More Family Time in Kalifornia

I know, it’s been a while since my last post. So, for all of you non-family member readers, this is about to be one of the all-time boring-est blog posts you could imagine (hint/warning: many photos of grandkids to follow). We had the last of our big appointments in Redding, CA for some minor repairs on Rosie the Bus. We made the reservations with Martin Hveem Restoration & Coaches after seeing a recommendation by Bob Tiffin himself. So into Redding we went, splitting time between Win-River Casino RV lot and Jeanne’s brothers Dwayne & David (another big thanks to both for their hospitality and patience). As far as the repair work getting done, they did an OK job on most tasks. The only problem – we needed two of four of our slide toppers to be replaced and they completed that, except they replaced the wrong side, rear topper. But I have to say, Hveem made good on the error by refunding the cost of the back topper, basically giving us an unneeded slide topper replacement for free. I’m still smh…

A reminder of our homesite at the Win-River Casino in Anderson, CA

We had a good visit with Dave and Dwayne and their families and we actually got a little sightseeing in with Dave. We took him up to Castle Lake near Lake Siskiyou, then stopped off at Dunsmuir Brewery Works for lunch in the big megalopolis of Dunsmuir. The MH repairs, a few good BBQ’s, a night at the local FFA fundraising auction, a little cash donation action at the casino, and in no time almost 4 weeks gone in a flash.

We then continued southbound to the land of grandkids and our first stop, the Sonoma County Fairgrounds RV lot in Santa Rosa, stomping grounds for 7 y.o. grandson Maximus. School interferes a bit with quality grandchild time, we were pretty much limited to weekend time only. So we made the best of it, hitting the local batting cages for some batting practice. Max got to do a little rock painting & hiding at the RV lot (part of the facebook group “RVers Rock!”), then we hit the fairgrounds for a traveling event called “Pumpkin Nights”. Max got to dress up in his Halloween garb and join the rest of the little ones attending the event. We got a very limited visit with Max this time, but we will see him & his family again at the end of November for T-Giving & his 8th B-Day celebrations when they meet us at Cousin Hailey & Ellie’s house in Atascadero.

Speaking of Atascadero (segue…), there we went. Next stop we landed back at the Atascadero Elk’s Lodge. We were ecstatic to find they increased their stay limits at the RV lot to 2-weeks per month. With our plans to include staying in the area until the end of the month, we jumped between 3 facilities – the Elk’s, a short stint at Cava Robles RV Resort, and the Paso Robles RV Ranch, all places we have stayed many times before.

Our stay here included a whole lotta playground time for 3 y.o. granddaughter Haily and 1 y.o. granddaughter Ellie. We hit a neighborhood park, the playground at Cava Robles, including some pool time, and a couple of private playground businesses, Hop’s Bounce House and Mighty Munchkins Play Zone. The girls did their level best to try and wear out Oma & Opa…

Since we were here during Halloween, Hailey helped me carve up a Jack-o’-Lantern for their porch. The town of Atascadero does a nice Halloween night event by closing off Entrada Av. to traffic and the local businesses set up trick-or-treat venues (their actual shop or a booth) for the kids to do trick-or-treating. We accompanied Hailey & Ellie (oh yeah, mommy & daddy too) as they did the deed and scored buckets full of treats.

So a while back Chad got us hooked into a beer app called “Untappd” (sic). It keeps track of your favorite beers, lets you rate beers, compare your ratings to a global average, in other words all things beer. Chad informed us of a possible gold mine for craft beers called “The Backroom” in Solvang, CA. On one of our “non-grandchild” days we loaded Woodrow Wilson up and did a roadtrip to Solvang to find The Backroom. It is just a little hole-in-the-wall, small beer store up front, a home brewers equipment store downstairs, and the taproom in the back, behind a painted fake bookcase used as the door. We scored a couple of craft brews to take home and sample with Chad, had a nice pizza lunch from Solvang Brewery Co., and tasted a couple of offerings from The Backroom. A visit to Solvang would be incomplete without a short walk around the scenic Danish themed town.

