Tuesday, September 29, 2009


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


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


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. 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


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  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


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


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.