death and destruction when we're just trying to get a little sleep. While both pulling into the campground and driving to our assigned space, we saw multiple signs warning campers about an EXTREME FIRE DANGER, thus no campfires, no open flames, etc. Of course, that didn't stop the crazies—we later saw two campfires just across from us. When we got to our space, with the water behind us (nice view of the Columbia River), there was also a sign at the back edge of our site—WARNING: BEWARE OF RATTLESNAKES.

If there are no further blog entries after this one, you'll always have to wonder if it was a wildfire or a rattlesnake that got us!

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (13 total)
Comments

Peach Beach RV Park • Goldendale, WA • JUL 11, 2018

DSC_0655

Our love affair with Mount Hood continues, as the time to say goodbye has not yet arrived. The towering, snow covered mountain still rules the skyline on our route, and although we have (and will) only see it from afar, it will always be indelibly etched upon our memories. But there was another site to see today as well.

Yesterday we mentioned the devastation caused by the Eagle Creek Fire and that many trails remain closed while undergoing clearing and repair. We thought we weren't going to be able to see Multnomah Falls, but Ginger, one of the hosts at Ainsworth State Park, assured us that the trail to the lower part of the falls was open. We knew that parking would be at a premium, as it always is at the more scenic attractions, so we unhooked the Viva and drove past Ginger's Viva out of Ainsworth State Park.

We arrived at the falls early enough to get a nice parking spot beside a large bus transporting Japanese tourists. Leashed dogs were permitted on the trail here, so we hitched up the black poodle and set out for the falls. Zoe is often better behaved than Rick, but thus far he has not had to be on a leash.

As we climbed the trail to the falls, the temperature cooled noticeably. The trail to the upper falls was closed, which especially disappointed Rick, but the view from the bridge (as high as we were permitted to go) was outstanding. Although it was still early in the morning there were many people on the trail, but everyone was polite and patiently waited for a turn at having a photo taken with the falls in the background. The Japanese tourists were extremely polite, to the point of being apologetic if they felt they were in the way of someone else's photo or line of sight of the falls.

The upper falls is 542 feet high, the lower falls 69 feet. We don't know how many gallons per second flow over the upper falls, but enough to give you a decent shower if you were standing at the bottom!

After leaving the falls we stopped in Hood River (the town, not the river), to pick up some groceries. We left a different way than we came in, and the exit was not nearly as level as the entrance. In fact, it had a short, steep apron, and the back of the Viva hit pavement as we were pulling out. The scraping, grinding sound that is produced when that happens always gives us a sick feeling—we don't know if we have just wiped out our sewer system, which is very low to the ground. We pulled over the first chance we could, and fortunately our system survived another close call! Most motorhomes have fairly low clearance in the back, but the Viva's is about the lowest we have seen.

The drive to the RV park was along the Columbia River and offered the same amazing views that are starting to spoil us. We crossed the bridge into Washington using The Dalles Bridge, and took photos of the dam. The day was heating up and there was little shade, so we pushed on to get to the RV park as soon as we could, with only a handful of stops at pullouts to take photos. We knew our spot at the park was shaded, and our refrigerator was ready for some relief. We took Zoe for a walk in the state park adjacent to our campground, and she had a chance to run and burn off some energy.

In the early evening the campground manager knocked on our door (no, not about a presentation on fir trees!) to tell us there were electrical problems and he was turning off everyone's power. Just what our fridge needed! Thankfully, power was out for only thirty minutes or so. The spot across from us was reserved but no one showed up, so we had a good view of the Columbia River our entire stay.

The thermometer is supposed to hit 100 degrees tomorrow. We're Floridians, we can take the heat, but our fridge will literally melt at that temperature. It will get interesting!

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (22 total)
Comments

Ainsworth State Park • Cascade Locks, OR • JUL 10, 2018

DSC_0574

First stop today was the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint, from which we could see Vista House far in the distance. Then it was on to Bridal Veil Scenic Viewpoint and Bridal Veil Falls. It seems like every state with multiple waterfalls has to name one of them "Bridal Veil." We have yet to see "Groom's Tie Falls." Regardless, we hiked the trail to Oregon's version of Bridal Veil and admired the beauty of the cascading water, then took a loop trail that offered scenic views of the Columbia River and valley.

