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July 2009

Life is a bowl of cherries, with a few nuts thrown in.

R.M. Walls' Philosophy of Life (from ‚??The Glass Castle‚?Ě)
July 28 - 31, 2009, Mankato, MN
Tuesday, July 28. The next 2 days will be on the road as we head to Mankato where we will be visiting with Jill's folks, Lois and Dennis and hopefully, Casey. We're looking forward to seeing them again as it has been since Ben and Jill's wedding in Mexico, except for a short visit with Dennis and Casey in Houston last January.

We drove as far as Mitchell, SD and decided to stay 2 nights here, as we have full hookups and MIke can have one more day to get back to feeling normal. Much of the same scenery was seen along the entire 250 mile drive; Harley Davidson motorcycles being ridden solo and tandem, being towed on open trailers, closed trailers, behind RVs, trucks, Hummers, vans and semis. Am I glad that we won't be anywhere near Sturgis during that event. The RV park that we stayed at in Rapid City had 110 tent sites and about 40 RV sites, and 6 showers for each sex. Noooo thank you!

Thursday, July 30. It rained all day yesterday, giving me a great opportunity to get the road dust cleaned off the motor home again. It sure does accumulate. It finally cleared up around 8:00. This was the first time we have seen an all day rain since leaving Texas - we sure have gotten used to sunny southern weather.

The drive was uneventful, lots of construction and a couple of detours. We continued to see people headed to Sturgis. I'm sure that we didn't drive a quarter of a mile without seeing something Harley related - amazing.

We arrived at the Land of Memories Campground ($13/day), a Mankato city park. It took a while to locate a site with 30 amp electric, but we found a nice one that will be shady most of the day and we are facing the Blue Earth River, although there is a steep embankment so we can't see it well. We weren't here for long when I spotted a couple of Bald Eagles flying over the river and perching in a nearby tree. Nice!

It was a nice reunion with Lois and Dennis, we had lots of talk about our grandson and how he will affect our lives and definitely, Ben and Jill's life. They treated us to dinner at the Mazatlan Mexican restaurant and the food was delicious. We had to get back to the park before 10:00, as they lock the gates - we definitely have to find out more about that.

Friday, July 31. Another month gone by - how the time flies these days. I am becoming a believer in "the older you get, the faster time flies". Lois worked this morning, so we headed to their house around 12:30 and headed out to Madison Lake for a boat ride. What a nice afternoon just floating around the lake, having some beers and snacks and talking.

Back at their house, we fixed grilled pizzas for dinner - one was a tomato basil with pesto and the other was a mexican pizza - both were delicious. I've seen recipes for grilled pizza but never attempted to make one, and we will definitely do that in the future. After dinner, we played 3 games of Euchre and the lucky women were the winners, although Mike and Dennis started out real strong. We found that their rules are quite different from the way we have always played, guess its a regional thing.
Rapid City, SD to Mankato, MN, 495 miles
July 24 - 28, 2009, Rapid City, SD
Saturday, July 25. Mike has a full-fledged cold today, what we thought was allergies or sinus problems the last few days. It's a good thing that we are planted in one spot for a few days because he was totally out of commission.

I had great conversations with both Pat and Ben today and it was so nice to talk with both of them. Also updated Mom on our status and she was happy to hear that we are getting closer.

Frisco and I took several walks today and I did some cleaning on the exterior storage compartments. I also drove in to Rapid City to get a few groceries. Other than that, it was a pretty lazy day.

Monday, July 27. Mike was finally feeling better today, although he has a terrible cough. We decided to take a drive through the Buffalo Gap National Grassland and then the Badlands National Park. It was a long drive from here and not a real big thrill, interesting looking geological features, but that's about it. Returning to Rapid City, we intended to go to Mt. Rushmore, but there was a large black cloud hanging over that area and we decided to head for home instead. Shortly after getting back to the motor home, a pretty bad thunderstorm rolled through. There were some loud cracks of thunder and it poured down rain for a while.

