Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Day 37 - Petaluma, CA to Boulder Creek, CA


We got up and headed off to San Francisco.  The City by the Bay.  Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge is exciting and expensive.  If you are towing, we recommend that you unhitch and drive across separately.  The cost will be less than 1/2 of the cost of driving your motorhome and tow vehicle across.  Driving a motorhome (towing or not) through San Francisco is an experience.  We headed down 19th Avenue and were glad to see that we weren't the most out-of-place vehicles driving through the City that day.  Evidently, there had been a horse show at the Cow Palace as we saw several huge pickups and horse trailers heading north as we headed south!

Once through the City, we headed over to Pacifica so we could cruise down the coast.  We wanted to avoid the Highway 17 at rush hour crowds and driving along the coast extended our vacation.  It was beautiful and we had Popeye's Fried Chicken for lunch in Half Moon Bay.

We approached Santa Cruz from the ocean and made our way to Scotts Valley where we picked up the dogs and then headed home, after profusely thanking Greg's mom and sister for watching them for us while we were gone.

The dogs were very glad to see us again and so, surprisingly, were Greg's mom and sister!

Home!  It's good to be home!

Day 36 - Gold Beach, OR to Petaluma, CA

Our drive out of Oregon and down into California is always bittersweet.  We look forward to getting home but want to prolong the trip as much as possible.  In a car, you could make the drive from Gold Beach to Boulder Creek in a long day but in the FMC it would be brutal and dangerous.  We enjoyed the drive down in the Coastal Redwoods of Northern California.  It looked like home and we loved breathing in the smell of the redwood trees.  We found some more yummy salmon at a roadside stand near Eureka.

We wanted to get as close to San Francisco as we could so we could have a leisurely start to the day and get through the City after the morning rush hour but before the afternoon traffic starts up again.  We ended up at Petaluma and stayed at their KOA.

They call themselves the KOA - San Francisco North.  It's quite a claim since they are an hour north of the City and smack in the dairy country of Petaluma.  We were pretty disappointed in this park.  Like many KOA's, they had a LOT of facilities -- petting zoo, playgrounds, bounce thingies, pool, and more.  It was noisy and huge and crowded.  We made one request when we checked in . . . we want a 50 amp site so we can run both our air conditioners.  It had been a HOT drive down California with no A/C while we were driving.  The young man who took my money assured me that that was no problem and he promised me we were getting a nice site.  This place is crazy expensive and we cashed in all our KOA rewards points here so he really could have accommodated my requests and gouged us on the price.  I'd have been fine with that.

Instead, we had a crappy site on the end of a row with no 50 amp service and no grass.  There was nothing at all nice about the site.  Going back to the office to complain and move seemed pointless when we were just staying for one night.  Still, we won't be back here willingly again.  And, if we do come, I'll book ahead on the internet so that we get what we asked for.

We had dinner in Petaluma at a nice brewery along the river and luxuriated in running the one A/C and using lots of wifi (which was terrible, too).

I guess, the point was to make us glad we were going home.

Day 35 & 36 - Manzanita, OR to Gold Beach, OR

We got up early and packed up and headed south.  We did laundry while Greg worked with an ocean view in a cute little oceanside town.  We stopped at Tillamook Cheese Factory while Greg went and did some printing for a client.  The kids and I had a great lunch (grilled cheese and tomato soup -- yum!) and we got milkshakes just as Greg got back so he scored one, too.

We cruised down the coast, stopping whenever we saw an open fish market that advertised smoked salmon!  Eventually, we made our way down to our favorite wild animal park in Bandon, OR.  If you are in the area, you have to come visit.  West Coast Game Park Safari is wonderful.  It is a walk through animal park with many animals that you can feed, pet, and play with.  They have baby wild cats that you can, in small groups, interact with up close and personal.  This year, they had a baby cougar and a baby bobcat.  So wonderful.  We also got to pet a baby brown bear and the usual suspects . . . white ferrets, blond skunks, raccoons, and baby opossums.  They are all impossibly cute and well worth a visit.

