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Road Trip 2021 – Part 2

THE ROAD TRIP CONTINUES!

Arizona Prices!!!
CA Prices!!!

Well as all trips do, we had a hitch in the get along before leaving Newport Dunes. We sprung a leak in the plumbing around the hot water heater. It has proven to be very difficult to fix. I gave it a solid try before we left, but no bueno. We had a great drive up to Fort Mohave, Az. Took about 5ish hours on the bumpiest interstate yet! We definitely noticed the price of fuel dramatically drop when we crossed over into AZ from California! We arrived and were greeted with hugs and kisses from our friends Jeff and Jaime Simon and Mike and Cathy Richards. We haven’t seen any of these guys since last year (breakout of Covid-19) in Mexico. The guys put the trailer away (worked on the plumbing issue to no avail) and the drinks were flowing. We ordered pizza and spent the evening around the little gas fire in the driveway. The next day was mostly spent on buying parts and tools and calling around to find a mobile RV mechanic. Well despite calling multiple people…. that was a big fail, Mike and Cathy went house hunting and Jeff and I tried everything to fix the leak. After hours of working on it, we thought we had someone lined up to come out. Nope…. We decided to throw in the towel and go to Cocktails to have cocktails. Then on to a steakhouse for a yummy dinner. The next day was boating day! We headed out about noon (after another trip to Lowe’s). We put in the Colorado River and headed to Lake Havasu. Jeff and Jaime have an awesome boat and the sun was out! It was a beautiful day, just a little bit windy. The lake was rough as we crossed but so glad we went. We saw the London Bridge and stopped on a little beach for a light lunch. Debbie friended some ducks that hung around for treats. We stopped on our way back for a bit and had snacks and drinks on the lake. We decided it was time to head back and it seemed the lake was a bit rougher in the way back. But our skilled captain got us across safe and sound! It was such a great day! Thank you Jeff Simon and Jaime for your hospitality, we are so grateful to get to spend time with you. And thanks to Mike and Cathy Richards for driving up and making time to see us, we enjoyed spending time with you two also. We are now limping along with no hot water for now, showering in the RV Park showers and boiling water for dishes. We have a mechanic scheduled to meet up with us in Alamogordo. We headed out Thursday morning (after half expecting the repair guy to come by early that morning… nope) for Prescott Arizona.


After a great visit in Fort Mohave we headed out for Prescott Arizona. We had visited Prescott several years ago while doing research on places we wanted to consider for retirement. We loved it then, but we chose to stay in Washington. Still love it, such a beautiful place with such a cool vibe. We stayed at a nice RV Park (Point of Rocks)with lots of trees and big beautiful rocks all around. We did some shopping in the many shops on Whiskey Row and found some cool earrings for me. They ended up being my birthday present. We had dinner and drinks at The Palace Saloon which claims to be the oldest bar in Arizona. All of the staff wear period clothing also! We stayed only two nights in Prescott then off we went to Goodyear AZ to see our friends Tori and Kevin Hillstrom and Keith and Laurie Helker. We have known these people for many years and we all met each other in local Packer bars in the Seattle area. Just a few hours of driving and we arrived at Destiny RV in Goodyear which was just 15 min from where our friends live. The RV park was nice (each site has a citrus tree complete with oranges or lemons) with a surprisingly well outfitted gym! We spent the first afternoon getting set up and checking out the amenities. Our friends threw an amazing pool party at their beautiful home in our honor that night. We met some new people and really loved seeing some old friends we hadn’t seen in a while. We are so grateful to be able to spend time with everyone! We started the next day with doing laundry (yuck, but you gotta do the dull stuff every now and then too) and getting a great workout in! We met Tori and Kevin for dinner at a great restaurant (The Red Dog) right on the golf course. Then back to their house for a cocktail or two. Our stay was short, but we enjoyed every minute of catching up with friends and are so grateful for the time they spent with us. We packed up and left Arizona the next morning heading for New Mexico.


