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Sunday, December 27, 2009

TEXAS TREASURE

"I learned early that the richness of life is found in adventure. Adventure calls on all the faculties of mind and spirit. It develops self-reliance and independence. Life then teems with excitement. But man is not ready for adventure unless he is rid of fear. For fear confines him and limits his scope. He stays tethered by strings of doubt and indecision and has only a small and narrow world to explore."  - William O. Douglas  Of Men and Mountains
Texas is a different world. Driving through Houston, Dick was singing "Happiness is Houston,Texas in the Rearview Mirror". We noticed a couple of things that probably only happen in Texas. A sign on a library door that read "NO FIREARMS ALLOWED", and another at a little store "FRESH COON FOR SALE". I went into a feed store in a little Texan town and they were giving away camoflage drink holders. I said, "no thank-you". I should have taken it. I remembered someone who would love it for his birthday. While driving the expressway through Corpus Christi we witnessed the police trying to round up a loose steer at a shopping center. It is open range here isn't it? I was behind a couple at a grocery store buying something that looked like packaged lard. I asked them what it was and they explained it was the cow's stomach or tripe. "It's great!" they said. "You slice it up and cook it with beans and chilies and it's delicious." They added that they eat every part of the cow - TMI.
We traveled along the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail where we visited Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and then on to Padre Island National Park. All along the coast the bird watching was great. Besides the Whooping Crane, another first for me was the Caracara (the Mexican Eagle). I love the white and brown pelicans and the many migrating shorebirds. Around 380 bird species have been documented here. When I asked Dick about what kind of Terns we were seeing, he said, "They're either Wrongs or Rights or they could be U's." This is what it's like traveling with this guy. You should hear him when we're playing cards - he has an Italian accent one night, Mexican another. I keep telling him I prefer Irish. I think he does this to distract me so he can win.
Traveling to Padre Island National Park we turned on the wrong road because of our GPS. This time after Dick yelled at it, he apologized because we ended up at a free ferry crossing to the island. It saved us a lot of miles in traffic and it was a beautiful ride with schools of dolphins playing all around the ferry. Padre Island was great. We stayed nearly two weeks. We visited this place in 1979 and parked our car and trailer on the beach but we weren't so sure we'd do that again. If you want to read about our 1979 visit CLICK HERE 


At first Dick said, "No way will I drive our rig out there." Then he decided to do it after watching others. It is hard to believe that you can drive out on the sand and not get stuck. We had equal amounts of rainy and cold days and sunny and warm days. We stayed in the campground for a few days then moved to the beach. We watched the waves and sunrises right out the motor home window. Two storms forced us back to the safety of the campground where the winds rocked the motor home all night. The Texas coast is noted for its heavy rain squalls. It was nice to be back in the shelter of the campground because most of the RVs were decorated for Christmas and it was Christmas Eve.
The National Park embraces close to 70 miles of sandy beaches with a variety of shells and birds and we loved watching the Ghost Crabs. We were told by the ranger the best time to see the crabs is at night. So we went out with a flashlight and watched and waited for quite awhile but saw nothing. We commented that the ranger didn't know what she was talking about because we saw more in the daytime. As we turned around to head back to the motor home, there in our path was a huge crab watching us. We also startled a big buck that ran in front of us.  I picked up a couple sand dollars and brought them into the motor home to dry out. Funny Face started acting weird. She slunk low to the ground, acting like there was a lose snake under the chairs. We were looking under everything when I finally thought of the sand dollars and put them back outside. Then she acted normal again. We were told the next day that the darker sand dollars were still alive. I felt terrible - that poor little creature.
One morning it was calm enough to watch a few dolphins off shore, but mostly the surf was a constant roar. There were a pair of coyotes that came down to the beach a couple times a day. We never figured out what they were after. We couldn't let Sheba out on her leash alone because we didn't want to reel her rope in and find only a collar at the end - or a coyote.
There is a sad side to this little piece of paradise. There is a lot of trash that washes up on the beach. We were told that the predominant southeast wind drives the currents in the Gulf of Mexico to this location in the Northwest corner. As a result, anything that falls or is tossed into the Gulf eventually ends up here. Trying to keep all these miles of beach cleaned up is never ending.   SHORELINE CLEANUP
Slowing down and being one with nature makes you wonder about things you see every day but you don't take time to understand. There were nights the sky was so dark and the constellations so clear. To think that we used to navigate by them and tell time by them. Or seeing the changes in the tides and learning how the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun affects the tide level. 
Padre Island National Park was a wonderful place to spend the holidays and if the sun would have continued to shine, we may still be there. We decided we'd better head away from the ocean spray or we may begin to rust.                   
Link to Dick's Blog PADRE ISLAND NATIONAL PARK

