Bill Dillon (KG4QFM)
Pat Watt (KG4QFQ)
Contact us by email
The map to the left shows our route. Click on the map for more information.
We travelled up the Rio Grande to Big Bend and then looped up the east coast to Maine before going around the Great Lakes, through Canada to Banff and Jasper, the Pacific Northwest and down the Californian coast.
Links embedded in the log's text lead to photos of our travels. They are assembled together on a page of the Photo Album - as are photos of all our camping spots. You can also view a slide show of our 2 weeks in the Canadian Rockies.
[Read about our travels in other years]
Saturday night we actually stayed up to welcome in the New Year with Chuck and Andrea. Evidence of the good time we were having visiting with them. New Year's Day, up and on the doorstep of the huge Whole Foods (aka "whole paycheck") store on Lamar Street when it opened at 9:00am. Dropped the contents of our wallet there and provisioned thoroughly. Then Andrea and Pat went for a Polar Bear dip (??) in the pool at Barton Springs. A pleasurable 68°F (not like last year's dip at Juneau.) good enough for a ¼ mile swim, 2 lengths of the dammed off pool. Then bade our friends farewell and found our way onto Rte 71 to Bastrop where we detoured into the State Park to dump our tanks, then on to the junction of I-10 and east towards Houston. Texas is surely paved, lanes upon lanes for vehicles (sometimes empty away from the cities). Arrived at Danielle's in the Heights (17' above sea level, but higher (and drier) than the rest of Houston) around 4pm. 167 miles. Bill seems to have caught a cold. It's GREAT to back on the road at our leisure!
Monday, January 9, 2006
Galveston Island State Park, TX
Spent a thoroughly enjoyable New Year's Day a week ago with Danielle, who gave us a tour of parts of Houston. Blew away our stereotypical view of a dingy, flat, ugly and uninteresting place. Drove through the old Heights neighborhood, a very pleasant area with 80-year old bungalows of varied styles under huge live oak trees. Then through a nearby ritzy neighborhood, complete with gates, mini-castle houses, and huge meticulously landscaped yards. It being a holiday, the downtown area was empty as we next drove through the skyscraper canyons and looked at the two opulent towers built by former Enron. Then to the Houston Museum of Natural Science in the lovely Hermann Park. Spent several hours in this excellent museum, going through some of the many geological exhibits and a butterfly and insect exhibit.
Left Danielle's around 9am last Tuesday, and found our way onto I-45 south through the city. Lane after lane of traffic along miles and miles of ugly sprawl enveloped in a (un)healthy dose of smog. Houston's stereotype is far from undeserved. On to Galveston Island to the Seawall, then along the FM 2005 through neighborhoods of fancy stilted beach homes, including much new construction right on the Gulf Coast, in clear defiance of mother nature. Arrived at this State Park shortly before noon, the one open (of three) camping loops almost full. 64 miles. Anted up the extra fee to occupy the only vacant beachfront site. Decided the view is what we're here for. It turned out to be a beautiful sunny and warm day so we took a short beach walk before lunch, then a lengthy bike ride exploring this part of the island and finding a pretty good grocery store only a few miles away. Later, read about the many birding spots on the island in anticipation of future biking forays.
Thoroughly enjoying our time here. The view of the gulf out our windows is great, the sound of gently lapping surf--which changed to a roiling boil yesterday--and the seagulls and grackles has brought us back into the natural world. We've largely detached from the man-made environment of city living. Excellent beach walks (many different sea birds to hone our identification skills) and plenty of biking along flat roads. Time to settle again into our little home-in-a-box, and sink into our daily routine (which of course practically never occurs): Early coffee (had to replace our programmable pot, the switch died), the ITP Kata (for Pat) writing (for Bill). Breakfast (continuing our day-about responsibility for cooking and cleaning up after meals). Early birding. Some tube (computer) time, or reading. Then a good hour's exercise before lunch. Naps, more exercise and exploration or provisioning. Chores (showers, cleaning/reorganizing Clemmie, paperwork, etc.) A glass of wine around 4:30pm (Happy Hour) with music, singing, meal planning, whatever. Another birding trip near dusk. Cook supper with NPR. Afterwards, cribbage, quilting and reading for Pat, and reading and Solitaire or crossword for Bill. And so to bed.
Disturbing the routine, we made a day's outing on our bikes to Galveston on Thursday, checking out assorted birding spots (saw 3 sandhill cranes) and playing tourist in this historic old city. 27+ roundtrip miles, plus 3 on foot. Visited the Offshore Energy Center in the Ocean Star Museum in a converted drilling rig. Very informative. Strolled along the Strand and some old residential neighborhoods. Biked along the seawall, built after a 1900 Hurricane devastated the City. One of us, head down into wind and sun, collided at full speed with a pole in the middle of the seawall. Must be in Bush country, not one of the numerous passers by stopped to help pick up the pieces. Fortunately, the other of us noticed she was missing and came back to put humpty together again. Pearl slightly bent, and rider bruised - and extremely grateful for bike helmet, worth it's cost in gold this time. On Friday, a haircut for a sore but recuperating Pat in Jamaica Beach. The weather has been pleasantly warm, mostly sunny. Highs around 70, lows near 50. Surf came up over the weekend as the strong wind shifted round to the south. Got our wind lullabies at night.
Tuesday, January 10 , 2006
Quintana Beach County Park, Freeport, TX
Left Galveston Island State Park around 8am, and drove north to Galveston to see what, if anything, we missed last Thursday. Drove to the end of the seawall, watched line of freighters advancing through the Houston Ship Channel. Dropped off accumulation of unneeded items at the Goodwill, and provisioned with groceries. Then back south along FM 2005 to the WiFi cafe near the State Park to do Internet business. Continued to the end of Galveston Island, the remaining wetlands increasingly being subdivided and built up.... The dues for this will surely come home to roost, unlike the displaced birds. Crossed the toll bridge over the San Luis Pass. Checked out the shore birds, not too many visible. Then into Surfside and Freeport (one huge chemical plant) and picked our way back to the shore to this quiet little County park for the night. 73 miles today.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Goose Island State Park, Lamar, TX
Wednesday morning departed Quintana Beach near 8am. It's been a bit of a shock (?why?) to see so much heavy industry right at the coast, the wetlands being steadily ruined. Small oases preserved occasionally, hanging on through fingernails of aging volunteers. Skirted Freeport to get onto Rte 36, canal by side of the road containing many waterbirds and thousands of grackles lining roadside. Then local roads to Bay City to join Rte 35. More chemical plants at Point Comfort and Port Lavaca. Through Tivoli to Lamar, and this famous (to birders) State Park. Picked a pretty campsite under liveoak trees and settled in for a few days. 141 miles today. Biked around the island's waterfront, loaded with waterbirds of all varietes, too many to count (see a few additions to our Bird Photos.) Several first sightings. In the evening joined some other birders to watch a video in the Recreation Hall, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 30's. Many state parks got their first toehold with those efforts. We sure could use something like that again, so much infrastructure needed and so many without meaningful work. Of course, nowadays we in the US live in a culture where it's all about the individual and the importance of comity has been poisoned by neocon spin. No leadership to invest for future generations. Decided to stay here a while and take full advantage of the terrific birding in the area - not to mention the terrific showers.
Highlights so far: Early morning birding walks along the edges of the island; watching hundreds (a thousand?) of herons and egrets come in to roost at dusk around the 4th Street pond, while hundreds of night herons leave; a bike ride to see the oldest tree in Texas (a live oak, more than 1,000 years of age.) Stood in awe visiting with it, felt the weight of its experience. Imagine what all it has seen. Regular walks and bike rides to the beach and through the park. Also giving a final polish to the Global Change Seminar, and making plans to begin promoting it. All suggestions are welcome! Pat is slowly getting the hang of quilting (so far just piecing) and enjoying it as she gets more adept at it.
On a sobering note, we are digesting the news that Laurie (Bill's oldest) has cancer. Developed an affirmation (prayer) on her behalf and mailed it to our close friends and family. We would be delighted if interested log readers shared in this effort on her behalf.
Tuesday, January 17 , 2006
Mustang Island State Park, Corpus Christi, TX
Decided to leave Goose Island this morning since our planned Skimmer boat tour through the wetlands of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was cancelled due to the high winds. Left the campground (definitely a favorite place) around 8:30am after dumping the tanks. Crossed the causeway to Fulton and then to Rockport. Did some accumulated shopping for office supplies, a new door hook, batteries, and some more DVDs. We often watch a video on the laptop of an evening, and are accumulating a goodly library (whenever we can find them on sale for cheap). Found an Internet cafe and ate lunch while updating this website and the Seminar. Sent out a first batch of emails advertising the latter. Be interesting to see what the reaction is. Hope it's not a reverberating silence. Continued south on Rte 35 to Aransas Pass, then crossing on the free ferry to Port Aransas. The 4 ferries shuttle (7-10 vehicles at a time) across the narrow channel that's the leading entry from the Gulf to Corpus Christi Bay with its sheltered deep water harbour. Evidently it's cheaper to operate the ferry than build a bridge. Toured around Port Aransas and found our way to it's Birding Center at the wastewater treatment plant. Walked along the boardwalk through the marshes, many waterfowl to see including (a first) a flock of black-bellied whistling ducks. Decided to stop at Mustang Island for the night since it has plug ins and the forecast is for a chilly (low 40's) night. Our propane central heating is noisy for sleeping, so we'll have electricity and can use Harry, our little (and quiet) ceramic heater to keep the chill off. The park is a chunk of preserved land and beach next to the noisy highway. 46 miles today.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Malaquite Beach Campground, Padre Island National Seashore, TX
Wednesday morning we left the Mustang Island campground, crossed noisy Rte 35, and walked the rough road beside the canal across to the Bay side of the Island. A good number of water fowl, including another first, a reddish egret. Still very windy with a forecast for it to continue blowing for the foreseeable future. Then back onto Rte 35 south and onto Padre Island to the Visitor Center for this National Seashore. 66 miles of barrier island, pretty much unspoiled. Evidently Padre Island is the longest barrier island in the world. Bless those federal officials with the foresight to purchase the land and preserve it from development. It's unbelievable how much construction is going on right along most of the rest of the shoreline of this vulnerable hurricane-exposed coast. Picked a spot at Malaquite Beach, 40 sites developed and flush toilets, but no plug ins and only cold showers. It's blowing like stink. Took a walk on the windy beach, sand blowing everywhere. 21 miles for the day.
Slept fitfully overnight, Clemmie rocking and rolling as the gale force winds battered the coast. This morning, ran the generator to make coffee, use the toaster and microwave for breakfast. Amazing how self-sufficient this little RV home is. Today, feels like a snow day - hemmed inside by the wind. Went outside to battle our way the ½ mile to the Visitor Center for the 11am beach walk with the Park Naturalist. Highly informative about beach detritis, natural and man-made, and the changing face of the island in the face of wind and water. Apparently this National Seashore (there are 8) comprises a significant part of the 2% of the US coast that is advancing and not receding. Left alone, nature will take care of itself. Back at the ranch, Clemmie and the bikes have a thin covering of fine sand, some even sneaked inside to lightly coat the table and countertops. Enjoyed happy hour with the setting sun warming the view over the dunes.
Monday, January 21 , 2006
Rio RV Park, Brownsville, TX
Light shower overnight Thursday, a bit less wind. The moisture and sand from the Gulf-side beach at Padre Island National Seashorehave made a true mess of our windows. Smeared them off with Windex and paper towel (enough to see out) and left the Malaquite Beach campground around 8am. Drove along the park road past a little pond full of redheads (ducks). Apparently 90% of the total population of this particular species winters in this area. Then over to the bay side of the island, to Bird Island Basin. Wind down considerably, a pleasanter place to camp though more primitive (only vault toilets) than Malaquite. Some birds visible, but not enough to keep us. So decided to head on to Brownsville. Continued north to the top of the Island, then over the bridge into Corpus Christi. West on Rte 43 to join Rte 77 south towards Kingville and then Harlingen. Flat brushy land, many fields at first, some with a (by now) Texas-typical industrial plant backdrop. Stopped at the Visitor Center, then to a truck wash where for a bunch of quarters we hosed most of the sand off Clemmie. She's a whole new wumman! Then on to Brownsville to Rte 4 on the way to Boca Chica, and this campground. Mostly seasonal, many house trailers. Took one of 3 empty spots, backing onto busy Boca Chico Blvd, Rte 4. The campground supposedly has WiFi, so we signed up. 196 miles for the day .
Saturday morning, a chilly 64°F, rain in the air. Boo hiss, the WiFi signal is too weak for us to compute on Clemmie. On the other hand the campground has an excellent room with a hi-speed connection. A very community oriented campground, this, with activities for all the "snowbirds" who stay here for the winter. Friendly place, full of winter Texans. Evidently, Brownsville is the cheapest cost of living anywhere in the US. The place is full of Canadians! Nostalgic to hear French and Spanish being spoken around us. Many people taking day trips to Mexico. Campground office has a book on RV-ing in Mexico. Hmmmmm. Food for thought.
Sunday, chilly and damp again. A laundry day (great facility), pay bills online, finished compiling email addresses of people we know or have met, and sent out a last batch announcement emails about the Seminar. Got in some walking, writing, and reading. Decided we can tell people we are writers, our output is expanding. Bought a Travellers' (campers') Guide to Mexico, and a Mexico street atlas (in Spanish) from the campground office. Read about insurance, documentation, and other issues. Plugged in a plan to spend a few months in Mexico next winter. Make your reservations to visit now! Also, it being cold out, we spent a bit of effort doing "Search Engine Optimization" for the Seminar (assuming there are actually people out there who might like to find it), and taking on the Patriot Act for our monthly Action Day. Oh yes, and added a new joke!
Sunday, January 29 , 2006
Adolphe Thomae, Jr. County Park, Arroyo City, TX
Last Tuesday morning took one final fling with the free Hi-speed Internet connection at Rio RV Park, dumped the holding tanks, then added 10 gallons or so of water to the black-water tank so it could slosh around for its monthly cleaning en route to the next stop. Left that very friendly place and drove east along Rte4 to its end on the beach. Flat, flat, flat. Acres of sand or brush. Several ospreys hanging out to fish in the Brownsville ship channel. Learned that most of south Texas has lost 90% of the rich natural habitat to cows, fields, and development. Drove back along Rte 4, got stopped by a machine-gun toting Border Patrol while their dog thoroughly sniffed around Clemmie. Then to the Sabal Palm Grove Audubon Center and Sanctuary, which has managed to preserve 100 acres of the original Sabal Palm that covered the region. Walked the trails, looked at Mexico across the disappearing Rio Grande (where once large ships sailed.) The impact of water shortages in much of the globe was right in our face. Some more first (bird) sightings. Ate lunch in a nearby local eatery with one of the Sanctuary staff and a volunteer, what a treat they were. This life is so full of unexpected surprises. Found another one at the end of the day on arrival at this County Park, a lovely place, adjacent to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Reserve (LANWR), which is on every birder's "must visit" list. Settled in and made ourselves at home. As the day closed, watch squadrons of pelicans, gulls, and cormorants heading east along the (Arroyo) river to roost in the Reserve, a string of about 20 sandhill cranes high overhead starting off on their annual trip to the far north, and of course a great blue heron and egret fishing in this, Harllingen's ship canal. 80 miles for the day.
Thursday drove to the LANWR and spent the morning hiking along assorted trails, spending money in the bookshop, then just hanging out at home in the parking lot during the heat of the day before driving the 15-mile auto tour along Laguna Madre towards dusk. Back home to our sweet spot on the banks of the Arroyo Colorado. Time goes by effortlessly in this beautiful spot, easy to get our walking and biking exercise quotas. We have plenty to do with our assorted hobbies and chores, diverted frequently by familiar bird calls - the plaintiff cry of a hungry osprey or the throaty groan of a peeved great blue heron - when not drowned out by the squeaks, rattles, and whistles from a flock of great-tailed grackles drawn to our neighbor's bird feeder. Facilities here are a bit rough, and there's an amazing amount of trash strewn everywhere. Some from birds and critters raiding the uncovered trash cans, some ancient from past storms (the odd soda can in the trees), and some from weekend visitors, kids, and fisherpeople.