We started looking for a camping spot but didn't find anything that jumped out of us until we got near Gold Beach.  We were thinking about stopping there anyway because we'd heard such good things about the Rogue River Jet Boats.  We called ahead to Four Seasons and they promised to save us a spot.  They had a great spot on the water but were a little worried that we'd get our coach into it.  We weren't worried.  The FMC is highly maneuverable and we were motivated!  The managers could not have been nicer.  They got us settled in the site, booked us our tickets on Jerry's Jet Boats, and we settled in to eat some amazing salmon and cheese and other goodies we'd bought on our way down the coast.

There were several other old coaches in the park and we walked around and got a tour of the other coaches and several campers stopped by to tour ours as well.  It was such a friendly park.

The site was magnificent.  We were right on the water, overlooking the river.  We were a few steps from the boat ramp where we could walk down and stick our feet in the water and we could sit in front of the rig and enjoy the view of jet boats and fisherman cruising by on the water.  We decided pretty quickly to spend another night there.

In the morning, we got up early and headed into Gold Beach to get on our boat.  We'd planned to do the short run up the river (64 miles) but it was already full.  They decided to offer a shorter run that day and we had tickets for that.  We didn't go all the way up to Agness for lunch but turned around early and headed back.  This might have made for a boring drive but our driver made up for the lack of rapids and wild water but making his own rapids and getting us thoroughly wet and spun around.  It was SO much fun!  He also spotted lots of wild life along the river -- mostly otters and osprey but we got up close and personal with them which was really special!

We were exhausted after the ride and stopped to get lunch at a little mexican joint in Gold Beach.  The owners turned out to be from Seaside, CA before moving up to Gold Beach just a year earlier.  Small world.

We headed back to our riverside site and enjoyed our last night in Oregon.

Day 33 & 34 - White Salmon, WA to Manzanita, OR

The drive down the Columbia River Gorge from Hood River to Portland is really lovely.  This powerful river is very inspirational as it roars to the sea.  At Portland, we headed southwest a bit to make our way over the coastal range toward Manzanita, OR where one of our favorite campgrounds is -- Nehelam Bay State Park is a very special place.  We stayed here accidentally two years ago and vowed to come back.

Our visit this time wasn't quite as nice but it was still a great spot to camp.  We got there and saw, to our utter dismay, that they were full.  It's a circuitous route in to the park but we decided to risk it anyway.  We drove up to the gate where the sign still said, "Campground Full!"  and decided to ask.  No, we were told, they had room.  Okay then, we got the last site available.  If we stayed another night -- which we wanted to -- we'd have to move which was fine with us.

Our site for the first night was less than ideal but we made the best of it.  It backed up to one of the playgrounds which meant there were kids playing (which is lovely) and whining (which is not) all day. Now, if our kids were little, we'd have been THRILLED!  But, they aren't and we weren't.  Still, we determined to enjoy it and enjoy it we did.  The kids went to the beach with Greg.  I read and relaxed.  There was bike riding and reading.   Ruthie and I found a great little grocery store in Manzanita, the town just north of the the state park.  It was chock full of amazing treats and gourmet goodies.  We feasted that night in the fog and sea air.  We had a campfire and s'mores and wine by the fire.  Heaven.

The next day, we relaxed all morning while also packing up our gear.  Either we were leaving the campground at checkout time or we were changing sites at checkout time.  Greg and I took turns going and asking the rangers if there were any availabilities and finally we got a new site.

We moved to a different loop and settled in.  It was quieter and closer to the beach which was lovely.  Then a family moved in next door.  It was their teenage daughter's birthday so they had brought a bunch of her friends.  They were noisy and had atrocious language.  We ignored it when they were outside and hoped they'd all retreat to their tents early.  No such luck.  They went out onto the beach that night and set off fireworks (against park regulations) at about 11pm.  Wow, what a racket.    Oh well, we were soon back to sleep.

They say you can't go home again and it's true for campgrounds, too.  You'll never have the same experience again.  If you visit Nehelam Bay, I recommend that you book ahead through Reserve America.  You need to book three days in advance to get the site you want.  The outside of the loops near the ocean has the nicest sites.

