Travelling through Washington state in the Summer of 1996
July, 15-20 -- Newport, Washington... This is our first TT/NACO park in Washington and "Little Diamond is a 360 acre preserve set in wooded hills about five miles from the Idaho border. We will be especially conservative in our water usage because we have water and electric hookups only (sewers dump two times each week). The park is wooded, quiet and peaceful; the meadow just behind our site has a large colony of Golden-backed Gophers. These cousins of the prairie dog have over-run the park and number in the thousands. Each time we wall the dogs Logan is at the end of his lead headed for colony. The gophers, of course, are well aware of our approach; the look-outs bark a warning and all duck under ground (appearing behind us). Ever optimistic, Logan has his nose down one hole or another at every opportunity. We determine he must be a "Golden-backed Gopher Getter". We meet two nice couples while at the park John and Bunnie who live on the Washington coast and Dick and Dee from Pahrump, Nevada. John and Bunny are on vacation but looking forward to retirement in the not too distant future while Dick and Dee are already experiencing retired living and have their house for sale.
While driving near the preserve, we pass a Boy Scout Camp, full of tents. Just like an old fire-station dog, TJ has to spring into action; he dons his scout uniform and heads for summer camp. The camp is one thousand acres bordering Diamond Lake; with six weeks of summer camp serving three hundred scouts per week. The camp director, Jim West (an illustrious name for a scouter as James West was the founder of US scouting in 1910) is also running for Lt. Governor on the Republican ticket. TJ got a job offer; guess scout camps are hard up all over.
Exploring Newport is not time consuming; the nice woman occupying the Chamber desk is new to the area, We ate dreadful Chinese meal and took a walk on the main street peering into shop windows, talking with interesting people and bought a rather unusual gift for one of the bays. A neat ice cream shop soon to ba deli delights us with banana splits and huckleberry topping. Lumber was the prime source of income for this community and with an unemployment rate of 11% they are scrambling to bring business and tourists into the county.
On Saturday we drive the forty odd miles into Spokane for the farmer's market; surprisingly small for such a large urban area (almost 200,000 pop.), We enjoy a great breakfast burrito (our chef has both a Texas and New Mexico heritage), buy fresh veggies, the standard Bing and Rainier (tight yellow color and wonderful flavor) cherries. I discover the very withered Bing cherries are a real treat; the sweetness is intense. From another vendor we discover where to purchase buffalo meat; time to restock the freezer.
July 21-28 - Spokane, Washington...Sunday, we stop at the Rosauer's Super Market and purchase a supply of buffalo tenderloins and ground meat. By noon we are at the Ponderosa Hilts RV Park. The ad in Trailer Life's Campground directory highlighted their 50 amp service with individually run circuits for power unaffected by your neighbor, When we arrive it is a pleasant surprise to see four parking spaces, each large enough for a rig and tow car; most of the time we park and block all traffic at a narrow entrance white registering. For folks who arrive after closing they provide a 50-amp outlet; a convenience for those without generator. This park also has an RV/car wash, furnishing cable TV at no added charge and (a first for us) free telephones at each campsite. Local calls are no charge and we have a private line that rings in the coach. Unfortunately the sites and roads are topped with granite chips but that is better than the oil topping we stepped over and around throughout the western states. The landscaping throughout the park enhances the tall pines and we decide to stay through the weekend. However, we move to a nicer site with more grass, heavier shade and neighbors not quite so close.
The week at Spokane is a quiet one. We use the convenience of a phone in the coach to get some much needed business accomplished. It's great to be able to have a comfortable place to use the telephone. A trip into town to the Travel Bookstore for map and guides to the Baja and an excellent meal at Europa Pizzeria and Bakery is our only entertainment. TJ does some minor touch-up to the paint on the Bird. You may know that we always use the CB when backing the rig; except once, when the ladder on the rear of the Bird met a tree in the Madina Lake camp ground. The subsequent repair by our friend, Bill Mabry, left the ladder in desperate need of painting. With some sanding, priming and the use of a small artist paintbrush the ladder looks great.
Friday morning early, we are off to Spokane to have the dogs bathed and groomed. After cleaning Logan's vomit out of the car and while they suffer through a morning of having odors removed, we do some sightseeing in Spokane. Our first stop is at a restored formal garden and greenhouse. The three-acre garden is of classic formal style; the colors and geometric design are delightful. Nearby is a much smaller but, no less beautiful, perennial garden. Just down the block is a Japanese garden of quiet walks and flowing water so very different from the other gardens. This is a lovely city (beautiful hills and landscaping) and there is a lot to see and do; but we should be here in June when it is much cooler. After an !UGH! lunch, we retrieve the dogs and head home to spend a quiet afternoon in the coach and out of the heat.