Thursday, December 10, 2009

MIGRATING SOUTH




When I die I want my heart and soul fully seeded with rich stories and experiences.” - Dawna Markova 

Dick and I left home November 30 beating the first snow in northern Michigan. We would have waited until after Christmas if Maggie would have been home, but we were grateful that she decided, since she had just been home in November, she’d rather fly down to meet us somewhere warm this winter instead. We’ll never forget the time we left Michigan in January 1978 and got off the expressway in Kentucky not realizing the off ramps and side roads were glare ice. The 30 foot travel trailer we were hauling started to pass us on the left. Fortunately, we straightened it out by using the hand brake. A wrecker had to get us back out to the expressway! 
To get into the spirit of the holidays, I have decorated the motor home a little bit with red candles and a vase of red berries and greenery from the woods, and I belt out a Christmas carol now and then. 
We arrived in Nashville, TN, after driving two days, to begin a week of exploring the Natchez Trace from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS. A beautiful National Scenic Parkway that has preserved our nation’s natural and cultural heritage.  http://www.nps.gov/natr/index.htm


Whenever we start a trip it takes a few days to decompress. Going from a busy lifestyle to becoming a laid back RVer can take some getting used to - believe it or not.  Being together practically 24/7 is an adjustment. Keeping this small space clean is easy but we do have to be more organized living in 30’ motor home. Laundry is much less. At home I do a load every day but on the road it’s once a week. There are many changes from home, but after a while we get into the swing of things. Because of this life style we have more time to read and write. When we have a phone connection we can watch the news on the computer. We are not big TV watchers anyway. We play cards which we never do when we’re home, and we hike in a different place every day. Some of my favorites along the trace was visiting the grave of Meriwether Lewis, seeing the fields of cane and cotton, the bayous and the beautiful Magnolia trees (the MS. State tree and flower), visiting the town of Kosciusko, MS. just off the Trace, where Oprah was born and raised, touring the Mount Locus Stand (one of the oldest buildings in MS. dating back to 1780), and hiking where my Choctaw ancestors at one time lived (a spiritual experience for sure). We visited several of the towns just off the parkway. My favorite was the city of Natchez. Driving through downtown felt like we were on a movie set. Many huge southern plantation mansions. Before the Civil War there were 35 millionaires in the U.S. and Natchez had 12 of them. We toured Melrose Mansion and reading the history of slavery in an exhibit there was moving. http://www.visitnatchez.com/

I love listening to the southern accent in this part of the country. The blacks seem to have a different southern slang than the whites. It’s so amazing to listen to these southerners, but sometimes difficult to understand. Another thing I notice is everyone is laid back and friendly. 



We have made friends with a couple from Ontario who we met the first evening at a campground on the Trace. We keep meeting up with them along the way which has been fun. They talked us into camping at a casino in La. We live four miles from one in Michigan and never go there but decided to go in and check it out. We were in the mood for some good Cajun cuisine but the menu prices were outrageous. We lost $15 in the slots in just a few minutes and left smelling like smoke. We just can’t figure out what the attraction is. We did think it was great how someone kept offering us free drinks. I made cajun rice & beans in the motor home and I won at a game of cards. Now that’s more like it.

Our two cats are with us. Funny Face did jump out of the motor home one afternoon and explored the whole campground. She finally came home after dark. I’m not sure how she knew which RV was hers. We told her she better be careful or she’ll end up being a southern cat and living in the bayou.

It has only been warm enough one night to open our windows. We keep traveling south and hope it warms up soon. We watch the weather up north and Dick is so happy he doesn’t have to shovel snow.
Ya’ll take care now, ya hear?        
 DICK'S BLOG  BEATING THE BLIZZARD

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

BROKEN DOWN IN THE BADLANDS

When we visited the Badlands National Park a couple weeks ago it reminded me of the time we were stranded there during the fall of 1990. Dick had written the experience down and published it in The Dick E. Bird News. I thought it would be fun to share the article because it is quite comical. Click on The Praying Mechanic link below.

