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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!!!!!!!

New Year Catch Up

I guess I better write an update with the goings on in the Givens’ household. I am so used to posting on Facebook and Twitter, that I sometimes forget about the blog here. If you aren’t on Facebook or Twitter and are not following us there, you are missing quite a bit. It is 2016, get with the program! I am also assuming that you even care, how narcissistic of me!

Let’s see, where to begin, one of the things I forget to mention in earlier posts was my bout with shingles back in the summer! Wow that was painful and in encompassed the whole right side of my scalp and in the heat of the summer too! It sidelined me for three weeks and I hid in the house from the sun and heat as best I could. My hiatal hernia surgery in 2014 didn’t hurt as bad!!! A miserable ordeal it was, and I still have phantom itching on my scalp at times. I will definitely be getting a shingles shot when my doctor says it is okay!

My Aching Neck!

My Aching Neck!

The rest of the summer saw us taking a few camping trips locally in our trailer so we could scout out real estate and possible retirement locations that we could settle our work weary asses down. This brings up the next item of interest, we have put up our San Juan Island house aka Givens Grove up for sale. We have shifted gears on living there full-time and are going to decide on other places. Getting to and from an island is too much of a headache and the politics there suck! We still have a couple of years before Debbie can retire and as for me at that point, we will have to see where we stand financially! The one decision we have made is to get out of King County and the Seattle area. It has become too crowded and too expensive to enjoy life here in retirement…….period!

In October we went down to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary once again to volunteer with the animals. We fed pigs, groomed horses, and walked dogs. One dog really tugged at my heart and almost brought her home but resisted the temptation, barely! We just aren’t ready for two dogs in the house. Debbie wants another one badly so Cordell can teach it how to behave……ummm…….yeah! It is always such a spiritual reconnection when we visit there!

Joe's New Friend

Joe’s New Friend

Debbie and her Piggy Friends

Debbie and her Piggy Friends

After our stint there, we drove down to the Phoenix area to visit our friends the McEvoy’s who were joined by our other friends the Kelly’s! These are our trailer buddies if you didn’t already know! We visited Superstition Mountain and went over to Tortilla Flats for lunch. Another day we took in the sights of Sedona. Deb loved it there……. a possible retirement spot?!?! I love Arizona too, but don’t want to be in the heat, maybe Flagstaff is more to my liking, we are going back in March to have a look around!

The Six Finger Drunkards

The Six Finger Drunkards

The six of us were then to head to Las Vegas where we had a timeshare booked, but poor Patty Belle was sick which turned out to be pneumonia so it was just us and the Kelly’s. She is fine now! We drove up, stopping by the Hoover Dam to take a walk and have a look and be tourists! The water was very low and if it gets any lower, it won’t be enough to turn the turbines for the electricity Las Vegas needs to stay lit up! We had a great time with Rich and Pam and did lots of walking on the Strip! We saw Cirque du Soleil O and what a show, unbelievable!! We spent Halloween night walking Fremont Street and that was a show in itself……wild!!! It was a great time like always with old friends like these!

Debbie Photobombing!

Debbie Photobombing!

Vegas

Debbie and Pam Hitting The Slots!

Speaking of old friends, in early December, we hooked up with a very old friend of mine I used to work with in my restaurant sales life, Jeff Simon and wife Jamie! We met in Oakland for the Packer/Raider game. Since we were staying in Oakland near the airport and stadium, we took the BART into San Francisco on the Saturday and spent the afternoon walking around, hitting local watering holes and having dinner at John’s Grill. For the most part, Jeff and I spent a lot of time catching up since we hadn’t seen each other in years! Debbie and Jamie also get along just great too! The game was awesome and the Packers got a win and the Raider Fans were pretty cool too! It was a fun trip and look forward to hanging with them again!

Joe And Jeff

Joe and Jeff surrounded by Raider Gear!

Shots

The Boys Doing Shots!

Dinner

Dinner At John’s Grill

And there you have it, a catch up with the Givens’! A new year has begun and new adventures to have and let’s hope that we all stay happy and healthy and have a wonderful 2016!! Let the show begin!!!

Wine, Women, and Smoke

Yep, that’s right, another camping vacation in the books and it was another fun one of course! This one took us to the wine country of Eastern Washington and into the foothills of the Blue Mountains of Northeast Oregon. Four couples and four trailers involved, us, Rich and Pam, Bob and Patty, and Rob and Ursie, otherwise known as “The Gang of Six”! The ride over was a white knuckled extravaganza due to high winds blowing and reduced visibility to to blowing dust and smokey skies. It was also a boys(Cordell and I) solo journey without Debbie. See got her calendars crossed and signed up for a half marathon in Vancouver, BC during the same weekend as the beginning of the vacation. It was all good and we arranged it so she could still go up, by herself, do the run and then fly into Walla Walla the second night and join in the vacation fun! So after the trailer blowing from side to side most of the way into Walla Walla, the boy and I made it to the first stop RV Resort Four Seasons safe and sound.

