Latest Update: April 26, 2010

 

On the Road - 2007
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Bill Dillon (KG4QFM)
and
Pat Watt (KG4QFQ)

          Route in 2007This Log is a journal of our travels during our fourth year as full timers in Clementine, our 24' home-in-a-box.

          he map to the left shows our route. Click on it for details. Read about our adventures in the chronological journal entries below.

At Catalina State Park, Arizona, in January          This year, we explored much of the Pacific coast from Mexico to Alaska, up the Inside Passage to Alaska and through the interior of that state. We also made a loop through the canyonlands of New Mexico and Utah.

          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.

          For further details see also our Campground Ratings. The RV Statistics page shows how many miles we travelled each year, etc. You can also view slide shows of our 9 weeks in Mexico watching birds, our trip up the Inside Passage to Alaska, and travelling in the Alaska interior.

[Read about our travels in other years]


Friday, January 5, 2007
in Catalina State Park, north of Tucson, Arizona

          We woke up to a clear New Year morning at Caravan Oasis RV Park in Yuma. Up early (we lost an hour overnight as we came east from San Diego) for the all-but-final final leg of journey towards Mexico. East on I-8, not much traffic through the rocky mountain ridges and then scrubby desert to Gila Bend. Then past desert farm fields irrigated via a set of canals - looked like an endangered proposition to our undeducated eyes. Joined very busy I-10 and turned southeast towards the northern edge of Tucson and exited east to find this magnificent state park. Settled in under warm sun by 1:30pm. 225 miles. Quite a place.

          We had too little time here to enjoy sitting in the sun practicing guitar, taking in the breath-taking mountain views, bird watching. It's been busy, but we'll be back. We're learning the reason so many people are attracted to Arizona (though it's been freezing cold every night.) But we did fulfill the primary purpose for choosing this campground; to reconnect with Pat's dear friends, John and Heather, who are visiting their daughter Jane and family in Oro Valley, a nearby Tucson suburb. Jane took us all to the Tohono Chul Park, where we ate lunch in the cafe and walked through its desert plant garden. On Wednesday, we took Clemmie to LaMesa RV just south of Tucson Wednesday morning to get her cleaned and pressed in preparation for Mexico. Took the whole day to get everything done and checked, including installation of a CB radio. We spent our time chatting with other RV'ers and window shopping big rigs on the sales lot (they're not for us.) After tire rotation noticed that the same wheel which had a flat in San Diego had gone flat again. Different tire, same placement. Bad tire stem. LaMesa didn't have the proper size stem, so replaced it with a shorter one. Decided we'd better take Clemmie to the Truck Center (tire specialists) on our way out of Tucson to have the wheels and tires examined

          On Thursday John and Heather took us to the Arizona-Sonoma Desert Museum on the edge of the Saguaro National Monument west of Tucson. A great place, spent the day walking round learning about desert landscape and critters. The Museum also functions as part zoo, to educate and preserve desert wildlife. There, among other birds and animals, we saw a pair of the only 50 remaining Mexican Wolves (Lobo wolf), which the museum has rescued from imminent extinction through its breeding/release program. We hosted John and Heather for dinner on Clemmie after, with time beforehand to sit out bird- and mountain-watching before the sun went down and the cold set in. Great thing about RV'ing is the fabulous front yards we have, with no yard work. Not much housework either. Friday, we went on an early 2-hour bird walk through Catalina State Park with a local naturalist. Thereafter, we turned Clemmie into a car and went hunting for a second camera, since our current one is exhibiting intermittent attitude attacks (the automatic focus won't.) Decided to upgrade with a camera that has manual focus and zoom in addition to automatic. After driving hither and yonder in search of a discount, we finally ended up at Tucson Mall in Ritz Camera. Better prices (and expertise) than the discount stores. Lesson: forget the "discount" and go for a quality camera store. That having used up much of the day, we filled up with propane and provisioned before returning to our campground - to find John and Heather waiting to ferry us to Jane and Ron's for dinner and hot tub. It's been great to see them all.

 

Sunday, January 7, 2007
At DeAnza Trails RV Resort, Amado, Arizona

          Up early yesterday at Catalina State Park to another cold morning. Headed down Rte 77 to the southern side of Tucson for an early stop at the Tire Center, truck and RV specialists. Learned a lot about RV/truck tires. Replaced our puny tire stems with muscular metal ones, and truck-worthy extensions that now bring the nipple outside the hub caps. A good stop. Decided that we should go to truck tire outfits to get the tires rotated or alignment checked in the future. Then south on I-10 to I-19 to little town of Amado and this RV park. 54 miles. We settled into our assigned campsite adjacent to Pat and Terry Sissons, the leader of our 8-vehicle RV troup which will bird watch together in Western Mexico. This trip is under the auspices of Adventure Caravans, through whom you can reach us in case of emergencies while we're in Mexico. We spent the afternoon doing preliminaries with Pat and Terry, and just enjoying being. Nice and sunny. This morning, an overnight low of 24°F - we're awfully tired of the cold. Our plan for warm winters hasn't worked very well so far.... For the next two days we'll be busy getting to know our companion birders, and getting organized and provisioned for the border crossing early Wednesday morning.

          In case we don't have much access to the Internet while in Mexico, below is a summary of our travels once we leave here Wednesday morning after the group's orientation and preparation session on Tuesday. There are 8 RV's in our little caravan and we'll be staying anywhere from 3 to 12 days at each of these stops for (optional) daily bird-watching expeditions and/or time for experiencing the culture and social activities. It looks busy, but nonetheless, we'll make time for guitar practice, writing, working on our Spanish, napping, etc. We are scheduled to cross back into Arizona on March 13. Here are the legs of our trip.

  • Cross the border at Nogales, AZ, then to San Carlos, Sonoma. (288 miles) 3 nights there (1/10 - 1/12)
  • San Carlos to Alamos, Sonoma. (172 miles) 6 nights there (1/13 - 1/18)
  • Alamos to the village of Las Glorias near Guasave, Sinaloa. (195 miles) 4 nights there (1/19 - 1/22)
  • Las Glorias to beach near Mazatlan, Sinaloa. (242 miles) 7 nights there (1/23 - 1/29)
  • Mazatlan to Las Cocos Beach near San Blas, Nayarit. (211 miles) 12 nights here (1/31 - 2/10)
  • San Blas to Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. (85 miles) 4 nights (2/11 - 2/14)
  • Puerto Vallarta to Boca Beach, Jalisco. (126 miles) 5 nights (2/15 - 2/19)
  • Boca Beach to Laguna La Maria, Colima. (137 miles) 10 nights (2/20 - 3/1)
  • Laguna La Maria to Tepic, Nayarit. (241 miles) 4 nights (3/2 - 3/5)
  • Tepic back to Mazatlan, Sinaloa. (191 miles) 4 nights (3/6 - 3/9)
  • Mazatlan to San Carlos, Sonoma (490 mils) 3 nights (3/10 en route, then 3/11 - 3/12)
  • San Carlos back to Nogales, AZ. (263 miles) stop back here or nearby in AZ. 3/13.

          We'll update the website with our current location when we find Internet access, and maybe even some bird and scenery pix.

 

Friday, January 12, 2007
At El Mirador RV Resort, San Carlos, Sonora

          Up at crack of dawn (42°, mercury inching up) Wednesday morning at DeAnza Trails for the 7am departure for our little caravan. Checked our new CB radio as we passed out the gate, 2nd in line. Being in a caravan is a new experience for us. South on I-19 to Nogales and west to the border and Mex Hwy 15D following sings to Hermosilla. Good divided 4-lane road, with tolls and topes (speed bumps) in the villages we passed through. Beautiful, but hazy, desert scenery. Stopped a few miles into Mexico to process papers for Clemmie, customs, and immigration for us. Our vehicle importation sticker on Clemmie is good for 10 years.

          Pat and Terry, our wagon masters, led the way calling frequently on the CB to note birds, scenic points, and warn of traffic hazards ahead. Took the bypass round Hermosillo and continued south on Rte 15 D making several stops for fuel, lunch, and breaks. Turned west just north of Guyamas through San Carlos to this ritzy RV park in a gorgeous setting near bays and a marina. Picked a spot with a great view. Much construction going on, the gringos have found the place. It's spectacularly beautiful. Thursday morning 61°. Happily put away the extra blanket and hot water bottle. Eagerly look forward to warmer nights. We've spent our two days here getting to know our birding companions, soaking up the gorgeous scenery and pleasant warmth, and making a birding foray on Thursday into Palm Canyon, and today to the shore near Guyamas. Supplemented by walks round the marina and to the nearby shore. We are very happy with our caravan leaders: Terry our birding guide is a treat; low key, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic. And Terry's wife Pat, who organizes and mothers us, ever cheerful and hard-working.

 

Thursday, January 18, 2007
At Dolisa Hotel and RV Park, Alamos, Sonora

          Left El Mirador as dawn broke last Saturday. Picked our way through San Carlos to find Rte 15 and bypass Guaymas. Stayed on the cuota (toll road) through Obregon with stops at Pemex (gas stations) for fuel and/or potty breaks and/or lunch. Smoky views of the distant mountains across miles of scrub and patches of burning. Flat ugglies. Through farming areas with irrigation canals and many large green fields. In Navajoa we left Rte 15 and took the road to Alamos. Pleasant surprise to find the road has been widened and resurfaced, not the headache we feared based on our leaders' experience last year. Arrived in this RV Park right in Alamos around 2pm. 169 miles. Alamos is a historic town, once much larger and the center of huge silver mining operations in the last century. Many of the ancient houses have recently been bought up and renovated by ex-patriate gringos, now a significant though isolationist segment of the town's population. We experienced an unexpected sense of deja vu as we finally put our feet down in real Mexico (which San Carlos was not.) Memories of our happy times in the Dominican Republic came rushing back, along with some of our Spanish.

         Spent our time here thusly. Pat off on 7am daily birding trips around the area, returning usually around 1pm. A lot of car birding, not as much on foot as she expected. It's dry brushy hill country, with skinny cows trying to survive on the dry undergrowth. Some not making it judging by the number of skeletons we found. The birders drove along the good dirt road into the hills, stopping frequently to scout the trees, then for longer stops to tromp around, walk beside the town's sewer outfall stream, and stroll along the sluggish Rio El Cuchijaqui. 25 new bird sightings for Pat, along with gradual improvement in her observation skills. Bill staying home to practice guitar, go to the market, explore Alamos, and socialize with the other "SOB's" (spouse of birders) or birders who opted not to that day for whatever reason. We're the only RV in our group without a "toad" (tow vehicle) and so we hitch rides on the frequent car outings. We're learning to be on other people's schedule. We've enjoyed more social time with our companions, it's a good group. It's been mostly cool and cloudy, with light, then steady, rain setting in over the last 24 hours.

 

Monday, January 22, 2007
At Mr. Moro Hotel and RV Park, Las Glorias, Sinaloa

          Friday, another early start this time in the rain. We heard on the radio of ice storms in the US from Southern California to San Antonio and hurricane force winds devastating Europe. Mother Nature is shaking us humans off (who can blame her?) We drove in our usual caravan fashion, wagonmasters using the CB radio to maintain order and give directions, and warn about unmarked "topes" (speed bumps) and other hazards, while birding on the fly. Returned to Navajoa to rejoin the Rte 15 cuota (toll road). Roads in Navajoa flooded, nowhere for the rainwater to go but gradually soak in. South on the cuota towards Los Mochis, continued flat scrubby land. Crossed from Sonora into the state of Sinaloa, through an agriculture inspection station. Mostly checking for fruit, spraying the underside of suspect trucks and semis with insecticide. Made the now usual Pemex stops for fuel and lunch. Cloudy and intermittent to heavy rain all day. Bypassed Los Mochis and then left the cuota to drive along farm roads (so far the roads have all been good) towards the coast north of Guasave. Picked our way to the village of Las Glorias and along the cobbled street to this campground, arriving in a muddy downpour a bit before 3pm. 193 miles. Picked a spot under the palm trees and settled in with only a little maneuvering to watch the contortions the big vehicles had to go through to get into place. The grass in the camping area was completely torn up and it turned into a royal wet mess underfoot.

          Thankfully, the rain quit Friday night, Saturday overcast but dry, and Sunday and today sunny. Great place with very tired but still serviceable baños (bathrooms) and shower. Shrimp dinner at the hotel's outdoor restaurant one night, and pleasant group happy hours (planned or ad hoc) other evenings. Terrific birding Saturday on the beach and nearby dunes and scrub. Great walking. Sunday, Pat went on a boat trip through the mangroves with most of the others, while Bill and one other stayed home to chill out and practice guitar. An incredible boat trip in an open ponga through miles and miles of mangroves bordering the channel between the mainland and Isla Macapule. Nothing like this left in the US. Herons and egrets roosting, pelicans fishing, all along the route towards Bahia De Vinorama, then ashore on Bird Island. Thousands of sea and shore birds calling, roosting, nesting, and foraging. A bird density we've only seen once before, at Cape St. Mary's in Newfoundland. Unforgettable. Monday, a mostly car-birding trip around the (dry) shrimp ponds and beach near the village to watch the frigate birds and gulls swarming over the fishing boats.

 

Monday, January 29, 2007
At Playa Esondido RV Park, Mazatlan, Sinaloa

          Left Las Glorias soon after 7am last Tuesday, a chilly 43° and overcast. Our turn to be tailgunner, ie hold up the rear of the caravan. Per the radio, snow is blanketing the US southwest from Tucson to El Paso. We follow the road signs to Guasave, rush hour so it's slow going. Back on to the Rte 15 cuota. Pothole city, some of them big enough to loose a wheel. Towards the end of them, we hit one. Held our breath then shortly thereafter a big thud. Pulled over. Outside rear tire on passenger side is flat and we can hear the air hissing out of its companion until it, too, dies. Thankful for the CB to alert the caravan to our plight. Don and Linda, immediately ahead of us, pull over quickly and Don walks back to provide moral support and (thankfully) expertise. Terry and Pat, the wagonmasters, find a place to do a U-turn and come back to assist. Don gets his compressor out of his RV, we turn on the generator to produce AC current, and he reflates the inner tire. While this is going on a most helpful policia (highway patrol/policeman) pulls over to help. He locates a mechanic using his cell phone, and then goes to get him - and comes back to pick him up later. Mechanic sweats under Clemmie to get the spare tire off, jacks her up, and replaces the outer wheel. Don reflates the removed tire - fortunately it seems not to be damaged and we stick it in Terry's truck to be secured under Clemmie later. Evidently the "solution" effected in Tucson to the tire stem problem we encountered in San Diego was a bad idea. When we hit the pothole, the hub cap blew off dragging the stem extenders with it and hence deflating the tires. We're done with hub caps. Pretty but useless. Now we have to find new stem extenders so we can inflate the tires again if needed. Our difficulties cost the caravan 2 hours, which they made lemonade out of by driving a few miles further to a Pemex (gas station) where they parked, ate lunch, and then found a great wetland patch to bird in. We were very impressed with the support provided by the wagonmasters and Don, and by the Mexican police, and of course the rest of the caravan. Good people all. After all of this, we caught up to the rest of the group and continued on the cuota to Mazatlan, and this RV Park near the beach north of the city. Arrived around 5:30pm, 239 exhusting miles.

          A busy time here. Wednesday a birding outing to the nearby Estero del Yugo, a protected wetland. Discovered another fabulous wetland behind the campground, loaded with birds. Sadly, the whole thing is being bulldozed to make a place for yet more beach condos and houses. Gut wrenching to bird with the bulldozers grinding away in the background. Who says the land belongs to humans? The birds live here for pete's sake, what right do we have to evict them? Thursday we decided to turn Clemmie into a car and sallied forth into Mazatlan to find groceries, and possible a tire-stem solution. Unfortunately, no map of Mazatlan is available and the directions provided by the Adventure Caravan staff holding down the Mazatlan "office" were far from idiot-proof. We proved it. After 21 nerve-wracking miles and getting lost 3 times we finally came home frustrated, thankful we had sufficient Spanish to ask for and receive directions along the way. We did find the grocery store and Auto Zone across from each other and a WalMarts. No RV parking at WalMart's (it's got a roof over the parking area), and no tire-stem help at Auto Zone.