I don't even feel bad about not seeing Mt. Rushmore, guess that I am getting tired of sight seeing. We're also getting a bit tired of this park on the noisy highway. There is nothing between I-90 and the park except a railroad track and fortunately, it is used only twice a day. We've been running the AC at night to drown out some of the road noise. There are so many motorcycles going by that Mike said the other day that he doesn't care if he ever hears another Harley in his life. The big Sturgis rally starts next weekend and they are everywhere and in large numbers. We're glad that we are going the opposite direction.
Gillette, WY to Black Hawk, SD, 141 miles
July 23 - 24, 2009, Gillette, WY
Thursday, July 23.Today, it took us 6.5 hours to travel 177 miles. The destination was Gillette, WY for an overnight stop and a brief visit with a classmate of mine from high school. Last Saturday, I called Steve to see if he would be around when we came through in a few days. Coincidentally, I just happened to catch him as he was leaving Stoughton from a visit with his family. He was surprised to hear from me and thought I must have heard he was in town and wanted to see him there.

Shortly after leaving Cody this morning, I called Steve to let him know that we expected to arrive around 3:00. We had a 177 mile drive and I figured with our slow driving, we would make it in 5 hours. Fortunately, Steve let us know that we were on a road (Hwy 14-Alt) that had some treacherous grades going through the mountain passes and he suggested that we take the more southern (Hwy 14) route instead. It took us at least an hour to get back on Hwy 14 and we then had the mountains to go through. The road goes through the Bighorn Mountains that were just gorgeous but it was slow going, with speed limits of 20 mph on many of the turns and several areas of construction. We kept climbing little by little, finally reaching the summit at 9,033 feet. Once again, Mike's excellent driving skills and the Bravo came through.

Six and a half hours later, we pulled into the High Plains Campground ($26/night) in Gillette. When Mike put the jacks down to get us level, the front left one made a funny noise and would extend but wouldn't retract. We sprayed it with lubricant and hope that it will work in the morning.

Steve and Sonjia picked us up and took us to the Prime Rib Supper Club and treated us to a very nice dinner. We talked and talked and talked and talked. Their daughter Annie and her daughter Marla stopped by to meet us, Marla was quite curious about her Grandpa having a "girl" friend stop by for a visit. After dinner, we drove around a bit to see Gillette. It is a major coal and methane producing area, much of the city is funded by tax dollars from the fuel industry. Evidence of that is seen in many of the new buildings around town; fire department, schools, community parks and government buildings. Our family visited Gillette back in the early 80s when my brother Randy lived here and worked for the city utility. It has definitely grown and developed since then. Back at home, we stood around talking until the neighbor asked us to be quiet, around 10:00.

Friday, July 24. Most exciting news when I opened my e-mail this morning, Ben sent an ultrasound image of our grandson and that made for quite an emotional feeling. I must say, the child is quite adorable already.

Much less exciting but another cause for celebration, well at least for high fives, we tested the stuck jack and it actually retracted. So we're off to the next destination, Black Hawk, South Dakota where we will spend a few days exploring Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills and also catching up on laundry and just staying put for a few days.

Today was full of excitement! Steve and Sonjia invited us to their 100 acres of land near Moorcroft and Keyhole Lake to see their train collection. We decided it was an invitation that we couldn't refuse, so we followed them to the Moorcroft exit, parked the RV, and rode with them to their land. I'm sure you are all imagining a collection of model trains, but NO, they have 5 REAL train cars on REAL tracks including a 1970s vintage caboose. And there is more....we got to drive a train. I must say that is probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience. How fun is that!

Their family stopped out to say hello and we got to meet daughter Sarah and son Sean.

Frisco also had lots of fun and excitement too. We let him run free and that he did, chasing after an endless supply of rabbits. I must admit that I was a bit nervous about letting him go, but he ran very large circles around us but kept us in his sights, returning for a taste of chicken jerky every now and then. He even got to ride on the train.