Sunday evening, on the suggestion of neighbors Karen and Jack from Kansas, we biked from Adolph Thomae campground to Arroyo Baptist Chapel, a short 100 yards outside the entrance to the Park. A special occasion, a delayed Thanksgiving supper: turkey, dressings, spuds, veggies, salads, desserts, and 100 friendly faces. Ended with a group quiz on American history. Learned a few things, lots of fun. Then Monday (yesterday) morning drank coffee to a misty sunrise and soulful dawn chorus along the Arroyo. Apparently missed 7 dolphins swimming up river for a morning feed. Dumped tanks and left lovely Adolphe Thomae Park a bit before 9am. West on FM 2925 to Rio Honda, then 106 to Harlingen to the Visitor Center to check email on WiFi in the parking lot. Some minor shopping and then west on US 83 along the Rio Grande Valley. The delta really - no valley here - flat, brown, dry, and generally unsightly. Strip shopping, could be anywheresville, USA. Through towns of La Feria, Mercedes, Weslaco, Donna, Alamo, San Juan, Pharr, and McAllen strung out like beads on a necklace along the highway to Mission, the last significant place before the nothingness of West Texas. Acres of RV parks, filled with winter Texans baking in the sun - today a record high, 89°. Stopped at Campers' World for a few RV supplies, then to Verizon to buy a replacement antenna for our cell phone. Came unscrewed and disappeared somewhere, the new little stick improved the signal considerably. Found Split Rail RV park with some foreboding, but it turned out lovely. There are no public parks in this area so picked this private one for its relatively small size (280 sites), location, and Good Sam membership. Happily surprised, small lots and many many mobile homes, but well kept and tidy. We are close to the RV park's hub, a pool and main building with library, rec hall, office, terrific laundry and 5-star bathroom and showers. 74 miles today. Extremely friendly place, with a busy schedule of activities for the geriatric inhabitants. Tonight, Bingo. One of us went.
A short walk around the campground before bed, muted lights and TVs in the mobile homes, the hum of gentle conversation, freeway buzz in the background. This place has a very homey feel to it, winter Texans know their neighbors and are well connected in a manner that's long gone from most urban and suburban "communities" these days. Booked a rental car for a few days to go to the two world-renowned Wild Life refuges near by, get our bikes cleaned and pressed, knock off our shopping list, and do some touristing. We'll stay here for a week before heading up river for Falcon Lake. We're enjoying our slow rate of progress.
Monday, February 6, 2006
Split Rail RV Park, Mission, TX
Loving our stay here, despite the heat (a record 93°F on Thursday) and drought. Drove to the Santa Ana National Wildlife Reserve on two different days, once to walk the bird trails and once to canoe along the Rio Grande. On another day, biked the 5 miles to the World Birding Center at Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park, and did a most enjoyable birding walk with a volunteer naturalist. 31 different species in 2 hours, surely a first for us. These included several first sightings, including two owls. Quite exciting. Connected with some other birding RV'ers who are also heading to Big Bend. Enjoyed the amenities and friendly people in this winter Texan RV Park haven. Finished off our shopping list, did laundry, washed and ironed some more quilting fabric pieces, spent time (great to have WiFi in Clemmie) planning and organizing our late spring trip to the UK, and decided to take part in the 9th annual Backyard Bird Count, which can be done anytime from February 17-20.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Falcon State Park, Falcon Heights, TX
Left Split Rail a bit before noon last Monday after doing laundry, returning rental car, and a final bout of WiFi time. Very windy, air filled with haze and grit from soil whipped off the surface of the empty s beige-colored fields. Northwest on Rte 83 between parched fields and brush to Rio Grande City, where we stopped for lunch. Continued north to Falcon Heights, and settled into our spot in this remarkable State Park by early afternoon. 56 miles. A quick ride round the park to get our bearings, found a volunteer-staffed Recreation Hall (hamburgers & hot dogs, laundry, assorted social events, book exchange, and guided birding walks.) A bird blind next to the shower house near our campsite. As dusk arrived, a family of 6 javelinas (collared peccaries) strolled through our spot and a roadrunner appeared to inspect our bikes. The quiet of the bird sounds among the mesquite and shrubs by day and cayotes at night is broken only by the distant noise of pumps drilling in this rich natural gas field.
An early morning bird walk on Tuesday with volunteer naturalist Fran yielded 31 different species, including another 8 more lifers (including green-tailed towhee, verdin, and vermillion flycatcher.) We've become quite avid birders. Wednesday morning with John and Ann from Indiana (serious bikers both) we rode (8 miles each way) to the village of Salineño to sit and watch birds at the feeding area maintained since 1984 by winter Texans Pat and Gale DeWind from Michigan. A fabulous treat. 19 species in the short space of 20 minutes, including the (new to us) Bewick's wren and Clay-colored Robin. A check of the adjacent river found it full of assorted ducks, the odd turtle, and a Pippit. A flock of domesticated goats wandered around us while we checked out the waterbirds.
Thursday, another birding walk in a different area, after which we set up our own little feeding station in the trees beside Clemmie, with a basin of water on the ground underneath. Half oranges jammed on twigs, and a mixture of crunchy peanut butter, raisins, and cornmeal in a mesh bag hung from another slender branch. In the succeeding days we've slowly accumulated a little crew of regular visitors: a mockingbird, an orange-crowned warbler, a hooded oriole, a pair of golden-fronted woodpeckers, and a curve-billed thrasher. Friday morning we biked along the top of the Falcon Dam across the Rio Grande just into into Mexico - but not through customs. Thankfully, Homeland Security hadn't put a stop to that treat. That evening was barbeque night at the Rec Hall followed by a Valentine's Day white elephant gift exchange. The winter Texan park volunteers have made this place a most inviting stop. Through funds from the food they sell, they've added 2 washing machines and dryers to help with campers' laundry needs.
We've made daily trips (on bike or on foot) to the Falcon Heights village Post Office (6 miles round trip) to check on a priority mail package sent to us on February 1st. To no avail, it seems to be lost. Aaargh. Our mail and one other package have arrived safely, however.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Lake Casa Blanca Internationale State Park, Laredo, TX
Left Falcon Lake State Park (definitely a favorite place) around 11am, stopping by the park headquarters building to update the website and check email on its free WiFi. Stopped at the Falcon Heights Post Office, confirm that our missing package (sent priority mail on Feb 1st) has got lost. Left instructions for it to be returned to sender if/whenever it shows up. Arrived in Laredo and decided to pass through to the Visitor Center on the north side of town to collect Yellow Pages and map. Hoping to arrange for oil change while in this area, the largest land port in the US but - no offense to the inhabitants - seems pretty much an armpit of a place. Arrived in this little state park right on the edge of town around 3:00pm. 124 miles. Called around by phone but couldn't find anywhere to get the oil changed, or even interested in helping find a place, so called Ford's hotline number and they arranged for us to get it changed at a dealer in Del Rio tomorrow. Bless them!
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
American Campground, Amistad, TX
Left Laredo at first light yesterday morning after a cool (42°) night. Drove back through the center of the town/city, roads up everywhere, expanding like crazy, truck heaven. An uncountable number of 18-wheelers to-ing and fro-ing across the bridge to Mexico collecting goods manufactured by the country's cheap labor. Stopped at a frantically busy truck stop north of town, waited in line to get Clemmie washed, gassed up, and ate a fast-food breakfast (with our usual subsequent regret.) Then north on Rte 83. The scrubby brush countryside still very dry and brown but getting prettier as human habitation thinned out and the topography became slightly rolling. Hawk country this. Probably spotted 20 Harris' hawks and a dozen kestrels keeping an eye out from power poles/telephone lines. Also several caracaras (aka Mexican eagles). At Carrizo Springs, took Rte 277 through Eagle Pass, and stopped for lunch in a roadside picnic area. Good opportunity to give the generator a workout and use the microwave to warm last night's leftovers. Continued on to Del Rio where we got Clemmie's oil changed without incident and did a spot of shopping. Continued north on Rte 90 towards the Amistad Reservoir and National Recreation Area. Arrived here around 3:00pm, found a spot, and plugged in - WiFi available right in our campsite. 183 miles.
Today up early, not so cold (48°). Took advantage of the Winter Texan volunteers cooking breakfast in the friendly Rec Hall. Mid morning, it's still cool, so we set off on the bikes to explore the Recreation Area and Reservoir. Biked round the (primitive) San Pedro campground, then to the boat launch. Perhaps a thousand Coots on this part of the lake, also several Widgeons, a few Redheads and one Northern Shoveller. An enjoyable duck "catch." Then to the NRA (National Recreation Area) Visitor Center to watch movies about the transparent border with Mexico, the interesting archeology of the region we're entering, and one about Big Bend National Park. Our appetite is well whetted. Back home for a hot afternoon with our hobbies. What a life!
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Seminole Canyon State Park and Historical Site, Comstock, TX
Thursday morning dumped the tanks and partly filled the black-water one with fresh water to slosh around as we drive for its monthly cleaning. Left the American Campground around 9:15am and drove back into Del Rio to stock up on groceries. Then back up Rte 90 past the end of the Amistad Reservoir, countryside becoming slowly more hilly. Arrived here at 12:20pm, in time for lunch. 52 miles all told. Very nice well kept little campground, good spacious sites among the scrub. A beautiful day, high near 80°F. After lunch, went for a bike ride along dirt path towards the canyon overlook. Hiked the last half mile. The scrubby desert here is quite beautiful, and loaded with little birds - though they're too skittery to give us much of a look at them for the most part.
Thursday night the predicted strong cold front blasted through, rocking and rolling Clemmie for much of the night. Yesterday morning, 41 °F on rising, quite a change. Overcast. Sat outside at our picnic table to do the first bird count for a chilly 20 minutes after breakfast. Then walked the mile+ to the Visitor Center to catch the 10am guided tour of the canyon and its ancient pictographs, the oldest in North America. Early inhabitants lived in the canyon caves and surrounds 10,000 years ago and left behind many archeological goodies. Pictographs slowly wearing off the limestome walls, anthropologists making varied interpretations of their meanings. Our guide, interestingly, opened the tour on a personal note - he didn't wish to offend anyone's religious beliefs. Apparently he'd been verbally attacked recently by a creationist disputing the age of the rock formations, the marine fossils embedded in them, and of the pictographs. Evidently the Visitor Center sometimes gets complaints about the exhibits for the same reason. A chilly overcast day, the thermometer never rising above 45°F.
A frigid weekend forecast, and indeed the temperature dropped to 34°F by this morning. Still windy, from the frigid north. We shiver for those campers here in tents. This morning's bird count yielded only a few hardy solitary souls so kept it going until after lunch when the mercury (should we say the digits) still hung around 36°F, and we went for a 6-mile hike along the plain above the canyon to the Rio Grande overlook across from Panther Cave, which also has pictographs. A great birding afternoon. Came home and put out some granola and a plate of water for the hungry sparrows. Great entertainment as all kinds of birds came to forage, followed after a while by a skunk. Better than the movies. Weather forecast for tonight includes freezing drizzle, tomorrow same as today. COLD. Decided to cut short our stay here by a couple of days, since we've explored the trails and canyon, and head on up to Alpine early.
Wednesday, February 22 , 2006
Lost Alaskan RV Park, Alpine, TX
Sunday morning we woke up in Seminole Canyon, a chilly 30°F. Forecast for the day was to remain in the 30's. Decided to chase some better weather, much as we loved that place. Drove out of the campground just before 8am and turned west back onto Rte 90, practically no traffic all morning. Country slowly changed with ever bigger hills and canyons adding quiet beauty to the scrubby desert country of west Texas. Arrived in Alpine (pop. 5,368) near lunch, ate it at Patty's Diner and then registered at this pleasant WiFi-enabled private campground. Sun came out and brought a balmy 70°. An easy 168 miles.
We've had a busy time here, weather has been quite pleasant. Alpine is a nice little town, easily bikeable. We went to visit the Big Bend Museum at Sul Ross State University, but found it closed for the week. A neat little cactus garden in front of the museum, however, made the trip well worth while. Found a natural foods store, and a good new/used bookstore. Also hardware and groceries. Paid the bills, did laundry, made a big batch of granola, fixed a flat bike tire (those nasty little sand burrs again), and pretty much finalized (as well as we could) plans for our visit to Scotland in early May. For our monthly action day wrote letters to our Congressional Representatives opposing the sale of public lands as proposed by the Bush administration. We leave tomorrow for Big Bend National Park, we expect to stay there for the full 14-day limit, most likely in the Rio Grande Village campground.
We left Alpine early a week ago Thursday, and drove east along deserted Rte 90 to Marathon, then south on Rte 385 into Big Bend. Wide open Chihuahuan desert, not much sign of life amidst the cactus, creosote bushes, and occasional mesquite. Turned left at Panther Junction (Park Headquarters) and drove 20 miles east making a slow descent to the Rio Grande Village campground. Confusing campsite assignment arrangements. About half the sites are reservable, and a (different) half are non-generator. Reservable campsites become open for 4 days prior to a reservation. According to the campground hosts, come morning time there is frequently a shuffle of vehicles from one type of campsite to another. Since our reservation put us in a non-generator site, we participated in the shuffle and ended up in #60 (non-reservable, generators allowed) for 6 days, and then hopped into #75 which came open (reservable, generators allowed) for the next 4 days. As our stay progressed, the mercury inched relentlessy north during the day (reaching above 120°F) in the afternoons, and dropping near 40°F at night. Site #60 bore the full brunt of the noonday sun so we were happy to grab #75 - with some afternoon shade - when it became available.
We've made many an expedition to explore this remarkable Park, and learn about desert flora and fauna. Most days we walked (at least once) the short (<1 mile) interpretive trail from the campground through the wetlands adjacent to the river and then into the desert and up a nearby hill with fabulous views of the little village of Boquillas and its backdrop of the cliffs of Sierra del Carmen in Mexico. Good birding and wildlife to wach in the different habitats. The wetlands pond is the only home of the endangered mosquito fish, descended from 3 remaining which were rescued two decades ago and bred for a while at the University of Texas. The campground pests here are unusual: vermillion flycatchers; roadrunners; white-winged doves; pyrrholuxia; and javelinas (collared peccaries.) Biked around the neighborhood to the Visitor Center, the store which also has showers and a laundry, etc at least daily. Water main to the entire Village area broke one day, made us thankful that Clemmie is so self sufficient. Hiked other nearby trails including to the edge of Hot Springs canyon.
One day we drove to Boquillas canyon (later accidentally erasing the photos), then to the nature trail at Panther Junction, and then back to a parking lot and hike to the Hot Springs on the edge of the river (one of the 350 springs in the park.) Joined the small crowd soaking in the 105° water, with a couple of Mexicans watching from across the river. This once big river is but a shadow of its former self - apparently it is quite dry north of Presidio, where the Rriver Choconos feeds it from Mexico. We learned that water wars have begun in earnest in the American southwest. Another day we left early and drove to Panther Junction then up the road towards the Chisos Basin to hike the 5-mile return trip (with its 1,400' elevation change) along Lost Mine trail. Spectacular views of Casa Grande, Juniper Canyon, and Lost Mine peak. Finished that trip by driving into the Chisos Basin to eat lunch at the restaurant at the Chisos Basin Lodge, and take a look at the Window, through which all drainage from the entire basin areas exits - when there's any rain, that is. None now for 4 months. Average Park rainfall is about 13".
Thursday we drove back to Panther Junction and then took the Ross Maxwell scenic drive to Castolon and Santa Elena Canyon. See the Big Bend photo page for pix. Quite a drive (130 miles round trip.) Clemmie is doing fine duty as a car! Another bicycle flat tire, this one seemed to be intractible until the mechanic was - thankfully - rescued by friendly neighbor Art Smith, an artist. There's no shortage of things to see and do here. We took a couple of ranger-led hikes to learn about the history (human and natural) of the area, and the growing problem of air pollution (acid rain) mostly from the Ohio valley via Mexico. Clearly evidenced by the thick haze that sometimes covers the mountains.
Tuesday, March 7, 2006
Rio Grande Village Campground, Big Bend National Park, TX
So much has happened, so much seen! Big Bend is indeed a fabulous spot. Bill had never heard of it (same for most of our dear ones) but Pat had it in mind as a place she wanted to go from hearing about it from Craig and Sarah who spent winters there a decade ago leading Outward Bound groups.
Danielle arrived (by air to Midland and then rented a car) on Saturday, and together we went back to Boquillas Canyon to take more pix. Danielle did her graduate geology field work in Big Bend, so during her brief visit we've become a bit more educated as to the rock formations etc. Sunday morning up early and drove in Danielle's car (after parking Clemmie in the lot at the Rio Grande Village store) to Study Butte/Terlingua to Far Flung Outdoor Center. There, we met up with our river guide, Taz Besmehn and were driven to the river near Castolon along with a mountain (it seemed) of gear. We put in and paddled up stream into the Santa Elena canyon for a couple of miles to Fern canyon where we set up camp (on the Mexico side) for the night. With the water level in the river being so low a downstream trip from Lajitas (20 miles) would have been a real slog with a lot of dragging or portaging across sand bars. Dinner listening to the canyon wrens on the cliffs, and yellowthroats in the rushes. Watched the bats come out at dusk before retiring for the night.