Saturday is a quiet day at home. T. J. does some more touch-up painting on the Bird and give the hounds a chance to soak up some sun outside. By noon we're inside (all three air conditioners running) to hide from the heat as the temperature climbs into the high 90's. We use the convenience of the phone in the coach to make reservations for the next ten days. The buffalo tenderloins are wonderful, tender and moist; wish there was more room in the freezer.
On Sunday it is wash day again so TJ is there early to beat the heat. By 11:00 a.m., he is back at the coach suggesting (demanding) a change in plans; cancel all reservations and head to the coast to find cool temperatures. So we use the very handy phone and rework all of yesterday's reservations.
July 29-Aug. 5 -- Traveling to the coast... We drive on I90, heading west, through an area that looks to be a continuation of Arizona's high desert country. Irrigation allows the growth of wheat, potatoes, barley and corn of every variety. Signs posted! on the fences identify the crops; we enjoy knowing what is growing in the fields. Guessing simply makes for arguments and joint frustration.
Our planned overnight stop, Moses lake, was 105 degrees yesterday so when we have unexpectedly cool and misty (60 degree) weather we take advantage and plan to overnight closer to Seattle. On the way we must descend into the Columbia River gorge, cross the river and then ascend eleven miles up Vantage Hill to 2,000 feet elevation. The bottom half of this hill is 5% grade and the top half is 4%. Inexperienced as we are, our concern is how will the Bird perform? Will we slow to a crawl ( 10 or 15 mph) by the top of the hill? Will the engine or transmission overheat? As it happens the only problem is the cramp in Frankie's foot from holding the accelerator pedal to the floor. The engine temperature stays under 220 degrees, the transmission never exceeds 210 degrees and the speed never falls below 45 mph. We are grateful for the Bird's performance.
Lake Easton Resort (CC) is a maze of sites so heavily used that it is impossible to tell the dirt roads from the dirt sites; astonishing that the trees can continue to thrive with all this traffic. After supper we have a fun domino game with our very close neighbor, a couple from New Orleans.
By 9:00 a.m. the next morning, we are on the road for a short seventy mile drive to Trailer Inns RV Park, a private park in Bellevue (east of Seattle). We want to check it out and determine if we want to reserve a week in September so that we can explore Seattle. Trailer Life lied, again. One minute after entering the park we are ready to move on; the park is a paved parking lot with RVs parked about six feet apart. Space is at such a premium that we must unhook the car to make the corner as we leave. The easy day soon turns into a difficult trial; after two months of traveling little-used roads we are in jammed-up traffic as we motor south on I405. Construction workers are doing major road repair for seven miles and then as we move on to I5 we find those lovely grids that bounce the fillings from your teeth; the Bird rarely rattles but in this case it is difficult to hold the steering wheel and every thing in the coach is bouncing. At Federal Way we pull into a mall for pizza; it is a must to get off the road for a rest before Frankie stresses-out. Once we make Tacoma the road becomes the standard, smooth and easy Interstate and on to Olympia, then thirty more miles to a park at Elma. Our reservations at Ocean City are for tomorrow so we must find something tonight; no luck at Elma but they suggest continuing on for forty miles to a park closer to the Pacific Ocean. Finally we are at American Adventure - Ocean Shores Resort; only 50 sites occupied out of 330. We find a beautiful, secluded spot with shade and grass; grass means that we wÓll not be sweeping more than once each day. The American Adventure organization is in the last stages of bankruptcy and one of their economies is the dismantling of their reservation system; all other RV parks in this area are at no vacancy status but this beautiful wall flower sits virtually empty. Sewer service is available two times a week so we will be conservative in our water usage and the power is iffy so we will use propane as much as possible. The weather is great and we can hear the boom of the surf when we step outside the coach. After days of hot temperatures, we feel a cool, almost cold, breeze off the water and the temperature is in the low seventies.
On Wednesday morning we cancel all previous reservations and plan to spend the week here; our next door neighbors are soon over to visit. Sharon and Lee owned the largest caterpillar dealership in Alaska before they re∑ tired and began fulltiming. A chance remark by Frankie about our refrigerator NOT switching to propane as it should and, Lee, with TJ looking on, is soon solving our problem. An adjustment to the thermocoupler and we are in business.
The nearest town of any size is Ocean Shores, located along Gray's Harbor on a sand peninsula. We find our way to an "interpretive center" that provides us with information on the flora, fauna and history of the area. There is also a state park at the very end of the peninsula; just grasses, dunes and beach, it is more a protected area than a park though there is access to the beach. Dark gray sand; occasional boulders, one foot to four feet in diameter; and massive stacks of drift wood line the high tide mark. The timber is silver gray and must be strays from logging operations; but the enormous trees, roots aimed at the sky, are storm survivors. Certainly different from oui Texas beaches.
