Montana … go east young man

Well this time we have set off due east … destination Montana but first we have to traverse the width of Washington state and a slice of Idaho. East takes us off I-5 and onto route 2 over Stevens Pass at over 4,000 ft. Over the divide the evidence of the largest fire, the Carlton Complex, becomes obvious, luckily for us the road reopened only yesterday however they are still attempting to minimize the northward spread of the flames.image We reach Leavenworth for lunch, a quaint Bavarian village surrounded by mountains on all sides. Perhaps a convoy of German covered wagons came through and thought they were in the Alps and decided to stay. Anyway we find the Munchen Haus, a me friendly tavern where they can have beer (non-German) and wursts for lunch. The heat is getting to me (& Lisa), it’s 37c – no place for cool Dalmatians or dark-haired Chinese image We hang around for an ice cream or two and then on the way out-of-town bump into a winery that must be tried. Perched on the hill is Silvara, a winery, where as is common here, they don’t actually grow the grapes but just blend the juice from where they can actually grow proper grapes. After 6 samples the verdict is not bad though. A comfortably seated Lisa has to be persuaded to leave but we need to wander on to the Air BNB for tonight in East Wenatchee. image We arrive at just before 4, a large house high on the northern bank of the Columbia river. The resident dog greets us – a Japanese Sheba Imu called Loki, friendly enough but he traps me in the washroom where there is a cool tiled floor so I am not minded to object. Lisa collapses on the bed, claiming excessive heat so I also decide to rest. We are directed to dinner place by the river, Pybus market. I am illegally snuck in past the definitely no dogs sign to the patio breaking countless state and local hygiene laws in the process. Everyone in the restaurant doesn’t bat an eye lid so why can’t this be the norm. Seated, Lisa discovers it’s a pizza joint, albeit an OK one. Two pizzas and one rather small margarita later it’s time for a final walk before retreating to bed.image

Taiwan gang complete

With the arrival of Joe the Taiwan reunion is complete. Joe also had a role in my being here as he introduced Lisa to Janie and Rex (owners of Pokey, my predecessor). Lisa actually met Pokey before meeting Janie and Rex, he was delivered to their Taiwan home and handed over to Lisa before Rex arrived to make the formal introductions. After travelling from Japan what a shock to his system that must have been, as I am on my 3rd set of humans I can empathise a bit.

We have a big BBQ at home to celebrate with an appropriate international selection of drinks from Korea, Japan and here. After scavenging what little I can from the BBQ and dinner table I keep my distance and let them reminisce in at least 3 languages about life over a decade ago with Dalmatians past and present a major topic of conversation. Over the course of the evening photos of my breed ancestor are found and spots compared, we won’t get into a beauty contest here. The way Pokey fawned over my humans is disgusting, none of that sloppiness here.

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As usual with Asian gatherings the quantity of food exceeds the collective appetite so it looks like ribs and chicken for lunch tomorrow as well, some of which may well have my name attached to it. Perhaps I need to practise my fawning. Everyone tires surprisingly early due to the food and jet lag, not to mention the alcohol.

20130510-094617 AM.jpgThe gang 10 years ago

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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From snow capped mountains to vineyards

Panic stations as the packing begins, are they taking me? As usual my bed is the last thing to be loaded into the car and at last we start the journey south at 10.23am in brilliant sunny weather, in fact the weather at home is going to be brilliant for our entire trip – the road had better not disappoint.

After the mundane drive through the outskirts of Seattle we turn south east and across the stunning Cascade mountains, glimpsing the snow laden Mt Rainier through a mountain pass. We push the car up through 2,300 ft and descend from the lush mountain greenery to the desert that will become the norm for the next 2 weeks.

Our first ‘destination’ is wine country and they have thoughtfully researched Buckingham friendly locations for some tastings, apparently many wineries have dogs but I am not welcomed into the cool air conditioned sanctuary of the tasting rooms, instead do my own tasting in the shade, albeit of the water that the host winos provide.

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As often with wine areas the place to be is the winery and not the local town, Kennewick appears to be one such place. Is there a centre? Apparently not. We find a large riverside park but I am restrained on the leash, even a local bemoans the lack of run free places – she loves Bellingham though – why did we leave again?

Following the advice of a host wino they are off to Twigs, a restaurant and martini bar, apparently the best in town. It’s heaving, well it is Friday, so it can’t be too bad. No outside space available so I am consigned to the car to watch the setting sun, at last the cool of the shade, even the aircon doesn’t reach my cargo space. Why would you put speakers back here and not an aircon vent, come on BMW!