Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal #24

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

50th Logo

 I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

 

Monday, May 25, 2015:  When we last left our meandering couple, they were trundling down Interstate 84 heading toward the eastern seaboard.

Not having any definite plans, and being pretty far north for this time of the year, camping opportunities are a bit of a crapshoot……many of the National Parks are normally not open or open with limited services.  Fortunately, it had been a relatively mild winter and spring had arrived a few weeks early so we decided to capitalize on this rare occurrence.  Being less than 100 miles from our nation’s very first National Park and since it was now open for camping, Kit and I headed for Yellowstone!

Leaving the Snake River Valley on US-26, we climbed into the Caribou-Targhee National Forest on Idaho State Highway 31.

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By 1630 hours we had rolled across the border into Wyoming…..at this point, the road changes to Wyoming State Highway 22.  And steadily climbs a rather steep 10% grade, and our fuel economy steadily dropped to a measly 2MPG…..yikes!

At an elevation of 8,436 feet we topped out at the famed Teton Pass and stopped to stretch our legs and enjoy the view.

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While calling around to see about vacancies at the various National Park campgrounds in the area, we were able to score a few nights at Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park, just south of Yellowstone.

Descending into Jackson, Wyoming Kit and I made our way through town and up Jackson Hole (Valley) at the base of the surrounding Gros Ventre and Teton Mountain Ranges.

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The term “hole” was coined for this valley by early mountain men.  The steep decent they encountered traveling through the mountains felt to them as if they were dropping into a hole.

The topography along Jackson Hole is stunning, even at this late hour and with storm clouds in the area.

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At 1720, Kit and I arrived at the southern entrance to Grand Teton National Park.

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Where we flashed our Senior Passes to the gate attendant and found our way to Colter Bay Campground and a very nice site for the evening.

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As the name implies, the campground is located on Colter Bay in Jackson Lake.  Our site was across the road from one of the paths down to the lake and a short walk took us to an incredible view of the Teton Mountains!

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Tuesday, May 26 through Thursday, May 28, 2015-Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks:  Kit and I were only able to stay three days at Colter Bay Campground because it was solidly booked for the weekend, so we intended to make the most of it.

On day one, we decided to travel back down the valley to the town of Jackson for a visit.  The US Highway that follows the valley features spectacular scenery along the entire route.

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In Jackson Village Kit really wanted to look about the shops and I had to get our trailer tire fixed.

Jackson, a town of 9,500 folks, is a year round outdoor playground featuring hiking and biking trails in the summer and some world class ski areas when snow comes to the mountains.  One of the smaller, but challenging ski hills is Snow King, which is within the town limits.

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They only have 26 runs for a 1,571 foot vertical drop…..the world famous Jackson Hole Mountain Resort located 12 miles away in the Teton Mountains, features 116 runs with a vertical drop of 4,139 feet!

A popular attraction in town is the four arches made with Elk Antlers that anchor the four corners of the town square.

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These are actual antlers that wild Elk have shed and locals have gathered and donated to the display.

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They are an iconic symbol of Jackson and are maintained by the local Rotary Club with assistance from the towns Boy Scout troop.

As Kit continued to “oz about town”, I had a trailer tire with unwanted hardware attached which needed fixing.  First stop was at Teton Chevrolet, on the south side of town.  Being a small dealership, the service manager noticed as I pulled in and commented: “nice truck”…..what’s wrong.  I replied: “absolutely nothing…..best truck I’ve ever owned”!  Then I proceeded to explain about the trailer tire with a bolt embedded in the tread.  He had a mechanic roll it in the shop, and a half hour later roll it out and heaved it back in the truck…..fixed!  He even handed me the offending road hazard as a souvenir.

Tire Bolt

I went to pay…..no charge with the comment, “thanks for being a loyal General Motors customer”.  Nice!

Back in town, I oz’d around myself a bit before wandering into a western hat shop.

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With my penchant for trying on hats and then walking about the store, I had a blast in this place.  Even spent a while talking to the proprietor about the business of millinery.  Some of his wares (no pun intended) exceed four figures in price…..those he didn’t let me play with.

After goofing off in town some more, I met Kit for an early dinner at a highly recommended place called the Sweetwater Restaurant.

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It was cool and rainy, so we ordered the soup and sandwich special, which was excellent.

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Sloppy Joe’s made with Elk meat and goat cheese soup!

Getting late, we called it a day and enjoyed the drive back up Jackson Hole which was as spectacular and picturesque as ever…..even on this cold nasty day.

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As you may be able to tell, there were a series of storms that came through during our stay.  At first I was a bit disappointed, as clear sunny days would be better for photographing the stunning snow covered mountains.  Then I started to see gaggles of photographers perched on hillsides with their high zoot cameras pointed at the cloud shrouded mountains.

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Apparently this weather made for the best mountain photography…..I then came to appreciate the beauty of nature and Mother Nature in their wildest state.

Back in camp, Kit and I walked down to Jackson Lake to enjoy the setting sun on this rather stormy day.

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Before turning in for the evening with visions of adventures to come filling our heads…

Day two we decided to explore more of Grand Teton National Park.  Following a nice breakfast in the camper, we took off on the park road, which follows the south shore of Jackson Lake…..

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…..and leads to the much smaller Jenny Lake, a glacial moraine that sits at the foot of Cascade Canyon.

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The canyon and lake bottom were formed by a glacier that scoured that portion of the Teton Mountain’s.

Driving further down the park road, the terrain flattens into an alpine meadow.

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Where a rather unique house of worship sits; The Chapel of the Transfiguration.

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This small log chapel was built in 1925 and sited to take advantage of the view of the mountains.  The interior was warm and inviting with rustic furnishings and a simple alter.

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Beyond the alter, a large picture window shows off God’s creation in the distance.

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Although a nice touch, the chapel seems redundant being built in one of nature’s great natural cathedrals.

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The location was, I’m sure, the inspiration for the simple but beautiful stained glass windows that adorn the chapel.

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By midafternoon, we were getting hungry so made our way to Jackson Lake Lodge and into one of their great restaurants, The Blue Heron.

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Where we scored a nice window seat overlooking Jackson Meadow with the Grand Teton’s beyond.

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Yea, I know, they were barely visible…..but we knew they were there, and besides we enjoyed a great tavern meal and a few Barley Pops.

Lounging about the lobby of Jackson Lodge, Kit caught up on e-mail and Facebook while I uploaded one of the journals to our website.

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However we were both distracted by the beautiful views out the immense wall of windows directly in front of us.

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Getting late, we made our way back to the campground and turned in for the evening.  Sadly, we only had one more day to explore this beautiful area of the country.

 

Day three dawned a bit brighter.  I took a walk about the campground while Kit got ready for the days outing.

