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.

Sleeping in Seattle

Buckingham – we head to the famous Pike Place where the fish markets are this morning…in the rain again.   Mark and I wander around outside (still in the rain) while Lisa checks out the interior.    We later discover that dogs are allowed in some of the covered sections so we have gotten needlessly wet. Lunch means being acrobatically perched on bar stools on uneven ground at one of the fish stalls.   Lisa samples the ciopino which she says it’s as good as hers whilst Mark orders the typical fish and chips, the dish he always regrets afterwards because of the excessive amount of grease.  He often tells Lisa to stop him from ordering his national dish but Lisa gives up… what’s the point?!  As for me, I am happy because I get to taste battered fried fish for the first time in my 8 1/2 years despite Lisa’s abject objection.   Yummiest although it’s too small of a morsel.  Did I really taste it?

We head to the flagship REI store where Lisa searches for her Arc’teryx whilst   Mark and I happily snooze in the car : A, because I have no business needing a ski jacket and B, because Lisa doesn’t want Mark to ‘body- guard’ her nor follow her around like a shop security person.    No luck, the shop sold out of her favourite brand of her ski wear so we drive home.

The initial plan is to buy some seafood in Pike’s Market so they can have a home cooked meal since Los Altos but their host Bryan has a group of friends around so they decide to try out a local Greek restaurant and for the first time I am allowed to stay home and freely mingle with Bryan’s guests.   It’s a pleasant change from being left in the back of the car so I am content.

No interesting pics today … what’s the point of taking photos of grey rain?

Grey rainy day

Buckingham – I have a bad dream in the night and wake Mark up to comfort me.   We drive to, and park on, the beach this morning to go running.   Ocean shores beach is wide and long with blackish sand and there are quite a few cars on the beach, it’s a bit of a highway.    We run in the rain and the wind-driven sea spray for a while, this is probably going to be my last beach run of the trip as today we head inland for a 3 night city stay in Seattle.

We head off in the rain and arrive in Seattle in the rain, which is apparently here for the next week (somebody please remind me why we came north).    For the first time we start seeing road signs for Vancouver, 150 miles north, within  touching distance and the reality of the impending end of our trip starts to sink in.   Should we meander around the Washington countryside in the rain for a while or head for the finish line?

We get into town too early to check in so our host Bryan provides us with the name of a nice Italian deli, Picolino for lunch.   They have lunch and the best coffee in town (yes really – thank you Ali for making it).    We are met there by our host who drive leads us home.   Bryan is a well travelled person who has a spare ticket for a Chinese dance concert Shen Yun  this evening – Lisa accepts leaving Mark and I at home with a couple of glasses of wine, for Mark  but not me.   I don’t like it that she goes out at night because my pack of the 3 of us should be together by sun down so I wait for her to return so I can show my full set of teeth to smile and greet her.   Now I can go back to my new bed and put my head down.

Indecision desolation

Buckingham – great run on the beach before dawn this morning, we get wet running through the river and see an owl – the first of the trip.

It is hard but we feel that we must keep moving on, it would be nice to stay in Yachats but given the isolated location, as a potential place to live it just doesn’t work for us (for now).   We know that Lydia and Volker might love this place because of the rugged landscape and the roaring waves;  there is even a bay by the name of ‘Devil’s Churn’.   We leave the great view of the wild Pacific and head north on 101.  We stop to tank up before we set off on our 270 mile journey in Oregon State as their tax rate is lower.  Unfortunately our fuel gauge seems to be malfunctioning so it seems that we are still running on empty.  Something in the gauge must be clogged but the reading eventually adjusts after about 20 minutes.

Oregon appears to be a nanny state – not allowed to pump your own gas (one of only two states that don’t trust their people to pour liquid) and the speed limits are ridiculously low, some towns as slow as 20 miles  – haven’t they heard of bypasses?  And the thing is people always obey them!

Lunch stop is Tillamook, the home of the best cheddar cheese in the US and a museum for the airship U-boat hunters of WW2. A difficult choice so we choose cheese.

We cross the wide Columbia river and enter Washington state bypassing the historic town of Astoria, the oldest in the western US  – something to do with Lewis and Clark apparently.   As we move further north the skies become lower and greyer, Mark is getting unhappy as Washington is a potential place to live and he hates grey weather.

All in all a dreary boring driving day of nearly 7 hours – maybe we are all getting down because we realise that we are getting closer to the end of our odyssey.

