Category Archives: Road trips

North Dakota road trip; September 2017 — part 3

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IMG_3478Sunday, 10/1: We bade farewell to Gwen, Dannyelle and Johnpaul, and drove west  into Montana on SR 2, chasing a cloud-obscured sunset. We crossed into the Mountain Time Zone, gaining an hour and perhaps a bit more dusk. Two and a half hours later, we stopped at a tall-ceilinged old hotel in tiny Fort Peck.  We clattered up a long wooden staircase to the lobby. Fishermen had taken up nearly every room. All the creaky historical hotel had available was a second-story room with a bathtub.

 

2: Glasgow, Montana

There was nowhere else to stay in town; so we drove on to Glasgow. Here, twenty minutes’ drive away from the attractions of Lake Peck, there were plenty of rooms at a modern motel, the Cottonwood Inn.

Our plans for the coming days; find Thoeny (“Teeny”), MT — John’s birthplace and now a ghost town. Continue west, closely following the Canadian border, to Glacier National Park.

Monday 10/2: A winter storm was approaching over northern Montana. I ‘found an online map displaying Montana road conditions. It showed the roads in different colors signifying dry, wet, slush, ice, blowing snow, etc. The roads west of Glasgow didn’t look good. We decided to give up our quest for Thoeny; it’s too far out on the northern prairie, and will have to wait for a future trip. We stayed in Glasgow for a day to wait for better road conditions.

Our Cottonwood Inn motel let us move to a larger room without charging any more rent, and let us use a second desk chair and suitcase stand. It had a passable restaurant; good breakfast, mediocre dinner. Only a few people were eating when we were there. Glasgow’s streets were wide but had little traffic. We shopped a bit and gassed up the car in the life-sucking wind.

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Tuesday 10/3: This morning I got up early and crossed the parking lot for a swim, and discovered that wet snow was falling. Two people stood in a corner of the indoor pool talking, as if it were a Roman bath. Afterward I had breakfast in the motel restaurant. The room went dark; Glasgow’s power had failed. The desk clerk assured me that my room key-card would still work.  Ten minutes later, the power came on again.

The online road conditions map showed that, unlike the northwestern route we’d planned to drive, the way south and east was clear. So much for Great Falls and Glacier National Park. We bundled up in our warmest waterproof layers and drove south to the Fort Peck Dam.

The dam looks strange to eyes accustomed to Washington’s concrete-wall dams such as Grand Coulee. It’s a huge, gently-sloping, grassy hill. The Interpretive Center is actually an impressive museum with a large dinosaur exhibit; the monsters were common along the shores of the ancient sea whose bottom now forms Montana’s prairies and badlands. Many fossils have been found here; some “firsts,” some “largests,” and some unique in the world of paleontology.

A small exhibit about the dam is in the back of the museum; it was a depression-era project conducted with an eye to creating jobs. Despite an emphasis on safety, 60 people were killed in the course of the project. The bodies of some men who died in a mudslide were never found and are supposed to be entombed in the dam.

We continued south and west to Jordan, buffeted by wind and snow showers. The worn little town clings to a crossing of two back roads on the crest of the prairie. A sign warned that cattle were loose on the road, but those we saw were in the fields, being good. We refilled the gas tank at a little store that didn’t want us to pay in advance. It was 39 degrees F. The weather and road conditions looked okay, so we set course southwest for Billings.

DSCN2014 (1)Snow-speckled, desolate hills separated long stretches of undulating grassland. We saw dozens of small brown deer idling near the road and perhaps looking to cross it. We saw some abandoned farms, and stopped to take pictures of one near Roundup. I found that a section of its fence had been patched with bedsprings, an improvisation that must have a sad story behind it.

 

4: Billings, Montana

We reached Billings at dark and had dinner at Tao New Asian, an elegant little restaurant with Japanese, Chinese and Thai offerings. What a contrast between city and country!

I asked for some miso soup. The waiter explained that, altho miso soup was on the menu, they no longer offered it, because not enough Montanans will eat it. He went to the kitchen to ask the chef if he could make a bowl of it for me, but returned to report that the chef had no miso paste that day.

IMG_3499Wednesday 10/4: We had a fine second breakfast at the Four B’s Cafe across the street from our motel. Pat asked a motel employee where we might hike, and she suggested Zimmerman Park. It encompasses meadows, bluffs and a sheer cliff that forms the north side of the Yellowstone River valley. We walked a network of trails that led up to steep boulder-strewn slopes with splendid views of the town and the surrounding countryside. Here there was no need to worry about falling off a cliff or stepping on a rattlesnake. Those things don’t happen in a city park!

A big cloud drifted up the valley from the west, spoiling the sunset. It looked like rain, so we turned back to the car. We had good salads for dinner (Santa Fe Chicken Salad for me) at CJ’s Bar And Grill. When we came out it was raining.

Thursday 10/5: By means of a supreme effort we managed to check out at 10:20am. We had an evening date with Pat’s brother Tim and his wife Cathy in Anaconda.

On our way west we stopped at Madison Buffalo Jump State Historic Site. Before Spanish interlopers brought horses to North America, an Indian community would drive a herd of buffalo off the cliff, kill the animals that survived the fall, process them using every part, and put the meat by for winter. We followed a trail to a hilltop below the cliff. It gave a fine view of the broad, grassy valley where buffalo once roamed.

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The Gallatin, Jefferson and Madison rivers join at the headwaters of the Missouri.

Our next stop was Missouri Headwaters State Park. Here at “three forks” the Gallatin, Jefferson and Madison Rivers join to form the Missouri River. The pretty rivers join in a meadow surrounded by low mountains. The 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition had camped a mile from Three Forks on its way to the Pacific. Their Indian interpreter Sacajawea recognized that this area was where she had lived as a girl before being kidnapped by another tribe. Eventually she was reunited with her brother and the chief.

IMG_3508The nearby ruin of an 1868 hotel, held together with massive wood beams, is all that remains of the town of Gallatin. Speculators had started it in the early 1800s, hoping to profit by supplying gold prospectors. But a waterfall further down the river made steamboat transportation to the eastern US impossible. In desperation they moved the town across the river, but apparently still above the fall; in a few years it faded away. Nearby farmers tore down part of the hotel for its wood.

5: Anaconda, Montana

We reached Anaconda at dusk. East of town we drove past long black mounds speckled with snow. These are copper smelter tailings; a few tall smokestacks and foundations are all that remains of the smelters. Tim and Cathy met us outside the Copper Bowl bowling alley.  We gave Tim the rest of the Relics.  He’d originally given a collection of flint arrowheads and other stone tools to John.   It was intriguing to imagine people making such implements on which their lives depended.

IMG_3518Tim took us on a car tour of the mine tailing reprocessing plant that he manages.  The tailings, he explained, are mostly iron silicate; the iron content is 65%, rich enough that another business is considering refining it. The material also contains arsenic and other toxic substances. It’s dangerous if heated, and its dust is also dangerous. The smelter had melted copper ore; the tailings material had risen to the top, to be removed and piped in a watery slurry to the tailing pile. Water used in the process was sent to settling ponds and then dumped into the river, dying it lurid colors and killing everything in or near the water, even plant life. Tim told us that much of the land has since been reclaimed. He had a part in this work; as a train engineer he’d driven trains carrying removed material to a repository across the valley from Anaconda.

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 6.11.17 PMThe reprocessing company’s conveyor belts carry the material through a spinning tank with hot air blowing thru it, like a giant clothes dryer. Next it’s conveyed into a screening building. Two grades of sand are stored in silos; the remainder is returned to the tailings mound. The fine sand is bagged and sold for use in sandblasting; it’s well-suited for this, because it’s half again as heavy as normal sand. The coarse sand is bagged or loaded into covered-hopper rail cars or trucks for use in manufacturing asphalt shingles.

On our way out, Tim pointed out a large warehouse across the road. “That’s full of equipment we could use, like a 50-pound bag filler,” he said. “The people who own it used to run a smaller reprocessing operation where our plant is now. They neglected to pay their lease to Asarco for eight years; so Asarco put a lien on the plant and kicked them out. They’ve gone to court several times to try to get the plant back; but they’ve always lost. And they’re too mad about it to sell us that equipment.”

Tim and Cathy took us to dinner at O’Bella, a nice little Italian restaurant nearby. We looked at pictures of their grandkids and had a fine visit until the restaurant asked us to leave to make way for a large group. We drove on to Missoula; not in the mood for Ruby’s Inn again, we stayed in a large Best Western.

6: Missoula, Montana

Friday 10/6: I got up early, thanks to the alarm clock that the last person in our room had set, and went downstairs for a swim. The pool had no changing room, so I’d hoped to slip thru the corner of the lobby in my swimming suit unnoticed. Two employees were chatting there. “Well, look at YOU!” One woman exclaimed. “Are you on your way to the pool?”

“Yup,” I said.

Pat and I had breakfast together. She dropped me off at the end of a different branch of the Clark Fork River bicycle trail. It tunnels under Reserve Street, Missoula’s most overloaded arterial, and weaves thru a residential area to the riverbank, joining the main trail where I’d ridden on the second day of this trip. It was a beautiful fall day with warm sunlight sparkling in the river, and more color in the leaves than before. I crossed a cute little suspension bridge to an East Missoula park. I rode to the Canyon River Golf Community, where the trail ends across the street from a nice pond garden. On the ride back, cold shadows stretched across the path and a gusty wind rushed down the river valley.