Monday morning, up before dawn to watch the stars subside, the bats go to bed, and the (Northern rough-wigned) swallows come out by the hundreds (even thousands). First class breakfast than a short climb part way up Fern canyon. Then back into the boats and an easier paddle downstream, mostly just steering as the river meandered us along at about 1 knot. Learned a thing or two about managing a canoe through little (shallow) rapids and not dumping on edges, rocks or snags. Near the end of the canyon a swarm of hundreds of swallows winged around us on a feeding frenzy - we must have paddled into a huge insect flock. Quite an experience hearing the wings wheeeee past our ears! Back out of the canyon for lunch, then haul out and drive (1 hour) back to Terlingua. We cannot say enough good things about Taz, with her 20-year experience of all kinds of water in the US, Africa, and South America. A native of Minnesota, show now lives on top of a mesa near Terlingua with horse and dogs, and is building herself a rock house. She works with many river companies, so if you make a river trip be sure to ask for Taz! Great meals, paddling advice, and a fount of stories. An all round really neat person.
From Terlingua, Danielle drove us to the Chisos Basin where we had a room at the lodge for the night. Dinner in the restaurant (2 nights running we didn't have to cook for ourselves). In the morning a hike to the Window and/or the settling ponds behind the campgrounds (where Pat saw a Phainopepla). Then we drove to the Mule Ears overlook and started out along the Mule Ears springs trail, but quickly decided we were going to turn into baked potatos, so aborted that and drove to the Burro Mesa pouroff where we hiked along the stream bed to look at the pour off. Quite remarkable. A pour off is a dry waterfall. Thence back to Rio Grande Village to retrieve Clemmie and try to cool off. A scorcher of a day, still 95° at supper time. Sat outside 'til dark while a young roadrunner visited us periodically, going so far as to come right up and clearly beg for food. Must have been a young 'un. These fascinating birds are all over the place in Big Bend (as are the javelinas) and we have become most attached to them.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Lost Alaskan RV Park, Alpine, TX
Last Tuesday night, we were in a no-generator slot in the Rio Grande Village campground, and with night time temperature still in the 90's we crossed fingers that the batteries would hold out running the fans. They didn't! By morning, Clemmie's house batteries were completely flat. Ouch. Drove to the Rio Grande Overlook just north of the village and ran the generator while making breakfast. Then back to the campground to get Danielle's car and drove to Panther Junction intending to leave Clemmie there while we went for a hike to the Granite Hills. But by the time we got to Panther Junction (20 miles) it appeared that Clemmie's house batteries weren't charging. Not much fun in an RV without any electricity, even the 'frig can't run on propane without the 12-volt controls. So we aborted the planned hike and parted company with Danielle and drove ourselves to Terlingua where we found an auto place that confirmed no charge is getting to the batteries. Decided to head north back to Alpine, to this nice campground, until we can get the electrical problem resolved. 131 miles for the day.
Once in Alpine, we plugged into Lost Alaskan's 120-volt shore power, all hopeful. Dagnabit, we're not getting any 120-volt power either. So called John Boling at Alpine RV (432-837-1286) to get professional help. In late afternoon John showed up in his mobile truck and troubleshot our problem, educating us vastly in the process. A loose (hot) wire in the main 12-volt fuse panel and a blown circuit breaker in the 120-volt panel. In a most informative hour, he methodically checked everything, found the troubles, tightened up the wires, checked everything and we're good to go. Terrific house call! Stuff in freezer still frozen, and frig still cold, even without cooling for 20 hours.
Around 6pm that evening, the sky began to darken and the wind picked up. Terrific dust storm sprang through the campground and we rocked and rolled through the night. Decided to stay here for a few days to decompress from our Big Bend adventures, take advantage of the cell phone coverage and WiFi, do laundry, provision, visit the Big Bend Museum, bicycle shop, bookstore, get mail, file tax returns, do our monthly action day, and get the website current including a mass of photos from Big Bend. Converted Ship's Logs for 2001 and 2002 to the new, easier to read format. Had fun reliving our experiences! Bought a (Sirius) satellite radio and spent most of a day figuring out how to install and use it. Very happy to be able to hear NPR, CSPAN, BBC News, etc consistently. Local newspapers just haven't been cutting it as far as national and world news goes.
Saturday we drove Clemmie north on Rte 118 to Fort Davis, then into the beautiful Davis Mountains to the mountaintop McDonald Observatory where we spent the day touring the facilities, including the 107" Harlan telescope and the huge 433" Hobby-Eberly telescope. A fascinating day. Only thing wrong was when we unplugged Clemmie from shore power in the morning, we had no 12-volt power, batteries still not feeding the house system. Shoot. Once back from the Observatory we called John again, and he came over Sunday to do more investigating. Aha. A hidden and undocumented panel of 12-volt circuit breakers secreted at the back of one of the outside lockers (behind all of Bill's tools). The main breaker is off! Simple to fix, and we've learned important information about how our little home is wired. Thank you John for the prompt return visit - at no additional charge to us.
A chilly 27° on waking this morning, brrrrrrr. Fortunately the fierce winds and sandstorms that whipped through Alpine the last few days seem to be over. Yesterday, we took Clemmie to a car wash and cleaned her up; from being her filthiest ever our baby now sparkles! At the same time, gassed up both fuel tank and 'frig and pantry in readiness for departure.
Our plans are changing, as Laurie's health has been deteriorating. We've decided it's time to head back to Maine, to be closer to Laurie and the rest of Bill's family as she battles her way through this. It's hard to tell which is tougher, the disease or the treatment. So, we expect to leave here tomorrow and head back eastwards. Stay tuned.
Monday, March 20 , 2006
on the street at Craig's, Raleigh, NC
Left Alpine, TX, before 8am last Wednesday and drove north on Rte 67 to I-10, then east to Rte 290 which we followed to Austin, arriving around 4:30pm. 398 miles. Spent two nights in Andrea and Chuck's driveway, where we worked out details for the remainder of our trip to Maine, hoping for clement weather when we get there. Left Austin around 8am Friday morning, and drove north on Loop-1 to I-35 to Rte 79 to Palestine, then Rte 155 to Tyler and thence north to I-20. Said goodbye to Texas, almost 3 months and 3,000 miles in this mammoth state and we've barely scratched the surface! Lot's of construction on the way out of Austin, miles and miles of it, and another traffic slowdown on I-20 making it a long slow day. East on the interstate past Shreveport, LA, to West Monroe where we stopped for the night at Pavilion RV Park around 6:15pm. 420 miles. The brown scenery has changed to green. Friday night rain started, heavy by morning. Put on our raingear and readied Clemmie for departure, which we did soon after 6:30am. Continued east on I-20 all day, wet through Louisiana and Mississippi, drying off as we crossed into Alabama. A huge traffic snarl (construction and accident) at the Alabama - Georgia state line and into the Eastern Time Zone. Cost us an hour going at snail's pace. Decided to keep on going round Atlanta, I-285, 18-20 lanes of heavy traffic. What a nightmare. [Question: "What do you do if you live in Atlanta?" Answer: "Move!"] Turned northeast onto I-85 and stopped for the night soon after 9pm at the Flying J truck stop near Franklin, GA. 579 miles. Yesterday, we ate a truck stop breakfast and left a bit before 7am, back onto I-85 through South Carolina and into North Carolina. Onto I-40 at Durham where we turned southeast to Raleigh. Arrived here around lunch time, 323 miles. Total trip so far, 1,720 miles in 4 days. We've spent a chunk of change on gasoline, the prices are slowly creeping upwards. No wonder, all the gas guzzlers on the road. Cars seem to be rarities now, SUV's and trucks are in. Good to see Craig and Sarah again. We've braced ourselves for an unseasonal cold snap as we continue north tomorrow.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
at Al and Vicki's, Kennebunk, ME
We left Raleigh soon after 8am a week ago today and headed north on Rte1, to I-84, and then north on I-95. Arrived at Securitas shortly before noon, and got the tour of the new facility from Don before going for lunch, and then a tour of Richmond including passing the houses where Pat had lived in the late '80s. Then on to Don and Carolyn's house and a nice evening reconnecting, eating, and sitting in the hot tub. A short 166-mile day. In the morning - surprise! Snow all over Clemmie, her first dusting. North on I-95 then Rte 301 to College Park to the Cherry Hill Park, a year-round RV facility with easy bus access to the Metro. Another short day, 130 miles. Stashed Clemmie and packed our bags before taking the bus and Metro, arriving at Mary's in mid-afternoon planning to stay through Sunday. Not to be. Early Thursday morning we got word that Laurie was in critical condition, so we abandoned our slow north plan, hot-footed it back to Clemmie and left the area shortly before 10am. Decided to go an extra 50 miles to avoid the the stress and mess around New York City, so went north on I-95 to Baltimore, then I-695 to I-83 to Harrisburg, then north on I-81 to Scranton, and east on I-84 through Hartford CT to I-90, then I-290 to I-495 round Boston and north on I-95 into Maine. Arrived here around 10pm on Thursday night, minus a hubcap lost somewhere near one of the fiendish bridge joints on I-84. 592 miles today, 2,608 in the 8 days since we left west Texas.
We are playing Russian Roulette with the weather and our plumbing. Keep your fingers crossed. We are assuming Kennebunk is a tad warmer than Auburn, where Laurie is. But it's been below freezing every night, down to 26° Saturday morning and 22° this morning, lower than we've ever done before. Thankful for heating wrap around under-tanks, but the ground below is very cold. The forecast is for coming milder weather thankfully.
Friday, Bill drove 60 miles north on I-95 to Auburn in one of Al's cars to see Laurie while Pat took Clemmie to the Auburn RV and Motorhome Supercenter to see what has happened to our propane furnace (heating system.) Thursday night it began making the most awful noise, blowing out cold air even though the thermostat was above its cut-on temperature. Had to pull a fuse to shut it up. Thank goodness for Harry, our little electrical ceramic heater, bought in Minneapolis where we spent a cold two weeks in November in '04. Turns out the circuit board for the propane furnace had a nervous breakdown and had to be replaced. We were happy we had a familiar and reliable RV dealer to turn to for help, which they did forthwith, fitting us in to their already fully-booked work-order schedule.
Now we're making the daily 120-mile commute to visit with Laurie in the Central Maine Medical Center, who at the moment seems to be doing well and exhibiting a (not surprising) indomitable determination and courage, directing traffic from her bed. The prognosis is not good, though miracles do happen. Lung cancer is a vicious disease, killing twice as many people in 2005 as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer combined. Interesting how low the public recognition is of this fact, and that there is no early test for it. Could it be that somehow this is the only cancer which has a proven direct link to consumption of a commercial product?
We've recovered from our long road trip with great support from Al and Vicki, the fabulous setting of their house and yard, and those tough little birds that live and stay here through the hard Maine winters.
Last Wednesday morning the thermometer plunged to 21°F. Fortunately the heating jackets on Clemmie's underbelly did their job and as far as we can tell there were no ill effects. More robins foraging outside, spring must be coming. But, not wanting to test our plumbing against deepening cold, we decided to go north to Auburn in response to the weather reports from around Maine. At least for the moment, Al and Vicki seem to be in a cold hole and Lewiston/Auburn is a few degrees warmer. Left Kennebunk and drove north along the Turnpike, then parked on the street outside Laurie's house, a now familiar spot, around noon. 57 miles. Plugged in the orange electrical cord, stretched across the sidewalk and through the front yard to the house, and settled in again to thi familiar spot, this time however in winter foliage unlike the green fluff of our previous visits.
Laurie came home from the hospital last Tuesday, and we're now conveniently placed to provide support and assistance as needed. We served as spare room for Dave, who came from Toronto for a few days, and have helped with cooking, cleaning, and night-time companion duties. She's been eating well and so far seems to have improved each day since we got to Maine. Her spirit is remarkable. After a couple of warmer days, cold weather is again predicted.
Monday, April 10, 2006
at Laurie and Mark's, Auburn, ME
Early Sunday morning a week ago, Laurie deteriorated and went back into the hospital, where she remains. When alert her spirit is remarkable, and her dear ones have been able to find precious lucid moments with her. Sadly, we doubt that she will be with us much longer. We are spending much of our time at the hospital, sitting with her, her mother and sister, and Mark and his (large, warm and close) family.
Saturday, April 15 , 2006
at Donna and Nick's, West Paris, ME
To everyone's amazement, Laurie has rallied remarkably. She remains in the hospital, mostly alert, and now discharge plans are being made. We rented a car for a few days to give ourselves a chance to be able to periodically get away from the hospital environment (and numbing cafeteria meals.) Found a convenient café 5 blocks away with free WiFi. Weeded our clothes and made a shopping run to LL Bean's, where Laurie worked, for needed replacement items. Thursday, after a hospital morning we unplugged Clemmie and drove south to Kennebunk for an R&R overnight with Al and Vicki. Friday morning, glorious, we did a 12-mile bike ride with Al before returning to the hospital. Began to feel like real people again. In the evening, we drove here and expect to stay for a few days while Laurie's health status becomes clearer. 152.5 miles (Auburn/Kennebunk/Auburn/West Paris.) Thankfully the freezing overnight weather seems to be a thing of the past, so we can forget about plumbing worries. Even though the trees are leafless yet, the birds are out in full force, and the early spring migrants have arrived.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
at Al and Vicki's, Kennebunk, ME
We left West Paris Tuesday morning and drove (via Rtes 26 and 121) to the hospital in Lewiston to visit with Laurie, who was fully alert and taking nourishment. Physical therapy had been scheduled so she can begin walking again, a pre-requisite to discharge. After lunch, we drove south on Rte 132 to Freeport (get more socks at LL Beans) then south on Rte 1 to Yarmouth to DeLorme, where we bought additional state Atlas & Gazeteers for our expanding collection (38 now) and Street Atlas USA 2006 software with accompanying Earthmate GPS. These travel resources make it possible for us to find remote spots and trails to explore, identify interesting campgrounds and wildlife areas, and (mostly) not get lost regardless of where we go. Arrived here, our homebase during this ordeal, around 3:30pm. 101 miles today. We spend yesterday and today here, with a short trip to Kennebunkport in a borrowed car to walk on the beach, as we begin returning to our normal life style.
Tuesday, April 25 , 2006
Salisbury Beach State Reservation, Salisbury, MA
Friday morning we borrowed Al's car and drove north to Lewiston to visit with Laurie. Not much change, she's having a tough go. Got back to Al and Vicki's around 4pm and decided to "head to the beach" for some much needed relief. Only a few Massachussetts State Parks open in mid-late April, and even fewer have electrical hook ups (which we prefer in cold weather so we can use Harry, our quiet little ceramic heater.) Fortunately, Salisbury Beach - just south of the New Hampshire Border - is among them. We drove south on the Maine Turnpike (paying $6.50 in tolls for the 20 miles to the NH border, what a ripoff) and through the 30 miles of New Hampshire near the coast into Massachussetts. Arrived at the campground in time to make supper and go for a walk along the beach. 51 miles. Saturday, cool, overcast and showery. Nothing to impede several walks around the park - on the ocean beach and along the Merrimac River, tough inlet at low tide with any kind of sea running. Saw over 100 harbour seals sitting on Badger Rock, and a large flock of Brant (geese) as well as eider ducks and mergansers among the ubiquitous cormorants and seagulls. A great spot in the off season, no doubt unimaginably crowded in the summer.
Sunday, we unplugged from our campsite and drove to Sudbury, west of Boston, to Bull Finches restaurant where we ate lunch while listening to Sweet Loretta's Snake Oil Jug Band playing. Dear friend Herbie's music career is really taking off, this being one of several groups he plays with. Another, the Jolly Rogues is going to China next week on a 10-day cultural exchange, and later will be playing as part of the Boston Pops. After lunch we did some small shopping, and parked in the rain for a while to run the generator (and power Harry) while we napped. Then to Peabody, near Salem, MA, to Paddy Kelly's Pub where Herbie was playing again with another of his groups. Ate supper there and then drove to West Boxford to spend a rainy night plugged in at Gini and Herb's. Yesterday morning, an excellent birding walk through the woods and fields of W. Boxford, then to the intersection of Rte 133 and Rte 1 to the famous Asgawam Diner for lunch and goodbyes with Gini and Herb. After lunch we drove to the nearby Audubon Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary - oh dear, closed on Mondays. So decided to go to the Parker River National Wildlife Reserve on Plum Island - passing the new Audubon Joppa Flats Wildlife Sanctuary, which is also closed on Mondays. Spent a few highly enjoyable hours in the Reserve, just loaded with birds, including some early migrating warblers. Wonderful place, making a valient effort to preserve undisturbed beach nesting sites for the endangered piping plover. Late afternoon we drove back to Salisbury Beach, stopping for a few provisions and picked up our former campsite. 188 miles round trip.