Friday, we pile the dogs in the car for a drive north along the coast (Logan does NOT vomit). To us this is a dramatically different coastline because of the evergreen covered hills marching down to the beach. What a delight it would be to have a home on one of these hills high above the Pacific Ocean. Along one stretch of highway we find a beach access and we realize that the dogs car run without leads. Hilda at first just runs at full speed then tries to get Logan to play (he doesn't appreciate her attempts to bowl him over) and then chases birds; a new behavior. Soon a wet sand-covered dog is ready to go tc the car; cautious, conservative Logan is still clean. Then drive up the western coastline exposes the long-lasting effect of clear-cutting a forest. Our campground also ha: huge stumps, four to six feet high and some over thirty feet in circumference; but it a shocker to see mile after mile of clear-cut old growth forest. The replanting techniques in effect since legislation in the `80s allow for more rapid regrowth, though timber companies usually plant a single quick-growing specie. The diversity of a naturally occurring forest ecosystem is lost when trees are replanted artificially.
Frankie notes from their itinerary that our friends, Don and Nancy Stromenger, are at an RV park about two miles away. We stop for a quick visit; the dogs all go wild. We schedule lunch on Saturday at a small inn in Moclips about twenty miles up the coast. Located three hundred feet above the beach with a picture postcard view of the Pacific through fir and cedar trees, this Chamber of Commerce recommendation is worthwhile. The food is good and the dessert great; a pleasant afternoon.
Aug. 6-22 -- Around The Olympic Peninsula... The promise of continued cool weather draws us northward along the west coast of the peninsula. The road moves inland for some distance (around the Quinault Indian Reservation) and then rejoins the coast at Queets. The views of the Pacific Ocean, down through the forest, are breathtaking. A park employee at the Kalaloch Ranger Station gives us the bad news that the beach campground is full (once again we are traveling without reservations) and that other inland campgrounds (most built in the '40s) are not equipped to handle rigs over 30' in length. We find a spot at Forks 101 RV Park in Forks, Washington; grassy, level sites but the owner is not dog people and cannot believe we are responsible pet owners. Even if the firing range was not next door, even if the slum trailer park did not share the entrance road, we would not stay past tomorrow's noon check-out time.
Although moving to Sequim today, we must drive the thirty miles to see the Hoh Rain Forest. This is the only undisturbed temperate rain forest in the contiguous United States. The western valleys of the Olympic Mountains receive 90 to 200 inches of rain annually. Three factors produce this amazing amount: the cool ocean currents, the prevailing westerly winds and the mountains. When moisture-laden clouds moving east from the Pacific meet the mountains, they rise sharply. The clouds cool further and release their moisture in the form of rain or snow. Much of the moisture has rained out of the clouds by the time they cross the mountains. July and August are the driest months of the year with 4 to 5 inches each month. The Visitor's Center in the Hoh Valley (142 inches of rain yearly) is at the trail head of three short trails that give us a good view of the various forest types. The old forest consists of Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar. Record-size trees tower hundreds of feet in the air; a Douglas fir measuring 298 feet in height and 448 inches in circumference grows along the South Fork Hoh River Trail. The visitor's center is full of curious facts for inquiring folks and we think one of the most interesting the occurrence of "nurse logs". Fallen, decayed trees become nurse logs for new seedlings, which otherwise would be crowded out on the forest floor. "Colonnades" of trees standing in a row are the grown-up seedlings that rooted on nurse logs. The wet conditions and difficulty of removing the timber have left this forest untouched by the timber industry. We learn from the Park Ranger that a healthy forest's undergrowth is not overly crowded. Surprisingly, Roosevelt elk serve as landscape architects: their browsing determines where various plants can live. Elk ignore the fungi and the ferns suffer trampling but no browsing; 6,000 pounds of moss and lichens grow in one acre of land in the rain forest.
Returning to the rig, we walk the dogs, hookup the car and head north and east on US101; because of the Olympic Mountains this is the only highway that runs completely around the peninsula. Next time we are in this area we want to visit La Push, the Makah Indian Reservation and Pillar Point; all are on the water and each is unique. Crescent Lake is stunning and has a variety of fish that exists no where else; hope we can come back. Port Angeles (18K pop.) is where we will take the ferry to Victoria. Reaching the north coast, the traffic increases dramatically and with it the stress of driving. Wally World is here! A good place for a rest and we must replenish all paper goods, cakes, printer paper and cleaning supplies. Wal-Mart is very competitive with the small town grocers and we try to shop there at every opportunity. TJ drives ahead to find a place for the night while Frankie naps. He finds Rainbow's End in Sequim (12 to 15 inches of rain yearly); spotlessly clean, nicely landscaped, good power, extremely crowded. We will stay here two days to allow for a day of rest for Frankie and the dogs; there are folks in the park who have come for the entire summer. I've read the park rules to the kids and I hope they understand that they will not squat or heist a leg on the way to the dog potty area; we will try!