After a stop near Keyhole State Park for a bite to eat, we drove on down the road to Black Hawk and got setup at our site at the Three Flags RV Park ($21/night with our Escapees discount). We're a bit tired but it has been such an enjoyable day. We sure did enjoy Steve and Sonjia's company, meeting their family, and seeing their crazy collection of property and toys.
Cody to Gillette, WY, 275 miles
July 21 - 22, 2009, Cody, Wyoming
Tuesday, July 21. Looking out my window this morning, I was thinking what a pain it must be for some people to setup their campsite. Some people behind us in a 5th wheel trailer have more decorations in their yard than you can imagine. A rainbow windsock hangs from a pole atop their rig, an American flag that turns in the wind is on the ground, a metal staircase with a small platform at the door, their awning is out and anchored with straps to the ground, a clothesline hanging from a window awning, a large (3-4' tall) animal crate in the back, a picnic table, a satellite dish, flower pots, a plastic ziplock bag filled with clear liquid hanging from a pole on a tripod (now what in the world is that for?), whirligig flowers in the ground, a bird feeder, and other unidentifiable gadgets on poles stuck in the ground. It sure takes all kinds in this world to make life interesting.

On to Cody today, continuing our trek to the east, through Yellowstone and on some familiar highway names, US-14, US-16 that go right through Wisconsin. It wasn't a very long drive today, but it sure did take a long time - 3 hours just getting through Yellowstone, but a beautiful drive. After that, we entered the Absaroka range of mountains and it was a pretty hairy drive. There was evidence of vehicles hitting the guard rails and that didn't make for a very safe feeling. Mike's excellent driving skills and the Bravo got us through safely. Beautiful country. It makes a person feel small when surrounded by huge mountains.

We checked into the Ponderosa Campground ($33/day) in downtown Cody.

Wednesday, July 22. This morning, we spent some time planning our route between here and Mankato. Wouldn't you know, the 1st membership parks we called in Rapid City had no sites available. I was disappointed - they are either full or the discounts aren't allowed during the busy season - I don't think I will renew some of them again next year. We ended up with a reservation at Black Hawk, not far from RC.

There are lots of things to do and see here in Cody, so we had to narrow our choices down a bit. This morning we walked to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center and took in several of the museums. The place is huge and has so much to offer. We started at the Firearms Museum, demonstrating gun history and a 2700 piece collection of guns. Mike was a little disappointed because they only had a few Colts and Smith and Wessons.

The Gallery of Western Art had several works by Frederick Remington, George Catlin, and James Bama (one of my favorites). Many beautiful sculptures were scattered throughout the gallery. We also saw the Plains Indian Museum, the outdoor sculpture garden, and the Buffalo Bill Museum.

Charles Fritz, an artist that did 100 paintings that illustrate the journals of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery were also on display. They are recent works, he traveled the expedition route twice and visited the sites that were mentioned in the journals and recreated his vision of the journey.

On our walk back to the RV park, we stopped and had a bite of lunch, a sandwich made with 60% bison and 40% elk, very delicious. Mike had a Teton beer and I had an Old Faithful beer, both from Grand Teton Brewery, Victory, ID.

A first for me this afternoon, while typing this, a truck pulling a trailer with a front patio pulled in just across from us and 2 guitarists and a fiddle player started playing cowboy music. They were from the Cody Cattle Company and were enticing people to come to their show. They weren't bad, but we didn't take them up on their invitation.

After a short nap, we headed to Old Trail Town. Bob Edgar, at a young age, developed an interest in archaeology and the history of the area. In 1967, he began the work of gathering old cabins, stores, schools, and other log structures of historical importance. The buildings were taken apart and rebuilt at the current location. The collection consists of 26 buildings, 3 that were used by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as hideouts or saloons they frequented. There are also 6 graves including that of Jeremiah "Liver Eating" Johnson, a trapper, hunter, army scout, marshal, and civil war veteran. Another grave was that of Jim White, one of the foremost buffalo hunters of the western plains, he killed over 16,000 buffalo during his hunting career. Their remains were relocated to this spot and reburied.

While walking around the museum, we met a very nice older gentleman who told us stories about the place and the collections. He was a soft spoken man, dressed in the typical western wear seen in this area; neatly pressed long-sleeved shirt tucked into his creased jeans, leather belt with silver buckle, cowboy boots, and a cowboy hat. We sure did enjoy talking with him and especially enjoyed seeing this museum.
Island Park, ID to Cody, WY, 174 miles
July 16 - 20, 2009
Thursday, July, 16 Yesterday, while Frisco and were walking, I discovered an Osprey nest located on top of a utility pole not far from the RV park. This morning, I took the camera along and hopefully, got at least one good picture (see photo). Mom was tending to her 2 babies. Last night, when Mike and I walked over to check them out and I didn't have the camera, all 3 were standing up and spreading their wings.