Friday, April 28, 2006
at Al and Vicki's, Kennebunk, ME
We left Salisbury beach Wednesday morning around 9am. A chilly one, clear skies and strong northeasterly winds. We'd had great birding the last two days, Pat was still high from it! Decided to meander up the New Hampshire and Maine coast. Stopped frequently to watch birds, take pix, eat lunch, buy groceries. Walked around the harbour of Portsmouth, NH. Walked the Marginal Way along the top of the rocky coast from Ogunquit Beach, where we spotted 6 rare Harlequin Ducks in the surf at the foot of the rocks. Arrived back here around 4pm. 71 miles. Little change with Laurie, she decided to continue the chemotherapy, with all of its devastating side effects. What courage!
Yesterday morning we drove north to Lewiston to the Hospital to see Laurie. She was not doing well, her cardiovascular system seemed to be shutting down. We came back here for a while, before returning north again. She died just before 7:00pm, her body finally overcame her valiant spirit. 48 years old. Hard to tell if it was the disease or the treatment that killed her. So now, we complete the process of grieving (though does one ever, for the loss of a child?) and notice the great relief that this arduous period is over. We are reminded of Mary Oliver's poem: "To live in this world we must do three things: love what is mortal; hold it to your heart as though your life depended on it; and, when the time comes to let go... let go...." And of Tennyson's Crossing the Bar, one of Bill's favorites, which he recited to Laurie at the end. We are comforted by the buds and sounds of spring, and the legions of white-throated sparrows who have arrived.
Wednesday, May 3, 2006
at Al and Vicki's, Kennebunk, ME
Saturday we drove in Al's car to West Paris and visited with Donna and family. Nice to spend an hour with Dot, and Bill's sister Lillian and Gus, who were still there when we arrived. Sunday, we again borrowed Al's car and drove to Biddeford Pool (a short 20 miles) to stay with Susan and Henry at their friend Pete's beach house. Found flocks of eider ducks as we walked along the rocks, and watched the sun set over the beach. Took lots of photos, Biddeford Pool is quite beautiful, with the Pool on one side and the ocean on the other. Monday morning we walked on the beach for an hour after breakfast, before driving back here to work on our to-do list in readiness for our trip. Yesterday was the memorial service for Laurie, a wrenching experience though a good way to close this particular period of our lives. Now we are getting ourselves and Clemmie ready for departure tomorrow morning to fly to the UK, spend a week or so in Wales and England, and then tour Scotland. We return June 21.
Monday, May 8, 2006
Visiting Kath and Chris, Tywyn, Wales
We had uneventful flights to Manchester (UK) on Thursday and overnight Friday. Picked up our rental car and successfully drove to Tywyn on the "wrong side" of the road. This is our first visit to Wales, weather much like we left it in Maine. Kath and Chris took us on some sight-seeing trips over the weekend and we began to pick up some minimal skills at pronouncing Welsh names. Tomorrow we leave for a week in Yorkshire before heading north to Scotland.
Thursday, May 25 , 2006
Westbay Holiday Apartment, Oban, Scotland
We have travelled much (1,206 miles so far), seen more, and taken a pile of photographs. We caught up with Sandy (Pat's brother) on May 9th and he has since been with us. Bill, then Sandy, caught and recovered from a cold, and Pat is now on the throes of one. Not much time to do catchup and keep the website current, hope to do that before too much longer. Suffering a bit from culture shock, adjusting to this "pay-for-everything" and seemingly often unhappy society. You have to pay for: toilets; informational brochures; parking; grocery carts; entry to attractions, etc. etc. Phone service is only available at phone booths, and accessing the Internet is expensive - on the rare occasions when we can locate a connection. While we're enjoying this travel experience, we are often homesick for Clemmie. Thankfully she evidently seems to have come the torrential (15") rain that landed on Kennebunk a week or two ago. On Saturday we'll part company with Sandy and leave for Skye and the Outer Hebrides.
Friday, June 2, 2006
Garybuie, by Uig, Isle of Skye, Scotland
We've given up keeping current with our travels, will make slide shows instead when we get home. Pat has been sick as a dog with a virulent cold/cough, spent nearly 3 days in bed, and hopefully is now recovering. Our time here, nonetheless, has been interspersed with a bit of sight seeing. Weather has been colder than normal, windy and overcast. We haven't got much walking in due to weather and ill health. This little self-catering apartment attached to Kevin and Christine's house is very homey and a good place to be sick - if one had to be. They are great hosts (they also do B&B) in isolated Glen Hinnisdal, and we are enjoying their company, their hens, new-born chicks, orphaned-cum-pet lamb, and two pigs about to give birth. The photographs taken so far in the UK are now uploaded to the website. We leave tomorrow on the ferry from Uig to Tarbert in the Outer Hebrides, where we'll be roaming around for the next week - hopefully enjoying good health, walks, and weather....
We're back home in Clemmie! After Skye, we took the ferry to the Outer Hebrides and spent 8 days touring these islands and staying at Bed and Breakfasts. It was fantastic. Then we returned to Skye and drove to Perth to visit our many dear ones there and nearby, staying for a most enjoyable week with Margaret and Bill. From Perth we went to Linlithgow, outside Edinburgh, to visit Pat's former college room-mate June, and drove south back to Garforth (near Leeds) to spend one last night with Pat's niece before going to Manchester airport early Wednesday morning. Thankfully, Sandy came with us to the airport to help navigate: the traffic was jammed near the city, and once at the airport we drove round and round looking for the Thrifty car-rental place to return our very trusty car. We clocked 3,200 rental car miles on our 7-week visit to the UK. We fianlly arrived at the Portland (Maine) airport at 1am on Thursday morning after an uneventful transatlantic flight, then spending 8+ hours in the Philadelphia airport. 24 hours altogether in transit from Manchester. Nuff said. Al, bless him, came to meet us and drove our weary selves back here.
We've had a terrific trip, and a selection of the thousand photos taken are now in the photo album. We've also made these photos into a series of slide shows to serve as our travel log documenting our trip. Please check out the slide shows. We've done one each for:
This effort has inspired Pat to think about making slide shows for all the remaining album pages - it'll take her a while though. We're delighted to be home, to waken to the robin's repertoire, fall asleep beneath the trees, and be back in cell-phone contact with our dear ones on this side of the Atlantic. It was wonderful for Pat to reconnect with long-time dear ones in the UK, and we've added quite a few of their photos to the Photo Album.
We've done laundry, made granola and spreadable butter, checked all Clemmie's systems (propane hot water heater needed a little attention), filled up our larder, taken many deep breaths, and had several happy attacks. Pat,still suffering the month-old remnants of her horrible cold, went to the Doctor yesterday and got a 5-day course of antibiotics to, hopefully, banish a residual bacterial sinus infection. We leave today for Auburn to visit Mark and get Clemmie's engine serviced, then a few days with Donna and family in West Paris before heading for Montreal (to visit dear cruising friends Iguazu) and then Toronto to visit Dave before finally journeying westward through Canada to the Oregon coast. We plan to get there in early August. Stay tuned.
Monday, July 3, 2006
at Donna and Nick's, West Paris, ME
Settling happily in to our on-the-road routine, back among familiar bird sounds. Left Kennebunk mid-day last Tuesday, made a few quick purchases at the Maine Mall in Portland, and arrived outside Mark's house in Auburn around 4pm. 63 miles. Plugged into the cord he'd left conveniently sitting just inside the hedge and grieved a bit knowing there was no Laurie here any more. Spent some quality time with Mark that evening, ate breakfast at nearby and now very familiar Roy's Family Restaurant the next morning before unplugging and driving the short 30 miles to Donna and Nick's. Rain started with our arrival. Second major flooding system this spring, this time targeting the mid-Atlantic. Parts of DC under water, and Wilkes Barre threatened. Spent our time here weeding and organizing Clemmie's storage, enjoying our grandkids, and just generally being in this bucolic spot - despite the downpours that continued to wander through neighborhood. Off today to visit the Iguazus south of Montreal again - like us they are now permanently ashore - and then begin our travels to the west coast.
Tuesday, July 4, 2006
at Roger and Adrianna's, Ste. Alexandre, Quebec
Said goodbye to Donna, etc., yesterday morning and pulled out of their yard soon after 9am. Clear sunny day, terrific drive through the beautiful Maine countryside. Followed Rte 26 north through Bethel, Maine, and Colebrook,New Hampshire, where we stopped to eat lunch. Then north on Rte 3 and west into Vermont on Rte 114. Crossed into Quebec at Norton and north on Rte 147 to Coaticook, then Rte 141 to I-55 north to I-10. The roads in Quebec for the most part were exctremely lumpy (as were New Hampshire's), rattling Clemmie's teeth. West on I-10 then south on Rte 227 towards Ste. Alexandre. Arrived here around 3pm (193 miles) and settled down to reconnect with Roger and Adrianna, dear cruising friends.
We spent much time discussion food, recipes, and eating habits. Adrianna has dropped 28kg (56 lbs) since last year - basically by following Michel Martingac's long-standing and well-tested recommendations for food combinations. Today we all drove into Montreal, hoping to spend time at the annual Jazz Festival. However, frequent downpours in the late afternoon changed our minds, so after wandering around the city centre, we went back to the house and watched a movie instead.
Sunday, July 9, 2006
on the street at Dave's, Toronto, Ontario
Wednesday, from Ste. Alexandre after lunch we drove to Burlington, Vt., did a little provisioning, etc., and then found the house of Bill's cousin, Tom in the woods near Hinesburg, a few miles southeast of Burlington. 78 easy miles. Last time they saw each other was when Tom was 10! This travelling life is great, we are able to visit people all over the place. And we think we're pretty low-maintenance guests, bringing our own bedroom and living space. Kitchen too. Spent one night at Tom and Cyn's, then over to Shelburne a few miles southwest of Burlington to visit old friends of Bill's, Marty and Karen, at their lakeside summer home the next night. Had to make a detour on the way when confronted with a railroad bridge marked 11'. 15 miles. Left Shelburne very early Friday morning and drove north along Rte 2 to cross the Lake Champlain Islands, stopping for a scenic bowl of cereal on one of the causeway parking spots. Then to Cornwall, NY, where we crossed back into Canada and caught the trans-Canada highway into Toronto.
We took a great bike-ride yesterday along the lake, round Humber Park with its great view of Toronto, and up the Humber river -- until the trail was blocked by a downed tree. Made ground-nut and yam stew for dinner. Delicious! Did some planning for our trip to the Pacific coast and mapped out two weeks in the Canadian Rockies on the way. Made camping reservations at Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper. We leave early tomorrow morning for Sault Ste Marie (Canada), the next leg of this long trip.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Agawa Bay CG, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario
Said goodbye to Dave and Cheyenne and departed Toronto at 6:00am yesterday, barely ahead of rush hour traffic. Drove north on Rte 400, stopping for breakfast in the picnic area at the Service Area near Barrie. Couldn't fill up with gasoline since the pumps had 11' roofs. Oops. We need 11'6". Eventually found a convenient gas station another 50 miles onwards. Decided we'd better make a habit of starting to look for a filling station when the tank is 1/4 full. Then to Sudbury, where we turned west on Rte 17 and along the north coast of Lake Huron. Pulled into a picnic area near Nairn for lunch. Coming through Sault Ste Marie we ran into a crew of road workers aimlessly moving barriers about and flattening fresh tarmac while frustrated traffic sat at a standstill. Filled the tank up with gas again, $$$ flowing from the wallet. Then north along Lake Superior - the Lonely Planet guidebook to Canada advises that the drive along the Lake Superior shore is up there with the Cabot Trail (in Nova Scotia) and Alberta's Icefields Parkway. One of those drives to do before you die. So here we were, rushing along as fast as we could to get past it. So, taking heed from Lonely Planet, we decided to stop here for a couple of nights and slow down a bit. Arriving soon after 6pm, we were assigned a campsite barely big enough to squeeze Clemmie between the pines. 505 miles for the day. The campground is in a gorgeous spot, and today we took time to realize that circumnavigating Lake Superior should be on our list of summer-time trip options. Made notes for the future. We'll be back.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Neys Provincial Park, Ontario
Left Agawa Bay shortly after 8am. Dumped the holding tanks and filled the smelly one with fresh water. Let it swill around cleaning itself while we drove along the Trans Canada highway (Rte 17) past Old Woman Cove, through hill and forest. Stopped to provision in Wawa, and pulled into this isolated provincial park in time for a late lunch (after dumping the cleaning slosh.) 185 miles. Our campsite fronts onto the spacious beach. A glorious afternoon, clear and warm. Vacationing families swimming and playing spread sparsely along the waterfront. Today, another beauty. Watched a loon swimming in the lake. Thought about joining it, but today is cooler and a bit breezy to boot. Hiked along the beach to the point, then along on the rocks. The beach is littered with bleached logs and branches, and the shoreline filled with wood chips on top of sand. Remnants of past storms we wonder. Quite unlike Agawa Bay, where the shoreline was all shiny round granite pebbles. Learned that this parkland was the site of a WWII POW camp and, if the written blurb is to be believed, quite a happy sanctuary for the prisoners(??) Had a nice "down" day, we're no longer quite as antsy to keep moving, happy to stay put for a day or so.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Sandbar Provincial Park, Ontario
Unplugged Clemmie around 8am and drove to the shower house for needed ablutions before leaving Neys Provincial Park this morning. Continued on Rte 17, the Trans Canada Highway around Lake Superior, rolly hills, evergreem forests, many blind corners. A gasper of a moment as one of the many trucks on this road decided to overtake us on one, then repeated the maneuver on the next curve forcing everyone - including the RV coming the other way - to take evasive action. Gassed up in Thunder Bay, and continued west stopping only for lunch at the Central Time Zone marker. Scenery flattened out, still forests and many ponds and small lakes. Drove north on Rte 599 near Ignace to Sandbar state park, arriving around 2:30pm (CDT). 325 miles. Settled in and went for a walk along a wooded trail to the beach. Too windy for bugs or birds. A good place for fishing, evidently, but not much else. Won't stay here long.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Meadowlark Campground and RV Park, Brandon, Manitoba
Friday night pleasant and clear, 61°F on waking yesterday morning. As usual (when we're plugged in) our coffee pot woke us up with the coffee's sweet ploppety ploop into the carafe. Decided to make an early start, so departed Sandbar at 6:15am. Continued on Rte 17 through Dryden, stopping there for breakfast. Thereafter, the pond scenery became rockier, and prettier. Through Kenora, taking the (bumpy) detour to the town center on the waterfront of the Lake of the Woods. A nice little summer town. Stopped at the Manitoba Welcome Center for maps, camping information, pit stop, etc. Saw a Robertson's ground squirrel (aka gopher) darting in and out of the shrubbery. The TCH (now Rte 1) through Manitoba is divided highway all the way, in (for the most part) poor condition. Felt like we were back in Quebec, poor Clemmie rattling her way along, gathering more dust and insects every mile - excuse me, kilometer. Into the plains in earnest as the forests slowly gave way to fields, flat uglies on the largely curveless highway. Travelled beside a westward-bound freight train for about half an hour. Rattled our way to Winnipeg, and took the bypass to the south. Hot day (near 90°F.) At about 3:00pm we decided to stop in Brandon (Manitoba's 2nd largest town) at this private campground. Chose it because of its WiFi and laundry. We also have cell phone coverage. Thankfully, we were early enough to get a nice shady campsite. 421 miles today. 1,435 miles last week. Too much travelling, but we're getting there. Don't need to come back across the plains this way again.
Today, another hot one. Apparently unusual for so far north. Caught up with the laundry and updated the website. Took advantage of this campground's WiFi to designate today as July's Action Day. Researched current issues, and sent Faxes to 3 Senators opposing S.2381, the Line-Item Vote Act. Yet another Congressional give-away of power to the White House.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
River Park Campground, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Yesterday, left the RV Park in Brandon to go get poor filthy Clemmie washed for her 2nd birthday. 2 years ago to the day that we closed on the purchase and moved into her. But, after checking out the option suggested by a nearby RV dealer and the RV park staff (it only cleans cars), went to find the truck wash. Too small for Clemmie, only pickup trucks. Drove by another listed in the yellow pages, defunct. Gave it up. Stopped by the post office to mail belated thank you postcards to all our recent dear-one hosts and then filled up with groceries. Not sorry to leave Brandon, noisy and dusty. Hit the Trans Canada highway and bumped along to the Saskatchewan border to stop at the welcome center. Well, well, we've gained an hour. Saskatchewan doesn't do summer time. Did our usual information pickup and pit stop, and ate lunch at picnic table. Continued on the TCH (Still Rte 1), lo and behold the road surface couldn't be better. Thank you Saskatchewan! A pleasant smooth ride through attractive prairies to Moose Jaw and a stop at its Tourist Information Center. Huge fields of rape (canola oil in full yellow flower) and flax (carpet of blue-grey flowers.) Found our way to this lovely little park and campground, and picked our spot around 4:30am. An unexpected little gem, among the trees, near the river and an easy bike ride into town. 285 miles for the day.