After such a short , but wonderful visit with friends, we left Goodyear Arizona a little later than planned (the RV office didn’t open until 9:00! Grrr… we had to wait to get a “key” refund, so dumb) to get on the road to New Mexico. We had a longer drive, nearly 7 hours, to get to Alamogordo. Boy, the drive felt so long and the landscape was ever changing! We had to wrangle with strong winds at times, I even caught some pictures of sizable dust devils along the way. We were so anxious to get to Alamogordo as this leg of the trip was all about family. I grew up in Alamogordo and some very special family still lives there. We haven’t been back for over 5 years and I was definitely feeling the pull of my heart strings as we crossed the border into NM. We drove through Las Cruces which is a beautiful city and then just over an hour to the RV Park. We stayed at the KOA, which was awesome. Super friendly staff, locally owned and very nice spaces. We got set up fairly late and had to take care of chores but made plans for breakfast at my Aunt Sharon and Uncle Butch’s house. We spent the day hanging out with them, reminiscing, driving around and catching up. We were joined by my cousin Lori when she got off work at her pool supply store. We could have talked all night, and almost did. The next day, my other cousin Laura, who recently moved back to Alamogordo, was so gracious to host a Cinco de Mayo dinner at her beautiful home. It was so special spending time with her and it was so important to reconnect as she recently and unexpectedly lost her husband. While our time was short in Alamogordo, it was full of love and tons of belly laughs! Debbie now knows where I get my sense of humor. Aunt Sharon and Uncle Butch stopped by the next morning to say goodbye with lots of hugs! We were sad to say goodbye so soon, but plan to come back sooner than later. We headed off for a much shorter drive up to Santa Fe. The drive to Santa Fe was beautiful as the high desert emerged with vibrant colors and commanding views. We checked into the RV Park which was the perfect location for buzzing around town. We loved Santa Fe! We had been there just for the day several years ago so we enjoyed having a few days to really explore. Due to COVID restrictions, some of the sights were closed or limited but we still had a great time. We shopped, went wine tasting and at the recommendation of some people we met had the BEST dinner at Tomasitas. Three days seemed to fly by! Next stop Colorado!!

See pictures of Santa Fe
and family pictures here!


Colorado! We departed from Santa Fe for the relatively short drive to Durango Colorado (4ish hours). The drive to Colorado was full of beautiful landscapes as the desert gave way to the more typical mountains of Colorado. We arrived at the Oasis RV Park and were thinking about our plans for the next few days. We had planned to stay 4 days to get in the sights we were absolutely wanting to see. As we were setting up in our site, we decided we really needed to stay 5 days to fit it all in. So we extended our stay, ordered dinner ( the RV Park offered handmade pizza delivered to our site!) and settled in with a couple of cocktails. We highly recommend Oasis RV Park of you’re ever in the Durango area. We had an early call to catch the train to Silverton the next morning and we’re delighted to find out the RV Park also offered made to order breakfast and coffee! We took advantage of breakfast and off we went to catch the train in old town Durango. The train was awesome, with sights you just can’t see any other way. The trip is somewhat shorter (4 hours round trip) in the spring with the terminus at Cascade versus Silverton due to snow still present in the mountains. We had lunch at the terminus before heading back to Durango. It was a gorgeous day and we decided to drive up to Silverton on our own to check it out. Silverton is an old silver mining town where it feels like time has stood still. It is quite a climb to get there where it’s nestled in the mountains at over 9,000 feet. The drive there and back was breathtaking! We headed back to old town Durango for a dinner out to celebrate Mother’s Day. It was fabulous. The next day was totally dedicated to touring Mesa Verde National Park. What an incredible site! It is huge and holds magnificent views. The Pueblo Indians settled there and lived in the area for over 700 years. The ancient ruins of their cliff houses and other dwellings still exist. We took sooo many pictures that I had to create yet another album here! We decided to include a challenging hike into the cliff to see the petroglyphs. It was rocky and steep, climbing over and down rocks with open cliffs on one side. But.. it was so worth it to see the amazing drawings in the cliff wall. It was a full day even though we couldn’t do any up close tours (covid closed all the up close tours of the cliff dwellings) but we had great views of them from a distance. Day four was reserved for driving up to Williams Creek Campground and Lake. It was really the primary reason we chose Durango as a stop. Williams Creek was a childhood camping destination for me and my family! The drive up was quite a distance with most of it on dirt roads. I couldn’t wait to get up there and see it again. It had been some 50 years since my grandparents took me and the family there. We packed a picnic and explored the beautiful spots with bubbling creeks, crystal blue skies and a beautiful reservoir. Even though it has been so many years since I had been there, not much has changed! I did find it sad to see our absolutely favorite spot to camp by the river was no longer there. It looked as thought at some point the river had altered course and the spot had to be closed. Still it brought back many cherished memories of days gone by with family members who are no longer with us. We drove from Williams Creek to Pagosa Springs to check it out. It’s a cute town, but has grown way too much and like all the towns we have visited on this trip, has been ruined by outsiders fleeing their states to come and drive up prices everywhere out here. It is very sad to see! We made our umpteenth trip to Wally World for supplies (we never seem to be able to get everything we need in one trip). The next day began our 3 day trek toward home. We drove through Colorado to Utah and stopped for the night in Brigham City. We were suffering a bit from trailer fatigue so decided to hotel it for the night. On to Idaho and Oregon the next day with an overnight stop in Pendleton, also at a hotel. We looked forward to our big bed, long showers, and just being home finally but are sad it’s coming to an end. We have seen so much and enjoyed seeing so many friends and family. We are so very grateful to everyone who took time to spend with us. We love you all! This trip has been epic- 28 days, 8 states, 5,127 miles and full of love, hugs and countless laughs! We are truly blessed. Can’t wait for the next adventure!

