Drama and the return to our home State

The day began with a bang, quite literally. Mark and I were awoken before 5am by the sound of a crash on the Interstate. Did I mention that this is another campsite next to a major highway? Lisa mumbled something and returned to her usual deep coma. He and I rushed out to see what happened. The Interstate was now quiet so we expected the worst. Just opposite the site a car was facing the wrong way on the highway and another driver was already tending to the woman, who was obviously in shock but appeared to be relatively unhurt. We requisitioned a chair and blanket from another camper and waited for the emergency services to arrive. Another driver was flagging speeding trucks. The Police arrived first, as always and closed the highway. EMS next, followed by a large fire truck. The woman, still shocked, insisted that she did not need to be taken in the ambulance (obviously no insurance) so EMS left her on the side of the highway still wrapped in the blanket! Tow truck was called and within 1/2 an hour the highway was reopened. Mark spoke to one camper who said he had seen the accident while taking a piss facing the highway – my theory – woman saw man exposed and lost control of the car. Man seen hurriedly packing tent and leaving campsite, no wonder he didn’t say anything when the Police asked for witnesses.

We hung around for sun rise ++ before rousing Lisa with a freshly brewed coffee. Other campers were already leaving the site.

imageWe left CDA at about 9am, having not showered and feeling slightly rough from lack of sleep. Crossing into Washington state we left the Interstate and returned to Route 2, an arrow straight single lane road that took us to Chelan, our expensive stop for tonight. Soon after we hit the post fire haze so no sights were seen.

imageOur hotel for tonight is the over priced Lakeside Lodge, but it is on the lake with a choice of two pools for Lisa, the outside one being a strange green colour. From our balcony overlooking the pool there was more evidence of obesity at work so a dip is delayed.

Instead we went in search of lunch. I am officially on hunger strike as all my food has been cooked in the oven that they call a car, this forces them to buy me some salmon.

Talking of fish, Lisa at last went swimming and had to fight her way through flotillas of ducks on Lake Chelan. Although shallow the water was still apparently quite chilly.

imageimageWe ended the day with BBQ at one of the many wineries, luckily we sit outside and they welcome dogs. Due to the fires the night sky is extremely red, giving the full moon a very different look. I had a rare play with a one year old Plot hound, until we became entangled and I had to be consoled by him.

Tomorrow we will be travelling home through some of the areas worst affected by the fires.

The turn north

imageOne long 275 mile slog north to Helena on the I 15 today. At last we wake up to fine weather, just what we need on a boring drive. This route was pioneered by Lewis and Clark (everything around here seems to have been found by them) but the wagon trains were overtaken by the steam version and the route fell into disuse, until the Interstate was built. Even now the road is fairly quiet and we speed along at slightly above the 80mph speed limit (this is Idaho). As a result our average fuel consumption of 50 mpg is affected.

imageCrossing into Montana (speed limit 75mph) we try and find the Irish Festival and the 2nd tallest statue in the country (after the one liberty one in New York) in Bute but have no luck with either. Bute is a bit of a ghost mining town.

imageWe arrive in the state capital of Helena and stop by the Capitol building. The government must be taking the month off, either that or no new legislation needs passing. Like many other state capitals Helena is quiet imageand in parts a bit run down as they generally keep government out of the way of business. We follow the recommended tourist route to Reeder’s alley and Last Chance Gulch in the sun then pick up a club foot take out, recommended by Shawn and Scott, our neighbour who grew up in Helena, and go to the trailhead for a Mount Helena picnic lunch – too hot to go up.

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imageFeeling in need of some religion we check out the cathedral, I love god’s grass.

Yellowstone, Teton, Jackson & Idaho Falls

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We are up at 6am again and wander down to the river just as the sun is coming up. Across the narrow strip of water a mother and calf moose are grazing. Lisa will be annoyed with him for not having a camera. To give them space we walk up the river and see a beaver. Two animal sighting ticks for Mark.

We have changed our plans to try and meet up with old friends from Connecticut. The meeting didn’t happen but we head south anyway. We opt for the longer route south through the park again in the hope that we add to the animal set. No luck, however soon after we leave Yellowstone and enter Teton National Park we come across a long traffic line up. Turns out we have our wild Grizzly after all, just have to share him with 100’s of others.

imageElk horn arch - JacksonOn south, taking the scenic route – Teton Park Road towards
Jackson, ski resort in the winter, tourist destination in the summer. Quick lunch at a cafe and a walk around the square deliberately avoiding the horse drawn carriages on my behalf.

The drive from Jackson to Idaho Falls is one of the best of the trip, winding roads going high over a mountain pass, the sun fighting with sudden downpours.

