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Our Twenty Fifth Anniversary Cruise 2018

Twenty five years ago I met the love of my life and in March of 1993, we married. It was a tumultuous time due to the death of both of my parents within days of each other and just before the date we had set. Because of this, we scrapped a big wedding and had no honeymoon. Now that we have reached the silver anniversary of our marriage, we decided to go big and do a twelve day cruise on the Adriatic. Once again, we cruised on Holland America and sailed on the Oosterdam, our second time on this ship. Years ago on our first cruise we signed up for a Holland America VISA card and get points on everything we spend. After years of using the card, we had enough that one of us almost cruised for free!!!! That helped the trip budget immensely! As you can probably imagine, both of us were very excited as neither had been to any of these locales we were about to see. Debbie has been to other parts of Europe, but this hoedunk from New Mexico hadn’t.

The trip began with a very early pick up and a flight to Philadelphia with a changeover to Venice. It was a looooooooonnnnnnng flight. Neither of us slept at all. As a matter of fact, the first day we were up almost thirty hours. A transfer from the airport to the ship and we were off. The only sights of Venice were from the ship deck as we past. It looked nice, but that’s all I can say! I snapped pictures that you can peruse in the online album. Our first port of call was Split, Croatia and thus began my witnessing histories way longer than our young country! We had no excursion planned and just walked the city on our own. Had lunch in a cool restaurant with great wine, cheese, prosciutto. Markets and shops were everywhere and there was definitely a good vibe in the city. You could see the influence of many different occupations over the centuries in the architecture. The next stop was also in Croatia at Dubrovnik! What a beautiful city!!!! Took a bus to the south in wine country to a family winery that had been in the same family for generations. They started in a 300-year-old house where the original family had 11 members living in it and was very small bungalow. The wine was fantastic and of course we bought some. They also made grappa which they offered as we arrived. Wow what a kick!!! Then we headed north to a family whom produced some of the best olive oil we had ever tasted. Saw how they did it in old ways with a horse drawn olive crushing wheel and had a great lunch that was almost totally grown from the garden and produced locally. Then we headed to the old town of Dubrovnik within the walls of the original city built in the 12th century and protected from the Phoenicians from the sea and the Ottomans from land. If you are a watcher of the TV show Game of Thrones, which I am not, some of the scenes were filmed in Dubrovnik! What a great start to the trip!

Then it was on to Albania. Our stop was in the port of Saranda. During the travels, we saw many abandoned buildings of former economic endeavors. In the early 90’s, communism left the country and many of these economies left with it. Albania is at the bottom when it comes to economies of Europe. Took a 4×4 excursion (ours was really just an BMW) on a drive through the city and countryside exploring the agricultural and mountains of the country. Our driver Emilio was a nice guy out of work and struggling to survive. We first stopped at Lekursei Castle used for defense in the early stages of the country’s history. It was a cloudy and cool day and hazy which made taking photos hard. We then headed to Blue Eye Spring National Park which held a spring called the blue eye. It was amazingly beautiful to see, a spring coming from within the earth to form a river. The waters in the middle of the blue eye were a dark blue and the surrounding areas were of a turquoise and green shades. The water was as pure as you could find, and you could have drunk right from it. We then headed down the hillside to a place for wine and lunch. This is a newer destination for cruise lines partnering with the country to try to stimulate it’s tourism economy.

Emilio our driver

The adventures are just beginning as we next head to the port of Katakolon, Greece, the gateway to the ancient site of Olympia. We didn’t spend a lot of time here as we immediately headed on our tour to Olympia, but when we returned, we walked about before going back onboard. It was a very nice seaside town that reminded me of my time in SoCal. This was the most fascinating tour so far as we took a tour bus to the ancient site of Olympia where the Olympic Games began. To walk among the ruins of practice fields, temples, bath houses, track and fields that were thousands of years old where athletes of Greece and Sparta trained for the games was awesome. We learned a lot of the history of Greece and the Games and discovered that the flame of the Olympic Games is still lit there before each of the Summer/Winter Games. While the tour was good, we felt hurried and didn’t get to explore much of the site. We were told before going back to the bus that we had 20 or so minutes to ourselves, so Debbie and I walked among some of the back areas we didn’t get to see. We returned to the parking lot well within the time we were supposed to and what did we find…..no bus! We waited around and looked around yet nothing. Luckily we weren’t the only couple in this predicament as another pair were in a tizzy looking for the bus too. Finally a different guide came of her bus and asked us which bus we were looking for and shook her head as we told her. Apparently we didn’t hear from our guide that the bus would be found in a lower parking lot than where we got dropped off…..ooops! we were taken to our bus which was waiting for us and as we boarded there was stink eye galore direct toward us! Then headed to the Mercouri Estate Winery, one of the oldest, five generations so far, in Greece and toured the winery and had a great lunch with their wines, local cheeses, meats, and veggies. After some wine and camaraderie around the picnic table, we were no longer the black sheep of the bus.