Chad has a particular favorite brewery in Monterey, “Alvarado St. Brewing”, that he had been meaning to check out. We made it happen in a mini-adventure for Hailey and her dad. We loaded both of them up and drove Rosie down to stay at the Moss Landing KOA. While there we visited several of the local craft breweries, including Alvarado St., and spent some top-quality time at the beach chasing waves and seal-watching for Hailey. Included in this fun package was a couple of hours at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Hailey was in hog-heaven.

So that catches you up to date. Time to start getting ready for Thanksgiving, hope you all have some good quality family time and pleasant gastric experiences! Until next post…

Cheers!

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A Stopover in Vancouver

Jeanne had found out about a lot of stuff to do in and around Vancouver/WA & Portland/OR (both pretty much the same city, just divided by the Columbia River), so we set our sights on the Vancouver Elks Lodge for a few days’ stay. Unfortunately, the weather was horrendous for doing outdoor activities, lots of rain off and on. But we gave it the good ol’ college try. After our (5) hour drive and initial set up, first on our itinerary was to hit a brewery we had heard about (OK, our son Chad sent us on a beer shopping spree…) called Great Notion Brewing. We braved the absolutely horrible driving conditions (traffic, plus rain, plus drivers with HUA) and found Great Notion. They had a pretty good selection of brews and I found (3) porter/stouts to be worthy…Double Stack, Cake Party, and Hot Fudge Saturday. Unfortunately, they don’t distribute much, particularly the Cake Party and Hot Fudge Saturday, beers that are limited in production and usually “tapped out” fairly quickly. But at least I got a taste…

On another rainy Monday we ventured over to Ft. Vancouver to check out Officer’s Row. The U.S. Army  “fort” built in the mid 1800’s was called Vancouver Barracks and later part of the Department of the Columbia. Officer’s Row was a series of some 21 residences for the officers and their families with the Marshall House and the Grant House belonging to various commanders of their times. The City of Vancouver took over ownership of the residences in the 1980’s and restored them. Today, some of the homes are working businesses, some residences. The city gives free tours of the Marshall House (lower level) and our docent did a very nice job of giving us a history narrative surrounding Brigadier General George Marshall.

Being the intrepid travelers we are, it was off into the rain again, this time to drive the historic Columbia River Hwy. and see some of the sights along the way (mostly waterfalls). First stop was the Vista House. It was built on a point overlooking the Columbia Gorge as a rest stop & observation point for travelers to stop and gawk at the scenery. The views were very nice. It was then onward and eastward where we encountered Latourell Falls, Shepperd’s Dell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Multnomah Falls, & Horsetail Falls. The trail to the upper falls area of Horsetail Falls was closed, so we only got to see the falls that were next to the road. (Gee, I hope I don’t mislabel any of the photos, but if I do, go ahead and sue me!) We ended our journey along the Columbia River Hwy. at Clock Tower Ales in The Dalles. Clock Tower Ales is housed in one of the early courthouses and is now a tap room and restaurant. The beer was good, the food fair, and the building historic.

When we finally got a clear day with minimal clouds we loaded up the Woodster and headed to the Waterfront Renaissance Trail, a trail along the Columbia River in Vancouver. We let Woodrow lead us on a couple miles of paved walkway along the river, watching a few of the fishermen catching whoppers out of the river. When we finished we dropped Woody off at the bus and headed into Portland to check out a brewery Jeanne found on line with some high end seasonal offerings, the brewery  called Hair of the Dog Brewing Co. We had a nice pre-birthday lunch (her birthday happens to be this week on Friday the 13th…great!) and tasted some of the malts, barley, and hops they offer. Holy moly, I just added one to my top 4 brewers list. Hair of the Dog now occupies my top tier of breweries (my opinion) along with Evil Twin Brewing, Founders Brewing, and Firestone Walker Brewing Co. We had a great lunch to boot. May I suggest the brisket and potato/pasta salad with a wash down of their Fred From The Wood. Mmmmmmmmmm! Hair of the Dog also does a very limited production (sometimes just a dozen bottles per release) on a barrel aged brew they call “Dave”. “Dave”, as they have a couple of bottles there now, goes for upwards of $800 per bottle. It is about a 29% ABV Barleywine that has been aging in multiple barrels for over 20 years. I better get crackin’ watering that money tree I have… 