We were worried about getting a parking spot at Latourell Falls, but we were in luck. Our Viva goes where larger motorhomes fear to go. We climbed the trail to get a great view of the tall, ribbon falls—spectacular!—then took another trail back and of course Rick got us lost again…but that detour led us to Guy W. Talbot State Park and the bottom view of an old steel bridge. We seem drawn to water and old bridges.

Our luck held as we found one of the last parking spaces at Vista House, a most appropriately named edifice for the vista views were amazing. The Columbia River is so impressive—until coming out here we didn't realize how wide it was—and its mood seems to change with the wind. It was calm today, the polar opposite of what it was yesterday with its angry, white-capped crests. No kiteboarders or windsurfers in sight.

When we booked our stay at Ainsworth State Park months ago, we knew that many of the trails were closed due to damage from the Eagle Creek Fire. We thought the trails would be open again by the time this trip rolled around. Wrong. The damage was so extensive that the campground was open, but only after going through a checkpoint to prove we had reservations and belonged there. All campers are warned that they WILL be arrested if they venture out of the campground, on any trails or even on the road that was closed just beyond the campground entrance. Forest fires are serious business out here, and the danger doesn't end when the fires are out. Trails are impassable, and there is the risk of falling limbs and trees in the fire ravaged forests. We were disappointed that we couldn't explore the trails around the campground, but we were glad the campground was at least open and we could stay there.

When we checked in we met Ginger, one of the campground hosts. If you look at the photos for today, you'll see two Viva photos. One is ours, and the other belongs to Ginger! So great to see another Viva on the road. Ginger has a 2015 model, and she loves hers as much as we love ours.

We were surprised that campfires were allowed here, but they are (currently, at least), so we bought two bundles of wood and enjoyed a cozy campfire for several hours.

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (12 total)
Comments

Cascade Locks / Portland East Holiday KOA • Cascade Locks, OR • JUL 9, 2018

DSC_0467

(Rick writing this)
First, a departure from our usual blog entry. Today was a special day for us, especially for Linda, so I am repeating a photo we used yesterday, and using it as our feature photo for today's blog. The reason for the departure, and the special day? That lovely lady above turned 69 years-old today! I have been married to Linda for 39 years, and even I can't look at that photo without thinking that she is still in her 50s. She has aged well! I take full credit for that, of course—life with me is so wonderful it would keep anyone looking younger. Yeah, right! We knew we would be doing a bunch of sight-seeing today, so we actually celebrated her birthday yesterday—and if you read yesterday's blog, you'll see that we described the day as "perfect." Today wasn't bad, either. So, Happy 69th birthday, Linda! Now back to our regular programming…

Rick ran 4 miles before we departed Bridge RV Park and Campground, with Zoe joining him for the first part of the run. We then meandered along the Columbia River, and saw a great view of Mount Hood again, but what a difference a day can make in terms of weather. It was much, much windier, and the Columbia was whipped up and white-capping. Our first thought—it would not be a good day to be on the river—but wow, were we wrong. There were several hundred windsurfers and a bunch of kiteboarders, scattered across, and both up and down the river. We found a parking spot to stop and take some photos, and we talked to a woman who was about to go windsurfing. She described the day as a typical one on the river, and said it wasn't unusual to see so many people out enjoying the wind/water sports. A couple of miles down the road we pulled over again, to watch more kiteboarders. There was a large pleasure boat plowing through the choppy, churning water, as kiteboarders seemed to be playing chicken with it—zipping just across the bow and on either side. Crazy!

We crossed the Hood River Bridge two times, the first time not knowing what we were getting into, the second time regretting what we had gotten into in the first place. The combo suspension/drawbridge has a "roadbed" of metal grating, which was weird to drive across. Add extremely narrow lanes, so narrow that Rick had to pull in his side mirror to avoid hitting a side mirror on an oncoming vehicle. It didn't take long to cross the bridge either time, but it was not fun. Oh, one other thing, we had to pay a toll each time!