We'll be back.  It's still an amazing place!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Day 32 - Clarkston, WA to White Salmon, WA (aka Hood River, OR)

We got an early start to minimize the driving we had to do in the heat of the day -- although it was still plenty hot while we were driving!  We headed down towards Pendleton, OR and then for the Columbia River.   Our goal for the night was Hood River, OR -- where my dad was raised.  We ended up across the river in White Salmon, WA because there weren't any private campgrounds in Hood River.  It's so close that it feels like the same town . . . just in a different state! 

Pendleton is a pretty sleepy town but we were hoping to get Greg a nice wool shirt for cold mountain weather.  We found the perfect one that fit him great.  We figure he'll break it in while we are on the Oregon Coast.  

One of the most interesting things we saw was an forest farm.  They grow a special fast-growing poplar and harvest them for specific purposes.  The trees are all in rows like an orchard but they are harvested for wood.  It's pretty amazing and huge.  

The Columbia River Gorge is utterly beautiful.  Above Hood River, it's very desert-y and below Hood River, there are many more trees.  The river itself is huge and deep and lovely.  In the Hood River area, under the watchful eye of Mt Hood, kite surfers fill the river with color and life.  

After we settled in our campground, we went to have dinner at a great little brew pub in Hood River.  We had great food and really enjoyed looking out over the town and the river.  Gage and I even got in a game of Cribbage (although Gage gets so much "help" from Greg that I feel like I am playing him instead!).  

After dinner, we got some ice cream (mmmmm, Huckleberry ice cream!!!) and then took a drive down to the water.  These paddleboarders were coming in -- I enjoyed their passenger!  

Hood River is such a cool town.  We'll have to come back when we can spend more time here.  

Day 31 - Missoula, MT to Clarkston, WA

We got an early start out of Missoula.  We planned to take another byway (of course).  Highway 12 out of Missoula crosses the state of Idaho and ends up in Clarkston (or near enough to nevermind).  What a beautiful drive!

We love byways!

Driving into the storm.

Idaho is a beautiful state.

At lunch, we stuck our feet in the Clearwater River.  

It was windy and hilly the whole way -- more than we anticipated -- but, Greg is used to driving on roads like that and it was so beautiful along Lolo Creek that we didn't mind.  We drove into a storm as we drove over the Bitterroots -- lots of rain and even some thunder and lightning which was exciting.  Eventually, as we came down the other side, the sky turned blue and it got warm.  We ended up travelling along the beautiful Clearwater River that travels across Idaho.

The border between Idaho and Washington runs down the Snake River.
The twin cities of Lewiston and Clarkston were our destination for the night.  We found a great little campground at a marina on the Snake River and restocked on groceries.

Day 30 - Glacier National Park to Missoula, MT

Leaving Glacier was painful.  It is so beautiful and there is always more to do there.  It's a long way to get to Glacier but so worth it.

We had lots of choices on our route but decided that we'd go down to Missoula.  We decided to take a byway (we love those!) along Flathead Lake.  What an amazing, huge lake!  We drove down the eastern side of the lake where much of the land is filled with cherry orchards. Unfortunately, the roads were tiny so stopping and getting fresh cherries right from the orchard wasn't easy and we decided to skip it for the day.  It was a beautiful drive though.

Missoula is a college town and has lots going on there.  We had dinner at Fuddruckers -- yum!  As we walked up to the restaurant, we realized that we'd eaten there two years ago too -- and yes, we sat at the same table!

We had hoped to stay at a nice little campground that got great reviews but it was full when we stopped there.  We ended up just down the street at another Jellystone Park.  It was nicer than the one in Colorado and a good overnight stop for us.  They had a pool and nice restrooms so it wasn't a complete loss!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 29 - Glacier National Park (US) and Waterton National Park (Canada)

Glacier National Park is half of a Peace Park with Waterton National Park in Canada.  There is a lovely drive that goes up to Waterton.  We drove up there and met some very polite people there although no one apologized to us.

The Millers in Canada!  

Waterton is in Alberta province.  The fascinating thing about this park is that there is a village in the middle of it.  So beautiful.  We had a lovely lunch there and then did a little shopping.  We took a drive in the park up to a lovely lake.

What a cute village! 

We didn't kayak here but lots of people were enjoying the water.