          Friday morning we left our RV's, made car pools and drove through Mazatlan to the turn off for the Durango highway and made our way into the Sierra Madre mountains. The highway is a marvellous bit of engineering, and well maintained. Narrow and few shoulders or barricades, it puts US Rte 1 along the northern California coast to shame. Constant twists and turns up and down the mountain/cliff sides with fabulous views of the Sierra. The only road making the mountain crossing, it's very busy with trucks and tractor trailors. These guys have to cross the yellow line to get round many of the corners, and if they meet on one they have to stop and jocky back and forth to pass. All the trucks we encountered were driving carefully, but not so the locals in small cars. The many sad crosses and shrines along the roadside were testament to the dangers of impatience. We stopped for lunch in the small village of Copala, at the renowned Daniel's restaurant, and then continued on to the village of Capilla del Taxte. 64 miles. We stayed 2 nights at the Hotel Villa Blanca, a local landmark built by some Germans 50 years ago, and now owned and operated by the village. A great Mexican experience, with birding forays 20 miles or so further into the mountains each day. Yesterday, back to Mazatlan (felt like we'd been away a lifetime) and happy to be home again in Clemmie. It's finally warm! Today, we have a free day and access to WiFi so its time to update the website. Photos will have to come later.

 

Thursday, February 1, 2007
At Paraismo Miramar Hotel and RV Park, San Blas, Nayarit

          We've died and gone to heaven. Sort of. After a long and often bumpy/bone-rattling 8.5 hour 200 mile trip on Tuesday, with the usual stops to regroup, we are in San Blas. Being the littlest, we got the primest spot since no-one else could squeeze into it. A spectacular view of the ocean, near excellent banos and a little restaurant (8am to 8pm). And free WiFi right in Clemmie to boot. It's warm, shorts weather. A reward for a harrowing evening Monday afternoon, when Playa Escondido's already rickety electrical system had a psychotic episode. It blew the battery chargers or controls for 5 of the 8 caravan rigs, including Clemmie's. Showered us with fearful sparks as it shorted out. Left us unable to charge the house batteries from the electrical hookup or the generator, only the alternator when driving. Since the converter (AC charger) circuit breaker also has the 'frig on it, we cut the wire to the dead converter so we can still run the 'frig on AC. Don't want to have to use propane for all the remaining trip weeks. Oh well, we have borrowed a small plug in battery charger so we'll be able to recharge our batteries manually. Mildly inconvenient since access to the batteries is under the ingress/egress step. But, we're not sinking. Today, warm and humid. The big rigs need to run their generators to provide for their power demands and keep cool. We thought about giving up our ocean view and moving away from the noise and fumes but haven't got round to it. We're here for 12 days. Despite being glad we're on this trip and enjoying both Mexico and our companions, we're mildly homesick for the U.S. The beach is gorgeous and the birding incredible. A few bugs too, but so far not nearly as bad as expected. Took a day off birding to work on the growing mountain of photos. Still trying to get the hang of the new camera. Bill became a great-grandpa to Laurie's daughter Ashley's son Hayden Daniel on January 24, and a great-uncle yesterday to Eva's daughter Mahayana. We welcome the new arrivals on the planet with much love and we hope that, by the time they grow up, 'twill be in a better condition than it is now.

 

Saturday, February 10, 2007
At Paraismo Miramar Hotel and RV Park, San Blas, Nayarit

          Because we had Wifi, webmaster took a few days off the busy birding schedule to regain a life. Somewhat. She spent the better part of a day devoted to political action. She made an index for our blogs. She redid the slide-show format for enhanced viewing, and applied it to the Best Bird. She caught up with photographs for the website. Birding trips while tending to be lengthy, generally beginning at 7:00am and ending between 12-2pm, have been enjoyable and productive, though a bit wearing for one now thoroughly acclimated to being on her own schedule. She birded Peso Island and the beach, taking a short ferry ride across from the San Blas harbor. Felt nostalgic passing by the sailboats at anchor there. She birded in the ecology-minded little village of Singayta. She birded along the Rio San Cristobal, but made a camera boo-boo and failed to get usable pix of most the great bird-photo opportunities. She birded in the jungle near La Bajada. She had fun photographing our birding companions. They are a great group. We kept up with the news and were saddened to learn that (among other recent tragedies) all but one of the endangered young whooping cranes led south from Wisconsin last fall as part of a project to create a second migratory flock of the birds were killed in the recent storms in Florida. Both of us went on a day trip to the island community of Mexicaltitan. Legend has it that this appealing island village is the site of Aztlan, the cradle of Mexico, where the Aztecs settled 1,000 years ago. While there we ate (tasted) dried shrimp, on which the village economy is based. Yuk. Meanwhile, Bill is enjoying guitar practice, socializing with our group, and noting with sorrow the 49th anniversary of Laurie's birth which passed on Tuesday. Weather daytime highs have been in the mid-high 80's with overnight lows around 60.

 

Wednesday, February 14, 2007
At Campamento el Pescador, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

          We left San Blas after breakfast on Sunday. The 85 mile drive to Puerto Vallarto was uneventual if slow. Pretty countryside and many towns and villages, all with "topes" (speed bumps) which are very effective at reducing speed to a slow crawl. It took about 4 hours, thankfully the road surface were good except for the last many blocks to reach this campground. These were of the now ubiquitous bumpy cobblestone. Puerto Vallasco is strongly tourist oriented, with cruise ships and high rise hotels and condos looming over the main road through town. Kind of like Miami beach with a mountain backdrop. [The "i" on webmaster's keyboard has decded to take a vacation, so please excuse periodc mis-spellngs.] Our campground is right in town sitting inside a walled-in city block. Excellent baños and showers. There's an Internet cafe as well as many little restaurants and shops right round the corner. We have good shade in our campsite from the palm trees and walls and the otherwise cramped campground has space for the now daily Happy Hours. On our morning trips to the baño, we strangely encounter a black, a white, and a grey rabbit who seem to share the campground with us. We're enjoying local street food, dried bananas, practising Spanish, and whatever else we can soak up of the Mexican culture. We've had two free days here and started work on a slide show for this trip. Today's birding foray started at 6:30am (pitch dark because we're now in Central Standard Time) so Pat punted. Doesn't seem to fit her morning routine, which needs time for the Kata and some yoga. Can it be that birding trips are beginning to feel like work? Tomorrow we leave for Boca Beach. Don't know when we'll have Internet access again.

 

Monday, February 19, 2007
At Boca Beach Trailer Park, Melaque, Jalisco

          Thursday our caravan wiggled its way out of the tight campsites in Puerto Vallarta and, after more than some confusion about directions, found our way south on Rte 200 through the tunnels into old town Puerto Vallarta with its cobbled main streets. South, the road produced stunning scenery with luxurious condos and mansions strewn along the gorgeous coastal area made famous by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (in Night of the Iguanas.) We were sorry we couldn't stop to take more view shots. Obviously we couldn't: (a) nowhere to pull over; and (b) it would disrupt the caravan. C'est la vie. 128 miles and 5 hours later we pulled into this RV park on a magnificent beach on the Boca de Iguanas north of Melaque. The road in was desolate except for the remains of a hurricane-smashed condo development now taken over by a flock of goats. This busy (and large) campground was full of Canadians (mostly Quebecois) dug in firmly for the winter. We picked a vacant Clemmie-sized campsite snugged in under the palm trees. We've enjoyed our time (5 nights) here, with daytime highs in the mid-80's and night-time lows in the mid-60's. And of course our daily Happy Hours with the group.

          Webmaster has finally learned how to pace herself at birding. The hard-core birders in our group have more stamina than she for long car-rides and standing around for hours hunting for scarce species. She found that Don and Linda (seen here) liked to get plenty of walking in on the birding trips and prefer to get home in time for lunch. Also, like this writer, they aren't up for birding trips every day. So she has begun to car-pool on birding trips with Don and Linda on a regular basis. Our musician is still staying home practicing guitar with gusto -- and improving his skills discernably.

          Most noteworthy, yesterday morning we were privileged to be present when a batch of turtle eggs hatched on the beach. Please see the Mexico slide show to share in this rare treat.

 

Thursday, March 1, 2007
At Laguna LaMaria, Comala, Colima

          Tuesday morning a week ago we were on our way out of Boca Beach before 8am. Back to the main road (Rte 200) then up and down through the hills, brief stop for a rig with toad (tow) problems on the steep windy road. Through the town of Cihuatlan to the Manzanillo bypass, Rte 200 Cuota (toll road.) Passed by a pull-off with a spectacular view. Aw shucks, no photo stop. Then away from the coast towards the mountains and Colima. Very hazy. Temperature inversion, cane burning, tall smoky stacks all contributing to what looked like poor air quality. Could barely clatch a glimpse of the volcanos (one active, one not) where we were heading until we bypassed the city. Then more narrow windy uphill road upon which the undercarriage of Richard and Gloria's truck (pulling their 5th wheel) erupted in a minor but still exciting conflagration. Then up a long cobblestone street into this remote and lovely small hotel complex with about 20 RV spots, evidently added specifically with birders in mind. 137 miles, not quite 6 hours. We're the only RV's here. Hot in the afternoon sun (mid 80's), overnight lows near 50°F. Great birding in the campground and environs. Good view of Volcán de Fuego exhaling. We have been here for 10 days, plenty of time to just be "at home." Pat figured out how to make interactive travel maps for the website, helped Linda give Snowbird and Flakie a bath, and reconnected with her writing project. Bill practiced guitar and continued his current philosophical studies (Radical Axiology by Hugh P. McDonald.)

          The next day the group carpooled via pretty village of Suchitlan to Comala where we ate and drank Happy Hour in one of the centros botaneros (tapas bars) on the edge of the beautiful plaza in the shadow of the beautiful church. Another day, we punted on a "drive by" look at Colima. Without any opportunity to get out, explore, and walk around we couldn't see the point in sitting in a car for an hour to get there. Last Thursday, 10 birders (including Pat) left at 5am to go birding on the inactive Volcán Nevado de Colima. Bill and 5 others in our group stayed home. Thankfully Pat rode with Don who shares her limited tolerance for marathon birding outings. Returning early at 2pm, they had travelled 125 miles to reach the other side of the mountain - only 10 miles away as the crow flies. Their 7 hours of drive time yielded 2 hours of birding and some good if smoky views as they drove the Parque Nationale dirt road to its end at 12,268' elevation. The 8 trophy birders returned near 5pm, happy to have some more notches on their life lists. Since then Pat pretty much has quit car birding in favor of birding on foot, combining birdwatching with exercise. It's easy here, with plenty of walking options through the beautiful countryside and around the lake. There are birds everywhere. A particular treat was a visit from a Painted Bunting at Happy Hour one afternoon.

          last Friday, a large Christian contingent arrived in buses for the weekend. They filled up the hotel's 4 bedrooms, 5 cabins and overflowed into tents. The group configured the large open area adjacent to the RV campground as an outdoor chapel wired for surround-sound. Cermonies, preaching, singing and dancing filled the airwaves with well-amplified noise. The woofers kept us awake until the wee hours for 2 nights. We were happy not to be parked right next to the activities, as were the big rigs. A mysterious power outage somewhat dampened the audio volume for a while early Sunday morning. (We didn't do it - even if we thought about it. ) After a more muted day including ritual baptisms in the swimming pool, the noise vanished with the buses on Sunday afternoon. Quite an experience. We hoped they had a good time.

          This is a special place. In the early morning millions of stars plot the sky overhead (also at Boca Beach) reminding us of nights at sea on sweet Callipygia. A good reminder of our puny status on this this teeny corner of the universe.

 

Monday, March 4, 2007
Los Pinos Trailer Park, Tepic, Nayarit

          We left Laguna LaMaria at crack of dawn on Friday, the biggest rig barely sqeaking under the arch at the exit to the campground complex. A slow drive down the twisty side road so as to bypass Comala's narrow cobbled streets. Then reached the cuota (toll road) from Colima to Guadalajara. Slow going, mostly just 2 lanes and heavy traffic, trucks struggling on hills. Took the bypass round Guadalajara, 2nd largest city in Mexico. Well signed, 4 lanes, busy. Then along the cuota from Guadalajara to Tepic, a beautiful new 4-lane highway, we started to make up some time. Up and down some long big hills, past interesting villages, and through beautiful arid country with field after field of the agave whose roots are fermented to make Tequila. Saw the town of that name in the distance. Alas, no time to stop for photographs. Finally arrived in Tepic, the ancient capital of Nayarit, 240 miles and 8 hours later. This campground turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Last year it was very run down. Our wagonmasters found the phone recently disconnected so not sure what to expect. Happily, new owners are busily renovating it, were unaware of the caravan's reservation. Thankfully there was enough room for all of us. It's a prime location right in Tepic. We were glad to settle in for the night. These long hot drives are tiring.

          Saturday the entire group, including non-birders, drove 30 miles or so to a crater lake, Laguna Santa Maria del Oro. Beautiful place. Good birding, nice restaurant. Interesting legend about the formation of the lake. Sunday, had a nice walk along the boulevard towards the city center, found the visitor's center and learned about historic places to see. Right now we're more interested in Mexico and its culture than the birds. There are few gringos in Tepic so the culture is intact. In the afternoon we car pooled about 15 miles to an overlook on the Tepic-Mazatlan Libre (old highway, a free road as opposed to the Cuota.) A windy narrow road through the hills, heavy with overloaded truck traffic. The usual sprinkling of crosses at corners memorializing head-on collisions or a failure to make a turn. At one corner, a bunch of people were harvesting from a carpet of tomatoes spilt from some unfortunate truck. At the overlook (El Mirador de Aguila) we hung around for 30 minutes until a flock of Military Macaws showed up below, we counted 17 together at one point. Incredible striking birds, only a few thousand remain scattered among their fragmented habitats from Mexico to Argentine. Their decline is due to capture for sale as pets and loss of habitat.

          Today, we took ourselves on a walking tour of the Tepic city center. Loved it. You can join us on our walking tour by watching the slide show we made of this Mexico trip. Tomorrow, we're off to Mazatlan.

 

Thursday, March 8, 2007
Playa Escondido RV Park, Mazatlan, Sinaloa

          We bade Tepic farewell soon after first light on Tuesday, and made our way north back to this RV Park. We took the cuota (toll road) where it was available. Some of it is brand new, some still under construction, most of the way 2-lane roads. Some of the surface excellent, some bumpy bumpy. The usual mix we've come to expect. Our 191 mile trip took almost 6 hours with all of the stops that arose. We're looking forward to being on our own, able to pick and choose our stopping points. No complaints, though, the Caravan has been a good experience. Weather here lovely, a cool sea breeze mitigating the mid-80's sunshine. Walked on the beach (disappearing due to erosion) as are some of the houses facing right onto it. Regardless, there's a massive construction boom of beach front condos underway. We figured they'll be swallowed up by hurricane damage, erosion, and rising tides before the financing is paid off. Walked around the Mazatlan marina and felt nostalgic looking at all the sailboats. Then diverted by the huge iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks lining the marina basin. This is a handy campground: all kinds of services are available. Daily vegetable truck, laundry pickup and delivery, water and propane deliveries, haircuts, massage, manicure, vehicle wash, and fresh shrimp deliveries. We got Clemmie washed and polished, bought water and veggies, had our laundry done, and filled the freezer with shrimp. Enjoyed eating at the little street restaurant just outside the campground gates.

          This morning the birders went early to the wetlands behind the campground. Alas, the construction we had noted on our stop going south 6 weeks ago had proceeded apace. The last bulwark to the wetlands was breached last night, and the wetlands were almost drained. Broke our hearts to see all the birds clustered on the edges of the remaining water feeding here for what will surely be the last time - and just as they are coming into breeding plumage. The night herons stood in the mud looking completely dazed. We wonder what will become of them. Some will hopefully find other places to breed but we doubt that all will be so fortunate. What assholes we humans are. Made our webmaster feel positively homicidal.

