Friday, June 29, 2012

Olympia, Washington-Wallace, Idaho (June 28-29, 2012)

Our destination on this part of our journey will be Wallace, Idaho with an overnight stop in Ellensburg, Washington. We chose Ellensburg for we knew it would take us quite a while to get from our current location, through the Seattle-Tacoma Metro area, onto Interstate 90, up and over the steep mountains at Snoqualmie Pass and then down the mountain to the town of Ellensburg.

The day was clear and crisp and we departed the RV park after 9 AM so that we would miss most of the rush hour traffic around the large  Seattle-Tocoma Metro area. Our plan worked out for the traffic, though a bit heavy was moving well.

We bypassed the cities by taking WA SR 18 which brought us onto Interstate-90 about 20 miles west of the pass. The weather remained good and we began the steep ascent over Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278 ft /1,914 m). The highest point on this road was 3,022 ft. /921 m. with the last 7 miles climbing over 2,000 ft./607 m. Didn't have a single problem. The auxiliary radiator fan did not even kick in. Good ole truck of ours.

Once over the top the most concerning part began, the descent through the Snoqualmie pass into Ellensburg, WA. Going down a hill is always harder, for us, than going up. I had checked the brakes a few days earlier and knew they were in top shape, but there is always that nagging little thing in the back of your head wondering "what if?"

As on steep descents before, I switched the transmission to manual shift, shifted down to 4th and maintained a steady 50 MPH speed without using the brakes too much until the road leveled out.  It took about 5 minutes to get there, but we did not destroy the brakes or ourselves.  Thank Goodness it was a two lane road.

As the road started to level out we came upon a rest area and we immediately pulled in to check things out and give everyone a stretch. Although we had only traveled about 85 miles since leaving it has taken us over 3 1/2 hours to get to this point. But, the good news is we only have about 45 miles to go so we are now taking our time.

We pulled into the Ellensburg KOA around 2 PM and began to do a quick setup.  When we do an overnight like this we try not to disconnect the trailer from the truck and put out all the creature comforts as when we stay in one place for a while. This allows us to depart the next morning without too much of an effort.

The park was very nice, as most KOA's are, and it was located right on the Yakima River.  We had hoped we would find a nice spot on the river where Guinness, at least, could go in and play for a while, but the river was too high and flowing way too fast. The next best thing was we could hike a bit in the surrounding woods.

When we returned to our site we saw the entire area, including our RV, was covered with fluffy looking stuff.  Reminded me of dandelion fluff balls, but bigger and messier. I asked one of the camp attendants what it was and he told us it was from the Cottonwood trees.  Because they have had a wetter than normal spring they were blooming heavier than normal.  We had seen these before in Zion National Park in Utah, but nothing like this.  It was like a blizzard. What a mess.  Now I know why they are called Cottonwoods.

The next morning we woke early and departed quickly.  We had about 260 miles to our next and final stop in Wallace, Idaho. It looked like it was going to be an easy drive and it was. We experienced some heavy traffic around Spokane, Washington, but not bad. Once into Idaho the highway ran around a portion of the Coeur d'Alene Lake.  Very picturesque and very touristy.

Once leaving the lake area the Interstate entered the mountains again and traversed several valleys before reaching Wallace.  It was a flat, beautiful and quiet drive.  We arrived at the Wallace RV Park ready to enjoy an entire week of staying in one place with nothing to do but see the sights and enjoy the surroundings.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Olympia, Washington (June 21-28, 2012)

OK,we relaxed, somewhat, at our last stop, but now we are in need of maintenance and stockpiling. We are here at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord where we need to perform some PM (Preventive Maintenance) on the truck and RV, get some medical assistance from the base veterinarian office, fill up our pantry and, in between all of that, see some of the sights in this beautiful part of the country. I think the five full days we are here are already filled.

Our first priority is for the boys.  They both need a refill on their monthly preventive medications and Rosco, bless his heart, needs his hiney squeezed (anal gland expressed), for you see, he cannot do it naturally like most dogs do.  Because he has this inability, we take him once a month to have it expressed manually. If we didn't, he would become extremely irritable and, eventually, his gland would become abscessed. we go to the base vet.