We finally arrive at Ocean Shores, a town that was in its heyday during the 1960’s, we have chosen it because it is on the coast – not that we have seen enough of the coast recently.  We check into the condo and leave immediately for my beach run while there is still light.   We drive directly on to the sand and it is massive, shame about the cars driving up and down the beach.

North by Northwest*

Buckingham – I can’t sleep without my old bed so I wake them up at 5ish on the premise of needing to go out.   It is still dark but he takes me out, I have a sniff around just to demonstrate my indignation of having to sleep on the floor.   We go back to ‘bed’ but I can tell that he is still awake so just after 7 we go for a beach run under a dappled red sky and to the sound of sea lions barking in the harbour.

There is a memorial in the harbour to all the fishermen who have lost their lives since WW2, they are now on their second stone tablet.   Whole families have been decimated over the years, in one incident alone 3 members of the same family were lost.   Hauntingly there are *s next to the names of those whose bodies were never recovered, perhaps not surprisingly these are in the majority.

We set off and the first song on the radio is the Eagle’s Hotel California.   It has an appropriate line – “you can check out but you can never leave” – because this is what happened this morning due to a billing confusion and Lisa was stuck in reception because the lady won’t let her leave even though the room was paid the day before. 

Today we finally leave California after 18 days and enter the Northwest proper and begin the journey into, and through, two new states –  Oregon and Washington.   The gods must be smiling on me as a few miles into Oregon and we come across this sign, they feel so guilty that we do a U turn and buy one – I am comfortable again.

The drive today is stress free and the although the GPS says that the 224 miles will take 5 1/2 hours this is due to the 55 mph speed limits imposed in Oregon and not the state of the roads.   We stop for lunch in the pretty town of Florence (they have a sign post to all Florence’s apart from the obvious one) and have lunch outside in the slightly cold air together.   Lisa feeds my valuable food to a one legged seagull.

All afternoon we have been seeing signs for ‘Elk’, eventually we see our first herd ‘browsing’ (that’s what the guide book says) by the side of the road.

We arrive at the Fireside Motel in Yachats and have a spectacular sea front room. Although the town is miles from anywhere it exudes quality and we debate whether or not we should stay past tomorrow. We go for a walk and find one of ‘the beaches’ of the trip so far – heaven.  They choose Yachats not only because the books says it’s a pretty seaside but also because Arthur Frommer named it the 7th best place to live in America.


*North by NW is a film made in 1959 (year of Mark’s birth) starring Cary Grant (who supposedly had an affair with a women near Mark’s village in the UK) and is about a New York businessman who is pursued across the country (our trip, sort of) – so many coincidences!

Last day in California and a disaster

Buckingham – we’re up early again for the stunning walk along the cliff, the only others about are other dogs and their humans. Very red sky means bad news but this is cancelled out by a flight of Canada geese flying north. A local tells us that the sea is especially nice today because it is flat and the waves are high.   Lisa even joins us to take in all the beauty the coast has to offer.

We set off for more coastal driving north and we take the scenic redwood highway drive only to find the twists and turns makes Lisa rather queasy.   The drive is slow, it takes us 11/2 hours to cover 45 miles, but the redwood is stunning although it’s difficult for the camera to capture it in a moving car. Just before rejoining the 101 we go and see the drive thru’ tree. Someone has  cut a hole through a beautiful large tree just so that they can charge punters like us $5 for the privilege of seeing it. Needless to say we are too tall to go through.

We finally arrive in Crescent City and as they began to unload the car, disaster!  They forgot to pack my bed when they left Fort Bragg!!  Luckily, I have a backup thin foam bed in the back of the car so I’ll have to get used to sleeping on it during the night… I can read their guilt stricken faces so they take me to the beach for a run and I have the last laugh.

This place is literally in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a working fishing village devastated by the March 2011 Japan tsunami.   The commercial boat basin was destroyed and 16 boats sank.  They lost an estimated 32 millions dollars due to the multiple surges all within 10 hours.

They leave me warm in the room and go for dinner to a local recommended restaurant, food is fine but the waitress is patronisingly odd, we are talking back of beyond in the middle of nowhere here.

Santa Rosa to Mendocino

Buckingham – We are the first and only occupants of the dog park early this morning until a pit bull puppy turns up.  Her human has no control over her so I have to action to protect mine, can’t stand unruly dogs!