 

Saturday, March 10, 2007
Truck Stop at Los Mochis, Sinaloa

          Left Mazatlan near 8:00 am. The campground has emptied out, winter residents preparing to return north and caravan season over. Boring and uneventful ride along mostly toll roads. Some good surface, some the usual potholes. Two posts along the way sprouted golden eagles. Pulled into this (supposedly secure) truck stop behind a large Pemex (gas station) at 3:30pm. 248 miles today. Many tractor trailers here and 3 other RVs. Place fenced in with razor wire atop. Adventure Caravans has arranged for us to have a security guard. Adjusted Clemmie to provide maximum shade - it's our turn to provide food for Happy Hour. Settled in for an early night. These travel days are wearing. Travel is slow due to caravan stops for potty breaks and to keep everyone tightly (too tight we thought) in line, toll booths, fuel stops, lunch stops, and topes or vibradores (speed bumps) in towns and villages, not to mention slowdowns on periodic poor road surface. If we average over 30mph we feel we're doing well.

 

Monday, March 12, 2007
El Mirador RV Park, San Carlos, Sonora

          Yesterday, a sad awakening. The "security guard" at Los Mochis was riding around on a motor scooter when we got up at our usual 5am. On our early baño walk he inquired if we'd had a quiet night. (?Suspicious question?) We had, we slept soundly. Too soundly it turned out. Both our bikes had been stolen, cables cut and part of the bike rack disappeared. A bike also stolen from one of the non-caravan rigs. 2 tires stolen out of Richard and Georgia's pickup truck, and a ladder stolen from the back of Jim and Betty's rig. We learned that people in three of the parked RV's had observed some goings on, a person using the stolen ladder to climb over the fence; what looked like a trade of packages between the "security guard" and one of the tractor trailers. Packages then passed over the fence to - who? Our wagonmasters called the local policia who showed up quickly. We made the report for the group as best we could, stretching our Spanish to the limit. We find it hard to believe that the security guard wasn't in on this heist. While all of the official conversation was going on, a crop dusting plane spraying adjacent potato fields turned and made a few low passes over our parking area. What was that about?

          We finally left Los Mochis around 7:30am. Another tedious travel day. We don't like to make so many stops, but evidently this is the way caravans work. And many toll stops. By the time we cross the border, this trip will have cost us about $400 (US) in tolls. The rigs with tow vehicles will have paid substantially more. By the end of the day, 236 miles, and 8 hours later, we had returned to spend 2 nights at San Carlos, a beautiful and now somewhat familiar place. The landscape is gorgeous, but the disparity is unsettling between the wealth and luxury in the RV Park, of the tourist villas, and at the anchorage on the one hand, and on the other the trucks going by packed tight with skinny laborers travelling to their construction posts. We had our farewell dinner today with our birding companions, we've enjoyed every last one of them - dogs included. Tomorrow, back to the US. It'll be another very long day. Mexico, you've been a grand experience.

 

Wednesday, March 14, 2007
DiAnza Trails RV Resort, Amado, Arizona

          We're home! Back in God's own (??) country or at least where you can plug your RV into reliable 30amp electricity, the sewage is treated, the water is potable, the air is clear, the roads are smooth, there are no military checkpoints, the bathrooms have locks and you can flush your used toilet paper. How fortunate the residents of the US are. And how little we seem to appreciate it. Meanwhile our president and vice-president seem to be doing their best to screw it all up in their crazy militarization of our country, deftly using the "terror" word as a weapon to force the unwitting public into compliance. Their avowed goal: Full Spectrum Global Domination. How can we be letting this happen?

           We left beautiful San Carlos at 6:30am yesterday, in tight caravan formation on the CB radio leash. An uneventful drive, mostly on the cuota (toll road) with fewer stops so we could make better speed. Somewhat. We arrived at the Mexican border control a bit before 2:00pm, smooth processing to get our vehicle sticker removed, then on to U.S. customs, an hour's wait. Then a quick stop in Nogales, AZ, to change our remaining pesos back to dollars and a short drive to Amado. We pulled into this RV park, nearly full - glad we'd made reservations, picked up our awaiting mail, and settled into our campsite soon after 4:00pm. 287 miles, 9½ hours. We moved happy hour up 30 minutes, settled in and celebrated being back on our own. We were very ready. Today, laundry and other light chores. Tomorrow we go to Tucson to get Clemmie serviced and electrical stuff repaired from the Mazatlan mess. Then, we do not know. We think we're going to hang around in southern Arizona and New Mexico for a few weeks to decompress, enjoy the natural beauty, do our taxes, etc. before we start working our way north as the weather warms up. Stay tuned. Our slide show of this Mexico trip is finished. Enjoy!

 

Sunday, March 18, 2007
Beaudry RV Resort, Tucson, Arizona

          Busy times. Spending money. Drove the 35 miles to Tucson from Amado early Thursday morning and lined up at LaMesa RV to get our converter replaced and miscellaneous other minor Clemmie matters attended. Spent most of the day in the customer service waiting room or across the street buying a few items at Camping World where we cruised the alleys looking wide-eyed at all the stuff we don't need. This is our second visit to LaMesa, and we're happy with the service provided. Decided to spend the night at this resort RV Park behind Camper's World. Yesterday, another get-it-done day. First to the TCI Tire Center in Tucson to get a better solution to the rear-tire stem problem that ended up with us having 2 deflated tires on the road to Mazatlan. Between our confusion and some miscommunications it ended up taking 4 hours, but ultimately we're happy with what they did, and at no charge too. Then we turned Clemmie into a car and drove to two guitar/music stores (helpfully across the street from each other) where we ended up in The Folk Shop with Pat buying a wooden recorder and Bill getting leads to potential guitar lessons. From there to Fair Wheel Bikes to order a Thule T-2 bike rack (we've been busy doing our research since we crossed the border and this is the closest thing we could find to the ones that go on the front of buses) and 2 replacement bikes. Decided to come back here to veg out for a couple more days. And do our taxes since there's WiFi here. Turned on our air conditioner and sank back in the heat. Mid-90's under blazing sun with Blue Angels loudly streaking by above, sucking up fuel and making stinky brown smoke patterns in the blue. At the air show yesterday we could have had ringside seats if we sat on Clemmie's roof. Too hot.

 

Tuesday, March 19, 2007
Picacho Peak State Park, Picacho, Arizona

          Hauled out of Beaudry's near 8:00am yesterday, filled up with propane, and headed through Tucson north on I-10. Out into the desert to find this rocky island in its midst. 56 miles. Lovely campground, great big sites and facilities and plenty of good hikes. Arizona state parks are certainly among the best. Wouldn't want to stay here in the summer, though, since average temperatures then are well over 100.° It being hot, after we settled in we did a short hike and then hung out at home, keeping an eye on busy I-10. At this distance it looked like some of the leaf-cutter ant highways we saw in Mexico, shallow grooves in the dirt with lanes of ants travelling to- and fro- seemingly full of purpose. Below the conscious level is human behavior not unlike that of ants? Guided by instinct (ants) or emotion (humans) busily going about daily life oblivious to the grand scheme of things. Seems like the main difference is we can rationalize our behavior, the ants can't. Cooler today, we're hoping for rain so we can see the desert burst into flower.

 

Saturday, March 30, 2007
Catalina State Park, Oro Valley, Arizona

          From our spot at Picacho Peak, traffic on distant I-10 patrolling like a sinister army cast unease over the campground. So we decided to leave and come to Catalina State Park to wait for our new bike rack to arrive in Tucson. Did so after breakfast on Wednesday morning a week ago. 37 miles. This place has more fabulous views, terrific birding, and outstanding hiking trails. No sooner had we settled in than the weather clouded over, cooled down, and said: it's time for spring rain. And rain it did on and off for 3 days, sometimes heavily. The desert soaked it up: Some flowers came out and the birds sounded happy. Then the sun came back though it's cool in the shade and chilly overnight. We rented a car for a bit and went shopping. Bill had 2 guitar lessons and visited Ron at his office twice for chiropractic treatment for his (Bill's) month-old pain-in-the-neck. Between that and a new pillow, his neck is recovering nicely.

          Thursday, Bill's niece Sue called to say her mother, Bill's older sister Lorna, had died unexpectedly. Since she wished to go without ceremony, her passage was marked only with phone calls to assorted family members. Her ashes will be scattered near Scituate Light, near her husband Dave's. A quiet ending to a not-very-happy life.

          Music seems to be our gig these days and we're loving it. Bought a new stool and music stand for our guitar player. Visited a bunch of music stores and spent money. Moved the music room aft - gives our guitar player more space to practice and lets Pat roam around while he's at it. We love our small home and these occasional new arrangements bring huge pleasure. Meanwhile Pat has got off on the new alto recorder she bought at The Folk Shop (great place.) She read 2 books about iPods and iTunes, downloaded iTunes and organized all her bird song CDs, and some of her favorite classical music, on her laptop. iPod purchase deferred until we recover from the new bike rack, bikes, and recorder. Last Sunday we went for a canyon hike with Ron, Jane and Josh (it was Jane's birthday) and afterwards out to lunch with them. Jane and Josh came for dinner on Wednesday, after we picked up our bikes and new rack at Fair Wheel Bikes. The Thule T-2 rack is awesome, incredibly more convenient than our old one. Works just like the ones that go on the front of buses. We did some cleaning out and paid two visits to the Goodwill to recycle un-needed items. Filled up with groceries at the Tucson Co-op. Made more granola and better-than-butter. Rode our bikes and hiked on the park trails. We're happy campers!

 

Monday, April 2, 2007
Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico

          Left Catalina at first light yesterday, dumped the tanks and drove south through Tucson to I-10, then east into New Mexico. At Deming, we took Rte 26 to cut a corner and reach north-bound I-25. Made short detours to look at Percha Dam and Caballo Lake State Parks but decided to continue onwards to this third of that state park group along the dammed waters of the Rio Grande.We were glad we had, it's a beautiful spot. 378 miles. A cool night (we've risen to 4,500') brought another clear day and pleasant walks along the lakeside. While there's not great variety of birds here, there are plenty of them. We snagged photos of a Gambill's Quail, Curve-billed Thrasher, and a Yellow-headed Blackbird. You can see them our continually expanding Bird Pages of the Photo Album.

 

 

Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Bosque Birdwatchers RV Park, San Antonio, New Mexico

          Decided to move on yesterday morning. Elephant Butte is lovely, but the showers are cold. Gently ambled north to Interstate 25, then exited onto narrow Route 1 just south of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge on the Rio Grande. Drove a dozen miles into the Refuge and stopped at the Visitor's Center for information before continuing north to this little RV Park on the Refuge's northern edge. A sweet place, not fancy, but the shower is hot. The house and yard of it's elderly owner, widow Jaquina Trujillo, bounds the small RV park on former farmland. Then we drove the 15 miles north to the town of Socorro, did 3 loads of laundry, ate lunch, bought groceries, and came back here to enjoy the shade of Clemmie in the afternoon sun. Today, early, we drove the 4 miles back to the Refuge, loved the ease with which we unlocked and popped our bikes off the new bike rack, and then rode (stop, look,and go) round some of the open trails/roads. The wintering sandhill cranes have all left, and only a few snow geese remain, but the waters were loaded with ducks of all types. We lost our hearts and watched a movie that educated us about the amount of wetlands management effort it takes to make sure there's sufficient food for the hordes of birds that winter here and/or pass through on migration. The once-endangered wintering Sandhill Crane population alone has grown from just 17 in the early '80's to 12,000 today - each one of them consuming 3/4lb of corn daily. Talking with some volunteers (20-25 of them support the fulltime staff) it struck us that we might enjoy doing that too. Food for future thought.

 

Monday, April 9, 2007
in Steve's driveway, Albuquerque, NM

          Thursday morning we drove the 4 short miles from the Bosque Birdwatchers RV Park south to the Visitor Center, and spent a couple of hours biking or walking round the marshes and enjoying the birds and ambience of the Refuge. Thereafter, drove leisurely north on I-25 towards Albuquerque. Once there we stopped to fill up the gas tank and buy some groceries before ensconcing ourselves in Steve's driveway. Last time we saw him was nearly 4 years ago, very pleasant to reconnect. Friday morning while Steve was at work we biked to visit Jim and Betty, friends from our Mexico trip. Only 4 miles, but some big hills - gave us (and our bikes) a workout. Betty and Jim introduced us to the 4 raptors they foster under the auspices of Hawks Aloft, an organization that cares for (and rehabilitates when possible) injured or abandoned hawks and owls. Birds which can't be released earn their keep by demonstrating in educational programs, raising abandoned fledglings, or serving as companion birds. We met: Nicky, a 12-year old kestrel that imprinted on humans as a nestling and can't be released because he doesn't know how to be a kestrel; Boo and Barney, a pair of Barn Owls with severely damaged wings; and Jamaica, an 18-yearold red-tailed hawk that was blinded in one eye and suffered wing damage when she was shot many years ago. Nicky and Jamaica have been cared for by Jim and Betty for over 10 years. Bless them! In the afternoon we visited the excellent informative Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and confronted our abysmal ignorance of Native American history. A visit to one or more of the remaining 19 pueblos will help ramp our knowledge level up a bit. Round dinner time, the National Weather Service issued a Winter Weather Advisory. Blistering cold and winds with snow and ice possible the next 48 hours. Bad weather lasted through Saturday afternoon, only snow flurries with no accumulation though we heard I-25 north of here was closed. Clemmie once again proved her snug worth against the elements. We took a fast walk along one of the many nearby trails into the hills each day. Webmaster spent time creating more route maps of our travels and slide shows, and has finally got back on track with her writing project.

 

Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Canyonlands Campground, Moab, Utah

          Monday a week ago we decided that the weather outlook for the Grand Canyon was too cold for our tastes, so bagged Plan A in favor of Plan B. Ergo...    We said goodby to Steve early a week ago today and drove west on I-40 to Gallup, then north on Rte 491 through the barren southwest corner of Colorado into Utah. Terrific winds buffeting traffic all the way. At Monticello we joined Rte 191 and started to see some of the amazing rock formations in this part of the country. Arrived in Moab around 4:00pm. It's a pretty small town right in the canyonlands area, very near two national and one state park, all renowned for their scenery. 391 miles. Our campground is downtown, adjacent to the school track and playing fields. We can watch sports activities from Clemmie, as well as canyon walls and the distant Rockies. Great place, nice town, good biking and hiking, plenty of natural beauty, free WiFi, and good bathrooms. Not much bird life though. Chilly days at first, a few thunderstorms, but warmer now. Saturday we biked into the canyonlands, along the beautiful Colorado River. Today we're going to Canyonlands National Park (the Island in the Sky) and Dead Horse Point State Park to look at the vistas. Hopefully we'll come back with a bag of good pix. We'll stay here for another week, we're enjoying just "being at home" doing our thing. Which consists of guitar and recorder work, writing project and website stuff for Pat (maps are all done), Bill's current study tome (Leon Pomeroy's The New Science of Axiological Psychology), getting a decent amount of exercise (the track round the playing fields next door to the campground is great), and watching the News Hour with Jim Lehrer on our teeny (5" by 8") TV, among other daily activities.

 

Monday, April 23, 2007
Canyonlands Campground, Moab, Utah

          Strange times. Reeling from the Virginia Tech tragedy. Wierd weather. High winds and brown air all last Wednesday, dusty teeth crunches if one mistakenly opened one's mouth while walking outside. Thursday, clear, cool and sunny, so we drove along scenic Rte 128 to the historic Dewey bridge, then along the La Sal loop road through the mountains. A gloomy and raindroppy Saturday and windy and cloudy Sunday. OK to do laps around the track for our aerobicizing. Overnight for the week lows ranging from 35 to 60. Today, pouring and a high (brrrrr..) of 43°, what kind of a warm desert is this? The weather forecasts are completely off. Listened, riveted, on the radio to the bumbling and verbose responses of Alberto Gonsalez to the Senate Judiciary Committee. His incompetence at the helm of the Justice department seems only matched by his incompetence at hiding devious behavior. What a sorry show, makes one want to cry for our country. Democracy gurgling down the drain of the Bush White House. Did a lot of guitar practice and reading and writing. Practiced bird recognition from sounds and a Quiz Birds DVD. Started a Poetry Page for the website. Made a page showing the reader poll results. Made a slideshow of the views round here. Break your gasper, but their starkness is chilling. M/billions of years in the making, little wildlife. They'll still be here after we humans are long gone. So far we haven't got any sunrise or sunset pix, which is what you see on postcards. But hopefully we'll do that at The Arches National Park, we'll go there to camp for a couple of days on Wednesday--assuming the weather is half decent.