Now that Rosco is his frisky self again, I leave the pack and head back on base to the auto craft shop where I can change the trucks oil, lube its joints and inspect the working parts of our work horse that is pulling us through this country. That done I return to home base and enjoy the beautiful sunset and our very close-knit traveling family.

Remember, if you click on a picture it will bring up all the pictures in a full screen format.

On day 2 we awoke to heavy overcast and a light rain. We left the boys and headed back on base to the commissary.  It had been a while since we made a concerted effort to stock up on vittles and this would be our last chance to do so at a commissary for quite a while.

On our way back we made a stop at a Lowes to pick up some items to repair some minor things in the RV and we were back at the park in no time at all. We spent the rest of the afternoon putting things away and doing the repair work. The weather cleared out nicely and the remainder of the day was play time with the boys and just relaxing around the lake. So quiet and idyllic.

One of the many Bald Eagles inhabiting the area.

A Bald Eagle looking for a late dinner.

By the next morning it was raining again so we decided to stay put and read and watch old movies. This turned out to be a great idea for even the boys were obviously tired and the down time was well received. Tried to catch up on this blog during the afternoon as well as sort pictures and make more plans for the next 3-4 weeks.

Monday morning we found that it had stopped raining, cleared up a bit and cooled down a lot.  We decided to take a day trip to Mt. Rainier National Park. After getting everyone packed and settled we took off north on I-5, picked up WA SR 512 through Puyallup, WA and then WA SR 410 to the park.

The drive there was great and once we passed the small town of Enumclaw, WA we began climbing into the foothills. Our route took us, almost, completely around the base of the majestic Mt. Rainier.  What an awesome and beautiful drive. We had ample opportunities to stop, walk, take pictures and just soak up the exquisiteness of this wilderness.

Veering off of SR 410 we drove south on WA SR 123 through the deep valleys surrounding the mountain and, eventually, picked up US Rt. 12 returning us back to I-5. There were parts of WA SR 123 that still had snow piled along the side of the roads.  This was great for the boys for they love the snow.  They had a fantastic time playing on it.

All-in-all our trip took us around 225 miles through some of the most awesome wilderness we have seen.  But we say that every time we see vast expanses of untouched nature. Oh, well, it is all beautiful and it is what makes up this beautiful country of ours.

Mt. Rainier is behind this smaller mountain. Never saw Rainier due to cloud cover.

That trip resulted in sensory overload for all of us. We returned that evening to eat light and crash heavy. Tomorrow is another day.

We awoke, again, to the rain and fog. Our goal today was to visit the Pike Place Public Market in downtown Seattle. We chose this one sight-to-see because of our love for food and cooking and we wanted to see the fish mongers throwing the fish.

The market was about 50 miles from the RV park and with the rain and traffic it took us about and hour and a half to get there. We arrived shortly after 10 AM and made or way into one end of the long market building. Wow!  We had been in many markets around this country and around the world and this one is in the top ten. 

The market is multi-level and we wanted to see the entire thing so we made our plan and began our exploration of this 105 year old institution. It was a rainy, cold Tuesday morning and the place was already packed and we could see why.  We wanted some of everything, but we knew we would have ot pick and choose wisely due to limited space in our home on wheels.

Toward the end of our exploration we found ourselves in the fish market section.  Fresh seafood of all kinds packed each stall and we were tempted to get a lot of it, but no, we suppressed our desires and continued on to the Pike Place Fish Market famous for its "flying fish."

"The Pike Place Fish Market is best known for their habit of hurling customers' orders across the shopping area. A typical routine will involve a customer ordering a fish, with their fishmongers in orange rubber overalls and boots calling out the order, which is loudly shouted back by all the other staff, at which point the original fishmonger will throw the customer's fish behind the counter for wrapping. Initially, the shouted repeating of the ordered fish began as a prank on one employee, but was enjoyed by customers, so it became a tradition. While working, the staff continually yell to each other and chant in unison while they throw ordered fish. At times, the fish market staff will throw a foam fish into the crowd to scare bystanders, or select a customer from the crowds to participate in the fish toss. Above the areas in which they throw fish, the market hangs a sign that reads, "Caution: Low Flying Fish"."-Wikipedia.  Ahhh...the highlight of our visit.