A short drive eastward on Friday, August 9, takes us to the Escapees co-op park at Chimacum. Small with a limited number of weekly rental spots but, as always, everyone is friendly and the laundry is very clean. While in boondock (when we need it) we discover that our refrigerator is once again inoperable on gas. The park staff recommends Red Barn RV Repair. TJ is soon there trying to purchase a new thermocoupler. While no new thermocouplers are in stock, a box under the workbench yields a used one. Ron, the owner, says YES to a house call so two hours and $20 later we have a working refrigerator. Mexican Train at the clubhouse Saturday and Sunday nights; new rules again. Monday, we drive up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park. This ridge of mountains, sixteen miles from the coast, is over 5,000 feet high and, gives us a panoramic view of the snow covered Olympic Mountains on one side and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. From this vantage point we can see Victoria, Canada and Mt. Baker in the Cascade Mountains in northern Washington. Pinochle tonight at the club house; first time we've ever played five tables, interesting.
Don and Nan Stromenger arrive on Wednesday with their dogs, Sassy and Pepper. We go to "Cafe Piccolo," a recommendation from the Port Townsend tourist office, and the meal turns out to be the best we have eaten since we left Houston. An appetizer of Whidbey Island mussels in a wine sauce; each tender bite is full of the most delightful flavor. Follow this with fresh salmon prepared with a crisp crust and a moist center then a finish of the best cup of coffee and dessert since Louisiana.
Port Townsend (25K pop.) is one of the few tourist towns that lives up to its advertising. Toward the end of the 1800's almost all commerce coming into the west coast came through this port; the third largest in the country. The commercial district, at the waters' edge, dates from the 1870's. Sea otters go about their daily business not fifty feet beyond the main street of town. The residential area begins on the bluff overlooking the main street. Previously a customs house, the post office is the dominate structure on the bluff; an impressive native-stone structure of three stories with intricate decorative carvings. There are numerous Victorian houses, in beautiful condition, commanding views of Puget Sound. Tourism and boat related industries support the economy. A "wooden boat school" teaches the art of building wooden boats. Unfortunately we missed this year's open house and display of boats.
A second visit by Red Barn RV gives us the bad news that the air conditioner in the living room is beyond repair. The pleasant surprise is that he will install a new unit for just $10 more than the Camper World sale price. He has to order the unit so we make an appointment for the following week. If a small business like this can order a single unit (their first Dometic in two years) and make a profit for just $10 more than Camper World charges, can you imagine CW's profit ratio?
Played bridge last night with Morgan and Win Milliran, our new neighbors. We enjoy talking to someone who really is a native Texan; they are from Arlington and are on a long vacation.
Thirty-five miles south in Brinnon is Black Point, a TT/NACO (91-acre resort on the Hood Canal. The canal separates Bainbridge Island from the Olympic Peninsula and flows into Puget Sound. We are able to find a beautiful spot looking out onto the canal. It's pleasant to look out the passenger side of the coach and see blue water and on the other side look upward to the mountains where clouds hang on every peak. By Sunday afternoon we ran see no other RV as almost everyone has left for home; now what you hear is a loud silence.
COMMENT: Human herd mentality is amazing; there are 300 vacant campsites and two rigs have just pulled in and occupied the spaces next to us. Why? Of the 100 or so rigs currently in the park thirty are at the top of a hill parked so close they look like stacked cordwood. We like to find a parking spot with no one else in sight; many people prefer to hear their neighbors flush!
On Wednesday, Don and Nan join us; the four dogs have a chance to play and we have a wonderful "Don-cooked" meal of beans with ham hock, cornbread and coleslaw.
Thursday morning, we return to Chimacum and Red Barn RV Repair to have the new air conditioner installed in the Bird. There are no problems but we must find a way to add trim around the new unit because it is smaller in size then the old. Obviously manufacturers don't consider replacement when they design new units. Tonight we boondock at the SKP park and do laundry.
Aug. 23-30 -- La Conner... On Friday morning we will take the Bird on it's first ocean cruise; a ferry ride from Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula to Whidbey Island. Last week, we visited the ferry landing at Port Townsend and watched as RV's loaded on to the ferry and even talked to an employee who assured us that there was "nothing to it." These ferries carry eighteen-wheelers all the time; nevertheless, Thursday night Frankie had bad dreams of the ferry sinking with us on board. We plan our arrival to coincide with the departure of the ferry so that we will be first in line for the next sailing. Only one other car ahead of us; the cost is a modest $30 with the Bird and car separated. Loading goes without a hitch; Frankie makes the trip in the Bird, keeping the dogs company, while TJ roams the passenger area and enjoys the beautiful view. Thirty plus minutes later we are unloading on Whidbey Island. We eat breakfast in the adjacent parking lot while the traffic clears and hookup the Saturn. Frankie is happy that the ferry is still afloat and there are no new dents or scratches on the Bird.