That experience made driving through five (yes, five) narrow tunnels on Route 14 feel like a drive through the park. And speaking of a drive through the park, we did that, too. We saw a statue honoring Sacagawea, the Lemhi Shoshone Native American who helped Lewis and Clark on their famous trek. We also saw an amazing sculpture of a cougar, called "Silent Descent," by the artist Heather Soderberg. We saw a big riverboat at the dock, checked out the old locks, and visited a paddlewheel exhibit from a sternwheeler long gone, the "Henderson," built in 1901, wrecked in December of 1956, and finally scrapped in 1964. We also crossed the Bridge of the Gods, similar to the Hood River Bridge, but not quite as scary.

We were a bit tired when we made it to the Cascade Locks / Portland East Holiday KOA—too tired for a campfire, too tired to sit outside—but Linda said she'd had a great birthday!

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (13 total)
Comments

Bridge RV Park & Campground • White Salmon, WA • JUL 8, 2018

DSC_0447

"Perfect" is probably the best word we can think of to describe today. Everything about the day, from clear blue skies to wonderful scenery to a relaxing time enjoying music at a winery, was…perfect.

We knew we were in for a treat after turning out of the campground. In the distance, perfectly framed by long rows of trees and seemingly at the end of the ribbon of highway, was the majestic Mount Hood, the tallest mountain in Oregon. We drove on, into the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which offered frequent views of Mount Hood. Unlike other big mountains that are nestled among numerous smaller mountains, Mount Hood stands alone, dominating the skyline, almost challenging you to look at anything else. But there were other things to see, like the impressive Columbia River, with barges moving freight from one port to another. As always, the vistas were vast and multi-hued, with gold and brown the main colors. We spent time at Maryville Stonehenge, a replica of England's Stonehenge, only Maryville's replica is intact. It is a concrete memorial that was dedicated on July 4, 1918, to commemorate sailors and soldiers from Klickitat County who had died in World War I. As time passed and other soldiers fought in other wars, monuments were added to honor local men and women made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The altar stone was positioned to align with the sunrise on the summer solstice, the first day of summer.

Just outside Goldendale we stopped at a scenic view where we could see Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, and Mount Rainier, all at the same time. Wow! It was also special to know we were on the Lewis & Clark Trail.

We had time to visit Maryhill Winery, where we enjoyed a wine tasting, some focaccia bread, and outstanding entertainment by singer/songwriter Britnee Kellogg and her band. Remember that name—she is very talented, you will hear her regularly on the radio someday, hopefully soon. Next week she's playing the Pendleton Whisky Music Fest, where she's opening for Pitbull and Blake Shelton, so she's already well on her way.

On the way to the campground we saw an old steam locomotive on display, "Baldwin Locomotive No. 2507." The engineering and all of the moving parts that went into that giant machine—very impressive!

Bridge RV Park & Campground offered us a nice, level spot with shade, but not much else, and no river access which was disappointing. But it was a tidy and well-maintained, and we're only here for one night to recharge our batteries (literally and figuratively) and go out exploring again tomorrow.

Click for this trip’s highlight PHOTOS (7 total)

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (22 total)
Comments

Brooks Memorial State Park • Goldendale, WA • JUL 7, 2018

IMG_1080

To cut miles of driving on the interstate and instead see some scenery, we took a backcountry detour on the Yakima River Canyon Road on the way to our next destination, Brooks Memorial State Park. The route didn't disappoint! We followed the Yakima River for miles, as did a meandering railroad track, and were treated to colorful stretches of topography. Lush, green trees and vegetation bordering both sides of the river gave way to golden, rocky canyons and tan hills that became mini-mountains. We lost count of the rafters and tubers, many lashed together in groups of ten people or more, floating lazily down the river. There were mild "rapids" in places, but nothing that couldn't be navigated by a first-time kayaker. It looked like great fun, but as we have yet to find a raft/tube company that allows dogs onboard, all we could do was look as we drove past.

Rick spotted our first eagle on this trip, but he was flying high overhead in the opposite direction, so no chance for Linda to snap a photo. We did stop in a couple of places where we could pull over and get a better photo op of the river, rafters, and hills.

As we have experienced often on this trip, the temperature changed quickly with changes in elevation. We went from 64 degrees to 75 degrees within a few miles—no big deal in the summertime, but rapid temperature changes in the winter likely produce unexpected, hazardous driving conditions.

