Westward bound and into the heat

imageWe had dinner at the Mediterranean Grill, downtown Helena last night. They let me on the patio and provided me with water because the manager was a massive dog lover. A sudden storm came through and everyone abandoned the patio for cover inside. Needless to say, I was hurried back to the back of the car. They say the food was the best of the trip and Lisa’s favourite dish cooked even better than she could make it.

We stayed at the La Quinta for free last night due to the points that we collected on our original cross country trip. It’s my fav hotel because they welcome my kind with no questions asked and the rooms are proper hotel rooms. Alas, air conditioning.

We Saw a sign walking through town last night that said obesity is now the biggest killer in the country, having overtaken smoking. Obviously too late for the four ladies at breakfast this morning.

imageWe stopped again in Missoula and found the Saturday farmers market, beautiful sunny day, just chilled on the grass.

185 miles later we arrived in Coeur D’Alene, a lakeside resort, and larger than we expected. Before going into town we threw the tent up and found that it still hadn’t completely dried out from a few days ago, so we left it in the sun. On to the town and Mark found a beer place while Lisa trolled the shops. IPA from Wallace, just down the road and a waitress with a sense humour. Strangers constantly ask if they can pet me. It’s rather annoying to be stroked all the time but the worst is to hear a woman who commented that she thought Dalmatians are extinct! Dinosaurs are extinct!!

There is such a temperature change that I went from being able to see my breath in Yellowstone to nearly melting in the heat in a matter of only 2 days.

imageWe quickly drove around CDA before going back to camp to find the tent in the shade…hurray! So it was warm cooked beer and pot noodles for dinner tonight for them and the same old kibble for me although I have to confess they’re trying very hard to embellish it, added carrots, left over salmon dinners and I even tried potatoes for the first time. It was delicious.

Yellowstone and Old Faithful

imageWe are up with the sunrise, the one on the other side of the thick low cloud cover. He takes a shower before the rush and then we walk up the river for a while and disturb a couple of cranes.

imageWe wake Lisa up and manage to get out of camp by 8am and head to Old Faithful hoping that we don’t have to wait for two hours for an eruption. We miss the 10am show by 10 mins so hang around for an hour with an increasing throng of tourists for the 1108 am one. I am allowed to get in a position to see it but not as close as the rest of them.

As soon as we leave the geyser the rain starts and doesn’t stop all day. We head down to Lewis lake camp where we had planned to spend tomorrow night however it doesn’t look very inviting in the rain so we decide to hunt for a hotel that has vacancies and will take me. We find one in Idaho Falls so that is where we will be after Jackson Hole. We know nothing about Idaho Falls so it should be interesting.

Apparently the place to see the animals is Hayden Valley so we head north and clock a couple of elk with well developed racks. A few bison at very close range and we almost have a full set, just need a wolf, moose and a bear in the wild – tomorrow perhaps.

We exit the park at West Yellowstone and find one of the few restaurants with a patio, meaning it is dinner for three. Our waiter is from Bulgaria. There are 25 Bulgarians working in town and we have met two of them, the other at our campsite. After dinner we retire to the camp site and sit around the camp fire with other guests until the fire is extinguished at 11pm. Rules are rules apparently.

And a river runs through it…

Yes, that would be our tent. He woke me up at 4am this morning, it was pouring outside and apparently our little blue tent was leaking. Unknown to me my bed was forming a useful foam dam. We debated waking her up but thought better of it and decided to wait out the storm which was meant to abate at 6am. Some of his clothes and my towel soaked up some of the dampness whilst her gortex jacket collected a pouchful of water. Ironic for gortex.

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After sunrise we spent a couple of hours drying out the tent and beds before packing up and leaving the Bozeman camp ground. Five miles down the road we got diverted by a sign offering a grizzly bear encounter. $14 and many photos later we had encountered our first grizzlies of the trip, with a moat and strong fence separating us. I didn’t know what to make of Jake and Maggie other than that I felt glad that they were on the other side of the fence.

We pressed on through Livingston and on to the Yellowstone Park gateway town of Gardiner. The plan was to take in the eastern part of the great loop before going to our glampsite in West Yellowstone. Park rules mean that I am hardly allowed anywhere so Lisa does the obligatory photo expeditions while we wait behind the no dogs signs. Yellowstone is a zoo, and that is not a reference to the animals, of which there seem to be relatively few. Finding the few that are visible from the road is simple, just join the traffic jam. The day’s count ended up as one mule deer and two bison(s), not the herds that we were led to believe were abundant.

Driving through alternating sun burst and cloudbursts mean that imagesome of the best views are obscured and the forecast is not promising for the next few days. Tonight though we are staying in someone else’s tent, glamping by tipi. Really just a larger version of our own tent but almost certainly water proof. The drive into the ranch requires transiting herds of cows and horses so I of course go off my head. Lisa walks up to a herd of horses and one decides to lick her jacket. They are so friendly and probably hungry following any tourists holding a bag hoping to find edibles. One horse sticks his head into someone’s car truck and refuses to leave searching for food. Don’t they get fed?

They go off to Bar N Ranch, a posh restaurant for dinner and leave me in the back of the car, feeding me the same kibble. Luck has it though Lisa walks out with a piece of salmon and a fresh warm loaf of bread so I too have a nice treat. After dinner we return to Yellow Stone Under Canvas and gather around the campfire with other tourists from Colorado, California, South Africa, England and Denmark, quite a UN.

Tomorrow, Old Faithful, something else that I will miss.

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.