Our destination is a forty mile, one hour, drive up Whidbey Island and on this curvy road there are many breathtaking views of the neighboring islands, Olympic Mountains and snow-covered Mt. Baker. Whidbey is the second largest island in the continental U.S.; don't know what the largest is. We cross the bridge spanning Deception Pass, a narrow gorge that divides Whidbey and Fidalgo Island. With a drop of what must be 300 feet to the water, the view west toward the Pacific and down at the rushing tide waters is spectacular. TJ remembers some of the narrow spaces through which the Rio Grande River flows only this water is dark green and beautiful. A road sign on the bridge proves the old adage "one picture is worth a thousand words." The sign is a sketch of the wide mirror on the passenger side of a truck or RV hitting the head of a pedestrian; no question that you best watch your back or at least the back of your head if you walk across this bridge.
The TT park at La Conner proves to be a disappointment although much praised by many people we've met. After the beauty and space offered by Black Point this park is second rate but then we know that every RV'er has a different set of expectations. The park is small (110 acres), crowded (300 sites plus 35 rental units), and overused with almost no grass. Don and Nan find two sites with minimum traffic and therefore less dust. They are as disappointed as we; so we agree to see the sights and ignore the campground.
A word about the state run ferries of Washington. Currently the state operates about fifteen different ferry routes with private ferries covering additional routes. The state ferries range in size from almost 500 feet able to load 300 cars and 2500 passengers down to 150 feet.
Two of these carry only passengers and travel time ranges from 25 minutes to two hours. The cost can range from $3.00 for a "walk-on" to $50.00 for an eighteen-wheeler (charged in 10-feet increments). The larger ferries allow you to load your vehicle and then move to the glass-enclosed passenger deck for an unrestricted view of the Washington coastlines. The state ferries transport 15 million passengers each year.
Monday, the Stromengers and the Foxes are $4.95 "walk-ons" (round-trip fare) at the ferry dock in Anacortes; we will dock at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, the largest of the San Juan Islands. We tried this on Saturday but turned back and walked Anacortes rather than deal with the large crowd of people. We stay busy watching the passing scenery and playing cards during the hour voyage. There is a mini traffic jam as the ferry unloads; Friday Harbor proves to be a tourist town full of hills and crowded with autos. We have four hours to visit the Whale Museum, walk up and down the main streets to visit numerous shops, enjoy the waterfront view and find a good seafood lunch. We share a substantial bowl of Whidbey mussels, clam chowder and Frankie guards her Dungeness crab cakes from marauders. Bees are the only distraction while we eat outdoors; they actually land on forks traveling from plate to mouth. Coastal Washington seems to have very few flies but bees are prevalent and this is the worst; at least they do not sting!
Traveling with someone who has dogs allows one couple to spend a full day away from home sightseeing while the other "dog sits." Don and Nan make a trip to Seattle, about 70 miles away, on Tuesday and we take our turn on Thursday, August 29. We stop by a vet clinic in Everett for 60 pounds of Wysong dog food and miscellaneous food supplements and check out several RV parks for possible long-term visits.
The primary reason for this trip into town is the Pike Street Market. It has been in the same location for ninety years; downtown and adjacent to the harbor. It covers several blocks in numerous buildings, as well as open-air booths. Because of Seattle's hilly terrain it also has six levels. There is fresh seafood available; a meat market that sells lamb tongues, prime beef, sweetbreads, ham hocks and sausages; flower stalls, Italian markets, Mexican markets, all kinds of restaurants, the required espresso stands and almost anything else you can imagine. The fish market is a show in itself with beautiful thirty pound salmon and dinner-plate sizes Dungeness crabs on display.
A hawker stands in front of the display and sells to the passing crowd. People also stand nearby hoping to see the "flying fish" (a fish thrown from the back over the counter and caught by one of the peddlers to fill an empty spot in the display). They will package your seafood purchases for travel times of 2 to 72 hours. We lunch at Ivor's Restaurant, a Seattle institution; from our corner table we have a view of the ferry dock and harbor while we devour Ivor's infamous clam chowder.