Next stop was Chania, Greece – on the Island of Crete. Oh my, this place was beautiful!! We did not have any shore excursions booked for this port of call and just decided to do it on our own. We took a shuttle into town and just walked around Chania by map and explored. It was the most vibrant city we had been to! There were shops, cafes, small hotels, and people everywhere. We absolutely loved it there! We spent all day walking the city exploring. Walked to old waterfront seeing old ancient Venetian and Byzantine buildings and walls, walked through a bustling open farmers market and saw some of the best-looking fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and other items we have ever seen. We also went to the old Municipal Market of Chania. It was an indoor market in the heart of the city and there was everything imaginable for sale there. One shop had liquors and spirits that had “tester bottles” and small cups you could pour samples and taste for yourself. Yipeeeeeee! Sat at an outdoor café for a lunch that was, by our standards, very inexpensive and wonderful. It was a very fun day on our own.

Let’s sample some liquor!

Mykonos and Delos, another great adventure in Greece! Took a long excursion into Mykonos with a small spitfire of a woman who was an excellent tour guide. The first thing you notice when arriving in Mykonos is every building is white. Just like Chania, the streets were very narrow, and buildings were crammed together. It was also clean as a whistle, but very quiet as it was early Sunday morning. We did walk by a church having mass and hearing the chant of the priests and parishioners as we passed by was a bit unnerving as some in the group looked in open windows and doors and snapped photos. To me seemed a bit sacrilegious to be doing that. After we toured the town of Mykonos, we got on a sea bus, a large ferry type boat, and went out to the ancient ruins of Delos. It is supposedly the birthplace of the mythical god Apollo and his twin sister Artemis. It was amazingly huge and at one point almost 30,000 ancient Greeks lived there. As large as the excavated portion of the city was, it still only represented 1/7th of the original city. We were in awe exploring rooms, pillars, theaters, ancient cisterns used for drinking water for the city that were thousands of years old. There were ruins scattered throughout the hillside and we learned this ancient city was once the main shipping port for the area and then it was pillaged twice by ancient invaders. Since the city was always thought by the planners to be a safe location, no defensive fortifications were built. After the second invasion, the governing body in Mykonos decided not to invest further monies into the town and slowly trade diminished and people left the island and the site was soon abandoned and left to ruin as it is now. The island is uninhabited except for a few caretakers and I can imagine it might be a spooky place at night! Off to Malta!

Our next port of call was the island of Malta and it’s capital Valletta! Another gorgeous city full of history and wonderful architecture. We took another tour of the city and the three gates to the city. Nowadays there are actually five! We learned of the history of Malta being under the control of the Order of the Knights of St John and seeing all the cathedrals, hospitals, forts, and palaces there. There is actually a Buckingham Palace in Valletta where Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh lived before her accession to the throne. There are close ties between England and Malta. This was going to be an overnight stay for the ship so we didn’t have to board anytime soon so we explored on our own for the rest of the afternoon walking the whole perimeter of the town! We meandered our way to the The Phoenicia Hotel and had some adult beverages and later had dinner in a restaurant where I ordered…..ummmm…..calamari! It was not like the small rings we are used to here but long tubes and tentacles. I ate it anyway and Debbie was amazed! We finally headed back to the ship exhausted.

Kind of looked like this but bigger tubes!