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We had dinner at Perkins with Pat’s Aunt Ginny and cousins Kim and Sandy. I saw an elderly woman at the next table struggling to reach her cane that had fallen into the aisle, and went over to help her back into her seat and prop up her cane. I had Santa Fe avocado salad, giving Pat the avocado, and lemon meringue pie for dessert.

Sunday 10/9: While taking a load out to the car, I met a middle-aged couple in the elevator. He was holding a bouquet, and she held a pot of flowers with bits of tinsel. “I don’t often see people traveling with flowers,” I said. They explained that they’d come to Missoula for their daughter’s funeral service. Their daughter had cancer, and they’d often stayed at this motel while visiting and caring for her. The staff had come to know them, and the flowers and a card were from the staff.

Showers and gusty winds opposed our drive west. We saw the base of a large rainbow as we left Missoula. Lunch was in the funky deli in a back corner of the Pilgrim Foods grocery store in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. Beyond the Rockies we crossed eastern Washington’s flat, grassy prairie on the ruler-straight highway.

IMG_3554By the time we’d crossed the Columbia River the setting sun was getting in our eyes. We stopped in Kittitas to wait out the sunset in Olmstead Place State Park, an old farm with a large collection of antique farm machinery. The tours had ended an hour before, and the park was empty. A ranger hurried over to see whether we had an annual park pass; I was hanging it on the mirror while Pat talked to him. He suggested a footpath that followed a stream, and we had a short stroll. Windmills lined the low ridge beyond the fields to the southeast.

Dinner was at Ellensburg’s Dakota Cafe, the best restaurant of the trip; pot roast for me. Pat was eager to be home, so we drove on into the Cascade Mountains thru a pounding rainstorm. It didn’t let up until we’d crested Snoqualmie Pass.

There’s no place like home!

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North Dakota road trip; September 2017 — part 2

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6: Medora, North Dakota

Monday 9/25: It was late on a rainy afternoon when we crossed from Montana into North Dakota. A bright red layer appeared in the tops of the hills. We’d see more of it in the coming days.

We stopped for the night in Medora, a tourist town outside the entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Medora might be a vortex.  My phone’s Google navigation app kept misleading us.   A map of the town that our hotel gave us was unreliable too.  Because Medora was trying to look like an Old Western town, it had no neon signs and not much street lighting.

The tourist season had ended. Aside from the ruinously expensive Roosevelt Room only two restaurants were open; and they were just bars with pub food. We walked to Boots Bar And Grill, braving dark wet wooden sidewalks, and sat at a table made out of a Jack Daniels Whiskey barrel. We’d arrived 20 minutes before the kitchen closed. I ordered a salad; it was loaded with bacon and feta cheese, and was accompanied by a chewy roll. On our way out we met a gray-bearded man who had driven there with his grandson; they couldn’t find a hotel. We gave them our map and directions to our hotel, and we saw them there later.

We’d planned to do laundry tomorrow; but I discovered that the nearest laundromat was in Dickinson, a 35 minute drive out of our way. Later I found out that Dickinson has a notable dinosaur museum; so perhaps we’ll wash our clothes there on our next trip.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 8.08.58 PMTuesday 9/26: I got up early and had breakfast at Medora’s Cowboy Cafe (they close after lunch.) My first non-motel breakfast of the trip; French toast and ham and black tea. I pulled my bike off the car and rode up to the park’s south unit Visitor Center. The ranger at the counter told me that bikes are allowed only on paved roads, not on trails. He gave me a map of a bike trail that detoured around the park.

While I was looking at it, a young woman came over to talk. Her name was Ruth. She was riding across the country, as our daughter Alice and her friend Kyle had done, and had mistaken me for a fellow biker. We went out to look at her bike; it had a steel frame, small wheels (because they were easier to find in third world countries), and 30 gears. It was loaded with camping equipment. She’d gotten wet in last night’s rain, so she’d put her down sleeping bag in a drier. She had sectional bike maps like Alice’s in a transparent case on her handlebars; she’d started at Washington’s Orcas Island and was riding to New York. I wondered if she was traveling solo, but I couldn’t think of a way to ask this question that wouldn’t sound critical. I complimented her on her adventure and wished her luck. She went back inside to buy some postcards. I slipped a twenty into her saddlebag, acknowledging the many good Samaritans who’d helped Alice and Kyle during their adventure, and left.

I tried the road into the park but it was steep and without shoulders; TRNP is a very hilly park. I found a nice but short bike path that led west from the park’s south entrance over a nearly dry river to the Maah Daah Hey trail. This trail was a muddy mess and not for me; I doubt that Ruth came this way either.

I returned to the Cowboy Cafe for more tea, and read my Enigma book until Pat was ready. The waiter came over and suggested strawberry rhubarb pie, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. A la mode. So then I had to take a nap in our room to sleep it off, while Pat visited the Cowboy Hall of Fame.

We finally got on the road to the park in mid-afternoon. We saw beautiful vistas of rolling hills, terraced badland buttes and sinuous, delicate-looking trees whose leaves were turning gold.

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We stopped for a short hike into the hills. The Lower Paddock Creek trail crossed a large prairie-dog town whose residents heralded our approach with warning peeps; “Look out! Look out! The monsters are coming!” The broad, inclined field was cratered with tunnel openings. Chubby tan prairie dogs peeked out of them, stood on their hind legs on the watch for approaching danger, or lay within easy diving range of their holes. They looked like big gerbils. Their holes looked like little volcanoes; they’d built up the rims with clay scooped from the surrounding ground. Crumbs of red sandstone were scattered around the mounds; the prairie dogs had carried it up from their tunnels. Later we found some buttes with layers that were the same color.

 

Past the prairie dog town, the grass was longer and I saw pale green flowering bushes — sagebrush, Pat guessed. The trail split into several parallel trails where hikers and horseback-riders had tried to get around mud. Some hillsides had thin seams of coal that had washed onto the trail. Pat found some juniper berries. We saw a little short-eared rabbit whose fur exactly matched the ground. He froze, until he realized his camouflage wasn’t working; then he turned and dove into his hole.

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The way got rough and muddy. We went back to the car and took turns scraping gumbo off each others’ boots with a stick, and put them in plastic bags to deal with later. Walking on snow would really clean them well, and I suspect we’ll see snow again — maybe more than we’ll want.

We finished the scenic loop drive around the park. As in Yellowstone, we’d find cars stopped in the middle of the road to look at wildlife; then we’d look around for what they were looking at. We saw two buffaloes; one was rolling on his back on a hilltop. We saw three wild horses and some deer. The low golden sunlight lit the landscape beautifully.

We drove around Medora and confirmed that only the two bars were open. So we went to the other one, Little Missouri, for dinner. Pat gave the grilled chicken salad a good report; I had a mediocre, partially burned pizza. We realized that a large party sitting next to our table had been at the Boots Bar and Grill last night. The Little Missouri had flocked red wallpaper, gilt framed mirrors and crimson ceiling lamps. The music was country western. Cowboy hats and dollar bills were pinned to the ceiling beams. The waitress explained that this had become a local custom, like the snapshots of customers in a barbershop.

Wednesday 9/27: Breakfast together at the Cowboy Cafe. The walls are covered with photos of cowboys, rodeos, etc. Pat reminisced that she and her mother used to watch rodeos on TV. I wonder if Montana stations cover rodeos live any more? I might watch that show myself.

We drove up to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s north unit, after a short detour due to Siri not mentioning the exit from I-94 that we needed to take to get on SR-85, and due to me trusting her too much. We noted three Buffaloes loitering around the little visitor center. Pat asked the ranger whether they were a permanent feature for entertaining tourists. “Uh-huh,” she said in a bored voice. But she had good advice when we asked about a short hike. “The trails are full of water, except for the Sperati Point trail that starts from Oxbow Overlook at the end of the road.”

We drove across the park, which differed from the South Unit. The stripes on the sides of the badlands clay mounds were more colorful. We learned from a roadside sign that the mounds can slump down or tilt when undercut by surface water. A shifted mound’s stripes match stripes higher up on neighboring mounds. We saw broad grassy meadows and stands of various trees, in particular one with gracefully arching trunks and branches whose delicate leaves flicker and sparkle in the wind. Its leaves were turning from bright green to gold. We stopped at a campground at the edge of a small forest of these trees; it was beautiful. We also saw lots of buffaloes and some deer, but no prairie dogs.

We stopped to walk out to a viewpoint over the Little Missouri valley. It had a beautiful fieldstone shelter that had been built by Works Progress Administration craftsmen in the 1930s. The river below meandered thru forests of the green-gold trees. It was the final destination of streams that found their way down thru the chaotic badlands on each side. There is no way to adequately photograph such a huge and wonderful view; but we tried.

The Sperati Point hike was a good one, taking us across a saucer-shaped prairie to its raised rim for a view down the length of the Little Missouri’s canyon. Pat spotted wild rose hips and what looked like drought-stricken blueberries. There was also a type of sprawling bush with fuzzy pale green leaves and wicked thorns. We noticed several buffalo-sized depressions in the tall grass. On returning to the car, we discovered that yesterday’s mud was gone from our boots.

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7: Williston, North Dakota

We drove back out to SR-85 and followed it northwest to Williston. Road construction obstructed our path; as darkness fell, we groped our way into the city later than we’d hoped. We checked into El Rancho Motel, close to Pat’s niece Dannyelle’s house.

