Category Archives: Uncategorized

October 30, 2018, Home Again

We off-loaded Li’l Beast yesterday; amazing the amount of “stuff” we took with us and accumulated along the way on this past trip.  I’ll read through and post the drafts for the past few days of travel later today.

Home was waiting for us, just as we left it, clean and uncluttered; that was before we unpacked.  Already I miss the fun we have planning the next day’s adventure without a care for life’s responsibilities.  I miss Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, Victoria, Whidbey Island, Ashland and Middleton too!  We would still be on the road, but for the cold weather, rain, and snow we encountered. The weather chased us west, then south.  Here at home we have a sunny brisk day with hardly a cloud in the sky.  Our electric cars are both healthy, charged up, and ready to go.  Reminds me of Obama’s famed chant, “Fired Up! Ready to go.”

Speaking of “ready to go”, I just got off the phone with a Hurtigruten representative who said the Northern Lights Astronomical Cruise is sold out!  The Astronomical Cruise is a gathering of astronomers and tourists who board a Hurtigruten cruise ship for a trip along Norway’s coast. I confirmed my reservation and made final payment.  There are a limited number of double bed suites available on MS Trollfjord.  The fellow recommended that we arrive at the ship early and ask for a double bed cabin.  “No. The beds cannot be moved in the cabins, they’re bolted to the floor to keep them from moving around.”  He said we could book a cruise only room and perhaps get a double bed, but that we would not be able to attend the astronomy lectures presented by members of the astronomical society.  That’s the whole point of taking the northern lights astronomical cruise.  We’ll take our chances and arrive at the ship early.

November and December will be busy months.  Before we fly to Norway and Sweden,  we’ll have a family get-together at home, a family thanksgiving dinner in San Diego, a short excursion to Joshua Tree In Li’l Beast, then home for Christmas. We fly to Bergen, Norway Dec. 30th. 

Day 33 October 20 2018, Victoria BC Day 3

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Yesterday’s Walk

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A Foggy View toward the Inner Harbor

FOG? Again?

I slept “ok”, poorly for me.  I could sleep through a hurricane or a train wreck. My knee recently whacked in my bicycle “accident” was acting up.  I awoke early and saw a clear morning.  Just a few hours later, the fog rolled in.  Visibility went from miles to feet in a few minutes.  Oh well, we’ll make the best of it.

We rolled out of bed around 8 AM listening to NPR streamed on my iPhone.  This mimics our morning routine at home.  Espresso, some cereal, and we were ready to greet the day.  What? It’s 10:30 AM?  At least the fog had rolled out.  The day promised to be a glorious fall day in Victoria.

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My knee was not getting better.   To save “the gimp” (my new self imposed moniker) we decided to take the water taxi to old town in search of a great bakery.  I had researched two: Murchie’s and Crust Bakery.  We would pass Murchie’s on he way to Crust.

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Ferry Pickup Information

We picked up the water taxi at the Marina just past RV Haven.  A sign said call with a number for pickup.  I called and a taxi was on the way, it would be 15 minutes.  A short time later the water taxi came into view and stopped for us and another family of four.  The water taxis are cute little ovoid diesel driven enclosed bubbles with windows all about and an open doorway centered on either side.  They chug chug along with the driver acting as tour guide pointing out things of interest to you or to himself as you go.  “Now we are crossing runway B, this is the only waterway that crosses a runway.”  “There is the control tower.  We’ll be stopping at Fisherman’s Wharf.  Where are you going?”  “Old Town”, we could have stopped at “The Empress”, but I wasn’t sure my knee would cooperate over distance.  I very highly recommend taking a water taxi at least once if you visit Victoria, they’re a blast.

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View over the Inner Harbor toward the Delta Hotel

Disembarking at Old Town, we walked the stairway from the harbor, crossed at “The Local”, and continued up Bastion Square.  Murchie’s is past Bastion Square to the right half a block.  It was easy to find with the crowd headed into the bakery.  Murchie’s is less a bakery than a confectioners; more a coffee shop with pastries.  We looked around and continued on to Crust Bakery.

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I remembered it was left at the next block then down a long block and on the right.  We didn’t find it!  No problem, dial up the address and off we went, around the block and back to the same street, but on the other side.  There it was, Crust Bakery.  It is small.  Most of their baked goods are in the front window beside the doorway.  Inside there is a narrow counter running along the right side with simple steel stool seating.  They have coffee, espresso, and remarkable baked goods.  Here there was a line too, but unlike Murchie’s, these folks were local.  We asked for almond croissants, which was Ellen’s driving motivation for baked goods.  “I’m sorry, we sold all our almond croissants early this morning.  We have almond Danish left.”  Ellen asked “Are they good?”  “Yes, they are very good.  We usually sell out of them early in the morning too.  I’m surprised we have any left!”  Ellen had one.  I asked if they had anything with cherry.  “Yes, we have a cherry Danish”   We both ordered cappuccino and a cookie each along with our pastry.  Ellen opted for an oatmeal cookie; I was seduced by the double chocolate and pistachio one. My cherry Danish was wonderful as was Ellen’s almond one.  We bought two more before we left.  I recommend Crust Bakery.  Their baked goods are not super sweet, but rather flavorful and very well presented.

We hobbled on; I hobbled on, Ellen was doing just fine.  We went looking for ibuprofen and an ace bandage for my knee.  We happened on a Danish Bakery, Starbucks, Banks, Pubs, Restaurants, lots of business before seeing a drug store across the street.  They had generic ibuprofen, ace bandages, and fabric knee braces.  Perfect.  I was not sure if a small/medium or a large/X-large would fit.  Ellen asked the pharmacist and she suggested we try them on!  “I don’t understand how someone could buy one thinking the size is correct without trying them on”.  Cool.  The small/medium was a tight fit, but provided support.   With the knee brace in place and a couple of anti-inflammatory pills down the hatch, we wandered off.

The knee brace was astounding.  Somehow it kept my knee in place and made walking far less painful.  I could walk and not limp along!  In fact the more I walked the easier walking became.  Not 100%, not walking with ease, but walking full stride with minimal pain.  What a difference.  “Let’s go to the columnar building”  Ellen said.  It is along the waterfront past “The Empress” across from the parliamentary building.  It was a hike.  “Ok, that should be fine!”.

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Clearly a Challenge to Peloton’s Business Model

Along the way we stopped to watch a street performer rocking back and forth on an extremely high unicycle.  He was eloquent, a born barker who had his spiel down.  He was fun to listen to up to a point.  As we moved away, the Ferry, Coho, from Port Angeles came into the inner harbor with a few blasts of its horn.  “Let’s go see where we’ll get the ferry tomorrow.”  I said, not caring that we would be walking another few hundred yards past the columnar building.  My knee was feeling less like a wad of pain and more like a useful appendage.  We watched cars disembark and watched the first motorhomes drive on the ferry.  We’re set for tomorrow, we know where to go to catch the ferry.

We visited the Robert Bateman Center, which features the Robert Bateman Gallery, which features Robert Bateman’s photographs.  We didn’t visit the gallery, but we did stop in the gift shop which featured prints of his more famous works.  Funny, I found most of his photos just “OK”.  Compare any one of them with the photo of the Bison in Winter in Old Faithful’s Visitors Center and Robert Bateman will come up short.  I’m not being flippant, I’m just not impressed by his work. 

We walked across the street to the Hotel Grand Pacific and into the lobby.  We walked in, down the short lobby, and out.  Not much to see there.  Just past and a bit behind the hotel is a fountain and plaques commemorating the introduction of the provinces into Canada.  That was impressive.

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A Victoria Harbor Ferry

Rather than taking the water taxi back from The Empress, I suggested we walk back to Fisherman’s Wharf and take the taxi from there.  It would save a few bucks and we could see Fisherman’s wharf.  My knee was doing well in its brace.  We walked briskly thinking the ferries would shut down at 5PM.  At Fisherman’s Wharf we were told we would be taken back toward old town then taken back to the marina.  It seemed strange that we would go in the reverse direction practically back to where we started, then go to the marina.  That is exactly what happened.   We were ferried back to the marina along with three Chinese students.  The ferry captain had a good time pointing out hew buildings, that we were crossing runway A, or that there were tens of cameras monitoring harbor traffic.  We all had fun on our way back.   Well into the evening we saw ferries coming to the marina.  Clearly they did not shut down at 5 PM on a weekend evening.

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Evening View of the Inner Harbor from Li’l Beast

Day 32 October 19 2018, Victoria day 2

 

Ferries, Monkey Wrenches, Friends

This morning we had to sort out what happens Sunday.  Jerry & Michelle are very busy and held off our visit until Sunday afternoon the 21st.  That’s no problem for us, we went north to Victoria for a few days.  That’s proving to be big fun.

How to get from Victoria to Coupeville on Sunday afternoon?  I had  wanted to take the Anacortes ferry from Sidney through some of the San Juan Islands.  It’s a three hour ferry ride that loads at 12:00 on Sunday.  Ellen thought it better to retrace our steps returning to Port Angeles, driving to Port Townsend, then taking a ferry to Coupeville.  Going via Anacortes would get us to Coupeville about an hour later.  “No big deal”,  I claimed.  Ellen pointed out that the three hour ferry ride would cost more (correct) and we could both save money and arrive earlier going via Port Angeles.  Some battles are not worth fighting. 

The first ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles on Sunday showed first come first served.  All reservations were booked.   Oh crap, we’ll have to arrive early to get a slot on the ferry again. A one way ticket to Victoria for us was $134 where a round trip would have been $184.  I wanted to know could I get the round trip price going back.  I called Black Ball Ferries to see.  The woman on the phone said, “Let me see if there are reservations available.  There is one opening left on the 10:20 Sunday the 21st.”  Because I mentioned round trip pricing, she was a bit confused.  “When are you returning to Victoria?”  After some back and forth,   I made that reservation then asked about changing up my prior one way ticket. “We can do that. Just bring your paperwork when you arrive”   Great. 

Now what about the Port Townsend to Coupeville ferry?  This is a different ferry service.  Their website showed reservations available and I booked one.  I entered 24 feet for my motorhome length and almost finished the transaction when I read “If your vehicle is longer than the stated length you will be denied entry and will have to wait in standby for the next ferry”  Oops, I cancelled that reservation and made another for 28 feet.  black Ball had measured our motorhome with the bicycle rack on back as 28 feet.  Surprisingly, the fee for the additional 4 feet was the same.

We could not book a reservation getting to Victoria and had to get up (far too early IMO) to make the ferry.  Now our ferry “problem” is no problem.  We just have to drive from Port Angeles to Port Townsend in an hour and a half; easily doable.

It is important to make ferry reservations a few days ahead of travel dates and more than a few days for Saturday or Sunday travel.  Day  trippers can fill a ferry on the weekends.

We’re staying over another day, leaving Sunday.  I paid for the third evening and with directions to a local market, we left for provisions.  Site 12 is vacant and well park there when we return.  It has a wonderful view of Victoria across the bay.  The supermarket is just a few blocks down Lyall St.  Parking I heard an awful and very loud scraping sound.  Ellen and I looked at each other; Ellen’s expression “What did you do?”, mine “Oh Shit, this cannot be good”.  Outside we saw that I had driven so close to the curb that the exhaust pipe had scraped.  There was no damage done, but it sounded like the whole side of the rig had been scraped off!   In the market we found drinking water (something we always do though hardly necessary) and steak and squash for the BBQ tomorrow evening. 