Since Montreal, our pot bellies have definitely shrunk. Our modified way of eating is doing the trick, and (what's more) we're enjoying it. We have to be a bit creative and shop more often for veggies, but well worth the effort. This morning's breakfast: Sausage and eggs, kohlrabi homefries, side of kohlrabi greens and tomato, and a dish of fresh fruit salad. Yum, yum, yum. Don't miss those Egg McMuffins one bit.
Today, another gorgeous one. Mid 50's overnight, daytime 70's, clear, light breeze. Biked the short distance into downtown Moose Jaw, stopped by the Tunnels of Moose Jaw. Didn't take the tour (2 hours) of the incredible underground tunnels and rooms under the town, made famous by Al Capone, etc., during prohibition. Learned also about the role of Chinese immigrants in building the Canadian Pacific Railroad, and the miserable conditions they endured. Then to the Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre to see some fledglings in the breeding program, and learn about the predicament of this endangered prairie species. Visited the Oak and Rose bookstore, and then treated ourselves to lunch at Nit's, Moose Jaw's famous Thai restaurant. Did some birding near the river, and took our laptops over beside the campground office (free WiFi) and did some computer chores. A thoroughly enjoyable day in an unexpectedly nice place. Rounded out the evening with a bike ride along the river, both Eastern and Western kingbirds much in evidence, including fledglings sitting on a tree by the river watching their parents forage on the wing.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Mountainview Farm Campground, Calgary, Alberta
Dumped tanks and filled fresh water early yesterday morning in Moose Jaw. Found (thankfully) a splendid truck wash on the Trans Canada Highway on the edge of town, and Clemmie finally got her overdue bath. A bug-free windshield, at least for a short while. Left Moose Jaw behind by 8:30am. Definitely our favorite place since Toronto. The heavy dark clouds to the west soon gave way to lighter coverage and plenty of sun. Saw plenty of salt flats, a big salt mining operation, and many ponds and lakes -- covered with shore birds. Regular hawk sightings, and then one wheeling high brought a double take. That's not a hawk, it's a white penguin! Checked our field guide, and yes there is a summer colony on Reed Lake. We've clearly missed a great birding opportunity. Saskatchewan continued well farmed, some small with trees, much agribusiness here. Stopped at the Alberta border to pick up maps, etc., and eat lunch. Finally found some untouched prairie - not much of it left. Made bets as to when we might see the Rockies rising up ahead. Saw Calgary's skyline first, dimly behind a layer of smog. Then almost at our campground, some shadows behind the City implying mountains. What a disappointment. Registered for our campsite in this misnamed RV Park at 5pm. 415 miles today, 2,829 since leaving Maine 2 weeks ago. A day's rest here, then an oil change for Clemmie tomorrow enroute to Banff and Jasper National Parks where we'll spend 2 weeks. We're ready!
On a different note, we spent part of the day listening to our Sirius Satellite Radio giving news of the disaster unfolding in Lebanon. We were reminded of a situation once observed in a school yard, two kids hammering each other, assorted bullies on the sidelines egging them on, supporters of the two offering rocks to arm their respective protagonists, and the head teacher calling for a cease fire. Bedlam indeed. And, of course, the protagonists have long forgotten what they're fighting about, so thoroughly are they caught up in the adrenaline of the fray. Seems like the world is increasingly driven by 8th grade behavior. Where oh where are the adults?
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Tunnel Mountain II Campground, Banff, Alberta
Last Friday morning, 54°F, clear and sunny. Taking advantage of Mountainview's (expensive but secure) WiFi, we did our monthly financial stuff before leaving the campground to continue west along the Trans Canada Highway, just skirting the northern edge of Calgary. After stopping for groceries, and passing through Calgary'es western edge, we finally got our first decent view of the Rockies. We came into Banff National Park, bought an annual park pass for each of us (there's a daily use fee otherwise) and drove to this campground for our previously reserved site. 89 miles from Calgary. We spent almost a week here, had a terrific time and we took lots of photos. Our slide show recounts the highlights of our activities. The first two days were beastly hot, but then it cooled down to the normal range (high 70's, low near 50) which radically enhanced our enjoyment.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Whistler's Campground, Jasper, Alberta
After the usual dump 'n fill, we left Tunnel Mountain near 8am and drove into Banff for the opening of the Safeway so we coud replenish our 'frig and larder. Then onto the good ole Trans Canada Highway (TCH) north past Lake Louise and onto Rte 93, the Icefield Highway. Please see our slide show for photos of this unbelievably beautiful drive. We gave ourselves just 2 nights here, so clearly we'll have to come back. A spectacular but sometimes gruelling 185 miles from Banff. The campground is lovely, and the things to do around Jasper almost unlimited. With only two nights and one whole day, we decided to hike into Maligne Canyon this morning. It's unbelievable. Afterwards, we came back to Jasper for lunch (with WiFi to update the website and check e-mail). By then the weather had thickened so we bagged our intention to ride the Tramway up Whistler's mountain and came home. Just as well, thunder and showers in the afternoon.
We left Jasper early Saturday morning to get a jump on the traffic - which surprisingly never materialized. Perhaps all the weekend traffic was already settled in. Our drive down the Icefield Highway was quite different to the way up; a lovely misty morning and a leisurely pace stopping at the Athabasca Falls, the Icefield Center, and Peyto Lake. See our slide show describing the trip. It cooled down seriously overnight (to 45°F) and Sunday we decided we needed to just veg out and "be at home." Good thing, after warming up a bit in some sun, it clouded over in the afternoon and a couple of vicious wind squalls came through the campground rapidly downing the temperature, then bringing steady rain. By happy hour it was down to 40°F, and we were wondering if it might snow! Yesterday, still cool on rising but we drove early to Lake Louise and hiked to the Plain of Six Glaciers. Today, even cooler when we rose. We drove to Moraine Lake, hiked the lakeshore trail, then continued on to Johnston Canyon and hiked to the lower falls. Still cool when we got home in the afternoon, we awaited a predicted overnight freeze. We've been listening on our satellite radio all week to coverage of the horrifying situation in Lebanon and are dismayed at the US role in all of this.
Thursday, August 3, 2006
Riley Creek Recreation Area, LaClede, Idaho
Cool on rising early, and left Lake Louise soon after 8am heading back down the Trans Canada Highway (bumpety bumpety bump) to Rte 93 which we took south into Kootenay National Park. A huge area of this park burned in 2003, and is still recovering. We continued south through British Columbia from Radium on Rte 95 and for a long time our views of beautiful BC was shrouded in haze from numerous forest fires. We crossed the border into Idaho and stopped in Bonners Ferry to collect maps and camping information. Lovely countryside. In Sandy Point, we took Rte 2 to the Pend Oreille area, and stopped at the Riley Creek Recreation Area for a couple of nights. 295 miles. We have learned that, if there are any in the area, the Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds are usually terrific. This one certainly was. We got the second last available spot at this, one of 3 campgrounds, around the Albeni Falls Dam Army Corps project.
Saturday, August 5, 2006
Portland-Fairview RV Park, Portland, Oregon
We continued along Rte 2 from Riley Creek early yesterday morning. Took a peak at the Albeni Falls dam on the Pend Oreille river, flowing into the Columbia. Passed into Washington State and then south on Rte 395 through Spokane, getting slightly confused by detour signs. Fortunately there wasn't much of a rush hour. Eastern Washington state turned scrubby at first (pretty), and then (sad) we began passing dried out fields and brush, with abandoned farms and machinery including irrigation equipment. Clear evidence of the drought, disappearing aquifers, and general lack of water plaguing America's bread basket. We crossed into Oregon on I-82, stopping to eat lunch and collect maps/information, in Umatilla. From there we continued on I-84 along the mighty Columbia River and its deepening gorge on the way to dumping into the Pacific. Spectacular views and plenty of traffic; few pull out spots to take pictures. Stopped to fill up with gas and groceries before pulling in here for a couple of nights. A long 395-mile day. Today, we took advantage of the campground's WiFi to do various Internet tasks, including researching how to get to downtown Portland. Bus #12, every half hour, for a 55-minute trip. Late morning, after doing laundry, etc., we sallied forth into the city to spend time in Powell's City of Books, the Whole Foods market, in the downtown area. Ate lunch in the terrific little Thai Peacock restaurant a block from Powell's.
Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Fort Stephens State Park, Hammond, Oregon
Two days and boiling afternoon heat in the confined setting of Portland-Fairview RV Park was enough. Upped and outa there at dawn on Sunday, to follow Rte 30 along the Columbia River as it inches mistilly towards the Pacific. Stopped for breakfast at the local diner in St. Helens and continued a gentle amble through lovely countryside, and past occasionally stinky from paper mills. Through Astoria and across the Youngs Bay bridge to Warrenton, then followed the signs to this, our first Oregon, state park. Arrived around 10:30am (117 miles) and thus able to get a campsite for 4 days, the weekenders are leaving. Miles of great bike trails here. Farsighted Oregon took over its coast 80 years ago to protect it from development, and used the land to create a necklace of state parks from north to south. It's a bike friendly state, and feels like we're going to be here a while, and then back often. Daytime temperatures 20° cooler. Got our first view of the Pacific, blustery indeed. Monday, we biked into Astoria: 10 miles with good bike lanes, though narrow on the Youngs Bay bridge. Visited the Columbia River Maritime Museum, and learned just how deadly the river bar is. 2,000 ships lost and 700 lives since 1800. Visited the Columbia lightship. A hair-raising return trip across the bridge, what with 40mph headwind and being elbowed along by lumber trucks. Got a good view of Astoria from the distance. Enjoyed cooler weather, high in the 60's, low near 50. Refreshing rain one night, and a couple of cloudy days. Did a little spring cleaning in Clemmie. Housework doesn't amount to much these days, thank goodness.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Visiting Dear Ones, Cascade Head, Oregon
Early last Thursday we left our campsite at Fort Stephens and drove out to the South Jetty at the mouth of the Columbia River to watch the sun rise. Hundreds of Pelicans on the beach, with the massive operations to reconstruct the ancient jetty already underway. These earthworks, now 100 years old, protect the busy traffic entering and leaving one of the most hazardous river entrances in the world. Then south along Rte 101, the coastal highway, stopping periodically for views and provisions and to visit Rorie and family who are vacationing here. Craig was also visiting for a few days before returning to Idaho. A bit tricky parking, but positioned Clemmie into a nice level spot, hopefully not in anyone's way. Since then, we're just hanging out at the beach. Hiked out Cascade Head one day to enjoy the view, did some shopping at the Outlet Mall in Lincoln City, spent time on the beach across the Salmon River, drove to Pacific City and hid in the dunes from the chill wind, played games and otherwise enjoyed our dear ones and grandkids.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Devil's Lake State Park, Lincoln City, Oregon
Yesterday morning we all piled into their rental car with Rorie and family to drive the short distance to the Otis Cafe, at the junction of Rtes 101 and 18, where we ate breakfast. Don't miss this local landmark if you're in the area. Later, Jasper and Reuben rode in Clemmie with us the 8 miles to this small low-key campground right in the middle of Lincoln City, while the parents did some unencumbered shopping at the Tanger Outlet Mall. Interesting to be in a well-marked tsunami danger area. Assorted tectonic plate faults lie 70 miles off the Oregon shore, and their rumbles and shudders regularly produce (so far) small tsunamis. There'll be a big one some day. Our particular campsite is not great, but we're happy with the location. Excitement in our part of the campground in the late afternoon when we came across a young crow wandering on the ground not yet able to fly. The parents on branches above provided noisy advice and exhortations. We were still wondering at bedtime what the outcome would be for the vulnerable fledging youngster. The widespread hostility to the corvid family is hugely unwarranted: they are the most intelligent and frequently the most interesting of birds to watch. Today, we checked out the Lincoln City beach, then went to the movies with Rorie et al., (we all agreed that Monster House was terrible) and ate supper together afterwards at a nearby Thai restaurant. Great times.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, Oregon
Last Friday morning cool and clear (48°) while we dumped our tanks and left Lincoln City right after breakfast. Fog whirled around the coast, obscuring the views from scenic overlooks. We made brief stops, and notes to spend more time later, at Depoe Bay (pigeon guillemots hanging around on the dock), Otter Rock and Devil's Punchbowl, Yaquina Head, Cape Foulweather, Cape Perpetua. Picked up postcards about the proposed resumption of commercial whaling at the Oregon State Parks Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay. Stopped at Fred Meyer's in Newport to fill up with groceries and gas. Got our first glimpse of the fabled Oregon Dunes. Ate lunch at Mo's in Florence watching young ospreys practicing their hunting skills. Somewhere we learned that 80% of osprey fledglings don't make it through their first winter, they starve to death. It's a tough row that species has chosen to hoe. Hauled into this cozy campground around 5:10 pm and settled into our reserved spot. A gentle 106 mile amble for the day.
Our spell here has been lovely, though a bit cooler than we'd like with day-time highs in the low-mid 60's days. Several nice sunny days towards the end of our week. We've walked the trails and into Winchester Bay on the Umpqua River, and along the beach. Visited the Umpqua Lighthouse museum. Both buys on our assorted writing projects. Regular time for one of us studying Spanish in preparation for our planned Mexico trip, while the other does daily practice on classical guitar. Much entertainment from the resident campground pests (Steller's Jays) which have succesfully produced a large and fluffy batch of fledglings this spring. A gang of young 'uns have squabbled and practiced their skills right in our campsite. Their noisy chattering wakes us and continues well into the evening. We're definitely smelling the roses these days. We're also happy with our new way of eating, and our slowly shrinking waistlines.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Jessie Honeyman State Park, Oregon
We left Umpqua Lighthouse soon after 7 a.m. on Friday, continued cool nights and slowly lifiting mist revealing nice blue but cool skies. Highs in the low 60's. We drove to Reedsville and east on Rte 38 to the Deer Creek to the viewing area where we got a good look at the resident herd of Roosevelt Elk. Back to Reedsville for breakfast in the local diner. After a visit to the Oregon Dunes Visitors Center, we continued north on Rte 101 and stopped at the Dunes viewing area. Eerie views of the dunes in the mist. Then on to Florence to check e-mail, provision, and do sundry other errands. Finally, we backtracked south 5 miles on Rte 101 to this park and our reserved spot. 46 miles today. This state park is a big place, 400 campsites: people come here for vacation through generations, and in the summer you better reserve your spot well ahead. No wonder. It's adjacent to the Oregon Dunes, and Lakes Cleowax and Woahink to swim in, A huge playground, lots of trails. Filled with munchkins on bikes and youngsters sandboarding. On Saturday, we walked (4 miles round trip) to take a ride on a dune buggy - our gaspers broke with amazement at the immensity of the dunes. You have to see them to believe it. Some sun in the late afternoon, slowly sinking daytime temperaturs as the weather clouded over. Today's high 55°. We're cold and it's dark under these beautiful tall trees. Watching all those vacationing families out and about, or sitting bundled up round their campfires, we took our come uppance. We're not real campers, we're mobile homers.... Decided to move east tomorrow to find some heat. It's 20° warmer less than 20 miles away.
Departed Honeyman State Park soon after 8 a.m. Monday morning, a lovely spot though we found it cold and dark in the campground these last couple of days.... Drove north past the clearcuts abutting Takhenich Lake to Florence to provision (and eat breakfast) then south to Reedsville where we turned east along Rte 38 beside the Umpqua River. Gorgeous countryside. After 13 miles turned south on County Road #3, and made a twisty 8-mile climb to Loon Lake. 49 miles. We're on a campsite right beside the lake, under a pretty tree. It's been in the mid 70's° with plenty the sun. Free Wi Fi, too. Enjoyed watching all the campground kids playing in and near the lake.
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Port of Siuslaw Marina and RV Park, Florence , Oregon
Left Loon Lake last Thursday morning and drove back along the beautiful twisty logging road to Rte 38, then Reedsville (for breakfast) and north again on Rte 101 to Florence and this busy boating campground, filled for the weekend. Glad we made a reservation. Lucky to have a spot with some shade - Thursday and Friday afternoons were sunny and in the 80's, un-Florence-like weather. Twice, we've biked out the (windy) 6 miles to the North Jetty at the mouth of the Siuslaw River, lots of shorebirds in the sand flats including many migrating red-necked phalaropes. For the first few days here, one of us rested his damaged big toe (smushed in Lincoln City). We took our bikes to be cleaned and pressed at convenient bike shop on Rte 101. Nice town, Florence, easy biking around and access to necessary shops. WiFi (mostly) working in the campground too. Cooler for the weekend, misty in the morning and barely reaching 60 most days, mostly sunny by afternoon. The large flock of teeny (mostly Western, a few Least) sandpipers that has been roosting near the dock is dwindling. Presume they're leaving to go south. We'll follow them eventually. Webmaster re-formatted all the "What If's" in the Cruising Handbook to improve their utility, caused her a major nostalgia attack. Oh where are you now, sweet Callipygia? Sometimes she misses you dreadfully. Both working on writing projects, and Pat on her Spanish in preparation for trip to Mexico this coming winter.