While Pat went on to their house for a short visit, I worked on our laundry. The first challenge was to find the laundromat. It turned out to be a nondescript cinderblock building wrapped in darkness in the parking lot. Here were two washers and one usable dryer; there was no change dispenser or soap. By the time I had gotten everything together, someone else was using both washers. So I had dinner at the Williston Brewery next to our motel. It was much nicer than the bars in Medora, but it was still a bar. I ordered a chicken sandwich that turned out to be tall and messy. The music was ’90s pop, a nice change from country western. Four young men were partying at the next table, swearing and guffawing; what fun to be young.

IMG_3362When I went back into the laundromat a man in huge camo shorts was looking in the dryer. On my way back and forth I saw a man drag an empty beer keg outside the bar next door and pause for a smoke. Pat returned soon afterward, and in due course the laundry was done.

Thursday 9/28: We made eggs with mushrooms for brunch at Dannyelle’s house. Most everyone who lived there was either in school or working. So we explored the neighborhood on foot. It was a perfect sunny afternoon. Attractive houses line the wide, shady streets. A hint of winter; the fire hydrants have red and white poles bolted to their tops so the firemen can find them in snow.

We found a community center with a nice playground, bandstand and skateboard park. There was a swimming pool too, but it held only a stagnant puddle. The park had several carved and lacquered statues with roots, made from trees that I suppose had died or been in the way. Most were of fantasy figures; a witch, a dwarf, etc. The one I liked best was a buffalo.

IMG_3364I met Dannyelle’s two beautiful, friendly cats, Judith and Guy-Guy. Judith had recently delivered kittens; Dannyelle commented that motherhood seemed to have made her more mellow. We unloaded a lot of the Relics; Gwen and Dannyelle especially liked John’s paintings. Gwen remembered watching John working at the easel, and how he’d taught her to shape the brush’s bristles to paint various shapes. “I’d pushed my feelings into a corner, but now they’re coming back out,” she said sadly. Dinner was Domino’s pizza, infinitely better than the pizza at Little Missouri Bar and Grill in Medora.

Friday 9/29: Our motel room smelled like old socks. I’d just done the laundry, and I couldn’t find anything to account for the smell. The motel clerk let us move to a different room. Perhaps the clerk tipped off the housekeepers that we were troublesome; our new room had been liberally sprayed with air freshener. The window didn’t open; so we propped the door open to air it out. But the motel was being remodeled, and an adhesive smell came into the room. We shut the door and hoped for the best.

I was hoping to go biking with Dannyelle. But we couldn’t find a shop that rents bikes. So Pat invited her on a photo shoot while I explored Williston’s bike paths. A motel employee who jogs suggested taking the main trail north to Silver Lake Park, which has a one-mile trail around the lake. This route took me along a swale (marshy area) that is the indefinite shore of the many-channeled Little Muddy River. There wasn’t a lot to see, but it was a refreshing open space. I noticed that much of Williston is on a plateau above the river. The northern part of Williston is lower, and here a broad levee (embankment) defines the margin of the swale. This system seems capable of controlling a large amount of water, tho I saw a few buildings down in the swale whose owners must worry about flooding.

I had ridden halfway around Spring Lake when I noticed a car driving slowly along the road next to me. I realized it was pacing me, and that it was our car. Pat, Dannyelle and Gwen had come to Silver Lake for their photo shoot. We walked out on the strip of land that bisects Spring Lake. Gwen spotted a turtle peeking out of the water. She and Dannyelle bring the boys to swim here and sometimes they catch turtles. Dannyelle rode my bike around the lake a couple of times and decided to look for a bike at the garage sales.

I started to ride to their house. Easier said than done; North Dakota’s mighty prairie wind was against me now. What a good place for sailing and kite-flying this must be! And the lowering sun was in my eyes. By the time I’d reached Dannyelle’s neighborhood the bike trail was far from any road. “Turn right!” Siri said. I bumped across an open field near some warehouses. But it was muddy and surrounded by drainage ditches, so the shortcut didn’t save me much time. Then I had to cross a busy highway. So much for getting my bicycling advice from Siri. Stalked and misled by women; it’s a dangerous life for a little boy.

IMG_3367Pat came out and helped me put my bike on the car. I watched a recording of the Star Trek Discovery premier episode that Dannyelle had made, got some more lap time with cats, and enjoyed Dannyelle’s baked salmon with broccoli for dinner.

Saturday 9/30: We had breakfast at the Smiling Moose Deli; they brought us each a little custom-made skillet of scrambled eggs and goodies on a wooden trivet, with a hot pad fitted over the skillet handle. No need to tell us it was hot.

Pat went back to Theodore Roosevelt National Park with her family. After a frenzy of food prep and packing, they took off in two cars; Gwen and JohnPaul in Pat’s car, and Thomas, Jordan and “Little” Jordan in Dannyelle’s car. The two cars got separated on the way out of town (Pat made sure that Dannyelle could find the park, and didn’t wait for her). They found each other when Pat realized she needed gas. At the same time, Dannyelle needed snacks; and they happened to choose the same gas station. But Pat took off, thinking they would be behind her. She didn’t realize that Dannyelle had gotten confused and turned the wrong way. Pat stopped at a viewpoint outside of the park and waited for them.

They went into the park together. There were no buffalo at the Visitor’s Center this time. Fortunately, this day was a National Park “Free Day” so nobody had to pay to get in. As they drove to a campground day-use area, all eyes watched for wildlife. They saw buffalo, and some large birds later identified as wild turkeys. JohnPaul jumped the fence and scrambled to the edge of the canyon, scaring Gwen. Pat assured her, “He’s fourteen; he’ll be fine.”

After a snack in the campground and a decision not to try to get down the canyon wall to the river, Gwen, Pat, Dannyelle and Jordan Jr. went for a hike on a nature trail to the canyon’s edge.  Here they saw the wild turkeys again.

IMG_3404Meanwhile, I explored more of Williston on my bike. I saw another bicyclist, the first in four days. My first stop was Railroad Park, a grassy knoll overlooking the Empire Builder railroad station, which still offers passenger service. On the knoll was a retired steam engine with a Great Northern tender and a green and yellow Northern Pacific caboose. I thought I saw a plaque on the far fence, but when I went around to read it all I got for my trouble was “Park closes at dusk.”

I ate lunch on a park bench, and continued east. Beyond the station I followed a disused spur close to the southeast levee where the Little Muddy joins the Missouri. I found a series of what one might charitably call equipment storage yards. Discarded cars and trucks and farm equipment slumbered in the autumn sunlight for me to photograph.  (More junkyard pics.)

IMG_3450I rode up into Dannyelle’s neighborhood, but of course they weren’t there. I found myself on the Williston State College campus, and remembered the Paint And Taste class I’d found on the web while planning the trip. I hadn’t signed up for it; but maybe I could find the room and drop in? So I did; the instructor, a young blond woman named Krystal Falcon, was just putting up a sign in the hallway. She directed me to a Jimmy John’s for a quick supper before class started.

When I returned, about 20 people were milling around in the room, filling out forms and getting blobs of blue, white and yellow paint from big pump-bottles onto paper plates. Another woman named Rochelle was serving wine from a makeshift corner bar. “If you have any trouble painting, have some more wine!” I took a glass of a red blend, very tasty, and put it next to my jar of water for mixing with paint. I suppose that if your wine starts tasting like paint, you know it’s time to go home.

A painting of a willow tree in a shaft of moonlight stood on display at the front of the room. Our assignment; paint something similar to this. We made the pictures in layers, from background to foreground. The acrylic paints could be mixed with water and with each other. We had three kinds of brushes, plus Q-tips which we bundled with rubber bands and used for stamping leaves on our trees. Krystal guided us thru one layer at a time; in two hours most of us had presentable pictures.

Sunday 10/1: As October dawned, the lovely fall weather sputtered out; while walking back from my breakfast at the Dakota Farms restaurant to the El Rancho Motel, I saw a dark mass of clouds approaching from the northwest. It socked in and rained all day. Gwen, Dannyelle and Thomas came to the motel lobby to visit and play pinochle with Pat. A motel clerk brought us a pot of coffee. After a while I introduced the subject of lunch. “No! We have to play cards!” Gwen objected.

A short time later, Gwen had to go to work. We went to a grocery to pick up some things, and I got a sandwich to eat in the car while Pat drove me to the library. She went to Dannyelle’s house to teach Jordan Jr. how to play Fish and coach JohnPaul in Pinochle

A librarian showed me where the local history books were. I found no book dedicated to Williston; but from some books about North Dakota I learned the following:

  • In 1827, John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Co. built Fort Union, an Indian trading post, where the Yellowstone River joined the Missouri. The fort had a steamboat connection to St. Louis MO. This community moved east a bit and became Williston.
  • In 1887, the Manitoba Railroad Co. owned by James J. Hill extended its line westward from Minot to Williston. This line became part of Hill’s Great Northern railroad.
  • Republican progressive Usher Burdick moved to Williston in 1910 and went into business there. He fumbled a bid to become ND’s governor.
  • Main StBy 1915, Williston was a rapidly growing commercial center. Its first radio station started broadcasting in 1929.
  • In 1976, nearby Fortuna Air Force Base detected a UFO on its radar; several townspeople reported seeing it.
  • The Bakken shale oil formation that underlies Williston is thought to have more oil than the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. Enbridge Pipeline Co. built a pipeline from Williston to Clearbrook MN. In the late ’70s Williston experienced an oil boom. It built new water and sewage systems and new schools to handle the surge in population. Then oil prices dropped and the boom ended. Williston’s population in 2000 was about 12,000.
  • By 2016 it had rebounded to about 26,000.