Now there is Bob McEvoy, one of the unluckiest and in the same note, luckiest guys we know! As I arrived and started backing in, there he stood blood all over his hands, arms, dripping down his clothes with his permanent grin plastered on his face. He looked like a scene from a horror movie. Seems their camping cat they rescued some time ago and may still be a bit feral, escaped from the truck when they pulled in. Afraid the cat might just take off for good, he and Patty made a mad rush after it. When Bob got his hands on the crazed feline, it went catnip crazy on his extremities. The result was a bloodied Bob but a captured cat! These injuries hampered him throughout the trip, requiring a trip to an urgent care then surgery back home as sever infection set it! It could only happen to him.

The second night, Debbie flew in from Vancouver, BC at the large international air hub that is Walla Walla Regional Airport and the following two days we spent indulging in the region’s many many wineries. Wine tasting all day, four women, many bottles purchased, well you might take an educated guess how the nights went. We found Walla Walla to be way more interesting than imagined. I don’t recall ever actually being in downtown Walla Walla although have driven by and near it many times. The downtown core is bustling with many cool shops, restaurants and many tasting rooms. One restaurant we stopped for lunch was the Red Monkey, a funky little place with some really good food, and you can see the tasting tour list we did at the end of the post. It was a very nice town, but would we live there…….naw!

The next half of the trip was just over the border into Oregon, taking a road from Milton-Freewater into a canyon along the south fork of the Walla Walla River to a campground called Harris Park. It was a nice clean place and we had it all to ourselves for the first two nights. They had a group camp section and that’s where we all gathered.

Camp Crazy!

Camp Crazy!

We really wanted to do some hiking and that we did. The only problem there was really only two good trails and one was closed due to the large number of rattlesnakes infesting the hillside around the trail. Debbie does NOT do snakes………of any kind! We ended up doing two days of hiking the same hike. That is kind of boring but on the second day we went a bit further and stumbled on a very cool cluster of cabins at the end of the trail. It probably could only be accessed on the other side of the range by ATVs or four wheelers. The place looked like an old homestead, but was being visited and kept up. We let our imaginations run wild. Our campground was totally off the grid, no cell or phone service was to be had. We actually had to look at and talk to each other the whole time we were there….imagine that! The closest town was Milton-Freewater about 12 miles back the way we came in. We had to go there to get ice and also had to hit their only laundromat to do some washing because our boy Cordell decided to blow bits into the bed one early morning. We have only one set of bedding in the trailer(make note to buy another). Now unlike Walla Walla, the town isn’t so….well…..bustling! It is actually kind of depressing, but one weird thing, there are statues of frogs all over town and Debbie was fascinated with them.

Debbie and the Frog!

Debbie and the Frog!

There are over 40 of them placed throughout the town and do you know why? Well you can read why here! The one gem we did discover was the El Sirloin Mexican Restaurant. They had a mexican food lunch buffet and it was very authentic and excellent. Do not pass it up if you ever find yourself in town. The only downside to the whole trip was the constant haze and smoke in the air. As you might have heard, Washington State has had one of it’s hottest and driest summers on record. That has not bode well for Eastern Washington and it’s fire season. It has been horrible with hundreds of thousands of acres burned and many homes lost! We were surrounded by fires while there and the hazy skies and the smell of smoke reminded us daily. As we slide into Fall please help us with your prayers for rain, we need it! There you have it, our fun vacation filled with wine, women, and smoke! I should add blood to the list! Happy trails until we write again!

WINERY TOUR LIST!

Woodward Canyon Winery
Lodmell Cellars
Three Rivers Winery
L’ Ecole No. 41
Sleight of Hands Cellars
Otis Kenyon
Cougar Crest Winery
Henry Earl Estates

Our New Trailer

Well after four years in our little 19 foot Salem Trailer, it was time to upgrade! It worked very well as an entry-level trailer and we had no problems with it. It just became too small for us and was time to trade it in. A few weeks back, we went to the Tacoma RV Show and looked around to find out what we liked and didn’t like! This next trailer was just going to be an interim one to keep for 5 years or so until Debbie possibly retires. Then at that point we would decide what and where to go from there. We decided to just look at mid level quality trailers then that were inexpensive but NOT cheap! That changed our plans when we went down to the Valley RV Supercenter to have a look at the Jayco trailers and stumbled on this one! It was a little more luxurious and higher priced than what we originally intended, but we fell in love with it. They gave us a great deal on it and paid us generously for our Salem and the deal was inked!!! So now, we are the proud owners of a 2015 30′ Jayco Eagle Trailer and the next chapter of camping trips begin! We will bid a fond farewell to our Salem which did us good for many years and hopefully, it will be enjoyed by some new campers in the near future!

Very Well Said

You must watch this video from this very well spoken man, Frederick Wilson II. He has a very important message to all his black brothers and sisters that I wonder if any of them will heed! I could have said the same thing, but would have been labeled some racist “cracker honky”. Wonder what label they will attach to him?

 

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