Category Archives: Travel

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

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


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


(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.


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.

Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 1.49.36 PM.png

To Portland by train; August 2016

I made an overnight jaunt to Portland, Oregon to see some friends. Pat loyally got up early to feed me an egg and take me to the train station.

Seattle’s King Street Station is quite nice, now that the ill-advised 1950s “modernization” has been reversed.  What hasn’t been modernized is the seating procedure.  I got my seat-assignment, as a sticker on my “boarding pass,” from an attendant at the gate.  But this way I could ask him for a window seat on the west side of the train, which gets all the views across Puget sound and the Columbia River.

IMG_2171I usually enjoy the 3.5 hour train ride. This time, the train going down had small “Talgo” cars made in Spain. The seating was much like an airplane; cramped. The man sitting next to me looked at his phone or slept for the entire trip; so I was hemmed in.  The seat ahead of me was occupied by a woman with a baby who was practicing shrieking; I was grateful when he fell asleep after 40 minutes.  The view I’d arranged was mostly pleasant.  When it wasn’t, I read The Dawn of Innovation, by Charles Morris.  It begins with a wonderful account of the War of 1812’s Battle of Lake Ontario.

In Portland I was dismayed to learn that the branch of the wonderful light-rail system that I needed to get to my hotel was out of order; the Rose Quarter Transit Center was being remodeled. Instead I got thru the visit on buses and streetcars. I installed the PDX Transit app on my phone; but it was so bad that I could only use it in conjunction with Google Maps, and finally concluded I didn’t need it.

Lunch with Lexi and friends (minus her partner Adam, who was sick) was at McMenamin’s Broadway Pub.  I passed two cannabis stores on my walk there.  They were quiet and empty; it’s the 21st century, and nobody cares.  The restaurant has a beautiful atrium with lush plants and skylights.  I had an aztec salad with grilled chicken; it was excellent.  Lexi ordered a beer with her lunch and got carded.

“Nobody wants to see my ID,” I grumbled.

“If I’m ever a bartender, I’ll card you!” she assured me.  Lexi works at Marriott Hotels;  she drove me back to my hotel and made sure I got a discount.

No light-rail service meant that getting across the Willamette River to west Portland’s huge Washington Park was going to be an ordeal.  And the Portland Art Museum was closing in half an hour.  So I picked out the biggest patch of green on the map in reasonable range, picked up a turkey sandwich at a Subway near my hotel, and had Google Maps take me there.  It was Laurelhurst Park.

While waiting for a bus connection on Burnside Street, I talked to a woman who was sitting in the bus shelter with a walker.  She was excited about the Portland Timbers football team; she called out to passers-by about the game, and many of them answered or waved.  I remarked that she seemed young to be using a walker.  She told me she had Crone’s Disease.  She received $700 a month from the government and lived in a homeless shelter.  This story made her sad, but just for a moment.  We chatted about Portland, Seattle, the weather, and Alabama where she’d come from while several busses passed.  My bus came.  I got on, but she stayed; she wasn’t going anywhere.  She just liked watching the traffic and talking to people.

Providence Hospital Stage BandWhen I stepped off the bus, I could hear nice ’30s jazz.  I followed it to a natural ampitheater where the Providence Hospital Stage Band was giving a free performance.   One performer said he’d just had his 90th birthday and that the day was his 46th wedding anniversary.  The band was great.  And my supper sandwich went down well with an apple Pat gave me and a bottle of Seattle tap water.

At the bus stop afterward I met a tall, thin man with a goatee.  He was wearing a tan suit and broad-brimmed hat; he had a rolling suitcase with a cane sticking out of it, and an old guitar.  He said he was a preacher, and he proved it by delivering a long diatribe about global warming. He asserted that the world would end in ten years.

“And in six billion years, the earth will fall into the sun,” I contributed.

He was annoyed.  “In ten years, everything you see here — plants, children, blue sky — will be gone!”  He carried on for a while, while I peered up the street for the bus.

“I’m sorry, I talk too much,” he said.  “What’s on your mind?”

“Did you hear the jazz concert in the park over there?  It was the Providence Hospital …”

“Don’t tell me about Providence Hospital!  They’re just a giant money-sucking corporation!”  It was like I’d wound him up again.  Eventually this rant also ran down.

“It’s a pleasant evening,” I offered.