Before heading out today, I stocked up on a few groceries as the refrigerator was empty and the town that we will be staying at while visiting Yellowstone is quite small. We were hooked up and ready to go by 10:00 but a minor problem with the tow vehicle and a stop at a coffee kiosk delayed our start - it was probably 10:30 when we actually got on the road.

We traveled about 225 miles today, with a stop in Missoula at Costco to fill up on gas. Before that, we learned that the state of Montana lives up to its name of "Big Sky Country". It was beautiful! The entire drive, we had a river or stream along the side of the road or crossing under us to the other side - they were all bubbling, fast moving, glistening in the sun sights. Most of the time, they could be seen on the passenger side, which made me thankful. Between Missoula and Deer Lodge, the valley spread way out and the hills were not as steep, nor were they covered with dense forest.

We settled in for the night at the Indian Trails RV Park in Deer Lodge ($23/night with our Escapees discount), about 80 miles east of Missoula. Even though the park is right next to the Interstate, the noise isn't bad. The park is well kept, has generous sized sites that are pull-thru with full hookups, free wifi, and about 60 cable channels for an additional $2 (a waste, as we still couldn't find anything of interest to watch, so only had the TV on for about 30 minutes.

Friday, July 17. It was an easy drive today through more beautiful scenery. After going through Butte, we headed south on US Hwy 287 and it took us through some small "out west" kind of towns. Just before the town of Ennis and right next to the grocery store, we saw antelope grazing in the field. Ennis looked like a cowboy town - the buildings were old and weathered, with diagonal parking all along the main street, quite the bustling little town.

Large and small ranches were scattered along the roadside and back in the hills. A historic marker along the way told about the Bozeman Trail that could be seen off in the distance. The trail followed through Wyoming and Montana. This route was shorter, more direct, better watered and altogether a better wagon road than alternative routes. However, the trail went directly through the last and best of the Sioux and Cheyenne hunting grounds and the Indians watched as their centuries-old lifestyle, their freedom and very existence were threatened.

Home for the next 4 days will be the Valley View RV Park at Island Park, ID ($22/day with our Escapees discount). The town of Island Park was incorporated by lodge and resort owners and is 33 miles long, having the longest "Main Street" in the world is it's claim to fame. We're looking forward to seeing Yellowstone but also want to take some drives nearby that have been recommended as great sightseeing and wildlife viewing. This afternoon I did the laundry and took a nap.

Saturday, July 18. We headed for Yellowstone this morning and entered at West Yellowstone. The first 14 miles were quite slow, not sure if the traffic was moving at a snails pace because of folks stopping along the road to see animals, or if there was just a lot of traffic, but it sure was moving slow. The government is now opening up the National Parks one weekend a month with free admission. Once that jam cleared, it was pretty smooth sailing.

We were able to take in Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone today. Along the way, we saw Bald Eagles, Bison, male and female Elk, geese, chipmunk, and a White Pelican. Evidence of fires back in 1988 was still evident and there was a lot of new growth forest. The roadsides were covered with an abundance of wildflowers including Lupine, Blue Bonnets, Daisies, Goldenrod, and Indian Paintbrush.

At Bridge Bay on the north side of Yellowstone Lake, we stopped and had a picnic lunch. It was probably the quickest lunch we've ever eaten. As we were getting the cooler out of the car, I noticed several piles of poo, not sure who left it behind, but I just didn't feel comfortable, thinking that a LARGE animal was going to come upon us ‚?? what a wimp! We gobbled our food and headed down the road again.

Mike's favorite spot of the day was the waterfall at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The falls were gorgeous and the walls of the canyon were a multitude of colors, including yellow, thus the name Yellowstone. It was beautiful and very unusual.

Its a good thing we are old folks, since we don't do much hiking, biking, tent camping, or shopping anymore, with short stops we are able to pack a lot of sights into a few hours. It was a beautiful day and we're glad that we finally made it to this National Park.