Pat picked me up when the library closed. I got some more quality time with Dannyelle’s cats Guy-Guy and Judith. We had a farewell dinner at Applebee’s with Dannyelle and JohnPaul before heading west into darkness.

Part 3

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North Dakota road trip; September 2017 – part 1

1: Seattle, Washington

Tuesday 9/19: The first day of our trip. Pat went to get a trailer hitch welded to the car, a bike rack installed on it, a new battery installed in her phone, etc., while I shopped and packed. We had take-out salads for supper and loaded the car. First with the memorabilia that John’s widow Debi gave us to distribute to Pat’s siblings; cowboy shirts, boots and hats, Charles M. Russel art books, a folding easel whose legs kept telescoping out, several paintings, plans for fishing boats and old west wagons, a huge monkey wrench that had been John’s father’s, cigar boxes full of flint arrowheads and scrapers, and other stuff. Also our own things. It didn’t look like it was all going to fit. What to do? Ship what didn’t fit to Gwen? Take what’s left next year? Buy a bigger car? Pat marched out and somehow squeezed it all in, working in the dark, in driving rain, while I wrapped and staged stuff by the front door.

At last the job was done. I checked the time; 9:30 PM. “Let’s stay here tonight,” I suggested.

“Okay!” She said.

Map screenshot

Wednesday 9/20: We got up at 4:30 AM and, after a brief wrestle with the bike rack, were on the road at six. We quickly escaped the sleeping city and followed I-90 up into the Cascades, shielded by overcast from the glare of the rising sun. Wisps of fog clung to the forested mountains and lurked in dips in the road. For some reason a lot of empty flatbed trucks were going our way.

Shortly before seven we stopped at the Summit Pancake House at Snoqualmie Pass for breakfast. The restaurant was dark when we went in. They were just getting ready to open, and we were the only customers. I had pancakes with blueberries, strawberries, walnuts and whipped cream.

East of the pass, a thick bank of fog had collected on Lake Keechelus. We passed Cle Elum, site of a recent forest fire, in rain. We saw no sign of the fire; but the valley smelled like a wet campfire. We crossed the Columbia River on the Vantage bridge. We used to go this way to visit John; and now our car was full of his relics. We stopped to secure the bike, which was getting loose, and drove on to Spokane across a stretch of prairie. The straw-like grass was studded with sagebrush, and by the road an occasional burned patch stretched up the slope.

Forest reappeared, a thin covering of small straight firs with no underbrush. Pat liked it because this kind of forest is typical of Montana, where she grew up. Gently rolling hills were covered by dry grass and trees. Road cuts revealed that the soil was a thin layer atop the knobby basalt of an ancient lava flow.

Pat made a hard right turn, and my phone jumped off my lap into the crevice between my seat and the transmission console. Pat got it out with difficulty. After that, we stuffed the crevice with small items, and I kept my phone in my shirt pocket.

The Relics were restless. They shifted around and somehow pushed the armrest button to open a rear window. I thought Pat had opened it, so I didn’t say anything until the breeze got annoying. She closed it and set the childproof lock before any Relics could have an escape. During a stop, the Relics tried again to escape when she opened a back door. I had to hold in John’s folding easel to keep it from taking a stroll.

2: Missoula, Montana

After ten hours on the road to make up the time we’d lost yesterday, we reached Missoula, Montana. We checked into Ruby’s Inn, dowdy but close to Pat’s Aunt Ginny and her son Kim.

Ginny has grown tiny and grey, but her perky humor hasn’t changed. Kim seems like a younger version of his amiable father Chub, with a mustache that suits him well. We went to pub-like Applebee’s for dinner; I had the good luck to be in the restroom when a passing waitress spilled salad dressing over my chair.

Thursday 9/21: I’m journaling and writing on corny black-and-white postcards in Ruby’s Inn’s labyrinthine breakfast area. Country western music is playing, a small price to pay for no TV babbling about Trump and North Korea. Overheard; “Bill, this is for your wallet. Your WALLET. Put it in your wallet. Your billfold.” “That’s okay, I’ll take care of it.” “I found two blouses that look okay with my pregnancy pants.” “So I went to the junkyard for that carburetor, and a flatbed truck pulled in right behind me with a 1994 Nissan truck on it — same truck as mine!”

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Pat dropped me off at Toole Park so I could ride my bike along the Clark Fork River. I headed southeast out of town on a good gravel road along the forested riverbank, signed “Kim Williams Nature Area.” The river was pretty, with some rapids; the new Missoula College buildings cast reflections from the far side. I crossed under some bridges and passed a golf course on a nice gravel trail before heading back. Later, Kim commented that foxes live on this golf course. When you hit your ball, a fox may catch it and run away with it.

On my way back to Missoula, I stopped to look over the small spillway and weir that cross the west channel around Jacob’s Island. A nearby sign described the “Milltown Reservoir Dam And Sediment Removal Project” which had begun here some ten years ago. Contaminated sediment from copper smelters in Butte and Anaconda had accumulated behind the old dam. The project’s goal was to remove what was possible and stabilize the rest. Maybe the weir was part of that effort? I returned to Toole Park and continued northwest thru the city. It looked prosperous; a row of apartment houses along the river was being restored.

We had dinner with Ginny and Kim at the Montana Club. Tim called from Anaconda to warn us that he and Cathy had bad colds; so we rearranged our itinerary to see them later. He also said they’d had eight inches of snow.

Friday 9/22: Colder and raining. Anyway we reorganized the car, trying to get the Relics into its deepest recesses and our things closer to the surface. We had lunch at Ginny’s house. I asked her whether, when the weather is like this in Missoula, we might see snow on the passes. She said we might.

We got on I-90 and headed east, noting snow on the crest of a ridge to the north. Near Butte we ascended gradually to Homestake Pass. Unlike our steep Cascade passes thru mountain crags, Homestake Pass is surrounded by gently rolling hills, some with rocky spines. Today, snow came down from the hills to cover rooftops and dapple the verge of the highway before retreating back to its high places.

3: Bozeman, Montana

We found Bozeman MT to be somewhat colder than Missoula. It’s a pretty little town that hosts Montana State University and two museums, which we scouted for tomorrow.

We had supper at Rice Fine Thai Cuisine, a chilly walk from the parking lot of the bank on the next block. Our waiter was a college kid with detailed advice about the food; “The spiciness of the chilis varies from year to year, depending on the weather. We have to taste them and adjust our recipes after each harvest.” But Pat had to ask a busser for napkins; and we never received plates. The latest chili harvest must have been a spicy one. Pat asked for coconut milk to tone down the food. Our waiter acquiesced and brought us a bowl of warm coconut milk to spoon over it.

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Saturday 9/23: we checked out early and headed to the Museum Of The Rockies. It has the most impressive dinosaur fossil collection I’ve seen. Exhibits included one on small bird-like burrowing dinosaurs, a habitat that might explain why only bird-like dinosaurs survived the asteroid strike that ended the Mesozoic Era. I also learned that the horns of juvenile triceratops point rearward; they turn to point forward as the animal matures. We learned that this was to signal the herd’s alpha males that the little guys weren’t ready to compete for the females yet, so they would let them live.

There was a collection of exotic old west wagons that would have fascinated John. One was a water wagon; it consisted of a wooden tank on wheels with a driver’s seat on one end. I also noticed a Studebaker carriage; this carriage-maker entered the automobile business with an experimental electric car in 1897. Studebaker was a familiar automobile brand until the 1950s. Carriage makers who didn’t adapt to the automobile went bankrupt, as two did in 1914 and 1915.

I saw a sad collection of Native American portraits. One photograph was of Chief Sitting Bull, who signed a peace treaty after a disastrous war with the United States. He ended up performing in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Another portrait was of a Native American mystic. He had a vision of attacking enemies, and warned his neighbors to prepare for battle. He was arrested for inciting an uprising. After he failed to demonstrate his magical powers, he was forced to work in the prison and wear an Army uniform as punishment.

A reproduction of a depression-era rural gas station was full of antiques. A sign by the pump read “If you want gas, honk your horn, and keep your shirt on while I get my pants on.”

IMG_3296We moved on to the American Computer and Robotics Museum. While more modest than the Living Computer Museum in Seattle, it had a stronger emphasis on history, with exhibits on the Antikythera Mechanism, Gutenberg’s press, and Nazi Germany’s Enigma Machine (I bought a good book about this encryption machine in the little gift shop). I saw a Sumerian tablet; it was surprisingly small — about four square inches. Robby The Robot, a prop from the 1950s sci-fi classic movie Forbidden Planet, stood in a back hallway.

4: Billings, Montana

We headed east to Livingston for supper in Fiesta En Jalisco, an okay Mexican restaurant, and drove on to Billings. This city seems to be mostly warehouses, tank farms and a railroad yard. Pat rejected a motel next to the federal courthouse out of concern over the neighborhood, which looked dubious in the dark. We moved on to a Comfort Suites on the southwest edge of town, near the riverfront park.

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Middle Cave; Pictograph Cave State Park

Sunday 9/24: We drove south of Billings to Pictograph Cave State Park, passing thru steep rolling hills of yellow grass dotted with dark green trees. The yellow sandstone bones of the hills protruded here and there; some of them were eroded into hoodoos. The hill above the park’s Visitor Center was topped by just such a rocky crest, and in it were three shallow caves. Pictograph Cave was the first. A ranger had told us that the pictographs (primitive paintings on stone) were more visible some days than others, due to changes in the lighting and humidity. He said that this day should be good; but I couldn’t see them. Pat could see some discolorations. I read that the cave had been occupied beginning 9,000 years ago.