Moving day is here and we are off, southbound and down. Until next post…

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Time Well Spent at Olympic National Park

Forks, WA was our chosen base camp for the west side of the Olympic Peninsula. We found space at the Forks 101 RV Park, right in the middle of town along Hwy. 101. The RV park was a grass field with FHU’s, pretty primitive showers/bathrooms, and basically no amenities/activities located on site. It is overpriced as well, $50/night being their base rate, but at least they give a 10% discount to first responder retirees. It is centrally located to many of the features of the Olympic National Park. At Olympic National Park be prepared to do a lot of driving, similar to Yellowstone and Glacier N.P.’s. There are no interior roads to drive around inside the park, only spur roads off of Hwy. 101, which encircles the park.

Outing number one took us to La Push and Rialto Beach. I’ll tell you right now, don’t waste any time driving into La Push. It is a very typical Indian Reservation town, run down, nothing there, waste of time. We even tried to stop off at the one restaurant in “town” for a seaside beer, but were told they had a rule if we were going to order beer, we also had to order food. Good bye, La Push. It did not even merit (1) photograph…We quickly headed for the other side of the river to Rialto Beach, but Mother Nature slammed us again. To walk the 2 mile hike down the beach to see the Hole in the Wall rock feature, it really needs to be anything but near high tide, which it just so happened it was at the time we were there, sooooooooo, no Hole in the Wall. We would have to save that for another day.

We headed out early one morning to hit the Hoh Rainforest along the Hoh River. There are 3 trails out of the visitor’s center there. Since Woodrow Wilson is not allowed on park trails, he had to stay home. The Hoh River Trail was automatically out for us, it is over 17 miles one-way and I don’t think the little Chihuahua-mix has a sufficient sized bladder for us to be gone that long. But we did take the other two trails, the Hall of Mosses Trail (0.8 mile loop) and the Spruce Trail (1.25 mile loop). The Hall of Mosses was eerily spectacular with some massive trees covered in moss, I don’t know if it is considered Spanish Moss, but very similar in nature. We also noted the chrystal clear nature of both the Hoh River water as well as the springs within the rainforest.

A quick lunch break and we picked up Woody and headed south to Lake Quinault. There is a 31 mile loop road encircling the lake, through more rainforest, with a couple of waterfalls along the way. The North Shore Rd. was part paved, part gravel, lots of thick trees, but not a lot of other views besides trees. Once we began the trip back on South Shore Rd. we quickly found Bunch Falls and Merryman Falls, both small but still scenic (c’mon, face it, waterfalls are pleasing to the eye in just about any form or size). On the way back home we stopped off to walk the beach at Ruby Beach. I guess the name derives from the appearance of the rocks/sand at some certain time of day and year, but at this time, that appearance was not to be. Still, the coastline at Ruby Beach has some stand-out rock formations and, like most areas around here, would be a driftwood hunter’s dream location. Mother Nature still laughing at us, the tide was up, taking away our opportunity to check out any tidal pools that are allegedly here at this location.

Getting another early start, this time on a blue-sky-sunny day, we drove out to Sol Duc Falls and hit the short 0.8 mile (one-way) trail to see the waterfalls. Before we got to the trailhead we came upon an area of the Sol Duc River called Salmon Cascades. These were beautiful cascades into some of the clearest pools of water we’ve seen. A few pix for posterity and we continued on to the trailhead for the falls. The hike was easy on a well maintained trail, through more rainforest and moss covered trees. Sol Duc Falls did not disappoint in the scenery department. Now, for those of you daredevil hikers out there, there are many other trails that are accessed off of this one as you hike past the falls, traversing many many many miles of rainforest terrain. These would be the type of trails used by back-country, overnighting back packers who are required to purchase permits for said types of hikes. We are not that level of hikers…yet.