 

Thursday, April 26, 2007
Devil's Garden Campground, Arches National Park, Utah

          Hauled out of Canyonlands Campground round 8am yesterday after emptying waste tanks and filling fresh water and propane tanks. Stopped at grocery store then washed Clemmie at adjacent self-service facility. Drove north on Rte 191 across the Colorado River to the Visitor Center at this National Park. Spent the next several hours driving the park roads to various scenic viewpoints. Broke our gaspers. This park is not well known, but it is fabulous. See our slide show for pix. We finished up by mid-afternoon at the campground (reservations a must at this time of year) and settled into our spot. 35 miles. Dry camping (no hook ups or showers) but you can't beat the ambience. Sat out in our chairs, and caught a photo of a Mountain Bluebird whose yard we temporarily are in. Transient like us, just passing through on migration somewhere. Today, lovely and sunny. Pat biked and hiked her little legs off and wore out the camera, while Bill did some hiking and a lot of guitar practice. It's happily filling his spare time - between that and listening to guitar music.

 

Monday, April 30, 2007
Willard Bay State Park, Brigham City, Utah

          Reluctantly said goodbye Friday morning after breakfast to the beautiful Arches campground. Saluted the anniversary of Laurie's death. Continued north on Rte 191 through the Utah canyon country. West on I-70 to Green River, then north again on Rte 191 to Price. Then northwest on Rte 6 passing by the historic mining town of Helper tucked in under the mountains (looked like it would have been an interesting place to stop) and into narrow windy Price River canyon. Reached the summit at 7,500' and began a long descent through beautiful Spanish Fork canyon (not narrow like Price) passing more interesting rock formations. Wished we'd bought the Roadside Geology of Utah. Be sure to do that if you come this way. After a 2,500' descent we passed out of the mountains into the Great Salt Lake basin. Heavy smog attested to Utah's busy and growing industrial sector. Stopped for lunch just before joining I-15, then north to and through Salt Lake City, steadily creeping Los-Angeles-like into the foothills.

          Arrived at this nice State Park (if noisily close to the freeway) soon after 3:00pm. 296 miles. Settled in to our full hook-up spot, one of us checking out the area on her bike (love that new Thule bike rack) while the other did - guess what? - guitar practice. Saturday we drove Clemmie north to Brigham City to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, where we did a short hike near the Visitor Center before driving 13 miles on a mostly (lousy) gravel road deep into the Refuge. After a lunch stop, we did the 12-mile auto tour along assorted dikes. The Refuge is slowly recovering from a devastating flood in 1983 and birds are gradually coming back. Saw hundreds of Yellow-headed Blackbirds and swallows feasting on a mega-trillion supply of mayflies. Had fun watching Tree Swallows courting, and Cliff Swallows collecting mud for their nests. Mostly, however, the clouds of insects kept us inside Clemmie with the windows shut. Couldn't have done any birding here on our bikes, we should have left them home. By the time we got back 8 hours after we left the campground, they were completely covered in dust. Thankfully, a quick hose and wipe solved that. Then, one of us went for a ride to dry his bike off and proceeded to trip a wheel in a road crack thereby turning a few body parts into a close approximation of chopped liver. Fortunately he was able to pick up the pieces and bike home whereupon much first aid was rendered along with a (restrained) dollop of advice. We spent yesterday "at home" in this nice campground. Enjoying the robins who're up before dawn with their noisy serenades. Found time to finish the slide show of our time in the canyonlands. It's now available for viewing. The campground is largely empty of weekend families and this morning we drove to the nearby Brigham City Community Hospital for an easy professional wound checkup and just-in-case tetanus shot. The patient is doing fine.

 

Friday, May 4, 2007
Hi Valley RV Park, Eagle/Boise, Idaho

          Arrived here late Tuesday after a long day, having left Willard Bay soon after 7am. Drove North on I-15 through fertile fields of cows, with at least 500 white-faced ibis pretending to be cattle egret at one point. Then northwest into Idaho on I-84 through gently rolling farmland which gave way to scrubby range land with occasional cowboys herding a few cows. Near Twin Falls we detoured to Shoshone Falls to watch the Snake River drop deeper than Niagara Falls across a 1,000' wide stretch of river and rocks. The Snake River gorge was created 15,000 years ago by the catastrophic emptying of Lake Bonneville (at the time the largest internal body of water in North America.) Realized we'd been driving on the bottom of the former lake. Sat at the little local park by the falls and succumbed to a rare hot dog lunch from the concession stand. The ambience added greatly to the food enjoyment. Continued on I-84 to Boise, flat and sprawlly. Stopped at the World Center for Birds of Prey to learn about the projects of the Peregrine Fund to preserve endangered raptors. Then to this RV Park, settling in by 5pm, just in time for happy hour. 313 miles. Noticed that the robins have followed us. We had thought we would stay only a couple of nights but the weather outlook for our route is wet/snowy and cold so decided to stay put 'til tomorrow and drive to Lewiston all in one day. Woke to near 30°s most mornings, sunny and brrrrrisk during the days. Walked our legs off going to and from Eagle, or on the handy treadmill in the RV Park Recreation Hall. Easy to keep busy and engaged with our work/hobbies (guitar, website, writing, reading projects, etc.) Seems like a few birds have adopted this RV Park as home. We watched a pair of Kildeers and 2 ducks hang around on the edge of the loop for our campsite - clearly urban birds. They seem quite unperturbed as the traffic detours around them.

 

Monday, May 7, 2007
Hell's Gate State Park, Lewiston, Idaho

          We drove away from comfortable Hi Valley RV Park before 7am Saturday morning. North on Rte 55 through the Payette River valley/gorge. Good road, very scenic, frequent turnouts to allow faster traffic to get by. Near the village of Cascade the hillsides gave way to frosty edges along the now placid river, steaming as the sun rose up. At New Meadow, we filled up the gas tank (ouch) and joined Rte 95 to continue climbing to the summit before beginning a 3,000' descent beside the fast-moving Salmon River. Through the town of Riggins (White Water Capital of the World) filled with men in boots and big hats for the annual rodeo. Crossing into Pacific Time (the zone has truly wierd boundaries) we left the Salmon River and made the loooong climb up White Bird Hill to find a glorious view looking back to the Salmon River Mountains. Next it was prairie land, quite different, many farms. Near Grangeville the road turned northwest and cut through the remnants of the once huge homeland of the Nez Perce Indians. We reached the Clearwater River at Spalding where we stopped in at the Nez Perce National Historic Park Visitor Center to learn more about this tribe. There's no end to the education we're getting on this travelling life. From there our road followed the Clearwater River to it's junction with the Snake River at Lewiston, where we found the Visitor Information Center and a grocery store. A short 5 mile drive south along (up) the Snake brought us to this State Park. Our campsite overlooks the river with the creeping edge of Clarkston, WA, on the other side. Amazing the terrific front/back yards we have - without a drop of yardwork on our part. 266 miles today. This campground is a lush place, no wonder - the river bursts forth every morning through deftly placed spigots in the grass. Broken field running is required to reach the bath house dry - though does it matter if you plan to shower?  A 20-mile bike trail goes close behind our picnic table, and there's a little restaurant at the Park's nearby marina. Plus the weather's warmer - Lewiston being the lowest point in Idaho. We finished our arrival day with a nice walk along the bike trail - passing a memorial marker in honor of unknown toddler, Noah Jones, forever two years old. Knowing no details, we couldn't but think of his bereaved family.

          We've made much use of the bike trail running through the campground. Part of it runs along the levee separating Lewiston from the Snake River as it exits from Hell's Canyon, the deepest river gorge (>8,000') in North America, on its way to join the giant Columbia. Having stumbled across the Lewis and Clark trail once again, we're digging into more history of their exploration. Learned that they camped in 1805 at the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers. A different place, then, wild and unmapped - and 40' below the dammed waters of today. Come to think of it, how did they find this historic camping spot without today's marker? And how were they able to camp here before the levee was built? For the Discovery Expedition, from here on out it was down hill all the way - or at least down river. The Clearwater to the Snake to the Columbia and the Pacific Ocean. Found a beautiful Wood Duck in a pond inside the levee. It's a terrific 6-mile pedal into old Lewiston, once briefly the capital of Idaho, then another 5 miles along the Clearwater levee to aptly named Locomotive Park. Those danged robins have followed us here once again, many of them now working on brood patches. The place is thick with them, the males singing their little hearts out in the morning wee hours. It's a nice birdy place, and this time of year all species have but one thing on their minds, passing on their DNA to the next generation.

 

Thursday, May 17, 2007
on the street at Craig's, Moscow, Idaho

          We left Hell's Gate early last Friday and drove north along Snake River Avenue into Lewiston, then back onto Rte 95 to cross the Clearwater River and up the hill through farm country to this appealing little college town. 38 miles. Easily found our way to Craig's new digs (he moved yesterday) where we found good street parking with an easy electrical plugin using our 100' foot cord. Great to see him settling into his new life. We last saw him 14 months ago in Raleigh. Spent the day helping him unpack and do a bit of nesting. Sunday, an early attempt to update the website at the One World Cafe resulted in a week's worth of AntiVirus, Windows, and other updates colliding with a most unseemly result: Windows refused to boot properly. A big YUK. Abandoned that effort and went garage saleing with Craig Yield: one microwave and one window A/C. Visited the local Farmer's Market. Helped unpack more boxes. Webmaster dug out Windows Missing Manual and learned how to do a System Restore to a 5-day old checkpoint - all's now well with her laptop. On Sunday afternoon (Saturday was graduation day at the University of Idaho) we met several of Craig's professors and fellow graduate students at a party. Moscow is a nice town of 'round 20,000 fultime residents. Downtown is busy and functional. It's a short walk away and we've enjoyed getting comfortable in it. There is a terrific bike path on the old railroad bed that runs from Pullman, WA, (home of a Washington State University campus) 8 miles west of Moscow to Troy, ID, 12 miles east. We're having a nice time enjoying Moscow and providing help/company - and evening meals - to Craig as he settles into his new place. Late this afternoon Craig and Giancarlo drove us to Kamiak Butte. We hiked to the top and surveyed the vast Palouse Prairie, now largely covered with wheat fields.

 

Friday, May 18, 2007
Wanapum State Park, Vantage, WA

          Said goodbye to Craig this morning. We loved our time in Moscow. Quality time with Pat's son, and getting to know this--now a favorite--small town. The western edge of Moscow is on the border between Idaho and Washington. In Pullman we turned north to Colfax, then west on scenic Rte 26 through the Palouse, in its own way beautiful country. Joined I-90 at Vantage and crossed the Columbia River, dammed here into Wanapum Lake. One exit later, we drove 3 miles south to find Wanapum State Park on the Lake edge, glad we had a reservation. It was full of local families and fishermen for the weekend. 163 pleasant miles. Nice place for a night or two's stop.

 

Sunday, May 20, 2007
on the street at Paul and Gayle's, Renton (near Seattle), WA

          We left Wanapun just after 7:00 a.m. yesterday morning and continued west on I-90. Stopped in Ellensburg to get Clemmie washed and polished at Cascade Truck and RV Wash. She was turning yellow from sitting under the flowering trees in Moscow. Soon after we continued on our way the drizzle began. Saw the beautiful Cascades scenery through a blanket of mist. Got a glimpse of the Stuart Range, the single largest mass of exposed granite in the U.S. Found our way to Paul and Gayle's, arriving a bit before lunch. 132 wet miles. Great for Bill to reconnect with his nephew, last seen some 30 years ago. Paul took us to look at Snoqualmie Falls in the afternoon--saw a Peregrine circling, close up. We spent the evening deep in conversation, watching The Secret, and in Paul's recording studio. We got acquainted with Riley and Charlie. Today, a bookstore visit and Gayle's grandson's soccer game. After lunch to the Apple Store where we dropped our wallet on two much-anticipated iPods. Back home discovered Clemmie had been busted. "NO RV's ALLOWED IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD" hollered a rude note under a windshield wiper with a copy under Paul and Gayle's doormat. We quickly drove a hundred yards to get out of the housing complex and park on an adjacent street where we could dry camp comfortably for the night.

 

Thursday, June 1, 2007
Hudson Point Marina and RV Park, Port Townsend, WA

          We left Paul's house around 8:00 a.m. a week ago Monday morning, still raining. Back onto I-405 after filling the gas tank. We wonder if the gas price level has a lid--or will it finally come to reflect oil's true cost? Found Rte 167 south, then joined I-5 through Tacoma (where the rain stopped) and Rte 16 across The Narrows onto the Kitsap Peninsula. Then we crossed the floating Hood Canal bridge onto the Olympic Peninsula and drove north on Rte 19/20 to Port Townsend. 104 miles. The sun was out and our hearts smiled as we settled in for 2 weeks. This place tops our list of favorite spots. We love Port Townsend, our campsite and the campground facilities are terrific. In the afternoon we walked to the Co-op for a few provisions and took the shuttle bus back home. We were ready to have time anchored in community--not that we want to give up our roaming lifestyle. Yet...  Spent the next couple of days getting familiar with our new iPods, setting them up with iTunes, and converting (in Bill's case) his music from Windows Media Player. Pat will use her's (aka "Poddy") for bird songs, classical music, Spanish lessons, etc.   Bill will use his for guitar work and his CD collection. We are very excited playing with our new toys.

          Since then, we have enjoyed watching the birds, the sailboats, the ferries, the cruiseships the naval boats, the tugs with barges, and the freighters passing through Admiralty Inlet on their way to/from Puget Sound. The weather (except for Memorial Day weekend) has been gorgeous; sunny, high near 70 and low near 50. We work on our projects, listen to and watch birds, explore the town, walk along the shore, and gasp at the view over the water. We're here long enough to learn that the civic discourse in this town isn't very civil; vocal locals making crabs in the basket. Too bad. We saw a Black-bellied Plover on the beach yesterday, well out of its range for this time of year. Tuesday, we took the ferry to Whidbey Island and rode the (free) buses to explore the southern part of the island, with stops in Coupeville and Langley. All while listening to our iPods, of course. See some pictures in the Photo Album and you'll know why we're in love with this place, if not its politics.

 

Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, WA

          We departed Hudson Point early Monday morning and drove 5 miles south on Rte 20 to Courtesy Ford to get Clemmie's engine etc., serviced and ready for Alaska: oil change, lube, replace air filter, transmission and brake fluids, checked tires, etc. Fixed small leak below transmission, come back Friday to confirm fix. We've done 40,000 miles. Then back through Port Townsend for a Goodwill drop, Co-op shop and to this State Park, a National Historic place. It's a former military fort whose batteries, barracks and buildings have been converted to state park office, museums, artist housing, and conference center--and setting for the movie, An Officer and a Gentleman. The campground edges the dunes on both shores of Point Wilson, whose lighthouse overlooks evidence of battering storms. Big currents rage round the point, where the Strait of Juan de Fuca funnels into Admiralty Inlet on its way to Puget Sound. Mule deer with the occasional fawn wander by our campsite, owned by almost tame crows and a pair of white-crowned sparrows. We're drawing down our wine stock and the perishables in the freezer and 'frig ready to meet border crossing rules and because propane shutoffs on the long ferry legs from Port Hardy north will close down our 'frig. Looks like the good weather is gone. Cool and overcast with rain and showers so far. Nonetheless we're enjoying the peace and quiet--only a mile from bustling Port Townsend. Our end of the campground is almost empty. Woke each morning to find an eagle overlooking our campsite. Dour days, good for indoor projects and warmly dressed walks up Artillery Hill, over to North Beach or into town.

 

Friday, June 8, 2007
Sea-Tac KOA, Kent, WA

          Made an early start from Fort Worden to provision at Port Townsend's 24hr Safeway and then get a quick check-up on Clemmie's transmission ooze at Courtesy Ford. All seems well. South on Rte 19 to Rte 104 and across the floating bridge over the Hood Canal. Then Rte 3 south through the edge of Bremerton, with glimpses of grey naval fighting vessels, on to Rte 16, across the Tacoma Narrows and thence to I-5 (northbound) for a few miles. Arrived here well before lunch; they let us in since the place is not busy. 102 miles. It's a nice older campground on the Green River, with a fabulous bike trail at the end of the campground. Popped off the bikes and reconoitred for a half hour. Looks like one could bike north to Seattle or south to Tacoma. The day turned partly sunny and warmish, kept the door open for guitar practice. We're here for one night only, close to the airport to collect Martha tomorrow and begin our trip up the Inside Passage to Alaska.