The next row over (no pun intended), I noticed a fellow camper that mounted a rear rack to accommodate carrying kayaks and other bulky gear.

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Now, this might solve the dilemma of how to bring my kayak on these trips!  No one was outside so I didn’t get to ask questions, but the rack appeared to be store-bought…..I’ll have to do some research!

My morning stroll led me to the shore of Jackson Lake.  The weather is still a bit unsettled, but there are some patches of blue sky about.

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The beach is littered with smooth and colorful stones which glistened in the muted sunlight.

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Did you notice that half the photo above is under water?  Yep…..that’s how clear this mountain lake is!

For our final day in the area, we decided to drive north and visit Yellowstone National Park.  But first we stopped by Colter Bay Village so Kit could purchase that sunhat she has been lusting after all week.

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I being a bit superstitious, thought that its sitting on her pretty little head might force the sun to finally show an appearance…..time will tell!

We enjoyed a nice drive up the eight mile John D Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway that connects Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone National Park.

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And arrived at the south entrance to the park at around 1000, and once again…..free admittance!

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There aren’t a lot of things good about getting old, but the US Governments desire to get pensioner’s into the national park’s by awarding us Senior Access Passes is certainly one of them!

The 3,468 square mile Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872…..forty four years before the establishment of the National Park Service.  This lack of physical protection led to the unfettered destruction of the area and wanton poaching of the parks animals.  As a result, in 1886 the US Army was ordered to build a fort along the parks northern boundary and they began improving public access while enforcing the law.

Yellowstone is basically a very large volcanic caldera and contains more geothermal features than anywhere else in the world.  The popular tourist attractions are the geysers, and Old Faithful is the queen of these spectacular eruptions.  Since we concentrated on the geysers on our previous visit to the park, Kit and I decided to explore some of the other geothermal features of Yellowstone, such as the hot spring pools next to Yellowstone Lake.

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These pools of superheated water can rise to very high temperatures, and if mixed with soil become Mud Pots.

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And, if the earth heats the water enough, it flashes off as steam and which are known as Fumaroles.

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There are many areas of the park that contain all four major geothermal features and boardwalks allow the visitor to safely get up close to many of the more spectacular…..

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…such as this emerald pool of superheated water.

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Throughout the more geologically active areas of the park, the very strong scent of Sulfur Dioxide permeates the air providing that “rotten egg” smell.

When we visited Yellowstone many years ago, the bear population had adapted to human activity and park visitors were allowed, and sometimes encouraged, to feed them as park policy.  After a number of high profile mauling’s and a few deaths, the park service began to prohibit the activity in the 1970’s.  Today, it is rare to see a bear alongside the road.  However Bison are now frequent roadside visitors and have the potential to be just as dangerous as the bears…..or any other wild animal.

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However, that doesn’t deter the occasional Touron (tourist-moron) from jumping out of their car, run out into the field and pose with the 2,000 pound animals.

For example, on one of my hikes along a designated walkway through a geographically rich area of the park, I passed a few bison down the hill minding their own business.

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I felt safe and comfortable continuing on to the upper geyser field, which frankly was a bit disappointing.

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However, on my return trip down that same path, one of the huge animals had grazed to within a few feet of the walkway.

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This, of course, halted me in my tracks.  Since there were bubbling mud pots to the left and a giant bull bison to the right, my only option was to wait the animal out.  Before long, a diversion arrived in the form of a gaggle of foreign Touron’s who crowded about the munching animal which allowed me to pass by unnoticed.  Not wanting to witness a Darwin moment, I quickly walked down the path toward the truck.  Oh, and the Bison’s coat is natural for this time of the year when the heavy winter fur sloughs off and shorter summer hair grows in its place…..ain’t Mother Nature wonderful?

It was a great day at Yellowstone, and another bucket list item that will remain on the list as Kit and I vow to return.  Even though we have seen a great deal of the country over the past seven years, our bucket list keeps getting longer!  Guess we should plan on living forever to see everything!?!?

Tonight marks the final evening camping in Grand Teton National Park.

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A grand time was had by Kit and I, but new adventures await.

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Stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s: I’m glad we were finally able to see The Grand Teton’s and once again, tour Yellowstone NP.  Both are unbelievably beautiful!  Driving through both parks, some of the inclines and descents were very steep, which was a bit nerve-wracking but, all went well.  With not too many guardrails, I avoided looking down as much as possible and, thanks to Bill’s truck handling skills we made it through this part of our tour.  Needless to say, I’m ready for some prairie land.

Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal #23

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

50th Logo

A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for.

Gael Attal

Wednesday, May 20, 2015:  Kit and I were very tempted to remain at the beautiful municipal campground in Boardman, Oregon for a few more days but also wanted to take advantage of a couple of factory tours that were only available at certain times of the week…..so we reluctantly pulled out at 0935 and headed east on I-84.

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We were really surprised by the large number of farms that exist this far to the north.  Like in Maine, I’m guessing the growing season is short…..however it’s surely productive as the soil looked fertile and there is certainly plenty of water for irrigation.

At 1030, we pulled off the interstate into the small town of Pendleton to tour its world famous woolen mill and blanket factory.

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The Pendleton name is synonymous with quality, made in America products.  The founding family brought their expertise to America from England in the late 1880’s and settled in this area due to the extensive Sheep farms nearby and the convenient access to major rail lines.  The name Pendleton Woolen Mills was adopted in 1909 due to the overwhelming support in the form of municipal bonds given its founders by this small northeastern Oregon town.

The factory store is full to the rafters with every product that Pendleton manufactures.

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Including their apparel line, which is manufactured in the Washougal, Washington facility.

Long a staple of loggers and other outdoor folks, Pendleton wool shirts were catapulted to fame in 1960 by of all things, a young California rock group.  The band made up of brothers and other relatives selected the name of “The Pendletones” as they had adopted the classic woolen shirt as their trademark look.

Beach Boys-Surfer Girl

After their first big hit, they changed their name to “The Beach Boys” and created some of the best music of the era.  As a young California surfer, I and my buddies all clamored for Pendleton shirts, which we wore year round…..even in summer!  Yea I know, quite odd, but comfort had nothing to do with style back then, or actually…..never!

The factory tour was one of the best presentations that Kit and I have enjoyed.  The guide was personable, knowledgeable and enthusiastic about her company and its products.  In order to hear her over the din of factory noise, she provided us with wireless headphone receivers.

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We were then led into the chaos and commotion of an American factory at full operation.  The first stop was the Carding Machines, where the dyed wool is prepared for spinning into yarn.

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Next was the high capacity spinning machines that spun the wool into yarn.

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Then the colorful wool yarn was wound on bobbins, sorted and made ready for the actual weaving process.

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The proper bobbins were then loaded into feeders.

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Which delivered the yarn to the massive computer controlled weaving machines.

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The final step is hand checking the results for any quality defects.