Since the weather gods were smiling on us we chose to head back to see Cape Flattery again, this time without the shroud of clouds. We got there with fairly blue skies and were treated to unobstructed views of that area that were in stark contrast to how we saw them less than a week ago in a heavy drizzle, clouds, marine layer, fog, you name the marine obstruction and we had it! Wow wow wow! Very nice! I even got to get a good look at what I previously described as “ghost island” from our first low-visibility visit to the Cape. Turns out it even has a lighthouse on it and Jeanne later discovered the island to be Tatoosh Island, a sacred island of the local Makah tribe of Indians. We topped the day off with “linner” at the By the Bay Cafe in downtown Sekiu, looking out onto the marina area and watching some of the locals cleaning their catch of the day.

Since the weather gods were feeling generous with us, we made another return trip to Rialto Beach but this time paying attention to the ocean tide tables. With tides low enough, we hiked down the beach to the Hole in the Wall. The sun did not want to come out to play, but the marine layer/fog stayed away as well, with just overcast skies and visibility good. The area of the Hole in the Wall is jam packed full of tidal pools at low tide and we got treated to some very colorful sea anemone(s), starfish, and even some well camoflaged fish swimming among them. The Hole in the Wall is just that – a large hole in the rock wall. You can walk through it and as you do, there are many little tidal pools in the tunnel with sea anemone(s) glowing in their brightness. All in all, we definitely got our money’s worth in the scenery department.



Our last day in the area was, surprise surprise, another crappy weather day, so we just hung out and prepped for travel day. That about wraps up our stay here at Olympic National Park. Until next post…

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Our Time in Port Townsend, WA

We caught the ferry from Coupeville (Ft. Casey) to Port Townsend. It was our first experience loading our 16 ton bus towing the Jeep onto a ferry boat which I was a little apprehensive about. But all was well, after all, they are HUGE ferries. For the mere cost of a $90-something half hour boat ride we saved ourselves 200 miles of driving through some of the more congested areas of Washington state. It was well worth the price. But, again, no orcas, just a few porpoiseseseses…

Our first home on the Olympic peninsula was the Jefferson County fairgrounds camping lot in Port Townsend. Relieved we found space on the Labor Day weekend, we opted to stay at the fairgrounds until the holiday weekend was over. The Jefferson County fairgrounds is terrible as far as RV lots go. It definitely is not of the breathtaking scenery type of RV lot. The grass/dirt area for parking the rigs is extremely uneven and it takes a little effort to get level. I committed an RVer’s mortal sin; after finally getting level (used up all of my levelling blocks), we did a full set-up, pop-outs and all, before I went to hook up power. At the self-check in station it lists the sites with water, electricity, and sewer. We chose one of them, but when I tried to plug in I discovered the electricity offered was only a 20A 110 outlet. Shoulda inspected the power before set up, coulda saved me a whopping $5 per night…I ate the extra, being too lazy to load everything up again and relocate to the cheaper sites. Besides, with the (8) solar panels on my roof we don’t need their meager offering of 20A electricity… The sites here were stacked like cord wood, with very skinny travel lanes between rows of RV’s. But we had a base camp for the area…

Hurricane Ridge is just outside Port Angeles in Olympic Nat’l Park. We loaded up Woody and drove out to investigate the scenery. Being a National Park, in typical fashion Woodrow Wilson was not allowed on trails, so we nixed any trail hiking. I think that choice was made for us by Mother Nature anyway, it was an overcast day with limited visibility.

On another overcast, drizzly day we took the chance and drove all the way over to Neah Bay to check out Cape Flattery, the N/W point of the lower 48 (not the northernmost, just the N/W most). It was still overcast and drizzly when we got there, but it was jam packed with visitors. We hooked Woody up and let him lead us down the 25 minute trail to several Cape Flattery viewpoints. Even in the thick mist, it was a pretty scenic area. As we left we decided we may just have to return if we ever get some fairly clear weather after we relocate to the area of Forks, WA, our intended next destination. So far, we are not fans of this end-of-summer weather in Washington. Also, not fans of the cell service/wifi we have experienced at the places in Washington we have been thus far.