It was a very short trip to our next stop, the island of Gozo. This was a very short visit. We took a public transit bus to the city of Victoria. Like many other cities in Europe, the streets were narrow, never just straight, and always crowded with traffic. These bus drivers over here are very skilled and patient to be able to navigate all these obstacles and crowds. Being a bus driver myself, I was very impressed. We saw what we could of Victoria, had a coffee and went back to the ship. Can I say something about the coffee here…….strong, very good, and all you need is a little! I will keep the next stop within this same paragraph as they were both quick and kind of a blur and a lot of time was spent in a bus going from point A to B. Point A being the city of Palermo on the island of Sicily. And point B being the resort town of Cefalu. Most of what we saw of Palermo was from the seat of a bus on the way to Cefalu. It was a very busy city, lots of grinding traffic, hustle, construction, and tons of mega apartment complexes.It was a very busy working city it seemed. On the other hand, Cefalu was beautiful and an obvious tourist draw. The tiny streets were filled with shops of all kinds and it had nice beaches at it’s seaside. Once again it seemed our time was limited, one of the disadvantages of some of these organized excursions, but really the only way to get a feel of regions of the world you have never been to. One thing we did decide to do, is find a place to get an authentic panini for me and a slice of pizza for Debbie and we were both in heaven when we did. Once we were back in Palermo we had a bit of time to do a short walk before heading back to the ship. We decided to continue our gastric indulgences on some fine Italian pastries. It was well worth the calories. Then it was on to our final stop before being in Rome for disembarking and heading for home, Napoli. We would soon enjoy our most favorite tour of the cruise!!!!

Yummy!!!!

Two things we learned from our wonderfully crazy last tour guide lady who called herself “Da Mama”, Naples is in Florida and Napoli is in Italy. Also, Rome should be referred to as Roma! In that case I shall refer to our next port of call as Napoli of which we saw very little of. From the ship we just saw the port and then it was on a bus to the ruins of Pompeii! On the way, we could see the base of Mount Vesuvius, but the top half was enshrouded by clouds damn! So the mountain erupted in 79AD and is still an active volcano that could erupt again at anytime, yet there was development everywhere around the base of the mountain, hmmmmm! I was also surprised when we arrived at the entrance to Pompeii at the theme park feel of the area. I suppose because it being one of the most visited site in southern Italy. The ruins of the city were vast at around 170 acres. It was estimated that 20,000 people lived in Pompeii at the time of the eruption and approximately 2000 were killed. We saw only a small part of it, but it was absolutely amazing! You could see the ruts of the chariots that roamed the streets in the stones. We could see the ancient Roman inclination for luxuries for the well to do in their highly sophisticated thermal baths and theaters and lavishly decorated homes. It was a fascinated look at life that existed thousands of years ago and we could have spent hours there but had to move on to the next destination. We headed down the Amalfi Coast of Italy to the town of Sorrento. OMG this place was beautiful! Perched on cliffs high above the Bay of Naples it had stunning views, brightly colored buildings, clean, vibrant, and we loved it! We walked around and had a lunch with everyone in the tour then got on what the call jet boats and went to the Island of Capri! We thought Sorrento was beautiful, but this place was even more stunning! It was an absolute paradise. There is a tram that takes you up top to a chic, gorgeous, town that you can tell was loaded with money and is a famous destination for the rich and famous as we witnessed some of the barbies strutting around. The tiny streets were full of high end shops and restaurants and dotted with fancy hotels. We put this place in or bucket list for a future trip destination if we could possible afford a hotel room. These last two stops turned out to be our favorite places……imagine that. Then it was a long jet boat ride back to the terminal and after saying good bye to “Da Momma” and an end to a ten hour day, we boarded the ship and it was on to Roma to end our journey!

Nothing was seen of Roma except the landscape from the cruise terminal to the airport. The airport itself was a miserable cluster fuck of humanity and we were lucky we had hours before our flight left to clear all the security and passport checkpoints. Our first flight took us to London for a quick change and then home to our boy Cordell who we missed so much! A few final thoughts before I close this novella, things were not that expensive over there, lots of Europeans still smoke, litter is a problem in many parts of the places we visited, and most people we met wherever do not like Trump! And that, my friends concludes this installment of life here at the estate, until next time!

Photo Album Link

Voyage Log

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Olympic Peninsula Vacation

Glamping!