No camp site here anymore!!!

Road Trip 2021 – Part 1

AWAY WE GO!!!

So here we are, both retired and living quietly in a world constrained by the COVID “plandemic” for close to a year and a half. We have our routine from day to day, get up, spend some time on the computer, go to the gym, back home, do stuff around the house, make dinner or maybe go out, watch some tube and bed, get up and do it all over again. Every once in awhile we head back to Snoqualmie for appointments and see old friends. Now and then we have family or friends up for a visit or we visit them. Then one day, we looked at each other and said, “Let’s go on a road trip!” Thus began the planning months in advance. We had to decide where we were going to go, the route, booking RV spots, telling people we might want to see that we were coming, etc. We decided that this would be a friends and family visit/sightseeing trip. Debbie did a great job scouting out RV places, carefully checking reviews to make sure we were staying in decent places and it was awesome the job she did. The drive began with the first stop in Newport, Oregon and then on to Eureka, California. These two days are just stop overs on our way to Monterey, California where we will stay for a couple of days. Newport Oregon is a lovely place on the Oregon Coast and we have been there several times, so no need to sight see this time. We stayed at a nice RV park that is just a short walk to the Rogue Ales brewery and restaurant. We had to wait forever to get a table, but it was worth the wait ( we were so hangry! ). We packed up fairly early and headed out for our next stop Eureka, California. The drive was beautiful, with so many beautiful beach views and driving through the Redwoods is spectacular. The RV Park in Eureka was a little sketchy, nice people and super nice RV’s here but there is some sketchy stuff going on here so everything is locked up tight for the night and we will head out as early as possible for Monterey!

We left Eureka as early as possible and headed out for Monterey. Actually we are staying in Moss Landing which was “supposed” to be in the heart of Monterey, well not quite but it’s just fine. We took Hwy 101 which took us on a beautiful route. Through many Redwood forests and small towns. We ended up driving through wine country. Debbie wanted to stop and wine taste at the many wineries, but we had to stay on schedule to try to beat traffic. Next trip we are stopping and drinking. We thought we were going to go through Oakland, but Waze ended up rerouting us through San Francisco instead which afforded some beautiful views of the city but some dicey traffic for me. The drive, while a little hairy, was so gorgeous and we ended up arriving on time at the RV Park. We set up and headed out for a beach walk, it was beautiful. The next we lazed a bit and then headed for the gym for a workout and then on to Carmel for lunch and some window shopping . We fell head over heals in love with it and if we ever win the lottery we’ll be moving there! One ridiculous thing we had to endure while walking about in Carmel was the stupid mandatory mask wearing while OUTSIDE!!! Signs were posted everywhere that if you failed to do so, you would be fined $100. There are more sheep living in the town than there are on Clint’s ranch! We made our way to the Mission Ranch to have a glass of wine with Clint Eastwood (he owns it), haha we were told we just missed him. The rest of the day we spent on the 17 mile drive through Pebble Beach back to Monterey and Cannery Row. Had a light bite then back to the RV Park for the night. Such a fun couple of days here and then we headed for Santa Barbara!