Sunday, July 19. In the middle of a deep sleep this morning, I was awakened by an excited, anxious, and rambunctious dog, a very unusual behavior for him. He must have seen a gopher or chipmunk (the park is full of them) and had to go out - right now. I stumbled around trying to get my bearings and in the meantime I let him out on the leash. He sat there looking at the door of the motorhome waiting for me. As soon as I headed out for a walk, he pulled and tugged on the leash - just wanting to get at them. His body is tense, trembling, and he is panting with excitement and there's no stopping him. I kind of feel bad that he has to be restrained when he is just doing what he was bred to do.

After that, the morning wasn't much of an improvement. I turned the water heater on and it never shut off when the water reached the appropriate temperature. I've been asking Mike to check it out but he has procrastinated. So today, it had to be done. After spending some time cleaning all of the contacts, it is back to working properly.

I went to get the Basic H cleaner out of the storage compartment and the bottle had leaked all over the container and everything else in it. That had to be cleaned out.

I was fixing scrambled eggs for breakfast and they exploded all over the microwave. That has never happened before and I wonder if it was because of the elevation. Another mess to clean up.

We were going to wash the car and motorhome, but it started to rain. That lasted only an hour or so. The weather cleared and we went ahead with the plan to give them both a bath and wash the road dirt off. Shortly after we finished, the clouds moved in and it started to rain again. The afternoon was spent reading and relaxing. A couple of thunderstorms went through and that was kind of enjoyable to watch since the last was when we were still in Port Aransas back in March.

About 7:30 this evening, we took a drive that was recommended by one of the people here in the park. It was a 14-mile drive through the Targhee National Forest, a mostly gravel road, it went through ranch-land, large open fields, and dense forest, following along the southern shore of Lake Hebgen. We were told that the forest is so dense that the animals have to walk along the roads and that we would see more wildlife there than in Yellowstone. Guess our timing was off because the only wildlife we saw was a chipmunk scurrying across the road. Frisco did scare a steer that was having a stare-down with him. They both stood facing each other, us in the car and the steer along the fence, and when Frisco took the first move, the steer turned and ran.

It was a beautiful drive and we did get to see a nice rainbow over the lake, a rusty old tractor along the roadside, and a very beautiful part of Idaho.

Monday, July 20. We took a drive toward Grand Teton National Park, south from here along the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, a beautiful 28 mile drive through the Caribou Targhee National Forest. A stop at the Lower Mesa Falls led to more beautiful scenery. Once again, there were signs warning about wild animals but the only ones we saw were a groundhog and some cattle.

Continuing south, we got on the Teton Scenic Byway that led out of the woods and through some beautiful farmlands where huge fields of grain and seed potatoes were located. We did get some gorgeous views of the Teton Mountain Range. Both of us are sneezing and sniffling from allergies today, not sure what is causing it. We kind of regretted that we had gone so far and still were a long way from the entrance to the park, so we decided to head back north where the motor home is parked.
Coeur d'Alene, ID to Island Park, ID, 422 miles
July 14 - 15, 2009
Tuesday, July 14. Happy Birthday, Monica! An early start for the Bridge's, now that doesn't happen often. By 9:30 we were on the road, traveling along US 395 until we came to I-90 through eastern Washington. There wasn't a lot to see until we got near Spokane.

I've been remembering how beautiful the drive through Idaho was back in 2005 but it doesn't look like how I remember it. Thanks to my journals, I went back and read that we had taken a different route, farther north on Highway 2 - now that explains it.

We checked into the River Walk Rv Park in Coeur d'Alene ($20/night with our Passport America). It is a small but quite friendly park, we have a nice view of the lake through the empty railroad cars that are stored there - at least they have open sides, not solid as to totally block our view. I was glad to find out that it is a dead track and the cars are only being stored there.

Sharon and Allan are across the lake from us, we went to see them this evening, had some fresh strawberries and cream and some great conversation.

Wednesday, July 15. It was another pleasant day exploring this part of Idaho with Sharon and Allan. We took a scenic circular drive along the eastern edge of Lake Coeur d'Alene to the small community of Harrison on the south side of the lake. We stopped at the Marina, sat on the patio, watched the catfish feed on french fries, and had a great burger for lunch. From there, we drove north along the hilltops on Highway 3, passing several small lakes and the Coeur d'Alene River.

Our friends joined us for dinner tonight, we grilled chicken and they contributed a tasty salad and some cowboy beans. We've enjoyed hanging out with them over the past week or so, will miss their company but look forward to connecting again later this year.