What do the words hiking, camping, eating, drinking, laughing, public defecation, games, chillin’ have in common? Well, they are words involved with the annual camping trip with the Kelly’s……..yahoooooooo! That is exactly what happened and then some! The location of this annual epic event was in and near the Olympic National Park which, by coincidence, was near to our retirement spread. As a matter of fact, we made a quick pit stop on our way to the first camping spot! Being busy folks that we are, it was Deb and my first trip in the trailer this year and that sucks! Well anyway, it was late September and we got ourselves loaded up and headed for the first spot, Shadow Mountain RV Resort. During our visits to our house in Sequim, we had driven by this place a few times, but still had vague memories of it. We were all pleasantly surprised to find it a great place to stay. They had full hook ups, 30 & 50 amp electrical, a very well stocked general store that had a deli inside which created great breakfast sandwiches, by the way. The laundry and showers were spic an span and it was located just of highway 101 which made it easy to travel to some destinations we had in mind! Our first trip took us to Rialto Beach, which was a beautiful beach that one of Debbie’s friends had told her about! The weather was stunning that day and we got to take the four-legged lima bean with us too!

 

 

Another great trip and hike was to Cape Alava which started at Lake Ozette on the Ozette Trail. Rich and Pam had been out here many times before and did the whole triangle and also camped on the beach. We were only able to do the cape trail in and back because we just didn’t have time for the whole triangle because we had to leave Cordell back at the trailer since dogs were not allowed. But speaking of this, thanks to the kind generosity of two lady campers next to us were we even able to do this. We had met them and had a chat. They also had  a dog and became buddies with our Cordell. They kindly offered to take Cordell out for a potty break and a walkie while we were gone. As Cordell is now a senior guy, he would have never made it for as long as we were gone and would have made a little mess in the trailer. They saved our asses that day and allowed us to enjoy a great hike! It is a gorgeous place, just look below at the pictures!

During the third day of the trip, we had to pack it up and head to our second destination which was the Sol Duc Resort. Although the distance between the two was short, it took awhile due to the continued construction on the main highway, but it was soooooo worth it! Taken from the website: “Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is located 12 miles into the heart of Olympic National Park. Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort offers a unique, and relaxing experience. Discover the outdoor pure mineral water hot pools. Melt away tension while being surrounded by forested peaks and the sound of the Sol Duc River gently tripping over pebble and stone. You’ll be able to enjoy an outdoor lunch at Deli Cafe, take a short hike through majestic primeval old growth rain forest with the rhythm of Sol Duc Falls in the background.” The first thing you will notice is the smell, a pungent smell of rotten eggs or smelly gaseous farts. Pam and Debbie should be used to that being married to us boys! There is a very small store, a bar and restaurant. The RV sites are okay and sufficed for us. The one thing is there is no cell service or wifi of any kind, so you are definitely off the grid! The resort had three separate mineral pools, each with a different temperature. The best way to enjoy them is start with the coolest one and slowly pop into each of the warmer two. The warmest one hovered around 106 degrees and it was toasty! We met some interesting people working there, can we say……..eclectic! Had some very interesting conversations with a few and was intriguing how they got there and what they plan on doing in the future.

Along with time in soaking in the pools and having a few drinks in the bar, we once again hit the trails for some more hiking in nature’s wonderland. We headed out to Ruby Beach for another day of beach combing, looking at sea stuff, and enjoying the ocean spray. Once again, the weather was beautiful and the beach was dog friendly, so Cordell got to romp around to his pleasure. We also drove down to Kalaloch Lodge to explore and see if it might be a future destination to stay at! None of us had ever been there and it was in a wonderful setting and not that expensive for being right on the beach. Another hike we took was up the Sol Duc River and over Sol Duc Falls. It was deep in the woods and beautiful and you could cross the river and hook up with other trails, which we did. We took the Lovers lane Trail back along the south side of the river and back to the resort. It was on this trail that we had two exciting events. The first, a bear lumbered across the trail about 50 yards in front of us. It was a big one at an estimated 350-400 pounds. I was in front of the pack and since I was looking down, I didn’t see it until Rich called for me to stop and yelled bear! Guess who didn’t see it…….Debbie…..the minute she heard the word she turned a made haste to the back of the line and it was gone before she had a chance to turn around. The bear never even made notice that it even knew we were there. Then, just a few yards down from where we say the bear, was a raging wasp/hornets nest in an old stump right by the trail. Of course none of us even noticed until I got stung in the calf by one of the crazy bastards. Then we noticed it and were they ever pissed. We surmised that the bear might have stirred them up and one of them took it out on me! Once we got back, we went in the pools and ran into a guy that was on the trail too and got stung ten times! I guess I was lucky!

