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.

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!

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!

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.


Buckingham – we leave late this morning, probably the latest so far, but Mark is not concerned because it’s only a short haul.  I of course get nervous as my stuff is always the last to get loaded.  Why do they have to keep moving just when I’m getting comfortable, even slowly putting up with the little neurotic chiweiner.

We enter the maze of South Bay area traffic and head south then east on wide freeways.   The sky is big here.   It is not until we hit Merced out of the Central Valley that we enter the more hilly country and single carriage roads.   Lisa has a fascination with cows and is forever taking pictures of these distant creatures on the hillside.

Lunch, for them, is in the town of Mariposa where they head for the local Chinese restaurant for noodles and ribs.   Some errant advice from the tourist office warns us that this will be the last gas stop before the park, so we fill up at the most expensive price for the trip so far.   It turns out that there are other gas stations in the park!

We arrive at our home for the next two days just outside the National Park – The Yosemite Rustic Bug Resort – Lisa is suspicious of the cabins perched on the hillside and is wary of the backpacker look of the place.   We check in and the cabin is freezing so we turn the heating up, then they take me for my required constitutional along the banks of the Merced river in the sun and a good place for a fresh mountain water drink. We meet a real live gold digger who is panning the river, although he will never become rich from this hobby he proudly shows us the profits of his efforts.   Lisa tries her hand but just comes up with the fools variety.

We return to The Bug and find the cabin toasty, so we will be as snug as a few bugs tonight.

Dinner, for them, is a lively affair at The Bug cafe, food is surprisingly OK and the communal room is full of hikers and climbers.   Music ain’t bad either.  Mark drinks his two alcoholic varieties so it will be snoring surround sound for Lisa tonight.