grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Sunday, September 30, 2007

30SEP07 - Maryhill, WA

This morning we woke up to a steady rain; so it appears that our plan to beat the rain has failed. No matter, it is time for us to start heading south and our eventual return to southern Louisiana. This does not mean we are giving up full time RV’ing. Just that we need to get back to warmer weather and be in the area of the kids for the holidays. We do not have an exact route just yet but will head south through Oregon and then into Nevada. Dan also has a consulting job in LA California starting 16OCT, so we may even drive to the LA area.

Anyway Bonnie recommended that we drive down old US highway 97 to a Washington state park called Maryhill right on the banks of the Columbia River. Although rainy and overcast it was a scenic drive up and down over the Umtanum Ridge, Anthanum Ridge, Yakima Ridge, Toppenish Ridge, and Satus Pass. We lucked out at Maryhill State Park and got a RV spot right on the banks of the Columbia. In spite of the weather the view is great!

28/29SEP07 - Everett & Kittitas, WA

We woke to a beautiful sunshiny day at Kathy’s. But the forecast was for big Pacific storm to hit the Olympic Peninsula and travel eastward across the state. Based on that we decided to hit the road and get on the east side of the Cascade Mountains believing that would get us ahead of the weather before we started our journey south. So after another great meal at Kathy’s we headed out of Sequim to catch a ferry to the eastside of Puget Sound.

Unless you want to drive all the way south to Olympia to avoid the ferries, you have four choices: Port Townsend ferry to Whidbey Island; Kingston ferry to Edmonds; Winslow ferry to Seattle; or Bremerton ferry to Seattle. Having experienced the joys of the Port Townsend ferry, we opted for the Kingston ferry. After Corrie purchased our ticket, she came back to the RV complaining that they had tried to charge her more than the last trip. Dan pointed out that the last trip was a different (and shorter) run and the prices were supposed to be different! So we ended up paying less! Thankfully, this ferry run was serviced by the ferry SPOKANE, a jumbo class ferry. Getting the RV onboard was no problem; but getting off the boat in Edmonds was challenging. The Edmonds ferry dock is tightly hemmed in by the downtown, with railroad tracks cutting right through it. It was tight quarters all the way to the freeway.

The first stop in our efforts to beat the rain, was back to Paul and Shannon Peters. No one was home on our arrival, so we parked the RV and took off to the Monroe post office to get our mail that was two weeks late. Thankfully our mail was finally there. Back at the Peters it was another quiet evening visiting, but instead of “forcing” Jan or Shannon to cook, we all voted for pizza.

Saturday morning as all the Paul took off for work (retiree Dan tried not to gloat) and the rest of the Peters headed to soccer games, we headed over Snoqualmie Pass to Bonnie and Steve Kiesel’s in Kittitas. No one was home, but we plugged the RV in and made ourselves comfortable. Gumbo was highly excited to be back running in the “pack” with Anna, Boots and Brix. Unfortunately after everyone returned home, Bonnie had to leave for a couple of hours for volunteer work at the Moose Lodge, but it was still nice to visit once again.

27SEP07 - Sequim, WA

Today we motored down the road a whopping twenty miles and visited another of Dan’s cousins, Kathy Grasser, in Sequim. For readers of this blog Kathy is Steve Keisel’s oldest sister. Unfortunately Kathy’s husband, Dave, passed away a few years ago. Although nothing can replace the loss of a loved one, Kathy now has Dave’s mom, Marge, living on the property. Dan and Corrie hope they are as full of life when they are as young as these two!

Dave started as a deckhand on the COHO, a private ferry that runs from Port Angeles to Victoria, Canada. Eventually Dave became the Master and served in that capacity for many years. Today Dave and Kathy’s son Elmer is the Master of the COHO. Dave always gave Dan grief about being in the Coast Guard, and especially about being a Marine Inspector inspecting ships like the COHO. Dan always threatened to come back as a CG Captain and make life miserable for Dave. Too bad it never happened.

After parking the RV, Dan took off to visit another retired Coastie he worked with in Morgan City, Steve and Jan Ohnstad. Turns out they live less than three miles from Kathy. They bought ten acres many years ago and have been preparing it for their retirement over the years. They built a pole barn in the 90s, and then a house a couple a years ago. They and their kids have adapted to the country life, raising and selling cattle, pigs and lambs; along with the cultivation of hay. The visit was extremely brief, but it was good to reconnect, and we promise to spend several days in the area on our next trip to Washington.