At some point we entered the Yakama Indian Reservation (spelling different from the river), and we also passed a speedway where stock cars were zipping around the track, most likely getting in some practice before races later that night. We would have done a web search to find out the difference in spelling (Yakima vs. Yakama) and to get info about the speedway, but when we arrived at the state campground we had no cell service or Wi-Fi. Once again, cut off from civilization. But this stop was just for a bit of rest, and we were actually lucky to get in on short notice. We had scheduled another campground that would have been a much longer drive, but decided yesterday to cancel that reservation and stay here instead, and fortunately there was a space available for us.

And one last thing…Rick was reluctant at first to share this in the blog, but what the heck. When we pulled into the campground to check in, the host, an older gentleman with a scruffy white beard who was dressed like Prospector Pete, told us he would be giving a presentation on fir trees in the campground amphitheater at 8 o'clock—and bring a chair or blanket. We saw a sign (see photo) noting that the campground had a "big old fir tree," and we thought he must be very proud of it. We thanked him for letting us know, but we had no intention of going to the presentation. We were tired, and after all of our travels this trip, we have become quite familiar with fir trees.

After hooking up and eating our usual Saturday pizza, we took a photo of Zoe showing off her new haircut. Ain't she purty! We then went for an extended walk in the campground. A golf cart soon approached us, and it was the campground host. He stopped and reminded us of his presentation at 8 o'clock. If you know Rick, you know at that point he started feeling obligated to go hear what the guy had to say about fir trees. Linda had no interest in going—and no guilt—and she told Rick there was no need for him to go, either. He was almost convinced…

Then about 30 minutes later there was a knock at our Viva door, and it was Prospector Pete again. He was going from rig to rig in the campground, knocking on doors to remind people of the talk he was giving at 8 o'clock. Persistent, for sure! That was too much for Rick—no way could he live with the guilt if he didn't go. Linda just shook her head, as she often does at Rick's decisions. So, ten minutes shy of the appointed hour, Rick gathered his chair and headed to the amphitheater. He thought he might be the only one, but apparently the host knows how to play on other people's guilt quite well, for thirty or forty people ended up attending. Rick decided to sit front and center—if he had to be there, he was going to soak it all in and become a certified expert on fir trees.

The old guy (the host, not Rick) started his presentation. He was wearing a wireless microphone and had a small amplifier. He also had blankets on the ground in front of him. He talked about Native Americans and the settlers who arrived several centuries ago. He told us about hunters and trappers, and how Native Americans traded with the settlers, giving valuable animal furs in exchange for cheap beads and trinkets. A few minutes later, he started talking about how animals were trapped. He then pulled back one of the blankets and took out animal skins that he began passing around. It was at that point that a sinking feeling overtook Rick…miscommunication! The old guy hadn't said he was giving a presentation on "fir trees," he had said "fur trade." Remember that Rick had decided to sit front and center? Well, he wasn't going to be rude and leave at that point, so he had no choice but to sit and suffer. If you know us or have followed our blog, you know that we are ethical vegans, so passing around dead animal skins was not something Rick wanted to do.

And, of course, when Rick went back to the Viva after the presentation and told Linda that it was about fur and not fir, we had a good laugh (well, Linda did!). Once again, she knew best all along.

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (15 total)
Comments

Alpine View RV Park & Campground • Leavenworth, WA • JUL 5 - 6, 2018

IMG_1065

It was a long, beautiful drive alongside the Columbia River for most of our route to Leavenworth. We stopped at Beebe Bridge Park for a short break and to allow Zoe to romp in the grass and burn off some energy. It was a lovely spot to stop by the river, with acres of lush grass, picnic tables, and shade trees. We watched several boats launch into the river, which only made Rick miss his boat and kayak back home even more! His time will come soon enough.

We stopped at Lone Pine to buy locally grown organic cherries @ $1.99/pound! Also some honeycrisp apples.