Our morning is taken up doing paperwork and then we fulfil a longtime ambition of Lisa’s and visit the Charlie Brown museum. Charles Schultz, known as Sparky (his uncle nicknamed him at 2 days old after Spark Plug,  a horse in the Barney Google’s comic) apparently built it, the ice rink and the tennis courts.   He spent 30 years here drawing cartoons, eating breakfast and lunch at The Warm Puppy Cafe.

We leave Santa Rosa in the afternoon and drive north along 101 before heading towards the coast on 128.   A stunning road surrounded by skyscraper redwood tress.   What a nice drive it is and the Sports Drive of the BMW comes into its own on the curves and hills, although the Thule on top of the car throws the handling off.

Along the way we stop at the Navarro winery to do a tasting.  As usual, Mark goes in and Lisa slowly follows behind and prepares me to put on my best behaviour.  It works every time.  I’m in the tasting room and although I do not sample the wine I am provided with crackers.   The winery even have their own dog park next to the lama field, what strange creatures, like fluffy deer.

On to the pretty coastal town of Mendocino, where we go down to the beach and watch one of my brethren body surfing in the waves (quite literally).   Of course I go nowhere near the water.   The waves are stunning.   It reminds Mark of the coast of Devon.  They have dinner at a nice but pricey restaurant called 955 Ukiah but  just normal fare for me in the back of the car.

Go West…again

Buckingham – Mark and I decide to do the ‘bug loop trail’ this morning.   It starts off easy enough then we lose our way up the mountain side.  I go completely nuts as I haven’t had a good off leash walk for quite a while and I run like a mountain goat up and down the near vertical slope no doubt scaring Mark ****less.   We scramble down the hill to the riverbed, get stuck and he has to help me clamber over the rocks.   We come across a natural rock pool complete with waterfall which must be nice when there is no frost on the ground.

The bug café is almost empty for breakfast as most of the other resort residents are completing their exam after their month long EMT wilderness course.  Mark swaps gore stories with one of the course participants and ruins her breakfast.   We return to the room to find Lisa just getting out of the comfy tempurpedic bed.

We hit the road just after 10am and go west and north.  They succumb to their first fast food of the trip, a Mac and a KFC…ugh!  After lunch is another 2 hour stint, what seems to be the ugliest drive since our trip through the central valley of California with bad roads, industrial landscape and many corrugated tin roofs of indescribable commercial ventures.   And so on to Santa Rosa stopping at the local dog park on the way to check-in.   My bed is once again moved in to a new smell.   They let me sniff out the room and off we drive again to check out Sebastopol, a small town which is supposed to be trendy and artsy.  We drive back into Santa Rosa and find a huge line up outside the Russian River brew house.   Lisa inquires from the patiently waiting person further down the queue and learns that they’re bringing out a brew.  It must be good or there is just nothing to do in this town.

Stunning Yosemite

Buckingham – Mark drags me (or is it the other way round) up the mountain this morning as the sun comes up over the tops.  Nice view when you get up there.

We head off to the Yosemite National Park after breakfast following the Merced river upstream and the sun is out with not a cloud in the sky.  We pay the mandatory $20 to the park service to enter and then the first stop is Bridalveil falls.  Throughout the day our routes will be restricted to paved paths on the valley floor because my paws are not permitted on any of the trails.   Good thing really as this means no more hills.   At the foot of the falls we meet a crowd of travellers from Beijing who all want to be photographed with me – I am a model dog.   It is very icy and I nearly have Mark over as he hangs onto me.

We pass the famous El Capitan, a towering sheer 3,000ft monolith. the book says that the oldest person to climb it is 81 and the youngest 11!   Thank god that Dalmatians don’t do climbing!

We drive to the head of the valley, park the car and walk to Mirror lake at the foot of Half Dome – one of the major features, although Lisa is not convinced that it is really Half Dome. It’s a nice and easy 2.6 miles with plenty of interest for me, including passing a sign that says you’re entering mountain lion area.  If you see one, stay calm, make yourself look big by raising your arms and opening your coat (I’ll just raise my tail).   And if it attacks, fight back.  Thanks for the warning!!

Lunch at the village and I have to defend their food from another dog and a few rather large ravens – some bread for me at last – will have to do this guarding thing more often.

We save the best til last and go to the recommended photo op at Tunnel view. Just the right time of day as the sun is behind us and shining directly up the valley on all its highlights.