grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Monday, June 30, 2008

26-30JUN08 - Monroe, WA

Thursday, 26JUN, we departed the Kiesel’s and headed over Snoqualmie Pass to our property in Sultan, WA. The drive was uneventful, except for the low flying C-141 (military cargo plane) that almost took our roof air conditioners off near Keechelus Lake near the Pass. As before we parked our RV at the RV facility on the backside of the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, WA (see our BLOG from SEP07 for details on this RV facility). As always at any RV park we were given a list of rules to follow, two in particular caught our attention:

---Alcoholic beverages and recreational drugs are prohibited on all county grounds. (so non-recreational drugs are ok?)

---It is unlawful to incite or participate in riots, or indulge in boisterous, abusive, threatening, or indecent conduct. (bummer - inciting riots is one of our favorite pastimes!)

The next morning we headed up the road (US 2) to our property. While driving east on US 2, Dan decided to pull over and checkout the Wayside Chapel that he has probably driven by for close to 35 years, never stopping. There is a sign in front of the church that states Pause... Rest... Worship. The sign also warns that there are No Facilities. The Wayside Chapel is not staffed, but is open to all faiths, at any time. There's just room inside for four small, two-person pews, a pulpit, and two vases of flowers.

After visiting our property and returning to the RV, Dan walked over to checkout the Western Heritage Center. This is a small, “local” museum that sits on the edge of the Evergreen State Fairgrounds. We had noticed it many times before, but had never visited it. Almost every town in the USA and most counties have a “local” museum documenting local history. The quality can range from very poor to very, very good; usually depending on the enthusiasm of the volunteer(s) involved. Dan rates this museum as very, very good mainly because of the efforts of Jerry Senner and friends. The museum is very well organized and is very interactive; and Dan got a personal two hour tour with Jerry.

The museum concentrates on the history and importance of logging, mining, railroads and agriculture to Snohomish County with emphasis on Monroe and surrounding area. One display covers the Great Train Disaster of 1910, which Dan believes not many Washingtonians even know about. Even though close to 100 people lost their lives and it took several weeks to recover all the bodies.

As we noted in last year’s BLOG being at the Fairgrounds ( and right next door to the Monroe Speedway (, there is always something going on like - auto races, demolition derby, pygmy goat show, swap meets, quarter horse show, etc. We checked out the swap meet and the goats, but for some reason Corrie is not interested in the car races and Dan attends those by himself.

On Saturday we attended the Skandia Midsommarfest at St. Edwards State Park, Kenmore, WA. The festival is a traditional Scandinavian mid-summer festival started five decades ago by the area’s large Swedish population. The festival features traditional musicians, dancers and craftspeople. It was a nice little festival with Corrie indulging in pickled herring and Dan going with the almond flavored pastries like “prince cakes”. Due to record heat we didn’t last until the traditional raising of the majstang (greened pole), followed by the ringlekar (game dances) and the langdans (long dance). Turns out that St Edwards State Park is the largest undeveloped property on Lake Washington. Dan couldn’t figure out why he had never heard of this park, but discovered that it was given to the state in the late 70s.

In spite of the record heat, we also drove to Green Lake, this is a small park in North Seattle that Dan and his cousin Steve used to hang out at all summer long in the late sixties. Back then very few Seattleites used Green Lake and no one really cared what the teenagers were doing; for example swimming out to Duck Island, a manmade island created in 1936, and harassing the wildlife. Turns out that Duck Island was actually a wildlife refuge and declared off limits in 1956! Now the Lake and Park are one of the most used green spaces in Seattle.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

20-25JUN08 - Kittitas, WA

Our next stop was at Dan’s cousin Steve and Bonnie Kiesel “ranch” outside of Kittitas, WA. For more info on cousin Steve and wife, Bonnie, see our BLOG for Labor Day 2007:

Another reason we spent three days in Spokane, was because Steve told Dan that they were in the middle of hay operations and they would be done on Friday (the day of our arrival). The idea was that our stay in Spokane would mean we would miss all the work - Dan should know better than to believe Steve! What Steve meant was that the work would be done on Friday once you show up and help us. So after setting up the RV, it was time to pick up the fresh hay bales and store them into the barn. Apparently there is a neighbor who has a tractor pulled device to pick up the bales and stack them on a trailer. But the Kiesels didn’t feel like paying one buck a bale; after bucking a couple of bales onto the trailer, Dan offered to pay next year! Anyway with the help of their friends, we got the job done and preceded to a great BBQ and cold beer.

Gumbo the one eyed Jack loves the Kiesel ranch because this is the only place without fences where he allowed to roam free with out being on a lead. This is because there are four other dogs running around and Gumbo wants to be a part of the pack and not left behind. So consequently he stays with them and is in dog heaven, especially when he finds fresh road apples to roll in.

For most of our stay we had beautiful weather, with no wind (which is rare for this area of WA state). We had great views of Mt Rainier, Mt Adams and the Wenatchee Mountains. And it seems that there were some rare atmospheric conditions that resulted in spectacular sunsets that we saw. We also experienced a couple of days of very cool weather with chilly winds, apparently that is why the locals sometimes call the month June-uary.

All-in-all it was a very relaxing time spent doing some farm chores, helping Steve & Bonnie’s son Kenneth move into his first house, doing nothing in particular, and BBQ’ing. Turns out Steve had gained possession of Bonnie’s dad’s 67 Jeep Commander and pretty much got it working, so he took Dan into the local hills for 50 miles and four hours of cross country four wheeling. We also found time to visit the Wild Horse Wind Farm on Whiskey Dick Mountain. After visiting the excellent Visitor Center and seeing how this power company did it; its hard to see how people can be against this form of alternative energy?

Friday, June 27, 2008

17-19JUN08 - Spokane, WA

After leaving Deer Lodge, MT, we decided to head to nearest military base on our route with a RV facility and spend a couple of days doing little or nothing. This turned out to be Fairchild AFB just to the west of Spokane, WA. But first we had to make a “traditional” family stop at the world famous 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar, Casino, Motel, Restaurant and all around tourist trap in Haugan, MT (Exit 16 on I-90). Four generations of Ryans have made it a point to stop at this establishment any time they were traveling on old US 10, now I-90. After the obligatory stop at the Silver Dollar, we soon arrived at Fairchild AFB and set up camp.

The next day, Wednesday, we went into Spokane to explore the city, especially the site of the 1974 World’s Fair now called Riverfront Park. In the summer of 1974 Spokane was the smallest city ever to host a World’s Fair. Dan and his two younger brothers (Shawn & Gary) packed Dan’s car with camping gear and headed east to check it out. They decided to camp at Mt Spokane State Park, which only had ten camp sites. The entire way up the mountain there were signs saying “Park Full”, “No Camp Sites”. When they got to the park it was completely empty, turns out the Rangers left the signs up most of the time. Most of the Fair buildings are gone, but the City was left with a beautiful 100 acre park called Riverfront Park. The Spokane Falls cut through one edge of the park and have several pedestrian bridges over them to enjoy the view. We were fortunate that the Falls were running very high because of the recent snow melt.

Throughout the Park are various sculptures, there is even a walking map provided to explain each piece of art (unfortunately we did not know about the map until later). But we did discover several like the Big Red Wagon; the Trash Eating Goat (the goat’s mouth will suck up trash in your hand and shoot it out its rearend into a dumpster); and “The Joy of Running Together” depicting runners of all kinds - it celebrates the Spokane tradition of Bloomsday, the largest timed road running race in the world. Also in the Park is a Looff “Coney Island” Carrousel from 1909. Looff carved and built the first carousel on Coney Island and is credited with developing the coney island style of carousels.

