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.

One day, three states

He is up far too early to grab a shower – 5am. I go back to sleep, she just never wakes up. We go for a brief walk in a “Govnt property – no trespassers” place before heading back for a coffee and to begin the packing.

We hit the road and first head to Coeur d’Alene to rearrange our campsite for the return journey. If States can be divided by geography then we have just experienced it. From desert high plains to tree laden mountains just by crossing a line. So at last we depart Washington, good roads, to Idaho, same highway but not so good. We reach the recommended lunch spot of the imagesmall mining town, “world’s silver mining capital” of Wallace and find a street restaurant so that I can be accomodated. Not bad for a town of 926 people. There are 3 working mines and the deepest one is over 9,000 feet.image

Onwards and we quickly enter Montana, our home for the next week. Again what a difference once you enter Big Sky country. The interstate meanders up and over high passes with an almost roller coaster feel. It takes a few hours but eventually we reach Missoula, set in a broadening valley. We also forgot the time difference. The storm last night left them with a broken tent pole so they seek out a replacement in REI, no luck there though. A cheap roll of duct tape will have to do and a hope that the wind abates for the remainder of the trip.

We arrive at the hotel and I collapse in a steaming heap on the lobby floor – surely they understand – I don’t do hot.

A quick internet search reveals a downtown brew pub so we mount up again hoping that Sunday isn’t too strictly observed in the Wild West. It isn’t, and we drink, eat and drink at the Tamarack Brewing company. A couple of pints of IPA later…

A post dinner walk to the river and we find the Sunday sport imagefor the locals, load up with beer and float down the rapids to a downstream beach…fun apparently…I paddle.

And onwards to Vegas!

My first off leash run for a few days on a sandy desert trail from the hotel. Didn’t go far but better than nothing.

We leave our one pony town relatively early and head south towards the bright lights of Las Vegas 250 miles away. More arrow straight roads through wide open plains between ranges of mountains and millions of desert shrubs. We can see the rain advancing towards us in the distance and enter a squall without warning, the car needed a rinse.

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After 4 hours of minor roads we rejoin the I15 for the final leg into Vegas, sidestepping the strip and arriving at chez Janie and Rex in time for lunch. The reason why we have made this 1,200 mile journey is for a reunion of a group of friends that they made while living in Taiwan. In addition to Janie and Rex I look forward to meeting Nancy, Craig and Joe for the first time. I am told that Janie and Rex are the reason for my present life as Lisa and Mark had part time custody of their dalmatian Pokey all those years ago in Taipei. We apparently share certain positive characteristics, not to mention a few spots. I am also reunited with my ‘pal’ Salsa, their new smaller yappier ward. Her house so I give her space but make my mark.

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Lunch over we venture to the closest dog park. What is it with pit bulls and aggression and why do their humans think that they wouldn’t hurt a fly, nevermind me. I am taken with this black long lean good looking four legged who seems to be able to run faster than a greyhound. Oh well, don’t feel like catching him up so I venture on my own with Salsa trailing behind me.

Not a potato sighted and into Pony Express territory

We go for an early morning run around the neighbourhood, I can’t find any wasteland to do my stuff so have to settle for the pristine grass of a hospital complex. We then hit the I84 to head SE towards Twin Falls to cross the Snake River and enter Nevada.

This part of Idaho is flat and apart from the irrigated fringes of the rivers quite arid. To think that the first settlers pushed through here into an unknown other than a notion that going west was best. And why did some just stay in the desert?

Turning south from Twin Falls the I93 becomes single carriageway and the trucks at the speed limit become a hassle to pass. Road is monotonously straight as an Indian’s arrow for mile upon mile. We spot dust twisters and are hit with our first rain squall of the trip.

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We are at 6,000 plus feet and the flanking snow covered Ruby mountains in the distance are over 11,000.

We tank up in the desert town of Wells, apparently gas is less expensive here than Ely, our destination. Between the two is the east west Pony Express route, still some ponies around. Ely is a bit of a one pony town, minus the pony.

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Oregon to Boise and potato country

He’s done it, I have aircon – my master, my hero. An early morning visit to Homedepot and we have 8 feet of flexi piping from the front aircon vent to my area, the car now looks like something from Dr Who but at least we are prepared for the desert. No more panting in the back. The girl who helps Mark used to go out with a guy from Peckham in London and is one of the few Americans who understands and appreciates ‘Only fools and horses’, has a pop at his accent too!

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We head south from Kennewick, across the Snake river onto the plains of Oregon before climbing to over 4,000ft on Deadmans pass in the Blue Mountains. The climb is a series of sweeping switchbacks and forms part of the Oregon trail which the first settlers traversed in covered wagons wiping out the locals as they went. Oregon is also a bit of a nanny state, lower speed limit, motorcyclists need helmets etc etc, however they do have the best system of highway rest stops.

And so to Boise Idaho (pronounced Boi-se), one of those place names that you always wonder about but never think that you will actually visit. It reminds us of Austin, Texas in that it has an impressive parliament building with a backdrop of arid hills. ‘Buckingham’ time is spent in Ann Morrison park where I get up close and personal with a family of deer.

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Someone recommended Cinder tasting room outside of historic downtown Boise and so we go. Mark and Lisa both think the wines are good so they buy 2 bottles for the ‘Taiwan’ dinners in Vegas. Meanwhile, the ultra dog friendly city of Boise refrains me from entering the the tasting room let alone sampling any so I’m stuck in the back of the car. Again, they get the heads up on a dinner spot so we head back downtown to 8th street which is lined with outdoor restaurants. This time, I’m allowed to sit with them outside Cazba, a Mediterranean restaurant and I smell that the food is gorgeous. Some strange Mexican event is taking place with a ton of non-Mexicans cycling around town dressed as Mexicans shouting, so I of course join in. We never do find out why.

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