“You’re talking like a dumbshit.  See all these cars? They’re the ancient dinosaurs, come back to kill us!”  He raged on about evil fossil fuels, while I peered up the street again.  The bus stops seemed pretty far apart, so I thought I’d stick it out as long as he didn’t offer to get violent.  He ran down after a few minutes.  I decided not to wind him up again.  There was a long silence.

“Why don’t you say something?  I’m not mad at you,” the preacher said.

“You called me a dumbshit,” I reminded him.

“That doesn’t mean I’m mad at you,” he reasoned.  At this point, a bus rolled up.  It wasn’t the one I wanted; But I got on anyway, sat down and checked my phone to see where it was going.  Its course was due west, and it would cross King Street a mile or two south of my hotel.  I got off at King, figuring there was a good chance I could find a bus going north.  Wandering in the twilight, I came upon a brightly-painted shop window:


I peered into the window.  Old-fashioned hoses, tanks and nozzles glistened in the streetlight.  I walked on to Grand Avenue and hopped on a northbound streetcar.  (In Portland these run in loops; you can get anywhere on the route if you’re patient.)

On Monday morning I peered into the Marriott’s breakfast room.  It looked like a swanky restaurant.  A pedestal at the door displayed a scant, pricey menu.  I was dressed pretty casually and I wasn’t in the mood; so I walked up Wiedler Street to the Village Inn for two eggs, four pancakes, fresh fruit and hot tea.

The Portland Art Museum is closed on Mondays.  So I waddled back to King Street and caught a southbound bus to Stark’s Vacuum Cleaner Museum.  It was a side room of a big old-fashioned vacuum-cleaner store.  A clerk conducted me to it and left me to my own devices (there’s a pun in this sentence somewhere?).  Here was a  shelf-lined alcove crowded with several hundred retired vacuums, along with some carpet-sweepers, a lint-remover and a canister vacuum converted into a table-lamp.  It was wonderful. I set up my tripod and spent a happy morning amidst the frayed hoses and shiny tubes.

(More pictures.)  On my way out, I asked if I could make a donation.  A clerk directed me to Mike, an older man who was working at a desk behind a partition.  He looked up and said I could make a donation; so I offered him $5.  He laughed and shook his head.  “I thought you had a vacuum cleaner for me!”

Having learned about the streetcar last night, I rode it back to the hotel.  I collected my things and bussed across the river to the Greyhound station, which has lockers.  Remember coin-lockers?  Okay, you’re old.  Here, each bank of lockers is controlled by a computer.  I fed it $5; a light by the handle of one of the lockers lit up.  I opened it, put my things inside and shut it.  The light went out.  The computer printed out a code for me to type in when I returned, and a phone number in case I had a problem with that.

Next I went to a bus line that ran to the Pittock Mansion, near Washington Park.  But after a long wait I gave up on it, guessing that the lack of light-rail service had caused a backup of the whole public transit system.  Instead I walked to Powell’s Books, a huge labyrinthine store that’s a logical final stop in Portland due to the weight of the books I usually emerge with.  On my way, the bus I was waiting for came along.  But I only had three hours before my train would leave, so I let it go.

Powell’s has a fine history section. I was constrained by what I could easily carry to the train station.  Bringing a book to Portland was like carrying coal to Newcastle.  I decided I only had room for one more book.  So I bought:

  • The Mantle of Command, by Nigel Hamilton; an account of Franklin Roosevelt’s World War II strategy.
  • Gilgamesh, by Stephen Mitchell; a poetic translation of the ancient epic.

I hauled my loot to the Greyhound station, redeemed the rest of my things and crossed the street to the train station.  It’s a good thing I didn’t count on Amtrak being late.  Seattle-bound passengers were soon summoned to the gate, and given pieces of cardboard with “SEA 1” written on them.  We went out onto the platform, peering at the badly-illunimated car-number signs mounted next to the doors of the cars.  I found mine; a man with a clipboard who was standing on the platform wrote a seat number on my “boarding pass.”  I climbed into the car and located my seat.  A man was curled up in it, fast asleep.  A piece of red cardboard with the same seat number as mine was stuck in the overhead above him.  I went back outside and reported this, and was issued a different seat number.

The train ride home was on the older, spacious type of car, and it was mostly empty.  I’d drawn the west side of the train again, and enjoyed the view.  Also I read Gilgamesh with pleasure.

Pat picked me up at the King Street Station.  We went to Seattle Fish Company for an informal salmon dinner.Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 6.50.29 PM


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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

“Okay, $2.50 then.”