 

Saturday, June 9, 2007
Al's RV Park, Port Angeles, WA

          After breakfast yesterday, Bill took taxi-cabbed from the KOA campground in Kent to the Sea-Tac Airport to fetch Martha. In the meantime, the rain started. On return we did a quick reconnect and left the RV park - thankfully they didn't enforce the 11 a.m. departure deadline, we didn't make it. Then, chattering busily with our new passenger, south on soggy I-5 to Tacoma where we did a slow U-turn onto Rte 16, crossed the Tacoma Narrows onto the Kitsap Peninsula. After side-swiping Bremerton (rain diminishing) we turned onto Rte 3 just past Poulsbo, crossed the Hood Canal (the longest floating bridge in the world--7869 feet) onto the Quimper Peninsula, a pimple on the side of the huge Olympic Peninsula. Joined Route 101 and continued west through sunny Sequim where we stopped for a carefully measured wine replenishment. (We feared a repeat of last year's Canadian customs humiliation.) Arrived at this convenient RV Park on the eastern part of Port Angeles around 3:30pm. 124 miles. This is a cash-only mostly seasonal (ie permanent residents) campground. The host advised us that the water pressure was high so be sure to use a pressure regulator (we always do.) Hooked up and settled in for an early Happy Hour to celebrate Martha's arrival. Then discovered we had no water--our pressure regulator bit the dust. Switched to using tank water, and went to refill it. The pressure blew apart the in-hose water filter, drenched Bill who was attempting to fill the tank, and surrounded him with a sea of activated charcoal. But we're not sinking. Recovered our wits and made paella for supper. Retired early, us two exhausted from our anticipations and Martha from jet-lag and air travel.

 

Monday, June 11, 2007
West Bay Marine Village, Victoria, BC

          Woke yesterday morning to teasing glimpses of snow-covered peaks of the Olympic Mountains as the clouds rose and sank. Had coffee and then drove to the Port Angeles ferry terminal. Ate breakfast while waiting in line for our 8:20 a.m. departure. An uneventful 90-minute boat ride through rain showers to Victoria, BC, on Vancouver Island across the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Canadian customs paid us no mind this time, just a few questions before waving us through. Pat dropped off Bill and Martha to explore beautiful Victoria and drove Clemmie to this, now familiar, RV Park across the harbour. 6.5 road miles. Afternoon showers gave way to blue sky accompanied by a visit from a batch of curious teen-age Canada geese. A nice day wandering around and decompressing. Today, up early for family time. Took advantage of good WiFi to update the website. Then, hiked the harborside path into town for a day's exploration, passing by some interesting driftwood sculpture on the shore.. Wandered through Chinatown, visited Craigdarroch Castle, a 19th Century coal barron's McMansion. Brought our weary feet home by water taxi. Started a new page of pix for our trip up the Inside Passage to Alaska.

 

Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Salmon Point RV Resort, Campbell River, BC

          Left West Bay yesterday morning just before 8am. Drove through Esquimalt to catch the Trans Canada Highway. Then north past some beautiful views over the Saanich Peninsula and through Nanaimo to Courtenay for a brief hello to Pat's old high-school friend Marian. Then on to this RV Park on the shore of the Strait of Georgia, a few miles south of Campbell River. 160 miles. Sun in and out, a few showers, cool. This morning a gorgeous sunrise. Long early walks through Woodhus Slough to the Oyster River, pondering the sea and sky magic over the Strait. It's a beautiful spot. Did laundry, updated the website on the campground's free WiFi, and made time for naps and guitar practice. Martha resting and relaxing, "coming down" from her day job in the bustling MD suburbs near Washington, DC. Tomorrow Port Hardy.

 

Thursday, June 14, 2007
Quatse River Regional Park, Port Hardy, BC

          From Salmon Point we continued north along Rte 19A to Campbell River where we stopped for a few provisions, then through the mountains of northern Vancouver Island to Port Hardy, close to the end of the road. A few black bears chomping on the new grass by the roadside along the way. Checked out the Port Hardy Visitor Center, wandered around and then drove a few miles to Port Rupert, a native village. Beautiful cemetery and interesting totems. The carving house was closed, however. Then on to our campground in the Quatse River Salmonid hatchery. Took a tour of the hatchery and expanded our understanding of salmon life. Early to bed in anticipation of tomorrow's ferry trip.

 

Sunday, June 17, 2007
Park Avenue Campground, Prince Rupert, BC

          Up at 4:40 a.m. Friday, unplugged and drove to the Port Hardy ferry dock to get in line. Made breakfast while we waited. Boarded the MV Northern Adventure around 6:30 a.m. and settled in for a 15-hour ride through the straits and channels among the islands off mainland BC. Took many picutres (see the Inside Passage photos on our website). A weary trip, the ferry accomodations were not the greatest though the scenery surely was. Arrived in Prince Rupert around 10:30 p.m. just as the sun was setting. Sat in Clemmie in the bowels of the boat for an eon before our turn to disembark came. Then drove a short ½ mile to get in line with all the other ferry RVs to register and settle in at this convenient campground. Slept like logs. Yesterday morning, up late (6:45 am) and walked the easy mile to downtown Prince Rupert. Found breakfast near the interesting harbor, many eagles hanging about (the salmon season has just opened) and a few deer stopping traffic. Visited the Museum of Northern British Columbia with its displays of exquisite art work by members of various native tribes. The carving shed where totems are made was unfortunately closed. The sun didn't quite break through the cloud cover, except to tease with a few mountain glimpses. Downloaded the most recent batch of pictures and processed them for the website. Annoyingly intermittent WiFi and no cell phone coverage. Today, cold and damp; showers, drizzle, and dry patches. We're managing nicely with three in our small space. Emptied out and defrosted the 'frig and freezer, and packed ourselves up for the two-day ferry ride to Juneau.

 

Monday, June 25, 2007
Parked on Douglas Island, Juneau, AK

          We are in Alaska. The ferry trip was wonderful and yielded a boatload of pix now in the Photo Album. Life is good and we are truly fortunate to have these experiences. We are housesitting on Douglas Island in the home of vacationing friends of our dear ones, taking care of their sweet kitten Penelope. We spent much time reconnecting with our dear ones and watching Jasper and Reuben play baseball. Thursday we took Martha to see the Mendenhall Glacier. We were shocked. It is disappearing. It has retreated over 400' in the past year, at 7 times its rate of retreat less than a decade ago. Then, yesterday Martha did the Tracy Arm day boat tour and found that the Sawyer Glacier has retreated 3/4 mile in the last 3 years. There is a global emergency and everyone we know (including us) acts as though not much is up, though making a few minor tweaks with their lifestyles. We are boiling frogs, all of us, fiddling while Rome burns. When we started our website we figured our grandchildren were the ones who were going to suffer from the results of human profligacy. Not so. We, and especially our children, are the ones who have to face reality. Great suffering lies ahead. It is time to think differently about the good life. Meanwhile, in the White House the consumer-in-charge is looking out the rear window -- but the wheels are going forward on a road that leads off the map.

 

Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Eagle Beach State Recreation Area, near Juneau, AK

          We cleaned house early and headed "out the road" to Eagle Beach for 24 hours of R&R, just the three of us (i.e. us two and Clemmie.) A gorgeous day, not many people here - mostly tenters, no RVs that we could see. The campground has been upgraded and we settled into a large open site in the shadow of the mountains, basking in the sun. Hiked/biked along the trail to the beach and soaked up the Earth's unspoiled beauty. Hard to beat. Don't miss the buzz of "civilization" one bit.

 

Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Parked at Dear Ones, Juneau, AK

          Up at our usual 5:00am two weeks ago to drive Clemmie from our Eagle Beach campsite to the beach viewpoint so we could run the generator to do our morning routine with 120v electricity. Drank coffee looking out over the mouth of the Eagle River and the Lynn Canal to the Chilkat Mountains as the sun rose. Counted 18 bald eagles hanging out along the edges of the river and the canal. Parents and youngsters, both. Departed soon after 10am and returned to Juneau to pick up the grandparent mantle again and help out the busy parents. We parked on the street at our dear ones, and began housesitting a block away in the home of some other vacationing friends. Since then we've done two camping overnights (one at Eagle Beach and the other at Mendenhall River) with assorted grandkids. Incidentally learned that Clemmie can, in fact, comfortable feed and sleep 5. Had fun on the 4th of July watching the Douglas parade and activities including a soapbox derby. Little League season finished, and Jasper made it to the southeast Alaska All Stars tournament for 9-10 year-olds, with Rorie coaching. We've watched all the games, and got accustomed to being wet--it rained for the past 4 days. But, we'd rather be cool and wet than broiling in the heat that seems to be burning up most of the US. This extended visit is a treat for us, though our energy level is not what it used to be. There's a good reason that people have kids when they're young. Nonetheless, we've had great enjoyment from being the temporary daytime childcare crew. We leave on the ferry for Haines early tomorrow morning. Oh yes, our slide show of the Inside Passage is finished (except for whatever pix we accumulate on the way to Haines.)

 

Thursday, July 12, 2007
Oceanside RV Park, Haines, AK

          We hugged our dear ones goodbye late last evening after the final All Stars game. It was again pouring, and "our" team, Juneau West, made it into the playoffs--which we'll miss. We drove to the Auke Bay ferry terminal to spend the night, sleeping in the parking lot so as to be ready for this morning's 6 a.m. ferry check-in. Low tide was 6:15 a.m. Ouch. The 3 RV's in the line were loaded last to negotiate the sharp dock-ramp junction onto the ferry. Crew were attentive and helped us inch along (to the painful noise of our bike rack scraping on the ramp) into the MV Fairweather. Glad we have such a sturdy bike rack, goodness knows which parts of Clemmie would have scraped otherwise. This ferry is a highspeed sea-going catamaran, the Alaska Marine Highway's newest. Pouring rain and few views on our speedy 2½ trip from the Auke Bay terminal up the Lynn Canal to Haines where we found space at this downtown RV Park next to the small boat harbour. We ate lunch at the Bamboo room (½ price because the cole slaw had gone bad), then walked around this interesting little town in our rain gear trying to accumulate our daily quota of exercise steps. No ill effects from the cole slaw.

 

Saturday, July 14, 2007
Cottonwood Campground, Lake Kluane, Yukon Territory

          We woke to patches of blue sky above Haines yesterday morning. Seemed a long time since we'd seen any. Left the campground shortly after breakfast and turned north on the Haines Highway alongside the Chilkat River. Views shrouded in fog, clouds, and mist. Not like the last time we were here (November '05) to see the eagles.   25 miles inland, the skies lifted and we got a view of the Klehini River, the St. Elias Mountains, and the Saksaia Glacier. We took a break on the summit of the Chilkat Pass with more breath-taking views, and began our decent into a sliver of British Columbia before reaching the Yukon Territory. Stopped at Million Dollar Falls campground for a short hike along the Takhanne River. The spruce tree die-off was much in evidence as we continued our descent towards the Klukshu River. Saw our first bear. Made a short detour to the village of Klukshu, a native settlement. 20 miles further on we stopped for a short hike to stand on a remarkable rock glacier. Took a quick look at Kathleen Lake campground, but decided to press on to Haines Junction. Stopped there for a few groceries, lunch, and the Kluane National Park Visitors Center. Learned that the highway (Alcan) going north is under major reconstruction. Bit the bullet and drove on. 15 miles of dust, ruts, and gravel round the southern end of Lake Kluane, trapping the Sheep Mountain Visitor's Center in the middle. Passed a stopped RV with owner lying underneath trying to patch a tank pierced by flying gravel. Glad we drove slowly -- we let everyone else pass us. Exited the mess and pulled, thankfully and dust-coated, into this campground just outside the Park boundary around 4:30 p.m. We lost an hour at the US/Canada border. Settled in to a nice quiet campsite on the edge of the lake, well away from the 24-(big)rig caravan that arrived ahead of us. 203 miles today, slow going. Decided to take a day off and just hang out. Today, beautiful sunrise and sunset. We started on a hoped-for hike up a trail into the mountainside above Lake Kluane, going through a gravel quarry to get there. But we were stopped and turned back by construction workers. Keep out, explosives for road construction stored here, the Park trails are closed. Too bad. [Pictures to come.] Walked disconsolately along the lakeside instead. No sightings of Dall Sheep.

 

Sunday, July 15, 2007
Sourdough Campground, Tok, AK

          Dumped tanks and filled with fresh water before leaving Cottonwood at 6:30 a.m. this morning. The time change has befuddled us. Took our garbage with us, we can't leave it at that isolated campground in the middle of bear country. Wide open countryside with glimpses of Lake Kluane, no signs of habitation, a boatless lake. Grabbed breakfast and dumped trash at a rest area just past Destruction Bay. The small communities along Lake Kluane are remnants of the construction camps that built the Alaska (Alcan) highway in 1942. Their continued existence revolves round the road, services for travellers and ongoing maintenance and improvement projects. Near Burwash Landing we found clear evidence of the forest fire that closed the road and destroyed several homes in 1999. We saw our first moose towards the north end of the Lake, and pulled over for a view of the Kluane River. Chum salmon travel 2,000 miles from the Bering Sea to spawn here in August and September, good time to see grizzlies and eagles. But we're too early. Almost no signs of human impact, except for the road. Two young bears crossed the road ahead of us near the Donjek River. The driving was slow and bumpy; frost heaves, potholes, and gravel patches held our speed between 15 and 45mph. Tedious. Saw some Trumpter Swans on one of the many small lakes near Snag Junction. Stopped for coffee in Beaver Creek, an armpit. Back across the border (recouping our lost hour) at Port Alcan (another armpit) and pulled into the parking lot at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge visitor center to make lunch. From here, the road ran alongside the Tanana River, a major tributary of the Yukon River. Thankfully, road conditions dramatically improved and we now could comfortably travel at 50mph. We arrived in Tok and secured a campsite at this oldest, (and funkiest) of the many campgrounds in the town. 241 miles for the day. Tok marks the junction of the Alaska Highway, the Taylor Highway, and the Richardson Highway. It's the primary overland point of entry to Alaska and exists solely as a service center for trucks and summer tourists. After a supper of (putative) reindeer chilli in a sourdough bread bowl, we settled in for the night.

 

Saturday, July 21, 2007
Chena Marina RV Park, Fairbanks, AK

          After a breakfast of sourdough pancakes and (putative) reindeer sausage at the Soudough campground, we left Tok on Monday. The road was now flat, with little traffic--or bumps. Easy driving. Mostly boring. We crossed the Gerstle River on the Black River Bridge which commemorates the contribution of those soldiers and engineers to the highway's construction. From Delta Junction we followed the Delta River to its end at the Tanana River, stopping to look at the oil pipeline as it crosses the Tanana River. This state is huge, and its center is riddled with rivers. Approaching Fairbanks, we passed through the town of North Pole (yet another ampit) under skies busy with our tax dollars at work: fighters, troop carriers, bombers from Eielson AFB discharging equal parts of testosterone and greenhouse gases into the upper atmosphere as they conduct "training" missions. To fight whom? Amorphous fear? Eased our way through Alaska's 2nd largest, flat, and spread-out town with 35,000 souls in the city limits and 80,000 in the huge area defined as Fairbanks/North Star Borough. 211 miles on this leg. By early afternoon we had plopped ourselves down in this RV Park on the edge of the community's busy float-plane pond. Terrific bathrooms with showers. Decided to stay awhile. The weather is nice. 55° at night, near 75° during the day. It's mostly sunny, with a small amount of dusk at night. We haven't seen true dark in a while. Our Latitude is near 65°N, we're not far south of the Arctic Circle. In winter the temperature can reach -80°F, and in summer 99°F. We learned that many dwellings don't have running water, people haul in drinking water and go to pay-showers as needed. Oh what urbanites take for granted.