The RV park in Leavenworth was just "okay"—our spot was quite small, not even enough room to put out the awning. No picnic table (no room) or fire ring (too close to the restroom building, which we could almost reach out and touch). Everything here seemed scale-model—the small basketball court which bordered our space had a basket that was about 7' high. Hey, Rick can finally dunk! But overall we were satisfied with the RV park, because it wasn't about amenities, it was location, location, location. A reasonable walk and we could be downtown in minutes, and what a downtown area it was! We did some research and learned that the restoration of Winthrop, our last stop, was inspired by Leavenworth, this stop.

Leavenworth is a step into Bavaria, with its Alpine-style and ambience. The downtown streets were crowded, and we can only imagine what it's like here in the winter with holiday decorations and cold weather sport aficiandos. Every trip downtown featured live music in the park, be it a solo accordion player who played popular songs Bavarian style, or the authentic Bavarian trio (accordion, bass, and guitar) who played true Bavarian songs. Enough to make one go buy a stein of beer! Which we did, except—no stein—and we enjoyed the cold IPA with a vegan pizza at the Blewett Brewing House.

Rick set out on a 4 mile run along the river trail, but got lost as usual and it turned into a 5+ mile run. Can you say sore feet? He's in the early stages of training for the Mount Dora Half Marathon in December, but running and RVing out west aren't always a good combination. Serious training will commence upon our return home.

We knew Zoe would be ready for a haircut at this point in our trip, so we set up an appointment with a local groomer before we left Florida. She had an 8 o'clock appointment on Friday, and looked much more comfortable after her groom. Hot days are coming, and she would have been miserable without a haircut.

Linda made multiple trips to town to soak in the atmosphere and check out the shops. She bought some great vegan fudge—hard to find! With her love for gardening and flowers, she was amazed by all of the beautiful flowers—she's never seen so many colorful flower baskets in a town…well, except for her trip to Italy. On Friday night, we headed down and did the obligatory wine tasting—which she also did on her trip to Italy!

50 days into our trip and we had not seen another Viva or its Winnebago twin, the Trend, until we saw a Trend pull into the campground not long after we hooked up. On Friday, before we headed downtown for the last time, we met its owners, Allan and Leslie, a nice couple from California who were on their first extended trip in their Trend. They have a 2018 model that has some added features that our 2014 model doesn't have, but as twins they remain very similar. Allan is a woodcarver, and they are on their way to a gathering of other woodcarvers. We gave them our blog URL, and perhaps they will stay in touch so we can swap travel stories.

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (18 total)
Comments

Pine Near RV Park • Winthrop, WA • JUL 2 - 4, 2018

IMG_0997

A departure from our usual blog style. We'll call this a tale of two…well, not cities, make it a tale of two destinations, North Cascades National Park and Winthrop, Washington.

We drove through the National Park on our way to Winthrop, where we spent three enjoyable and relaxing days and nights. So, not only is this blog entry divided into two parts, there are two links to two separate photo sets. First, North Cascades.

NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK

En route we drove past Gorge Powerhouse, the oldest hydroelectric power plant on the Skagit River. And speaking of hydroelectric power, it's hard to look in any direction and not see electric lines. It's safe to assume that much of the electric service out here comes from hydroelectric power. We also passed Cascadian Farm, notable because we buy their frozen organic fruit at Costco in Florida.

It was raining for much of our trip, ranging from a drizzle to a steady downpour. Rain eliminated any longer hikes we wanted to do, and we also chose to not make any of the side trips within the park. So, if we saw Mount Fury, Desolation Peak, or Mount Terror, it was from a comfortable distance…and considering the conditions, that was probably for the best!

Despite the precipitation and low hanging cloud cover, North Cascades National Park was beautiful! The drive wasn't too difficult or harrowing (there's that word again), but we did have some steep inclines and descents, of course. Most dramatic were the temperature changes, and yes, SNOW! We've seen snow in the mountains and in many places on the ground around us, but this was the first time it actually snowed. Not heavy snow, not even light snow—more like spitting snow—but that still counts. And it reaffirmed that we are now Florida folks instead of Ohioans, because it was fun to see, for about a minute. But back to the temperature changes. As Rick drove, he called out the temperature as it dropped, from 48 all the way down to 37 degrees. Ah, dreaming of Florida at that point!