Friday, September 8, 2006
at Paul and Jane's beach house, Waldport, Oregon
Left Florence last Thursday morning, usual tank damp, etc. Misty but lifting, turned into a lovely day. Provisioned at Fred Meyer's and headed north back up Rte 101. Stopped at the Sea Lion Caves to take a look at the only mainland colony of Steller's Sea Lions. The hang out in this huge cave in the winter, and on the rocks at the foot of some tall cliffs the rest of the year. Got a great view of Hecata Head Lighthouse, very picturesque. Stopped at Cape Perpetua to hike down to the shore and tidal pools, then in lovely Yachats for coffee. Continuing on, as we came into Waldport, the binoculars we were able to pick out a large batch of seals basking on the northern spit at the Alsea River mouth along with hordes of pelicans, geese, and gulls. Unfortunately, once we arrived at Paul and Jane's beach house, after we set forth for the beach we found that access to that sand spit is blocked by private dwellings. How un-Oregon like. 52 miles today. Had a terrific time reconnecting with Paul, Bill's former colleague at Pinehenge, and meeting his wife Jane. Learned that they live in a Yurt in Eugene built by Oregon Yurt Works. We watched a DVD about these efficient and intriguing housing options. Went with Paul and Jane to Newport on some errands, and stopped on the waterfront in the fish harbour to see the mass of seals dozing on the dock. A truly remarkable sight. On the way home we stopped at Seal Rock to take in the views, quite lovely - when the mist lifts.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
at Laurie and Jonathan's, Wilsonville, Oregon
Left Waldport mid morning yesterday and ambled north to Newport, then east on Rte 20 through Corvallis to I-5. Stopped to make lunch somewhere along the way, and reminded ourselves how convenient it is to have our house with us wherever we go. Found a truck wash on I-5 and got Clemmie soaped, hosed down and polished. Found our way to Wilsonville, and made sure we could fit in Laurie and Jonathan's driveway. 135 miles. Once done with that, we drove into Lake Oswego to eat supper at Clarke's Restaurant, Laurie and Jonathan's labor of love. Outstanding! Then Laurie bailed out early and led us back to her house (roads were closed) and introduced us to young Tristan and Gracie. After the kids' bedtime, we had a lovely time reconnecting with Laurie, and later a weary Jonathan once he got home. Running a restaurant. Today, we took Laurie and the kids for a ride in Clemmie (they have been very excited to have this big toy in the driveway and have spent much time with us!) We have loved doing some in-lieu "grand parenting."
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Roamer's Rest RV Park, Tualatin, Oregon
Departed Wilsonville mid-morning on Monday and promptly got stuck in traffic. Inched our way over to SW Portland suburb Tualatin and this very pleasant RV Park on the banks of the Tualatin River. Arrived just after noon. 13 miles. The weather had certainly changed as we moved inland. Hot sun, high 80's until yesterday when it cooled down rapidly in the afternoon. Today 58° and raining. Tuesday we took the bus into Portland and spent several hours (and more than a few $$) at Powell's City of Books. Great to find some cheap used books on our browsing list. Stayed up late Tuesday night to collect (via WiFi) the results of the DC and national primaries. Delighted to see that Pat's 10-year boss and colleague, Vince Gray, handily won the primary race for DC Council Chairman - tantamount to election in the District. Unlike the Current Occupant of the White House, Vince will be more than up to the job. Working with the Mayoral primary winner Adrian Fenty we think he'll bring light to the end of the tunnel for DC residents. Yesterday, we started out at the Portland Clinic in Tigard for some routine health checks. After a big administrative runaround, they figured out they couldn't help us. Sent us to another clinic - can't take us either, don't do Medicare. Next we went to the Providence Group's Immediate Care Clinic. Success! Except that in Oregon they can't release lab test results (Bill's quarterly PSA) to the patient, can only fax them to his Dr. in Minneapolis. Gimme a break. We leave tomorrow for Port Angeles and then Vancouver Island in BC.
We left Tualatin yesterday morning and made our way to I-5 north through Portland. Glad we weren't going south, those interstate lanes were completely blocked by an accident, and traffic diverted through town. Across into Washington, along the north side of the Columbia river until it turned to the west and left us. South of Olympia, we exited onto Rte 101 to come up the east side of the beautiful Olympic peninsula, then along it's northern edge on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Found our way to this seedy but convenient little RV park right in the middle of Port Angeles. 248 miles. Wandered around enough to find out there's a terrific waterfront and an excellent bookstore a few blocks away. Today, gorgeous. Hurricane Ridge and the Olympic Mountains standing guard over the waterfront. Took several walks to explore this interesting town, A busy industrious port. Put it on our list of places we might try out for a while some winter. Learned you can travel on foot from Port Angeles to Vancouver via ferry to Victoria, bus or walk to the BC Ferries terminal and then a second ferry to Vancouver.
Monday, September 19, 2006
West Bay Marine Village, Esquimalt nr. Victoria, B.C.
Up before daylight yesterday to get in line at the Port Angeles ferry for the 8:20am crossing to Victoria. A 90 minute trip. Rain started soon after we left the dock dampening the view from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On arrival, Canadian customs pulled us and another RV (from Kansas) aside and strip searched our home. Two officials tore everything apart in the course of the next half hour, aparently looking for guns - which of course we didn't have. Apparently our distant license plates (Florida) made us suspicious types. Are Americans persona non grata everywhere now? Thanks Dubya. During the search, the customs agents discovered we had "underestimated" our wine store so in letting us go they gave us a stern warning to count properly next time. Felt like we were back in kindergarten. Properly chastened we were. But not for long - arrived shortly in this (expensive) campground thankful we'd made a reservation. What a place, a combination marina and RV park with several floating houses throughout the marina. Our campsite was right on the harbor waterfront. Despite the rain we were entertained by the continous screenplay of kayakers, paddle ships, water taxis, sea planes landing and taking off, ferries coming and going, a humungous cruise ship straddling the background. Not to mention herons, kingfishers, geese, ducks, cormorants, gulls, etc., etc. Worth every dollar. 3 wheel miles today.
Yesterday evening we had happy hour and supper with Bill's son Dave's boyhood friend Eric and his wife, Sherry. Lovely to connect with them, Bill last saw Eric when he was a teenager in Halifax. Today, foggy to start then clear blue sky until afternoon, when showers started. Mild winters, 25" of rain annually, and 2,400 average hours of sunshine. Is this a potential future winter landing spot?
Sunday, September 24, 2006
at Marian's, Courtenay, Vancouver Island, B.C.
Said goodbye to Westbay Marine Village last Tuesday morning after dumping and filling tanks. Made reservations to come back for a couple of weeks, to try that spot out a bit harder. Drove north on the Trans Canada highway (Rte 1) to Nanaimo, stopping en route at Goldstream Provinical park to walk through the woods and check out the visitor center. Finally found a copy of BC Provincial Parks's directory. Continued north through the busy city of Nanaimo (ferry hub to Vancouver) and then onto Rte 19A north along the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. Detoured into the little town of Chemainus, home of some 32 beautiful murals documenting the area's history. Lovely coast along the Georgia Strait, misty mountains to the east and the west and frequent log booms corralling timber floating along to the mills. Arrived at Marian's soon after 3pm.
We've spent a happy time here, helping Pat's former school friend Marian and exploring the lovely Comox Valley area. Marian took us to the marina in the shelter of Goose Spit, where we watched a dragon boat team working on its timing. Friday, we drove along the coast northwards to the town of Campbell River, collecting some renowned sour-dough rye bread from the Coleman Road store on the way. The serrated silhouette of the Coastal Range across the Georgia Strait in the distance, herons wading in the shallow waters nearby. The weather has turned gorgeous, sunny and warm days and pleasant cool nights. Yesterday, a morning trip to the local Farmer's Market, an afternoon hike in the wetlands at the mouth of the Courtenay River then finishing up with a macrobiotic dinner at Marian's with Sheila, another Mount School alum who lives nearby. Sheila brought a photo of the student body in 1956, the year Pat and Marian finished school. This triggered much nostalgia and memory tweaking.
Monday morning, Pat drove Marian and her truck to the ferry in Nanaimo while Bill drove Clemmie to the same point. Said goodbye to Marian and wished her well for her next round of medical appointments in Vancouver. Then continued south on Rte 19 to Victoria back again to Westbay. 136 miles. Lo, the place is filled with 32 Marathon Motor Coaches, huge luxury bus conversions. According to the Marathon Coach website, you can buy a new one for between $1 and $2 million (US.) The vehicles, on a rally travelling together, have quite overwhelmed the place and obliterated the views. Three marquees straddled some RV campsites and organized festivities of the rally, including tourbus pickups, catered meals in the marquees, a celebratory march round the campground led by costumed piper, beefeater, and mountie, has kept the area busy. Quite a spectacle. Entertaining to watch some early-leaving behemoths wiggle their way out of their campsites - this campground is way to small for RV's of such mammoth proportions. They are leaving today. We fear they will overwhelm the ferries off the island. But, we'll enjoy the campground in its previous peaceful and natural state.
It's easy to keep busy here, and the weather this week has been lovely. Sunny, hi's in the 60's and low around 50. Plenty of places to go (downtown on foot, bike, bus, or water taxi) or Esquimalt (grocery store, shops, and recreation center complete with swimming pool and workout equipment.) We've taken several walking tours round Victoria, through the Legislative Building and mile 0 of the Trans Canada Highway. We've seen this road now from end to end. And, of course, the Galloping Goose and Lochside hiking/biking trails which run 80 kilometers west and north from Victoria. Due to a screwup by one of the Port Angeles Post Office employees, we had to make two separate ferry trips across the Strait (each consuming the better part of a day) to pick up our accumulated mail. Oh well, we remembered that those who are flexible don't get bent out of shape. Today we walked into town and spent most of the day with Bill's longtime Halifax friend, John, in Victoria for a conference.
Sunday, October 8, 2006
West Bay Marine Village, Esquimalt (near Victoria), B.C
Time is flying here. Cool nights (low 40's) and mostly sunny days with high in the low 60's. Visisted the nearby Esquimalt recreation center and sampled its pools, sauna, and work out equipment. Nice. Rode a chunk of the Galloping Goose bike trail. Walked the lovely shoreside trail (3 miles) into the center of Victoria frequently for assorted errands. Birdwatching. Regular guitar practice and work on writing project. Webmaster finished reading The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright, the most recent history of al Qaeda and background to 9/11. That attack had its desired result - provoking retaliation. And now we are faced with the problem about what to do in the aftermath. Dear readers, please educate yourself about the clash of civilzations that we all live in. There are no easy answers, but a huge need for improved understanding - not just by our elected leaders, but by every thoughtful person. Many excellent books have been written.
On one of our shopping jaunts we found a sign in a ladies bathroom: "Ladies: please do not flush feminine products. thankyou from our pipes and the fishes in the big blue sea." Triggered some research. Learned that Victoria and surrounding suburbs discharge 100% of their untreated sewage directly into the sea. Also that Montreal does ditto into the St. Lawrence River with 20% of its effluent. Canada has no Clean Water Act and, for a first-world country, has a very spotty record on this issue.
Monday, October 9, 2006
Lakeshore Resort, Friday Harbour, San Juan Island, WA
Said goodbye to Westbay this morning and drove north up the Saanich peninsula. Stopped for gas and propane before spending an hour exploring the downtown Sidney area (today is Canadian Thanksgiving holiday.) Then to the ferry landing and got in the line with only one other car bound for Friday Harbour, the first stop towards Anacortes. Since we were to be first off we wondered why we were kept waiting to the end. Our turn came, now we get it. Turn around and back onto the ferry! Glad we didn't have a bigger vehicle or a trailer. A beautiful day, many sailboats out flying along in a good breeze. We could see why the San Juan islands and Puget Sound are favorite sailing destinations. Although we saw evidence of some strong currents, waves whipped by the rip tide. Disembarked the ferry (thankfully driving forward) at Friday Harbor, the San Juan islands' largest town on schedule at 1 pm. A quick exit through US Customs, then drove north to check out this campground 4 miles north of town, it's the only one on the island aside from a few primitive sites near the San Juan county park, a favorite kayak put-in spot. Paid for an electrical site and then turned Clemmie into a car and drove back to Friday Harbour to use the island's lone dump station, bought a few provisions in the well stocked market, then circumnavigated San Juan Island. Stopped at Limekiln Point State Park on the west coast, swift currents rushing past. Continued on, stopping frequently, until we reached Roche Harbor at the north end of the island, then back to our campsite for the night, we're the only people here. 45 miles today.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Moran State Park, Orcas Island, WA
Up early again to catch the 8:20am ferry to Orcas Island. Drove north up this horseshoe shaped island to the little town of East Sound, then down the other side of the horsehoe to Moran State Park, the island's main attraction. Picked a campsite at the South Beach campground on the shore of Cascade Lake. This park is mainly for tenters with only a few spots suitable for RV's, no hook ups. we self registered (no signs of any other campers) and then drove Clemmie the few miles to Mountain Lake. Hiked round the lake, then drove back "home" for the afternoon. 27 miles today. Another clear sunny day, suitable for outside guitar practice and birdwatching. After, we fed our appetites with an aerobic climb above the lake to Sunrise Rock before supper. Clemmie proved her self-sufficient worth and gave us a nice snug night alone in this campground.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Bay View State Park, WA
Left Moran State Park at first light to get early in line (2 hours ahead) and ensure a spot on the 10:20am ferry to Anacortes. Found a little cafe at the Orcas ferry landing where we ate and (expensive) breakfast. Yet another beautiful sunny fall day. We've noticed quite a bit of unmentionable stuff floating on the water in bays round the San Juans. Reminded us of our stay in aptly named Black Sound in the Bahamas. The Seattle paper is running a series on the dire condition of the Puget Sound, deluged with untreated sewage, toxic run off, etc. An interesting ferry ride, with stops at Shaw and Lopez islands, by which time the ferry was completely filled up. Good view of the Sound, Mt. Baker in the hazy background, as we approached Anacortes on Fidalgo Island, barely separated from mainland Washington State. Checked out the town park's campsites, dark in gloomy in the trees. Not today. Checked out the Lighthouse, a private campground nearby. A seedy little trailer park, wouldn't work for us. Decided to come to this State Park instead. 38 miles logged for the day. The place is just lovely. Faces Padilla Bay, with sunny and open campsites. Biked to the nearby estuarian interpretive center, and learned about a trail along the dike edging the bay. Rode it. Terrific. Lots of shore birds. A brown air-pollution wash filtered the otherwise beautiful view. Humanity's foot is on the Earth's neck everywhere.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Deception Pass State Park, WA
Thursday morning we decided to leave Bay View after breakfast and do some errands and exploration. Drove north on Rte 11, the coastal Chuckanut Highway to Bellingham. Very scenic, narrow twisty road carved out of the cliffside with jutting rocks just waiting to impale Clemmie as we squeezed past each oncoming vehicle. Visited the Alaska Marine Highway ferry terminal in south Bellingham where we asked a lot of questions and collected information for our planned trip up the Inside Passage on Clemmie next summer. Then back south, this time on I-5, to Burlington for some RV supplies, a mailing at the Post Office, and a few super store purchases. Back along Rte 20 towards Anacortes, then south to cross narrow Deception Pass bridge onto Whidbey Island, terrific currents running underneath. Got a nice campsite among huge Douglas firs and settled in, only one other camper in sight. 66 miles for today. Walked to the park office to purchase a trail map, then hiked to the Deception Pass bridge, walked across and gasped at the view (through the inevitable brown haze) then hiked back home for supper with sunbeams through the firs. We noticed throughout the afternoon an endless stream of fighter planes roaring above us, presumably from the Whidbey Island air base. Imagine they're on missions to keep us safe from terrorists. Can't help but think of the cost, both $$ and pollution. We heard on the radio the estimate to clean up the dying Puget Sound is $12 billion. Equals the cost of 1 month in Iraq. Humanity seems bent on exterminating itself through violence, soiling it's nest completely, or both.
Thursday night the weather sank into cold and fog with rain showers arriving last night. Friday, yesterday, and this morning we hiked through the forest to and along the West Beach between Puget Sound and Cranberry Lake. Fabulous bird watching; we saw 38 species well enough to identify them. Afternoons busy with guitar practice, writing projects, music and Spanish language study. And of course cooking enjoyment (eating too.) The campground filled up for the weekend on Friday, abuzz with munchkins biking and campfires roasting so we enjoyed people watching for a while until today's rain drove them away. Where oh where has all that sunshine gone?