My Old Buddy Rob Miotti and son
Salt

We really enjoyed our stay in Monterey and headed out around noon thinking we could avoid the commute traffic in the Santa Barbara area, we did hit some traffic but not as awful as we anticipated. Our drive was really nice with lots of beautiful scenery. Our route was down 101 which took us through lots of agricultural lands and by San Louis Obispo, Pismo Beach, Buellton which claims to be the home of split pea soup! Who knew!! We arrived at Ocean Mesa RV Resort (highly recommend this RV Park) in the early afternoon with sun and clear skies we quickly set up and headed out on a long walk in search of the laundry room and to explore the area. This park has a lot to offer including a pool and hot tub, very well stocked store, large sites and a restaurant within walking distance. We loved it. The next day we headed to Santa Barbara to visit the Santa Barbara Mission and later meet up with a good friend of Joe’s from many years ago. The Mission was beautiful and full of history. We took a lot of pictures at the mission and I created an album that you can go see here! Santa Barbara is a very nice city with a vibrant downtown full of shops and restaurants. Out of necessity with Covid everywhere has outside seating! Since it was Friday junior, it was pretty hoppin once it got dark. We were blessed to meet up with Rob Miotti and his son Robbie for the rest of the day. We stopped in to take a look at Salt Cave(a salt spa) and then in to Joe’s Cafe for a drink and light bite. We walked all over the downtown area and ended up at the best Mexican restaurant right across from the beach for dinner. Thank you Rob and Robbie for driving up to spend the day and evening with us! We really appreciate it and loved seeing you. After that adventure we departed for Newport Beach, California where we stayed at Newport Dunes Resort spend a few days visiting friends! So excited to see everyone ♥️


We left Santa Barbara around noon and headed down 101. The drive was mostly good with so many beautiful beach views. There are so many RV’s just parallel parked along the beach frontage roads, camping and surfing! It was incredible how many we saw! As we neared the LA area the traffic got thicker and much more crazy the closer we got. Thankfully I know the area from living in So Cal for many years in the 80’s. It’s unbelievable how many lanes the freeway’s have! Maybe almost as many as the Texas freeways, but far more congested. We arrived at the RV resort and were really pleased with the amenities and location, right in the heart of Newport Beach. This made it much easier to connect up with friends. We had dinner at SOL Mexican Cocina with our good friends Jeff and Jamie Simon the first night, super yummy Mexican food! We will be spending time with them again in Arizona. The next day we met up with a group of friends at my favorite Long Beach breakfast place, Schooner or Later. Back in my salesman days, this was one of my first accounts and made many early morning calls there selling them supplies. Sadly, the owners Denise and Denny weren’t there for me to surprise them. It was so great to spend time catching up! We spent the rest of the day with our friends Debbie and Tom Neforos hanging out in Long Beach grabbing beers at Murphy’s and later dinner at Simmzy’s . Many many beers were drank over the years at Murphy’s and the place hasn’t changed one bit since I left. Second street in Long Beach is definitely the place to be if you are young and single! Lots of bars, shops and restaurants. Another day we met up for brunch at The Tavern House with Debbie and Tom; and Maria and Jan; where spent time visiting and sadly said our goodbyes to our friends. We so much appreciated spending time with them and love them all dearly. We toured around Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and Long Beach for the rest of the day. We drove to many of my old haunts and a few old places where I used to live and did a lot of reminiscing and showing Debbie lots of memorable places. We were then on to our next destination to Fort Mohave, AZ to spend a few days with Jeff and Jamie! Stay tuned for the update coming in part two!

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

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!

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!!!