We had a snack under the spreading branches of a gnarled oak tree, and went on to Middle Cave. It was quite shallow and it had a slanted floor; but we’d read that archeologists had dug away the cave floors in search of artifacts, so it might originally have been a better shelter. From here we had a splendid view of the valley and the surrounding hills.

We moved on to Ghost Cave. Its entrance had a dramatic arched ceiling, and bulbous masses of stone protruded from the back wall. The three caves might have formed a stone-age community. Perhaps, following the pattern we’ve seen in southwest pueblos, the south-facing slope below the caves bore fields of herbs or crops and made the caves easier to defend.

IMG_3319Pat took me to Two Moons Park on the east side of Billings so I could ride on the riverside trail. This bicycle trail is excellent; its wide concrete surface has a yellow center stripe like a road, and little road signs for sharp turns, etc. stand along it. Clouds of midges hung under the trees, brushing against my face. If I were a baleen whale I could have had dinner. Mouth closed, I rode up into Billings’ northern suburbs, and down past parks and industrial sites to the wide, tan-colored Yellowstone River. Sandstone cliffs overlooked the city from the other side. I met a few other bikers and strollers, all friendly.

Monday 9/25: We loaded the car under a blue sky in morning sun that promised to get hot in the afternoon, and set our sights on Medora ND. Clouds lay to the east, and a pall of black smoke to the north; the fires weren’t dead yet. As we drove east, the sky turned milky with low streamers of cloud, and drizzle set in. By the time we stopped for gas near Miles City it was raining hard.

5: Glendive, Montana

We passed stretches of gently-rolling prairie interrupted by “badlands” of chaotic clay hummocks. Horizontal layers in their sides had eroded into terraces. Some layers were black coal, apparently too thin or low-quality to mine. We turned off the freeway at Glendive; here the Yellowstone River was the color of wet cement. We found Makoshika State Park, an interesting badlands area, south of the town. The name means “Land Of Bad Spirits.” It was drizzling, and the Visitor Center was closed. We had a snack, and drove as far as we could on the park’s paved roads, looking at the water-carved cliffs, gullies and mounds. We were leery about braving the “gumbo” clay mud that’s locally dreaded. A crew was working on the footpaths near the Visitor Center despite the rain. We saw a few other cars roaming around. An elderly couple was strolling near their camper van; the man had a metal leg.

Back on the freeway, we headed northeast thru the gray murk toward North Dakota.

Part 2

More pictures

Road Trip Planner; add a point of interest

Road Trip Planner (RTP) is an app for MacOS that’s great for planning road trips.  Like Photoshop, it’s a complex, versatile toolset that offers many ways to build your plan.

The data for a road trip is stored in “pins” — database records that correspond to map locations.  There are two kinds of pins:

  1. Route pins.  When you automatically plot your route, it will pass thru these pins.
  2. Point of Interest (POI) pins.  When you automatically plot your route, it will ignore these pins.

A good way to plan a trip is to mark all the places you’d like to visit (POIs), and then create a route that goes to or near as many of them as you can manage.

Add a POI pin to a trip plan

Let’s say I’m going to drive thru Montana and I want to go to museums.  I find the Montana Historical Society Museum in Helena, MT on the web.

  1.  I copy its address to the clipboard.
  2. I open my trip plan in RTP.
  3.  I click Toggle Dividers to make the RTP database “dividers” visible.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 8.40.26 PM
  4. In the bottom left corner of the POI Pins list, I click + to add a POI pin.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 8.41.03 PM
  5. The Location Window opens.  It gives me three choices; Location, Contacts and Import.  I leave it set at Location.  I paste the museum’s address from my clipboard.   Click the magnifying glass or push [ENTER].Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 8.42.07 PM

6.  RTP does an Internet search and displays a list of places that it thinks match my location data.  If I enter a complete address, only one item will usually be in the list.  I could instead enter something generic like “Helena Montana museum” and get a list of several items.

  • Whether there is one item or many, I must click at least one item to create a pin.
  • If there are several items (let’s say I’m planning to wander from bar to bar), I can click more than one of them, and then click go to add a POI pin for each of them.click

I switch to RTP’s map view and see my new pin on the map:

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There are some other ways to add a POI pin to a plan.  You can:

  • Pick locations in your Apple Contacts
  • Drag a route pin from the Route Pins list to the POI Pins list.  I do this to “hide” a route pin that I don’t want to use for routing right now, and I don’t want to delete it either.
  • Import locations from a compatible program

Oddly, you can’t copy and paste pins.  And you can’t create a POI Pin directly on RTP’s map.  

We can stop now that we have a default POI pin labelled with the address of the POI.  Or we can add some more information to the POI pin.  RTP is capable of adding many kinds of information — probably more than you’ll want.


Rename a pin

When the dividers are visible, I see a list of route pins; a list of POI pins; and in the right-hand pane a set of views controlled by tabs.  The Web, Places, Pin, Dates and Activities views show information about one selected pin.

In the POI Pins list, I click the POI pin I created for the museum.  (You can rename a route pin the same way.). In the right-hand pane I click the Pin tab.  On the top line, I type a new label for the pin:

MT Helena: Historical Society Museum

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(I like to put the state abbreviation and a town name at the front of a pin name.  That way, if I need to narrow the width of the name column I can still at least see the pin’s location.)  Right away the new name shows up in the Name column of the POI Pins list.  There’s no OK button; this isn’t Windows.

There’s also a space to write or paste notes about this POI, like the hours the museum is open.  I hate to admit how many times I’ve navigated us to someplace I’m eager to visit, only to discover that it’s closed that day!  Of course, if the museum changes its hours, what I write or paste here isn’t going to change.  I wouldn’t paste the URL of the museum’s website here; there’s a Web tab for that.

iconChange the pin icon and color

Select a POI or route pin in the pin lists.  In the right upper pane, click the Pin tab.  In the bottom left corner of this view, click the pin icon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 8.44.56 PMThis brings up a menu of pin icons and colors.  Oddly, there is no icon for “Museum” (altho I see one for “Casino”).  “Villa” near the bottom of the list looks like a good general-purpose public building, so I use that icon.

To keep things simple, I avoid making blue POI pins.  Interstate number symbols on the map are blue.

 

 

Save a web site in the pin

One pin can hold many web sites.  Again, POI and route pins work the same.  Oddly, you can’t save a website that you find on RTP’s on-board browser.  Point your external browser, such as Safari, at the web site whose address (URL) you want to save.  Select the URL field contents at the top of your external browser and copy it to your clipboard.

URL

Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 8.46.38 PMIn RTP dividers, select a pin.  In the right pane, click the Web tab.  In the bottom left corner of the lower right pane, click + to add a web site.  The RTP web site is automatically added.

Edit this entry.  Type a name for your web site in the first field.  Tab to the second field and paste the URL that’s in your clipboard.

 

 

 

 

browserYou can view a saved web site in RTP’s browser by selecting it in the list and clicking Show.  To see it on your external browser, click the globe button underneath the web page image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 8.51.05 PMSave an activity in the pin

One POI or route pin can hold many activities.  An activity is a way to add a cost to your adventure.  It also provides another place to stash a URL.

Select the pin from a list and, in the right pane, click the Activity tab.  Click + .  Fill in the form on the bottom half of the pane to create an entry in the top half of the pane.

You can set a date/time and duration for the activity.  Note that if the pin is a POI pin, you can’t use the Date tab.  That tab is for dates/times that RTP adjusts when it automatically plots your route.

 

 

Kayaking on Banks Lake, Washington; September 2016

Summer is ending. So last Friday, on impulse, we put our sea kayaks on the car and drove from Seattle to Banks Lake in eastern Washington.  It’s an artificial lake that’s part of the irrigation system fed by Grand Coulee Dam. The lake fills a coulee – a desert canyon filled with rock formations and sheer basalt cliffs. The addition of water pumped up by the dam transformed the canyon into a fjord, the rocks into islets and the dunes into beaches. This was our third trip to Banks Lake. It’s a marvelous place to kayak, tho it’s subject to high winds.

loadedWe were out of practice in the arcane art of attaching boats to a car. The kayaks, racks, straps and cable locks were just as much trouble as were the bicycles on our Port Townsend trip; but we remained in good cheer. The first step was to attach two bars across the roof of the car. They’re held in place by clamps on the top edges of its doorframes. Getting them in the right position, with the padded cradles attached to them pointing straight up, was a challenge. We were working from Yakima’s instruction book that covers every car ever made but not in much detail.

Next we put the boats sideways on the cradles and strapped them in. What to do with the end of the strap so it won’t slap around while we’re driving is a minor issue; Pat and I each think we’ve arrived at the optimum solution. My method is to wrap it around the base of the rack pillar, tuck the end back into the roll and twist the whole roll until it’s tight. She prefers to weave it around the strap where it’s pressed against the deck of the boat. Both good! The bows of the boats have a different kind of strap that ends in a hook. Our Toyota Corolla, like many imported cars, has anchor rings built into its frame to hold it to the deck of a ship. So these straps run down from the bows and over the front bumper to the anchor rings. We run each strap to the opposite side of the front to resist any sideways force on the bow.