On the road again, tomorrow.
Kennewick, WA to Coeur d'Alene, ID, 174 miles
July 13, 2009
The first 125 miles of the drive today was gorgeous, along the Columbia River, we had beautiful dense woods and geological rock formations to enjoy. On the river, we saw lots of kite and wind surfers, after all, this is the windsurfing capital of the US. Once we were out of the Columbia River Gorge area, the hills became soft, round and covered with dry grass and farmland, quite a difference in what we have seen all through Oregon.

We pulled into the Tri-Cities RV Park ($23 with our Escapees discount) in Kennewick (not a real pretty place but then it is only a one-night stay). They gave us a pull-through for the night, we didn't even disconnect the car so and it will be easy to pull out in the morning.
Tualatin, OR to Kennewick, WA, 225 miles
July 10 - 12, 2009
Friday, July 10. We just can't seem to get out of Oregon, guess we must really like it hear. Today, we will tag along with Sharon and Allen to Tualatin, just south of Portland, for a 3-night stay. Since they are familiar with the area, they have suggested that we see the Portland City Market, farmer's market, and a concert in the park this evening. One of the days we are in the area, we will drive along the Columbia River to take in some of the view of the Gorge.

The drive was only 100 miles so we were in our new spot at the RV Park of Portland ($37/day), just south of Portland in Tualatin by 1:00. The park is real nice and friendly, we have a back-in spot along the Tualatin River and right next to the off-leash dog run. After getting settled, relaxing, talking on the phone, and napping, we headed into Tualatin for dinner at our friend's favorite Chinese Restaurant. The food was good but they were disappointed that it was completely remodeled recently, they liked the "old" style better.

The downtown part of Tualatin has been reclaimed after a long decline and has been revived with businesses, apartments, and condos surrounding a park and small lake, a place where community events are held. After dinner, we walked over to the park, setup our chairs, and took in a 2-hour concert of contemporary blues music. People watching to music was quite entertaining, lots of children were playing, and some men were floating their remote control sailboats on the lake. Quite an enjoyable evening.

Saturday, July 11. The sky was gray and we woke to a cool 60 degrees this morning - perfect for a walk with Sharon and their dogs along the nature trail behind the park. We had a great walk with lots of "girl talk", just what the doctor ordered for both of us.

The downtown farmer's market and the Saturday market were our destinations for this morning. We filled our bags with veggies, 3 kinds of berries, and smoked salmon and each had a cookie to snack on. Everything looked, smelled, and tasted wonderful. It was hard to limit ourselves to what we could eat in the next few days - we are so limited on storage space in the motor home.

From there, we headed to the Saturday Market, the largest weekly open-air arts and crafts market in the US. Every direction you walked, you were faced with international foods, live music, and booths with unique arts and crafts. It was a lively and fun place to hang out and experience some of the local activity.

After another delicious salad for dinner this evening, we picked Allan and Sharon up and headed back to downtown Portland and Powell's City Books, an incredible store that takes up an entire city block and is the largest independent new and used book store in the world. The store that we went to was one of several, we were given a map of the store just to find what we were looking for. We split up, went our separate ways, and then met up at the coffee shop at a designated time. Mike and I found 2 books each but Sharon and Allen came out of there with 3 bags full - they are definitely bookworms and were stocking up until their next trip out here.

Sunday, July 12. MMMMMM! Fresh raspberries, blackberries, and blueberrys with yogurt for breakfast. Sharon stopped by to say goodbye, as they are headed to Coeur d'Alene where we will meet up one more time before heading off in different directions.

The day is cool, cloudy, and there is a chance of rain but since it is our last day here, we headed out to see the Columbia River Gorge. The Historic Columbia River Highway took us along the river and to many scenic viewpoints and waterfalls along the way. We walked the trail that led us to the Latourell Falls, a plunge type falls that was 75-100 feet in height. It is cool, damp and the forest is a brilliant, lush green. We saw a few slugs slithering on the ground that were about 5 inches long (the pictures didn't turn out).

As we headed on down the road, we came around a curve and saw brake lights in front of us. A huge tree had fallen across the road, it must have happened only seconds ago because there were only 2 cars ahead of us. We took the chance of going under it. Afterward we both talked about how lucky we were to make it.