Still raining we ventured out of the market building into the surrounding streets where small shops were filled with eclectic wares as well as more food stuff. One of these shops housed the original Starbuck's. Joyce just had to have one and waited in line for almost 20 minutes just to say she sipped on a Starbuck's from the original shop. No tee shirt, but I did snap a picture of the landmark event.

We continued to explore the immediate area of the market and when we felt we had seen as much as we wanted to we trudged back to the truck and headed home to our boys.  We did find some trinkets and some small amounts of food stuff as well as some fresh made organic treats for our fur-kids. We very much enjoyed this outing and would like to return someday, although, it is unlikely.  We have pictures and our memories though.

Can you see the flying fish?
Here it is.

Starbuck's first store.

A cheese maker making fresh mozzarella.

By the time we arrived back at the RV park the rain had stopped, the skies cleared and the winds diminished. It became a beautiful afternoon.

Again, we ate, sat by the lake and marveled at the many eagles in this place.

Tomorrow is our last full day here and we will be prepping for our long haul up the Snoqualmie Pass. We want to make sure everything is in tip-top shape for this will be a long climb up and even a long descent down. We have enjoyed the Seattle area a lot and now we are eager to see the rest of the Great Northwest.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Astoria, OR- Olympia, WA (June 21, 2012)

This 150 mile trip took us a bit over 3 hours. We arrived at the park, set up and settled in for the evening. The journey here was uneventful and we were pleased at the peacefulness of the park. Looks like some rain coming this way.  Not surprised considering where we are.  It is very pretty here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Astoria, Oregon (June 17-21, 2012)

Camp Rilea Armed Forces Training Center is a quiet military installation located on Oregon's northern coast. We chose this location for one reason, to chill out for several days and do very little and that we did.  Our only excursion away from the RV park was a short trip into Astoria, Oregon for a "look-see" and to pick up a few items from a grocery store.

The RV park, itself, was constructed on an existing paved parking lot up against a berm separating the old, and reclaimed, small arms ranges with the rest of the installation. These old ranges are now flowing meadows providing a feeding grounds for a large herd of elk. Past the meadow is a stand of trees separating the meadow from the Pacific ocean shore. Distance between us and shoreline was about 1/2 mile, but close enough that each night we were lulled to sleep by the waves crashing on the sandy beaches.

Most of the few days we spent here was making sure the O'Doodle boys got plenty of play time and exercise, something they have not been able to get in recent weeks.  The large grassy areas in front of the park was ideal for that and, especially, Guinness got his fill of his ball fetish for two full days.  Did he ever sleep hard those nights.

The weather was cool , windy and overcast for most of the time and we made no effort to venture to the beach. We were completely satisfied just sitting around and enjoying our surroundings. On one morning, while we were outside tidying up the RV and truck, we noticed another family had arrived during the night. After a while we saw a woman trying to coax her dog out of their trailer and when he did come out, lo and behold, it was a Doodle and a chocolate one at that. By his size he looked to be a puppy and he was. Seeing us, the puppies mom was so excited to see two Doodles she immediately came over and quickly made friends. His name was Choko, short for chocolate, and was just 4 months old. Guinness, Rosco and Choko were instant friends. Unfortunately, though, they were just staying the one night and were on their way again in an hour. Oh, well. Rosco really wanted a playmate for a day or so.


On our last full day we did venture into town and we were pleasantly surprised with the atmosphere and charisma it portrayed. Astoria is an old town and very little has changed over the years. To their credit, the town has opted to restore instead of rebuild keeping the town's character intact.

We came upon a local brew house and decided to sample their product.  We were not disappointed.  This microbrewery had some awesome beers and we tried samples of quite a few before heading back to the RV park. Our big afternoon out alone was a great break for us, and oh, it was also a great way to celebrate our anniversary. Now, back to our boys and prepare for our last trek northward on the Pacific coast.

Once back we spent some time playing again before dinner. We all were just starting to wind down a bit, but the reality hit us as we ate that tomorrow it was the asphalt road again. Trying to put that reality aside for, at least a few more hours, we all took a walk down to the meadows and were surprised to still see the elk relaxing and frolicking.  We counted 23 in the meadow and saw quite a few more in the wood line so this was a very large herd. As the sun started to set they all disappeared into the woods and we disappeared into our cozy abode. Time to make last minute preparations for our move tomorrow.

Tomorrow we head towards Seattle where we will be staying at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord RV park for a few days.