The Praying Mechanic

Thursday, October 1, 2009

BACK HOME!

The winds were atrocious for two days as we traveled across the Great Plains and into Minnesota on I-90. Dick had to fight the wheel as the wind hit us broadside. There were areas of construction where the westbound lanes of the expressway were closed, and narrowed down to two lanes, so whenever a westbound semi passed us it would suck us in and blow us off the side of the road. The American flags were flying stiff. The Great Plains is referred to as America's wind corridor and contribute substantially to wind power in the United States. We saw turbine powered windmills from South Dakota into Minnesota. 












People in this area must be acclimated to the wind and other conditions. We are always amazed at stories of early settlers who were lured to these open spaces by the offer of free or inexpensive land and tried to make a living.



In Minnesota, It was interesting to see the kestrel birdhouses mounted on the back of the highway signs along I-90, as part of a program to help the declining kestrel population. We would also see large flocks of redwing blackbirds in the sunflower fields. They're fattening up for fall migration. The farmers are allowed to kill these birds if they're eating their crops. How ironic -- they're growing the crops to sell as birdseed but they are killing the birds because they're eating the seed in the fields. learner.org/jnorth/tm/rwbb/RedwingPoisoning.html

The trees were just beginning to turn and the sun was shining as we traveled across Hwy 2 along the shores of Lake Michigan. We love northern Michigan but it sure would be nice if it was a little closer to the mountains. We stopped at a rest area along the lake and parked behind a caravan of RVers with Idaho license plates. They were all taking pictures and walking the beach in awe. We take for granted how unique our great lakes are and how fortunate we are to live surrounded by them. It truly is a wonder of the world. When whenever we see the Mackinaw Bridge we know we're on the home stretch. Even our cats were acting different today. They must have smelled home in the air.


For those of you going on a color tour of northern Michigan I highly recommend taking Hwy.

119 out of Harbor Springs, through the Tunnel of Trees to Cross Village, and make sure you check out the Bliss General store. Even though the trees weren't showing their peak colors it was still a nice route home.
It's hard to believe we traveled 5,500 miles in thirty days. We have lots of good memories and many new friends. When we first start a trip it takes a few days to get into the swing of things. Being with your spouse 24/7 can be a challenge but after a while it's not so bad. Finding your way around some areas can be difficult. There are times when you get lost, or miss a turn, or turn onto a dead end or a parking lot too small to turn around. For a motorhome pulling a car that is not good. But, you learn to roll with the punches. We don't have one of the fancy motorhomes with laundry, large kitchen and all the amenities of home, so it can be like roughing it sometimes -- but you get used to it. At least we're not in a tent. We've learned to always read the check list after stopping for a while. Once you've forgotten to lock the refrigerator, and food flies everywhere, you learn fast.  It's amazing how much more we read, write and relax when there is no television. We've taken the time to write a blog and it has connected us to so many people. And that has been rewarding. Now that we have everything figured out, we would like to keep going and head to warmer climates but it's back to reality, we'll get used to it. Its good to be home.
"Man, being man and an ambulatory creature with a degree of restlessness in his blood, must be up and gone from time to time. He must go, if only to assure himself that the horizon has no boundary. What are hills for if not to have a farther side? But once one has gone, one must come back.  And that is the final satisfaction of the trip, whether it is a vacation or just a journey -- the return itself. The homecoming." -- Hal Borland

Dick’s Comments:
Once we left the Badlands National Park I felt our pilgrimage to America’s wild places was over. There are few National Parks between South Dakota and home and none that we had time to visit. It was hammer down directly east. I was looking forward to a color tour across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan but we arrived a few days too early. Jack Frost was just beginning to get his brilliant palette fired up. We finished the trip the same way we started with a pasty at our favorite roadside rest area along Little Traverse Bay, south of Petoskey, Michigan. It was a real pasty too! Anyone can make a pasty but to be a true Yooper pasty it has to come from someone with an attitude. When Gaila bought these two it was from an Escanaba woman with veins of lard and ice water for blood. Every time Gaila would ask a question she would answer, but she had that look on her face that screamed out contempt. I knew she was thinking, “Ask me one more question and I’ll break your legs, eh.” 










Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NATIONAL PARKS




When we visit the National Parks we feel like we're home. Since our last blog entry, we drove to Devils Tower in Wyoming; America's first National Monument. In previous traveling years we've skirted this place but never visited. In the middle of mostly flat country is this huge rock, jutting out of the earth, measuring 867 ft from its base and 1000 ft in diameter. You may remember seeing it in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We camped below it in a quiet little campground in the curve of the Belle Fourche River. In the evening we went to a ranger talk and in the dark someone pointed out a light on the side of Devils Tower. These were climbers that apparently had miscalculated their time and the ranger said they were also repelling down the most difficult side. More than 5,000 climbers come here every year from all over the world to ascend the massive columns. There are rescue rangers on duty but the one assigned for that day went to bed; tired of waiting for them to reach the bottom. According to the ranger they would have heard them yell or received a call from their cell phone if they had a problem.
After 35 years of marriage, Dick and I still have communication problems. His plan was "to walk the 1-1/2 miles to the visitor center and then take the loop around the tower." What he didn't say was we'd be hiking 1-1/2 miles of switchbacks up the side of a mountain to get there. I must admit it was a beautiful climb looking back down over the valley and the river. I'm actually getting better at this uphill climbing. I've acclimated to the higher elevation and I've hiked many trails on this trip that have strengthened my up hill climbing muscles.
Devils Tower is also a sacred site to American Indian tribes throughout the U.S. We saw several prayer bundles along the trail. I really wanted to stay longer but we decided we'd better keep going since we need to be home in a week and we still have so much we want to see.
We traveled next to Wind Cave National Park in Wyoming, seeing lots of wildlife - buffalo, prairie dogs, elk, turkeys, mule and white tail deer, antelope, mountain bluebirds etc.... We went to the evening program and the energetic ranger tells the audience of around 40 people that she would like us to follow her by car to a prairie where we could listen to the elk bugling. As we walked out into this field in the dark, we passed buffalo and walked around prairie dog holes, and then everyone sat very still under the stars and listened to the bugling in the distance. One of the reasons we love the National Parks so much is the ranger led walks and talks. We learn so much and we meet great people. So this leads me to the best part of the bugling experience. As you know, from Dick's last blog, the starter on the Saturn is shot. After too many arguments trying to push start it, we have decided to just keep it hooked up to the motorhome until we get home. Consequently, we needed a ride to the prairie bugling. A couple, who recently moved to South Dakota from Louisiana, willingly volunteered. After an evening of talking and laughing to and from the prairie, we exchanged contact information and Robin even had Dick take a picture of she and I for her Facebook. Great people. It reminded us that oftentimes good things come from bad situations. I didn't mind that our Saturn wasn't starting.
We were up before sunrise and the prairie dogs so we could see wildlife as we headed for the Badlands National Park. A unique beauty of its own, this place is located in southwestern South Dakota, and consists of nearly 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires with a grass prairie mixed in. It's hard to believe there is anything living in this arid place but it is home to so much wildlife.
This is the last national park on this trip. Now we are looking forward to getting to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enjoying the beautiful fall colors, but know we have three long days of driving to get there. 