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Driving back we encountered FOG!  The FOG grew progressively worse as we approached RV Heaven.  Site 12, with that remarkable view is socked in.  We can see water 20’ ahead and that’s it.  The second thing Ellen said when I parked in site 12 after griping about the fog?  “This doesn’t feel level, it goes downhill”, right.  I’ll just get out and level the cement pad.

With the fog, should we go whale watching?  I called Prince of Whales.  They have a boat that went out but have not heard back about conditions.  There’s a party of three who want to go out this afternoon.  It takes five to send a boat out.  If we chose to go they will put the boat out this afternoon,  but will delay until 2PM.  Is it foggy out in the islands?  I won’t know until the skipper returns.  OK, we’ll wait until 1PM then call back.  We could take a taxi there, it should be quick.  “Let me look that up, where are you staying”  “Yes, it’s an eight minute drive, should be no problem.”   I’ll call back.  It’s already noon! Tempus fugit.

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Stylish in her Survival Suit

We took a cab to victoria near The Empress.  The fog lifted as we drove clearing entirely at the visitors center.  We walked to Prince of Whales and signed up for the whale watching “tour”.   There would be seven of us, the original three, us, and two more.  We got together in the “fitting room” where we were fitted for maritime survival gear.  The heavy duty jumpsuit fit over our clothes.  It was extremely heavy, warm, and doubles as a floatation device. Clearly it was going to be cold on the water.  Once fitted we marched to the waiting Zodiac, close by on the pier.  The couple from London sat in the bow.  Big mistake, we should have pushed to that seat. We sat 2nd row with the group of three behind us.

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Behind “the Brits” & Headed Out

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Whale Identification by Fluke

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Heading Back

Motoring from the pier was typical, slow going getting out of the harbor.  It was new to us and interesting to see the sights.  Unusual for a tour like this, there were two “skippers’; one drove the other scouted.  The “scout” came forward and did a meet and greet.  He was personable with quick banter.  Once outside the harbor, we hit the gas.  The water wan not glass, but relatively calm.  We made good time to our first sighting.  There were juvenile humpback whales feeding on masses of krill at the surface.  We saw perhaps five as we sat watching their back roll out of the water.  They were shallow feeding swimming on their side in a tight circle with no fluke action.  It was fun to see this many humpback whales together.

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Upper Jaw, Mouth Open, Feeding on its Side

A bit later we pushed on.  As we went we saw humpback spouts ahead and beside in the near distance.  Each time the whale would surface, breath, and roll back to the surface. No fluke action, shallow feeding.   The “scout” pointed out the krill on the surface.

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Surface Feeding

In the shot above, you can see the baleen behind the upper jaw.  I have no idea what the knob at the upper left is.

Going a bit further out we left the wind shadow and started beating into the wind and waves.  Slosh, up, drop, bam, slosh, up, bam, drop bam. sometimes slosh slosh, sometimes bam, bam bam.  Ellen and I stayed dry as the spray flew either side of the Zodiac.  Eventually we stopped and spotted a number of humpbacks all around us.  All surface feeding.  Funny how they swim on their side when feeding.  We saw one guy’s tongue as he swept sideways, mouth full open to suck in krill.   Here a humpback, there one, over there another; some close most distant.  I have a number of “just too late” shots of breaching and a few side-swimming shots.  After a while the scout suggested we head off to find Orca.  Orca?  Sure, let’s go.

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“Just Too Late”, A Very Common Occurrence

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Just a Little Late This Time!

The driver was careful to go into the swell at an angle and to modulate the drive speed.  Still this part of the trip was up, hesitate, WHAM up WHAM, up, sideways slide, spray, WHAM. Sometimes we were spared for five or six rollers before the sequence started again Wham, Wham.  For me it was fun for the first twenty minutes.  After a while it became a grinding sense of “enough of this, show me a whale”.   We stopped and scanned the horizon for orca.  Nothing. We went on, wham wham bam wham, stopped, scanned the horizon: nothing. Eventually we turned back. No Orca sighting today.  Had we seen a pod, all the wham and bam would have been no problem.  Recognizing that, it was ok with me as it was. I do which the driver had spent more time with the whales and turned the boat to allow all of us a better view (not just the Londoners).

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The Empress

On the way back we had a few more opportunities to see humpbacks feeding with an occasional breach before heading to a rock outcropping to see sea lions before returning. Off the open ocean the roller coaster wham bam calmed down.  We were pounded for 20 minutes at a stretch.

All in all I was impressed with the number of humpback whales we saw.  I was impressed by the boat handling demonstrated, but not by the awareness of what the passengers wanted out of the trip.  This tour fell far short of my expectations.  It was fun and informative, yes.  It could have been much better.  Then if we had seen Orca, my critique would be entirely different!  My GPS registered a 52 mile “ride” past whale island and up the Straits of Juan de fuca (which I call “the straits of juan de fuca jou” and I’ll never forget the straits that way).

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“Get Lucky at the Local” Read a Sign Inside

We ate at “The Local”, good food and good beer, and walked back home along the shore.  My knee, the one my bike hit when I fell, has been acting up.  It is no fun limping along the shore.  Most steps are fine, some hurt a bit, then one will tweak the knee and hurt like hell.  We walked slowly back to Li’l Beast.

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Walking “home”, Otters on a Pier

We had a fun day; cold on the water, but fun.  I found that sneakers are not enough to keep feet warm on the bay and that my knit hat was too loose to wear at speed.  I was never cold with that maritime foul weather life saving jump suit.  My feet and ears were none too happy though.  We’re “home” now and thinking about tomorrow: Butchart gardens and a bakery are on the agenda, perhaps China Town too.

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“home” for the Evening

 

I love being on the water. Being cold is miserable.  How will I handle Sweden and Norway in January? Oh boy.  I’ll dress warmly.

Ellen took a great video that needs a touch of editing.  I’ll post it once we’re home in a week or so.

A bit of research shows that orca sightings in BC are best in August and September and that they go out to sea in November.   Resident orca in BC eat salmon exclusively.  Transients roam the coast and dine on mammals.  Because salmon are not sensitive to orca vocalization, resident orca communicate as they hunt.  It would be great to find resident orca “on the hunt”.  Here’s another activity for next fall’s trip.  The list is growing!

Day 31 October 18 2018

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7:15 AM At the Ferry to Victoria

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“He’s not my husband, My Husband isn’t All Gray”  oops.

Black Ball Ferry

The Black Ball Ferry Line operates between Port Angeles and Victoria.  The line accepts web reservations, but cuts off reservations 12 hours before a ferry’s departure.  We plan to take the 8:20 AM ferry, but cannot make a reservation.  We have to assume we will get on the ferry if we arrive early enough and provided there is room for us.  We could have made a reservation for the 2:20 ferry.  Doing so would preclude departure at 8:20, but by waiting to see if we get on the 8:20, we give up the possibility of a reservation on the 2:20 ferry.  It’s a really screwed up reservation system.  Further their site suggests calling the office within the 12 hour window, but the office hours are 8AM to 5PM,  That is totally useless for a ferry departure at 8:20 AM.  Madness.

We plan to arrive at the ferry at 7:20, a full hour ahead of time.  With luck we will make the 8:20 ferry.  We’ve had pretty good luck.  Coming back, we will not be taking the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, but headed to Whidbey Island hopefully on another ferry line!

Up Early

I was awake at 6:10, a few minutes ahead of my obnoxious alarm.  I like it that way; it forces me awake.  We had our morning cappuccino and late, hauled water, electric, and push-out in, turned all switches off, and left.  Sunrise looked brilliant, bright reds behind us as we drove west toward the ferry.  I had read horror stories about not having reservations, missing the first ferry, and almost missing the second one.  That was in high season.  I’d be prudent and get to the ferry early. I’d probably have no problem today.

We arrived at the ticket office around 7:10 AM.  The drive up is narrow with the building on one side and 4 inch steel rods supporting the high roof on the other.  It was tight, but easily doable.  “Careful with the mirror.  You’re close, careful”, Ellen.  “I’ve got this. No Problem”, I said with the mirror inches from the wall.  There’s a sign at an angle ahead of the window that stands 3” from the wall.  I had to pull to the right a bit to avoid it. 

The gal at the window “Do you have a reservation?”  “No”  “That’s OK” and she overcharged us initially. With her correction $!86 became $146.  “Have you seen people mangle their mirrors?”  “No, but I almost got whacked in the face with one”  I promised I’d never do that and felt sorry for her.

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Waiting To Board

We’re now sitting first in line in row #5 beside a few heavier vehicles in #6.  Ellen’s been out shooting the sunrise.  I’m glad, she was bummed that she missed the earlier morning glow.  I’ve got the heat going to keep warm while waiting.  We should start boarding in another 20 minutes. 

Black Ball Ferry to Victoria

As I pulled onto the ferry, a dock hand shouted, “Don’t hit anything”  “Ok, sure, ya.”  He couldn’t hear me, probably just as well. Upstairs the ferry is roomy and comfortable.  The center cabin is warm where the bow and stern cabins are distinctly cooler.  After exploring some we each had an egg muffin sandwich and settled into the center cabin.  We read a few brochures and relaxed some.   In protected waters the ferry was rock solid.  In the sound, the ferry rocked side to side, two seconds to one side, two seconds back.  You could feel the transition back to protected waters. 

It occurred to us that we should look into booking a camp site now, while on the ferry.  I checked our trusty AllStays and found a number of campgrounds relatively close to Victoria. There were two two star parks, one three star, a four star, and a five star.  The five star, Salish Seaside RV Haven, was very close to Victoria.  Thomas answered when I called, “yes we have a few sites available.  Yes they are right on the water.” We booked a site for tonight.

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2nd Floor Amenities Building

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Salish Seaside RV Haven, Victoria BC

The ferry unloads quite close to “The Empress”, a Fairmont Hotel built in 1908 and the jewel of Victoria.  There are any  number of modern hotels in and about Victoria, but visiting the Empress is high on my list of things to do.  I figured we would drive downtown, find a parking space, and visit the hotel and the Royal Museum.  Parking downtown was not happening.  One hour is just not enough time.  I headed out of town toward where I thought RV Haven would be located while Ellen got a GPS fix and navigation working.  We easily found the park.  Thomas was at the desk and offered us two sites #3 and #19.  #12 will be available tomorrow.  Drive through and see what you think. Do visit the Amenities Building and visit the top floor.  This park was a run down parking lot that the Salish tribe bought and renovated.”  “Cool, I like the idea of supporting a native tribe.”

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Ellen at Site #19

Of the two sites, we chose #19.  Ellen can’t wait to move to #12 with a view of Victoria at sunset, though she’s quite happy with #19.  The Amenities Building is quite modern.  It has a outside deck with chairs facing Victoria and a back side smaller deck.  Inside there is a floor to ceiling built-in bookcase, a fire place, a TV, tables and chairs, all very well done in contemporary colors and materials.  We could have evening drinks or morning coffee quite comfortably there.   This is easily the most comfortable parking-lot style RV park ever.  The view of Victoria across the bay with the water taxis and float plains coming and going is wonderful.