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


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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Alaska panhandle; July 2016

Pat and I spent a week in the panhandle, visiting her sister Gwen and her family in Craig and exploring Ketchikan.


Tuesday 7/5: anxious about reports of slow airport security, we arrived at SeaTac 2.5 hours before we were scheduled to board. But, we’re so obviously harmless that the TSA pre-checked us. They put us thru a little metal detector with our shoes on and no line. Later we realized that they didn’t notice I was wearing my watch or that Pat’s water bottle was half-full.

We had breakfast in the atrium on Concourse A. Now and then a jet climbed steeply upward to fade into the overcast like a movie special-effect.

Our plane was a little CanadAir jet with two engines in the rear, where a pair of moms with babies sat to spare the rest of us from the crying. After a three-hour flight, we descended into a narrow inlet between two steep, forested ridges to land on Gravina Island. This is Ketchikan’s airport.

We boarded a little open-deck ferry to the mainland (actually just a larger island—the Alaskan panhandle is mostly islands). Pat couldn’t find her phone, so we quickly got off the ferry again, imagining the phone on the floor of the plane, bound for parts unknown. I sent her phone texts to make it beep while she hunted through her things. The phone revealed itself, and we hastened back on board the ferry.

Voyage to Craig

IMG_1739We towed our suitcases along the waterfront half a mile to the Alaska Marine Highway ferry dock. Here the Stikine, a small, sturdy ship designed for rough waters, was accepting vehicles thru a door in its stern. The windowless car-deck looked like an underground garage; it was half-full of cabless truck trailers. Upstairs, we found the cafe and ordered lunches. All the tables were occupied, so an Alaskan couple offered to share theirs with us. John was a fireman, and Cheri was an assistant courthouse clerk. They told us about their daughter’s middle school, which last year had sent its 7th and 8th graders to Washington DC to see the White House. The trip culminated over a year of fundraising with bake sales and barbecues; the island community was very supportive.

We moved to sunny seats in the forward lounge. The ship was crossing a wide strait garnished with forested islands; jagged ridges loomed on the horizon. I strolled around the bright, windy deck; the only other person outside was a crewman who’d wedged himself into an alcove and was smoking a cigarette. I saw only two other ships on the lonely sea. My hat tried to blow off; so I went back inside. I read and dozed, overhearing talk of whales being seen as we approached the Hollis dock on Prince of Wales Island.


IMG_1804Pat’s sister Gwen was waiting for us in the terminal. But before I saw her, I saw a man who looked like someone I used to work with. I shook his hand and then realized I didn’t know him. He laughed and said “Hi!” anyway.

Gwen drove us past quiet inlets, deep forest and very few buildings to our bed and breakfast in Craig, the Dreamcatcher. The innkeeper was gone, but the door was unlocked. Two men who were guests carried our suitcases up to our room. “How friendly Alaskans are,” I thought. Then they told us they were from Seattle.

We strolled up to Gwen and Thomas’ house for supper. Gwen’s daughter Dannyelle was in the front yard with their new rooster, a timid, sorry-looking bird. He had no tail feathers; the chickens at his last home had pulled them out. His last owner had given him to Gwen and Thomas because he’d heard that they wanted a rooster in hopes of getting baby chicks. But their four chickens had rejected him; they had to keep him separated from them so they wouldn’t beat him up. Thomas wondered if taping eagle feathers to his rear would improve his romantic life.

Cemetery Island

IMG_1751Wednesday 7/6: I had a pleasant breakfast this morning, and followed the causeway to the peninsula opposite our house. At the end of the road, a grassy hill is the town’s cemetery. Many graves have simple wooden crosses; others are more elaborate. Some graves had Indian carvings of whales for tombstones. Flowers were planted on some graves, in particular the tall white daisies that thrive here. A cane had been laid tenderly across a beloved grandfather’s grave.

The nice gravel path continued into lush rainforest above the stony beach. A low-tide aroma of clams drifted up from the shore. Ferns nodded over the moss; ranks of young firs grew out of the sides of their fallen ancestors. Eagles were around somewhere; I could hear their creaking, viola-like calls. A raven gargled from a treetop. Where the path ended, a black arm of crumbling bedrock emerged from the beach stones.