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Before stacking the wool fabric on pallets to be sent to the apparel factory, or to the in-house blanket finishing department where they are sewn or fringed.

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Kit and I enjoyed the tour of this iconic American industry and before leaving, selected a few items from the store as souvenirs.

Kit in Burka

Keeping up with the global economy, apparently Pendleton Woolen Mills makes Burka’s!  Who knew?!?!

Since it was after noon time, Kit decided it was time for some lunch. So on recommendations of the nice ladies in the Pendleton Factory Outlet, we made our way to the Wild Horse Casino located on the Umatilla Indian Reservation just a short distance away.

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This laid back facility had a huge parking lot and a number of places to eat. We choose the Wild Horse Tavern where I ordered the Wapiti Burger which was artfully made from ground Elk meat.

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The burger was incredible, and those fried potatoes were equally as good after dipping in their signature Mojo Sauce…..the Pendleton Store ladies were right, what a great place to eat!

With full bellies, Kit and I were back on I-84 and heading easterly.

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Sorely needing to do laundry, fill water tanks and dump waste tanks, we pulled into La Grande and stopped at a commercial campground for the evening.

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Nothing fancy but The Rendezvous RV Park was adequate and, more importantly, was near our next tour opportunity, Northwood Manufacturing…..the parent company of our trailer!

 

Thursday, May 21, 2015: Up, broke camp, and drove a short distance to the Northwood Manufacturing facility…..the home of Arctic Fox, Fox Mountain, Snow River, Wolf Creek, Desert Fox, and Nash RV’s.

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The company was founded back in 1983 by Ron Nash, an Oregon native and avid outdoorsman.  Ron couldn’t find campers that would standup to the rigors of backcountry hunting and fishing so he decided to build one himself.  He contracted to have a heavy duty chassis welded up and fitted the homemade camper with high capacity axels with heavy duty springs and shock absorbers, thermo-pane windows and thick insulation.  Soon, his buddies wanted a similar camper and a business opportunity developed.  Today, as one of the first true off road four season RV’s, Northwood products are recognized in the industry as solidly built recreational vehicles.

Colby, our tour guide, spent almost two hours with us explaining the manufacturing process that makes Northwood one of the best campers built today.  Unusual in the industry, Northwood still makes their own chassis to ensure they will withstand the punishment that owners are likely to inflict on them.

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Much of the remaining structure is made of lightweight thick wall aluminum to offset the added weight of the robust steel chassis it will sit on.

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The interior and exterior walls are bonded to an insulating core of top quality poly foam.

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Solid wood cabinetry is built using furniture grade woodworking methods and finished with sprayed on lacquer.

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The fully trussed roof is crowned to enhance looks as well as durability, and is certified to support walking on for cleaning or maintenance.

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Thick mat insulation is used in the floor and roof to ensure the unit will remain warm in the coldest temperatures.

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As the unit nears completion, the slides, lighting and other components are installed by the highly experienced staff.

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When complete, every unit undergoes extensive testing of all systems and a through quality assurance process.

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Well, not by those two knuckleheads shown above…..however Northwood does rely on customer feedback on issues of quality or suggestions on how to enhance their products.  Our eight years’ experience with the Northwood brand of RV’s has convinced us that they are the best value for the money…..nothing fancy, but extremely rugged and well built.

Thanks Colby, for a great tour!

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Well, it’s getting late so we decided to stay another night in La Grande.  Rather than return to the campground we stayed at last night we found space at the local Wal*Mart…..which is conveniently located across the road from Thunder RV, a dealer featuring Northwood RV’s.

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Oh, that’s Caleb, one of the salesmen and the son-in-law of the owner…..and the brand new Fox Mountain belongs to my Bruzzin, Dewey and his bride Bea!  Yep, they’re movin on up!  Great rig and it should serve them very well for many years to come…..congratulations on the nice new adventure-mobile guys!  Dewey and Bea are heading up from Tucson to take delivery in a month…..unfortunately we will be far to the east by then so will miss the event.

In talking to Caleb, he mentioned that his The Wal*Mart neighbor was extremely RV friendly and the level and well lit parking lot was ideal for an overnight stay…..in addition you can’t beat the price!

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Well unless you factor in the retail therapy that Kit indulged in, then we are $111.89 in the hole!?!?

We ended the day with an adult beverage in hand as we watched the sun set over the tarmac.

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Friday, May 22, 2015:  Woke to changes in da hood.

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Yep, we have neighbors!  In my trek to The Wal*Mart for some breakfast sandwiches and fresh baked pastries, I counted seven RV’rs that had pulled in for the night.  Notice the fellow two doors down with the boat and trailer on top his truck!  Not sure how that all works but I imagine the engineering that accommodates launching is pretty interesting!

On the road at 0939 under partially sunny skies and a temperature of 64 degrees.  Once again jumped on I-84 and continued east.

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In a few hours, we came to signs indicating the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center was a short distance away.  Since this National Historic Monument was praised as a must see by our friends John Roger and Karen we stopped by for a visit.

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In the modern and well-appointed visitor’s center, Kit and I watched a film depicting the trials and tribulations of pioneering folks that passed this way in the mid 1800’s.  Leaving their homes back east for the promise of a better life in the wild and open west, pioneers had to navigate the rugged land while dealing with many obstacles.

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The 2,200 mile Oregon Trail supported the migration of 400,000 folks until rendered mostly obsolete by the advent of rail service.  Folks that attempted the arduous trip in Covered Wagons may very well have been the first RV’rs…..however with more primitive conveyances and different motivations.  These wagons, often called Prairie Schooners, traveled in massive Wagon Trains to facilitate mutual assistance and safety.

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Each evening the wagon master would circle the wagons in order to create a crude corral for the draft animals, and to enhance their protection from Indian attack.

Displayed in front of the visitor’s center, is an authentic Covered Wagon from one of the final trips…..a true survivor!

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And beyond, one can see the valley these wagons traveled through during their trek westward…..there are many places in that valley where wagon ruts are still visible in the dried mud.

As we left the Oregon Trail Interpretative Center, it began to rain, which just further highlighted what these early pioneers had to deal with.

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Back on I-84 we dropped further in elevation as we neared Idaho and the American Great Plains area.

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Crossing the border at 1546, we stopped at a RV Park in town of Mountain Home for the evening.

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Saturday, May 23, 2015-Mountain Home, Idaho:  Decided to take a down day in this very nice RV Park.  The skies were darkening to the west showing that the storm we had outrun earlier in the day is catching up to us.

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Spent the day basically relaxing, getting caught up on some maintenance on the trailer and working on the journals or reading.

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Right on cue, by late morning a major thunderstorm came roaring through.

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Wind, rain, hail, lightening, and all damnation broke loose!  But we were snug, dry and content in our little camper as the storm whipped about!