          From here, we biked a lot of miles along the many bike routes in and around town, visited Pioneer Park, the Farmer's Market (twice), the Creamer Fields Wildlife Refuge, the Museum of the North, the downtown area and the Visitor Center, done laundry, practiced guitar, worked on the website, and just hung out watching little bush planes come and go at all hours. Nice campground this, interesting goings on. Some strange neighbors, though: an obnoxious New Yorker who rudely commandeered our picnic table; an out-of-it, beer-swilling, painfully-ill-looking man and his quiet family; a big camping dog which (almost) ate another camper's little dog; kids popping off fireworks across the pond; kids swimming in the pond; and sandhill cranes trumpeting in the background. Quite a medley. Webmaster endured a frightening hour battling Windows XP with every trick in her (by now - may she say - expert) bag only to discover the clicker on her mouse had died. Yet another piece of unrepairable toxic garbage ready for the dump. We thought about driving the 60 miles (and back) to Chena Hot Springs but, given the current climate emergency and oil situation, couldn't quite justify the gas consumption. So we stayed home - and (hey presto) now you can see our unfolding Alaska slide show!

          We've decided to put our money where our mouth is. We abandoned the plan to drive back from Valdez via Tok through the Yukon to Dawson City and Whitehorse, and thence through northern BC to the US border. It's 2,400 miles. A lot of gasoline, exhaust emission, bone-shaking rattles, and gruelling road time. Given our (admittedly limited) experience of Yukon roads and hearsay about the road conditions from Chicken to Dawson City we didn't relish the drive. We'll miss yet more gorgeous views - but our life is already filled gorgeous views. So... We cancelled our ferry reservation from Whittier to Valdez and emptied our wallet to, in its place, book an offshore ferry ride from Whittier to Juneau via Yakutak, and then from Juneau to Bellingham down the Inside Passage. This foot-print reduction will give us more time in the beautiful Kenai peninsula, and another stop in Juneau to see those two, not-so-little-any-more, boys.

 

Sunday, July 22, 2007
Denali Rainbow RV Park, AK

          Said goodbye to our float-plane pond view in Fairbanks after coffee and a surprise visit from a Common Loon. Filled the fresh water tank on the way out, drove to a nearby grocery store to stock up on fruit, veggies, coffe and milk. Found our way to Rte 3, the Parks Highway, heading south towards Anchorage. Another lovely day. Pretty scenery but not very photogenic until the Alaska Range came into view. Stopped in Healy to fill the gas and propane tanks. As we approached Denali National Park, the scenery started to take the breath. Stopped at the Nenana River bridge to watch white-water rafters bounce, and a sight-seeing train come through the tunnel. Arrived in "the Canyon", a congolomeration of tourist lodgings and attractions a mile from the entrance to the National Park. Thankful we'd call ahead from Fairbanks to reserve a spot in this convenient RV Park, a gritty parking lot behind a line of log-cabin stores. 121 miles. Plugged Clemmie in just in time to eat lunch. Walked the pleasant trail across the Nenana into the National Park, first to the Wilderness Access Center to pickup our previously reserved bus passes and permit to drive to Teklanika Campground, and then to the Visitor Center. Collected the usual orientation material and took the free bus to watch the Park's sled-dog demonstration. Learned that the sled dogs work in the winter and have several advantages over motorized transportation in the wild. They can travel in the Wilderness portion of the park (no motorized traffic allowed); they don't break down; they don't pollute (or what they do produce makes good compost); they keep you warm in the freezing nights; they sense danger for you; and they don't get lost in white-outs. [We also learned that Alaska has 4 seasons: June, July, August, and winter.] On return to the Visitor Center we took a free shuttle bus the 3 miles back to the Canyon, our feet were weary and the day was late.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Teklanika Campground, Denali National Park, AK

          Slept soundly in the noisy Canyon village and woke to a cloudy breezy 51°. After a quick breakfast we dumped the holding tanks and drove the mile to the Park entrance. The Park road goes 89 miles into the National Park, ending at the former mining village of Kantishna. The first 15 miles to Savage River are paved and open to the public. The rest of the road is dirt/gravel and closed to traffic except park buses and permitted vehicles. Our permit for Teklanika allowed us to travel another 15 miles beyond the Savage River checkpoint to this campground. A 3-day minimum stay is required as part of the effort to reduce traffic on the Park Road. We heard that the first views of "the mountain" arrive at mile 9 of the Park Road. Oh my, are we confused. Of all those mountains ahead of us, which one is it? Hard to tell. Found a viewpoint identifying the peaks, the one we were looking at is Double Mountain. Can't see Denali. In the local lingo, "the mountain is not out today." Stopped at the Savage River checkpoint, had our permit inspected, and were pleasantly surprised to find the road well graded and smooth even though no longer paved. Stopped at mile 17.3 to look at the Alaska Range. Lo, a glimmer of Denali unfolds before us in the clouds. There's no longer any doubt about which it is. We continued on to this pleasant campground, picked our spot, and settled in. 33 miles. No hook ups, but we're perfectly self-sufficient; fresh water tank is full, gas tank is full for the generator, inverter powers the laptops, and propane supplies the 'frig, heat, and stove. Made lunch, biked around the campground, trekked out onto the gravel of the Teklanika River bed - no grizzlies in sight. Nice place to be 'at home.' After dinner, finished up at the evening's ranger program, very entertaining; first, using the assembled kids (8), demonstrated what do to in a wild animal encounter; and then a hilarious history of how the mountain was first climbed and assorted claims about who reached the top first. We're calling the mountain Denali, which is its official Alaska name. "Denali" is what the Athabascan's called it, meaning "the high one." The mountain acquired the name Mt. McKinley in 1896 from an Ohio gold prospector, a fan of William McKinley who otherwise has no connection to Alaska. That name still sticks in the U.S. Geological Survey.

          Yesterday we rose early and packed double lunches and backpacks before walking out to the bus stop on the Park Road to wait for our designated bus. The shuttle and tour bus systems are designed to minimize traffic through the park. We had previously reserved seats on the Kantishna bus, which covers the 12-hour round trip 3 times daily. Leaving from this campground cut the trip to "only" 10 hours. A long day, but well worth it. The mountain was out as we drove into the Park, with a ring of clouds round its middle. The road is hair-raising in places spiraling along steep hillsides, bumpy and/or narrow in others. Bus driver (Jeremy) kept the passengers in line, educating them about the Park, the views, and the wildlife. Bus made several stops at designated pits and viewpoints, and impromptu stops for wildlife. Kantishna, the road's end in the middle of the Park, is privately owned. The former gold-rush prospector stakes are now lodges and hotels whose visitors fly in to a small landing strip or ride by designated bus along the Park Road. Evidently Kantishna has only two year-round residents. See our slide show for details and photos from this not-to-be-missed trip. [See Denali page of the Photo Album for more photos.] Today, we hung around the campground and wandered out on the river gravel flats, hoping to see some grizzlies and an American Dipper (on our bird watcher's wish list.) No luck, so we worked up a 40-minute sweat on our bikes to round out our exercise quota for the day.

 

Friday, July 27, 2007
Talkeena Camper Park, Talkeena, AK

          Up before dawn yesterday morning, having gone to bed "road ready." Drove out of Teklanika Campground at 4:10 a.m. hoping for good sunrise views of Denali, the mountain. Kind of cloudy, though, and it wasn't out. Nonetheless, stopped just this side of the Savage River checkpoint to run the generator, make coffee and breakfast. The view improved as the sun rose. Then finished the 30-mile drive out of the National Park to the Parks Highway. Easy driving south, good road going. Pulled in/over for some views (they improved as we went south) at the Denali State Park North and South viewpoints, and then a great highway shot. Turned off on the Talkeena Spur road and drove 15 miles to this historic little town, stopping for a terrific mountain view on the way in. Settled in at this nice little park, ½ mile from town. 181 miles and it was only 10:30 a.m. Went for a walk through town to get oriented, then home for some down time. Decided to stay two nights before continuing on to Anchorage. Good free WiFi and badly needed showers. Continued work on accumulating pile of photos. Enjoyed the ambience and food at the Talkeetna Roadhouse, built in 1910 and serving food and hospitality by the same family since 1944. Great sourdough pancakes (starter from 1902) for breakfast. Watched the tourists come and go on buses and train, and listened to helicopters and bush planes taking them on flight-seeing trips. Somehow we don't quite feel like tourists, though we are - but of a different ilk.

 

Sunday, July 29, 2007
Creekwood Inn and RV Park, Anchorage, AK

          The mountain (Denali) was not "out" as we left Talkeetna yesterday morning, generally overcast and hazy as we continued south towards Anchorage. Parked Clemmie on the north side of downtown Anchorage for an hour or two and wandered round. Bought ourselves an ulu at the Ulu Factory (easy, fast chop and slice, you should have one.) Collected the usual mounds of info at the Visitor Center (old log cabin) and the Alaska Public Lands information center. Cruised the Anchorage Market, no veggies, many crafts and knick-knacks, and food stands. Ate piroshkis, then wished we hadn't. Next we came to this small and tight RV Park, chosen for its location beside the Chester Creek bike trail. Today, the weather belies the forecast. Gorgeous. Biked our little tushes off on Anchorage's fabulous bike trails. Pedalled Chester Creek trail past the lagoon to the waterfront, then north to the end of the Coastal Trail. From the Ship Creek bridge watched salmon run the gauntlet of a slew of hopeful fisherman. Then south on the Coastal Trail past the airport. Stopped at Earthquake Park, very educational [read about it on the Slide Show.] Saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes feeding on the mudflats. Added to our overflowing store of photos, this hobby is completely out of control. Tomorrow, Clemmie goes for an oil change and checkup. Bill flies east on Wednesday for Ashley's wedding, while Pat takes Clemmie south to Homer. Pix of our Alaska travels are, of course, still trickling but the slide show is well underway and the Photo Album page of Denali is finished.

 

Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Homer Spit Campground, Homer, AK

          A week ago, up before dawn. The days are getting longer and we're going south, so we're beginning to see signs of darkness. Pat dropped Bill off at the Anchorage airport a bit before 6 a.m., and proceeded to drive Clemmie south on the Seward Highway to the Kenai peninsula. Cloudy and overcast so the magnificence of the Turnagain Arm somewhat obscured. Soon after Portage at the head of the Arm (town was abandoned since the 1964 earthquake) turned onto the Sterling Highway going west along the Kenai River, through Cooper Junction, and Soldotna. Then south along the Cook Inlet coast. Came over a hill to get a magnificent view of Homer and the mouth of Kachemak Bay. Into this little town with stops at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center and the magnificent Alaska Islands and Oceans Visitor Center (assorted federal agencies.) Then out along the 4-mile spit to this busy campground. 230 miles. Meanwhile, Bill zoomed across the sky with a stop in Chicago before arriving in Portland, Maine, for Ashley's wedding and a week of family time. It was cold and often raining in Homer. Hot in Maine. Pat decided to spend her rain time at home in Clemmie, and wait to see the sights with Bill when he returns. She paid for a week's worth of Homer WiFi - which turned out to be so annoyingly erratic as to be nearly worthless - compensated for by a nice view of the beach, tenters, and fishing goings on. Had her daily walk to the harbour, the fishing hole, and just people watching. The place is a zoo, it's the height of the salmon season. Among other at-home projects, she's learning Flash, in the hope of adding fun and improved graphics to the website. [She has secret ambitions as a cartoonist as well as a writer.] Bill is loving his family time in Maine. All's well with both of us.

          Sun came out Sunday afternoon, nice to be warmer. Even had Clemmie's door open for an hour! Then overnight a gale blew up, rockin' and rolling all round. Formerly placid tents hither and thither on the beach, crowds departed-at least for the moment. Monday night the wind dropped and Homer has now had two gorgeous days. Crystal sunshine, the buzz of the spit exuded a relaxing sigh at the spectacular vistas. Yesterday, Pat up early, did the Kata and cleaned Clemmie's windows of salt so she could see the views. Biked into town and back, and watched the smoking Augustine Island volcano, visible above the western horizon, through the binoculars. Later, a huge LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) tanker showed up nosing in and out and round about the entrance to Kachemak Bay. What was that about? This morning, the snow-covered mountains of Katmai poked their peaks above the horizon, visible through the haze for a while. She's missing Bill's company, with NPR a pleasant if poor subsitute. As a daily listener to Alaska News Nightly, coverage of Homer affairs (including who needs/offers a ride to Anchorage tomorrow), and other municipal programming, she's getting a deep flavor of life in this remarkable state. Urban it ain't, with community spirit alive and well across an area one fourth that of the lower 48 combined - but a population only half that of Rhode Island. Bill flies back tomorrow, arriving by bus in Homer on Friday. We're well ready to be reunited. Too many pix of this beautiful place to link make links from this journal - please look at them in the Photo Album.

 

Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Driftwood Inn and RV Park, Homer, AK

          The good weather hung around until Bill arrived off the Homer Stageline shuttle van on Friday afternoon. A long trip for him, with flight from Portland, ME, via Chicago to Anchorage, overnight there, then a 9+ hour van ride to come home to Pat and Clemmie on Homer Spit. Saturday morning we woke to a thick sea fog that remained all day, blowing and swirling ghoulishly round the tents on the beach, and chilling the old bones on our walk. Thankfully it gave way to drizzle overnight and then a few more gorgeous days. We're close to downtown Homer, near Beluga Slough and have a great view over Bishop's Bay. Four Sandhill Cranes fly past us each morning, and return to the Slough for the night. What a treat. This place is toooooooo photogenic, we're drowning in px. They're on the Alaska page of the Photo Album, and the slide show is slowly coming along.

 

Saturday, August 18, 2007
Beluga Inn and RV Park, Kenai, AK

          Said goodbye to beautiful Homer Thursday morning after an early breakfast. Back north along the only road to just south of Soldotna, where we took the beach route to reach Kenai. 84 miles. This is the second oldest town in Alaska, and the most populated (7,000) on the peninsula. Stopped at the visitor center and supermarket before arriving here. We're sitting on the edge of the bluffs above the sand-dunes that mark the mouth of the Kenai River. Declinining Beluga Whales often are seen looking for salmon from here near high tide (range is 18-26') this time of year. It's an interesting, quiet, spread-out little place. Visited the nearby Orthodox Church and chapel, founded during the Russian period. The rivermouth is immense, nearly dry at low tide. We're hanging here for a few days, and then to Seward. The views from Clemmie's windows this last few weeks have been to die for. This afternoon we found an email from the Alaska Marine Highway system, our ferry from Juneau to Bellingham (Columbia) has been withdrawn from service; she blew a piston on the main engine yesterday. Lucky we had WiFi and cellphone coverage both to get the message and to be able to make alternative arrangements (there is vehicle space on the Malaspina a few days sooner than our booking on the Columbia, but no cabin space is left.) Tomorrow, Seward.

 

Wednesday, August 29, 2007
City Waterfront Park, Seward, AK

          Enjoyed our stay in Kenai, but it's kind of a "no there there" place. Drizzle hampered our enjoyment of beach walks. We left a week ago Sunday morning. Drizzle on and off as we drove back to Soldotna to join the Sterling Highway going towards Anchorage. After Cooper Landing we turned onto the Seward Highway to its end at this interesting and isolated town, the gateway to the Kenai Fjords National Park. Arrived around noon, the huge waterfront campground was hopping. About 400 campsites, 100 of which have hookups-and many of these get reserved for caravans. Thankfully, the season is winding down and we snagged a hookup campsite near the restrooms with a view of snow-capped mountains across Resurrection Bay. Since this is our home and we're not on vacation, mod cons are important to our comfort. We don't mind dry camping for a view days in beautiful places, especially if it's warm and sunny. But... It rained/drizzled for nearly a week, then cleared nicely for the weekend. The campground is in the middle of Seward, sited on the area of the industrial waterfront that was destroyed in the 1964 earthquake. There's a bike path along the waterfront that joins the 2-parts of town: harbour and boats with visitor info, buzz, shops on the north, and the old town and the Alaska SeaLife Center on the south. Nice place, permanent population about 2,000. Among other activities, we walked to the SeaLife Center, educational and informative. Apalled, though, to find it's climate change exhibit giving credence to the supposed anti-science controversy peddled by the Bush administration et al. Pat went on an all-day wildlife boat tour in the rain, a long day in a small overcrowded boat but some good wildlife sightings in the Chiswell Islands and a view of the crumbling face of the Aialik Glacier. Bill had a massage instead. Our rain gear got quite a work out that week. Friday, dry, so we drove Clemmie a dozen miles to the Exit Glacier ranger station and hiked up to look at this fast disappearing finger of the Harding Icefield. We visited the lovely little Seward museum. We worked on our projects, and took many walks. You can see all our Seward photos in the Photo Album. High's have been consistently near 60° and lows near 50°. Daylight is now reduced by 2 hours from Anchorage, to 14+ hours.