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Point Hudson Marina & RV Park, Port Townsend, WA
Left lovely but soggy Deception Pass State Park after breakfast on Monday and drove to Whidbey Island's midpoint, the ferry landing at Keystone Spit. Great birding while waiting for the ferry to take the 30-minute trip across Admiralty Inlet (the shipping entrance to the Seattle/Tacoma yards and docks) to Port Townsend on the north-east corner of the Olympic Peninsula. Clemmie's butt (actually the bikes hanging off it) would have bottomed badly on the way off the ferry; thankfully, the landing operator was able to adjust the bridge as well as the ramp, which he did for us. Drove to nearby Fort Worden State Park to decide if we wanted to spend some of our Port Townsend visit there. Then here, right on the water and adjacent to downtown Port Townsend. Terrific heated washrooms and good showers, and (slightly expensive) WiFi. 34 miles (not counting ferry distance.)
Decided we'll stay here for a week before going to check out Sequim and it's proverbial sunshine in the center of a "blue hole", the rainshadow of the Olympic Mountains. Sun came out in the afternoon. Yippee! Tuesday, cool and misty in the morning, clearing and sunny in the afternoon. Explored shore and streets, figured out local bus system. Found excellent local Co-op for provisions, and first-class bookshops. Port Townsend is our kind of place. Outstanding birding right in front of our campsite. When we first arrived a lone kildeer and a sanderling were hanging out on the shore right in front of Clemmie looking slightly lost. Webmaster spent much of Thursday doing research for the Coast Guard component of her writing project: Internet research, a helpful phone interview with a Virginia Coastie, a tour of the USCGC Osprey (station Port Townsend), and movie night to see The Guardian about the Coast Guard's Rescue Swimmer program. Tuesday night rain started, and continued pretty steadily 'til Friday morning, rocking and rolling Clemmie in the accompanying wind. Yesterday, clear sunrise over the water, just gorgeous. Think maybe we'll come back here for a month late next fall, it's a terrific spot.
Weather outlook for the next week is not promising in Sequim. Decided we'll go there for at least a day or two, but then maybe continue on round the Olympic Peninsula stopping to bird in Grays Harbor and at Cape Disappointment on the way to Portland where we expect to arrive in about a week. Feels like we haven't been warm since we abandoned Texas in March to head for Maine. We know it's not true, but we're realizing that living in Clemmie we like more heat outside. Daytime highs above 60 ° that is. Today our webmaster spent much indoor time making a slideshow of our time in Grenada in 2003.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Gilgal Oasis RV Park, Sequim, WA
Said goodby to Port Townsend around 8am and drove along Rte 20 to Rte 101, then westward the short distance (35 miles) to Sequim, wondering what this touted retirement community would be like. Since it was still morning, we drove out to the Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Reserve to take a short hike through the forest and down to the beach. Not much in the way of identifiable birds to see, in the lee of this longest sandspit in the US. Then back to town to check in at this highly manicured small RV park in the center of Sequim. By virtue of it's location in the center of the Olympic Mountain rainshadow, the town boasts of the sunniest climate in the Northwest. Maybe so, but the town itself (population 3 times that of Port Townsend) did not appeal to us. "Downtown" is a just short strip, surrounded by suburban development akin to much of what we saw in Florida. Heavy traffic and big lawns. One struggling bookstore, no bakery or Saturday market. We couldn't find any here here so opted to not linger.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Grayland Beach State Park, Olymic Peninsula, WA
Left Sequim Tuesday morning quickly and with no regrets. Continued west on Rte 101 through familiar Port Angeles and then into new territory, driving anticlockwise around the Olympic peninsula. Since it was raining and chilly (high 40°s) decided we'd hold off going to the far northwest peninsula/Cape Flattery for another visit. Through the fragmented Olympic National Park with occasional scenic glimpses before coming into the Olympic National Forest. Not quite what we expected, looked like most of the landscape had been turned over to Weyerhauser for slash and burn. Not helping global warming. Most of the traffic was logging trucks, with one carting off some huge (4+' diameter) old growth trees. Continued on down the west coast to the industrial towns of Hoquiam and Aberdeen at the end of Gray's Harbor. Drove out to the wetlands near the airport, a major migrating spot for shorebirds, especially in the spring. Saw hundreds of pelicans, Canada geese, widgeon, and (?) dunlin in the distance. Continued onto Rte 105 west along the south side of Gray's Harbor, then north to Westport (beach town) and Westhaven (fishing boats). It being exceedingly windy we decided not to stop in the RV park at the docks to get blasted by surf crashing over the sea wall. So we continued back south on Rte 105 along the coast to this very pretty state park, where we found snug spacious campsites in the dunes but buffered from the wind by trees. 222 miles today. Yesterday, some sun and walking on the beach watching the surf, seagulls, sanderlings, and quite amazing designs etched on the sand by the tide. Today rain, and indoor projects mostly.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Cape Disappointment State Park, WA
We left Grayland Beach early yesterday morning and continued south on Rte 105 near the coast, then east to Raymond where we joined Rte 101. Drove round Willapa (formerly Shoalwater) Bay, stopping at the Wildlife Refuge information point, noticing thousands of geese and ducks munching on weed in the shallows. Then through Ilwaco to this State Park (formerly Fort Canby State Park) at the northern entrance to the Columbia River where we secured a campsite for a couple of days. 76 miles. Biked to the north jetty and walked along it marvelling at the heavy surf, a dead seal washed up on the beach, and a vessel crossing the bar. Then hiked up the hill to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center to learn more about their journey of exploration and a look at Cape Disappointment lighthouse, the oldest in continual operation in North America. On the beach looking north, a nice view of its companion, the North Beach lighthouse. These twin sentinels look out over the "Graveyard of the Pacific", where over 200 vessels have foundered trying to enter the river. Today, heavy fog barely lifting by midday. Stayed home practicing guitar and working on writing project. Then out and about on bikes round this big park. Beach fog-bound, bayside sunny. Redtailed hawks soaring overhead, tails burnished by the sun. Fog descended early again, suggesting it would not be cool to bike 2 miles in the foggy dark with our headlamps to the Coast Guard station's Hallowe'en haunted house. We punted that one.
A wild an windy night at Cape Disappointment last Saturday, even in the shelter of the campground's low trees tucked in behind the dunes. Left early, and drove into the sunrise on Rte 101 then across the wide Columbia River to Astoria, OR. Stopped for provisions then down the Oregon coast to Seaside. A stop for coffee and beach gawk, and browse the local bookstore. Then Rte 26 through the hills to this spot on the outskirts of Portland. 126 miles. Cold Sunday night (30°) and nice sunny but chilly and windy Monday. Thankful for our slippers and hot water bottle. Collected our mail, and paid the bills etc. Wouldn't you know it, Florida sent us absentee ballots for a different Congressional District than we thought we were in, a gerrymandered nightmare (to squeeze the Democrats?) Reporting the apparent error, our Electoral officials couldn't explain the discrepancy and said go ahead and vote the ballot.
Monday and Tuesday nights frigid, in the high 20's with days in the 40's. Took the bus into town on Monday for a few hours at Powell's City of Books (one of our favorite places.) Thursday, a routine visit to the dermatologist for Bill. Rain arrived Thursday, looks like it's here to say. We generally sat snug inside Clemmie doing our thing.
Saturday, November 4, 2006
Port of Newport Marina and RV Park, OR
Up before dawn yesterday and headed south through the fog and rain on Rte 99W then west on Rte 18 towards the coast. Breakfast at the world famous Otis Cafe (in the middle of nowhere) a few miles before we hit the Coast at Lincoln City. Familiar territory. South on Rte 101, still raining and foggy in places. Stopped in Depoe Bay to visit the state's Whale Watching Center. A dim sighting of one grey whale spouting off the point. On to Newport and this convenient (and mostly empty) public campground overlooking Yaquina Bay and the Marina. 102 miles. Pouring and blowing like stink, with the navigation foghorn of the Yaquina Bay sea bouy (?r lighthouse) groaning eerily every few minutes through the storm. Clemmie rocking and rolling, but at least it's warmed up considerably, in the mid 50's. Good warm bath and shower houses and free WiFi. Walked through the downpour to the nearby OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center and spent a couple of hours examining its exhibits and research projects. A wet and windy evening and through the night. Today, raining whole water with a big SW blow. Walked to the nearby Oregon Coast Aquarium to see the exhibits (excellent). Then back home to find water on the floor near the toilet. Clemmie's outside hose connection needs re-caulked and we deduced the high wind is blowing rain in through it. Kept the floor dry with towels. Forecast for tomorrow and Monday has wind strengthening with gusts to 65mph and 4-5" of rain. Think we'll get out of dodge in the morning. There's no future here.
Sunday, November 5, 2006
Premium RV Resort of Eugene, Coburg, OR
Showers during the night and wind down, calm before the predicted more serious storm. Up early to do 3 badly needed loads of laundry and check the weather forecast. Not good. Left Newport around 9:30am, took Rte 20 east through the Coast Range. The rain gradually diminished until Corvallis, where it was mostly dry. South on I-5 to Coburg and this RV Park. 105 miles. We'll still catch the edge of the storm but wind and rain forecasts much reduced. 61°.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
on the street at Paul and Jane's, Eugene, OR
Monday turned out to be a very pleasant day. Temperatures in the high 60's, a few showers but mostly dry. Quite a relief. Not to last, however. By evening the rain and wind picked up and we woke on Tuesday morning in a downpour and in an about-to-be flooded campground. Abandoned our plan for a leisurely departure and hi'ed outta there with all deliberate speed. Dump station flooded, so stopped at a truck stop on I-5 for breakfast and dump, but their dump station also under water. Continued on to Eugene to the RV Corral on Rte 99 west of the city to make an appointment to examine all caulking and redo the city-water intake which leaked in Newport. Added a few other minor items and the usual engine stuff so all we'll need to do before leaving Arizona for Mexico is change the oil (we hope.) RV Corral's dumpstation thankfully open and working. Our perspective these days is on life's basics. Liberating, really. Bet you don't think about sewage disposal when you flush your toilet. Next, we went to Enterprise and picked up a car for a week, then found our way to Paul and Jane's house in time for lunch. 30 wet and soggy miles. Record floods in Oregon and Washington. Tuesday evening we joined Paul and Jane at their neighbor's house to watch the election returns. Our faith in the American people is restored. We are in for an interesting few years, but are hopeful that the proclivities for wrecking damage to the country and the world by the current occupant of the White House may finally be curbed.
Wednesday morning Pat left well before dawn in the rental car to drive to Port Angeles, take the ferry to Victoria then drive north to Courtenay, BC, to visit her old school friend, Marian, while Bill and Clemmie hang out in Eugene. Bill arranged some classical guitar lessons to go with his current practice regimen. All's well with us.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Ireland's Beach RV Park, Gold Beach, OR
A busy week. Pat had a good time in Courtenay with Marian, much walking, birding (the place is duck heaven) and conversation. Her return was delayed by a major storm with hurricane-force winds cancelling all ferries to the mainland. Thursday, she again left Courtenay in the wee hours (at 2:30am) to drive south once more to Nanaimo. Caught the 5:15am ferry (dashing ahead of another storm) for the 2 hour crossing to Tsawwassen, south of Vancouver. Then south round Seattle and through Portland to arrive in Eugene about 3:30pm. Bill busy too. Spent the week in quality time with Paul and Jane, exploring Eugene, getting Clemmie serviced, arranging for 4 guitar lessons, and having his hearing checked. Shopped for and bought a hearing aid, he's delighted with the improvement in both hearing and guitar playing. Grass doth not grow under our feet.
Yesterday, we said goodbye to Eugene, picked up Clemmie from RV Corral (very happy with the service) returned the rental car, and started our journey south. We're looking forward to some warmer weather and less rain. The Pacific Northwest has been terrific, but it's not where we want to spend winters in Clemmie. Good decision point. From Eugene we drove west on Rte 126 to Florence on the coast. Stopped in a supermarket parking lot to put Clemmie back together again after her service bout (2 nights), and re-store all Pat's travel stuff etc., then provisioned. Continued south on Rte 101 along the coast, more beautiful views, and the usual open scrub burning and haze of smoke everywhere. A dry day. Decided to stay for a couple of nights in the seaside town of Gold Beach at this nice little campground tucked in behind a small protective dune barrier. 198 miles. We're happy to be back together and on the road again. Next stop, Crescent City in California, and Redwood National Park.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Sounds of the Sea RV Park, Trinidad, CA
Very windy Saturday night, storm forecast. Rain started soon after dawn. Not much protection in the Gold Beach campground so decided to sally forth early. Departed around 8am and drove south on Rte 101, more scenic Oregon views along the coast and twisty roads. Stopped in Brookings to fill up with gas and propane and a few groceries. Not exactly sure where we're headed, except south for warmer weather. Crossed into California - feels warmer somehow - still overcast, rain has stopped at least temporarily. Saw sign "Permits required for open burning." Hope we've left all that constant smoke in Oregon behind. In Crescent City we went into the Redwood National and State Parks visitor center, then checked out a couple of local campgrounds. Nothing grabbed us about them or Crescent City. Kept on keeping on. Drove through the northern portion of the Redwood Parks which protect 45% of the remaining groves of coastal redwood, the tallest and most massive tree species on Earth. There is no way to describe these magnificent trees except to say they are huge, towering masterpieces. In 1850, old growth redwood forest covered 2 million acres of the north California coast. Redwood National Park was created in 1968, by which time nearly 90% of the original redwood trees had been logged. These trees can live up to 2,500 years, grow over 300' high and reach a girth of 25'. We checked out a couple of park campgrounds but lack of hook-ups (electric) and impending storm led us to keep on going to this nice little private campground just south of Patrick Point, arriving around 3pm. 125 miles. Access to WiFi is now common at private campgrounds, and beginning to be at some public ones. We like it. We can check e-mail, read the news, update the website, and do research right in the comfort of our rolling home. Rain started and the winds picked up as soon as we settled in. It's definitely warmer, close to 60° F.
Today, Bill's 71st birthday. The weather cooperated and we celebrated with an exhilarating 5-mile morning hike around the Rim Trail at nearby Patrick's Point State Park. The outlook is cool and wet, so we'll leave tomorrow for Arcata, Eureka and points further south.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Redwood RV & Camp, Myers Flats, CA
More rain overnight. Left about 9:30am in a break between downpours, continuing south on Patrick's Point Rd., to rejoin Rte 101. Followed sign on the freeway to a California Welcome Center in Arcata. Eeventually found it after some back and forths and inquiring of a local resident - the essential entrance sign had been stolen. Skipped (to our later regret) a visit to the Arcata Marshes, we'll do that another day. Continued south to Eureka to find replacements for worn-out hiking shoes at Northern Mountain Supply, Inc. Good outdoor store. Visited AAA store for supply of detailed California place and guide maps. Our membership paid for itself here. Then ate lunch at Golden Harvest Cafe (good eats) on the way to the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Reserve. Dry and partly sunny by now. Great 2-hour slow hike around the wetlands (27 bird species.) On to Rte 101 again to exit onto the aptly named Avenue of the Giants through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Too dark for photographs. Driving through the old-growth redwood forest makes you silent. We'll come back to spend time to just sit/stand in wonder, experience the trees' energy, and hike among the many trails. Hard to imaging how those early loggers could wantonly savage so much of this magnificent primeval forest. Gave thanks to the people who raised an outcry, called a halt to the logging, and raised cash to purchase the remaining stands for perpetuity. Stopped for the night soon after 5:00pm in this private RV Park in the tiny village of Myers Flats, surrounded by the forest on three sides and the Eel River on the fourth. Took us all day to go 90 miles.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Salt Point State Park, CA
Rain pattering on the roof all night at Myers Flats. Up early and back on the Avenue of Giants continuing south through the redwoods and then again onto Rte 101 for a few miles before turning south on Rte 1 towards the coast. A bit of a surprise, narrow, hairpins and steep hills blocking the way. We were unprepared. Slow going, much gear shifting to help out the brakes. Lovely views when we finally arrived at the coast, but continued tortuous road along the cliff tops. Stopped at Point Cabrillo and walked down to the pretty lighthouse. Stopped in Fort Bragg (largest town on this part of the coast) for gas and a coffee break, then through Mendocino, pretty village and rugged headland. Our planned campground near Point Arena was under renovation, so we detoured to take a misty look at the Point Arena lighthouse as the day wore on, then continued south towards Bodega Bay. Checked out an RV Park at Anchor Bay but it didn't feel right, so carried on. Near dusk found Salt Point State Park nearly full with families on Thanksgiving break. Thankfully a few empty campsites (no hookups) so we settled in for the night just before dark. 171 slow-going miles.