We finally got a hint of blue skies, with some clouds, but we capitalized on it and did a walkabout around the downtown waterfront area of Port Townsend, sans Woody. Port Townsend is touted as “Washington’s Victorian seaport”, with many Victorian style homes on the hills overlooking Port Townsend Bay. The waterfront area is home to a great many older buildings from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, still in use by businesses today. We found our way to the Port Townsend Brewing Co. for a flight of their finest. Not a lot to write home about, but their “Peeping Peater Scotch Ale” was fairly tasty. Lunch time found us at Taps at the Guardhouse at Ft. Worden State Park. A unique little Pub & Eatery, some of the tables are held within the confines of a jail cell. Their wings were good, washed down with a Fremont Brewing “Dark Star” imperial oatmeal stout. One thing we have discovered, there are a whole lotta deer here in town. They pay no mind to us humans and you really gotta pay attention while driving around, they just meander out into the roadway whenever they wish.

That about covers our stay here in Port Townsend. Tomorrow we are off toward Forks, WA and the other side of the peninsula. Until next post…

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Our Time in Anacortes

Pioneer Trails RV Park was our chosen home for about a week in beautiful downtown Anacortes. The park was nice and spread out in the hills and trees and a good base to work out of. Our site was level gravel pull-through, FHU’s, but thick in the trees which put the kabosh to our satellite TV reception. And since they had no cable, I did not even try to catch over-the-air antenna reception and we “went commando” all week, aka: “unplugged”. 

Our first order of business was some exploring, so we headed out toward Whidbey Island. Crossing the bridge over Deception Pass, we wanted to stop and give it a good look but quickly discovered the way of the world in the state of Washington. Just about everything worth sightseeing they charge a $10 day use fee. But the great state of Washington to the rescue! They offer a yearly Discover Pass for all state sites/parks for the mere price of $30. So we buckled and bought a pass (which paid for itself in the first 2 days for us). Just one of the ways they make up for having no state income tax I guess…We returned later to walk the bridge. In the meantime, we continued south on Whidbey Island to Oak Harbor. We strolled the “downtown” area and walked along the boardwalk/shoreline. Whidbey Island NAS is in/near Oak Harbor and we were treated to numerous groups of fighters flying our friendly skies. Continuing S/B on Hwy. 20 we cruised on into Coupeville and the Fort Casey area. We needed to check out the ferry terminal in Fort Casey that runs across to Port Townsend on the Olympic peninsula for our eventual escape from this area heading south. Ferry information and schedules in hand, Coupeville became our lunch stop. After a walk around town and the Coupeville public pier/dock we ate lunch at Toby’s, a little quaint bar/restaurant.

Our return trip brought us back to the Deception Pass bridge. We walked the bridge and watched a group of fishing boats below catch some fish. They were also being surveilled under the watchful eye of what was probably one of the local harbor seals. It was a very scenic view on a clear day.

A run to Bellingham, WA found us stopping off at the Trader Joe’s for a little shopping. We also found out there is a Bellingham Tap Trail so, twist my arm, we HAD to hit just a few of them. The whole trail consists of about 30 not just breweries but cideries and tap houses as well. Of the six we visited, we picked lunch at the Bellingham Beer Garden, affiliated with Twin Sisters Brewing Co. This turned out to be a great choice, both food-wise and beer-wise. Jeanne had their cauliflower tacos and I had the pork belly tacos, both outstanding! And the bourbon barrel aged Stouting Thomas was very good. We did find Bellingham to be a pain in the #&$% to drive in the downtown area – all the one way streets and the sheer number of drivers driving HUA made it a true chore.

A drive to the opposite end of Fidalgo Island found us driving the Washington Park Loop, a short loop in the park with ocean views. German immigrant Tonjes Havekost owned this area back in the 1870’s and his gravesite is on a short walking trail off the loop.

Rosario Beach is next to Deception Pass State Park. We walked out to the beach and a small tidal pool area. It seems the tidal critters were critically damaged during a low tide event in 1995 where some 1,200 human visitors trampled over the sea life in one day. Time is allowing the critters to return and we saw many tiny what I think are urchins (if I’m wrong, go ahead and sue me). Also, a wayward red rock crab kinda crossed our “path” in the shallows of a nearby cove.