Idaho Falls was not on the itinerary it is just a useful jumping off point for tomorrows drive north to Helena, the capital of Montana. We plug downtown into the GPS and we arrive at the Falls which has a strip of parkland on either side of the river, this being my walk for the afternoon. On the advice of some locals we go to a converted railway shack for dinner and sit outside on the patio. Not expecting much the food is surprisingly good but the beer awful.

Hotel for the night is a Motel 6, we have the last room almost. It was difficult to find anywhere so at least we all have a dry none canvas place to sleep. The dog treats at reception are awful so I spit them out – not exactly the glamping I was promised.

And onwards SW – Bozeman Montana

Some people must travel all day and most of the night. When I go out for my pre bed amble the hotel car park is filling and when I wake for the first of the day (6am) it is emptying.

We leave Missoula feeling that we could have spent more time there. It was a shame that we were there on a Sunday evening and didn’t even give the town a chance to wake up. Nevermind, it left a good impression nevertheless. imageFrom the wide open valley where Missoula sits we travel up through narrower valleys and across the ridge of the continental divide at 6,963 feet. The road is good and it is not an unpleasant drive. We have been told that the Lewis and Clarke Caverns are worth a visit so we make that our first destination. Of course I am not allowed in the caves so that, together with a two hour tour time, they decide to take me on a quick side hike instead. I can hear another dog who has been abandoned in the kennels barking, his howling echoing around the canyon walls. I am so pleased that they chose the nice option.

We leave the park and continue on to Bozeman. The city centre straddles Main Street, we park the car and walk. It is an active and reasonably sophisticated western city, the Montana Ale House even has the hard to find Deschutes Fresh Squeezed on tap to make Mark a very happy man. imageWe find the only other Dalmatian in town at a table there, she is far too frisky for me, or is it that I just don’t like the competition. We have words, she leaves. Apparently she is just off the plane from Norway, no wonder I couldn’t understand a word she said. Very strange that yesterday I was allowed on the patio but here, the waitress said I have to be kept off the premise. Never mind as I am only a foot from the table so am technically not in the restaurant.

It seems REI is in most of the cities/towns as they find one in Bozeman. Lisa goes in and finds the needed tent pegs to replace the bent ones as a result of the storm in Spokane.

Back at the campsite we pitch the tent, this time securely, even though thunderstorms and drizzle are in the air. Since eastern imageWashington the weather has cooled from 37c to 21c, it’s going to be cold tonight but at least two of us prefer it to the sweltering heat of the last 2 days. It will be a test to see how the blue thing survives, by far the oddest tent around – but free.

Another thing I don’t understand about campsites is their proximity to rail lines and highways. Montana is huge with a population of only one million and people travel hundreds or thousands of miles to get here. I am sure that they would put upimage with the slight inconvenience of travelling a few extra miles off the interstate to get some quiet!

Still in Washington!

The end of the second day and we are still in Washington state, albeit just a few miles from the Idaho border.

After an abortive walk for me this morning on the road we left our hosts from the BnB at 10am this morning and returned to Pybus market in search of a walk for me and a coffee for Mark. Saturday is farmers market so I am able to wend my way through the vendors. We eventually find some shaded seating next to the singer of the day, so I am left with him while she goes off in search of coffee and donuts for Mark – success of sorts.

A wheel chair bound lady tries unsuccessfully to traverse some stairs, ignoring the adjacent ramp, she falls, a crowd gathers round and 911 is called. She seems OK but an ambulance, the fire chief and the town’s largest fire truck are despatched just in case. As in wars and any emergencies here there is an over reaction.

Back on Route 2 we head north into the desert mountains and quickly climb to over 2,000 ft before heading due east on an almost arrow straight road. The ‘quaint’ towns of Coulee and Wilbur turn out to be fairly desolate so the planned lunch stop next to a very very large lake does not happen and we continue on to Spokane.

We hadn’t realized just how much wheat is grown in this state, on and on past golden fields being harvested and throwing up dust clouds to rival the haze of the fire storms of yesterday.

We arrive in Spokane and follow the signs for the River Park, apparently to provide me with some respite from my air conditioned rear compound in the car. Lisa calls it the moau (my own aircon unit). The first restaurant we approach – no dogs, so we head further into the urban park before we hit the fountain centre of Spokane. It’s so hot that most of those under 20 have gathered to immerse themselves in the falling water. We settle for an unhealthy lunch of burger but Lisa insists on a healthy salad while I wait for the flat breads but lost a piece to a small feathered sparrow who stole from her plate. Well, I have better manners than to climb up onto the table to steal food!

imageOur first campground of the trip is 15 miles to the east of the city, KOA or Campgrounds of America or the McDonalds of camping. We have a site on the perimeter away from the RV’s that litter the country – however if they have aircon then perhaps not such a bad idea. An added advantage of our particular spot is that it is right next to the rail line. I wonder if the trains run through the night? My ‘dog park’ area is a no more than 30 square feet but I dutifully comply.