Our time at Kathy’s was also too short. Another great evening reminiscing and talking about the latest about our relatives; and discussing true Seattle traditions like Sea Fair Pirates and JP Patches. Turns out Kathy also has several battery operated video poker handheld machines. At one point in the evening Dan noticed that no one had spoken for several minutes because we were all playing different machines!

26SEP07 - Discovery Bay, WA

Today did not start off too great! To get out of the Bishop’s driveway it is necessary for someone to go up to main road and stop traffic. This is needed because of the steepness of the driveway you are coming out blind driving anything bigger than a pickup. Coming up the driveway the driver (who will go unnamed) was paying close attention to the trees to insure they didn’t bite the RV. Unfortunately, a low lying stump got the passenger side cargo hatches! Fortunately, no real damage done, but someone was definitely in the dog house!

We then drove our RV onto a car ferry for the first time ever. The Washington State Ferry system is the largest in the country, but chronically under funded (or so they say). We experienced the funding issues on the Keystone (Whidbey Island) to Port Townsend (Olympic Peninsula) run. This is a very short run serviced by the smallest and oldest ferries in the system. The class of boats on this run are called the Steel Electrics, and consist of four boats built in the 1920/30s! They were supposed to be retired five years ago. Since the legislature is still fighting over building new ferries, they are still in service. Three have already been pulled from the run because of cracks in their hulls. If the last one cracks, the run will be closed. So it was with great trepidation that we drove onto the KLICKITAT. You can tell the ferry was never intended for large vehicles like semis or RVs, because we ended up taking up two lanes. Because of this, several cars were left behind, and are probably now confirmed RV haters.

Once on the Olympic Peninsula we headed to our RV reservation at Diamond Point on Discovery Bay. This was a membership park that we paid a minimal fee to visit on a trial basis. Very nice park with resident deer wandering about. One item of concern was when we went to the Rec Room and saw signs warning of cougar sightings in the park!

While signing in at the RV office, Corrie saw an advertisement for Bandy’s Troll Haven. So we were off to the small beach community of Gardiner to check it out. Turns out Bandy invented something called the Bandy Hinge, which apparently is on every airplane door in the world (ie he got rich). Once he was set for life he decided to pursue his passion for trolls? Starting in 1977 he built a purple and pink castle surrounded by gardens and orchards. In the gardens and orchards he commissioned giant carvings of trolls and other enchanted creatures. Even the cedar fence posts, which are one foot in diameter, are individually carved with mystical creatures. Bandy allowed open access to his property so that all could enjoy. Unfortunately the present owner(s) have no trespassing signs everywhere.

Although we couldn’t get onto the property we still enjoyed it from the road. We even walked down the road to the beach. Even some of the residents have picked up on Bandy’s theme, and have carved fence posts and/or smaller trolls. It was also nice to go by a farm that had a box of pears and wally mart bags, with sign that said help yourself.

24/25SEP07 - Whidbey Island, WA

We left the casino RV park and headed to Whidbey Island, one of the largest islands in the USA. Since we had opted not to use the car ferry at the south end of the island, we drove onto the island at the north end of the island. This drive is very beautiful and has a bridge crossing at Deception Pass. The currents are very fast through this waterway and many a boater has gotten into trouble trying to transit it.

Halfway down the island, in the little town of Greenbank, we pulled into the driveway of our friends Ken and Karen Bishop. Well actually we stopped on the main road and Corrie jumped into the toad and drove down driveway to see if we could make it? This was necessary because the Bishop’s driveway is about 1000 feet long, a little bit steep, pretty curvy and is lined by hundreds of trees! We made it down the driveway with inches to spare; but if those trees get bigger, we may not next time.

Ken used to be in the Coast Guard and was both Corrie and Dan’s boss at one time (but that’s a story for another time). Anyway, Ken retired about 15 years ago, and Karen and he built their dream home on a beachside cliff overlooking the waters of Puget Sound. Once we recovered from the drive down the driveway, we had a delicious BBQ dinner while listening to the sounds of the Shifty Sailors. Who are they, you ask? The Shifty Sailors are bunch of Whidbey Island hooligans, including Ken, who sing sea shanties. They are somewhat different in that they sing not in melody but in four part harmonies. They have performed throughout the USA and in Europe.