Dick's Comments: Coming out of Cody, Wyo. I again tested the motorhome transmission getting up, over and through the Big Horn Mountains. That type of climbing sucks the petro, but worth the price of admission. We love the little town of Ten Sleep at the base of the Big Horns. Ten Sleep got its name by being ten sleeps (nights) between the Great Sioux Camps and the Platte River to the South, and the northern camp located near Bridger, Montana. We always feel like we have arrived home when we enter National Parkland. Devils Tower was no exception. We are so incredibly fortunate that these areas were set aside and protected for generations to come. 
Besides the vast array of wildlife viewing opportunities in Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, the caves themselves are fun to explore with a ranger. We didn’t do a cave tour on this trip, but instead spent our time hunting for wildlife. 
It is so easy to start friendships when traveling. This trip has been no exception. We met an interesting family at Devils Tower who travel, home school their daughter and publish a magazine “Airtstream Life” online and in print. 
Another couple we met in Wind Cave became fast friends. In a short span of time we got acquainted, plus pulled over by park police. Dave and Robin and their lab puppy, Dakota, are avid hunters, especially bow hunting. Robin was telling us how she met Dave in a taxidermist shop. She actually set him up. “In hunting circles,” Dave says, “it’s called baiting.”  Robin’s girlfriend ran the taxidermy shop. Robin had her eye on Dave and told her girlfriend to call if he showed up in the shop. The call came in and Robin made a 911 whistle-run for the taxidermy shop. It only took one of cupid’s arrows from her quiver to bag her buck. The rest is history. We laughed so hard our sides hurt.
The park police pulled us over because a headlight was out. None of us had seat-belts on, Robin gave the officer expired proof of insurance and Dakota just wanted to lick him. He didn’t ticket us but we were so confused we missed the campground turnoff in the dark. I think we could make a lot more friends if we didn’t haul a car around with us. 
A trip out this way would not be complete without a traditional stop at “Wall Drug” and a loop through the Badlands. Our weather has been almost perfect on this trip but we were blown into the Badlands National Park. The wind and storms can be ferocious in the plains and especially here it seems. The last time we camped in Badlands National Park we watched a large troop of Boy Scouts take shelter in their vehicles as they watched their tents blow across the prairie like tumbleweeds. It comes with the territory I guess. A good place to earn your Long Tent Stake Merit Badge. --Keep Smilin 



Friday, September 25, 2009

MIGRATING EAST





The best part of our trip to Crater Lake National Park was the Oregon Scenic Byway heading east out of Roseburg. It was much needed after taking traffic congested Interstate 5 from Anacortes. Another remarkable thing about Oregon was they still pump your gas and wash your windshield. Something I hadn't seen in years. 



Touring Crater Lake National Park (Caldera Lake) with my sister and her husband for four days was great. They traveled from Foresthill, CA which was about a seven hour drive for them. The last time the guys had been together was in 1999 when Pat and Kathy and their two kids drove to Henry’s Lake, Idaho when Dick was hiking the Continental Divide Trail. So it was catch up time. Crater Lake is incredible. When I saw this huge deep crater, filled with water of the most beautiful shade of blue, my first expression was “this is amazing.”  It is the deepest lake in the U.S. and is an incredible sight to see. The four of us explored the park by foot and car. Driving in some areas of the park you are right on the edge with no guard rails. It was especially scary driving those two lane roads in the motorhome. We played lots of games, ate lots of food, enjoyed campfire talks and so much more. We vowed to see each other at least once a year from now on. 
On the next leg of our trip we drove two long days to reach the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks in Wyoming. Driving east through Oregon and Idaho we  stayed off the expressways as much as we could. Miles of mountainous areas through Oregon leading into flat onion and potato country and then into the mountains again. The aspen trees are a beautiful golden color and are so beautiful among the deep dark green of the pines. 
Just thought you'd like to know, the cats are still with us.



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

SIX DAYS WITH MAGGIE








Our visit with our daughter, Maggie, was great. For those of you who do not know, in May she sent emails, inquiring about work, to several B & B’s in the San Juan area of Washington. Out of those that responded there was one in Anacortes called The Ship House B & B that she decided was perfect for her. http://www.shiphouseinn.com/tour/index.htm She was so excited but I was a little worried. You know how mothers can be. Being the adventurous and brave spirit she is, she flew out on June 17. Now it looks as if she’ll stay indefinitely. We understand why. The man she works for, Oggie, is special. The two of them make a good team running the B & B. He and his wife, Bette, are very kind and take good care of her. She is part of the family now. There was never a dull moment the six days we visited. Maggie stayed busy cooking and cleaning but when there were no guests there was plenty of time for sight-seeing with her parents. She loves the town and has made so many friends. We ate at a couple of her favorite places but also had some great seafood meals at the B & B. The Ship House B & B sits high on a cliff overlooking the ocean and the San Juan Islands. WOW - what an amazing view and sunsets. Maggie and I had mother and daughter time too. We went berry picking and enjoyed berries everyday. They seem to be bigger and more abundant out west. Visiting over coffee is one of our favorite things to do and she took me to a coffee shop she loves “The Supreme Bean.” We had hoped to take a ferry to Orcas Island but only fit in one ferry trip to Guemes Island where we went beach combing for agates. It was difficult saying good-bye but knowing how happy she is and seeing she is in a good place made it easier. The next morning we headed south to Oregon to meet up with my sister and brother-in-law in Crater Lake National Park.