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Amenities building Upper Deck

Back at the reservation desk, we paid for a second night at #12.  I mentioned parking an RV downtown was difficult and Thomas marked a map where parking should be easier.  He mentioned a walkway skirting the bay that led all the way to downtown.  “It’s not a short walk, but it is quite doable.”  Can you recommend a whale watching tour?  “Yes” and with that Thomas gave us a 10% discount voucher.

Back at “home”, I called to see if reservations were necessary and get details on the tours.  Thomas said there are four departures and suggested we do not take the first boat out.  The first boat acts as the spotter for subsequent boats.  Cool, no reservation necessary for tomorrow. With Li’l Beast hooked up in #19, we headed off to find the walkway to downtown.

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California Poppies in Victoria

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The Local, quite busy

 

The walkway is unmistakable.  It is a paved strip of asphalt following the bay contour in and around coves winding to the lock and drawbridge separating the upper harbor from the lower.  Ellen was hungry and wanted to stop at Spinnaker’s  at about the halfway point and long before the drawbridge.  “No, let’s push on. We’re not close to downtown.”  Across the drawbridge and on Wharf Street we passed “The Local”, which is the name of a friend’s restaurant in Rhinebeck NY.  Again Ellen wanted to stop for a bite.  “I’d like to go to The Empress for lunch, OK?  We can come back to The Local tomorrow.”  We continued on to The Empress.

 

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Empress Hotel and Royal Museum, Victoria

The Empress is huge.  We walked into the main lobby and I had to ask were the restaurant was located.  “The restaurant is on the second floor, up these stairs and right across.”  There are two restaurants and a bar with bar food on the second floor.  We didn’t know about the second restaurant and saw only an inside restaurant and a bar with windows overlooking the bay.  We ate in the bar.  Later we walked further and found the main dining room also with windows overlooking the bay.  Our lunch was more intimate in the bar than it would have been in the main dining room.

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A Sea of Lights, Empress Hotel Downstairs

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Conference Room Chandelier, Empress Hotel

 

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I Love This Mask

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And the Lower Left Mask Too

 

We actually got lost in the hotel and had to backtrack from the convention center. The Empress sits beside the Royal Museum, which features an Egyptian Exhibit through Dec 31.  The museum has added an IMAX theater with “the biggest movie screen in British Columbia” at 6 stories high.  We chose to see “Oceans, Our Blue Planet in 3D” rather than the “Mysteries of Egypt”.  About half way through the Egyptian Exhibit, I flagged.  Lack of sleep, dehydration, something got the better of me.  I just didn’t feel great.   I perked up some in the “First People’s Exhibit”.  I love the native masks and totem poles.   I had a large iced tea before the “Oceans” showing;  that revived me.

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Float Plane & Water Taxi

Temperature had dropped as the sun sets in the west for our walk “home”.  It was still comparatively warm.  We walked briskly watching the changing light on the bay as float planes came and went.  We watched a whale watching boat arrive and dock below us.  Ellen headed down to get the scoop on the tour.  There are two classes of boat these tours use, one is a mid sized zodiac, the other is a two story boat, enclosed on the lower deck.  People said the protective overall provided on the open zodiac was “ok”.  Not a glowing recommendation.  Across from “the Local’’ Ellen stopped a couple and asked if  they had taken the whale watching tour.  “Yes, we loved it.  We saw humback whales. Oh and dolphin playing in the boat’s wake.”  She showed us video of a humpback slapping the water repeatedly with its fluke. “He did this at least 12 times”.  We had planned to take a whale watching tour, now we are definitely going.

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Water Taxi Calling it a Day

On the walk back “home” we saw a Great Heron perched on flotsam, two deer, and an otter fishing in the bay.  Thomas said there were raccoons near the RV park as well though we  haven’t seen any.

For dinner we had one of Michael Angelo’s Frozen Eggplant Lasagna dinners with veggies on the side.  We were hungry and it was good.  We also ate the last of Europa Restaurant’s Baily’s Irish Cream Cheesecake.  That was excellent.

My Garmin Vivosport’s GPS said we walked six miles today.  My legs agree!

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A Walk of Three Miles, One Way

Day 30 October 17 2018, Bellevue Wa

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Vasa Park

“What happened to the lake?”, Ellen asked (whined?) a moment ago.

Heavy Fog coming off Lake Sammamish obscured the sunrise this morning.  Temperatures at 5AM were 47F, 21 degrees higher than yesterday morning.  We’re in the West Coast weather system.  The mid-west weather system often gets cold air circulated from the north.

Traffic is streaming by, people going to work in Bellevue and Redmond, many at Microsoft I’d guess.  The last time I visited Bellevue was in 1969.  Antioch, “my” college, is a work/study year round college.  I went to Seattle “own plans” which means I’ll figure out what I’m doing for work when I get there.  In the winter of 1969 Seattle’s economy was a disaster.  Boeing was laying off workers; I was competing with out of work PHDs for dishwasher jobs, seriously.  I had one job in Bellevue doing yard work for a wealthy woman.  That and a bad Arby’s experience is all I know of Bellevue.  Today’s plan includes a trip to Nespresso and Microsoft.  We’ll wait for the fog and traffic to subside before heading off.

On site showers vary so much.  Some campsites in the woods have fantastic heated showers.  Some “resorts” have dirty showers with poor shower heads.  It’s hit or miss.  I took a shower here at Vasa Park.  The shower curtain rod stood outside the shower dam at the floor.  Whomever showered ahead of me just let the water slop all over the floor.  This led to some mud and grass in the “dry” shower area.  This is not the fault of Vasa Park.  I simply moved the shower rod back a few inches and “solved” the problem going forward.  This was a pay shower, bummer. I had to go back to Li’l beast and bring a handful of quarters with me.   I put three quarters in the slot, as the third dropped into the slot I read “10” on the meter, then “15”.  Fifteen minutes for 75 cents? Well OK!

Moment of truth.  With water flowing and the handle turned to hot, the cool water become piping hot in seconds. Great!  Good flow, good shower head (loose, but held position when repositioned).  It was a very good shower with plenty of hot water.  I stopped well ahead of the 15 minute timer.  Like most campsite showers, there could be more wall hangers for clothes, towel, bathroom bags, etc.  The shower curtain should be a few inches longer and the rod should be permanently installed.   The single shower is in an enclosed room which I thought strange.  There is little air flow, though there was no sense of mildew.   It worked well for me.

“We could stay here another day”, Ellen surprised me this morning.  She’s usually the one to want to go on.  We’ll see what Susie has to say about it.

Bellevue Wa

Seattle’s Nespresso boutique is in Bellevue.  We chose not to stay another night, but to boogie on down to Nespresso.  Our GPS had us going up and down hill in a residential neighborhood that finally opened into a shopping center with a parking structure. Our 11 ft 3 inch motorhome will not go in a parking structure.  Ii drove around the rather large mall and parked in a neighboring parking lot.  I’m getting acclimated to the “authorized vehicles only others will be towed at owner’s expense”.  I parked carefully putting Li’l Beast centered between the narrow parking strips.  We were a tad longer than the space, oh well.

We walked back to the Bellevue Square Mall.  Inside GPS guided us to “right over” the boutique.  “It must be on the level below”.  I walked down ahead of Ellen, who stopped at an information desk to ask.  There was nothing on this level where the boutique should have been.  I turned back to find Ellen coming toward me.  She said, “It’s down another level in Macy’s Home”  We would never have found it had Ellen not asked!

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Walking out we passed a Peloton Showroom right beside the Tesla showroom.  I just had to stop and talk to both the Peloton gal and the Tesla fellow.  It’s not surprising that the two sit side by side.  The companies have similar philosophies and target a similar demographic with high end niche products that they hope will become mainstream.

With mail in bags for recycling our empties and a number of new sleeves of coffee, we went in search of hair products (for Ellen).  Back at the information desk, they said the one hair care shop had closed. “Is there a Keil’s?”  The info women laughed.  “It’s right behind you.”  And it was directly behind and facing us.  Ellen purchased what she wanted and we headed back to Li’l Beast.

On the way we stopped into QFC, a Whole Foods meets Andronico’s Market for some supplies.

Seattle

I had wanted to see “the original Starbucks” shop.  I remembered it was in a market near the piers downtown Seattle.  Google turned up Pike Market and Pike Market Starbucks as the first Starbucks in Washington.  We were off on another adventure.

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Parking in downtown Seattle is “an adventure”.  GPS guided us right to Pike Market and lack of parking guided us right past and up a number of blocks.  About eight blocks up and a few blocks off the water, there was pay parking with either website or phone access. Great.  I pulled over, dialed the number, and was put through telephone hell for a while.  After literally five tries and two hang-ups (the parking service said, “goodbye”) Ii was able to establish an account, my license plate number, the parking zone I was parking in, and then went round about parking time: 240 minutes “I’m sorry that zone does not allow it”, 180 minutes “I’m sorry that zone does not…”  HANGUP.  Try again.  It turned out, had I paid closer attention to the sign above my noggin, that parking in this zone was available until 3PM after which vehicles would be towed.  Oh, OK!  Redial, recode, ask for 90 minutes (up till 3pm), accepted, we’re good.

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Sculpture in The Garden

Pay parking organized this way is quite convenient, if frustrating when first setting it up. With just 90 minutes to peruse the harbor, we walked quickly.  Unknowingly we had parked across from the sculpture garden.  We looked briefly, but walked on quickly.  A long train interrupted our brisk walk.  Should we turn back and walk down a block or two or should we wait out the train  There was a single engine pulling, we waited.

We walked past the Aquarium, past a shop screaming “steamed clams”, down to and past the Pike Market and Starbucks.  I remembered an African Art shop around the corner from the Pike Market; we went looking for it.  We knew we’d have to turn back to rescue Li’l Beast from the meter maid.  We didn’t find the African shop and we skipped Starbucks too.  We did have some sautéed clams on our way back.

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Free Shuttle?  Well Take This “Next Time”

I noticed parking along the wharf, perfect for our motorhome, but only for 2 hours at a time. Not good enough.  Back at Li’l Beast, Ellen had heard back from Jerry.  Sunday afternoon would be good to meet with them.  “Let’s go on to Victoria”  “Ok”  “I’ll drive north.  We’ll find a campsite near Port Angeles.  We can take the ferry to Victoria tomorrow.”  I dialed Port Angela into Rand McNally and set off.  I asked Ellen to navigate to Port Angela to double check Rand’s navigation.  The two diverged immediately.  We followed our smart phone until I became increasingly suspicious.  We were going down local roads, not headed to highways.  Clearly we were not headed to a bridge.  Fearing that the smartphone app was leading us to a low height or weight limited bridge, I followed Rand McNally more and growing uncomfortable with the streets we were navigating and uncertain the the GPS were accurate.  After a while the two agreed and we started down a road with a “ferry parking” lane.  Oh, we’re taking a ferry!  We stopped in line for the Edmond-Kingston ferry on the way to Port Angeles.   We missed the next ferry, there were 30 openings and they filled well before we even started moving.  We did make the next ferry.