Aug. 30-Sept 10 -- Blaine, Washington... Friday dawns with rain and the prospect of a stressful trip to Birch Bay and our next stopping place; Don and Nan are traveling with us. The misting rain, coupled with road repairs, does make for a slow trip; thank goodness we only have eighty miles to go. It is a crowded campground and where we park our rigs is not an easy decision; the hookups obviously are an economical design by someone who has never been in an RV. M inexperienced RVer might initially back into a site, get out to hook his electric, water and sewer and then realize the connections are at the center of each group of four sites. Most rigs, designed with their sewer, water, and electrical outlets in the driver's side compartments, will find only two out of every four sites with easy access. The Stromengers have no choice with their fifth wheel; back in and snake the water and electric lines under the coach to the right rear. We pull in and with our left side close to the sewer dump use thirty feet of sewer hose to reach the connection. The park does offer level spaces, friendly people, a place to Frisbee with Hilda and Logan and a spot off the street for the holiday weekend; plus the best campground dinner (salmon) we've ever eaten. On Tuesday after the Labor Day holiday the park really clears out; Don and Nan are able to move next door so that we now share "front yards:"
We will spend ten days here taking the opportunity to visit and tourist with Don and Nan. Blaine is both a border crossing and home of one-half the Peace Arch State Park. Bisected by I5, the park lies on the boundary between the US and Canada; the centerpiece is a massive bipedal edifice that rests in each country. The Peace Arch itself was built with volunteer labor from both the US and Canada and the beautifully landscaped park areas were completed with donations from Washington and British Columbia school children. Engraved across the face of the monument facing America is "Children of a Common Mother," while the Canadian side reads "Brethren Dwelling Together in Unity." A bronze plaque on the American side bears a replica of the pilgrim ship, Mayflower; a similar plaque on the Canadian side illustrates the furtrade ship, Beaver. 27,000 annuals provide a gorgeous colored pallet while we visit.
The town of Lynden advertises its Dutch heritage with windmills and a reputation for extreme cleanliness. We take a walking tour in the oldest part of downtown, investigate a museum and indulge in dessert. Nan and I find the Farmer's Market is only three tables but we fill our coffers with a full range of organically grown vegetables, fresh flowers and delightful cheeses. By Thursday, however, it has started to drizzle and for the next four days we have classic Upper Pacific coast weather. TJ is incapacitated by his first bout with allergies/hay fever in five years.
Sept. 8 Vancouver, BC... Nan and Frankie take off for a day of adventure and discover refreshment for the soul: the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. This is the only full-scale classical garden constructed outside of China. A 52-man team of experts from the City of Suzhou, under the leadership of master architects, spent an entire year constructing the garden. Hand-fired roof tiles, carved woodwork, lattice windows, limestone rocks and the courtyard pebbles were shipped from China, We are frustrated by our time limitation but we wander Chinatown (the third largest the Americas) and prowl the tourist area. Our lunch was interesting and the steam clock chimed (puffed and bonged) the hour as we left for home. I'm looking forward to our planned visit to Canada next year.
Sept. 10-16 -- Whidbey Island... Don and Nan say good bye on Monday and the next day we head south. Our plan is to return to Whidbey Island for a brief stay and then ferry to Port Townsend. After a brief stay on the peninsula we will move southward to see Mt. St. Helens and then into Oregon. The drive to our Tuesday night goal is a eighty miles over familiar roads. The park is located just south of Deception Pass; we negotiate the narrow bridge over this dramatic site once more. The park is, not unexpectedly, old with poor voltage and dirt sites One night will be enough here. The camp does offer, we're sure not by design, a chance to experience what the forest must have been like for early settlers. While TJ is finishing setup Frankie takes the dogs for a walk just behind oui site. later TJ takes the same walk of about 100 yards This forest is by no means virgin; the trees must be sixty or more years old. It looks much like the Hoh Rain Forest we visited earlier. The forest floor is dangerously uneven with an undetermined amount of accumulated humus. Dead trees of six inches to three feet diameter and in various stages of decomposition block the way at every step. Young trees spring from nurse logs and ferns take up every open space. After trying to walk in this small area, we can understand why the first explorers of the Olympic Peninsula took ninety days to travel the sixty mites from the coast to Hurricane Ridge. Managing twenty feet in a straight line is an impossible feat; travel without a compass would be folly and finding a clear level spot to set up camp, difficult.
Wednesday morning we have our shortest travel day to date, a total of twelve miles. Our destination is City Beach RV Park in Oak Harbor (pop. 19,000). This park, run by the Lions Club, offers full hookups, good play area for the dogs, and a good beach with a view of Saratoga Pass. Conditions are right; think we will stay longer than initially planned. We quickly establish a dialog with our neighbors, three couples from the area who are here for the fishing. We also meet Nebraska natives, Jack and C. J. Gunderson, the fortunate owners of a handsome border collie.