Home and a return to a normality

It is amazing what nature has done to our garden in the time that we have been away, less than two weeks but we have almost missed the tulips and as someone predicted, the hosters (large spreading plant) have taken over once again. Our friends Daryl and Sharon have been around a couple of times it seems to water the plants but Daryl has also mowed the lawn, twice! Many thanks guys.

I am up and about early in the morning and we drive to Lake Padden to run our familiar home trails. I still haven’t eaten too much so he doesn’t push me that hard. We return home before the rain sets in, the necessary downside of having the garden spring to life, and catch up with all the things that have been left undone in our absence.

The evening brings a full house as Mark is hosting the ‘Filthy Dirty Dozen’, his running team for the 200 mile Ragnar relay that takes place in July. They are 9 for dinner around the kitchen island and the wine ensures that they have an animated conversation about the race. It will be a non stop 24 hour relay so should be fun!

The illusive Mt Hood and Portland

I begin my day at one of Bend’s dog parks and we greet the only other early morning park user. The normal greeting of ‘how are you?’ is met with the tearing reply ‘ my grandmother died last night’, and so we strike up a conversation. It transpires that this guy knows the only other person that we know in Bend, Max King, world champion mountain runner, (well my guy has run with him once).

Reluctantly we depart Bend in bright sunshine and head north on 97, a road that takes us over the fertile plains of middle Oregon with the dramatic 3 Sisters volcanoes looming to the west. The weather forecast for Portland, today’s destination, is not so good, how can that be?! The intention is to take the quicker northern route to have more time in Portland and to view Mt Hood, the tallest mountain in the state. As we travel north the weather closes in and Hood never materialises, cloaked in clouds for our entire journey although Lisa insists that she can faintly see it.

We hook left and enter Portland from the east heading downtown in search of food and parking. We set upon a space next to a square of international street food stalls and as I alight from the car I am accosted by another Dal owner, we swap photos and compare dog notes: smile, shedding, temperament. He does look like me but not quite as handsome and some 20 lbs smaller – I have often been told that I am tall. Another well meaning diner provides vague directions to a series of parks, maps are not her strong point, nor are directions. Vietnamese street food in Portland, just like home.

We begin the downtown walk but I desperately need to go, where is private grass around here? There is none, so I just use the largest paved very public courthouse square in the city. Oh well, needs must. We leave Lisa to tour some shops while we return to the car for kip time.

An idea, let’s go to Ikea, across the river to the north of the city in rush hour when everyone else is heading home. Is Ikea the only store that sells paper napkins? We also buy some lanterns as therapy … and a frozen yogurt which I get to sample! Brief walk in the woods before seeking out the hotel which is deep in the industrial area of the city. Why do you put a jetted tub in the bedroom and not the bathroom?!

The hotel turns out to be next to the largest trail system in the city which we recce for a run tomorrow. The only other person we meet is a threatening insane one – quite literally. If we don’t return from tomorrow’s run look for a long black haired nutter!

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Sun

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An evening with Reg at Caesars

At the very last minute they hear that Elton John is playing in Vegas at Caesars Palace tonight so dinner plans are hastily re-arranged to a restaurant within the sprawling hotel and tickets purchased. They get the last block of 6 on the front row on the mezzanine level.

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Joe and two strange girls

And what a show it was, his final Vegas show of the tour and it didn’t disappoint.

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Return to the desert

After over a year “off air” we are preparing to hit the road once more, albeit without the permanent consequences of the previous adventure, which by the way ended up with us settling in Bellingham (remember that town that had a ‘good feel’ to it).

We have been living in Bellingham since June 2012 and we (Mark & I) have spent our time running the various and numerous trails in the area, in particular in the Chuckanut Mountains – great name heh.

Anyway back to the current trip. Next week we plan to head south to Las Vegas for a sort of Taiwan reunion, well 3 groups of friends from their time in that country 15 years ago and before I was a twinkle in their thoughts. The 1,000 miles will take us through Oregon, Idaho and Nevada so stay tuned for the dog reports from the road.

Becoming an international Dalmatian and a sports dog

Buckingham – at 4.48pm today I officially become  a cross border dog as at the last minute we decide to head into Canada and get to Vancouver in time for dinner.

Before that however means we have to get there.   We eventually leave the warm hospitality of our Seattle host Bryan mid morning with the aim of going north and perhaps checking out the border towns of Bellingham and Blaine.  First though we hunt for a stateside post office so that we can mail the written postcards that have been piling up.   We hit I-5 north in the sun that is desperately trying to come out and convince us to stay a while longer in Seattle  but we resist the temptation as Lisa has made an appointment with a realtor in Blaine

First we arrive in Bellingham and are given the ‘brief tour’ advice by the Tourist Information office.    We come upon the small suburb of Fairhaven which has a ‘good feel’ about it.   Maybe we are influenced by the unusual bustle of a Saturday lunch time but we have a good feeling about this town.   We make a quick diversion to one of the towns real estate office and are provided with more than we need by Dick, shame that we are in such a hurry and he isn’t because he even offers us lunch – what a nice person?!    Anyway, we promise to come back, which we will, and re-join I-5 to continue north to Blaine where we meet up with Lilla, a Peruvian realtor.   The two houses that we are looking at are in a gated community, which wouldn’t be our choice, but this one has a golf course and a marina:  what more would 2 lazy getting older humans and a dog want?!

We arrive at Lisa’s brother’s house and I discover a brand new sport, or rather, I introduce everyone to a new way of playing table tennis.  I stand next to the net and try to catch the ping pong ball then sprint to chase it from one end of the table to the other.  Failing to catch it, I would take over from one of the players at the end of the table and leap into the air to catch it in my mouth, when I deem this as scoring a crushing point.  What fun although incredibly exhausting.