Dick’s Comments:
What a great time we had in Anacortes. I was just getting into “Island Time” when we had to leave. I guess when you live on an island you begin to move like a sloth. I think it might be the ferry schedule, you have to get used to waiting. It’s a tough life. I slept in a hammock overlooking the best sunset in all of North America. I told Oggie I was his backup. Every time I climbed out of the hammock I said, “Hey Oggie, I’m back up!” One of Oggie’s favorite lines when he wants to rest is, “I’m going to measure my bed.”
They fed us like Kings and made us feel like family. Oggie is a real captain. He goes “garage sailing” every Friday. You should see the treasure he comes home with. The Ship House is all decked out in a nautical theme and I spent several days constantly discovering new things. Bette is a real sweetheart and Maggie loves helping her. We had six days of laughter. Maggie was always doing her Julia Child’s impersonation in the kitchen, especially the wine drinking part. A trip to the Ship House wouldn’t be complete without meeting “Popeye” and we did--Steve actually, a good friend of Oggie and Bette who visits often and brings all kinds of goodies and helps wherever he can. He has been helping Oggie build on to the B&B for a long time. I wanted to warn him before I left that Oggie bought 1400 bricks at a garage sale last week. Enough to build a new “Brick Ship House.”
We also met many of Maggie’s new friend’s, Elena, Casey and Billy.
Just before we arrived Maggie’s good friend Kelly moved out to Anacortes from Michigan and is rooming with Maggie and working in town at an Italian restaurant. Maggie is glad to have her aboard. It would take a lot more than six days to truly explore this area, but we did fit a lot in.   



Thursday, September 17, 2009

MONTANA AND MORE

While Dick was backpacking for three days in Glacier NP, I enjoyed some alone time. I took a short hike through the campground and watched a mother black bear with her three cubs eating berries. Believe me, I wasn’t too close, they were specks on a mountainside. I went to a couple campfire programs. It was wonderful sitting outdoors in the evening, overlooking Lake McDonald with the mountains as a backdrop, listening to the stories and songs by Jack Gladstone, a Blackfoot Indian www.jackgladstone.com  We heard him for the first time when we were here in 1997. His music is magical.
Another evening a ranger (Pat Hagan) stripped down (he did an actual strip show) to a goat costume and gave a talk on what a mountain goat’s life is like - a very humorous and entertaining evening I must say. We were parked at Medicine Lake CG when Dick left on the hike but he planned to hike down to the Southwest corner of the park so I moved down to West Glacier. Driving the motorhome with the Saturn in tow was a piece of cake. After driving it for five months when he hiked the CDT in 1999, it was like second nature. The weather was damp and cold and windy part of the time and I wondered what it must be like for Dick up in the higher elevations. I kept reassuring myself that if he hiked 3,800 miles from Mexico to Canada he could handle any kind of weather. I was also concerned because he was going to search for the body of the young man who never returned after backpacking last summer. GREAT! My parents planned to camp nearby until he returned and then head south for warmer weather. I cooked one of Dick’s favorite meals and the four of us celebrated his return. The next morning we headed west stopping in Whitehorse to find our nephew, Kevin Mallery.
He is living and working out here and it was great taking a couple hours to catch up. We crossed into Idaho and found a great campground along the Priest River. We were so excited to see several owls perched on telephone poles along Hwy. 2. We weren’t sure what kind they were and asked our campground host, who was from Texas, if he knew what they were. He says, “Oh, those are Hoot owls.” It was tough keeping straight faces as we thanked him and walked away. So the next morning we drove a little slower and get a better look at them. With the daylight we could see they were fakes. Dick’s comment was, “Them ain’t hoot owls, them’s pole-out-the-butt owls.”
We took the scenic Hwy. 20 across Washington. Several mountain passes and scenic overlooks and it cuts through the beautiful North Cascades National Park which was a first for us. We were full-time RV’ers, working our way around the country, from 1978 to 1986, visiting 49 states, and there are still so many places we haven’t seen. 
We made a rule never to drive after dark but as we got closer to Anacortes and Maggie we broke the rule AGAIN. We arrived at the campground around 8:30PM (as Dick says, “Dark:30”). There were no lights and it was so dark as we drove up the entrance road. It was a narrow, first gear, climb and we were wondering what we were getting into. It’s not always easy finding a spot to camp for our size motorhome with a car, especially in the dark. We didn’t want to have to unhook the car. All of a sudden out of nowhere a man with white hair and a flashlight was directing us into a pull through camping space. I thanked him for his help and we never saw him again. When I mentioned this to the campground ranger he wondered who that could have been. It must have been an angel helping us. When daylight came we saw how beautiful the place was. Lush, green and surrounded by huge Douglas Fur and Ponderosa Pines. This would be our home for the six days we visited Maggie.