IMG_1760On my way back I met a white-bearded man on a bicycle accompanied by a gray-muzzled dog. David, called “Sparky” by some, was a retired electrician living on his 44-foot sailboat Harbinger in Craig’s little marina. “I should have thought of this years ago!” He chortled. He’d been working on the boat since he bought it in 2004; he’d added two solar cells and a wind generator. He’d bought the boat before learning to sail, which led to some interesting adventures. He does electrical work on other peoples’ boats for dinner money. He shook his head over the wiring shortcuts that some fishermen take. “Everything’s going to AC now; it can kill you.”

Old cannery

IMG_1764Pat and I strolled up to Gwen and Thomas’ house. I went on with Chapin to tour the remains of the old cannery. A line of piles just off the beach is what’s left of a cannery structure that burned, as Chapin said several old canneries in the area have burned. We looked at a pair of boilers overgrown with huckleberries. Beyond them was the cannery’s former mess hall. Its windows looked in on collections of old stuff found in the cannery, and Japanese floats, packing crates and other detritus that had washed up on the beach. We peered into the windows of a machine shop. A modern dock pushed past these relics; Craig’s waterfront is diminished but still active.


We came out on Cannery Point, a grassy park overlooking the entrance to the bay. Mike rode up on his bike to shake hands; he was a logger and had injured his leg. “Loggers are always getting injured,” Chapin commented. Trollers were coming in to the canneries to turn in their fish. We turned around and walked back thru town, pausing at a bar and liquor store to pick up Chapin’s paycheck. Every few minutes, Chapin said “Hi!” to someone he knew. We walked to the grocery in the upper town to get a loaf of bread. Chapin’s friend Roxanne was checking; “Have fun loafing around!” she teased.

Back at Gwen and Thomas’ house, Gwen made me a second breakfast of freshly-laid eggs and toast. Their chickens lay lots of eggs; they’re large, the brown shells are thick, and some have two or three yolks. A Pinochle game was getting underway when I wandered out to see if I could find David’s sailboat.

I walked around the docks in the south bay. The water was still, reflecting the dark piles of buildings clinging to the shore; somewhere eagles were talking. I saw spiffy cabin cruisers, strictly-business fishing boats and a few elderly, patched-up craft that might have been peoples’ homes; but no canoe-sterned cutter-rigged sailboat with a wind generator.

IMG_1769Chapin’s brother Lennon hailed me from Thomas’ boat, whose outboard motor he was working on. He said that the big boats were in the north bay. I crossed the road to the other bay, and asked a man sitting on the dock if he knew where David’s boat was. “The electrician? It’s opposite that gray boat. There’s a big black dog on board that’ll bark at you, but he won’t hurt you.”

I soon found David’s boat. His bicycle stood on the narrow side-deck along with a blue steel cane, so I figured he was inside. The dog, Crow, did bark; but we soon made friends. David gave me a tour. The 42-year-old fiberglass boat was worn but sound, other than the bow deck where the bases of safety-line stanchions have leaked and caused the wood under the fiberglass to rot. David planned to rebuild the deck next winter, tho he had no shed to do the work in. For the time being, he’d lashed a plastic tarp over the hurt. The cabin was comfortably cluttered; “You can tell that no woman has been down here.” Most of the people who came and went on the dock knew David. One man dropped off a bag of frozen meat, returning some past favor. David takes care of two neighboring boats for old friends whom he doesn’t expect to come up this season.

IMG_1773David, a conservative German Catholic, grew up in Virginia and Tennessee. He dislikes federal authority, be it Canadian or American; and has found Alaska a refuge from it. He told me some of his adventures as a traveling electrician in Alaska’s panhandle and north slope. “It’s been a hard life. But I like to live hard.” Crow also had a story. He’d nipped at a Chief of Police whom he’d judged was getting too close to his owner’s truck. The policeman said he needed to be put down. Instead David took him away and became his “alpha male.”

I texted Pat to ask about dinner. But Verizon’s network here is so slow that I walked back to Gwen and Thomas’ house ten minutes before she got it. Pandemonium reigned within. The womenfolk had emptied the refrigerator to clean it. Stacks of new food, old food, shelves and drawers stood about. Dannyelle’s son JohnPaul and his brother Jordan wrestled, Chapin was jockeying a stubborn rack into the refrigerator, and two big dogs lolled in everyone’s way. I could see that this kitchen wouldn’t be able to produce a meal for some time. So I bought pizza and breadsticks, and a salad for Pat. Chapin and I walked up to the high town to pick up stuff at the grocery. Dannyelle met us with Thomas’ truck at Papa’s Pizza. The restaurant’s owner was having dinner by the door. He’d owned the Dreamcatcher when we stayed here in 2004.