Just like a house, there is always maintenance; today two problems; the fresh water supply to the commode is not working and the TV is dead. Red Barn RV Repair can do the toilet but the TV? Thirty minutes later TJ has the name and telephone number for "Dutch" who works out of his home; there are no TV repair shops in town. With some trepidation we contact "Dutch" and make arrangements for a "house call." Dutch arrives within forty-five minutes and has the set working thirty minutes and forty dollars later. Dutch, originally from Garland Texas, has moved here to be close to his son; another split family. We consider ourselves lucky to get the work done so quickly. Friday, we decide to drive the ten miles to Coupevifle, a small (1,500 pop.) tourist town originally settled by the sea captains that built the first settlement on this protected harbor. The town is interesting and soon provides another example of "it's a small world." Walking through town we see a handwritten advertisement for Cajun food. Immediately we both say "Yea, I'll bet" but, it's on the way back to the car so we'll stop in and see who's doing the cooking. When we find the cook isn't from Louisiana we are almost out the door when we learn she is from Beaumont. Close enough! After sampling the fresh baked cornbread, we decide to return the next day for lunch.
John and Julia have been in business for about a year. She visited the area long ago on vacation and vowed to return to live someday. She has a menu full of "coon-ass" items and complemented by other southern dishes. Her typical customer is not the tourist, who wants clam chowder and seafood, but, the locals who want something different. As we enter Julia indicates she will prepare us a "sampler". We soon have Texas caviar (black-eyed peas) to eat with Fritos, then comes a bowl of shrimp chowder and another of chicken and dumplings, next individual servings of shrimp remoulade. Just about the time we think we are ready for dessert, Julia brings out the "main" course: red beans and rice, Texas corn bake, jambalaya and a small plate of crawfish etouffee. We eat until we cannot eat; then we sample the bread pudding. We carry doggy bags and three meals for the future to the car before our walking tour of the tourist shops that line the main drag. We whole-heartily recommend the "Whale and Gator" in Coupeville, Whidbey Island, Washington.
COMMENT... The people of Washington continue to be the friendliest people we have met outside the south. In the campgrounds, they smile and say "Good Morning." In the stores, the clerks are pleasant and helpful; they will strike up a conversation with you at the drop of a hat and seem interested in what you have to say. In Oak Harbor, a teenager on a skateboard actually said "thank you" when TJ gave him the right-of-way at an intersection. Can you believe it? In both the big cities and small towns the folk: are open and warm, a real pleasure to be around.
Leaving Oak Harbor we approach the ferry as old hands no more sweaty palms and nightmares about the ship sinking. The ride is uneventful and after an overnight and laundry at the SKP park we visit Ron at Red Barn RV Repair. This time we finish within an hour; our commode's water supply hose was loose.
The Gundersons recommend Port Ludlow RV Park twenty minutes away; it is small, wooded and very quiet. Three nights here and bath time for the dogs who have a "healthy" aroma. Carolyn, of Cassi's Hair Place (within walking distance of the coach), gave Frankie a 10 haircut bless her; the previous cut in Port Townsend was 0.
Sept, 20 -- Leave Olympic Peninsula... We've enjoyed this time on the Washington coast more than any other location in our travels. The climate is much to Frankie's liking i.e., cool and moist. The beaches, HoH rain forest and snow capped mountains are a dramatic backdrop for the friendly people; we would love to live here permanently. Discouraging is the cost of housing; even a modest home can be $60/sq. ft. with new homes at $100/sq. ft., higher if there is an ocean view. Almost everywhere we travel in Washington there are reminders of the vast amount of timber removed from the state. Every campground seems to have its quota of huge rotting stumps; these mementos of early forests conjure up a picture of trees six to ten feet in diameter reaching over two hundred feet in height. An excessive environmental price paid to provide lumber for the rest of us. We read recently of the decision by one timber company to cut an area of virgin redwoods that are over two thousands years old; most of the high quality lumber is shipped to Japan.
Sept. 20-30 -- Mount St. Helens... TT-Chehalis, a beautiful, heavily wooded six hundred acres, has only 30 full-hookup sites out of 300; we are fortunate and get the last sewered site available. Walking the dogs at night we have a beautiful view through the trees of the moon moving toward full. During the day we can see Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens from different vantage points. There are lots of walking trails for the dogs with deer, rabbits and squirrels to keep them alert and attentive. Off season and full hookups makes this a Perfect Campground.
Saturday, we attend our first TT "manager's" meeting (within the Thousand Trails system an informational meeting is held weekly). John Carver is new to the park (three months) with ideas for improving facilities and service.