 

 

One final hike we took was on the Mink lake Trail up to, you guessed it, Mink Lake! This was the most beautiful of all the hikes we did and the toughest. Most of it is uphill on the way to the lake. We only saw one other couple the whole way and back! At the lake there is a wood shelter and we had a backpack lunch there before heading down. It was so quiet and peaceful but still no damn internet…heh heh! Actually didn’t want to leave it. The day before we left we had rain finally and it was a day spent chillin, going into the pools (twice), hanging out watching movies, one more evening in the bar and dinner at the restaurant, and games and drinks that night. So winding up, it was a fun trip. We figured we estimated around 28 miles of hiking, and during one of them, I had my usual gastric disturbance and lived up to my name of Volcano Joe, fouling a second national treasure!! Guess that prevented me from gaining more weight than I did. Heading back, we drove right by our Sequim house and was just going to continue on back to Snoqualmie so we would have another day to recover. Then on a second thought, we decided to go and just hang out there overnight and do our laundry and cleaning of the trailer there. So glad we did. It was like having one more day of vacation and the recently repaired hot tub was extremely enjoyable. Another vacation down, but there will be another camping outing in November on the coast in Grayland for Thanksgiving. We will be joining the Kelly’s for their annual holiday trip for the first time and will cross our fingers for the weather and take what comes! See ya!

 



THE PICS

 


Good times with good friends!

Retirement Phase II Completed

It is now final, phase II is in the books! What started in October, has now come to fruition and it hasn’t been easy. We received our keys to our Sequim house just days before Christmas and the long process of moving into two separate residences began New Year’s Eve weekend hauling our trailer and the first load up to the house. The trailer was to be used as a place to sleep since we didn’t have any furniture up there yet! While we were there, we experienced a nice winter storm that dropped a nice deep blanket of snow that (a)caused us to have to leave the trailer there(we needed to bring it back for a repair), and (b)got our truck stuck in it coming up the driveway. You can watch a video I took of it as it began here. It was much deeper in the morning. We eventually dug the truck out. We made the best out of what we had in the trailer, borrowing plates, cups, pots and pans, camping chairs we set up in the living room, New Year’s Eve dinner on a card table and folding chairs, etc. It was an adventure to say the least! Thus began a six month ordeal that was exhausting and weekend consuming…..sorry friends and family.

The next pieces of the puzzle was to get our Snoqualmie house listed and find a place to call a temporary home while the both of us still have to work. Now we have been up here on Snoqualmie Ridge in the same house for 13 years. We thought about where we wanted to hang for the next few years until we can go up to the house full-time, knew we had to rent, realized that the rents here are crazy high, but since we had everything we were familiar with right here, we decided to stay. The hunt was on for a rental and with amazing luck, we stumbled onto a condominium that was just around the corner, and was roomy and the perfect fit for us. More good fortune was added when we discovered Debbie knew the owners. She just so happens to work out with both of them at her Crossfit gym. The deal was done, leased signed, and they allowed us early access to the place and we began the weekly slog of slowly emptying the Crestview house. The hardest part was deciphering was to be done with the 13 year accumulation of material goods. Some would go to the condo, some would go to Sequim, some would be sold/given away, but in the mean time we still had to live in and keep the Crestview house staged for sale. It was an arduous task and seemed to last forever.

Bye Bye Crestview House

Bye Bye Crestview House

The house got listed, weekend showings were done, we continued dragging stuff to the condo every weekend. A couple of times we would load up the back of the truck and head to Sequim with a load for the house there and enjoy a weekend of continued “glamping”. Finally an offer was made and accepted, appraisals and inspections done, and the real gutting began. It started bringing a feeling of melancholy along with the excitement as our beautiful home of thirteen years began looking like a shell. I always loved this house. It was our home of many memories and surrounded by great neighbors and would soon be empty of us. Two separate moves in as many of days were done with a great local mover to handle the heavy stuff and it was well worth the money! They did an excellent job and we had no damage to anything whatsoever! The only hitch was when we unloaded in Sequim and it was discovered my beloved desk for my office would not fit through any of the doors to the rooms I wanted it in. It sits in the garage there for sale….another story! We would also say what a pleasure it was working with our realtor, Bob Mathias, who is a good friend and Crestview neighbor. He did an excellent job and if you are looking to buy or sell on the eastside, he’s your man!