          The mixing valve at the sink disintegrated on Sunday and Bill spent Monday plumbing. A new faucet with the requisite fittings could not, alas, be found anywhere in this (really small) town. So we have a gallon water jug instead of a kitchen faucet, a minor inconvenience for the moment. Checked email this morning as well as the Whittier Tunnel website and the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) websites for ferry changes. Learned that the Kennecott (our tomorrow's boat) damaged its rudder at Kodiak yesterday. Googled the news for some scant details. Called the ferry system, it appeared the rudder was going to be repaired, so our crossing is still on schedule. Next stop Whittier and the ferry across the Gulf of Alaska to Juneau.

 

Thursday, August 30, 2007
Tok RV Village, Tok, AK

          Not exactly where we thought we'd be spending the night when we got up this morning. Arose early, defrosted the freezer and prepared it and the 'frig for a no-propane ferry crossing. Called the ferry system to confirm everything A-OK, then dumped the tanks and drove back north up the Seward Highway to the junction with the road through the railroad tunnel (longest road tunnel in North America) to Whittier. Decided to visit the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center, located at the junction. Home to abandoned and injured large mammals and birds. While communing with a young bull moose, the cell phone rang. 'Twas to let us know that our ferry ride was cancelled. No options, this Gulf of Alaska crossing only goes twice a month and there's no other boat to do it. So, we underwent some attitude adjustment. Obviously we have to drive: either 2,500 miles through Alaska, the Yukon, and BC to reach Washington state. Or, 900 miles back to Haines and take the ferry from Haines. Decided on the latter course. Called the ferry system to see if there was any room on boats going to Juneau this weekend. We got lucky, reserved a spot on the Malaspina, leaves Haines Saturday morning and gets us into Juneau only an hour later than the Kennecott would have. So..... Having to get 900 miles under our belt by tomorrow night, we put the pedal to metal and got on with it. Back through Anchorage to Palmer (stop for gas and a few groceries to get us through to Saturday) and then on the scenic Glenn Highway to Glenellen, stopping only for construction, a view of the Malaspina Glacier, and the Matanuska River flowing from the Chugach Mountains, and a look at the iron stained gypsum sides of volcanic Sheep Mountain. Then north for 14 miles on the Richardson Highway, turning onto the Tok cutoff road past the distant St. Elias and Wrangell mountain range to Tok. Thankfully, it was good road surface all the way and light traffic once through Anchorage. 433 miles later we hauled in at this empty campground round 8:00 pm and settled in for the night.

 

Friday, August 29, 2007
Haines Hitch-up RV Park, Haines, AK

          Coffee pot woke us up at 4:00am in Tok this morning and we left by 5:00am. The 100 miles of Alaska Highway to the Canadian border was quiet and not too bumpy. Then, for most of the next 120 miles through the Yukon to Burwash Landing the road was no better than when we came north. This time, though, we were in a hurry. We bumped, bounced and rattled along trusting Clemmie to take the punishment so we could get this over. The road improved along Lake Kluane until the construction work near the Sheep Mountain Visitor Center - not much had changed since we passed by in July. 30+minute delay. Fortunately, once through this, the 14-mile washboard surface on the other side had been paved so there wer no further delays to Haines Junction. Stopped for gas, and headed down the Haines Highway. Cloudy and drizzle, no views. 40 more miles of Yukon territory, one more 30-minute construction delay, 40 miles through BC over the Haines summit to the US border, and 45 miles winding down beside the Chilkat River to Haines. The waterfront RV park was full, so we settled in here just before 3:00pm. 445 miles. Glad we got started early, we had time to walk around a bit and eat an early dinner (we'd had no lunch) at the Bamboo Room. Early to bed after nice hot shower.

 

Saturday, September 1, 2007
On the street at our Dear Ones, Juneau, AK

          Drove to the ferry landing outside Haines early, and got in line. Ran the generator to make breakfast and finish our coffee. The ferry Malaspina was full. The AMHS now has two major ferries out, staff couldn't recall this happening before. Too bad we were booked on both of them. Such is life. Bill walked on the ferry early to case the joint - this is the same boat we will get next Saturday for our 3 cabin-less nights to Bellingham. Looks like it will work. It's a comfortable boat with several different options for laying down on benches/floor. The 4½ hour trip to Juneau was uneventful, drizzly and not much in the way of views. Slightly better than the pouring rain we enjoyed going north in July. Arrived here around 4:30pm, Juneau now feels almost like home. We're here for a week, looking forward to time with our dear ones. School has started, so there won't be as much fun with the grandkids. We've caught up with all the mail waiting here for us.

 

Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Birch Bay State Park, WA

          We enjoyed our short week in Juneau, some rain, some sun. Last Saturday afternoon we made the 12 mile drive to the Auke Bay ferry terminal and into the, by now familiar, ferry routine. Back onto the Malaspina with Bill going as a walk-on as soon as the arriving passengars disembarked, while Pat waited in the line with Clemmie. We staked out a spot in the rear lounge on the cabin level, parked ourselves and our stuff, inflated the Thermarest pads we borrowed from Rorie, rented pillows, blankets and towels from the Purser, and settled in. There was no chance of a cabin for the 3 overnights to Bellingham; with 2 major boats out the remaining ferries are filled to capacity. Ferry staff memories couldn't recall a year when 2 had been out at the same time. We were unfortunate to be booked on both of them. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our trip. Rain, fog, and overcast to Ketchikan; from there clear after each morning's fog all the way to Bellingham. Disembarked this morning at 7am Alaska time (8am in Washington), drove to a nearby supermarket and did some major provisioning. With the propane turned off on the ferry for 3 days, it had been necessary to empty, defrost, and leave open the 'frig and freezer for the trip. Turned the propane back on, bought ice to help the 'frig/freezer recool. We have a "smart" unit, if there's a 110-volt electrical supply available (from plug/hookup or generator) it runs on electricity, and if not it automatically switches to propane. These RV's are amazing. From Bellingham we drove north on I-5 about 20 miles then exited west to this nice State Park for a few days to decompress. 39 road miles since leaving Juneau. We are happy not to be bumping and grinding our way for the additional 1,600 road miles through Alaska, the Yukon and BC. We missed some views, and a few sights - but mostly a lot of in-between. These northern lands are vaster than one can imagine without experiencing it. We enjoyed the ferry trip, even without a cabin/stateroom. Driving is losing its appeal for us, we are now more into being somewhere than getting there.

 

Sunday, September 16, 2007
Capilano RV Park, North Vancouver, BC

          Yesterday morning we left our campsite at Birch Bay State Park just after 7am, dumped, and drove south on I-5 back to Bellingham. An ad for Al's RV Parts and Services in the campground brochure had led us to call and arrange for installation of a replacement kitchen faucet. Our 3 weeks with no spiggot has been an inconvenience, not a disaster. While waiting at Al's, we passed time in conversation with violinist Swil Kanim and his wife, interesting people. He makes different music. Once the faucet installation was done (about an hour) we drove from Bellingham north on I-5 to Canada and an easy border crossing. Then north on BC Rte 15 through Surrey to the Trans Canada Highway (Rte 1) and across the north edge of Vancouver to this busy RV Park on the edge of West Vancouver. Arrived around 11:30am, 6th in line. Glad we had a reservation. In the afternoon we walked to the nearby mammoth Park Royal shopping mall to people watch and be amazed by the amout of stuff we don't need. Yesterday, we walked across the Lion's Gate Bridge into Stanley Park, took the park shuttle to the edge of downtown, walked along the seawall past Coal Harbour into the center of Vancouver, collected public transit information, and took a bus back home. We're here for a while; on Wednesday, Pat takes the ferry to Nanaimo (Vancouver Island) to spend a week in Courtenay with her old high-school friend, Marian. Bill will practice guitar and see the sights.

 

Sunday, September 30, 2007
on the street at Paul and Gayle's, Renton, WA

          We left Vancouver Friday morning, east on the Trans Canada Highway, south on Rte 15 through Surrey to the border. Stopped somewhere along I-5 for groceries - we'd run 'em down since bringing all kinds of foodstuffs across the border is illegal (eggs, meat, produce, etc.) This time however no questions were asked. Continued south arriving here, just east of Seattle by mid afternoon. 163 miles. Pat spent an enjoyable week with her old school friend, Marian, in Courtenay on Vancouver Island, doing kitchen labor for Marian's Gerson Therapy protocol, running errands, and providing moral support for her cancer fight. While there she heard news about Bar-tailed Godwit E-7, a female, who flew non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand in 8 days. Talk about a WOW! Bill explored Vancouver, visited an old friend, walked the seawall, and practiced guitar. Bill took the bus to Horseshoe Bay late Wednesday to meet Pat's ferry, a happy reunion for both of us. And now we're spending a short weekend at Bill's nephew Paul, budding musician. Great musical times for all, Bill having his first recording session (poetry, guitar, singing.) Tomorrow, east to Moscow to visit Craig. Our travels seem to have morphed from sightseeing to people visits at the moment. No better way to visit than bring your own house with you.

 

Tuesday, October 9, 2007
on the street at Craig's, Moscow, ID

          Up before dawn Monday morning a week ago. Raining. North on Rte 900 from Renton then east on I-90 through the Cascades. We beat the rush hour. Clouds slowly quit dripping and the ceiling rose as we neared Ellenberg, where we detoured briefly to the Cascade Truck and RV Wash arriving as it opened at 8am. We had Clemmie beautifully cleaned here in the spring and we found a repeat experience. All that Alaska grime is gone. We'd hosed her off ourselves a few times, but only scratched the surface of the dirt. She gleams! Continued on I-90 to cross the (dammed) Columbia River at Vantage, turned off onto Rte 26 to drive through rolling prairie into the beautiful Palouse. Should have stopped for photos, the lighting was great. But we were focused on gettin' there. Stopped at the eastern edge of Washington State in Pullman, wandered around downtown, found Abused Books, a fine second-hand bookstore. Dropped some off, picked some up. Then on into Moscow, barely into Idaho. Parked on the street in front of Craig's near 3 pm. 299 miles. Until yesterday we were in the middle of the chill that's blanketing the northwest, envious of the heat elsewhere on the weather map. We like Moscow, and are loving the holes in Craig's busy schedule, but we didn't like the cold - it hit 32° one night, and highs were only in the 40°'s several days last week. Thankfully it warmed up on Sunday, and the sun has come out.

          We've spent some indoor time nailing down a plan for the next part of our travels. Made reservations for Clemmie's routine maintenance in Eugene OR, and campsites in Portland OR, Marin CA, Morro Bay CA, Death Valley CA, and Las Vegas NV. Looking forward to seeing dear ones in Eugene, then Morro Bay, and finally Albuquerque for Thanksgiving. After that, we'll be cruising Texas and the Gulf coast looking for winter warmth. Last week's cold made us focus on what we don't like about our life style and we sat around in Clemmie for a while and contemplated our future. Decided we're not ready to give it up completely, but after seven years of roaming we are ready to have a go at staying in one place for a few months. Stay tuned. In about a year we think we'll begin to transition to part-time RV-ing. Assuming the creek don't rise, that is. Oh yes, and our webmaster has signed up for the 8th annual National Novel Writing Month in November. She's committed to (trying) to write a 50,000 word (180 page) novel during those 30 days. The goal is quantity before quality so you probably won't be seeing the product, but rest assured she'll be producing. Have pity on Bill!

 

Thursday, October 11, 2007
Roamer's Rest RV Park, Tualatin, OR

          Departed Moscow in the dark yesterday morning. Stopped to buy coffee, then south on Rte 95 over the hill to Lewiston. Crossed the Clearwater and Snake rivers and found fast-food breakfast in Clarkston. Followed Rte 12 along the Snake River canyon (lovely) as the light broke. Through Walla Walla and south to the border and onto I-84 along the Columbia River to Portland. A terrific thunderstorm (and slow traffic) as we reached I-205 to go south on the east side of the city. A short cut across to Tualatin, and arrived here a bit before 3pm. 396 miles. We like this RV Park, it has an appealing ambience, good facilities, and on the bus route to downtown. Did 2 loads of laundry as the sun came out. This morning, we caught the bus (#12) for the 50 minute ride to the city center. A great deal for seniors (85¢). Took 2 heavy bags of books to Powell's, then spent several hours in that terrific bookstore (trading all our credit) and wandering round downtown. Another easy bus ride home for supper. We like figuring out public transit systems - definitely don't wish we towed a car. Nothing but stress.

 

Tuesday, October 16, 2007
on the street at Paul and Jane's, Eugene, OR

          Left Portland in the fog on Friday morning early. South on Pacific Highway (Rte 99W) through little towns and farmland. Couldn't see much of it through the mist, however. Stopped in Junction City at Guaranty RV Center to browse Class B motorhomes. Liked the Pleasureways. Not that we're ready to trade in Clemmie, but as we think through what our life is going to be like next, we're researching all possibilities. For now, we're going to try out being snowbirds, in Clemmie, on the Texas Gulf coast this winter (? a possible side trip to Mexico), next spring/summer visiting dear ones in the east/northeast, and closing the circumnavigation loop in the Pacific northwest next fall. After that we think it'll be spring/summers in our house in Juneau (room for visitors) and the cold months in Texas or Mexico. Stay tuned. But you can tell our heads are moving into transition. Arrived here just after lunch. 117 miles. Good times in Eugene (a terrific small city) with Paul and Jane, helped Paul get going with a website for their house in Mexico (we'll add the link once it's "up".) Enjoyed being surrounded by Jane's art work. Pat sneezed a lot by cuddling Poco. Some nice warm days, visited nearby wineries, watched a flock of Cedar Waxwings sitting like buds atop a tall tree. Had routine maintenance checks done for Clemmie - at 45,000 miles her engine and chassis were due for a big checkup. Teplacement rear brake linings. So far, she's holding up well. Kendall Auto in College Grove (south of Eugene about 15 miles) and the RV Coral (in Eugene) are good places for RV engine and coach work respectively.

 

Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Marin RV Park, Greenbrae, CA

          After a quick stop at the RV Coral in Eugene last Wednesday morning for some minor maintenance to Clemmie, we got back onto I-5 and headed south. Oscillating drizzle and rain curtained the beautiful southern Oregon scenery. A scenic drive in good weather. Truck heaven, though. Clear evidence of the stuff machine at work in the US culture. Goods and packaging wheeling hither and thither, to malls, to consumers, then to the garbage dump. Around 6pm we pulled into a Flying J truck stop (they're RV friendly) near Corning, CA for the night. Left early Thursday and continued south on I-5 to I-505, then I-80 west to Rte 37 through Vallejo along the north side of San Pablo Bay. Then south on Rte 101 through San Rafael to this campground in time for lunch. 551 miles from Eugene. Some improvements here since our visit last November: New office and laundry, and free WiFi. A remarkable place, wedged between the Corte Madera wetlands and the freeway (Rte 101). Walk to all kinds of shopping, great bike paths, and near the Larkspur ferry terminal for the fast catamaran across the bay to San Francisco. The wetlands are a bird and birder heaven. The birds are inured to freeway and people noise and for the most part birds and humans ignore each other. A quick walk in the wetlands after we settled into our campsite yielded 31 species.

          Friday, it rained mostly. Then it got warm and sunny for the remainder of our stay. While here we went to the nearby Verizon store (where we bought an upgrade cell phone last year) and complained that we had never received the promised $50 rebate. Learned that 50% of Verizon rebates don't get processed the first time round. Hmmm..... Isn't that a bit fishy? Store staff helped us resubmit the request and (hopefully) expedite the rebate. Glad we kept copies of our submission. Otherwise, we've: wandered round the marshes ogling birds; done a little shopping (new shoes for Bill); taken the ferry to San Francisco and, among other activities, walked up Telegraph Hill (392 steps) where we saw the parrots. They seem to be doing OK, the flock currently numbers about 150. And (of course) we enjoyed just being at home and working on our projects. For Bill: guitar practice and thinking about writing; for Pat: preparing for NaNoWriMo, continued work on web design/development skills, and planning a site upgrade.