The next morning Ken, Corrie, Dan and Gumbo went down to the beach to gather mussels and clams for dinner. The mussels were everywhere, but the clams had to be dug out of the rocky beach. But with a little effort we had enough for dinner, including some oysters. After beachcombing it was time to sightsee in the town of Langley, and lunch at the Dog House Tavern. On the spur of the moment Dan decided to see if he could get new tires and an alignment on the Toad (the steel belts were beginning to show!). Unfortunately the tire shop in Langley was completely booked. So we were forced to drive all the way back to the north end of the island and the town of Oak Harbor to get the work done. But this gave us the opportunity to check out the facilities at Whidbey Naval Air Station. Where we discovered a great RV park run by the Navy. The day was finished with a dinner of oysters, and steamed mussels and clams!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

22/23SEP07 - Everett & Anacortes, WA

Saturday around noon we motored all of 15 miles down old highway US 2 to another of Dan’s cousins, Paul Peters. Paul, his wife Shannon and their sons (Ryan and Spencer) live in a rural area of Everett. Also on the property is Paul’s mother (Dan’s aunt) Jan. We spent the rest of the day and evening reminiscencing about the many camping trips that the Peters (4 kids) and Ryans (4 kids) took together around Puget Sound when we were all kids. Truly is amazing there were so few broken bones and serious injuries! The day was capped off by an excellent meal prepared by Jan. Although our time at the Peters was too short, we now know they have a great place for us to park our RV. And being only 20 miles from our property, we are sure we will be spending more time there!

Sunday, 23SEP, we were faced with a decision on how to proceed to our next destination on Whidbey Island. Do we take the shortest route using the Washington State Ferry at Mulkiteo; or drive north on I5 and cross the bridge at Deception Pass? Since driving a large RV on to a ferry can be a little challenging, we voted for driving north. Besides this allowed us to spend the night at the Northern Lights Casino. Turns out that today was also the annual Oyster Run. Corrie thought this would mean lots of fresh oysters everywhere. Not! It meant thousands of bikers driving around the countryside!

We made it to our spot at the RV park on the back side of the Casino. When we checked in we were given two coupon books for various discounts in the casino, the restaurants, and gift shop. Now we know that the coupons are just bait to get you into the casino and hope you gamble. But being regular watchers of the Travel Channel we decided to try one of the things they “recommend” when you get these coupon books. Seems there is almost always one coupon that will double your $5 dollar bet at blackjack or roulette. Corrie didn’t understand how this might be a good thing. Dan explained that there were three possible outcomes: lose both bets and be out $10; win one bet & lose one and win $5; and win both bets and be ahead $20. We won both bets and walked away.

Monday, September 24, 2007

17-21SEP07 - Monroe, WA

We have spent the last week not really doing or accomplishing anything. We have been waiting for our mail to catch up and at the same time we needed to get Dan’s computer repaired. We have a mail service that mails our mail to nearest post office when we tell them to. Normally they send the mail priority and we get it within three days. Unfortunately this time our service sent our mail normal mail, and we still haven’t seen it!

Meanwhile, Dan’s old computer started to crash left and right. He had purchased a new laptop prior to our departure, but it uses Microsoft’s new operating system “Vista”. Some of his critical software (including e-mail) will not work on Vista, thus the need to run two computers. Now facing the loss of all his business files, Dan was forced to find someone to save his files and get it all the new laptop. We had more luck solving the computer problem, then getting our mail.

Each day having to stop by the post office to check on the mail, and then later call or go to computer store interfered with doing any site seeing beyond the local area. We did take one day to walk around Snohomish, the antique capital of the northwest. Snohomish was a lumber mill town that fell on hard times in the 70s. The lumber industry has not come back, but the town is very nicely restored and has not become a tourist trap. Snohomish has started a “new tradition” that acknowledges the area’s raining season called Ground Frog Day. On Feb 02 they see if the frog “Snohomish Slew” can see his shadow. If he does, it predicts six more weeks of wet and soggy! If he doesn’t, it means six more weeks of soggy and wet! We also spent a lot of time just watching the salmon jumping in the Snohomish River as they return to spawn. To finish a great day we purchased fresh little neck manila clams and dungeness crab to cook back at the RV.