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

Road Trip 2014 – Part II

Yellowstone……Yellowstone……….Yellowstone! Until you have been, you just can’t realize how beautiful this country we live in is, or how beautiful this planet is! The WOW factor was really big here! The five nights we spent weren’t nearly enough to see everything it had to offer! We rolled into camp at the Grant Village Campground. It is accessed from the south entrance of the park! It is a very nice campground with plenty of amenities: store, gas, propane, laundry, and showers. our site was situated right on the shore of the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake! Each morning you could hear elk bugling and some nights coyotes and wolves were heard in the distance. It was here that we also experienced some of the coldest nights of the trip, one night dropped to a bone chilling 17 degrees! The first thing we wanted to see was Old Faithful, of course, but there was a problem, the direct route was closed due to a bridge replacement. The only way to it was a circuitous 86 mile one way route. Now you might see that as a draw back, but it made us see allot of the park just getting there! We saw sights like the Hayden Valley which was usually full of bison, the Norris Geyser Basin, Artists Paintpots, Monument Geyser Basin, Firehole Falls, Biscuit Basin, just to name a few!

This fantastic scenic tour of the park ended at Old Faithful. We got there just in time to see it blow! Timing couldn’t have been better! We checked out the Old Faithful Inn was built in 1903-1904 with local logs and stone, the Inn is considered the largest log structure in the world. It almost burned down in one of the parks many wildfires! Especially one of the park’s largest fire in it’s recorded history, the fires of 1988. We saw the evidence of that massive all throughout the park in acres of dead trees, which was unfortunate, but it’s Nature!

We discovered a good way to explore the park was in sections. One section we spent one of our days in was the canyon section. I never realized there was a “Grand Canyon” of Yellowstone! My gawd it was beautiful!!!! The Yellowstone River runs through the canyon and provides visitors with multiple scenic falls to visit! We spent our time at the Brink of Lower Falls! We made hikes on both sides of the falls and saw them from different angles. One of the hikes was on Uncle Tom’s Trail. Prepare yourself if you ever take this hike because it is STEEP and you will get a helluva workout!

We heard talk from people we met looking for wildlife that a good place to go was the Lamar Valley. Apparently it is a hot spot for all kinds of creatures and there was a bison carcass that had been attracting wolves, coyotes, and even some bears! One morning we got up before daybreak and headed out! It was in the 20’s as we sat in the darkness waiting for sunrise. Thank you Richard for bringing the portable propane fire pit to keep us warm! So we hung out for awhile and saw plenty of bison and pronghorn but nothing else. The girls took off to make a coffee run and had the best of luck. They first got caught in a bison march right on the highway. They were walking right next to the truck. Then continuing back they saw a bear by the side of the road! The boys got ripped off!!!! We scouted a few other areas in search of four legged beasts, but came up empty. We explored more geothermal wonders on the way back to camp such as the Sulphur Caldron and the Mud Volcano. Both were amazing and extremely smelly. The stench of rotten eggs hung thick in the air. As hostile as an environment like this was, you could still notice animal tracks all over the place. Maybe they came to hang out for the heat on chilly nights!

Well we hated to leave, but it was time to head to our next destination, Cody. Yellowstone, we will return to continue to explore your beauty! We traveled through the Sylvan Pass and out the east entrance to the park and dropped into the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming and entered the wild west town of Cody! My first impression was that it reminded me of my hometown of Alamogordo, NM but not as dry. While we loved Jackson Hole, it seemed a bit touristy and Cody was a working town but nice on it’s own! It is named after William Frederick Cody, primarily known as Buffalo Bill, from William Cody’s part in the creation of the original town. Everywhere you look, you see the old west, cowboys, cattle ranching and by looking at the surrounding landscape, you can tell the weather is harsh! Our living spots for the next couple days were located at the Ponderosa Campground. It was near the center of town and everything was within walking distance for the most part. Just down the street was the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a fascinating museum that contained four to five other museums. Days can be spent there in the Plains Indian museum, natural history museum, the Buffalo Bill Museum, gun museum, and much more. There just wasn’t enough time to see it all. We had to explore the rest of the town of course. We spent an evening walking downtown and checking out all the cool western shops and had drinks at the Irma Hotel,  built by William Cody in 1902 and named it for his daughter, Irma. We watched the fun, but slightly cheesy nightly gunfight in the street outside the hotel and then ambled over to the Silver Dollar Bar. Another half a day was spent looking over the Old Trail Town museum! ‘On this site in 1895, Western scout and showman William F. (“Buffalo Bill”) Cody laid out the original townsite of Cody, Wyoming, which was named in his honor. Today Old Trail Town preserves the lifestyle and history of the Frontier West through a rare collection of authentic structures and furnishings. From remote locations in Wyoming and Montana these historic buildings were carefully disassembled, moved and reassembled here at Old Trail Town by Western historian Bob Edgar and friends. Located here also are thousands of historic artifacts from the Old West and grave sites of several notable Western figures. Among the is the grave of mountain man John Johnson, who was portrayed by the actor Robert Redford in the 1972 motion picture “Jeremiah Johnson”. Here too are original cabins used by Old West outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and a Wyoming saloon frequented by Cassidy’s “Hole-in-the-Wall Gang”. Also on this site is the log cabin home of “Curley” a Crow Indian army scout who helped guide Lt Col. George A. Custer and the U.S. 7th Cavalry to the battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876. Old Trail Town exists today as a memorial to the uniquely American experience known throughout the world as “the Old West”.’ I LOVE THE OLD WEST!