On to Multnomah Falls, the biggie, it is a 2-tier falls and it plummets 620 feet from its origins on Larch Mountain, the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States. It is fed by underground springs from Larch Mountain. We stopped at the visitor center for a piece of fudge and some coffee.

We decided to head back on the same road to take the Larch Mountain Road, a 14-mile drive that led to a viewpoint where we could see 5 mountains (Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Jefforson). Unfortunately, when we got back to the fallen tree, the road was closed and a crew was on the way to remove it. A forest service employee told us it was considered "unstable" - guess we were lucky to make it past. It was so gray and cloudy with poor visibility, that we decided to just head back home and be lazy. Chances are that we wouldn't be able to see much anyway. Maybe tomorrow we will get a glimpse of Mt. Hood from the road as we drive by.

Goshen to Tualatin, 102 miles
July 7 - 9, 2009
Tuesday, July 7. Moving day. I had to run an errand this morning, so we didn't get out of Phoenix until 11:00. Then we got turned around in Medford trying to find the Costco gas station and after filling up, it was almost noon before we left there. The route took us straight north on I-5 for about 170 miles and was a beautiful, scenic drive through many mountain passes.

The next 2 days will be spent at the Deerwood RV Park, just south of Eugene, parked next to Sharon and Allan, some friends that we met in Rockport, TX two years ago. We had planned to meet them on the coast where they were staying in Florence, but the weather there was cold and foggy and we decided to meet up here where it is warmer and definitely brighter.

Wednesday, July 8.Our joint adventure started today at Allen and Sharon's 5th wheel where we got to see their latest art works. Both are working with pastels, taking classes, learning new techniques, and have polished their skills on several paintings since we last saw them last November in Rockport, TX. Photographs taken on their travels give them lots of ideas for future works.

After gabbing for a long time, we headed east of Eugene for a tour of the Cascade Highway 58 Covered Bridge Loop Trail that took us along the Williamette River and included stops at 5 different covered bridges along the way. We learned that Oregon has more covered bridges than any state west of the Mississippi. The climate is what led them to cover their bridges, as they found that it helped to preserve them from the inclement weather, extending the lives of the bridges by up to 8 years. We learned a lot about the area, saw some beautiful scenery and enjoyed the great company of friends. By the time we finished seeing the bridges, we were all hungry and stopped for lunch in Oakridge before heading back to Eugene.

I decided to get the laundry out of the way this evening - now I can be lazy in the morning.

Thursday, July 9. It was another nice day, hanging out with Sharon and Allen. Since we both had some shopping to do at Trader Joe's, we took both of our vehicles to the parking lot, then got in the Jeep and headed to downtown Eugene to see what we could find of interest. We stopped at some of the shops in the city market but then decided to head for the downtown area. Once there, we walked the streets, made a stop at a book store, and then headed for a small farmer's market. I picked up just enough for a salad for tonight's dinner.

Then it was time to have some lunch, but several of the restaurants in that area were closed or out of business. We ended up at the Eugene City Brewery where we sat outdoors and had a beer and a good lunch.

Frisco was real happy to have us back home, so he got a nice walk and then we sat and talked with Sharon and Allen into the evening.
Phoenix to Eugene, OR, 166 miles
July 6, 2009
Brittany and Kyle both had the day off today, so we headed to Ashland for breakfast at the Breadbasket where we sat on the patio and enjoyed the views of the nearby hillsides. Next on the agenda, we headed for Jacksonville, a small town in the Applegate Valley to the west of Phoenix. We walked the Main Street and stopped in some interesting little shops.

The Applegate Wine Trail was our next destination and Kyle was our driver since he doesn't care for wine. Our first stop was at the Fiasco Winery. It was quite casual with friendly staff and tasty wines. Some people that were there at the same time as us suggested a stop at Troon Vineyard, a higher end vineyard that is internationally recognized. The tasting room was beautiful and the views from there were gorgeous. Some friends of Brittany and Kyle were also touring wineries, so we met up with them at Schmidt Family Vineyards where we sat in the garden and enjoyed the park-like setting. After enjoying a glass of wine there, we walked through the beautiful gardens, the round house of the Applegate Valley, and a beautiful greenhouse loaded with succulents, an assortment of begonias, and other unusual plants.