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Waiting for the Ferry

As I pulled onto the ferry I heard, “To The Left, Don’t Hit Anything!”  I suppose he’s seen some strange driving getting on and off the ferry.  The ferry ride seemed short.  We had time to walk the mid and upper decks, look around, pickup some brochures, then get back to our motor home in time to start up and depart.   Port Angela is a fifty mile drive from Kingston.  It was already 5:40PM, we would arrive at any campground near Port Angela late.  Ellen found a number of campsites, some a few miles from Port Angela, some much closer to us.  As a last resort we could stay at a “WallyWorld” in Port Angela.  Ellen chose a KOA six miles from Port Angela.  We wouldn’t have to leave very early to make the 8:20AM ferry to Victoria.

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Magnificent Mt Rainier from the Edmond Ferry

I drove past the KOA and had to U-Turn after mistaking closed truck scales for an exit.  I was not happy.  At the KOA, there were a number of sites we could take.  I drove around trying to find them, looking for 502 in the 800 section.  When we finally did find 504, Ellen preferred 502.  Ok, 502.  Put the money in the envelope, put the envelop under the door, drive to 502 and park.  Noooooo.  Ellen wasn’t happy with the way I parked. Now less happy than before, I re-parked. *Whew*.

We didn’t take that many photos today.  I haven’t gathered Ellen’s photos.  This post is pretty sparse.

Today felt like a full day.  Nespresso, sauteed clams, walking downtown, “camped” and setup to go to Victoria tomorrow.  ALL Good.

Day 29 October 16 2018, Spokane

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Anthony’s on the River

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The Peacock Bar, Davenport Tower

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Leaving Spokane

Where To Next?

Now our plans are much more fluid. We are a few hours drive from Seattle.  We could drop south to Tacoma or we could go directly to Canada and visit Victoria and Vancouver.  We remembered to pack our passports which are necessary to cross back into the US from Canada.  I’m not sure if Canada requires that we show our passport.  Not that long ago a valid driver’s license was all it took to visit Canada.

Ellen just mentioned getting past the Cascades sooner rather than later.  The weather now is comfortable to warm afternoons.  She may be concerned that the weather could change making Snoqualmie Pass difficult to dangerous.  Though an abrupt change in the weather is not likely, there is more to see and do around Seattle and Canada than here in Spokane.  The state park and smaller campgrounds mid-state are (mostly) closed.  We’ll push on.

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Cog Moose “driving” Washing State

Scooter Mania

While some cities are fighting their scooter infestation, Spokane appears to have embraced it.  There are white and lime green electric scooters parked all over downtown with more cruising by on the sidewalks.  I almost tripped over one parked facing the street.  Shouldn’t they be parked along side a building and not taking up half the sidewalk?  An article about this:  Lime Bikes & Scooters.  Here’s one rider’s experience: Not Ready for Prime Time.

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Flat Ancient Lava Fields West of Spokane

Spokane to Bellevue

There is nothing to be seen in eastern Washington west of Spokane.  The interesting landscape of mid-Idaho gives way to a vast plain covering half of the state.  Nothing.  But knowing that vast plains indicates vast lava flows in the geological past, I found the landscape fascinating.  More to the west the plain gives way to undulating hills, then the Cascade Mountain Range.

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We could see a Gorge, “What’s This?”

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And an Overlook Walkway

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The Wapanum Dam below the I-90 Bridge holds back the Columbia

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I-90 follows the Columbia River for a while then crosses a bridge near Vantage Washington.  East of the bridge, the Wapanum dam holds back a massive lake that floods a dramatic gorge.  The Columbia River (or perhaps a glacier, or both) cut this gorge through the lava layer eons ago.  We stopped at an overlook to soak in the view.

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Dates are Scratched Off, Someone wrote “Information Aversion” in answer!

I assume whomever scratched off the dates on the above plaque is a “fundie” who believes the earth is 6,000 years old and will have none of this “millions of years ago” scientific mumbo jumbo.  Sad, though perhaps understandable.  It is easier to discard what doesn’t fit into a world view than to critically analyze that world view.  “Don’t bother me with facts, I know the truth.” must make life so much simpler.

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Resistance has its Rewards? RESIST!

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Approaching the Bridge over the Columbia River

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park

This is a geologically fascinating area.  The Ginkgo Petrified Forest  in the Wanapum Recreation Area near Vantage could be fascinating to visit.  We stopped by and walked an interpretive trail that had excavated some 22 trees: there were Ponderosa Pines, Walnut, and Ash in the seven we saw.   The trees are in a shallow grave under a few feet of lava and practically no topsoil.  The petrified forest looks to be huge, though very little has been uncovered.

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Twenty Two Excavated Trees on the Interpretive Trail

Before we reached the petrified forest, I thought we were in a vast plain created by an ancient lava flow.  My reading about the geology and volcanology of Yellowstone made this seemingly apparent.  Finding the petrified forest confirms my suspicion.  That vast plain of nothingness may hold geological records of times past buried within.

The petrified forest has a variety of mummified tree types.  Unfortunately, steel grates are necessary to keep tourists from hacking parts of the tree off for a souvenir.  We didn’t do the full 22 tree tour and stopped at nine or so.

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Doug Fir

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Spruce

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Elm

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Walnut

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Walnut, Close Up

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A Furry Friend, Close Up

Though fascinating, the Ginkgo State Park is also barren, desolate, and uninviting.  It’s a good place to stop for a while, not so good for an overnight or a few days camping.

The central Washington State plain gives way to undulating hills that gradually go uphill and lead into Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascades.  The grade going east to west feels moderately steep.  I passed a number of trucks who had passed me in the hills.   Once through the pass, the downhill grade goes on seemingly forever.  I’d guess it’s nine miles downhill.  For some reason, traffic for the Auburn exit was backed up three miles.  At that point I-90 was four lanes wide.  The exit lane was at a stand still.  I moved into the 2nd lane from the left to be safe.  Sure enough near the exit there were people in the 3rd lane at a stop trying to break into the exit land (effectively barging the exit traffic).  Past the Auburn exit, there was no backup and light traffic.  In the east going direction traffic was heavy.   I glanced at the artery the Auburn exit fed.  It was a mess.  What happened or what is the event that caused such a seemingly inexplicable delay!

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Rolling Hills. approaching The Cascade Mountain RangeIMG_5425

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We’re Following Peak Foliage Color West!

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Nine Miles of Construction

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All Downhill From Here!

We were headed to downtown Bellevue.  I hoped to see Microsoft’s campus and to visit the Bellevue Nespresso shop for some “mail in” recycle bags. (our used coffee pod collection is becoming unmanageable).  As Ellen does, Ellen researched campgrounds ahead of arrival and spotted a small campground on a lake, Vasa Park Resort, in Bellevue.  She called a few times and got no answer.  We decided to drive to the park “to see”.  Taking exit 13 from I-90 in Bellevue, I was faced with a narrow road and traffic.  The lane in my direction was mostly flowing nicely.  Traffic in the other direction was backed up.  This was a novelty I had not seen since leaving the Bay Area.  Civilization is great, but has its flaws.

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“Make Hay”, Glad he turned off

A few miles up, the road ran along a lake and there was our turn-in.  It was a tight turn past a partially open pair of gates.  I pulled to the side, parked, and we headed to the office.  We could see a few motorhomes down by the lake though the park/campground seemed mostly deserted.  We walked in to find Susie sitting behind a desk.  “No, we’re mostly closed for the winter.  The soil gets soggy by the lake and we’ve shut off the water.  I don’t have anything for you.”  We were not surprised, but a bit disappointed.  Susie said, “let me call around and see what’s available”  We thanked her for doing this and waited while she called.  “Yes, the campground in Bellevue just down i-90 has sites available, but I don’t feel right sending you there.  They want $50 for the night and they are right off the freeway and don’t have a view.” I said, “that’s ok if that’s all that’s available”  Ellen didn’t look happy, but was willing to move on.  Susie said, “Well the water is disconnected, but I could give you a site here.”  Ellen, “Oh, we’ve done without water a number of times this trip.  We’re fine without water”  Susie, “take number 16 down by the lake.  It has a beautiful view. Go just past the laundry room with the blue door there , oh the door is probably open, just go past and you’ll find 16.”

Vasa Park, Bellevue, WA.

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“Home”, Sheriff’s Swift Water Rescue trailer and SUV in Background!

Wow,  Susie didn’t have to do this.  She could easily have sent us on our way.  We thanked her profusely.  Ellen launched into a description of our trip to pick up Li’l Beast in Connecticut during the worst winter in the last decade.  -7F temperatures and us with a motorhome and nothing more: no dishes, blankets, towels, or food.   Susie described visiting Minnesota in the dead of winter with –10F temperatures without wind chill and –30F with.  I think being understanding in situations that are inconvenient to us serves our interests far better than being demanding, or whining, or upset.  As much as we had wanted to stay, we knew it was Susie’s decision and treated her with respect in spite of her initial, “No, I have nothing for you.”

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We walked around Vasa Park (it is quite small) then settled in.  We have 20 amps, not 30, and that’s ok.  We have no water hookup, and that’s ok.  We have a wonderful site on the lake in Bellevue.  What more could we want.  There’s a skeleton sitting at a picnic table across the way.  He’s just sitting there waiting for Halloween.

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The park and campgrounds are deceptively vacant at this time of year.  Susie chuckled when I asked if they fill in the summer.  “Yes, we are full every day”.  “Do you take reservations?”  “It is the only way you’ll get a site, call well ahead.”  And we will when we head back to Yellowstone next fall.

For a day that was mostly blasting through some miles, today was informative, fun, and rewarding in a very understated way.  Blasting is not the right word.  I used cruise control set at 60 mph.  I let the world pass me by as I cruise along with no need to adjust my speed.

Dinner

Ellen cooked a very yummy dinner tonight: sautéed peppers and mushrooms with one of the sausage cheese frittatas.  It turns out the frittata is more like falafel with a heavy dose of dukkah spice.  There is some sausage in there (little) and no cheese. It was great with the veggies.  We had just a bit of the Baily’s Cream Cheesecake.  Wow.  If you’re in the Spokane area visit Europa  Restaurant and Bakery for their desserts.  We did not eat there and cannot make a recommendation regards dinner or lunch, but…  if their meals are anywhere near as good as this Baily’s Cream Cheesecake, well we will eat there the next time we find ourselves in Spokane.

Day 28 October 15 2018, Blackwell Island RV Park toward Spokane WA

Goodbye CDA & Blackwell Island

Today Blackwell Island RV Park closes at 11AM.  Our propane dropped to “E” last night. I expect our propane fill will be 25 Gal.  We’ll dump our tanks, get our propane, and head to Albertson’s for some munchies and supplies before we head on.

There’s a portion of the Centennial Trail at the Idaho Washington border that is particularly stunning.  We’ve been told this a few times.  There is parking access to the trail there.  If weather today is anything like yesterday’s we’ll bike some of it.