As the foul weather moved off to the east, the sun painted a nice portrait in the western sky as Kit and I settled in for the evening.

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Sunday, May 24, 2015:  Leaving Mountain Home, Idaho we discussed stopping at Craters of the Moon National Monument but decided to continue east instead…..that National Park will have to remain on our bucket list for a future trip.

At midmorning we had rejoined our old friend Interstate 84 and continued our trek to the east.

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Leaving I-84, we jumped on US-30E toward Pocatello until connecting to I-15 which we took north.

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Pulling into Idaho Falls a few hours later, Kit and I found our way to the Snake River RV Park for the evening,

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Monday, May 25, 2015:  After a restful evening, Kit contacted the son of our childhood San Diego friend JoAnne to see if he and his family were available for a visit…..and fortunately they were!

Pulling out of the RV Park we made a quick stop to view and photograph the falls that give this town of 58,000 folks its name.

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The falls are on the Snake River that bisects this quaint little eastern Idaho town.

Chris and his family live a few miles outside of town in a nice rural area dotted with farms and ranches.

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Being the Senior Pastor at the Falls Baptist Church, he allowed us to park our rig in the church parking lot.

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Where he greeted Kit and I and drove us to his beautiful home a few miles away.  Kit and Chris had a great time visiting and swapping stories of growing up in San Diego as well as funny tales of his mom as a teenager.

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We only spent a few hours with them but thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  Chris and his wife Jenny are raising five fantastic boys in a loving Christian home.

When Chris delivered us back to our rig, I immediately noticed that one of the tires was low…..upon investigating, I discovered the culprit.

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The tire was only flat on the bottom but trying to move it in that condition would result in a rather harsh ride, so off it came and the spare went on.

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Notice I didn’t use a tire jack…..the onboard levelling jacks are strong enough to lift the entire rig off the ground so I used them to swap out the tire.

With four round tires on the trailer, we headed out on the open road toward the unknown…..stay tuned!

 

Kit’s Bit’s: All fun stuff we’ve been up to the last few days.  However, the very BEST was stopping to see Chris, Jenny and kids!  We had heard a lot about them while visiting with JoAnne and Ron; we couldn’t wait to meet them.  The kids are home schooled, very well grounded and it was absolutely delightful to meet each and every one of them as well as their parents.  A delightful family, for sure!  Touring the Pendleton factory has been on my bucket list for many years.  As a teen, my parents encouraged me to buy and make wool skirts out of Pendleton fabric.  Matching plaids was one of the first things I learned.  Of course, wool skirts seemed silly in San Diego, but, in the winter, they were nice and warm.  Plus, they went along with the Pendleton shirts the guys were wearing.  Our tour of the Arctic Fox factory was extremely interesting.  Our tour guide, Colby, was very knowledgeable in the construction of the trailers and also shared a lot of the history of the company with us.  We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of the plant.  Touring the Oregon Trail Museum was very interesting.  The early pioneers were a hardy lot to attempt these journeys.  Someday, it would be fun to do “The Oregon Trail” and learn much more about it.  They had some rough terrain to traverse, never mind the health and safety issues they faced.

Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal #22

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

50th Logo

Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take.

Angela N. Blount

 

Saturday, May 16, 2015:  Morning in Harbor, Oregon brought a rather unusual looking sunrise.

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The below horizon sun bouncing off some dense low hanging clouds coupled with the morning coastal fog produced a rather surreal image.

Pulled chocks and were on the road at 0940.  Kit and I decided to head south a short distance in order to pass through the Redwood National Forest of Northern California.  In addition to a nice drive through an iconic landscape, this allowed us to conveniently gain access to inland southern Oregon without heading any further north up the coast.  Make sense?  No, didn’t to us either but it just seemed like the thing to do!

Backtracking on US-101 toward Crescent City, we split off north of town and meandered through Redwood National Park on US-191.

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This park is very similar to Sequoia National Park.  Mammoth sized trees lining a very well thought-out park road that maximizes ones exposure to the forest of giants……and yet another exercise in careful RV piloting.  Fortunately, what little traffic was trying to share the path with us was also content to drive at our speed of slow and therefore we all enjoyed the drive through the beautiful landscape.

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Kit and I decided not to linger in Redwood National Park as we had explored this area some years ago and there were surely adventures to come that we hadn’t yet enjoyed.

Leaving the parks northern boundary, we traveled back into Oregon and steadily gained altitude as we left the coastal plains.

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At Grants Pass, we jumped on I-5S, and soon thereafter the skies became threatening so we decided to pull off the interstate and found a convenient Wal*Mart to hunker down and resupply.  I stayed in the camper and tried to figure out where to go next while Kit did the shopping.

Listening to the rain drumbeating on the roof I got online to do some location vs time vs distance calculations.  Kit and I wanted to pay some fellow RV’rs a visit at their summer home in Bend Oregon, but also noticed that Crater Lake National Park was nearby.  Having very flexible travel plans, or more accurately no travel plans, affords us the opportunity to make it up as we go along.  I noticed online that Crater Lake had just opened for the season, a good two weeks earlier than normal, and there were campsites that could accommodate our rig…..so, pending approval of the boss, that’s the plan for the next destination!

As we were loading the groceries into the camper, I shared my new travel plan with Kit and the trooper she is, said “let’s go!”  So, off we trundled through Medford, along the Rogue River Valley, until we left the interstate at Gold Hill and jumped on OR-234/62 heading east toward the park.

Pulling in, we selected a nice camp spot at sparsely populated Mazama Campground and settled in for the evening.

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Where, without hookups, and to preserve our battery power, Kit and I sat in our recliners and read by headlamp.

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Looks weird, but it’s very efficient!  The campground sits at an elevation of 6,200 feet in the Cascade Mountain Range and the overnight temperatures are predicted to drop below freezing.  So it looks like a couple of evenings of the furnace running…..not a big deal with plenty of propane and two fully charged camper batteries but better to conserve power just in case we stay longer than anticipated.

 

Sunday, May 17, 2015-Crater Lake National Park:  Up to a cold and bright morning…..as I took a walk about the area, Kit continued to check her eyelids for light leakage.

This early in the season, there are only two out of the six loops open in the campground, so walking the closed loops gave me access to areas of the park that hadn’t seen much human presence over the winter.  Nearby, I came across a nest in an old pine that was likely built by a woodpecker.

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I could detect movement in the nest and catch a fleeting glimpse of a little head, but not long enough to capture a photo.  I’m sure mom was hovering about and probably a bit stressed so I quickly moved on.

Near the far edge of the not yet open campground, I came across this sight.

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I’ve seen similar markings on trees in Maine but never sure if they were antler scrapes or bear claw marks.  This one was likely the latter as there were deep gouges and torn wood fibers evident and the damaged bark was about six feet up from the base of the tree.