So after six long hard months of planning, strategizing, packing and carrying, we are done. Our plan worked flawlessly. We are mortgage free, our retirement location secured, and we have a great place to call a temporary home just blocks from our old house. All that is left for the final phase is to put in a few more years working for the man and stay healthy. Although we will miss our former home, we have a great new house and new adventure and also a great view from our rental. I say we had a lot of good luck in this, but we also acknowledge that we are truly blessed. Maybe it’s time to go back to church!

Condo View

Retirement Location Solidifies………

…….and our heads are spinning! It all began with another exploratory vacation. Recent vacations have been either camping with our friends in cool National Parks or going to locations that are on our radar for retirement while also having fun. We have looked at Flagstaff(Deb didn’t like), Sedona(beautiful but pricey real estate), Prescott(stumbled upon and really liked), but in the end we decided that we didn’t want to be that far from the guys! We also liked Jackson, WY and the cheap living in the state for retirees, then we started looking at what was for sale and lost our minds with the high prices! Cody, WY was an interesting town but has some very harsh weather. Recently added to the radar was Sand Point, ID which we drove through and liked the area. Plans were to be made in the future to have a closer look around. We have always loved Leavenworth and even looked around at properties which we found reasonable, but what turned the tide was the yearly summer fire season that could or could not happen. Closer to home, we started looking at Cle Elum, Ronald, and Roslyn. The area was beautiful, just over the pass, and prices were just what we were looking for, a great place to continue to explore!

Then in October we hooked up the trailer and headed up to the Port Angeles and Sequim area on the Olympic Peninsula nestled between the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Port Angeles is an old working port/lumber town that is a bit gritty but with fantastic future potential. Sequim has become a magnet town for retirees with its more sunny disposition, being protected by the Olympic Mountain rain shadow. Something started clicking with the area the more we started looking around. We looked all over the area even taking a drive over to Port Townsend. We have always loved that place with its Victorian character, but as we started scoping homes, we were shocked at the prices. It seems the place has been “discovered” unfortunately!

As we continued to explore the surrounding area and looking at homes, we started narrowing the target to the hills between the two towns. Then we stumbled upon the house pictured below and a warm fuzzy feeling happened between the two of us. The first time we saw the place, we were driving around with a Zillow ap open on one phone and Trulia on the other. We like to explore on our own. We drove the cul-de-sac, took some photos, parked in the drive and since it was empty, looked around. One of the neighbors across the street noticed us perusing the property and came over cheerfully asking if we had any questions, she would help! Before long, another couple drove up and joined the conversation. Wow, we had just met two neighbors and liked them both!! Things were looking good. We contacted the listing agent and got an inside look and realized, THIS WAS IT!!!!!! After multiple offers and counters back and forth, the house was ours, well at least was in the works to be ours and now our search is over.

What happens next? Well……..lots! As of this writing, the loan is being closed and we are awaiting one final step, the appraisal. If all goes as planned, we should receive our keys to our retirement home just before Christmas! We will list our Snoqualmie home after the holidays in mid January. This will give us time to get the purchase closed, get ready for selling and also enjoy the holidays. Are we moving from Snoqualmie??? The answer is no! There still lies the ugly fact that both of us have to continue to work. Debbie is on a path to retire in just over two years. At that time we will just have to crunch numbers and see what happens with me, more in another upcoming post! It shall be an interesting time ahead!!!

Glacier Park 2016

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The Gang of Eight, aka The Saltines, aka Crackers gathered once again with trailers in tow to convene in yet another national landmark! Traveling from varied parts of the western United States to gather together for friendship, carousing, and reconnecting with the beauty of Nature that surrounds us all! Our home camp was at North American RV Park in the small town of Coram, MT north of Kalispell. The RV park was very nice and very clean and the staff were friendly and helpful. They put us all together in the back of the campground (very strategic to other campers nearby, wink wink).

Our adventures started by visiting the city of Kalispell. Unfortunately, like many small towns we visit on a Sunday, most of the stores and shops were closed. That made the visit short and we headed up the road to Whitefish. It didn’t take us long to find a food and beverage establishment that was well suited to the gang. We headed over to Casey’s and went to their rooftop area. The food was great, but even better was their Mule drinks, oh my gawd!!! Those sent us on a quest to find the exact ginger beer they used for them. After our quest found the elixir, back to camp we went to concoct mules of our own!