Rainy Pass, elevation 4855 feet, and it lived up to its name. On to Washington Pass, the highest drivable point, at 5477 feet, then a scenic overlook where we saw Liberty Bell Mountain, 7740 feet. We both walked the trail to the overlook, where the view was amazing. We also checked off another National Forest, Okanogan NF.

Although the weather wasn't the best, we'll always remember our trip through North Cascades National Park.

WINTHROP, WASHINGTON

We didn't know what to expect at Pine Near RV Park, but it turned out to be a great place to spend a few days for the 4th of July holiday. The campsites were lush, green grass, a welcome departure from the blacktop, concrete, and stones in other campgrounds. Our site was an elevated plateau, level and spacious, with mountain views in the distance. The staff here were friendly and hard-working—they always seemed to be out and about doing something in the campground. Our nearest neighbor was William (Bill) Ferry and his wife, in a nice Airstream trailer. Bill is a renowned photographer whose work is exhibited in galleries out here. We saw some of his work on his website, and he takes beautiful photographs. Bill and his wife travel the west and know it well, so Bill offered lots of advice and tips to Linda, our route planner. Linda was in her happy place, talking about routes, destinations, and side trips with someone who had blazed the trail before her.

We loved the little town of Winthrop. It is an Old West-style town, with wooden boardwalks and buildings remodeled to recreate the look of the town in its early days. Art galleries, novelty shops, clothing stores, restaurants, bars (can you say saloons?), and a variety of other shops and businesses line both sides of the main street, all within a short walk of our campground.

Our first day we ate at Carlos 1800 Mexican Restaurant, on the dog-friendly back patio overlooking the river. Rick ran 4 miles on Tuesday and Wednesday, taking Zoe with him for part of his run on Tuesday. We made the short walk from the campground to the downtown area several times each day. We hiked the Method River trail, and had two great campfires with vegan hot dogs and vegan marshmallows. Across the street from the campground was the Shafer Museum, with countless fascinating items from the 19th and 20th centuries.

We had an early morning visitor both mornings, a deer that walked right up to the Viva. We took photos of a deer (perhaps the same one) in the park that walked right up to a family with a dog. The deer and dog were five feet apart—we've never seen a deer approach that close. Also in the park was a monument to firefighters who had perished while fighting forest fires in the area. Their bravery and sacrifice should never be forgotten.

It was difficult to say goodbye to Winthrop. We loved this little town with all of its charm and character, and the Pine Near RV Park was a great place to stay. We may never make it back this way again, but we'll forever remember this visit.

Click for North Cascades PHOTOS (24 total)

Click for Winthrop PHOTOS (20 total)
Comments

Concrete / Grandy Creek KOA • Concrete, WA • JUL 1, 2018

IMG_0933

We had booked a space at Newhalen National Forest Campground, but we would have been dry camping (no electric or water hookups) and the forecast was for rain and cool (cold for us!) temperatures. We decided to forego our first dry camping experience for now (we have two others upcoming), and instead we made a reservation at the KOA in Concrete, WA.

Before leaving Lake Sawyer RV Resort, Rick ran 4 miles, taking Zoe along for the first part of his run. It started raining, so Linda wasn't able to get her walk in.

Along the way we stopped for gas and stocked up on needed items at Costco, Target, and Safeway. One of the lenses had popped out of Rick's sunglasses, so we had that fixed at the Optical Department in Target.

No deer or elk this time, but we did have a coyote run across the road about 40 yards ahead of us. The drive was otherwise uneventful.

We were assigned a spacious, level spot at the KOA. It was overcast, so shade was not an issue. There were quite a few amenities here, but we just settled for one bundle of wood and a nice campfire (with vegan marshmallows) before calling it a night. Tomorrow's journey to the North Cascade National Park will start early, and we need to get some rest because of what we learned about the National Park today. It is the largest and reportedly most rugged alpine wilderness in the lower 48 states. Recommended sights/sites in the park include Mount Fury, Desolation Peak, and Mount Terror. Linda read an online review today from a park visitor who described a drive that was so frightening she had to stop her car and sit hugging her knees. Wow, sounds like a fun day tomorrow!

Click for ALL of this trip’s PHOTOS (3 total)
Comments