And then headed back to the US.  This is the second time we've done a "run to the border" for a day trip to Canada.  The border guards on both sides are so surprised that someone would drive to another country for lunch.  Well, that's just us . . . we're unusual that way!

If you get up to Glacier, we highly recommend that you make a day trip up there, too!  Even if you get strange looks from the border guards.

Day 28 - Glacier National Park

Our site at Glacier
Ruth turned 14 today.  We had french toast for breakfast.  Love it when we have a family birthday.  Yummy breakfasts!

We went out on Two Medicine Lake.  Near the campground, there is a camp store and a small rental marina. The kids were in kayaks and Greg and I shared a canoe.  First of all, canoes are very tippy -- at least this one was.  It was crazy.  We did not dump into the icy glacier-fed lake but we really felt that if we sneezed the wrong way, we'd be swimming!

Gage getting set in his kayak.

Ruth was a kayaking machine. 

Off she goes!

They've kayaked before in the Sierras so they are old pros!

The lake was so lovely!

It was so beautiful on the lake.  We had some sore shoulders when we were done but everyone agreed that it was worth it.

After lunch, we took a long drive.  Glacier Park has an amazing road called the Going to the Sun Road.  It goes through the heart of the park, over a dramatic pass, past two enormous glacier-made (and fed) lakes.

These are some Big Horn Sheep hanging out on a glacier.

The mountains are so beautiful. 

As you can see, I was totally dressed for hiking on a glacier!

We stopped at the pass and walked up on to one of the glaciers.  I hadn't planned to climb the glacier myself but then I heard someone walking by talking about the Rocky Mountain Goat that was up there and off I went.  Greg and the kids were up there and saw it first.  The goat was heading back down towards me at the same time they were heading down as well.  I got some good pictures and then the goat decided to cross the path that all the people were on. Wow.

Hey there, you old goat!  

I have to say that I wasn't overly impressed with many of the other people on glacier that day.  From the guy who was stalking up to the goat to snap a close-up picture to the several people who ignored the "no dogs" signs and brought their dogs up to the glacier where the goat was tromping around.  Argh . . .

Anyway, once we were on the road again, we were pretty impressed with the scenery.  The road was under construction which was cool because we were stopped for about 20 minutes at the Weeping Wall.  The water just seeps out of the cliff face.  It's beautiful and amazing.  Flowers were growing on the rocks and the water was so cold!  

Watching creeks and rivers appear right out of the mountain.

Yes, that's the road you see cutting up that mountain.

The drive was truly spectacular.   And the best part was that at the end, we turned around and did it again.  As we drove, we were, of course, looking for wildlife along the way. We'd seen one of the species we'd really hoped for at Glacier (Rocky Mountain Goat) but still hadn't seen a Moose.  Imagine our glee when Gage shouted . . . "A MOOSE!!!!"  Greg pulled a u-turn and then another and we pulled over to see not one, but two moose.  Wow!



It was a really special day . . . Happy birthday, little girl! 

There's the birthday girl with her proud dad.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 27 - Havre, MT to Glacier National Park

We were so anxious to get to Glacier.  None of us has ever been to this park but we've heard so much about how wonderful it is.  The drive from Havre to Glacier was hot and long.

Much of it is inside the Blackfoot Indian Reservation.  We passed several historical markers and -- when we had 3G -- we'd check the story behind the sites.  Some of the stories made us so sad -- the Baker Massacre, for instance.  Sometimes, telling your children about the history of the United States is a very hard thing to do.

Still, seeing the glacier covered peaks getting bigger and bigger and clearer and clearer was very exciting.  

We had decided to stay at Two Medicine campground with is sort of like a separate park to the south of the main park.  It was quieter and we were glad we made that our base.  We got there and got a site with a view of the water (there are three lakes that make up the Two Medicine group).  

Gage and I went down to the water to see how cold it was . . . and it was cold ... as you can see below!  