Back at the camper, we enjoyed a nice breakfast and then headed for the Crater Lake Visitors Center and our first view of the parks striking landscape.

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Crater Lake is, well…..a lake in a crater!  Or, to be more precise, a caldera from a long extinct volcano full of rain water and snow melt.  The lake at 1,943 feet has been certified as the deepest in the United States and is fed entirely by precipitation……there are no springs or rivers flowing into or out of Crater Lake.  The purity of the water and the lakes immense depth give Crater Lake its famous cobalt blue coloration.

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Leaving the visitors center, Kit and I drove the famed West Rim Trail, of which only part was open due to the winter snowpack remaining at the higher elevations.

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As the name implies the rim trail encircles Crater Lake by following along the edge of the caldera.  There are numerous turnouts and observation points that afford the visitor spectacular views of the lake from different perspectives.

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At one of the observation points, this little fellow sat posing and waiting for handouts.

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It is a Clark’s Nutcracker who dines on pinecones by cracking them open, eating some of the seeds, and burying the remaining to enjoy later.  This, of course, helps perpetuate the pine tree’s continued existence as the bird frequently forgets to return to his stash.

Continuing along the West Rim Trail, the elevation climbs rapidly and the residual snowpack becomes deeper.

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And at 7,325 feet, Hillman Peak came into view.

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At this elevation yet another incredible view of this spectacular natural wonder was to be enjoyed.

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Retracing our route, Kit and I descended to Crater Lake Lodge for a late lunch.

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The lodge was built in 1915 and kept simple due to the difficulty in getting materials to the site, the short weather window to build, and to ensure the structure could survive with an average snowfall of 550 inches a year being dumped on it.

The original lodge was very rustic…..however extensive remodeling of the interior and natural landscaping of the surrounding land was accomplished in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and has since been preserved as a National Historic Site.

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With a fire roaring in the main fireplace on this chilly day, Kit and I scored a primo table with expansive views of the lake.

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Much of the menu was locally sourced, including the delicious Bison Steak that I enjoyed.

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The dessert of Marionberry Cobbler was equally as good!

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A great day at another of America’s great National Parks!

 

Monday, May 18, 2015:  Broke camp and headed out by way of the south entrance of Crater Lake National Park.  There is a northern entrance to the park, but at this time of the year it is a bit sketchy to attempt with a camper in tow.  The sky is overcast with temperatures in the mid 50’s and there is a threat of rain as we hopped on OR-62 and headed south.

2015-05-19, Photo #2

Rolling through the town of Fort Klamath, we pulled over to call some RV’ing friends of ours to see if they were available for a visit.  Karen and John Roger live in Bend, Oregon which is about a hundred miles to the northeast.  Fortunately, they were home, available, and graciously offered us a place to park for the night!

Moving over to US-97N, and following a roadside lunch stop, Kit and I arrived in the nice little town of Bend and pulled into our dooryard surfing opportunity for the evening.

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John Roger and Karen, in addition to being long time RV travelers, are a Navy family as well.  We connected through our website where they noticed we owned the same brand trailer as Kit and I….in fact they were the impetus for us buying the model we currently own.  Well, we returned the favor…..back in February while traveling through Yuma, Arizona we met up with them and they liked our new rig better than their older version so shortly thereafter ordered one of their own.

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John Roger, being very mechanically inclined has already installed five solar panels and the associated energy management components on the roof of their one week old rig!

2015-05-19, Photo #10a

That level of solar power is needed as they spend the winter on BLM land in Southern Arizona where they boondock…..meaning, camping without any services.

John Roger is also a car nut and owns a very nice 1930 Ford Model A that they enjoy driving around in their home town.

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Our friends Jeff and Cathy back home have a similar vehicle and I’ve always admired the lines of the Model A, also…..what’s not to like about the mother-in-law seat?

As a thank you for hosting us, Kit and I took them out to one of their favorite restaurants, McGrath’s Fish House.

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We had a great time catching up on each other’s lives as we enjoyed an excellent meal.

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And, an added benefit was the special for the evening being freshly landed Coho Salmon from the nearby Columbia River!

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The meal as well as the company was outstanding!  As we left the restaurant, I noticed a neighbor from back home waving helplessly as he waited for the next customer.

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Even though the little fella seemed to behaving himself, I bet he ends up in hot water anyway.

Back in their comfortable living room, we enjoyed a glass of wine and visited some more before turning in for the night.

 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015:  After coffee with Karen and John Roger and saying our goodbyes, Kit and I rolled out at around 1030 onto the roads of Bend, Oregon.  Back on US-97 we headed north through Redmond and the small town of Madras where we started noticing a strange display of public art.

Shoe Tree-Oregon

Yep, trees festooned with discarded footwear, mostly sneakers!  Not sure who or why but as with most public art projects, does it have to make sense?  The geneses of these whimsical creations are, I imagine, the result a bored teenager with an artistic sole (pun intended) and the project spontaneously grew by enthusiastic public involvement.

At noon Kit and I straddled the Earth’s Northern 45th Parallel.

2015-05-17a, Photo #5

To our left is the North Pole and to our right is the Equator…..and there both exactly the same distance away!

An hour and a half later we joined I-84 and headed east.  It really seems weird to be on a major interstate highway after tooling along the secondary roads of America for the past couple of weeks.  I-84 generally parallels the Columbia River and we kept it in view for most of the rest of the day.  It was interesting to note that back in 1805, The Lewis and Clark Expedition followed this same river.

2015-05-19, Photo #12

I bet we were moving a bit faster and in far more comfort!

Entering the small town of Boardman, Oregon which is nestled along the south bank of the Columbia River, we stumbled upon a very nice municipal campground and decided to stay the night.

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The weather was perfect to sit under the trees and read or just plain relax.

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While watching the waterborne world pass us by…..

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…..until the sun set in the western sky.  Hey, that rhymes!

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At which point Kit and I took a walk along the riverbank toward the municipal docks and agreed this is a truly magical place.

2015-05-19, Photo #17b

Just one of many in our great land!

Kit’s Bit’s: As usual, we had a great time visiting with Karen and John Roger.  We have many things in common so, never run out of things to talk about.  So glad we have connected with them and can see them occasionally.  Oregon is such a beautiful state!  It’s also a very diverse state since much of it is comprised of desert like terrain.  The views, as we drive along, are so pretty!  I can only imagine, the pioneers who came west must have been amazed at the scenery before them.  Of course, they had more immediate issues to deal with; makes us feel like we’re just sailing through all this countryside without a care in the world.  Not quite.  Still have to conserve the battery power and ration the water.

Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal #21

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

50th Logo

The journey not the arrival matters.