We met up with our friends Bud and Meredith (fellow Texans) when we relocated our homestead to the Fidalgo Bay RV Resort, still on Fidalgo Island. This was a bit different RV park from Pioneer Trails. Fully open sky, sites stacked like cord wood, views of the bay, and a nice bicycle/walking path that runs right through the park. There is a part of the path that is on kinda like a jetty with a footbridge over the channel which we used for Woody’s walkabouts. It provided us opportunities to see some of the local critters like harbor seals, blue herons, red rock crabs, a colorful starfish, and a whole bunch of clams “spitting” during low tide. Now, the last time we were with Bud & Meredith, it was at the opposite end of the world in Bar Harbor, ME. At that time, I can say I have never stuffed my face with so much lobster and steamed clams than I did then. Being on the left coast this time, substitute Dungeness crab for lobster and I can pretty much say the same thing. Mmmmmmmmmm…

One day we did a bicycle ride into town to wander their Farmer’s Market. It was relatively small as far as F.M.’s go, but we still managed to pick up some tomatos and tomatillos for future salsa. After hitting the market, we stopped off at a place called “Gere-a-Deli” for lunch and had some outstanding chow; Jeanne had a quinoa salad and I had a pastrami sandwich. I would highly recommend this place if you are ever in the area…

We made a short trip to check out the small hamlet of La Conner. This was another quaint little seaside town, home to a cool little antique shop called “Nasty Jacks”. We strolled town and some of the plaza/boardwalk areas along the docks and ended with some nachos at the La Conner Brewing Co.

Bud & Meredith took us up to Cap Sante Park where we were treated to some pretty good water and island views, as well as snow-covered Mt. Baker. As far as views go, we also hit Mt. Erie right in the middle of downtown Anacortes. There are a couple of viewing platforms at the top, as well as non-developed platforms which are frequented by mountain climbers and rapellers. 

Our big excursion here was a ferry ride over to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The boat ride was just over an hour one-way, cruising through the islands, ever watchful for whale activity (but, alas, we got skunked). Friday Harbor was fun to cruise on foot, Jeanne and Meredith poking their heads into several of the local shops. We lunched at San Juan Island Brewery, of course testing out some of their brews, then ice-creamed our way back to the ferry. The scenery on the ferry rides was gorgeous, if you can stand to look at oceans, mountains, islands, and whole fleets of sailboats.

Well, tonight will be our last night on the island. A huge thanks to Bud & Meredith for all the good times, good food, and good “tour guiding”. A special shout out to Bud & Meredith’s friend “Bull”, a commander from Whidbey NAS who was staying at Fidalgo Bay RV Resort. He smoked some pork ribs, jalapeno poppers, and corn for dinner one night, all of which were OUTSTANDING! For our escape we have reservations for the Coupeville/Port Townsend ferry to float us across to the Olympic Peninsula, then from there, the fun begins—to find a place to park it for a few days…on Labor Day weekend no less! But hey, that’s the fun part of full-timing, ain’t it?!? Until next post…

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Hiking & Biking Our Way Through the Northwest

We’ve not been real big on reservations thus far in our near 7 years on the road. But Florida, the northeast, and now the northwest are demonstrating that we may need to start relying more on reservations. The northeast and northwest have such short recreational seasons that we are finding it harder and harder to just show up and find space for Rosie the bus pretty much any time we like. So, we plotted out our course towards Anacortes, WA, location for our next meet up with friends Bud and Meredith, and the Butte KOA was next up on our list. This was a return trip for us, nothing new to see in the big town of Butte, but we stayed 3 days anyway. The KOA is kinda run down; grass dead, trees/shrubs needing the services of a “barber”, and interior dirt roads tight in some spots. It fits right in with the town of Butte, Butte being kind of an ugly, dirty little town. We did manage to find a Costco in Helena, about an hour’s drive away, so we took advantage and stocked up on supplies.