For lunch we headed to Frank’s Diner. This Diner was an original dining car that was used by a Railroad CEO and his friends, needless to say it is very beautiful inside. Then it was a Diner in Seattle until being moved to Spokane in the 1990s. Frank’s is known for their breakfasts. So even though it was lunch we order a 3 egg omelet to split, called Joe’s special. Thank goodness we split the order, because it was huge. Last tourist thing of the day was to get a picture of one of two of Spokane’s milk bottle buildings. Turns out that the Benewah Dairy Company built the two buildings in 1935 to market their products.

Our last day at Fairchild was spent enjoying the good weather and the cleaning rig.

Trivia: There are three styles of Carousels, Coney Island being one, what are the other two?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

16JUN08 - Deer Lodge, MT

Today, Monday, we continued to drive through the great state of Montana and set up camp in Deer Lodge. After setting the RV up we discovered the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. Turns out that this ranch not only has all of the original equipment and furnishings from its original establishment, but detailed written records for its entire history. As a result the Park Service continues to keep it a working ranch to maintain this continuous history. There are guided tours of the main house and you can freely roam the grounds viewing a working blacksmith and chuck wagon among other displays.

The only other site of interest in Deer Lodge is the original Montana State Prison. But it was at the end of the day and they wanted $9 for the tour, so we skipped it; maybe next time? Dan did discover a dive/bar called the Corner Office, leading him to tell Corrie – he needed to stop by the office.

Trivia: What was unique about Arbuckles’ Ariosa Coffee, that led it to be the only coffee used in the West?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

15JUN08 - Billings, MT

During today’s drive, 15JUN, we decided to do some sightseeing enroute to Billings, MT. First stop was the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. Having read about Custer’s last stand in numerous books and having seen it portrayed in many movies (often inaccurately), it is still a somber experience to visit the actual site. We were fortunate to catch one of the excellent lectures/presentations given by the Rangers about what led to the battle, then a step by step recounting of the battle, and then the aftermath.

In the 90s the Congress directed the Park Service to present a more balanced depiction of what was really a clash between two cultures (Native Americans vs European Emigrants). As a result there is now a monument dedicated to the various Tribes, there are markers noting where Native Americans fell, and the Ranger’s presentations gives equal weight to the Native American point of view. For example a marker noting where A’Kavehe Onahe fell during the battle states “A Cheyenne Warrior fell here on June 25, 1876 while defending the Cheyenne way of life.” There is even a marker noting the mass burial site of the 7th Cavalry horses that were buried several weeks after the battle.

The next stop was Pompeys Pillar National Monument (originally named Pompy’s Tower). This is massive sandstone outcrop that rises 150 feet besides a natural ford of the Yellowstone River. Hundreds of markings, petroglyphs, and inscriptions left by visitors have transformed this geologic phenomenon into a living journal of the American West. The monument’s most notable inscription was left by Captain William Clark on 25 July 1806. His inscription is believed to be the only remaining on-site physical evidence of Lewis & Clark’s epic journey.

In honor of the two hundred year anniversary of Lewis & Clark’s three year journey, there is excellent interactive visitor center. The center covers much of their travels through Montana, and gives a great deal of info on many other members of the expedition other than Lewis, Clark or Sacagawea. One of the interactive displays allows you to don a full set of buckskin cloths. Dan did this and realized that not only were they extremely heavy; but when they got wet, they would be three times as heavy and stink.

After setting up camp at Wally Mart, we headed to downtown Billings. Even though Billings is supposedly Montana’s largest city, it was almost a ghost town on this Sunday afternoon. Luckily the Montana Brew Pub was open and we sat out in the sun and enjoyed a light snack.

Trivia: Three members of the Custer Family died during the battle, who were the other two? How do you know the difference between officer’s graves and enlisted graves? How come Lewis didn’t carve his initials into the rock like Clark did? Who was Pompy and how did the name of the rock change from Pompy’s Tower to Pompeys Pillar?