 

Friday, October 26, 2007
Morro Dunes RV Park, Morro Bay, CA

          We exited Marin RV Park Wednesday morning just on 5 a.m. Met an oil tanker at the park gate, driver came off the freeway and got lost on our dead end. Helped him turn around. Then onto the freeway, Rte 101. Every road in CA is a freeway it seems. Across the Golden Gate bridge and through San Francisco, traffic still light thankfully, road rattling our teeth. South of the city rush hour picked up thithering and yonning 'tween San Francisco and San Jose. Took I-308 across to I-208, instant peace. Little traffic and good surface on newer freeway along the margin of undeveloped Santa Cruz Mountains. Then to Rte 85 (another freeway) skirting San Jose on the south. Not sure if we were legal or not, Rte 85 is a no-truck route. Feared low bridges but found none. Saw one bus, no other RV's. No-one stopped us, breathed sigh of relief on rejoining Rte 101. Took an exit for an urgent piss - no services on this route so far, 2 hours non-stop. Daylight breaking at last, driving easier. CA road system living proof that if you build it, they will come. Filled up with gas (only $3.03/gallon) near Salinas. Through irrigated fields, filled with bent backs picking produce. Converted school buses (towing Port-a-Poties) hauling migrants to work. Then wine country, some cows on the sun-dried hillside, little fodder for them there. It's a dry place. Exited the freeway in Atascadero onto Rte 41 (pleasant 2-lane road; hilly, windy, and scenic.) Arrived in Morro Bay, stopped at the grocery store, and pulled into our reserved campsite for a late lunch. 260 miles. This place is filled. Glad we made a reservation. It's convenient, across the dunes from the beach of wide Estero Bay, easy access (good bike bath) to the town and Morro Bay, with Morro Rock guarding the narrow entrance. The campground WiFi is annoyingly erratic and unreliable.

          Webmaster is preparing for total emersion in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). She's pledged to complete a 50,000 word novel during November and plans to forget about keeping the website up to date during those 30 days. We're here for 3 weeks, guitaring, writing, birding, beach walking, visiting with Ralph and Laurie, and otherwise enjoying this nice little town. Hopefully not too many trips to the French Bakery on Front Street, their pastries are to die for.

 

Sunday, November 4, 2007
Morro Strand RV Park, Morro Bay, CA

          We upped and moved house Monday morning - just round the corner. The WiFi at Marin Dunes turned out to be impossible, so we looked at our options and decided to come here. This place is adjacent to the bike trail and only a hundred yards further to the beach (not-to-mention the French Bakery.) Reliable and fast WiFi. We're having good times with Ralph, who has lent us a spare car for if/when we need wheels. Good biking along the bike path, good birding everywhere, a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks have a nest nearby. With Ralph's help we are now set up with a webcam and can video-talk to dear ones across the oceans (or otherwise faraway) via Windows Live Messenger or Skype. The communication is free, assuming a live Internet connection. All it takes is agreement on a time. We look forward to using this technique to enhance our social connectedness.

          Thursday was Pat's big day. Her participation in the 2007 National Novel Writing Month kicked off at midnight. She'd prepared herself as best she knew how, but wasn't at all sure how it would go. So far so good, the words have come running across the pages at a fast rate. Quantity not quality for the moment. Her story is unfolding as she goes and she's having fun. Thankfully. So long as we have WiFi you can check her daily word-count progress on our Home Page. Please note that all this self-advertising is purely to embarass her into meeting her goal, your cheers and jeers are most welcome. PS, Paul's website is now "up", if you want a winter vacation in Mexico in a glorious spot, check it out.

 

Saturday, November 10, 2007
Cypress Morro Bay Trailer Park, Morro Bay, CA

          We seem to be unstable these days. We decided to leave Morro Strand RV Park after our week was up and give this place a try. Took Clemmie for a warmup to San Louis Obispo and back, then settled in here last Monday, great location, only 2 blocks from the center of town. Alas, a much shorter walk to the French Bakery. Bill embarked on an 8-day clean-out fast on Tuesday while Pat succumbed to the bakery's lure, treats for her writing effort. Payback time is nearing, waist fittings are tight. Thursday we went to the Pismo Beach butterfly sanctuary to see the Monarchs roosting and while there we hooked up with Georgia and Dick, friends from our Mexico trip. Dick is a butterfly expert and gives talks at the sanctuary. We ate lunch at their house in nearby Arroyo Grande afterwards, very nice to re-connect. Last night Pat went to the Morro Bay Audubon's 40th anniversary celebration while Bill went to a guitar/cello concert. This morning Pat took a day off from writing to participate in a Pacific Coast shorebird count. With Georgia, Dick and another local birder they turned up a goodly list in their assigned area. It was a glorious day; 8 eyes (+ scope) noticed a lot more birds hanging around than Pat had found on her own. We're getting to like Morro Bay, moderate temperatures (60-70 daytime, round 50 at night), great biking, hiking, and birding, and wonderful coastal views. We leave Wednesday for Death Valley, but we'll be back next year we think.

 

Saturday, November 17, 2007
Furnace Creek Campground, Death Valley National Park, CA

          It was a long drive from Morro Bay to get to Death Valley. 351 miles. From Morro Bay we drove NE on Rte 41, high winds through the canyon. Very hazy. Calm by the time we reached Atascadero, then windy again through the hills. Rte 46 took us to I-5, then south skirting Bakersfield and then East on Rte 58. Then north on Rte 14 on the west side of Death Valley. At Olancha we filled up with gas and turned east on Rte 190 into the National Park. It's a challenging road this in from the west, steep and twisty grades, not a good place to go with a big rig or on a hot day. It was dusk as we made our first descent into Panamint Valley, and dark when we arrived at Stovepipe Wells. We spent 4 days camped here in Death Valley. Took lots of pictures of this interesting and desolate place. You can see some pix on a page of photos in the Photo Album, and a slide show is under development. We did two days of sight seeing, using Clemmie as a car to get round the accessible parts of this huge National Park. Webmaster has decided not to put all the links into a description of our doings, but rather asks you to visit our photos in the Photo Album or the slide show.

 

Sunday, November 18, 2007
KOA Circus Circus, Las Vegas, NV

          We left Death Valley after a sunrise view, drove east to Las Vegas, arriving at this campground before lunch. Decided one day here would do it for us. We Cruised a couple of Casinos on the Strip, ate an expensive (and good) dinner, and then went to a show. Packed into 23 hours what we thought was the appropriate Las Vegas experience. Nothing drew us to the gambling tables or machines, except for the people watching.

 

Saturday, November 24, 2007
in Steve's driveway, Albuquerque, NM

          After leaving Las Vegas we drove south towards Lake Meade on Rte 93 and then to the Hoover Dam. Spectacular. The Lake above the dam shows the effects of drought. The highway is being re-routed so it will have its own bridge instead of running over the dam. RV's are allowed to cross the dam but must be open to inspection. [Homeland Security.] The Rte 93 re-routing is a humungous engineering project. After a few hours here, we drove on and eventually stopped for the night at a Flying J (RV friendly) truck stop in Winslow, AZ. We arrived here mid-day Tuesday to celebrate Bill's 72nd birthday. Since then Pat focused on finishing her 50,000 word National Novel Writing Month challenge a week ahead of schedule, who knows what the rest of the month will hold. Glad she made a big push at the beginning of the month, the second half has been toast as far as writing time went. We had planned to leave today to see the Sandhill Cranes at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, but changed our minds and hunkered down for one more day to let the snow/weather clear in the southern part of the state. This frigid arctic front arrived in Albuquerque soon after we did, steam-rollering its slow way across the southwest. Cooked turkey for Thanksgiving. Ate left overs. And more left overs. Last night plunged to 19°F, a record low for us sleeping in Clemmie. We managed, but wouldn't voluntarily choose it again. Thank goodness for body heat.

 

Sunday, November 25, 2007
Mission RV Park, El Paso, TX

          We left Albuquerque as soon as the sun had risen high enough to melt road frost, bring the air up to 22°F, and hint at warming Clemmie. Filled up the gas tank and south on I-25 towards Las Cruces. Not much traffic, good road. Scenery blurry behind the haze - seems like air pollution has spread everywhere, we can barely remember when we last had a clear mountain view. Poor humanity, payback time is not far round the corner. Near Las Cruces we joined I-10, and found the road lined with cow factories for mile after mile after mile. An astounding density of animals penned in and crowded round troughs, a strong odor of manure. Some of the poor beasts had hormone-swollen udders so large they could barely stagger to water, while others propped up their neighbors squeezed in at the hay trough. No wonder we don't eat beef anymore, and only organic milk. Having digested all this - we can only describe it as brutality - we followed the interstate through El Paso to its eastern edge, finding a tolerable overnight hook-up campsite here. 286 miles. We like that electric plug in cold weather, like a mother's teat. El Paso was much bigger than we expected, stretching 40 miles from end to end. Snow thick on the ground, out of place in the Texas desert.

 

Monday, November 26, 2007
Balmorhea State Park, TX

          Temperature last night rose near 30°F, things are looking up. Nothing drew us to linger in El Paso, so we filled up the propane tank (the heater has been working overtime) and drove back onto I-10 going east, leaving El Paso unexplored behind. Through a border inspection checkpoint. Gave up any thoughts we had about swinging by Alpine and Big Bend. The cold discourages lingering, we just want to make time on the highway. After checking our resources, we decided to stop here for the night, a few miles off the interstate in the middle of nowhere. The Davis Mountains to the south and high plains to the east. We arrived at 1pm, found the place largely deserted, and settled in, though a few more travellers trickled in later. It's a sweet place, with a huge swimming pool fed by hot springs, a million gallons per hour at a steady 74°F. Had the air temperature risen above 45°, we might have gone swimming. The pool runs from 3' - 30' deep, and teems with endangered little fish, happy to swim with people. A flock of scaup had taken up residence at one end.

 

Wednesday, November 28, 2007
South Llano River State Park, Junction, TX

          Last night 29°, we don't seem to be making much headway towards warmer weather. The forecast has been teasing unmercifully with tantalizing promises of heat which fails to materialize. We upped and left Balmorhea at 6:30, thinking we'd made an early start. Only later realized that we crossed into the Central Time Zone yesterday, so not as early as we thought. Stopped in Fort Stockton, looked all over for a breakfast place before finding an IHop. Glad we decided to stop at Balmorhea last night and not continue to that middle-of-nowhere town. To be kind, it is an unqualified dump. By breakfast, Bill was beginning to feel under the weather and slowly subsided into the agonies of what must have been food poisoning for the remainder of our day's travels. Suspicion fell on some elderly smoked salmon he ate for lunch yesterday. Beats us why it took so long to erupt, however. He was quite the basket case, exploding at both ends - fortunately timing his discharges to match the arrival of rest areas as Pat drove. There's a lot of in between in Texas, nearly as much as Alaska. High wind across the plains, windmills on the mesas, a few oil crickets leisurely pumping the dregs of the fields. We left the Interstate highway at the town of Junction and drove a few miles to this lovely state park, arriving a bit before 3pm, Central Time. 267 miles. Place is nearly deserted, many more deer and turkeys than people, but a great spot for Bill to recuperate. Our campsite not quite level, but the bathroom is heated! This lifestyle does make us notice what we otherwise used to take for granted: level floors, warm bathrooms, electricity at the drop of a switch, water at the turn of a spigot. By the end of today Bill had retrieved his old self, thank goodness. It's still cold - 32 last night and barely 60 today.

 

Thursday, November 29, 2007
at Andrea and Chuck's house, Austin, TX

          We are now in Austin, the weather is warmer and all is well. We left lovely South Llano River State Park this morning, back through the town of Junction (after turning round to avoid a too-low bridge) and rejoined I-10 to Rte 190. Through historic Fredericksbug (Texas peach country) and to Austin. Cruise control went on strike as we neared the Austin City limits. Stopped to provision at the terrific Central Market, arriving here soon after lunch. Looking forward to reconnection time with Andrea and Chuck, and then we think we'll go to San Antonio next. Pat preparing to buckle down and process the accumulation of photos and add them as links in the log.

 

Sunday, December 16, 2007
Traveller's World RV Park, San Antonio, TX

          We enjoyed our time in Austin, hiked a bit, talked a lot, and just generally hung out. Cold nights, though, relied on Harry the heater most of the time. Bill had 2 guitar lessons with Paul Clancy, and Pat went on a quilting run with Andrea and to the monthly meeting of the Austin Area Quilt Guild where Andrea displayed two quilts she made for Christmas gifts. We left around 8am on Tuesday and drove south on I-35 to New Braunfels. Eventually found our way to BlueBonnet Ford to get Clemmie's oil changed, and the cruise control fixed. Took pretty much all day, but the place had nice waiting facilities with high speed Internet put to use processing photos from Death Valley. Continued on south to San Antonio, skirting the city to the east on Loop 13, then north up Roosevelt Avenue to this pleasant RV Park abutting a golf course and the river. Did 4 loads of badly needed laundry, finished paperwork from our recent batch of mail, and got Clemmie detailed inside (carpets and upholstery cleaned.) She's held up well with our (now) 3+ years of full-timing. Provisioning here is not easy. Nearest are WalMart's (a hot 1.3 mile walk south, or bus ride) or the Fruteria Los Amigos a mile north. We're getting some steps. Good biking and birding along the adjacent Mission trail, visited Mission Concepcion and the Alamo. Twice we took the bus to the center of the city, walked the pretty and touristy River Walk, visited the Mexican market hoping for produce, no luck. It's been hot (80's daytime, 60's night-time) and then cold (29 one night, high only 48 another day.)

          Pix are coming. Pat is distracted on a number of fronts - we should say we both are enjoying more settled time for our projects. Bill working hard at guitar practice. Pat busy: hauling herself up the learning curve on advanced software web applications; planning website revision/improvements in '08; thinking about helping useful causes with their own web presence; doing more writing - she signed up for the Writer's Weekly 24-hour short story contest on January 26th. Nothing like a deadline to motivate a person.

 

Wednesday, December 19, 2007
at Andrea and Chuck's house, Austin, TX

          We are back in Austin. Made a leisurely start to the 85 mile trip from San Antonio, and stopped for a few errands and provisions en route. Arrived here around 1:30pm, happy to reconnect with Andrea and Chuck, and looking forward to being here through the New Year. We're in a settling down mode (can you tell?) Very much into being "at home" and not moving round so much. We're busy in our little house-box. Bill is deep into classical guitar, and Pat is deep into web work. Happy to report she has finally caught up with the last month's photographs - there are now links to them in this log. She has been recruited to redesign and redo the website of Development Delay Resources. A good way for her to put her skills to good use, even as she redesigns this, our own, website. You'll begin to see some changes appear after the New Year. She hopes....

 

Friday, December 28, 2007
at Andrea and Chuck's house, Austin, TX

          We're still here. Took Andrea and Chuck to the airport crack of dawn (before actually) last Friday. They flew to Ohio, Chuck's sister's 50th wedding anniversary, and made a side trip to Michigan to deliver quilt for Anrea's sister. So we house sat for them, took care of Calvin the elderly cat, but sleeping back home at night in Clemmie. Christmas Eve, we crossed the street to some neighbors, Christmas Day, pleasant and (as now usual for us) stuffless. Don't need things any more, only family contact - which we got through the radio waves on our cellphone. In the afternoon we went the short mile to the Barton Springs pool where Pat swam for half an hour. We're getting proficient at video calls, this week spent two quality half hours with two different dearones. Sure beats flying! And last night we retrieved our hosts from the airport (yuk - yuk to the airport not the hosts) and will remain here until New Year's Day, by which time Bill will have had 3 more guitar lessons, and Pat will be still further up the web expert curve. We'll both have had our Christmas present, a 90-minute massage. Next: Rockport. So far it's colder than we hoped, most nights dipping into the high 20's. Our plan for wintering in a warm climate isn't panning out like we thought. Interesting what we notice, though. When we rise (5:30 ish) we "get the numbers," as the first one up calls out the inside temperature (we set the propane heater thermostat it to 55°) and then the outside temperature. As daylight nears, the outside temperature invariable drops so that the coldest part of the night consistently show up right before sunrise. Would never have noticed it if we lived in a regular house. This life is good for us....

 

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