Gage dunks in Two Medicine Lake at Glacier National Park

We were really impressed with that evening's program at the campground.  A Blackfoot musician, Jack Gladstone,  and his friend came and performed.  The performance was a combination of storytelling, his views on history and religion, and his original songs.  It was fantastic!  He founded the program "Native America Speaks" that has lasted about 30 years at Glacier!  If you get a chance to hear Jack Gladstone perform . . . do it!  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day 26 - Glasgow, MT to Havre, MT

We packed up and got ready in the morning and then drove the motorhome down into Glasgow to a car wash place we'd seen.  We washed both the motorhome and our car.  They looked SO much better when that was done.  Then, we got some Dairy Queen for lunch and ate near the elementary school in town.  Pretty, shady, quiet.

We were killing time.  Stu at Tire-rama expected our tires to arrive around 1pm on UPS so shortly after 1, we headed over there.  They weren't there yet but we hung out and shot the breeze with Stu in the cool air conditioning until they arrived.  They put the two new tires on my car and we were off.

We drove down the High Line of Montana.  When the railroads went in, this was the line that ran across the top of Montana and thus, it was called the High Line or Hi-Line as some signs had it.  It's pretty country.  Top of the plains, lots of ranches and open spaces.

Our goal for the night was Havre, Montana.  It is pronounced "have-er" like "do you want to have 'er now or have 'er later?"

Oh yes, we crack ourselves up sometimes.

We found a good overnight rv park where Greg was able to get a couple of hours of work in.  The kids got to swim.  I did laundry.  It was a good overnight.  We are excited to be close to Glacier.

Day 25 - Glasgow, MT

Another hot day in Glasgow today.  We’ve had some road damage to our cars and wanted to get some of it fixed today -- the FMC has two chips in the windshield and we don’t want them to get worse so we went to AAA Glass in Glasgow and they fixed the chips for us.  We were going to take the car too so we could drive around and maybe visit the museum as we waited for the chip repair.  Unfortunately, my car had a flat tire when we went out to start it.  Ouch.  
Later in the day, we changed to the spare and drove over to Tire-rama where Stu helped us out.  He didn’t have our size in stock but ordered them to be UPSed by tomorrow so we can get on our way.  We may end up spending a third night in Glasgow between the tire repair and the fact that Greg has a conference call in the afternoon -- cell coverage isn’t as reliable in northern Montana as it was in the southern part of the state and in the Dakotas.  
We had dinner at Eugene’s again -- chicken dinner this time.  Delicious!  We got 3 pieces of fried chicken, salad, jo-jo’s, dinner rolls, and ice cream for less than $10.  The kids had pizza again and ate every bite!  What a great place!  I’m glad I bought a tee-shirt from them so I’ll remember them fondly!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Day 24 - TRNP - North Unit, Walford City, ND to Glasgow, MT

So, Walford City, ND is a boom town.  Instead of a gold rush, they are experiencing an oil rush.  The Bakken oil field may end up being bigger than Prudoe Bay and the boom is on.    Lots of young workers have shown up in their pickups to work and the community is dealing with it as best they can by providing housing in the form of trailer/rv parks in numbers you can’t quite believe.  As we continued north towards Williston, ND, it only got worse.  More and more and more oil boom.  To be fair, we saw lots of signs of how it’s helping the community -- lovely new city parks with new playground equipment show clearly how the financial life of the whole community is being lifted up but the social changes must be quite a shock.  

Housing and services in North Dakota

New housing springing up all over the place -- some of it nicer than others; none of it substantial