Sunday, September 6, 2009

GLACIAL PARADISE

Dick loves to watch for the Empire Builder (Amtrak from Chicago to Seattle) as we cross the prairie. He has ridden that out to Glacier in the fall a couple times.  I think his fascination with trains started when his Dad woke up the whole family one night to watch the Zephyr (Amtrak Chicago to LA) go past their Airstream on one of their western trips when he was a kid. He’s always talking about jumping a train. I think he must have been a hobo in one of his past lives. The tracks follow Hwy. 2 almost the whole trip and we did see the Empire Builder pass us a few times.
After a couple long days on the road, through the breadbasket of America, passing through the geographical center of North America, and then under the big sky of Montana, we finally made it to paradise. Glacier National Park is incredible. We hiked around Two Medicine Lake that began at our campground. The 8 mile trail went through beautiful spruce forests and fields of wildflowers. We even ate a few raspberries and thimble berries along the way. We visited with several other hikers so it took a few hours more than it should have. It’s always fun meeting people as we travel. This morning as we walked up to the ranger station we were greeted by a woman carrying her mug of coffee and walking her little poodle at the end of a leash. She says, “Where are the bears? That’s what I wanna know. I came all this way so I want a picture of a bear.” Dick says, “Just keep trolling with that dog and you might just find one.”
One interesting couple we met on the trail were from Switzerland and had traveled to the U.S. on a container ship. They landed in Jacksonville, FL., bought a small motorhome and have been traveling across the country. Next they go to LA, sell the motorhome and take another container ship to Australia. They said it wasn’t cheap, but like a floating hotel with great food. 
We did meet up with my parents here and there along Hwy 2 and have connected again with them here at Glacier. They know where all the “FREE” campgrounds and dump stations are. They will be with us until Tuesday when we head west to Washington and they’ll head for California to visit my sister and brother. 
**I’m reading a book The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin, the author of Devil in the White City. While traveling through North Dakota where you see nothing for miles and miles it is hard to believe what took place in this region in the 1880’s. For those of you who like reading historical books, I recommend this one.


Dick’s Comments
Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes but North Dakota is the land of a billion pot holes. I mean that in a good way. They dot the farmland across the state and this time of the year as well as spring they are loaded with migrating ducks. There’s a thousand miles of  wheat between Minnesota and the Rockies. It must have been amazing to travel this stretch of the globe in a covered wagon through tall grass that would hide an Indian on a paint pony. 
Traveling in the Electronic Age. I spent a month before we left trying to figure out the best way to stay connected and able to run our book business on the road. I discovered what I pretty much already knew--the cell phone company plans are the next best thing to bank robbery. I finally decided on the lesser of several evils. It used to be, “The customer is always right.” The new motto for many corporations is “The customer is always stupid.” That’s probably why so many of them are going bankrupt. Our cell service is Altell which was bought out by Verizon. We ended up with an internet data card from Altell which turned out to be faster than the Charter Cable we HAD at home. Yes, we fired Charter. Now Gaila is chatting online with her sister in California while I’m driving across the plains of Montana. I can see from horizon to horizon and can’t pick out a single tower, yet she has big pipe internet service flowing through the laptop. Amazing. We grandfathered into Altell before the switch this fall to Verizon. Much better and cheaper data plans. I thought we would be going back to the old dial-up speed so this has been a pleasant surprise. We can use it on our home computer--IF WE COME HOME! 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