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Ruger

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Ursie and Ruger

Yes we ate a lot and of course we drank a lot, but we did manage to get some hiking, sightseeing, and the obligatory shopping in while we were there. Glacier Park rivals Yellowstone in it’s beauty and we were very impressed. Our first foray into the backwoods territory was to travel up the Going-to-the-Sun-Road to Logan Pass. Bob, our travel advisor, had warned us before hand that the winds would be howling up top so we didn’t really prepare to do any serious hiking. We were enthralled with the scenery and a bit nervous with the narrow road. When we got to the pass, we stopped at the visitor center and had a look then decided to venture out into the wind and cold and hike a bit up the trail to Hidden Lake. Well, we just kept going all the way to the lake, wind and all. See, that’s just how we roll! During the week we did other hikes and saw other areas of the park. Another hike took us to Avalanche Lake along the Avalanche River. It was a magical place although very crowded. Had it not been for the car disabled passes our two old and decrepit men of the Saltines possess, we would not have found parking. There, in the parking lot, we tested our bear spray. It worked, especially when the breeze blew some of it back in our faces!!! Not so smart! We also took a trek around the park to the east and through the town of Browning in the heart of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, uhhhh ok, enough said. We entered the Many Glacier entrance to the trailhead of the Apikuni Falls and hiked that trail. There were some tough spots, but the reward was incredible!! Another hike was on the Lake Stanton Trail to Lake Stanton, a very quiet and secluded hike just as beautiful as any other. The Ruger dog came on that hike with us and just bounded with the youth of a pup. It was on this hike a few of us sustained minor injuries with Ursie taking a fall and getting cut up, and Debbie getting multiple sting bites from a crazed wasp. Luckily she is not allergic. Ruger gave us all a scare when he started acting lethargic at camp one day and refused to eat. He then threw up bile and started shaking. Rob and Ursie had to take him on an emergency vet visit. They found one that could take him in and he had an infection and fever. With some meds and rest, he was back too himself in no time!!

Glacier Park and Montana is abundant with wildlife, right??? Well it wasn’t on this trip for us. We hardly saw anything much in the way of animals. We caught glimpses of mountain goats, one was very close to us, a few deer in the far distance, many dead skunks on the roads, a couple of squirrels having a love moment, the sound of a moose or loons, and ONE bear. FB_IMG_1472342636646The bear was seen by Bob, Patti, Rob, and Ursie. We were in the second truck and when we pulled up, I opened the door to turn around to get a good picture or video perhaps, and Pam screamed as she does often, bear disappeared and photo is courtesy of Ursie……sigh!
The week sadly flew by and it was time to leave. We took a more scenic route back that just didn’t have us on I90 the whole time. We drove through never seen towns of Sand Point and Bonners Ferry, Idaho which we thought were gorgeous! I think they are both even prettier than Coeur D’Alene and that is saying quite a bit! Our last spot on the way home was at Sprague Lake Resort. It is just a tiny fishing campground on the lake run by a sweet German lady named Monica. It was crazy windy and the bugs were a bit overwhelming, but a quaint place for an overnight stop. We had our last hurrah and sadly returned to the reality of the working world!

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Our Last Night!

Thanks for reading our adventures and you can find all the photos in the photo gallery here! Until next time!!!

Out With The Old

The year of 2016 is a year of change at the Givens Estate! We have lived here in Snoqualmie and basically not much has changed since we got here! Same old, same old! We brought down a bunch of stuff from the San Juan cabin and furnished one of the bedrooms with some of that furniture. We also bought a new sectional for the family room and also incorporated some cabin tables into the final result! Boy did it change the look of the room, photos below:

The New

The New

We also finally got a nice patio furniture to make the backyard more enjoyable. Very nice to light up a fire without smoking out our upstairs or our neighbors homes.

And finally, after 14 years of very reliable service and just over 225,000 miles, it was time to let go of the old Mercedes ML320! While it was still in great shape, things were starting to go: ABS pump had just gone out, timing chain was rattling, the head was slightly warped, and it had developed a very slow rear engine seal leak. Just too many miles on it to start pumping money into it! We just happened to wander into our local Mercedes dealer and stumbled on this 2014 C300 with only 7,000 miles on it and was a screaming deal! We couldn’t resist and drove her home! Our old reliable found a new home via a donation to Habitat For Humanity Cars For Homes! It was sad to see her go, but it was time. Now we cross our fingers that the Toyota Avalon with 222K on it holds up for a while longer, because we just don’t want two car payments at this time!