Big signs about the "Housing" -- these are a bunch of small, white trailers

We were relieved to turn west and cross into Montana.  The boom hasn’t hit there (yet?) and we were back to quite ranchland and tiny ranch towns again. We were traveling on a Sunday and guess what . . . Nothing but nothing is open on a Sunday.  Even driveins and diners are usually closed on Sundays.  
We were so glad to find that Scoops Drivein in Culbertson, MT was open that we didn’t even mind waiting for a table and our food.  Everyone was there.  I know it’s the day of rest and all but the local restaurants are missing a bet . . . The few that are open clean up on Sundays!  
We drove through the Fort Peck Indian Reservation -- their biggest town is Wolf Point which is home to a famous rodeo . . . That my mom remembers going to back in the day!  It’s this coming weekend but, no, we aren’t staying around to watch it! 
We pulled in to Glasgow and checked out two of the three campgrounds in town.  We ended up choosing the Cottonwood Inn & RV Park because it had 50 amp service so we could run our air conditioning (it’s 98 during the day here) and it had a pool for the kids!  
We got settled, got the AC running, and headed out to explore town.  We couldn’t find the Penny’s where my mom glanced at the bank of TVs and learned about JFK’s assassination but we did enjoy the charming downtown.  Then, we headed north to where the Glasgow Air Force Base used to be.  
I was born in Glasgow, MT in March of 1964.  My father, Jack Donaldson, was stationed there with a fighter wing for about 3 years.  My mother, a young bride, had two kids, 17 months apart.  We left when I was around 3 and my dad was transferred to a base in England.  I don’t remember living in Glasgow but I’ve got images in my head from pictures that we saw.  
I didn’t know what to expect.  I’ve driven around the abandoned parts of Fort Ord near Monterey (here are some pictures I took there -- http://www.flickr.com/photos/lizalee/sets/72157630507181648/ ) but I know the weather is much harsher in Montana than in Monterey!  We thought there was a decent chance that nothing would be there.  But, as we got close to where we thought it was, we saw some buildings and trees and sure enough, there it is.  A town in the middle of the prairie -- it’s been renamed St Marie, Montana and there are people living out there trying to make a go of it.  
I say trying because they aren’t completely successful.  Evidently, the developers who bought the buildings from the Air Force ran out of funding and a lot of the buildings are not lived in.  There are two homeowners associations and much of the property is well cared for but much of it is completely abandoned and falling to ruin.  We saw swallows flying into buildings with missing doors and zipping out of sight down hallways.  

Tower at former Glasgow AFB

This is the hospital where I was born in 1964

Love the post-modern detailing on the front door

Some of the houses are in better repair and many are being lived in

Avenue H - we lived on this street when I was born

Avenue H housing
We drove around for a while and then drove back to where we had cell service and I called my mom to find out if she could remember addresses . . . Just one street name.  We lived on Avenue H for awhile.  We did find that street and took some pictures but . . .  Who knows.  We found the hospital where I was born.  It’s abandoned and falling apart.  The runway, hangers, tower, and similar buildings are being used by Boeing as a research facility so they are in good repair.  

We found a resident who talked to us about it and was as nice as he could be.  He recommended a couple of restaurants in town and we ended up eating at Eugene’s Pizza which was established in 1962 -- wonder if I was ever there as a child.  The owners are really nice brothers who made me feel like an honored native daughter!  Everyone we’ve talked to here has been great.  

Day 23 - TRNP - North Unit, Walford City, ND

We had a leisurely morning.  We weren’t sure what we were going to do.  There is a 2 hour scenic drive through the South Unit - where we were - and we thought we might do that drive and then stay one more night there but ultimately we decided to pack up after we did the drive and then go to the North Unit near Walford City, ND.  
The park campground doesn’t have electric hookups and allows campers to run their generators.  To be fair, we ran ours for 10 minutes to brew my coffee but one of our neighbors ran their generator all day and well past the 8pm cut-off time.  We hoped it would be quieter at the northern unit.  
The drive was beautiful -- we saw some lovely scenery, wild horse (near our campsite!) and buffalo in the distance.  
Wild Horse in our campground.  Bison roam there too but I'm kind of glad we saw the horses!

It's not as dangerous as it looks but she likes to climb to the top!  Future Peak Bagger?

Father and son exploring . . . 

The Bad Lands of North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Another wild horse at TRNP - South Unit

Then we headed north.  

North Dakota is experiencing an oil boom and it is changing the nature of the state.  There are definitely good changes and not so good ones.  It’s fascinating to drive along this lovely ranch land and see an oil well working away.  More troubling are the huge gas burn-offs lighting up the sky, visible for miles.  We drove north seeing more and more signs of the changing nature of North Dakota. 

What the frac?
We definitely made the right call on going to the North Unit though -- it was quieter and prettier than the busier South Unit (which is right on Highway 94).  We enjoyed their loop drive.  Ruth and I went into Walford City to by groceries and we settled in for a quiet night of playing cards.  Cribbage is our family game of choice and this time, the girls won.  Unlike when the boys win, we did not get a stuff skunk and “spray” it at the losers!