There’s not much in terms of human food around here so they’re talking about having pizza delivered to the site. Perhaps I could benefit from the crust because the lettuce and carrot they brought for me have been semi cooked in the heat.

Tent up and then a 30 knot squall whips through the site, imagedevastating most of the tents. I retreat to the car while they hastily collapse our new home before stuffing it back in the car. Drama over, we start again.

One thing I don’t get about this camping lark is why would someone who has just shelled out $250k + on a super deluxe RV want to stay for a week on a site in the middle of nowhere next to a rail line. It’s an OK site if you are just passing through but not to sit in for any length of time. Us, we have a free tent, cheapy bags (I have the best memory form bed), a couple of self inflating air beds and a borrowed stove (thanks James and Becky).

Sorry guys for polluting the tent with continuous gaseous issues, must be something you fed me.

Our 10+ miler in the land of the Lost

We set off from Arroyo Park in the Chuckanuts and head up hill of course. He has an idea of following the ridge line to Lost Lake, 5 miles to the south. Once we gain the elevation the trail levels out and becomes a pleasant and eerily quiet single track with not a soul in sight. Although it’s Sunday not many venture this far into the woods and even fewer dogs. We get to the lake and I celebrate the turn around by going dog mental, running at full speed in a circle feigning to take him out – shouldn’t really be doing this at my age. On the level track back there is a sign for Raptor ridge heading for a higher elevation, too tempting so we return to the cloud base and head up.

On the way down we bump into some friends who are on the way up at a more leisurely hiking pace, we discuss perhaps joining them for a group walk next weekend.

For the remainder of the run I find myself lagging behind and am thankful when the car comes into sight.

Stats: time 2hrs 20 mins, dist 10.47 miles, elevation 1,600 ft

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The Lost Lake

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Portland and home

Still drizzling as we return to the trail this morning, don’t see the long haired assailant but do encounter another forest person, this one less threatening.

By the time we leave to spend the day touring Portland the rain has ceased and the sun slowly coming out. We park in one of the city parks and walk some of the blocks looking for touristy things to do, we even stop locals and ask them, not much apparently goes on in Portland. In 2009 38,000 new people moved to the city because they thought that it was cool, unfortunately the economy was also cool so jobs non existent, the Governor had to issue a statement pleading with people not to come. The remnants of this influx can still be seen on the streets and evidently on the trail that we used last night. It is though a pleasant city centre to walk around, not subsumed by traffic noise, or any noise for that matter. We get the feeling that like their former home of Toronto it is a city of neighbourhoods and that life occurs in the burbs rather than the centre.

We sit outside and have lunch at Fish, a nice restaurant on SW Park Avenue, before heading to the Rose and Japanese Gardens, I am allowed in the former but not the latter so we tour a few home shops before departing the city and heading homeward, aiming to beat the Friday rush hours in Portland and Seattle.

We cross the river into Vancouver Washington with 260 miles to go to home. The sun has now come out and the scenery of southern Washington is reminiscent of parts of England, rolling mixed wooded hills and rivers.

Apart from a quick therapy stop at the outlet mall we are in the fast lane, with other cars that should really move over, the entIre way interrupted only briefly by traffic delays around Seattle.

We arrive home at 8pm in daylight and I am glad to be reunited with my toys in the garden, still off my food though and I haven’t eaten a proper meal for four days. Perhaps familiar surroundings will settle me down. My car towels are the first things to be washed, even I thought that things were becoming a bit pongy towards the end.

It’s been a fun trip covering over 3,000 miles, taking in 5 states experiencing different geographies, micro climates and varied cultures. We seem to have been constantly on the move and doing different things for the entire time, whether it be wine tasting, hiking, racing, eating, visiting national and state parks.

Of course the highlight, and main purpose, of the trip was to hook up with old friend. However it was also nice to experience new places and visit landmarks like Crater Lake that we didn’t see the first time around. Although the desert landscape of the interior can be stunning you cannot beat the greenery of the coastal hills and mountains, so it was nice to at last head home.

We thank our generous hosts Rex, Janie and Salsa in Vegas for inviting us to their lovely home.

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How much is that kitty in the window?