Finally, we put cable locks on the boats. Each lock has two loops, designed to pull over the kayak’s pointy bow and stern. We ran the cables under the racks and over the tops of the boats so the locks wouldn’t bonk on the roof of the car. The racks’ clamps also have locks; but I’d lost one key and I couldn’t find the other one. Moving right along!

img_2196We made a late start, and got caught in rush-hour traffic.  East of Bellevue, it thinned out. We followed I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass, emerged from the eastern Cascade foothills into desert, and crossed the Columbia River on the Vantage Bridge. East of George, we left the freeway and headed north on back roads as darkness fell. Our first attempt at dinner was at a Mexican restaurant in Ephrata, a little desert town. Two big parties had assembled long tables, and were singing and talking excitedly. We sat in the entryway for a while, but couldn’t get attention, tho we saw empty tables. So we moved on to Mommy Yum-Yum’s, an unfortunately-named Vietnamese restaurant.  It was nearly empty, but we did get fed. We arrived at the modest Sky Deck Motel in Electric City on Bank Lake’s north shore just before its office closed at 10 PM.

Breakfast next morning was at Flo’s Cafe, a community fixture.  Two employees were absent, we learned; so the owner’s neighbor had come in to help.  The restaurant was once a gas station and garage; its goofy decor includes license plates collected from that era.  Pat had a massive omelet; I had French toast. At one o’clock we finally got our boats in the water, at Steamboat Rock State Park, a peninsula near the north end of the lake.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-1-43-12-pmSo did a lot of other people.  Speedboats, jet-skis, water skiers, fishing boats, paddleboards, rowboats, kayaks and rubber rafts abounded.  One speedboat roared out from the shore ahead of us, made a couple of show-off loops and returned to shore. As we progressed further north into the rocks, the other craft thinned out, tho a group of power-boaters that had hooked their craft together to have a party was anchored in one of the side-canyons.  We also met a large group of kayakers and paddle-boarders, some of whom were diving into the water from a tall rock.

This is only the second time we’ve used our new kayaks.  They are smaller and narrower than our old ones.  They’re more responsive and quite nice to drive thru the water.  We landed at a campground where a man was throwing a bright green ball for his 15-year-old Australian Cattle Dog.  He tossed it in the middle of the inlet; the dog just stared at it and hung her head.  I paddled over and tossed it closer to her.  She plodded out to retrieve it without much interest, and brought it to her owner.  “She loves this game!”  He assured us.  “She’s just tired.”  He kept on throwing it, and his old dog kept on trudging into the water to get it.

As we paddled back south toward the boat launch, a strong wind rose in our faces.  The lake is 40 miles long; by the time the waves reached us they were pointy-topped rollers, and the wind was blowing foam off their tops.  I wanted to put on my skirt (it’s like a nylon bib overall, but instead of legs the bottom is a skirt whose rim stretches around the edge of the cockpit).  But we would have had to land to do it, and the only beach on our side of the crossing was parallel to the waves, a treacherous course.  It seemed safer to just cross the lake and keep our bows into the waves.  The kayaks sliced into them, flinging water to each side in a satisfying manner; it only slopped into my lap occasionally. Paddling upwind was the real problem. I’d feathered my paddle, putting a half-twist in it so the blade that was in the air wouldn’t catch the wind. But I couldn’t feather my body. Pat hadn’t feathered her paddle; but by the end of the day she was paddling ahead of me.

beachWe landed on a rocky beach on the park peninsula to rest and eat a snack.  A man in a noisy speedboat made a few passes in front of us, looking to see if we were watching him. We continued around to the boat landing. Now we were in the lee of the peninsula, so waves were no problem; but we were still paddling against the wind.

After we got the boats on the car and started for home, the wind continued to strengthen.  The valley was filling with haze, and I could see a vague cloud filling the southern sky. A sudden gust shoved the front rack to one side.  We pulled off to check it. The right clamp had released; scary! We tightened the rack and the straps by headlamp-light while wind howled in our ears, and anxiously continued. We were listening to 2 AM At the Cat’s Pajamas, by Marie-Helene Bertino. The book helped keep us from imagining the boats hitting the pavement, or a gust catching them like a sail to shove the car into the ditch.

We had dinner at the Last Stand Diner And Saloon in Grand Coulee, at the south end of the lake. Country Western music was playing; the décor was pictures of rodeos and metal sculptures made out of horseshoes. Most of the food was breaded and fried; but I had a nice oriental salad with grilled chicken.

We checked the straps and racks, and headed on into the night. A sign at the Vantage Bridge warned of high winds. Pat had trouble keeping the car on the road. We checked the boats again at a Texaco gas station on the other side. The straps had stretched from the strain and the kayaks were loose. The people working in the station advised us to stop for the night. But the forecast for Sunday was stronger wind, and we needed to be in Seattle. Pat drove slowly to minimize the stress, meekly following the trucks we usually pass.

When we got into the mountains the wind subsided. We made it home at midnight, put the boats in the garage and fell into bed.  We woke up stiff and sore the next morning. So we must have had an adventure! We’re hoping to rent a house or cabin on Banks Lake for a week next year. And our next car is going to have a permanently attached roof rack.

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Northeast Olympics Trip; July 2016

Pat, my brother Michael and I spent a week on the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula. The Port Townsend Jazz Festival was my main objective. We also explored beaches and old bunkers, bicycled and just relaxed.

Getting ready

Bicycling was to be a big part of this trip. Mike and I hadn’t ridden for years. I checked my helmet; the adhesive had failed and it was falling apart. I couldn’t find my bike lock. Mike was missing both; so we bought helmets and locks at Alki Bicycles. I also wanted some bungee cords to hold the bikes steady. But they didn’t have any; instead they gave me some old inner tubes to cut up and use to tie things together.

A couple of weeks before we left, Mike and I practiced mounting the bike rack on the car and putting our bikes on it. The rack was an old Thule someone had given us; it had no instructions, and one of the four cradle latching straps was missing. We figured out reasonable places to hook the straps onto the car, and we hung the bikes on the rack. Now we felt ready for the real thing.

The drive over

Wednesday 7/27: After the car was packed, we mounted the rack and bikes. The inner tubes were a bad idea; knots in them were difficult to untie, and they were so stretchy that they didn’t hold the bikes steady. We’d thought the rack’s bottom hooks went under the bumper; but the edge of the bumper was rubbery and couldn’t hold them. Pat pointed out that the weight of the bikes was pulling the rack’s padded supports away from the car. And she wasn’t happy with how the bikes could swing and shift around. We spent a long time wrestling with heavy, greasy bikes and wimpy inner tubes in the hot sun before we felt ready for a road test.

In Edmonds we stopped at a PCC grocery for ice cream bars to eat in the ferry line. We looked at the bike rack. The straps running from its top to the trunk lid hinges had stretched; the rack had slipped off the bumper and was hanging by them. We reworked it again in the parking lot.

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Scampi and Halibut

 

We got on the car ferry to Kingston after a short wait, and drove thru Port Gamble and over the Hood Canal Bridge to Port Hadlock. Our rental apartment turned out to be quite nice; it’s the upper story of a house. It has a big deck, and it’s decorated with an East Indian Buddhist theme. Dinner was at Scampi And Halibut, a popular diner that features seafood. Our table was under a pole lamp with glass fronds shaped like coconut leaves; glass nuts were the shades for its bulbs.  I had Hawaiian mahi mahi; it seemed overdone, but the side dishes and dessert were good.

 

The innkeeper’s booklet that we found in the apartment warned about ants. I had a cup of tea with honey. Tiny sugar ants swarmed all over the jar and my hand. We Windexed them and cleaned everything carefully. They’ll keep us on our toes in the kitchen.

Port Townsend

 Thursday 7/28: We shopped at the nice Food Coop in Port Townsend, and admired an odd vehicle in the lot; an electric tricycle with a canopy, two seats and pedal-assist. It was an Elf, made by Organic Transit. Solar cells in its roof recharge its battery. Its maximum speed is 20 miles per hour; no license is required to drive it.

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Michael on the Larry Scott Memorial Trail.

 

In the afternoon, we went to the south end of the Larry Scott Memorial Trail. Mike and I rode the trail seven miles to Port Townsend, and Pat walked four miles. It was a lovely little lane that took us past fields, thru woods and along the beach to a boatyard on the town’s outskirts. While we waited for Pat in the shade of the moorage authority building, we talked to a lady named Cass. She’d grown up on a farm in nearby Beaver Valley. She and her husband had a 160-acre farm for a while. But she’d lost it somehow (I didn’t want to probe); now she lives in an apartment without so much as a planter box.

“Do you ever go back and look at it?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said sadly.

While Pat was making dinner (balsamic mushroom wraps) she discovered that the eggs hadn’t made it into the car in Seattle. So I rode my bike down Irondale Road to “downtown” Port Hadlock to buy some at the QFC grocery. I picked up a box of Borax too, because Pat had heard that it kills ants. As I pedaled I had time to look over our neighborhood. It’s on a low plateau that funnels down to the sea at its east end, where the few shops are located. Some homes are quite nice; others are dilapidated and surrounded by overgrown cars and trailers. Campers, boats and RVs are everywhere, and on some streets I could smell horses. A small church near our house had a little A-frame cabin for a rectory. The north wind bore the rotten-egg aroma of a pulp mill. On my way back home, a pickup with a defective muffler blatted arrogantly past.

Friday 7/29: Pat tried sprinkling borax on the kitchen shelves and counters. The ants walked around it without paying it any mind. I did a brief web search and found out that the ants have to eat the borax to die. They don’t much like it, so it’s necessary to mix it with something sweet like honey. We spread a borax and honey mixture on a piece of cardboard and taped its edges down on a counter. It was very popular; but more ants kept coming. We made a second bait offering and put it in a cupboard next to the dishwasher, whose enclosure is a major thoroughfare for ants. So far it hasn’t seen much action. Maybe the ants are too full of borax already?