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Bye Bye Old Friend

Touring Arizona

Well as I mentioned in my last post, we have sold our San Juan Island cabin in what will be our first small step on the road to retirement. Now we need to investigate where we want to end up when we do, and it won’t be remaining in the Seattle area! The region has grown too large and continues to do so as people are just flocking to the area left and right. Along with this rampant growth comes a higher cost of living with a lower quality of life, in my own humble opinion and it is time to get the hell out! Our first destination on the list is Arizona. As a heat hating person, I had my sights set on Flagstaff where it’s elevation provides all four seasons, not scorching hot in the summer, and Debbie gets her sunshine! We used our timeshare at the Wyndham Flagstaff Resort as our base of operations and we enjoyed the comfy accommodations! Along with looking around the area and checking out housing, we also had the opportunity to hook up with friends, and old friends at that! Our first hook up was with Jeff and Jamie Simon. I have known Jeff for many years as we used to work together at S.E. Rykoff in my old restaurant supply sales career life back in the early 80’s. We have been friends ever since. They joined us on a drive down to Sedona to have a look-see. We LOVE Sedona, however, the home prices seem a bit steep for us there and are not exactly looking to retire in a tourist town. It is a beautiful place and we looked at many homes and walked the shops and enjoyed the scenery. Before it got too late we decided to make a trip down to Jerome since we were close. Now that town is a trip! Once a thriving copper mining town, it is now a tourist town and claims to be the largest ghost town in America. It has a weird vibe to it, but very cool nonetheless. We stopped in an old hotel, The Connor, for a drink in its old bar. The place was hopping for a Sunday afternoon and a very good band was playing. It was a good time and we jetted back to Flagstaff for dinner and a light snow was falling……loved it! They had to head back to So Cal the next day to face reality and we had the rest of the week for vacation and it was good seeing them again!

Our next visit with friends was with our good friends Bob and Patti McEvoy. They are close by down in Surprise and drove up to spend a couple of days with us doing some sight-seeing. Our first stop was up to the Grand Canyon’s south rim. In all her years of life, Debbie had never been or seen the Grand Canyon and as you can imagine, she was awestruck. I hadn’t been in years and had forgotten the majesty of the place. Let us hope that any proposed development of the area is stopped in its tracks. Must money ruin everything? We spent most of the day there and drove the south rim road and stopped at a few of the vantage spots. Some of the pictures are shown below.

Mostly Grand Canyon Pictures

 


We had another day with the McEvoys sightseeing. Bob is a great tour guide and does his research on things to do and places to see. He will find places that we would have never thought of checking out. The first place on the day’s tour was Two Guns Ghost Town. It was an old abandoned town along old Route 66 that I am sure had stories to tell. It was a very weird place that you could see had numerous attempts of being a viable place but failed. We love old stuff like this! We then jaunted out to the Meteor Crater, which looked like…….well…….a big crater! Being in Arizona with little rainfall, it is the best preserved meteorite impact on Earth and believe it or not, is not a National Park or landmark, but is family owned for many generations! Heading back towards Flagstaff, we took a short detour down to the Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings. These are old relics of an ancient Indian village built into the underside of cliffs very similar to Mesa Verde. Brought back memories of my life in New Mexico. It was a nice hike down into the “island” where many of the dwellings are located. Fun times with friends!!!

Two Guns Ghost Town


 

Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings


Now the time spent on our own was looking around Flagstaff at neighborhoods, different areas of town, and homes. Most of what we found just didn’t hit a home run with us. While I loved the beauty and all of the trees, Debbie just didn’t click with the housing options we saw for sale. Prices seemed high for what you got and many homes were a bit older for our liking. I was a bit depressed at that point. Then we drove down to Prescott!!! The minute we pulled into town, we knew we loved it there. As a matter of fact, we drove down twice in the week we were in AZ and looked all over the place and saw many homes. The town square was quaint and vibrant and everyone seemed nice and friendly. We were a little aghast of so many gated communities that had houses for sale that we couldn’t see unless we had a realtor get us in. It is a bit too early in our search to engage in services from a realtor just yet as we are still a few years out from anything. Still, it doesn’t hurt to start scouting out areas ahead of time. Also on our list of possible destinations are Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and also maybe Sequim if we decide to stay in Washington. Wherever, whatever, can’t wait!!!!!!!

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