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Farewell from Portland

Bend, Oregon – a message to Bellingham with love

Given that first impressions are everything Bend probably deserves a few lines for itself. Why are we impressed with it? Why does it appear to be thriving and successful?

Bend promotes itself as the outdoor capital of Oregon and there is plenty of evidence to support this claim. Driving into Bend from the Mt Bachelor ski area you notice that you are on a well maintained 4 lane highway that takes urbanites to the base of the mountain from downtown in 15 minutes. The ski area promotes itself as the biggest in the NW and just by looking at it from the road there are a multitude of runs to choose from. Even though the ski lifts are closed for the season we see downhill skiers hiking along the road to access some of remaining white stuff. Trail running and biking is legendary here and the well presented city marketing literature focuses on the accessibility of outdoor pursuits.

Downtown Bend is laid out in the normal grid pattern but the ubiquitous retail Americana stores seem to have been banished from the centre, no Big Macs and KFC’s here, didn’t even see a Starbucks. Instead there is a focus and promotion of local. Being local extends to the beer industry, there are 14 craft breweries.

The outdoorsy nature of the city is also evident in the restaurant business and tables line the sidewalks. We have dinner at 900 Wall sitting outside on white tablecloths on one of the main intersections, not busy with traffic just pleasant.

The business (office) district is modern, separate from, but easily accessible to downtown. This would be a great place to live and work in. The message to businesses is, come here and you will attract employees who also enjoy life, be prepared for that.

Unlike many other American towns that we have visited they have made great use of their waterfront, in this case a bend in the river. It is a well laid out public park, a lung of greenery and water in the centre of the downtown area.

People here not only acknowledge you they actually stop to have a conversation – perhaps something to do with being a Dalmatian helps! However, we think it’s more than that, a nice town attracts nice people. Even the groups of young and restless, and probably homeless, are engaging but not threatening. We observe a Police Officer having a ‘chat’ with one particularly vocal group obviously giving them some ‘advice’ and the peace soon resumes.

For me in addition to the 7 dog parks there are trails everywhere and easily accessible from town.

In short, Bend appears to be a great place not only to work but to live. Perhaps if our original travels had crossed this bend in the river things would be different today. Our adopted home of Bellingham could learn a lot from to this tidy town. Please do something with the waterfront at least!

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Crater Lake and Bend

We leave our resort at Klamath Falls after an early morning run through the golf course, no time to play unfortunately. Skirting Klamath lake we take the back roads to Crater Lake, the rim road has still not been cleared of snow so we just go to see the magnificent view of the deepest lake in the US and the 9th deepest in the world. So quiet up here.

Back tracking to the south to join the road north to Bend we of course detour around a scenic drive and circumnavigate Bachelor mountain, the local ski area for Bend, the destination of the day. We stop briefly for a paddle in one of the many lakes that dot the route.

We arrive in Bend, Oregon (perhaps our new favorite town). It has a laid back quality feel and is the outdoor capital of the State. Lisa enthuses about the shops while we head off to the park by the river, where luckily there is a cafe selling local beer, and so we sit.

We sit having dinner on the street, good food, happy hour prices and water for me, what more could we want?

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Crater Lake

20130514-075031 PM.jpgMe at the lake

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Paddling at Elk Lake

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Bachelor Mt

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Wigwam in the forest

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Beautiful Bend

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Beer in Bend

Cutting the California corner

We leave Reno and the state of Nevada and go diagonally across the NE corner of California, today’s journey thankfully much less than yesterday’s marathon, which was like driving south-north through the length of England. Today we merely do three states.

We leave Nevada and cross into California through the originally named Bordertown. At Susanville we detour via the back roads and leave the trucks behind climbing into the the Californian Sierras. We stop at the small town of Adin for lunch at a local but very nice deli with views of the distant Mt Shasta to the west – we decided not to make that side trip due to the extra distance. The country roads today are single lane and windy so the speed is reduced by nearly 20 miles from yesterday. Lisa insists on having the windows down so I am able to pick up the scents of horses. Much to their annoyance, I bark my ‘I want to be with my soul mate’ barks. I stick my nose out to sniff a different scent and have yet to figure out the many herds of cows. Perhaps they can stop the car tomorrow so I can get closer to them.

We finally arrive in Klamath Falls and following advice from fellow dog lover Erin at the visitor centre, we go for a walk along the river to see the falls, in reality a series of rapids. Never mind at least it’s a walk. We then head off to the brewery restaurant and I am forced to watch them eat from outside the patio area, silly Oregon health rules.

We retire to the Running Ranch hotel, in fact a very up market Holiday Inn with a great golf course. What a surprise that I am allowed. Also had a rare play with a yellow lab of all dogs.

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