T.S. Eliot

 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015:  Woke up to brilliant sunshine on the northern coast of California.  As Kit continued to slumber, I enjoyed a walk to Casper Beach which lies across the road from our campsite.

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The beach was deserted…..there was only the shadow of a fellow who was not smart enough to sleep in on this cool crisp morning.

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There were also, a number of seagulls and other birds about to keep me entertained…..including this Turkey Vulture guarding his breakfast.

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The bird sat in that pose the entire time I was on the beach.  Not sure if he was trying to get warm or if there was something wrong with his wings…..if the later, then he could always fly Delta since he only had the one carrion.

After an hour patrolling the small beach and picking up a handful of shells, I made my way back to the camper, dumped the sand out of my shoes, and joined Kit for breakfast.

By 1000, we were pulling out of the campground and continuing north on the Pacific Coast Highway.  The temperature was slowly warming into the mid 50’s as we made our way up the coast.

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Kit and I had only traveled about fifty miles when we came to a pretty little cove that featured a California State Beach Campground situated on a bluff overlooking the ocean.

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There were only a few other campers and the place looked enticing so Kit and I made a quick decision to pull in for the day.

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Ahhh, the beauty of traveling with no itinerary!  Opportunities such as this arise frequently on the road and the ability to take advantage of them far outweighs the uncertainty of where to stay at the end of the day…..we wouldn’t have it any other way!  Hey, that rhymes!

After self-registering, we selected a very nice spot that afforded us the best views out our windows.

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The temperature had warmed to a comfortable level so we opened all the windows to let the fresh ocean breeze flow in.

As Kit sat outside and enjoyed her book, I decided to find my way down to the beach to explore and partake in some kite flying.

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One has to work to get from the campground to the beach…..for some reason the only convenient access was from the day use area, a mile to the south!?!?  However, there is another access route that leads down a steep path to a creek containing mountain snow-melt flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

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Here, you have two choices….feet wet, or feet dry.  I choose the former and walked barefoot in the creek for about 25 yards, which demonstrated just how cold that water was…..yikes!

Once on the beach, and with shoes back on, it was like you were the first person to set foot on this desolate stretch of Northern California shoreline.

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Timing was perfect as it is near low tide and the newly revealed rocks were covered with a variety of marine growth.

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Such as these barnacles wiggling about.

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And these colorful Mussels closed up tight and waiting for the ocean, and their dinner, to return once again.

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There are numerous large rock pillars, known as Sea Stacks scattered about.  These were invisible or appeared as tiny islands a few hours ago and are now fully exposed at low tide.

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Walking amongst these formations, damp from the receding ocean and covered with organic life was a real treat for the senses.

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However, as the saying goes, “Time and tide wait for no man”, so I therefore heeded the call of the approaching tide and headed for higher ground.

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Thoughtfully, someone had secured a knotted rope to a stout post atop the bluff that I used to scamper up the steep hillside, saving me a good 30 minutes.

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Relaxing next to Kit, we watched the incoming tide cover many of the Sea Stacks and most of my footprints.

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After dinner, Kit and I took a stroll along the bluff.  At the far end of the campground we came across this pleasant couple, and stopped to visit.

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Dan and Marlene live in South Carolina and travel during the hot summers…..kinda like reverse snowbirds.  They enjoy the flexibility and low operating cost of their Pleasure Way class B motorhome and have comfortably toured the country in their small RV.  Kit and I have been noticing a trend away from huge Class A units toward the much smaller and more maneuverable Class B’s……especially among newly retired baby boomers.

Back at our own campsite, we enjoyed an adult beverage as the sun slipped below the horizon capping off another great day on the road!

2015-05-15b, Photo #34

 

Thursday, May 14, 2015:  Lounged about and enjoyed the morning.  Kit and I discussed staying an additional day at this very pleasant oceanfront state park, but we need to move on if we expect to arrive back home before the summer ends.

At some point last night another camper pulled in and parked about 50 yards to the north of us.

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This converted school bus was the handiwork of a very interesting woman.

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Kathleen lives a few miles inland near Ukiah, California in a log home she built herself.  An avid outdoors woman, she frequently comes down out of the mountains to fish, and last night caught her dinner by surfcasting from the shore.  She graciously invited us into her camper and showed off the improvements she had made, including a really nice countertop made of a solid redwood varnished to a high sheen.  Kathleen has decorated the inside of her bus with items found during her travels, including a length of Baleen from a whale beached in Alaska!

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A very nice bus conversion created by a very creative soul.  Her choice of covering the yellow school bus with white paint is intended to create a canvas for her to paint pictorials of her many travels…..with her skill and talent the finished products should be spectacular!

Kit and I were underway at 1100 hours under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the 70’s.  We continued north on the coastal highway and the road continued to be steep and winding…..a challenge for the average motorist and a bit more technical for folks towing a 12,000 pound trailer!

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The absence of guardrails and shoulders added to the excitement, however the roads were very well maintained and the little traffic we encountered was cautious and patient as we lumbered along.

At the town of Rockport, the Pacific Coast Highway veers inland to avoid a particularly rugged portion of the California coast where the King Range National Conservation Area, also know as The Emerald Coast,  is located.

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At the town of Riverdale, The Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1)  merged with US-101 for the remainder of our trip toward the Oregon border.

Approaching the village of Crescent City, one of the last towns on the Northern California coast, we pulled off and made our way to the Shoreline RV Park, a municipal campground located adjacent to beautiful Crescent Harbor.

Unfortunately, we found it opens for the season tomorrow!  However, fortunately as we were sitting in front of the shuttered office a man drove up in a Crescent City truck and offered to help.  Matt is a fellow RV’r and apologized we missed opening day by less than 24 hours but he directed us to another nice RV park just north of the border.

A relatively short 20 miles up the road is Harbor, Oregon and the nice, and convenient, Portside RV Park where we were able to select a suitable campsite for a few nights.

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Friday, May 15, 2015-Harbor, Oregon:  This town of 2,391 folks sits on the Chetco River where it meets the Pacific Ocean.  The harbor shelters a mixture of pleasure and commercial boats protected by a natural inlet.

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A small fleet of crab boats hunt for the delicious Dungeness crab using traps similar to ones used to catch lobster back home.

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And, like lobsters, you have to wonder about the sanity of the first person that thought: Hey…..that looks like it would be good to eat!

Photo Captured From the Internet

Photo Captured From the Internet

I did sample some during our stay, and even though the crab’s name begins with dung, I found the meat sweet and flavorful.

There are other live things in the harbor, while not necessarily edible, are a whole lot prettier.

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Oh…..and the flowers were nice as well!

On the ocean side of the sand spit that makes up the harbor lays a nice small beach.

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And on the rock jetty that helps protect the inner harbor is a gathering spot for the ubiquitous seagull.

GU-11, #1

Who frequently gather to people watch and presumably discuss the latest shoreline gossip.