What a contrast there is between Grant Teton and Yellowstone National Parks and Coeur d’Alene.  The parks are so large and there is so much to do, we were “go go go” all the time with one day we took it easy at Coulter Bay.  Here at CDA we had no pressure to “go see” things.  We did get out quite a bit, but later in the day and arrived back early.  We will arrive earlier in September the next time we visit the national parks and we’ll stay longer.  It was snow that drove us out of the park this trip. We left before the weather turned very cold.

I’ll call R&R in Spokane and other motorhome shops to see what suspension upgrades are available to me “off the shelf”.  I may have to wait until we visit San Diego in November to add sumo springs in front and fox/agile shocks in back.  It’s worth the time to research what’s available in Washington State.

With only a few hours before Blackwell closes, I’ve work to do now.  Signing off….

Centennial Trail Idaho-Washington Border

We packed up, filled up on propane, and headed north to I-90.  The propane tank is 13.5 Gal not 33 Gal.  Our fill was 8 Gal what you’d expect for just below 1/4 full.  We stopped at Albertson’s just south of the I-90 junction for munchies and supplies, then cruised on toward Washington State, Spokane.

We had planned to stop near the Idaho Washington border to access the Centennial Trail.  The Trail runs from Coeur d’Alene through Spokane, but at the boarder the Trail runs beside I-90.  It’s not very idyllic.  We gave up on that idea and went through to Spokane.  When we come back this way next year, we’ll try again, but closer to Spokane.

Ellen, the consummate campground scout, found Northern Spokane RV Campground and suggested we explore Spokane for a bit.  “Ok, which exit on I-90 should I take?”  “Rt 2 north will get us there”.   Spokane is spread out.  Rt 2 goes through the expansion of Spokane to the north.  It’s like driving through four or six lanes of small strip malls, local businesses, restaurants, and lost of cross streets.  It is a busy unappealing road.  Northern Spokane Campground is a walled comfortable parking lot campground.  The campsites are clean and well maintained, the bathrooms are clean and well maintained, the lawn is manicured, and the campsite lacks charm.  It’s fine for a day or two’s stop to visit Spokane.  Particularly when most of the state parks and smaller campgrounds are closed for the winter.  This campground is open year ‘round.

Northern Spokane RV Campground

At check-in Sar asked that we disconnect our hose at night, “We’ve had freezing temperatures in the morning”.  Thinking back, the times we had temps in the 20’s we didn’t have our water connected.   With the typical campground map in hand complete with sharpie trail to get to our site & WiFi and Bathroom codes, we backed in and settled down for a while.  We settled on taking Uber downtown to view old town and the falls.  Uber wanted $25 one way.  Really?  We decided to drive downtown and find parking or find a strip mall, park, and take a shorter Uber hop downtown.   I found a Big 5 Sporting Goods shop near downtown and plugged that address into Li’l Beast’s Rand McNally GPS.  She sent us toward downtown then had us turn east when we know downtown was west!  Oh oh.  Consulting a map, we turned west and followed our nose.  We found downtown, but no malls and no parking for “the Beast”.  Turning up a one way street still searching for a mall, I encountered a low cement bridge.  I was committed; on a one way with no way back!  The bridge height?  11’ 6” “The Beast’s” height? 11” 3” (so says the specification sheet).  I’ve added a satellite antenna which I thought was below the air conditioner’s height.  I dialed back our speed to a crawl and hoped.  I watched the  cement above and in front as it angled downward in the center and felt a wave of relief as it rose toward the far end.  We made it through.  We can clear 11’6”.

We decided (Ellen actually) to drive back Rt 2 to get out of downtown.  I remembered seeing a Safeway somewhere up 2.  We drove for some time then Ellen pointed out a small mall to our left.  Jockeying to the left and turning I found a small parking lot with very narrow spaces.  We could not comfortably fit width wise in one.  Crap.  Across the street was NorthTown Mall with plenty of parking.  More in, out, around, over, left turn… lots of negotiating the traffic on 2, then a swing around to the back of the mall.  I parked beside another motorhome in a near vacant lot.  There not far away stood a sign saying “ unauthorized or improperly parked vehicles will be impounded 24 hrs a day at owners risk and expense.”  Great.  I took a number of photos of Li’l Beast sitting squarely in two parking spaces.  I figured if we returned before the mall closed, we should be good.  If not, there’d be hell to pay.

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Li’l Beast “properly parked”, note sign left mid-ground

Now an hour later, we had cut our Uber expense in half.  I don’t think that was a win for us; it was not worth the aggravation.  Our Uber driver was an older man who planned to purchase a motorhome soon and travel south.   We lost track of time talking about motorhomes and Spokane and were at the downtown park quickly.

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Artwork in the Park

Spokane, WA

Spokane straddles the Spokane River.  The river branches into two forks with a number of bridges crisscrossing it and with walkways on both sides.  We headed west towards downtown.  A cyclone fence, orange netting, and signs screaming “Construction” or “Detour” blocked our path.  To our left the orange netting cut us off from the river pathway.  We turned around together with a fellow from Vancouver and a local woman from Spokane.  The fellow is an electric energy worker attending an energy conference focusing on security of the energy infrastructure.  Ellen spoke to the woman as we four looked for a path west on either side of the river.

I did not know this.  Ukraine’s energy infrastructure had a massive hacker breach that took out electric power.  The hackers worked over time gaining access to the infrastructure and only when they were sure they could be most effective, did they act.  “In the US the energy system is not connected to the web or to the telephone system.  This is now common practice.  Ukraine’s system was not.”  We had a good discussion about security in the age of computers until we arrived at the carousel.  “Last year the carousel was open.  This year the city enclosed it as part of the reconstruction plan”.  Ah the carousel.  We said our goodbyes as I turned to check it out.  Ellen asked, “Where are you going?”  She was focused on walking to the waterfall.  “The carousel”.

Charles Looff’s hand-carved 1909 Carousel

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We just walked in, read some of the history, and continued on our way.  The carousel horses are hand carved.  It was build in 1909.

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The Centennial Trail Runs Along the Spokane River

The renovation construction is not very friendly to pedestrian traffic.  We dodged signs, walked on sidewalks that were “closed”,  and turned back a few times.  On our search, we found the east side gondola access.  The  gondola rides over the falls and back.  We walked on looking for Anthony’s, a restaurant Ellen remembered fondly.  It sits at the base of the falls.  Funny thing, we walked to the base of the falls.;  The falls are dramatic with a vast amount of water pouring over a low head dam then over rocks below with white foam, ,turbulence, and the roar of fast moving water.  There above and to the side of the calm water above the dam sat Anthony’s.  How could the restaurant have a view of the falls from above the falls?  Ellen remembered the restaurant as being below the falls.  Something’s not right.  The only view of the falls is from the bridge we were on. There was no restaurant on the bridge.

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What is the building in the background with the rounded towers?

Anthony’s Restaurant, Spokane WA

Regardless, we walked on to Anthony’s for old times sake and some good food.  From the outside entrance the restaurant is not much to look at.  The inside wall facing the river is all glass.  There in front of us were the upper falls, which were not visible from the lower falls below.  Vindicated, Ellen relaxed.

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Huckleberries, We Don’t Have Them In California!

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View of the Upper Falls from Anthony’s

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Anthony’s on the River

We had a very good meal of an appetizer and a cocktail.  I had a prickly pear margarita made “not so sweet”, Ellen had Huckleberry Lemonade, hardened by a shot of vodka.  Both were excellent and strong.  My crispy calamari was superb as were Ellen’s coconut prawns.  Ellen discussed the falls with our waiter who said the water volume now was low, but that sometimes the rock under the right bridge is underwater and the bridge has to be closed.  To get to the Davenport, he suggested we go back the way we came to cross back and the Davenport is close by.

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Love This Cycle Rack

The Davenport, Baily’s Cheesecake, Ginger Cookies

The Davenport is a few city blocks south of Anthony’s once your cross the Spokane River.  It is a historical site with a huge lobby ringed by a 2nd floor balcony.  Historic photographs line the walls on both floors.  There’s a photo of Eisenhower, a number of Bing Crosby, who was born in Tacoma and grew up in Spokane, and numerous of guests at the hotel; by the fire, in the ballroom, seated for dinner.  Some show the lobby overflowing with guests.  The hotel has massive ballrooms and unique meeting rooms.

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Rooms can be Rented for the Evening, Renewal of Vows?

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Ellen wanted to find a bakery.  Off we went to find Europa Restaurant and Bakery, just around the corner from the Davenport.  We passed the Davenport Tower on our way. Europa’s bakery specializes in deserts. There were no croissants, no Danish, but they had a selection of cheesecake.  I walked away with a slice of Baily’s Cream Cheesecake.  Ellen asked if there were other bakeries specializing in breakfast pastries.  “Yes, there’s Madeline’s and Boots.  Boots is open until 10.  They have a bar serving specialty drinks.”

We took a detour to the Davenport Towers, the more modern Davenport building.  In the abbreviated lobby sit a large golden rhinoceros to the left and a similar hippopotamus to the right.  As we walked in, Ellen bubbled, “I’ve stayed here.  I sent you photos of the elephants on the walls there”.  I remembered the elephant photos.  We didn’t’ stay long, the search for breakfast pastries was on.

Boots Bakery

Boots was three or four blocks down and five or six to the right.  We walked briskly past a few restaurants and coffee shops, past MOD pizza (fast pizza, we poke fun of this), past the Davenport Casino, and past Madeline’s which was closed.  “Let’s hope Boots is open”,   “Boots is right across from Madeline’s” we were told.  It’s not, but it is not that much farther down, just two blocks.  Boots was open, but just barely.  They were closing.  As the woman ahead of us left, the owner said, “Wait I forgot your ginger cookie”.  Turning to us he said, “We’re closing and we cannot keep these cookies, they’re free.  We take home the ones we don’t’ give away and we don’t want to take them home!  She should have had one.  Would you like one?”   “Sure” we both said.  He packaged four of them in a “to go” box.  “Clearly we should get something.”  I said.  “Don’t feel obliged, the cookies are free.  Just take them if you want.”  We added a portion of beet salad and two cheese and sausage frittata things.

Uber Spokane

I requested an Uber through their app as the chairs and tables were taken in.  Our Uber ride arrived in three minutes and whisked us off to NorthTown Mall where we found Li’l Beast sitting right where we left her.

We are increasingly using either Uber of Lift to get around cities and towns as we travel in our motorhome.  It is convenient, reasonably priced, and arrives extremely quickly.  It makes the idea of towing a “toad” unreasonable.

We’re now hooked up and settled into our site, D2.  We have DirecTV connected, some of our favorite shows setup to record, and a Citradelic Tangerine IPA cooling in the ‘fridge.  I’m saving the Blood Orange IPA for a “special occasion”.

I’ll have to remember to pull in the water line this evening.  Must Remember.

Day 27, Blackwell Island RV Park Coeur d’Alene Idaho

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Another Day on Blackwell Island and Coeur d’Alene

Today is a cold and cloudless day.  It promises to warm into the high 60’s.  I plan to visit Daft Badger Brewing today; Ellen will revisit a shop that had a nice pair of inexpensive glasses (reading I think).  Our “big decision” is to chose between staying another day in CDA or pushing on to Spokane.  If we stay, there’s a zipline tour we may take on Monday.   If we go it makes getting home in time for Ellen’s trip to Utah a day “easier”.  I hope to visit Victoria and the Straits of Juan de Fuca either before or after visiting Jerry & Michelle on Whidbey Island.