Cemetery Island II

Thursday 7/7: Our innkeeper served quiche for breakfast today, very tasty. Pat and I explored the only other road on Cemetery Island. We found a baseball park and what I guessed was a sewage plant. Here was parked an overgrown trailer holding a brightly painted fake dugout canoe; Pat thought it was a parade float. Later, Thomas told us that the tribal elders used to ride in it at the 4th of July parade. We walked the trail to its end at the rock outcropping. As usual, the tide was out. We’ve started to wonder if it ever comes in? I looked it up and found that Alaska isn’t immune to lunar influence; high tide was at 4 PM.

IMG_1781We walked up to Gwen’s in a faint drizzle. I went down to the beach to look for some old cannery machinery that Chapin told me had washed up there. I saw quite a few items, ranging from a set of gears to a large anchor. Gwen put on a buffet lunch, making a special trip to town for hot mustard for the barbecued pork.

Sea kayaking

Pat and I left at 3:30 to try the Dreamcatcher’s kayaks. It was still drizzling, but it was no worse than the paddle drips. Our kayaks were squat, ungainly “sport kayaks,” impossible for me to brace my knees in, and so rather unstable. But the water was glassy, so they were okay. Although the tide was high, the bottom was close. I saw rocks clothed in colorful undersea plants. It looked like an aquarium, the water was so clear. Now and then we slid over a bed of kelp or scraped past a barnacled rock. We approached a small island. A deer was grazing in a meadow near the water and not minding us much. Pat noticed that it was very pregnant. We decided against landing, to avoid scaring her. We landed on a mainland beach instead. Behind the beach was a boater’s park, with a few trails, a picnic shelter, and a toilet with a fine view and no door. Fortunately we were the only ones there. On our homeward voyage, Pat pointed out an eagle in a treetop near the Dreamcatcher. The sun was still oddly high.

We put up the boats, changed clothes and walked over to Gwen’s. The sun was still high. The days are long up here, and wet too; a faint drizzle kept the ferns and moss a vibrant green. When we arrived, Dannyelle had a pan full of fresh salmon ready for the oven and a grin on her face. She’d gotten a new job fishing, and had been paid partly in fish. This is usual in Alaska, Chapin explained; gasoline is another popular currency.

Old cannery II

IMG_1852.jpgFriday 7/8: An eagle’s cry woke me up. A jar of mixed-berry jam that Gwen had made yesterday enhanced my breakfast. Curious, I walked up Cold Storage Road; but it led to Craig Fisheries, which was gated and signed “Private Property.” So instead I went back to the cannery ruins. Fireweed was in splendid bloom, and as usual the tide was low; so I had a good time taking pictures. On the Mess Hall boardwalk, I saw a man with a gadget that had a long pole with a disk at the bottom. What an interesting place to use a metal detector; and the tide was low, too. “Good luck finding stuff!” I said.

IMG_1839“This isn’t a metal detector; it’s a weed eater.”

“Well, that was a Mr. Magoo moment,” I said.

He climbed down from the boardwalk to the tall grass below, and bent down. “I found a five dollar bill,” he reported. “And somebody’s cigarettes!” He was under a bench built into the boardwalk’s railing. “Somebody must’ve been drinking,” he guessed.

In the evening Pat and I walked out to the end of the breakwater on Cemetery Island. There’s a helicopter-landing pad, and a great sunset view.

Voyage to Ketchikan

Saturday 7/9: I decided to move on to Ketchikan two days ahead of Pat. The shuttle came for me 15 minutes earlier than we’d scheduled it, due to adding another rider who later canceled. The driver was a retired logger and a friend of Thomas’. He’d moved to Alaska in 1961 when very few people were here. He pointed out a sawmill where he’d worked. They used to make the logs into rafts, float them to the beach by the mill, and then drag them up to the mill at low tide. “I remember seeing two or three feet of snow on the beach in the winter,” he said. “That hardly ever happens now.” Due to environmental regulations, the logs are now transported by barge. What are we going to do for driftwood?

I’d lost our ferry tickets! But Pat had called the Interisland Ferry Authority and explained it; so they had my ticket waiting for me. I turned it in at the Purser’s table eight feet from the counter where I picked it up. This time the ferry was crowded, so I stayed in my seat. In Ketchikan I walked to the adequate Super 8 Motel.