INTO THE PLAINS

Gaila's Blog
We are starting to get into the rhythm of the road. Some of our old stomping grounds have changed with time. We always stay at a little city campground in Ironwood, MI, right on the Wisconsin border. This trip our quiet little knoll in the woods had turned into a dirt bike sound machine. The fairgrounds behind the campground is now a dirt bike track. Instead of bird sounds we enjoyed an evening of unmuffled muffler goosing. Then at 7A.M. it started again.
We are not moving too fast. Quaint little up north towns keep inviting us in to explore. One we really enjoyed was Ashland, WI. There was a mural walk which was an artistic trip through Ashland’s history. It was so cool.  Make sure you click on all the pages to see all the amazing murals.
As we get closer to the plains the trees begin to shrink. Parts of Minnesota remind us of the Alaska Highway, very tundra looking. 
Funny Face is beginning to adjust to traveling. She has only upchucked once and comes out of her burrow beneath the shower every time we make a pit stop.
Dick is a rambling commentary. We passed a sign on a motel today that said, “$35 a night with a sign below it that read JESUS SAVES.” Dick added, “Everyone else pays full price.” 
We drove after dark last night for about an hour. Big mistake. The front of our nice clean motorhome now has a thick coating of kamikaze Minnesota bugs. We’re trying to catch up to my parents who are traveling in their camper. We figure they’re about 2 hours ahead of us and we’ll camp together tonight. They left Michigan two days before us and are heading for Glacier National Park too.
Dick's Comments
I have enjoyed the comments about the picture on Gaila’s Blog of the Mallery clan heading for Seattle in 1962. Yes, I was even good looking way back then. Gaila mentioned that trip being the beginning of my wanderlust, but it really began in 1957 at the age of 8 when my dad bought this Airstream directly from the factory in Jackson, Ohio. It was the beginning of many trips west with my family and Highway 2 across the northern spine of the country holds many memories for me. Several of them from the era of this picture. Pulling an Airstream travel trailer was kind of a novelty in those days. People would say, “What’s that tin can you’re hauling.” There were few commercial campgrounds back then. My dad would stop and ask small town businesses if we could park and plug into electricity. Often we camped at gas stations, but our favorites were the A&W Root Beer stands. We went through Bemidji, MN today. I remember sitting on the lap of Paul Bunyan and petting Babe the Blue Ox on that trip west. We never missed photo opportunities like that. 
The convertible with the wings was a 1959 Buick. The trailer was a 1957, 22 ft, Airstream. The dog (Duke) was a mutt, mostly collie. We got him from Uncle Vic. We never did get a horse--if you’re reading this Victor. The kid next to me, who used to beat me up a lot, is my much older brother Tom. He’s a great sailor now, but still a lousy golfer. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

SEATTLE OR BUST


The above picture is Dick and his family leaving Pontiac, MI for Seattle, WA and the World’s Fair in 1962. It was taken by a Michigan Bell Telephone photographer who was doing a story on Dick’s dad Ernie who worked for the company. From L to R -Bea, Dick, Duke, Tom and Ernie). I think this is where Dick got his wanderlust. 
We were all set to head out on our trip west today (Aug 31st--my birthday) and we were short one cat. Dick swore she had not jumped out while he was loading the motorhome. We spent a half-hour searching the whole rig and turned up no sign of Funny Face. I thought she wedged herself in a small space under the shower but Dick said no way could she fit in there. Oh well, if she bailed before we sailed that’s her problem. AWOL and on a mouse diet and living outdoors until we return. 
We drove north about 45 minutes and stopped at a little rest area on the shores of        Lake Michigan north of Charlevoix. There we had my birthday dinner. Pasties and wine, salad and a view. We toasted my birthday with a gift of wine from good friends in wine glasses designed and created by world renowned artist Richard A. Bruening of the Stained Glass Company in Acme. Etched into each glass was a picture of our motorhome and below that “On the road again.” 
Getting a late start we only made it to Flowing Well NF Campground west of Manistique,  off Hwy 2 where we took a peaceful three mile hike along the Sturgeon River, came home and had Elephant Tracks ice cream in place of a birthday cake, and then I received my final present for the day--get your mind out of the gutter. It was my missing cat. She finally surfaced once the motorhome stopped bouncing down the road. 


 CLICK FOR DICK HERE     Dick on work release but still tethered

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