Pleasant cool night at Salt Point Thanksgiving morning (43° on wakening), a reminder that Clemmie is quite self sufficient without any hookups. Moved out of the campsite before dawn into the day-use parking area to run the generator for our coffee pot, microwave, and little ceramic heater while doing our morning thing. Then continued south along Rte 1. What a road, we little knew what we were in for when we started along it a week ago yesterday morning. Thank goodness we stopped at Salt Point and didn't try to continue on along Rte 1 in the dark. More fabulous views from the road which runs along the shear edge of cliff sides, no shoulder or barricade, nothing between the road edge and the rocks far below. Hairpin bends and steep hills, one after the other. Our photos don't do justice to all the white knuckles because (obviously) there was nowhere to pull over for photos at the most treacherous and death-defying spots, all many of them. In some places, half the road had disappeared over the side (slid away) leaving only a (rather recent) double-yellow midline as evidence. No wonder we never saw any other RV's. Won't do this again in Clemmie.
The driving became easier once we finally arrived on the east side of narrow Tomales Bay, sailboats anchored right on top of the San Andreas Fault. Stopped at the Bear Valley visitor center at the entrance to Point Reyes National Seashore on the peninsula west of Tomales Bay. Hiked the short Earthquake Interpretive Trail to see the epicenter of the deadly 1906 earthquake where a break in the fence demonstrates how the entire Pt. Reyes peninsula moved north 18 feet in one quick minute. It being Thanksgiving day, the place was mobbed with visitors, so we decided to come back another time (in a rental car, not Clemmie) to see the lighthouse, explore the trails, photograph the scenery, and enjoy the wildlife. From the village of Point Reyes Station we left Rte 1 and drove east on Frances Drake Drive and our spot at this conveniently placed RV Park beside the freeway (Rte 101) just south of San Rafael. 86 hair-raising miles. From here it's an easy walk to the Larkspur ferry or bus to San Francisco, there's a fabulous network of biking trails, we're adjacent to a the birder's paradise at Corte Madera marsh, and can walk to shops etc. No WiFi, however and a good supply of freeway noise. But, it's location, location, and location.
Friday morning we collected information from the Park office about getting around, etc. One of us stayed home to do laundry, clean Clemmie, explore the neighborhood, and bird watch. The other took the bus into San Francisco for the day. We needed some time away from each other to recover from that fearsome 250-mile drive on Rte 1.
There's too much to see and do here. We could wear ourselves out. We took the ferry into San Francisco and spent a few hours exploring Chinatown and the waterfront area. Terrific views from the ferry of San Quentin prison, the Richmond bridge, Oakland and the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, and the city's Financial District. Enjoyed the mass of sealions at Pier 39 - apparently the showed up shortly after the 1986 earthquake, and have been hanging around there ever since. Thinking about taking a tour of Alcatraz. One of us spent hours watching the shorebirds on the adjacent marsh. They seem inured to the traffic noise and people on the trails. We rented a car for a week. So far, we've explored the Marin headlands and found another spectacular view of the Golden Gate bridge, toured ritzy Sausalito, seen Point Bonita lighthouse at the entrance to the Bay, visited dark, damp, and chilly Muir woods, and survived the unseasonably cold overnight and daytime temperatures - low 30's at night, low 50's in the day. Thankfully the sun has been shining except for Sunday morning, when we went for a long walk early and arrived home just before the downpour started. One of us is very sick of narrow twisty cliff-hanging roads.
Monday, December 3, 2006
Marin RV Park, Greenbrae, CA
Cold and clear all week. Near freezing every night, and high barely reaching 50 each sunny day. Began to warm up somewhat yesterday. Friday we drove our rental car to Point Reyes National Seashore, and barely scratched the surface of that huge preserve. Scenic Rte 1 closed for part of the way - beats us how these tortuous, steep and windy roads (and decorative mansions along them) are maintained in the face of imminent and unpredictable earthquakes. Manifest demonstration of our collective ability to deny reality. After stopping at the Bear Valley visitor center once again, we drove the 45-minute trip across the Pt. Reyes peninsula through Texas-like ranch country (dairy cows) to the Point Reyes lighthouse precariously poised on shifting promontary at the south end of the Pt. Reyes beach. Then to the Elephant Seal overlook on Drakes Beach, where we could distantly see one adult and four pups or females (males are 3-4 times bigger than females) hauled out on the beach. Then towards Tomales Point at the northern end of the peninsula with a stop to hike around Abbots Lagoon in extensive sand dunes. Good bird watching throughout this all-day trip. Hung near home for the weekend to avoid the holiday shoppers. The frenetic traffic here is overwhelming. Walked around the marshes savoring the wintering ducks and shore birds oblivious to heavy traffic noise and us human gawkers. Spring tides invaded the marsh, and the shorebirds had to crowd together on the few little islands remaining til the tide receded. The waterfowl (ducks) seemed happy to tuck their heads under their wings and nap afloat. Practiced guitar, Spanish, and did some writing. A bit of house cleaning too. Feeling kind of hemmed in these days.
Friday, December 8, 2006
Monterey Fairgrounds, Monterey, CA
Finished up our last few days in Marin doing one more sightseeing trip to San Francisco (the Expoloratorium (you must take your kids there) and the Mission Dolores. Learned that this mission, built in 1791 withstood the 1906 earthquake, but the parish church (now basilica) had to be rebuilt. And, what makes a basilica are two items: the Papal Arms, and the Papal umbrella. Then a visit to the Museum of Modern Art - except it was closed that day - and taking care of Christmas items, etc., etc. Left yesterday morning before 8:00 am, and bustled south on Rte 1 along the coast. There sure are a lot of people and cars in southern California. Stoped at Año Viejo State Park hoping to be able to get a good look at the breeding elephant seals, for which the island is famous. Too bad, no access between Dec 1 and Dec 14 to allow the animals time to settle in and adjust. There used to be a lighthouse station on the island, but since it's been automated the seals apparently have taken over the house for their own uses. Then continued south past Pigeon Point lighthouse to Santa Cruz to stop at the Post Office for Christmas mailings, and the grocery store for provisions. Arrived here and plugged in soon after 1pm. Free WiFi. It's warm, shorts weather - at least for the afternoon. 132 miles. The Fairgrounds is pleasantly away from freeway noise, and we have easy access on foot or bike to downtown Monterey and the wonderful 18-mile Coastal Trail.
Today, a bit cooler. We discovered we're right at the end of the Monterey airport runway, lot's of small planes to-ing and fro-ing low overhead. Since rain's in the forecast, we left early on our bikes and found our way easily to the Coastal Trail. We biked through town, past Fisherman's Wharf (tourist tacky) and Cannery Row (likewise.) Decided to save our visit to the Monterey Aquarium for Monday. Then on to Pacific Grove for wonderful views of wildlife not to mention the surf. Went to the end of the peninsula and Pt. Piños lighthouse. Great birdin' and bikin'. Got home just as the rain started. We be happy campers.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Monterey Fairgrounds, Monterey, CA
Rain Saturday and Sunday. Figured out the local bus system Saturday (pretty good) and checked it and downtown Monetery out between raindrops. Watched our DVD The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill - quite wonderful. Wished we'd visited Telegraph Hill and the birds while we were at Marin. Next time. Spent quite a few indoor hours (with rain tinkling on Clemmie's roof) contemplating our navel and thinking about what the heck are we going to do after we come back from our Alaska trip next summer. We've got a pretty good idea about what we like and don't like about this lifestyle by now.
For the record, from here we're going to Morro Bay for 2 weeks over Christmas (and to see Ralph and Laurie there), then visit a few dear ones on the way to our 2-month birding tour of Mexico's west coast. After returning in mid March, we'll amble north to take Clemmie by ferry up the inside passage to Juneau in June and spend the rest of the summer exploring the Alaskan interior and return probably to Victoria by mid September, 2007. As for the 12 months after that, we think we'll try a big slow circuit focused on staying longer at places we like as well as spending more time with our dear ones. Fewer miles, days on-the-road, and stops. Less new sights, more at-home time. It goes something like this: down the west coast in the fall; Texas and the gulf coast (side trip into Mexico) in the winter; dear ones around DC and birding in Cape May in the spring; early summer in Maine then back to Washington state for a late summer visit (by air or ferry without Clemmie) to Juneau. At least that's the current plan--God willing and the creek don't rise. We're also (as you can tell from our blogs) increasingly concerned about the state of the US and the planet, and thinking about what if.....? And about how can we more effectively leverage our skills and life experience on behalf of all mankind. Stay tuned. It's bizarre to be having such a good time while the planet heads for the tank. Not to mention the awful predicament of all those people in Baghdad. Hard to make sense of it.
Today, biked to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, mission: "To inspire conservation of the oceans." It does! Spent several hours there including watching feeding time for the Aquarium's endangered Black-footed Penguins. Then one of us came home to do guitar practice while the other continued along the bike path in Pacific Grove to join the scores of humans and birds enthralled by the huge surf. Hard to tell who was having a better time, some surfers or the pelicans. Pedalled hard towards the Monarch butterfly sanctuary, but after a while decided the wind would keep the butterflies hidden in the eucalyptus trees - not to mention the hill was a bit more than she was quite up for.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Morro Bay State Park, CA
Tuesday rain and Wednesday overcast. Finished up our time in Monterey with bus ride to Carmel-by-the-Sea (cute 'n quaint), bus ride to the the Del Monte Shopping Mall (humungous) for groceries and a few errands (and a look at the incredible amount of "stuff" on show for Christmas), and more bike riding along the fabulous Coastal Trail. Thursday morning we left the Fairgrounds after breakfast and drove north on Rte 1 to near Moss Landing (big power plant) then inland to the Elkhorn Slough National Estuary. Took a 2-hour trail and birding walk (34 species) through part of the slough in the slowly lifting fog. Great stop. Then over to Rte 101 (freeway) and south through Salinas (stop for gas) and some big wine country, miles and miles of vineyards. South of Paso Robles to Atascadero where we turned west on Rte 41 to curl through the Santa Lucia Range to the coast and Morro Bay, guarded by the imposing volcanic plug known as Morro Rock. Found our way to this State Park and our spot. Nice campground, WiFi reaches our campsite. At $7.95 for 24 hours we won't be logging on every day, though. Showers are free right now because of difficulties with hot water system. Brrrrrr! 166 miles today . Called Ralph, who showed up shortly to give us a tour of the little town of Morro Bay, watch surf crash onto the Rock, and feed us dinner at his house. We last saw him at T.O. Fuller State Park outside Memphis in April, 2005. Great to reconnect. Then Ralph very kindly turned over one of his cars for our use while we're here. This morning Bill drove Ralph to San Luis Obispo to catch bus/train back home to Auburn, he and Laurie will be back next weekend to join us for Christmas.
Friday, a beautiful morning giving way to a nice sunny day. Fabulous birding (42 species) round the campground, marina, and the Morro Bay wetlands. Saw Shorebirds everywhere not to mention harbor seals and sea otters too. Wildlife heaven. In the afternoon we climbed the 700' Black Hill to find great views of the Bay and surrounding montains. Rain predicted for Saturday, a sideswipe from the winter storm that lambasted the northwest, didn't show. We took advantage of the break to drive round the other side of the Bay and enjoy thousands more wintering shorebirds, then past Pelican Rock at Shell Beach to see the wintering Monarch Butterflies at Pismo Beach. Breath-taking! They're down to 10% of the numbers 15 years ago. Learn about these seriously threatened insects and plant milkweed in your garden to help them survive. And today, cool on wakening (41°) and a beautiful sunny day. Our morning walk around the marina wetlands led us to the recent remains of the pretty little merganser we photographed yesterday. It's a bird-eat-bird world out there. Spent the rest of the day walking around the harbor, the Rock and Estero Bay, eating too many pastries at the excellent French Bakery, and taking more bird pictures. This is a fabulous place.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Morro Bay State Park, CA
It's been cold at night, last Tuesday morning 31°F on rising. Brrrr.... Clear sunny days in the 50's until yesterday, got into the 6o's. Got the bikes cleaned and pressed at Morro Bay Cyclery, ready for Mexico. Made a new slide show, the Best Bird. Did plenty of walking and bird-watching including a hike up Black Hill and frequent checks around the rock for wildlife, it's a simply wonderful place. On day we drove north to San Simeon to tour the fabled Hearst Castle. A must see! Begun when William Randolph Hearst was 57 (the year his mother died and he finally inherited his father's estate) and continued construction for over 20 years, he only completed about half his plans. His antique collections of works of art from all over the world exceed all imagination. Only three of the intended seven "guest houses" were completed. Our tour-guide took us through the medium sized guest house and then through portions of the 150-room 76,000 sq. ft. castle, with its ornate decorations and furnishings. We also saw the outdoor swimming pool and the indoor pool which is a mosaic of tiles covered in 22-carat gold. What a monument to conspicous opulence. Evidently a gathering place for everyone who was anyone at the time. Afterwards, needing to come back to earth with a touch of reality, we drove another 5 miles north to Point Piedras to look at the colony of Northern Elephant Seals that have gathered there since 1992. These once almost-extinct sturdy ocean dwellers undertake the longest migration of any mammal, 10,000 miles each year.
The rest of the week flew by with much hiking, bird-watching, and too many stops at La Patisserie, a french bakery down by the rock; mouthwatering croissants filled with fresh strawberries and cream have have us both by the short hairs. Ralph and Laurie showed up Saturday afternoon and we've spent chunks of time with them and their dogs: Claire, Mollie, and Little B. Good food and good company, a great way to celebrate the Christmas holiday. Tomorrow, laundry and other chores in readiness for departure Wednesday.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
on the street at Richard and Linda's, La Crescenta, CA
Made one last stop at La Patisserie for a final scrumptious strawberry and cream croissant before leaving Morro Bay yesterday morning. South on Rte 1 through San Luis Obispo to Rte 101. Freeway roads both. Through Santa Barbara then pulled off to Rincon Beach where we stopped by the ocean side for lunch accompanied with a strong wind and surf buffet. High wind warnings through the canyons. Through Ventura to Thousand Oaks, then north on Rte 23 (still freeway) and east on Rte 118 (freeway, they're all over the place keeping unceasing traffic moving.) Joined I-210 in San Fernando through the foothills to La Crescenta where we filled up with gas and then climbed further into the lower reaches of the San Gabriel mountains to Richard and Linda's house. 224 miles. Parked a little tipsily on the street, plugged in between neighborhood garbage cans. They have an awesome view towards the Los Angeles skyline from their living room. Enjoyed reconnecting and talk about the pleasures and travails of working in "the business" - which here means the entertainment industry. High wind warning through the night, continuing to blow like stink. Blew the skylight right off Linda and Richard's roof. Spent a most enjoyable day with Richard and Linda, including a hike up Cherry Canyon to the top of Cerro Negro, where we could see across the valley back to La Crescenta.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
at Escondido RV Resort, Escondido, CA
Waited hopefully for the Los Angeles rush hour to end yesterday morning before leaving La Crescenta at about 10:30am. South on Rte 2 to I-5. Learned that, really, rush hour lasts all day. Slow going through the spread-out Los Angeles area (almost 2 hours, yuk) until the sprawl was blocked by Camp Pendleton as I-5 winds along the coast to San Diego. Then just through Oceanside we turned west on Rte 78 (more freeway) through the mountains to I-15 at Escondido and then exited to this convenient RV Park around mid-afternoon. 116 tedious miles. Bill's nephew John came to pick us up after work and took us to his house and then out for dinner. This morning, John collected us after breakfast and took us to spend some time with his brother, Mike who also lives in San Diego. Thereafter John gave us a tour of the San Diego harbor and then for a hike in Torrey Pines State Park, with unusual rock formations and a terrific (busy) beach. Finished up the day by entertaining John to dinner in Clemmie. Good food and conversation. What a nice visit this has been.
Our routine tire check (with a hammer) before leaving this morning told us that the rear outside-driver's-side tire was in trouble. We lucked out. Park staff directed us to Express Auto Tire, a block away, thankfully open this holiday Sunday. Being geriatric definitely has its advantages. People treat us like we're their grandparents. The manager put one of his mechanics on it immediately. No leak. Maybe we hit it on a curb (??) Relieved to have the problem solved without much loss of time, we headed on to I-15 into San Diego, then east on I-8 through some gorgeous scenery, sandstone and boulders, sharp mountains. Quite remarkable. Stopped at several viewpoints to check the tire and take pix. Camera having a bad-hair day, wouldn't focus. No photos. Through the mountains into desert and, eventually, across the once-mighty (now ditchy) Colorado River into Yuma. South-east California and Arizona are a mecca for RV'ers. RV towns have sprouted in the dessert, and we'd say 1 in 4 vehicles on the interstate was some kind of RV, many of them towing dune buggies. Decided to stop for the night at this wide open RV Park - at least a dozen to pick from. Finished up the year with an surprise phone call from Leo in Massachussets, cementing our year-end connection with all three of Bill's nephews.
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