Clarana Lake trail

IMG_1879I passed a Forest Ranger office, but it was closed. I found a guide to Ketchikan-area National Forest trails on the web, and saved it as a .pdf on my phone; no need to carry a guidebook!

I walked up thru town to the Clarana Lake trailhead. The transition from light industrial to residential was a steep one. Google Maps sent me up Jackson Street, which for its first two blocks is flights of wooden stairs. Up here I found a pleasant middle-class suburb, hilly, with streams running thru it and a great view. The trailhead was on a cul de sac at the neighborhood’s north end.

IMG_1890The first part of the trail was a gated road to a dam. Next came a mile or so of good trail along the lake with fishing docks at intervals. At the lake’s end the trail switchbacked up a moss and fern forest garden. My hands were prickling; no-see-ums were chewing on me. I put on bug repellent and buttoned up my cuffs. But I was running out of water too, and I didn’t have a remedy for that. So I had to turn back sooner than I wanted. At the bottom, I rewarded myself with a milkshake at The Galley, across the street from my motel. It’s a Filipino restaurant that also serves Chinese, Mexican, pizza, burgers and bubble tea.


Sunday 7/10: I tried to arrange a kayaking excursion with Pat for Monday, without success. All the scheduled tours left in the morning, before she would arrive. I hoped we could just rent some kayaks on the waterfront.

I had lunch at a Taco Time in the little mall next-door. It was decorated with Indian blankets and a stopped clock, and it was giving away free bibles. The menu featured lumpia, a Filipino dish. Yesterday I’d stumbled across a Filipino bingo hall. From what I’ve read, Filipinos originally came to Alaska to work in the salmon canneries.

I walked along the shabby waterfront and thru a short tunnel to downtown Ketchikan. Mammoth cruise ships with rabbit-warren cabins overshadow this area. It’s dedicated to the tourism trade, which seems to consist of totem poles, log-rollers, smoked salmon and beer. The Tongass Historical Museum is in its center. Here I learned that the town got its start in 1887 with a salmon cannery at the site of a Native American fishing camp.

IMG_1911It burned down after a couple of years, as canneries will. Capitalism didn’t take that for a “No.” More canneries followed as the city expanded along the beach, over the water on piles and up the mountainside. Fish traps fed the canneries, vacuuming up all the salmon until the territorial government made them back off. On land, lumberjacks cut all the trees within dragging distance of the water, improved their technology and went back for the rest. As far as I could tell, a photo of Alaskans dancing in the street on obtaining statehood in 1959 didn’t include any Native Americans.

I had Alaskan rolls at the Shogun, a Japanese restaurant that also offers Chinese food. These consisted of smoked salmon, avocado, asparagus and crab rolled in sushi rice and garnished with thick, spicy sauce. It was good; and they threw in green tea and a bowl of miso soup, an antidote to the long, gloomy Alaskan dusk.

As I walked back to the Super 8, an eagle’s cry drifted over the docks.

Monday 7/11: Outside my window at 6 AM, the first seaplane of the day revved up and roared into the sky. Time to get up! In the Super 8 breakfast room, I enhanced my double bowl of oatmeal with mixed-berry jam from Gwen’s kitchen. I packed, and discovered that my room’s refrigerator had frozen the food I’d bought for Pat. From now on, I’m bringing a refrigerator thermometer.

Downtown Ketchikan

I checked out, stowed my suitcase and groceries in the luggage room and walked up to the ferry terminal to meet Pat. We caught a cab back into town, picking up my stuff and driving on to the Gilmore Hotel. The lady driver took calls as she drove and dispatched other cabs. A drunk called for a ride well before noon. Someone on a cruise ship called wanting to talk to Phil, a cab-driver who’d been recommended to him as a good guide.

The Gilmore Hotel turned out to be next to Ketchikan’s tunnel and across the street from the cruise ship dock. The desk clerk insisted on seeing both of our IDs, and entered them into her computer. She insisted that the NSA had nothing to do with it. “If there were a fire, we’d need to account for all the people in the building,” she explained. If there were a fire, would she be at her desk? Would her computer still work?

IMG_1921We had lunch in Annie’s inside the hotel. It’s a good replica of a historical saloon, if you overlook the flat screen TVs showing football players lurching into each other and the cruise ships outside. I had salmon salad. I love salmon; but this salmon tasted nasty, and I didn’t finish it.