Now for some reminiscing. There was a town just a few miles away called Lovell. When Debbie was a child and first came to America from Wales, she and her family landed here. She spent about five years here and went to primary school. Well being so close and she hadn’t been back in decades, we took a drive to see her old stomping grounds. We found the house she lived in, the school she went to, and drove by the Western Sugar Factory where her Dad worked. As for the town itself……well it is a little rough around the edges and time hasn’t been very kind to the place. She enjoyed going back as we did too. As for the uneventful drive back home that, my friends, was our vacation and it was one that will never be forgotten. Debbie has uploaded the photos to One Drive and here is the link to the album! Thanks for reading and can’t wait for the next adventure!

Road Trip 2014 – Part I

The month of September started off with one of the funniest vacations ever spent with great friends! Two weeks of road tripping through Northern Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming in a three truck/trailer convoy began at the North Bend Safeway parking lot on the morning of September 5th! Destinations included Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Cody, Wyoming! The first two days basically consisted of covering miles just making overnight stops. The first stop was the Wolf Creek Lodge Campground, located just east of beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene in North Idaho. It was a beautiful setting and the drive along the lake was awesome. We never really knew how big and gorgeous Lake Coeur d’Alene is! We made note that it would be a future destination to hang out and explore! The second night was spent in Dillon, Montana at the Countryside RV Park. We had our first snafu as one of our trailer mates, Bob, noticed one of his trailer tires failing. Since we were kind of in the middle of nowhere, he decided to put on the spare and ride into our next destination to get it fixed.

The first place we stopped and actually spent some time in was in Jackson, Wy. We camped just north of the town at the Gros Ventre Campground. Our drive to there took us through northern Idaho which was full of scenery, small towns, and plenty of potato fields. We then headed over Teton Pass which was stunning and a bit scary as the highway grades were very steep at 10% grade. The truck brakes got a little heated and Debbie a lot scared! The campground was nice and set along the Gros Ventre River. We heard from other campers that if you were up early enough, moose would wander into the grounds and graze. We did just that and saw plenty of them!

We also saw lots of bison, pronghorn, and deer! It was too bad other humans we encountered were so aggressively trying to get so close to the wildlife to grab a camera shot, that they actually scared them off….idiots! We also encountered some wild weather while we were there as on two afternoons, lightning and thunder rolled right over the campground and did some serious booming!!! Once again Bob had trailer problems as his batteries failed. We went into Jackson and had his tired and batteries replaced. While we were there we toured the town. I loved it, even though it was a bit touristy! We shopped, took pictures, explored, and had to make a stop at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar! Other days were spent driving around Grand Teton Park and hiking near Jenny Lake and going to the top of Signal Mountain Summit were we saw great views of the Jackson Valley! What a beautiful place this country is! Our final night, with a not to be missed recommendation from a fellow camper, we went to the Bar J Ranch Chuckwagon for a cowboy chuckwagon meal and show! It was wonderful! Great food and fun entertainment and stories of the wild west cowboy days and how they ate, and worked on the cattle drives, and songs they sung around the campfire!  If you are ever in Jackson Hole during the summer, head over to Wilson and check it out. Go hungry and ready to have a great time! With batteries replaced, new tire, and great memories, we were ready to head for our next destination…..Yellowstone, coming in part II!!!

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