Jazz Festival

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A pillbox overlooking Admiralty Inlet and Mt. Baker.

 

Pat took Mike and me into Port Townsend for the evening jazz festival performance in Fort Worden State Park. The fort is on the tip of a peninsula that juts into the Strait of Juan de Fuca toward Canada. We’d arrived early with flashlights and smoked salmon salad sandwiches (salmon from Pat’s sister Gwen). First we walked on the beach and explored the pre-World War I bunkers. The hills facing the water are honeycombed with gun emplacements, pillboxes, tunnels and underground rooms built between 1902 and 1918. The fort never fired in anger; its cannon were moved to more urgent fronts during the world wars, or were scrapped. The bunkers have been cleaned out; only gun pits, creaky iron doors and inky-dark galleries of rooms are left for tourists to explore.

 

After a picnic supper in the shelter of a mortar emplacement, we strolled down to McCurdy Pavilion, the theater that an arts organization called Centrum uses for the festival. The cement theater with all its flights of stairs reminded us of the bunkers. The bands we heard were:

  • JD Allen and Sean Jones
  • The Jeff Hamilton Organ Trio

The music was good, tho quite improvisational. While the second band was playing, the electric organ (played by Akiko Tsuruga of New York) conked out. The drummer undertook a long solo to give her time to fix it, to no avail. The band stopped playing. Technicians climbed onto the stage while the audience waited patiently. Then the MC announced that the show was over. The audience gave the band a standing ovation anyway.

Saturday 7/30: Now and then a lone ant scouts the kitchen counter. Our second bait offering has had no business. The innkeeper told us he’d put borax around the house’s foundation.

Chetzemoka Park

Pat discovered Chetzemoka Park in Port Townsend, and visited with the sea otters. She said that they were sometimes quite close to her. They watched her eyes, and if she looked at them they shied away.

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Clayton Brothers Quintet

 

Meanwhile, Mike and I returned to Fort Worden State Park to hear more jazz. There were three bands, all very good, and there were no instrument malfunctions:

 

  • Clayton Brothers Quintet
  • Rene Marie, Dee Daniels, Dena Derose
  • Woody Herman Tribute Band, led by Jeff Hamilton and Joe LaBarbera

I quite liked the Clayton Brothers playing “Close Enough For Love,” a sad sweet song.

Afterward we walked down to the sandy beach; and then to the military chapel, which is still in use. Unlike Seattle’s Fort Lawton (now Discovery Park), most of whose buildings were removed, Fort Worden’s elegant late 19th century houses and barracks have been preserved. They have deep eaves and comfortable balconies, and are painted creamy white with charcoal trim. Some have been repurposed; others are available to rent. One large structure overlooking the parade ground is now an artillery museum.

Pat made a wonderful marinara shrimp and mushroom dinner. We hurried to the Wheel In Motor Movie, a drive-in theater, to experience this rare 1950s anachronism. But due to an emergency it was closed. We drove up to Port Townsend, but the movies at the Rose Theater had already started and the shops were closed. We window-shopped and strolled out to the viewing pier. The sun had set, and a chilly sea breeze had set in; the sky and the water were spacious and quiet. We watched a square white ferry take on a few cars and shuttle across the empty sea to Whidbey Island. Then we went home to our books and photos.

Chimacum Creek

IMG_1991Sunday 7/31: While Pat and Mike went to a Unitarian church service, I ran laundry and bicycled to nearby Chimacum Creek Beach. I followed a man in an electric wheelchair down the last bit of road to a small parking lot. Another man came in from the beach, unlocked his car and asked me to keep an eye out for his phone; but happily he discovered it in his coat.

Once a mill stood on piles at the mouth of the creek; but I didn’t see any remnant of it. The beach was coarse sand with bits of clamshell, backed by a narrow sandy meadow and forest. A flock of gulls foraged in the seaweed at the mouth of the creek. The creek was placid, reflecting the woods. heronGray herons maneuvered on the water, speaking in short, deep croaks. I followed a meadow trail up into the woods, but gave it up when it veered steeply inland. I had a snack on the creek bank under a tree, and got a text from Pat that they were coming home. Since I had the key, I needed to beat them home; so I did.

Marrowstone Island

After lunch, which included a mug of leftover marinara shrimp sauce for everyone, we set out for Marrowstone Island. We crossed a bridge to the south end of securely-fenced Indian Island (a Navy magazine), then continued over a causeway to Marrowstone. We passed a little village on a lovely inlet, tho I think that at low tide it wouldn’t look as nice.

The north end of the island is Fort Flagler State Park, another shore battery fallen into disuse. We drove down a narrow bluff road to visit the lighthouse northeast of the park entrance. In the parking lot, an old man was sitting on the tailgate of his pickup, pulling on hip waders. Pat parked in a smallish spot next to his truck, and we went over to talk to him.

Folk music was pouring out of the cab of his truck. “I don’t know why we fish here. We never catch anything,” he chuckled.

“Is it all right if I park beside you?” Pat asked.

“I’d charge you $10 for it. But that guy over there would make me split it with him,” he said, indicating somebody he probably didn’t know. Proudly he showed us an immense wristwatch; it had a little date dial that was a day slow, and a left-handed stem. He had fifteen watches, many of them monsters like this one. “If I catch a fish, you owe me $5,” he asserted.

“Do I get to keep the fish?” Pat asked with a grin.

“No.”

“What if I don’t even see you catch it? How will I know there ever was a fish?”

“Okay, $2.50 then.”

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Pat and Michael at the Fort Flagler lighthouse.

We walked up the beach to the little lighthouse. The beach was stones at the top and fine white sand further down; it had a great deal of driftwood. A couple of families were playing on the beach and building a shanty out of driftwood. Several people stood in the water up to their waists, fishing. The lighthouse was just a light on top of a short square building; the old man had warned us not to be depressed when we saw it. It and the surrounding buildings were in a restricted-access compound, signed as a fisheries research station. Beyond it was wetland; and beyond that, forest.

No place to go here; so we retraced our route to the museum near the park entrance. It was closed; but Pat found a map of the park somehow anyway. We walked down to a gun battery that had two small cannon, with racks of (empty) powder cartridges on display. Half a dozen middle-aged men roared up on motorcycles. They stopped to explore the battery and take pictures of each other in front of it.

IMG_2017Mike and I walked the north bluff trail while Pat drove to the sand spit at its west end to meet us. Our way took us past aging cottages and sheds, more empty batteries and remnants of their support structures. One relic was a building near a cliff from which a short length of track ran thru double doors and out thirty feet to a spot overlooking the sea. It had once housed a generator and a searchlight, used before radar was invented to find infiltrating ships. The wide path took us thru forest filled with the sound of waves. We skirted a campground and came out on an isolated road. I got turned around and led us east, away from our meeting point. After a long walk, I realized my mistake. I called Pat, interrupting her quiet meditation on the beach, and she rescued us.

We drove back to Port Hadlock and had dinner at the Ajax Cafe on its little waterfront. The restaurant was heavily decorated with hats and bric-à-brac. We were provided with a box of trivia cards to occupy us while our dinners were cooking. I had a New York steak and key lime pie; very good. We peered thru the windows of a wooden-boat building school, and strolled onto a dock to admire the evening reflections.

Monday 8/1: More ants are patrolling the counter over the dishwasher, even tho we keep it clean. Maybe they’re plotting revenge?

I rode down to town to mail postcards. Irondale Road was busy, so I found my way across it into the next neighborhood and rode on the side-streets. That neighborhood was nicer than ours; I even saw a Mercedes. I relied on Google Maps to bring me to the Post Office. But it turned out to be a VFW “Post.” I found the real Post Office a block away, concealed behind a hedge.

I visited with our innkeepers. They used to live in a beach cottage near Hana, a remote town on Maui. There they would paddle out to sea in their inflatable kayak, and slap the water with their paddles. Whales would come and visit them. “But the energy was so strong there that we couldn’t deal with it; so we had to move,” the woman explained. Besides, land and the cost of living are very expensive in Hawaii.

Dungeness Spit

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Pat made a pancake feast for brunch. We drove to Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge, and hiked thru forest to the beach. Pat had forgotten to bring a sweater, and it was cold and windy. So she went back to the car to read her book, while Mike and I walked along the spit. We met lots of people; it’s a popular beach despite the long walk. The tide was high, and big waves were roaring in.  To stay dry, we sometimes scrambled over the driftwood or walked along the shore of the lagoon. The beach is mostly sand; large flat stones occur in random patches. Some logs were immense old-growth trees from the Olympic mountains. Our glasses got foggy with salt. We walked back against the gusty west wind and the glare of the lowering sun.

We had dinner in Port Angeles at the Garden Cafe, a seafood and Italian place. I had pan-seared salmon; it was very good.

Port Townsend again

Tuesday 8/2: We drove up to Port Townsend; Michael and I walked from the old Customs House / Post Office on top of the embankment to the waterfront, and then back thru downtown. (Port Townsend is divided by a tall vertical cliff, created to make level land along its waterfront.) A cold north wind gusted thru the town. Although the jazz festival had ended, I saw lots of tourists exploring the waterfront boutiques. Indulgent parents followed a boy who was wearing tall green rubber boots. On the viewing docks, half a dozen teenagers chattered and laughed. A man sat on a bench typing, with the screen of his laptop on his legs and its keyboard on his stomach. The Maritime Center displayed a chart of the intricate Inside Passage to Alaska. Puget Sound is a small appendage of it, and Port Townsend oversees its entrance.