Blackwell RV Park is pleasant.  It is just a mile from the city and yet feels like being in the country.  The Spokane River separates the Island from the hubbub of “downtown”.  Unlike some parks, they have plenty of very hot water.  I have no problem taking long shower here!

We’ll fill the propane tank today. I’m curious how much it will take.  The last time we filled was the day we left Yellowstone on the east side and a very nice fellow gouged me: 3 Gal of Propane for $18.00.  “We have a 5 Gal minimum”.  Right, sure you do.  That was on October 3, my birthday.   Eleven days later our tank is down to 1/4, which actually means we have somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 a tank left.  With a 33 Gal tank, we have between 8 and 16 Gal. left.  We’ve been using propane for heat regularly, for stove top cooking a bit, and to run the refrigerator when we’re stopped on the road.  I am pleased with Li’l Beast’s propane consumption and far less concerned than I was entering Grand Teton NP weeks ago.

We will stay overnight here at Blackwell Island and push on tomorrow early(ish).  No zipline for us in CDA this year!  We are planning to come back to Yellowstone and Grand Teton next fall, but this time start by going north to Victoria, driving east through Canada, dropping down to Coeur d’Alene, then north to Glacier National Park, south to Bozeman,, and then drop into Yellowstone earlier in September than this year.  We may leave mid August to have time for stops along the way.

1:08 PM, we’ve done laundry, re-upped for a third day here at Blackwell Island and we’re about to Uber to Daft Badger Brewing for a bite & brew.  We contacted Jerry yesterday.  He and Michelle are busy with two businesses.  We’ll meet them for dinner, but their time is consumed by their work.  It seem frenetic to me, but then I’m enjoying retirement and leisure.  I hope they are enjoying the lives they’ve created for themselves and being kind to each other.  I expect we will go to Victoria and see them on our way south.  Our plans are always flexible.  If we find a place we love in central Washington State, we could stop for a few days.  For now we’re enjoying peace and solitude here with excitement in CDA a short ride away.  Blackwell Island RV Resort closes tomorrow at 11 AM.  I’ll get a propane fill before 11 or get none here.

We were told that the Dakotas got 17” of snow in the past few days and that Montana is seeing single digit temperatures in the early morning.  We fled Yellowstone at “the right” time.  I’ve had snuffles and other signs of a coming cold for the past week.  The past few days it’s subsided. Ellen’s been fine the whole time.  

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Daft Badger Brewing, five stars!

After laundry, an Uber trip to Daft Badger Brewing.  The kiosk we saw yesterday beckoned to me.  Our driver, Steven, said the brewery is in a residential area.  A house was converted to a brewery and pub restaurant.  Some of the locals are none to happy about it.  Yelp’s ratings for the brewery are all glowing, except for a few people who rate the restaurant on minor glitches that can occur anytime. Get over yourself people!

We arrived at a house with a covered patio open on one side.  Inside the bar/restaurant was packed.  Outside the patio had space and we sat along the open side, but moved inside where it was warmer.

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Daft Badger’s Beer List

They were busy.  A 20 something gal came by, “I’ll be with you in a moment”.  It was a long moment.  A bit later she came by and asked if we want something to drink to get started and handed us menus and drink cards. Ellen, “water no ice”, me “An IPA”.   She replied, “We have six IPAs”  “Ok, I’ll check out the menu”.  “I’ll be right back with your water.”   Of course, she was not right back.  Perhaps ten or even fifteen minutes later she was back with water and an apology, “It’s crazy inside, I got really busy”.  No problem, I don’t expect the world to revolve around us.  I ordered a Badger IPA though I said the Blood Orange IPA sounds really good.”  “Would you like a sample of the Blood Orange?”  “Sure, that’d be great!”  I ordered a pulled pork sandwich and  Ellen had an arugula salad and a champagne.  Yes I’d like the habanero potato chips and marinated jalapeno on the side.  Spicy is always a good thing for me!

Some time later our drinks arrived.  The Badger IPA was good, but the Blood Orange was superb.  It was not the fruity sweet take on a citrus beer I feared.  It had a hint of orange with that hoppy IPA grapefruit crisp finish.  What a beer.  She vanished as quickly as she appeared, off to handle the full house.  It was lunchtime.

Another ten or fifteen minutes later Ellen’s salad and my sandwich appeared.  Ellen’s salad looked like most arugula salads.  My pulled pork sandwich was different.  Most such have pulled pork, some BBQ sauce, maybe some coleslaw or sourkraut.  This one was “different”.  The pork was prepared with dried cherry.  The cherry was present in the background.  The pulled pork was cooked perfectly and without being smeared with sauce.  It had a few marinated red onions and a generous helping of a mild melted goat cheese.  I am on a “heated goat cheese” kind of guy.  Goat cheese often overpowers whatever it is put on.  Either the goat cheese was particularly mild or the sandwich could handle the intensity.  The pretzel bun was great.  The combination of flavors and the moisture of the goat cheese made this sandwich very special.  This was not your typical pulled pork sandwich and would be a disappointment for anyone who expected a BBQ brisket like experience.  This was a level above any pulled pork I have ever had.  It was wonderful.  The beer wasn’t bad either.  I probably bored Ellen to death with ohhh and ahhh and “This is so good” between bites the whole time I ate the darn thing.

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Daft Badger’s Pulled Pork Sandwich, Heaven.

Score a big one for Daft Badger Brewing and their Blood Orange IPA.  I took a six-pack of Blood Orange and a few bottles of other IPAs “to go” to sample later in San Diego.

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After Lunch the Crowd Thinned Out

I very highly recommend a trip to Daft Badger Brewers if you like beer and visit Coeur d’Alene.

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6-packs of Blood Orange IPA Waiting for YOU.

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The Brewery Emptying As We Left

Sherman Ave

We walked the mile and a half down 2nd to Sherman Ave.  2nd ends and restarts, a detour is necessary walking 2nd.  We passed the “moose head” gallery and passed the kayak gallery and Logan.  We stopped into an eclectic gallery that mostly had artwork that didn’t appeal.  There were aluminum or steel images of Lake Coeur d’Alene painted in bright blue.  If you didn’t know the lake, the image would be lost on you. I really liked them.  There was also a pointing of Aspen that was well done and could have found a place in our home or RV, but no. Just up the street we stopped into a Knick knack shop that already had Christmas items for sale.  It was here Ellen had seen reading glasses she liked.  I saw nothing that appealed to me and Ellen got her glasses.

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Fall Colors Coeur d’Alene

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It Reminds Me of New England in the Fall

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Halloween Is Coming

We walked on the shady side of Sherman Ave to avoid the heat! A novelty in the past three weeks.  Eventually we “Ubered” back to Blackwell Island and “home”.

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Seaplane Returning from a Tour

The Bugs are Back In Town

Yesterday evening we encountered swarms of blue gray flying insects that reminded me of gnats, but bigger.  This evening they were out in force too.  “Home” I Googled “coeur d’alene gray blue bugs that fly” and up popped a Coeur ‘’d’Alene/ Post Falls Press article headlined “THE BUGS ARE BACK IN TOWN” all caps.  “Smoky-winged ash aphids are back. CDA is inundated with aphids.  New residents continue to plant ash trees and he aphids are quite happy about it.  The article explains how to control them, sort of.  This happens in warm weather in the fall when they breed.

We had a heck of a time getting through the swarms at the RV campground and and not letting too many into Li’l Beast.  At least they’re not the deer flies of the north east or the black flies of Ontario.  These fellows are harmless.  There are just so many of them, great swarms actually.

A word about Getting Around

With the prevalence of Uber and Lift in most cities in the U.S. it is becoming unnecessary to tow a vehicle behind your motorhome.  At CDA we could request an uber car and have one arrive within five minutes both going to and coming from town. No need to find parking, no concern about parking tickets, no extra tow weight or RV handling issues.  Simply call an Uber/Lift.  Going further, if you want to tour an area, Enterprise will (in select locations) deliver a rental car to your motorhome or offer pickup nearby.  We often drive our motor home into cities and park.  A 24 footer is relatively easy to tool around in.  Even so, for extended tours outside national parks, we have rented through Enterprise for a day.

blackwell Island RV Resort, five stars (off season)

I recommend this campground to those who want to “camp” near Coeur d’Alene for a few days.  In mid October it was quiet and very sparsely occupied.  I imagine during the summer months it can be full and bustling with children running around.  I’m not sure how much the ambiance changes in summer.

October 13 2018 CDA

 

This morning I called suspension outfitters in Spokane about Sumo springs and Fox/Agile shocks for Li’l Beast.  My reading suggests this is the best solution for side to side sway entering and leaving parking lots and such.  The shops specializing in suspension are closed weekends as is Agile who customizes the fox shocks for the 3500 Winnie View.  While I was researching suspensions, the aroma of steak and eggs with crab snapped me back to the moment.  Ellen was reheating our leftover steak Oscar and potato and egg.  Tender steak, with potato for breakfast?  Yum.

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After Breakfast, Breakfast

We decided to stay over in CDA for another day and take uber into town.  Mark, our driver, arrived on time and drove us to “Bakery By The Lake at Parkside”, Ellen had a craving for an almond croissant.  Mark, our Uber driver, arrived quickly and took us to the bakery, “Did you know that American Idol is filming here in CDA?  They’re at the resort with the floating green.  It’s exclusive with security, not just anyone can get in.  I drove one of the contestants there this morning.  You may see celebrities walking around today or tomorrow.”  Cool, we’ll do more people watching than usual.  The bakery had just one; Ellen grabbed it.   I had a cherry cheese Danish.  Both were scrumptious.  My doppio Machiato was excellent. If we stay another day we’ll return here.  The cherry Danish was so good I wish they made cherry pie.

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“According To Yelp”

We walked Sherman Ave, CDA’s “main street” on the sunny side of the street.  At a corner stood a kiosk about CDA’s Brewery Scene.  One panel described “Draft Badger” as the best brewery in Idaho.  Cool, we’ll turn on 2nd street and find the brewery when we get there.

I will not go into an art gallery if the show window does not appeal to me.  I walked past “The Art Spirit”.  Ellen stopped to go in.  “We should check this out” she said.  Reluctantly, I walked in.  Nothing I had seen had appealed to me.  Once inside I was struck by two hand made wooden kayaks.  These were works of art that took long hours of labor to build.  They were clearly created with love.  Amazing. “These are meant to be used on the water.  Not around rocks, but to be used”, the fellow behind the counter said.  “They are amazing”, I said, stunned.

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Hand Made “strip” Kayak, Made from Strips of Wood

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Another

Made of wood, I expected they would be heavy. They are relatively light at 44 lbs.  I cannot justify purchasing one either as art nor as a working kayak.  It seems a travesty to put one in the water.  We were about to leave and I asked about the kayak’s creator. There were three people behind the gallery’s counter; the fellow I originally spoke with, a woman who appeared not to be his wife, and a young girl.  The guy said, “there’s information about the artist on the table.” and the woman said, “Have you been upstairs?  There is more upstairs.”   We about faced and went “upstairs”.