GU-11, #2

Or possibly share aerial intelligence on who in town had recently washed and waxed their vehicle.

Apparently there is a fairly large feral cat population around the harbor…..to the extent that a kind citizen has set up a feline homeless shelter that one can donate food too.

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Never have we seen anything such as this, but what a nice gesture!

With such thoughtful and pleasant townsfolk about there had to be a few weirdos…..like this scary looking dude lurking about.

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You know, I always try on hats but never buy one!  Not much of a hat person, I guess.

Sharing the harbor is a US Coast Guard station and their 47 foot Motor Life Boat.

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These heavy surf capable craft can self-right within 30 seconds if capsized…..pretty impressive!

USCG 47MLB

Photo Captured From the Internet.

When the brave Coastguardsmen aren’t out saving the life of hapless mariners, they match wits with trespassing Sea Lions.

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I watched this exercise in futility go on for a good half hour…..the stubborn animal seemed to enjoy being squirted by a fresh water hose!

Come early afternoon, we were getting hungry, so following the advice of locals, Kit and I made tracks for The Hungry Clam.

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Where the most popular item on the menu is the Seafood Platter.

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This meal features crab, oysters, calamari and shrimp…..and was incredible!

Back in the camper, we discussed where-to-next.  The original rough plan was for us to continue up the Oregon coast, then explore the Washington Coast, and then travel on into British Columbia.  However, that would surely add another couple weeks before we could turn right and head home.  So with some regret, we will head east tomorrow and explore more of Oregon……stay tuned!

 

Kit’s Bit’s:  Coming across the CA State Beach with minimal camp spots was a delightful surprise!  Especially, after only driving 50 miles…  No wonder it’s taking us so long to make time on this trip.  Camping right on the ocean is such a treat.  The cool onshore breeze, birds squawking and waves crashing onshore.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  Fortunately, we are able to get by without electricity, water and sewer.  We could have easily stayed another couple of nights but didn’t want to get further behind on getting home.  We happen across these opportunities more often; this is why we aim to travel with little or no itinerary.  We have less guilt about taking advantage of these opportunities that pop up in front of us.

Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal #20

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-201550th Logo The Americans have found the healing of God in a variety of things, the most pleasant of which is probably automobile drives.

William Saroyan

 

Thursday, May 7, 2015:  When we last visited our intrepid (or is the word inept?) travelers they were under the threat of rain and making emergency repairs to a tear in their camper’s roof.  Well, it didn’t rain…..it hailed…..a lot!  Well, sounds like a leisurely breakfast morning!

Once the onslaught moderated, Kit and I ventured out from Yosemite Lakes Campground and hopped on CA-120 heading west.

2015-05-07b, Photo #1

Soon, we were rolling through the small town of Groveland, California.

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A mountainside no-stoplight little town with a quirky vibe….if it wasn’t raining so hard, and had we left the campground at an earlier hour, we would have stopped to walk around a bit.

A short while later, the weather did let up so we pulled off at a turnout overlooking Don Pedro Reservoir to see how the roof patch job was holding up.

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The early morning hail, which had changed over to a steady rain, gave the Yankee repair job a real test.  However, I’m happy to report no leaks in the roof…..score another point for Duct Tape!  The precipitation is a welcome sight in California, as they are experiencing a record drought, as evident by how low the water level is in the photo above.

Back on the road and a few hours later the skies began to clear as we moved over to CA-99 heading north.

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And, by 1300 we were driving through Fairfield, California on the way to our next stop…..Travis Air Force Base campground.  Since there were a number of sites available, we choose a nice secluded spot with flowering bushes on either side which created our own little private garden patio!

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Friday, May 8 through Monday, May 11, 2015:  Fairfield, California:  Kit and I decided to stay three full days at this park for a variety of reasons.  First, there are folks living in the area from our old San Diego neighborhood that we just reconnected with and are anxious to visit.  Second, we needed a down day to recharge, resupply and goof off.  And thirdly I had to find a way to make a more durable and permanent patch to the camper’s roof.

Since this could impact the rest of our trip, I tackled the last item first.  In researching how to patch EPDM roofs, I discovered that the process was easy, but the materials were specific (read difficult to locate) and a bit pricey.  Fortunately, the folks in the campground office knew of a fella that ran a mobile RV repair business.  Upon calling, Norm mentioned that he had retired at the first of the year so therefore hadn’t renewed his business license.  However he still had some patch material and the proper tools so would be glad to drop by and take a look.

After climbing on the roof, Norm said this is pretty typical, an easy fix, and he used to make a good living doing these types of repairs.  He also said he would do the job for us if I would make a donation to the local volunteer Fire Department that he was a member of……sounded like a win-win to me so I took him up on his offer.

27-5L Patch

Good as new!  Hey, it is new……just now with a few battle scars!  There were a few other areas that looked suspect and a few scrape marks that Norm reinforced with a layer of patch material…..a very thorough job!  He also gave me some additional material and a quick lesson on how to apply it for the next time…..and, he said, there will be a next time!

Living in the town of Dublin, about an hour south from Fairfield, is a friend of Kit’s from her Junior High school days.  Nancy, and her husband Chuck, graciously agreed to meet midway at a nice Mexican restaurant called LaTapatia.

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Kit and Nancy had a great time reconnecting….they were classmates in the same San Diego junior high school and sharing the highlights of their lives over the last 50+ years was fun and enlightening for all.  And Chuck, a former Vietnam helicopter pilot, and I had a great time getting acquainted and swapping military stories.

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Oh, and the food was great as well!

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We thoroughly enjoyed their company and hope to see them again on a future trip.

Camping on a military base has some additional advantages to camping in a civilian campground.  One of which is there is generally (no pun intended) a collection of vintage hardware on display.  Travis AFB is no exception…..they have a nice museum telling the story of their role in transporting troops and material all over the world.  There are a number of vintage aircraft on display outside and interesting artifacts from years past in the large museum.

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The above is a C-47 Skytrain…..which was developed from the civilian airliner, the DC-3.  First built in the mid 1930’s, the DC-3 revolutionized transcontinental air travel.  Previously, airline passengers wanting to fly coast to coast had to do so over a number of days by flying during the day and traveling by rail at night.

There were over 16,000 of this airframe built, and some 400 are still airworthy today!  There was even a DC-3 on floats flying off of Moosehead Lake in northern Maine a number of years ago!

DC-3 on Floats at Moosehead

Another unusual warbird from the Second World War was the C-123 Provider.

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Originally built as a glider to be stuffed full of combat troops and towed over enemy lines, the powerless craft would then be released while the pilot would try and guide the thing to a suitable landing zone.  Later variants were provided with engines and used for more conventional troop delivery…..like having them jump out of the craft while at altitude!