I found the Lively Olive, an oil and vinegar tasting bar we’d visited last year, and picked up a bottle of black currant vinegar for a friend of Pat’s. At Quimper Mercantile I bought a wide-brimmed hat for myself, and a T-shirt for Pat that had an Indian-style bird image. The checker told us that she’d retired and moved here from Wisconsin a few months ago. “A friend and I came here on a fact-finding mission; and I found the fact that I wanted to live here.” She planned to buy a 400 sq. ft. “tiny house” with no animals and no men. She said that “Quimper” is the name of the peninsula on which the town is located.

We found a long wooden stairway to the upper town and rejoined Pat. Pat and I made curried chicken for dinner. Dessert was big bowls of blueberries with coconut milk.

The drive home

Wednesday 8/3: We packed the car and hung the bikes on the back. Each time we used the rack we experimented with a different strap arrangement. On this drive the bottom straps came unhooked from the car, but no harm done.

We stopped in Port Ludlow, a private resort where we’d read that some hiking trails were open to the public. We never found a trailhead sign, or even a public restroom. Pat found a trail near a parking lot and explored it.

We stopped again at Kitsap State Park after crossing the Hood Canal Bridge. Pat and I each have childhood memories of visits to this park. Pat remembers digging up clams and leaving them in a bucket of salt water to spit out their sand. When her family returned, the bucket was empty; crows had stolen them. I remembered running around in a big forest of tall trees with some kids I met there. Pat pointed out a little grove and said that was probably the place. Mike and I walked down the bluff trail to the stony Hood Canal beach.

We made our way around a detour, and reached Kingston in time to drive right onto the ferry to Edmonds. Our adventure was about over. We dropped Michael’s bike off at the Goodenough Community’s center in West Seattle and headed home.

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Southwest wilderness adventures 2016 — part 5

Northern Arizona

Tuesday 4/19:  This morning we saw that our iPhones had adjusted themselves to Arizona’s peculiar time zone; but, to our confusion, our car’s clock had not. It’s complicated, and we’ll be in New Mexico in two days; so we’re putting up with it.

I went down to check our motel’s kidney-shaped pool with five fountains. The water was just right. This reminded me of an incident on a 1991 road trip thru Oregon with our teenage girls and April and Domenique. We’d stopped at a motel that advertised a heated pool; but when I put my hand in it, it was cold. I went to the office to complain. “It is heated, by the sun,” the manager explained. I’ve finally thought of a comeback; “I’m tipping you, with these words.” Back in the present, I managed 20 laps in the mid-sized pool with frequent breaks for panting. It was in full sun, so I wore my hat. The wet hat was comfortably cool for an hour afterward.

Lower Antelope Canyon

We drove to the Navajo LeChee reservation east of Page AZ to join a walking tour of Lower Antelope Canyon. Set in a broad orange desert dotted with little shrubs, Ken’s Tours’ modest visitor center sits at the head of a dusty parking lot in the shadow of a power station’s three giant smokestacks. Self-guided exploration of the canyon was once allowed. But today, entrance is only permitted with guides, due to a flash flood in the ’90s in which 11 people were killed. In addition to the permanent canyon structures, rope ladders are available for evacuation. The operation is prepared to evacuate the canyon in an emergency; and they did so last Friday during a rainstorm, although it didn’t cause a flash flood. The average flood level in the narrow canyon is five to seven feet, and the canyon has been known to fill to the brim with torrential floodwater.

antelope topFrom above, the canyon looks like a slight depression paved with lumpy purple slickrock. From inside, it’s an organic pink-orange cathedral, the most beautiful canyon I’ve ever seen. We’d switched from our reserved photography tour to a general tour, feeling intimidated by the requirement that each participant have a DSLR camera and a tripod extending to three feet or more. Instead we used our phones, as did most of our group of 15. We befriended a German-speaking Swiss couple and took pictures for each other. Our young Navajo guide also took peoples’ pictures, pointed out good vantage points, and gave camera-setting advice. In addition to being the prettiest slot canyon ever, Lower Antelope was the easiest; there was no wading, scrambling or squeezing here. Dry sand floors and sturdy steel stairs made the trip easy (for the able-bodied)–a good thing, because I could hardly tear my eyes away from the swirling walls to watch where I was going. Afterward, one of the German women gave us hugs, knowing that we could hardly speak and would never see each other again. “Have a wonderful life!”

This adventure was followed by a long, dull drive to Cottonwood AZ, south of Sedona. Sadly, this motel had a dinky pool fit only for children.

Wednesday 4/20:  This was a less good day, tho it ended okay. I hurt my back while getting out of the shower. An allergy, some pollen I suppose, had me sneezing and sniffling; the antihistamines that I’ve had good luck with in Seattle barely affected it here. It was hot too; in Cottonwood the temp hit 91 F.

Huckaby Trail

Huckaby trailWe drove to the Forest Service’s Huckaby trailhead, east of town. This trail traverses a mountainside overlooking Sedona and the impressive mountain north of it. It was like a garden path, copiously lined with pale blue flowers and paddle-shaped cacti. The fragrance of the wildflowers was powerful; I could hardly do anything but blow my nose. We gave it up and had lunch (spring rolls for me) at Thai Spices in Sedona, Cottonwood’s wealthy, tourist-infested cousin. We drove past Red Rock State Park and retreated to our cool motel room.

In the evening we went out in search of Old Town and had dinner there at Bocce, a lively pizzeria. We sat at the counter and watched the cheerful gang of chefs move pizzas in and out of a flaming oven with a long-handled shovel. I had a pesto chicken pizza and ate the whole thing.

Tuzigoot and Montezuma Well

TuzigootThursday 4/21:  We visited two pueblo sites on our way to New Mexico. Tuzigoot National Monument, outside of Cottonwood, is a hilltop complex overlooking a floodplain where the 12th-century residents grew their crops. It was excavated and restored in 1932, providing jobs to the area. Apache Tribe members who worked on the project were upset at the prospect of disturbing ancestors, and conducted purification ceremonies. On the other hand, the project brought to a halt theft and damage by “pot-diggers” seeking Anasazi artifacts for the black market.

potTuzigoot, like nearly all of the southwest’s pueblo communities, was abandoned by 1300, long before Spanish missionaries and American pioneers came on the scene.  We looked at an exhibit here that diagrammed the growth of the Tuzigoot pueblo; many buildings were added around the central tower later in its history.  This parallels what we saw at Mesa Verde National Park (CO) on a previous trip; a population explosion, followed by abandonment.  It’s as if, in response to food shortages and external threats, a stone-age feudalism set in and ultimately failed.  The conventional explanation for the exodus is drought; and the modern-day southwest drought gives credence to the theory.  However, in the small museum here we read about a different theory.  Some Hopi and Pueblo descendants of the Anasazi say that the southwest’s pueblos and cave dwellings were meant to be temporary, and that a further migration had been intended.  What was the ultimate destination?  Was this further migration attempted?  I don’t know any more about this; it’s an intriguing mystery.

We also visited Montezuma Well National Monument to the east. Montezuma had nothing to do with this site, nor with nearby Montezuma Castle; they were misnamed by impressionable settlers. The pond is illogically located at the top of a barren, rocky hill in a steep-walled circular basin. This spring-fed pond is 55 feet deep, and another 45 feet of “fluidic mud” (quicksand?) extends below the water to its true bottom. The briny-looking water supports tiny shrimp and other such creatures who probably imagine that their wet little world is the universe. A ranger offered peeks thru a telescope focused on a horned owl’s nest.

We turned east on I-40, and crossed a vast sandy plain on which scattered bits of grass struggled to survive.  On the horizon we saw long, low buttes turned blue by distance. Now that’s a desert. On the Interstate, it became clear that our Chevy Trax was a gutless car. “It makes motor noises, but it doesn’t actually do anything,” Pat grumbled. Occasionally we passed abandoned tourist traps and long freight trains. We crossed the New Mexico border at dusk, losing the hour we’d gained when we entered Arizona’s nonconforming time zone.

New Mexico again

Friday 4/22:  We set out from Gallup NM on the final leg of our trip, eating up our food and giving or throwing away our guidebooks, Styrofoam cooler, etc. to fit our stuff into our luggage for flying. We were looking for a gas station where we could scrape the bugs off our windshield. We stopped at a Shell station; but, while I was filling the tank, Pat found out that somebody had stolen all the squeegees.

I shut off the pump, and we moved on to a Philips 66 on Route 66 in Grants to finish our fill-up. When I went in to get my change, the man ahead of me was wearing a cap with “Route 66” printed on the back. He bought a lottery ticket, asking for number 6. This prompted me to read up on The Number Of The Beast. Apparently, Route 66 is the road to hell.

We picnicked in a windy softball park outside of Albuquerque, turned in our car and caught the Seattle plane. This trip was nearly all good. We had lots of fun with Alice, but for the most part we missed Jenn. We’ve never before seen such climate extremes, from snow to 90 degrees, during the same trip. We learned to be skeptical of Google Maps. I charted a course to Cottonwood’s Old Town only to end up at the Old Town RV Park. “She” also delivered us to a dead-end behind a park and the featureless back wall of a supermarket. I barely used my hiking boots or DSLR camera, and I never used my tripod (though Pat did). These things probably won’t be invited along next time.

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