By then, it was time to head back to check on our dogs. Brittany got called in to work at 9:00, so she needed to get a nap in before that. It was an enjoyable day and thanks again to Brittany and Kyle for being excellent tour guides.
July 1 - 5, 2009
Wednesday, July 1. Life on Bear Creek is quite nice, waking up to the songs of birds and the bright sunshine. The nights cool down to the upper 50s and are great for sleeping with the windows open.

It was around 11:00 when I got to Brittany's to start doing some gardening. We accomplished quite a bit even though we only worked at cleaning up some overgrown beds for a few hours. It appears that the yard was quite nice at one time but has been neglected. Plant choices are good, with several fruit trees (apple, pear, cherry), grapes and berries but many are overgrown and will improve with some drastic pruning and general cleanup. The temps were supposed to reach near 100 today, so if we couldn't be in the shade - we didn't work there.

While Brittany and I were working in the yard, Kyle had an interview for a job. He came back with the good news that he was hired and starts tomorrow at Phoenix Organics, a garden, farm, and eco-building products company. It seems that the job will suit him well.

After going home to take a shower and make a salad, we returned to their house where we had to help Kyle celebrate with some beers and an excellent dinner of steak, salad and veggie kebabs. The dogs are getting along well (once Leia (St. Bernard) gets over the initial excitement of having another one to play with).

We are so enjoying their company and it is nice to get to know Brittany better, as in the past we never really spent much one-on-one time together, meeting only during vacations and family gatherings. She's a real sweetheart.

Thursday, July 2. Because of our rather late night of celebrating - Mike and I were home by 11:30 but the party went on after we left - we were all a bit under the weather today. Mike and Frisco took lots of naps, Brittany got off to a late start, and Kyle started his new job, and I went shopping at thrift stores. Brittany and I joined up and went to Ashland to continue my day of thrift store shopping. I ended up with an outdoor tablecloth and a gardening book for Brit.

It was a quiet evening for us; BLT's and sweet corn for dinner, some relaxing reading outside when it cooled off a bit, and we watched the movie, "Religulous", his take on the current state of world religion.

Friday, July 3. When life gives you over-ripe bananas, make banana bread, so that's just what I did this morning. We sat out in the shade and had warm banana bread with our coffee for breakfast - what a life!

This afternoon, we headed to Medford to see the movie, "Public Enemy" with Johnny Depp, the story of John Dillinger. We both enjoyed it a lot and tried to recognize some of the scenery that was filmed in Madison, Darlington, Oshkosh and Columbus, WI. Before heading home, we stopped at Phoenix Organics, where Kyle is working. They have some beautiful green building materials and household products. I especially liked the eco-glass sinks and countertops.

We had planned to go have pizza at the Creekside Cafe in Ashland where Brittany works but then she got called in to work on her day off - too bad. Instead, we went to La Tapatila for one of the best burritos I have ever had and it was large enough to feed 2 people.

Saturday, July 4. Happy 4th of July! It was a quiet, relaxing day for us, staying in the AC most of the day. At one point, I checked the thermometer and it was reading 103 degrees and it was sitting in the shade.

We had some albacore tuna steaks on the grill and salad for dinner. Once it cooled down in the evening we sat outside and read. Frisco met Scout, the neighbor dog and they played for quite a while. Since he gets really freaked out about fireworks, we stuck close to home. He tolerated the occasional pop of fireworks just fine but when the real thing started, he stuck as close to us as he could.

Sunday, July 5. After a nice walk this morning, we took a drive to Medford to pick up a few groceries and a new toaster - the old one bit the dust and refused to stay in the toasting mode.

A bad grass fire was going on here this afternoon, about 2 miles from the RV park at the I-5 exit 26 and we are at exit 24. Part of the interstate was closed down and traffic rerouted. I first heard the sirens when I was sitting outside, and then I started to see and smell the smoke, large particles were floating in the air. Helicopters were called in to drop buckets of water and it was several hours before they had it under control.

Brittany and Kyle came over for dinner and we hung out for a while.

Created on 07/01/2009 06:47 AM by bridge
Updated on 08/05/2009 06:00 AM by bridge
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