The artwork here is more to my taste.  I particularly liked a collection of masks and might have been moved to purchase one.  No more spending on goodies for me on this trip.

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My Favorite Mask

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On the way out I stopped and mentioned I really liked the masks, but I couldn’t consider purchasing one after buying a spotting scope in Yellowstone then breaking my iPhone and purchasing an XS replacement.  The woman said, “Oh too bad” while the young girl said, “Ooooh, I’m jealous.  Good for you.”  She captivated us.  Ellen said we were from San Francisco.  She said, “I love San Francisco.  My birthday is 10/10 and when I turned 10 we flew to New York to see Hamilton.  It was great.  But once you’ve seen it it’s just ok. We’re going to London and Wales next year. My mom’s from Wales.”  She was so cute, confident, and intelligent.

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Precocious Logan

As for my new iPhone XS, I love it.

Sometime later as the conversation progress, she became CDA’s ambassador, “Have you been to the boardwalk?  You have to visit the boardwalk.  One of my friends was leaning against the rope and fell in. It was winter.  She was ok, but she was freezing”.  I assured her we would not lean against the ropes.  She was vary talkative and gave us one of her cards.  She could well be very successful in life.

Leaving we walked past the art gallery with the huge bull moose head in the window.  It was both disgusting and fascinating.  The sheer size of the head and rack is astounding.  This time Ellen went in.  A hunter shot this moose.

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Big Bull’s Antlers are Huge

At 2nd street we turned looking for “Daft Badger” brewing.  We walked a few blocks before it became apparent the brewery was too far away to comfortably walk there and walk “home” to Li’l Beast.  We U-turned and went back to take a photo of a moose statue Ellen had seen then walked on to find the boardwalk.  We walked through a small mall of shops.  Most were of little interest except for TreeTastic, Timberline Adventures Coeur d’Alene.  They offer a 2.5 hour zipline tour twelve miles east of CDA.  It’s a 4 hour excursion in total.  This we may do.  We also encountered an artist exhibit in which five artists were painting a seated model.  Two of the artists rendition of the model’s face were striking.  They were a remarkably accurate and flattering representation of the model.  One fellow’s work was technically accurate, but he had somehow given the woman an austere almost angry look, which I clearly did not see on her face. The exhibit was accompanied by an accomplished violinist playing moody, touching, and unrecognized (to me) pieces.  I would have love to have talked to her, but not while she played.  We walked on.

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The Artist Exhibit

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Wolf or Coyote?

The boardwalk circles a marina adjacent to the Coeur d’Alene Resort.  The boardwalk is floating on pontoons and includes a floating three story walk-up bridge that allows yachts access to the marina.  Along the Marina stand a few coyote statues to keep birds away.  We saw these last night at Cedar, the floating restaurant. We walked the circle up and over the bridge and back through the resort.  The boardwalk offers stunning views over the lake and to Tubbs Hill.  You can see a seaplane tour outfit and lake dinner cruises from the boardwalk.

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Perhaps Next Year We’ll Take a Tour

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Outside the Resort

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That Two Story Tower is Floating, it rocks with the Waves

After finding our way through the striking posh resort, we continued walking along the Centennial Trail to the bridge over the Spokane River and “home”.  We found a second moose sculpture and discovered we were on a “moose trail”.  Two young women were complaining about the bugs.  We had run into a few that looked like gnats.  One tried to fly into my eye.  We commiserated with them about these flying devils and walked on.  The further we walked, the more dense these small flying kamikazes became.  They were very thick in the air, landing on our jackets and sunglasses.  They’re blue gray roughly 1/8 inch long and cute in a bug-like way.  Eventually they grew less dense and not a problem.

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Moose Trail

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Mudgy & Milly, Five Bronze Moose in CDA

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Ellen Learning the Red Berries are a Variety of Crab Apple

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Approaching the Hwy 95 Bridge, The Meeting Place

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One CDA Beach on the Lake

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On the Bird Watching Trail CDA

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Li’l Beast Sitting on Blackwell Island

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No Fake Coyotes? Birds Gather There!

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The Hwy 95 bridge over the Spokane River has a narrow bike lane.  We walked it over the bridge to our RV park and Li’l Beast.  Ellen did “ok” crossing the bridge and later said, “I don’t want to to that again.”

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Quail Sped into the Bushes, Ellen in Pursuit

Back “home” Ellen cooked up leftover chicken soup. While I resumed writing.

Yellowstone, Some highlights of a “fantastical” journey part one.

 

Another cool morning with the promise of rain.  We decided to drive north to Norris and visit Artist Paintpots on the way.  With flat lighting, we knew colors would not be vibrant.  Taking what the weather gives us, we chose to go in spite of the weather.

On the way over the first low pass between plains we encountered our first traffic jam in Yellowstone.  A herd of Bison were making their way over the pass to the second plain.  We crept forward a few miles an hour for thirty minutes.  With the bison off the road we seemingly sped on.  We stopped at Gibbon Falls.  There is ample parking and a paved walkway.  Many others had stopped and were walking to the falls.

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Gibbon Falls in Flat Light

While we watched the falls, there was a commotion and a few people raced past us down the walkway.  Turning we saw the bison coming up the road.  It was a dramatic sight.  We took a few photos and video.  Then it dawned on me.  If we stay here and watch the bison go by, we will be stuck behind them again and for who knows how long.  With people hurrying down toward the bison, we literally ran back to Li’l Beast and got away.   A group of young people were standing behind a steel railing as the bison walked up.  They were too close to be safe.

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Bundled Up Against the Cold

We drove on to Artist Paint pots.  Artist Paint Pots is a group of geysers and colorful mud pots.  We walked the path and boardwalk up and around the geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mud pots.  Some smelled heavily of sulfur.  Our photographs do not do this area justice.

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Mud Pot Hurling Mud

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Mid Basin Pool

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Mid Basin Geyser

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A Bus Load Arrives

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Geothermal Activity Mid Basin

We left Madison Campground at a reasonable hour.  We dawdled a bit; we had our Nespresso and breakfast, packed up, and drove  away.  After not being able to back into the site because an oversized pickup truck blocked the street, I was certain I’d have to back out this morning.  Surprisingly, it was easy to pull out.  I guess I should have been able to back in last night.

Oddly for October, Yellowstone is busy, not crowded, but busy.  There are no lines of cars on the roads.  Most turn-outs have spots to park, but there are lots of people taking in the sights.  All the campgrounds report going full every day.  We had had no problem getting sites at campgrounds by checking in early.  We wanted to do the same at Mammoth Campground and we boogied, while taking time to visit a few geothermal sights along the way.

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A typical day on the road between Madison and Norris

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The first time we drove north from Madison Campground, we had a 30 minute wait as a herd of Bison meandered along the road getting from one grassy plain through a pass to a second plain.  Once we passed the herd, we stopped at a dramatic waterfall overlook.  Some time later a group of tourists rushed past us to photograph Bison coming up the road.  It was a great photo op and we succumbed to the urge.  Then it occurred to me.  If this herd walks past us, we will be stuck behind them for another 30 minutes or more!  We ran, literally ran, to Li’l Beast and headed out.  We passed a number of people moving quickly the other way for photographs.  I imagine the wondered what we were up to!

Unlike the last time we took this road, there was no bison traffic jam.  We sailed past both grassy plains with no bison on the road.  We did encounter road work and a 30 minute delay.  A road crew had torn up the old road and was widening a long section.  For now the single lane that was open was packed earth and very bouncy.  The old road in this section of the park is very narrow, practically unsafe for wide vehicles.  I learned later that this is the original road of 1903. I assume that means the road has not been widened, not that it has not been repaved since 1903.

Rain, Jamboree, and Wolves

The weather report at the visitor’s center yesterday called for rain today, rain and snow tomorrow and the following day.  We slept through the night comfortably and awoke around 6:30 to the sound of rain drops on Li’l Beast’s roof.  The thermometer showed outside temp of 38 degrees F. The rain was sporadic and light.  I asked Ellen how she felt about heading to Lamar Valley.  “Sure, if you want to”. That was enough for me.  With Ellen comfortable in bed, I backed up a few feet, pulled the few leveling blocks I put out last night, and prepared to go.  In the evening we stow everything we don’t use.  That makes it easy to get started in the morning. “Jamboree” pulled past as I was setting up to leave.

I imagine sunrise over the Lamar Valley is spectacular.  On an overcast day, the sky simply goes lighter with time.  The aspen along the road glowed even without direct sunlight.  There was no traffic: I took the drive slowly and enjoyed the view around each bend as dark gray became steel gray.

After the Roosevelt Turn, Ellen perked up and joined me in the cab.  We stopped at a few turnouts and scanned the tree line for motion.  We saw nothing each time and drove on.   Sitting at a turnout was “Jamboree” with people scanning the tree line for motion.   We pulled in and a few moments later jamboree left.  We played hop-scotch down the Lamar Valley for a few miles.

The last time we caught up with them, there were hundreds of people stopped along the road.  There were spotting scopes on tripods, people with binoculars and umbrellas all staring at a spot in the distance.  Great I thought, but there was no room for us to park.  I drove by slowly, looking for anything we could squeeze into.  The roadside was too steep to risk pulling over.  There was little room for us to stop.  I drove on slowly passing scattered groups of onlookers.  Eventually I found a turnout well past the action and with a a back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth U-turned.  A woman, stopped in the turnout, stared in disbelief with a grimace of distain.  Oh well, onward.

There were no places to park all the way back to jamboree, but there beside them was a spot easily large enough for us. I pulled in, dressed for rain, and jumped out with the spotting scope.  “What are you seeing?” jamboree’s driver (name long since forgotten) said, “wolves, three of them.”  I setup the scope and scanned the valley.  “Look in the yellow above the left most Bison, then scan right to a fallen tree.  The wolves are about 50 yards further to the right”.   Without his help I might still be looking for the wolves.  It took a while to find them, but there they were.  Two large black wolves that were visible at 20x and were clearly wolves at 60x.  “Jamboree” said there were three; I saw two wolves.  They frolicked in the grass.  One mounted the other, then one ran off followed closely by the other.  All the action was framed in the eyepiece. Fantastic.

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Typical Traffic in Lamar Valley (September, off Season)

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Quite The Dapper Guy.

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Yellowstone’s Version of Ox Peckers?

It was not a brief encounter.  There was time for me to adjust the scope for Ellen to see.  Jamboree said they were headed to look for moose next.  “Where?”  “Near cook toward or past the NW Entrance.  There’s report of a big bull moose there.”   Jamboree left in search of their next adventure.  We drove back down the road toward Mammoth, found an unoccupied turnout, and with the generator rumbling away I made cappuccinos for us both.  We celebrated our second wolf sighting.  Hopefully the spotting scope adapter had arrived at the post office.