Rain on "Wash Day" Sunday, Monday dawns bright and clear; we're on the road for the drive to Mt. St. Helens. Our first stop is a visitor's center. Here we view a film, walk through the middle of a (mini) volcano, make an earthquake by stomping our feet and watch a computer simulation of the earthquake activity leading up to the 1980 eruption. From this distance (42 miles) and viewpoint all we can see is a flat-topped mountain covered with snow. Next stop is a county-run visitor's center some twenty miles closer; not much here except a great view of the mountain. Our final destination is the Cold Ridge Visitor's Center only six miles from the crater. This location offers a different perspective; we are north of the mountain and can look directly into the hole left by the blast. Our surroundings are completely new, buildings and plants; everything within a 16 mile radius is within the blast zone. Every bridge from here to Interstate 5 some forty miles away was washed out. Attempting to describe the destruction and the impact of the mountain is very difficult. Try to imagine a blast that lowered the mountain by 1500 feet and left a gaping hole in the north wall one mile wide from east to west and over one and one half miles running north to south. Massive amounts of material flowed into the valley to the west pushing huge boulders and trees as if they were pebbles and toothpicks. The volume of snow, ice and water moving down the mountain and toward the coast was enough to supply every home in the country with water for one full day. All of this happened in less then one minute. Everyone has seen the video footage of the blast but nothing can compare to seeing the mountain "up close and personal."
Wednesday, Frankie edits the newsletter and TJ turns dirty clothes into clean ones. It is a beautiful day with an almost full moon rising at dark; the weather forecast promises a good view of the lunar eclipse on Thursday. Thursday, we pick up mail at Napavine, ten miles away, and then head for Chehalis six miles up the Interstate. Our plan is to shop at Wally World, the grocery store and visit the library. We stumble upon the local CofC office and they recommend Plaza Jalisco (I5, exit 79); forget the shopping, this is our first Mexican food fix since North Dakota. The food is great; Chili Verde and Tacos al Carbon as good as any we've had. We eat until stuffed and scrape the remainder into a doggie-bag.
The advertisement for Mt. St. Helens Ash Works forces us to stop at the Centralia Factory Outlet and there we watch one of the two young men who do glass blowing on site. A glass enclosed workshop at the rear of the store allows us to watch. This method of glass blowing has seen no basic changes in thousands of years. Using a long metal tube the glass blower extracts a lump of molten glass from a furnace operating at 2200 degrees. He then goes through an intricate process of using ground colored glass to add color and pattern to his work. Their talent is obvious; we decide to have an item made for a family member's Christmas gift. We watch as it's made but will have pick it up tomorrow after it cools.
Oct 1-7 -- Seaview & Long Beach... Leaving the mountains (or at least the hills) we will travel one hundred miles, our longest drive in some time. South on I5 to Longview, a very busy industrial town, and we cross the Columbia River into Oregon. Westward and upward, 4 to 7% grades, then along the southern bank of the river to Astoria. Looks like an interesting town, very old and obviously a major fishing port; then we cross the 4.4 mile, longest, continuous-truss bridge in America back into Washington. The high span of the bridge allows oceangoing freighters to pass beneath on their way to the Pacific, a stunning view.
The TT/NACO park is fifteen miles north on the Long Beach Peninsula and is about 1,200 feet from the ocean. The hookups, designed by the same idiot who built Birch Bay, have electric, water and sewer clustered to serve four sites. At this time of year, the park is only 40% full so there's no problem finding a good site. Looking out our front window we can see undeveloped land along the park boundary and a range of hills beyond. This is the first time since Spokane that we have the luxury of 50-amp service; just think, we can use the toaster, microwave and water heater all at once.
To our delight, Tuesday dawns bright and clear with the promise of a great day. Although there is frost on the grass and ice on the tops of garbage cans, it soon gives way to the warm sun. By ten o'clock the four of us are on our way to the beach. This area is quiet and peaceful at this time of year; we can allow the dogs off lead. The high grass on either side of the path helps to point them in the right direction. It is a beautiful wide, white beach; we are the only occupants. To the north, the beach extends almost thirty miles; south, we can see a tree-capped cliff thrusting its way up from the ocean with waves crashing at the base. We both agree that the crest of this hill, two hundred feet above the water, would be a great place for a house. After a spirited walk, we walk and Hilda runs, we trudge back home to remove the sand, eat lunch and nap.
Long Beach is thought to contain the spot where Clark trekked inland from the Pacific in 1805 to carve his name on a tree. It is believed to be the western-most point reached by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. We are looking forward to touring Old Town, an area that looks like an idealized vision of the 1920s.
Fortunately the weather has turned nasty, heavy rain, so we have the opportunity to finish this. Hope you don't find us too boring; we look forward to mail from you.
Colorado and Wyoming in the Spring/Summer of 1995
Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin in the Summer of 1995
Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Washington State - June through July, 1996
Travelling along the California coast in the Winter of 1996
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