We also spent time enjoying the activities that seem to go on constantly at the Fairgrounds. Turns out most of the week the Northwest Quarterhouse Congress was in progress. And on Saturday we woke up to find over fifty suped-up Hondas of different types driven by young males waiting in line to get into the race track. Turns out they had reserved the track for “drift racing” (if you don’t know what drift racing is, check out any of the Fast and the Furious DVDs). Must be nice to be able to spend thousands on modifying your car and then burn up close to a thousand dollars in tires on a Saturday.

Monday, September 17, 2007

12-16SEP07 - Monroe, WA

After an uneventful drive from Kittitas to Sultan, WA, we had a little difficulty finding a RV spot to park. Turns out the one recommended to us close to Sultan was members only. The next one up the road couldn’t guarantee us the number of days we wanted, and the one after that was squeezed (and we mean squeezed) between the railroad tracks and the river. We had no problem with the river side, but since the railroad was a main east/west route, we didn’t want to deal with passing trains. It was then that we remembered a RV’ers standby, the local fairgrounds (and in some cases Civic Centers or Arenas). Most fairgrounds have RV sites for the workers, performers, etc, and for those attending the events held there. Prices are generally lower than the true RV parks in the area, but amenities are also limited (ie no laundry, no showers, no pool, etc). So here we are camped at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds on the outskirts of Monroe, home to the Evergreen State Fair.

Upon arrival Dan went to local equipment rental store to rent something to clear our four acres in Sultan. We bought the property about twenty years ago. Our intentions were for the Coast Guard to send us back to Seattle and we would build on our property. But the CG never sent us back and obviously our plans changed. Now we are faced with land that is overrun with blackberries, salmon berries and alders. Our first objective is to clear the land once again, to see what we have and what are costs to build RV garage with small apartment. Dan ended up renting a John Deere 450H “dozer”. Since every boy who has played with Tonka Toys has dreamed of driving real earth moving equipment, this was a fantasy come true! After two days of trying to figure out the joy stick controls, a gas pedal that slows the engine when you step on it, and the button that makes it go faster in reverse than forward, the land is pretty much cleared and no one was injured in the process. Now we just need to figure out what we really want to do with the land.

Just FYI, Sultan is very small town on old US Highway 2 from Everett east to Stevens Pass over the Cascades. Sultan is first of many small towns (Gold Bar, Start Up, Index, etc) going up to the pass and its adjacent ski area, Stevens Pass (very original name that). Dan and friends routinely drove this road in the 70s to go skiing at Stevens, at that time they knew where the speed traps were (Gold Bar), best burgers (Skykomish), and cheapest beer (Keg n Cue). These small towns are pretty much unchanged, but the suburbs are coming and the town of Monroe has definitely changed! In the 70s Monroe was made up of farm workers, some lumberjacks, hippies and blue collar workers who need cheap rent or were looking for entry level housing. Now there still is a farming community that is getting smaller, no lumberjacks or hippies, and housing starts in the low $300K for a shack. The mega stores are building, traffic is constant and grid locked during commuting hours. Another noticeable change is a Hispanic American population; a quarter of the small stores are Spanish speaking, and about half are bilingual. In fact, the church behind the RV park advertises first service in Iglesias, and second in Espanol. Monroe which was never known for cuisine now has excellent restaurants ranging from Indian, Vietnamese, to premier sea food. In fact, we highly recommend the Sailfish Grill home to the Twin Rivers micro brew; and the Clay Oven, excellent Indian Tandoor oven food!

Meanwhile back at the RV. Did we mention that the fairgrounds are also the home to the Evergreen Speedway, largest racing oval in the Northwest? Well it is and from our observation it is a pretty busy place! Thursday afternoon and night was go kart racing, free admission. Friday afternoon and night was practice session for sprint cars and super stocks, free admission. Saturday afternoon and night was super figure 8 racing; sprint car racing (30 laps); and super stock racing (150 laps). Sunday afternoon only was truck racing, foreign stock, and a few other classes, free admission. Dan kept wandering over to check out the action, and paid to watch the Saturday night races. Corrie decided to enjoy the activities from the RV (ie she could hear everything, but couldn’t see it).