The last item I found of interest was an engine for a C-5A Galaxy, which one often sees in the skies above military airfields…..the aircraft, not the engine by itself…..that would be bad!  The C-5 is huge, with four huge engines hanging off its wings.  How huge?  This huge!

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A great morning at a very nice military museum…..I thoroughly enjoyed viewing the displays and talking to the volunteers that run the place and I’m sure Kit really appreciated the peace and quiet back at the camper!

The other person we wanted to see while in the area was a neighbor of mine from San Diego’s Cabrillo Heights Navy Housing.  This was in the late 1950’s when I was just discovering that girls did not have Cooties.  Mickey and her brothers along with my brother and I would run the streets looking for, and frequently finding, adventure.  We had lost touch until a few years ago when Mickey e-mailed us with some old black and white photos from that era.   We were thrilled to receive the pictures and thrilled to be able to reconnect with Mickey and her meet her husband, Jim.

Mickey, or Michele as she is known by today, has roots in the Boston area, so she thought it appropriate to have the group photo snapped under a Sam Adams logo!

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Enjoying a beautiful afternoon on the patio of Applebee’s, we spent considerable time getting reacquainted and enjoying a nice meal and a few adult beverages.  A new item on the menu that I tried was Chicken Quesadilla’s.

Applebee's Quesadilla

They were incredible…..every bit as good as the authentic Mexican we have been indulging in while down south.  Hope they offer this menu item back home as I will definitely order it again!

Mickey and Jim are government retirees and currently reside in Sacramento where they are enjoying life and driving their vintage Corvette.  It was great visiting with  them and hope they will look us up whenever they make a trip back east to see family……we would love to show them around Maine!

Another event while in Fairfield was the celebration of Mother’s day.  In honor of Kit’s being a great mother and fantastic grandmother, I spent considerable time concocting a dish of Bill’s Famous, Never Made the Same Way, Don’t Ask What’s in It, Scrambled Eggs!

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And as a thoughtful bonus, arranged for some lovely flowers to be delivered at the camper door!

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Happy Mother’s day…..Love you!

Well, tomorrow we pull chocks and head west.  Kit and I thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Fairfield, California and visiting with some fantastic folks, but must be moving on!

 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015:  Up and on the road at 0930 under sunny, but cool weather.  Once off the base, we pulled onto I-80W and, since we were going to pass very near the Napa Valley, Kit and I started to discuss the possibility of stopping at a winery or two on the way to the coast.  However, Kit soon noticed a sign advertising an even more exciting stop so we pulled off the interstate and headed for a large factory and office complex in an industrial area of Fairfield.

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Yep…..the Jelly Belly factory!  Much better than touring some dank old winery with samples of products that we wouldn’t be able to pronounce and probably couldn’t afford to buy.

The Jelly Belly factory offers guided tours so we queued up for the next available one.  While I held our places, Kit ambled about the gift shop and tastefully appointed (pun intended) tasting room.

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When our turn came, Kit rejoined me with a guilty look on her face and a hint of Jelly Belly on her breath.  No matter, I was delighted to be given my very own spiffy hat!

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Oh, Kit received one as well which she wore much more fashionably than I.

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As a matter of fact, the whole tour group received special hats!

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However, some of the touree’s (yea, I know, I made up that word…..but I like it!) had an issue with their religious headgear and the official Jelly Belly chapeau papier.

Not sure why a group of Muslims were in the tour group that day but I suspect it had something to do with world peace and understanding through the magic of Jelly Beans!

The tour was top secret and no photography of any kind was allowed, so regrettably, there are no pictures.  However an accurate verbal description of what was behind the triple locked and armed guarded doors follows:  A bunch of machinery making a bunch of Jelly Bellies and the whole place smelled of Jelly Beans!  OK, so now that you know the secret…..please burn the paper from which you just read this on.

After departing the factory, and signing our nondisclosure statements, Kit went to the gift shop and I toured the adjacent art gallery.  If you are at all known in this world today, you have been immortalized in Jelly Bellies!

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Including the man who did more for Jelly Bellies than he ever did for Hollywood!

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And don’t call him Candy Face…..Republicans still revere this man, and have lots of guns!

I was walking out of the gallery as Kit was coming out of the gift shop laden with brightly decorated shopping bags.

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So, what did my bride purchase?

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Yep, Belly Flops, or to be more politically correct, Irregular Jelly Beans…..ten pounds worth!  And why?  Well, she felt sorry for the marginalized tiny candies with the irregular shapes and colors, and because they tasted every bit as good as the top shelf ones but were about half the price…..smart woman!

Rolling out of the Jelly Belly parking lot, we made our way on CA-12 and headed west which took us just south of Napa.

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And, through downtown Petaluma.

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Where the state of California protects its most valuable assets…..seeds in an actual bank!

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Yep, a bank building from the 1920’s now houses heirloom seeds in its vault!

And next door is the Dirt Bank!

Dirt Bank #1

Unfortunately, this was all for naught as the nearby Water Bank had been overdrawn and was empty.

Next, Kit and I traveled through or around a variety of other small California hamlets until we reached our destination…..CA-1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) which is a highway that pretty much parallels the Pacific Coast.

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Just past Bodega Bay, we stopped at a roadside turnout to walk about, stretch our legs, and have lunch while we enjoy our first glimpse of this incredible shoreline.

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Back on the twisty two lane road that is the PCH, we meandered along with the ocean to our left and hillsides to our right.

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Fortunately, most folks behind us were courteous as we lumbered along and I returned the favor by pulling over at every opportunity to allow the long train of vehicles following us to pass by.

However, some times the backup along the PCH wasn’t our fault.

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This is open rangeland and livestock can frequently be spotted waddling along the road.

Contrary to its title, the PCH doesn’t always follow the Pacific Coast…..sometimes it diverts inland to get around a particularly steep section.  On those occasions, the view is just as nice as lush vegetation and coastal pines align the road.

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But the real treat to traveling the coast highway is the views of sky, ocean and rock formations.

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Getting late, Kit used the App All-Stays to find us a very nice oceanfront campground at Casper Beach.

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After registering, we drove up a narrow valley with beautiful flowers planted on either side of the path.

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As the valley opened up into a small meadow we found our campsite for the evening.

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Tomorrow we continue north up the Pacific Coast Highway….stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s: It was great reconnecting with my friend, Nancy, from Jr. High.  Once I left high school, half way through my Jr. Year, I lost contact with all the kids I knew.  I’m just now learning of all their fun and shenanigans as they finished high school and either went on to college or jobs.  It may be a good thing I didn’t know all this stuff, I may have felt deprived with already being settled into marriage and having a family.  Who knows!  It’s always fun to hear about old friends escapades!  It was also fun reconnecting with Mickey.  She and her family were good friends with Bill and his family.  They had lots of memories to share from before I knew him!