It was raining at intervals, so we gave up on kayaking and went thru some shops. We found a lightweight purple fleece for Pat. That makes us even; in Utah I bought a T-shirt and she didn’t get one. We went thru the SE Alaska Discovery Center, watching a documentary about Native American culture preservation projects, and looking at rain forest and local history exhibits.

Our restaurant choices were few; we ended up at Chico’s, an adequate Mexican place whose 4.5 star rating probably reflects a lack of competition. Pat wanted a book to read on the plane, but we couldn’t find a bookstore within walking distance. I found a laundromat on Google Maps. They often have a put-and-take shelf of paperbacks. But all we found at that location was an evil-smelling fish plant. We had tea at the New York Cafe across the street while another shower came through town.

On our way back to the hotel, we walked up Creek Street. It was Ketchikan’s whorehouse district up until the 1950s. Today it’s a clutch of cottage shops, jovially sporting red lights. “If you can’t find your husband, he’s here,” one house advertised.

Our hotel had no elevator; and our room was tiny, hot and expensive. Honestly, we’d have been better off at the Super 8. The window opened onto a parapet. Pat put what was left of her food outside to keep it cool, hoping that rats wouldn’t carry it off.

Flying home

Tuesday 7/12: We had a very nice breakfast at the Fish House near the Discovery Center. They created a cross between an omelet and scrambled eggs, with mushrooms and tomatoes, for Pat. I had an omelet and a quinoa and blueberry salad. Our cab got us to the airport ferry dock so early that we boarded the ferry before the one we’d meant to catch. After checking our bags, we had two and a half hours to kill before our flight would board.

IMG_1931We wandered outside and found a picnic area overlooking a seaplane dock. We went out onto the dock to take in the action. A little red seaplane landed in the strait and taxied over to the dock, engine sputtering. A man on the dock grabbed a line that was hanging down from a wing, and pulled the plane up against the dock. People tumbled out, and luggage was handed out to be stowed in a trailer towed by a little tractor. Then the plane taxied out into the strait and turned into the north wind. The ferry Stikine was approaching. Undeterred, the plane roared in the general direction of the ferry until its wake disappeared. The dock was busy, serving up to three planes at a time.

We had a picnic lunch and went back into the terminal to board our plane. The terminal is so small that our Delta Airlines gate had no number.

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Restaurants we’ll go to again

I‘ll be updating this list with good restaurants we find in our travels so we can go there again, and so you can too.



shelter cove salmonShelter Cove Lodge: An elegant restaurant serving delicious food in the middle of nowhere, it far outpaces the pizza parlors and such in town.  1-888-826-FISH  (2016)


Fish HouseAlaska Fish House: A small, airy place at the south end of the cruise ship area, next to the SE Alaska Discovery Center.  Nice view of the marina.  Wonderful breakfast, and it opens at 6 AM.  (2016)

shogun sushiShogun: An unpretentious Japanese/Chinese waterfront restaurant, half a mile north of the tunnel.  About the only relief from fast food and fish in this town.  Very good sushi, and the miso soup is an antidote for a long, gloomy Alaskan dusk.  (2016)

New Mexico


Artichoke Cafe: A small, elegant chef-owned restaurant.  If you’re like me and not wild about artichokes, there are other really good things to eat here.  You’ll want a reservation. (2016)



Devil’s Backbone Grill: My theory; if you’re a good enough chef, you can have a restaurant anywhere you want to, even in a town that has nothing going for it except fabulous canyons.  Elegant and unconventional.  (2016)


Port Hadlock


Ajax CafeAjax Cafe: An innocuous wood frame building on Port Hadlock’s tiny waterfront conceals a very popular restaurant.  It’s cluttered with a jumble of historical and hilarious decor, and hats.  Customers are provided with sets of trivia cards to pass the time while waiting for the slow production of excellent food.  The Wooden Boat Building School across the street is interesting, and its dock is a good place to photograph the evening reflections on Hood Canal.  (2016)

H and SScampi and Halibut: A little diner in a double-wide that serves seafood, sides and desserts in monstrous portions.  We were impressed with the salads, crab bisque and decadent chocolate creations.  (2016)



Razzi’s: This pizza and Italian restaurant in Greenwood specializes in accommodating people with food allergies and sensitivities, in particular gluten-free and dairy-free fare.  And even if they didn’t, their pizza is exceptionally good.  (2016)

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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