Sunday we were treated to the liquid sunshine Seattle is famous for. To Dan it was welcome break from the dust of the plains states and the farm country we have been traveling through for majority of our trip so far; to Corrie it was a little too gray. In the afternoon we decided to head to Uwajimaya in Bellevue. Uwajimaya started in the international district of Seattle carrying Japanese and Chinese foods and items for Seattle’s large Asian community. They have grown tremendously and now carry items and foods covering from India, across Asia to the Pacific Islands. We decided to buy some items familiar to us for dinner – chicken and leek pot stickers, Filipino lumpias (not as good as Indonesian), shrimp chips, and a sushi roll called Seattle roll. Very good sampling of Asian food at a 1/3 of restaurant prices.

Friday, September 14, 2007

07-11SEP07 - Kittitas, WA (aloha)

Unfortunately it is time to leave the scenic beauty of the Kittitas valley and head west of the cascades to our property in Sultan, WA. We spent the last couple of days relaxing and helping around the “ranch”. Between bucking hay and taking care of horses, Dan is certain farm/ranch life is not for him. He has no problem helping out Bonnie and Steve, but not full time for ourselves; we’ll stick to RV’ing. Steve, Dan and Corrie took some of the hay over the cascades to Dan and Steve’s aunt Madeline and her husband, Bob. After unloading the hay we had a very enjoyable time catching up on family news, while enjoying northwest cheese, local cold cuts, and fresh fruit. On our return to Kittitas we went by our property in Sultan. What used to be four acres of pasture and trees is now blackberries and trees! We couldn’t even walk it, looks like heavy machinery is needed to clear the blackberries.

We also found time to run over to Yakima to try our luck at a Yakama Tribe casino, Legends. The drive we took from Ellensburg to Yakima was along the Yakima River on Highway 821. If you are ever in this area, we highly recommend taking this very scenic route and keep an eye out for the big horn sheep. After the mandatory casino buffet dinner it was time for lady luck. One of our party did very well, but it wasn’t a Ryan.

Back in Kittitas, Corrie told Dan about a very colorful house that he might find eccentric/interesting. Turns out the house is known as Dick and Jane’s Spot and is listed in Dan’s book about Eccentric America. If interested, check out:

Our last night we went to dinner with Bonnie at the local college hangout called the The Tav. Since the college, Central Washington University, was not in session it was a quiet dinner. Steve had left the day before for his annual hunting trip to Wyoming, and obviously wasn’t able to join us. We have had an excellent time in the Kittitas valley, with great friends, good weather and interesting things to do; but it is time to head west before the Seattle rains hit.

Friday, September 7, 2007

03-06SEP07 - Kittitas, WA

On Monday, Labor Day, Bonnie, Corrie and Dan attended the championship finals for all the individual events that had been held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The rodeo opens with Yakama Indians performing traditional dances, including the circle dance which Bonnie and Corrie joined. We saw the traditional events like calf roping, bareback broncos, saddled broncos, bull riding, etc; and non-traditional ones like wild cow milking and posse hide riding. Although the Ellensburg Rodeo is not one of the biggest, it still gets many top five competitors. This is because the points earned here count toward the national finals in Las Vegas, where only the top fifteen in points are invited. In the middle of the Rodeo we were entertained by John Payne “The One Arm Bandit”. John is a one armed cowboy who’s act consists of herding buffalos from horseback using verbal commands and a bull whip. Apparently, it is almost impossible to train buffalo, let alone two. The finale is when he herds the buffalo up a ramp to stand motionless on top of his horse trailer.

After the rodeo we met Steve at a private area of the fairgrounds called “Behind the Chutes”. This area is for the volunteers and people who have donated to the rodeo. The area is only open after each day’s rodeo has concluded. Live entertainment is provided, and it is relaxing place to unwind after a full day of rodeo. We were fortunate to be entertained by Jonathan Harris who has a new CD out called “Where Concrete Don’t Grow”.

The last couple of days have been a much slower pace than during the rodeo! On occasion Steve and Dan have left the house 0530 so Steve can hunt elk (or as Dan says – not hunting; since they are batting 000). Although they have seen close to a hundred elk each day, they are always on posted land! But the views of the valley, Mt Adams, Mt Rainier, and the Cascades make the loss of sleep worthwhile. In addition we have sampled many of the fresh fruit and veggies available at the local roadside stands, like white and yellow corn, Yakima peaches, apples, rhubarb, plums, etc. And as always the stands in this area sell boxes of Aplets and Cotlets candies from Liberty Orchards. If you have never sampled these, we strongly recommend going to below website and ordering some now!