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UPS, USPS, SNAFU, IPA

We drove on to the visitor center at Mammoth to talk abut wolves and visit the post office to inquire about my delivery.  I left Ellen at the visitors center and headed to the post office.  “Can I help you”, asked a white haired fellow with four bright front teeth and a number of missing side teeth.  I asked they had a package for me.  “What’s your name”  I told him and he went through his packages.  “No package is here for you.  What address was on the package?”  “Ron Leavitt, General delivery, Yellowstone Post Office”, I said.  He asked again, “what is the street address for the package”.   I said, “General Delivery.  The package was shipped by UPS.”  He said, “Oh, we cannot accept packages shipped UPS.  They will not pay us for processing any packages” We went round and round about this.  I finally said that I would pay the post office whatever reasonable fee they wanted to accept the package addressed to me and that I would pick the package up.  No delivery past arrival at the post office was necessary.”  He agreed that this was reasonable and suggested I track the package.  He would look the package info up on the web, “What is the tracking number?”

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One Herd Makes Mammoth Their Home

Tracking number? Right, I didn’t have one!  I went back to the visitors center to contact phoneskope for the tracking number and to look for Ellen.  It took two calls, but eventually Jerome answered and agreed to message me the tracking number.  Ellen was nowhere to be found.  I went back to the post office, tracking number in hand.  The fellow I had been dealing with is the Postmaster General for Yellowstone.  His name is Matt.  Matt looked up the package and found there was no delivery address assigned.  He printed out the info and showed me a blank where the address should have been!  “What The Hell?” I thought.  Things were growing stranger.

I looked up UPS and called their 800 number.  The fellow I spoke with was apologetic and said he would look into this and call me back.  He found that the package had arrived at Bozeman Montana.  He asked what the delivery address should be and I gave him General Delivery Yellowstone Post Office.  He assured me that was all he needed,  the address was now in the system, and all was good.  Great.  I explained to Matt what was going on.  Matt said there were two drivers in the park and that one of them goes to Old Faithful.  If the package finds its way onto the other truck who knows where it will wind up.  He also said that he will look for the package in the next UPS delivery.   Everything seemed reasonable now, except that the package was late and I could be out a “Handling fee” at the post office.

As I walked out thinking I’d now have to track down Ellen,  I called her and she picked up! She was at the hotel and would join me at the post office.  Cool.  Just then I received a call from UPS. The caller verified my name and the tracking number, then asked what address I wanted the package shipped to.  “???” I thought.  I regurgitated the “General Delivery” address and she said UPS cannot ship to a Post Office.  She needs a street address to deliver it or it will go back to the sender!  “Where are you?”, she asked.  “Yellowstone NP, Mammoth Campground” “What is their address”  I checked AllStays (our campsite app), no street address was listed.  Ellen walked up as I was searching for an address. “It’s probably on the reservation papers, oh we didn’t get one.”, she said.  Talking to the UPS gal, I suggested she call me back in 15 minutes.  I’ll drive down to the campground, get a physical address, and drive back where I have ATT coverage.  That should take less than 15 minutes.

At the campground, the registration woman said visitors often get prescriptions shipped to the campground, and gave me their address.  On the drive back to the visitors center, I thought I’d give Matt a piece offering, a beer.  He was a gentleman throughout and probably puts up with any number of irate park visitors.  UPS did call back and I gave them the campground address.  She assured me the package would arrive on the truck tomorrow.  I asked if this happens often in the national park.  She said very often and that many people are not very understanding.   I thought of Matt who has to deal with people face to face.

I walked back into the post office, IPA in hand.  “Don’t take this the wrong way,” I said, “I would like to give you a beer.”  Matt replied with a grin, “I cannot accept that”.  I said, “OK.  I am leaving this beer on the counter over there.  I am not giving you this beer.”   Matt said, “Ok, that works for me.”  A woman who witness this exchange laughed merrily.

Quiet Times

Ellen and I spent the afternoon in Mammoth generally hanging out, charging our devices, writing, reading, and enjoying an afternoon’s down time.

For dinner we had leftover Michelangelo’s Lasagna mixed with the remains of Beth’s pasta.  It was a better dinner we had last night at the Mammoth Hotel’s dining room!  We saved some of last night’s salted caramel ice cream Sunday and had that for desert.

The wind has picked up this evening as a front moves in.  The awning above the push out was making noise, flapping about.  I took the push out in!  We’re getting serious rain now. The temperature will drop overnight and we’ll get snow.

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Perhaps tomorrow evening I’ll be able to take photos through our spotting scope.

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Yellowstone North Entrance & Gardiner

The heater kicked on three times in the early morning.  I set the thermostat to 55 deg. F “just in case”.  We love to sleep in a cool to cold environment.  Most nights the internal temp doesn’t drop below 60.  Today was different.  A strong wind blew in around 7PM.  It shook Li’’l Beast and dropped the temperature too. We awoke to the sound of rain at 2:26AM, to the heater going off around 5AM, and to the trumpeting of 12-pt before sunrise.  12-pt was on a tare.  He trumpeted off and on for an hour or so. He must have walked right by.  The weather forecast for today was rain in the lower elevations and snow above 6800 ft.  Perhaps 12-pt was reacting to the weather?  More likely another male was encroaching. 

Today is the day I should get my new toy, a phoneskope adapter for my Pentax spotting scope (assuming all goes without a hitch after yesterday’s adventure).  Should we head out to Lamar Valley and look for wolves or wait until the adapter arrives?  The cold of the morning won out.  No wolf hunt today.  Instead we parked in our “usual spot” near the visitors center to use their facilities and ask about the weather going forward and wolf sightings.

Coffee first! We fired up the generator, pushed out the “push out” and had “wake up” cappuccinos.  With Ellen in Li’l Beast keeping warm. I walked over to the visitors center. Surprise: it opens at 9 AM, forty minutes away.  I headed over to the Mammoth Hotel to “make a donation”.

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Gardiner Montana

Back at the RV, we decided to check out Gardiner Montana, and headed back down the hill.  Just past the park entrance there were a number of people photographing wildlife to the left.  Some were taking selfies with the Yellowstone sign and arch in the background.  It was the antelope that interested me.  We stopped.  I headed toward the antelope; Ellen went the other direction.  I had never seen pronghorn antelope.  They are remarkable.  The females looks somewhat like impala.  The males are dramatically different.

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Female Prong Horn Antelope

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The Male Prong Horn Antelope

 

I spent some time framing the herd when a fellow asked, “Get any keepers?”.  I said, “I hope so”.  He stopped and we chatted about the pronghorn males.  He said, “The males have a gland either side of their head that exudes a waxy substance that smells like popcorn.  They rub it on shrubs to mark their territory.”  I asked about the nature of the haram, thinking knows a bit about these antelope.  He said, “The males herd the females to a location of their choosing and keep them there.  Another male who encroaches on the marked territory is asking for a fight to the death”

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He asked if I was from Whidbey Island II was wearing a Whidbey Island hat that Jerry had given me).  I said no, I’m from Hercules hear Berkeley.  He own 23 acres on an island in 1000 Islands.  We talked about Salt Lake City and how the air quality has deteriorated.  I mentioned the San Francisco Peninsula and how the air quality has changed dramatically since air pollution laws have been enacted.  We talked about Jerry Brown and how politics has become so divisive.   We spoke of the way instant media and sound bite communication is wreaking havoc with a nuanced understanding of practically anything.  All in all it was fun talking with him.  I hardly noticed that his face was tragically disfigured, probably by an automobile or motorcycle accident in his past.  It is unusual to reach such a depth of mutual understanding in such a short time.  He is an unusual human being.

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Bison, these Fellows were Distant

The town of Gardiner is small and rustic in appearance.  Perhaps it was never prosperous; it has a run-down feeling around the edges.  It is an extremely slow-paced town.  We drove through the town, found a grocery store, and stocked up.  The rip-stop waterproof nylon cover over Ellen’s Catrike had ripped somehow.  I purchased some Gorilla Tape and tried to make a repair.  A local hardware store had duct tape.  That actually holds better in the cold.  With the repair in place, we headed back to explore Gardiner.

Ellen walked the main street while I waited for the diesel pump to free up.  She came running back saying, ‘”You have to see this gallery!”  She had found Christopher Thomas Hoff’s gallery.  He has lived in Gardiner for 15 years and has taken many remarkable photographs of wildlife in action.  His is perhaps the most remarkable collection of photographs of American Wildlife I have ever seen.  I highly recommend visiting Gardiner just to talk with Chris.  He is not very forthcoming when you first engage him, but he comes ‘round.  We had a late morning cappuccino at “the apothecary” a coffee and ice cream shop on the main drag.  Jason was making waffle cones when we walked in.  The aroma was intoxicating.  We had our coffees and Ellen asked for a waffle cone, just the cone.

It is amazing how quickly time escapes us.  It was now 11:15.  The UPS truck was expected to visit the campsite around 11.  With any luck my spotting scope adapter for my iPhone had arrived.  Ellen quipped, “I hope they sent the right adapter!”.  Me too!

Back at the campsite, we asked about availability for yet another night.  Yes, we could stay another night if we like and YES, there was a package for me.  Here you go!  Sitting in a plain manila shipping envelope were three pieces of plastic and two sheets of “how to” instructions.  My phone fit snugly into the cradle and it appeared to be the correct size to mount on the scope’s eyepiece! Excellent.  Now let’s go find some wolves!  But first we stopped at the visitors center for Wi-Fi access and we had a bite to eat. 

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Mammoth & Motorhome Wreck

At Mammoth parked along the center divider sat a tow truck with a wrecked RV in tow.  It was one of those RV Across America rentals that are so common.  It looked as if it had been rolled.  I asked the tow truck driver if they had rolled it.  He said, “They put it on its side” just as two Asian fellows came up to get their belongings out.  I hope they opted for extended insurance.

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There have been numerous times I’ve wanted to pull off the road, but the drop off on the side is too steep to safely negotiate with an RV.  In such cases I’ve always driven on and not forced the issue.  Just a moment of carelessness or inattention can be extremely destructive.  Just last week a bison was hit and killed on a road.  How the hell do you hit a bison?  They are HUGE and if one is near the side of the road, I go slowly.  I don’t want 800 to 2000 pounds of animal jumping in front of my rig. 

Driving Lamar Valley, we stopped at every turn-out that could accommodate Li’l Beast and scanned the valley and tree line for motion.  We drove down the valley and back up and saw nothing.  There were numerous people with binoculars looking and looking, but nobody had a spotting scope out.  No luck and no chance to use my “new toy”.  We packed it in.

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Sickening, Bison Skulls used for Fertilizer.

At the Mammoth visitors center, we checked the weather report.  It looks like snow tonight dropping to 5200 feet (we’re well above that) with overcast skies tomorrow, snow Saturday night, rain Sunday and clearing on Monday.  Do we hang out in Yellowstone for another three days or do we boogie on through Montana?  We’ll see how we feel tomorrow morning. 

We took showers at the Mammoth Hotel (for a modest fee) and returned to Mammoth Campground.  We have no idea when this campground closes.  I’ll have to ask tomorrow. For dinner we had a bit of leftover pulled pork with julienned onion and peppers and avocado.  it was so good.

Today was a good day.  No wolves, but pronghorn antelope are cool.