Butte in our rear-view mirrors, it was on to Missoula where we decided to stay at the Gray Wolf Peak Casino just north of town. They have 50A E with a communal water spout for 8 RV sites. They charge $20/night, but if you get one of their player’s cards they waive the $20 fee. Wow, since I have quite a collection of casino player’s cards already started, “Where do I sign up?!” We stayed 2 nights here and ended up relieving the casino of a few hundred dollars making it well worth our while. Montana has a strange casino system, to say the least. They have “casinos” at every street corner it seems. These are small buildings/businesses that are basically a bar with a few dozen slot machines. No card games. No table games. Just slots. Gray Wolf Peak is an actual Indian casino, quite larger than most Montana casinos with restaurant, bar, hundreds of slots, but this one differs from most Indian casinos in that it has no card games or table games either, just slots. We had a good time anyway.

Next on our itinerary was Haugan, MT and a place called Lincoln’s 50,000 Silver $. They have a dirt RV lot behind the business with 30/50A pedestals scattered around and a communal water spout for RV’s, and it is free for short term stays. Lincoln’s 50,000 Silver $ is an unabashed tourist trap of a business which touts itself as having Montana’s largest souvenir shop. There is a restaurant and bar, as well as a detached hotel and the RV lot. The bar has the walls covered with silver dollars mounted in boards, with an ongoing count total of over 75,000 of them. The restaurant is unremarkable and well not worth your time, effort, or gastric discomfort. And the “casino” consists of about a couple dozen slot machines only. The gift shop offers a strange mix of merchandise; some of the normal clothing, jewelry, knick-knacks, art, wall hangings, plus a variety of weaponry from knives to swords to battle axes to blowguns, metal “gladiator” style helmets, coins & silver, oh, and all the dope pipes you could ever want. The clerk tells me weed is not recreationally legal in Montana, only legal for medical purposes.

The main reason for our stay here was the Hiawatha Trail (RideTheHiawatha.com), a stretch of the old Milwaukee Railroad line converted for bicycling/hiking. Our friends Stacy and Jim Camara turned us onto this bicycle trail which meanders through the mountains of MT/ID border. It is considered the Crown Jewel of the nation’s Rail to Trail system and covers 15 miles with (10) tunnels and (7) high steel trestles, plus all the scenery you can handle. The St. Paul/Taft Pass tunnel is 1.66 pitch-black miles long and would definitely be a rough go without the required lighting instrument of your choice. The bonus here is that from the East portal trailhead to the Pearson trailhead (that covers 15 miles) it is about a 1.6% downhill grade. You can choose to do the round trip (the downhill half took us a little over 2 1/2 hours), or you can catch the shuttle bus back to the top. We did not have the time (Woody back in the bus) for the round tripper, so shuttle it was. You need to pay a fee of $12/person to use the trail, a booth is set up at the trailhead. The shuttle use is an additional $10/person. Even on a hot day, you may want to consider carrying a sweatshirt with you, the longer tunnels are a bit on the chilly side. The trail is gravel but plenty wide and in few places is a shared-use road with vehicles. Thank you, Stacy and Jim, it was a good time.

Bikes packed up, it was hasta luego to Haugan and onward to the Coeur d’Alene Elks Lodge for a 5 day stint. Unfortunately for us, parts of Idaho were experiencing wildfires northeast of us, so we got to enjoy the smoky skies that we miss oh so much from the past couple of years in the west. We used the 5 days to get chores done (had to perform that rare task of hunting down a laundromat for laundry), but we did squeeze in time to walk around the downtown/marina area and also take in the Kootenai County Farmer’s Market. 

Jeanne discovered a special event at the Mad Bomber Brewing Co. They do occasional collaboration with local first responders to create original recipes and subsequent brewings, and one night they were having a release party for the latest brew, on behalf of the Kootenai County Deputy Sheriff Association, appropriately named KCSDA IPA. Live entertainment included a young man named Jacob Maxwell who I’m told was on a TV show called “The Voice”. The Mad Bomber Brewing Co. is a rather unique establishment. It was started by some EOD Army soldiers after their return from deployment and is extremely patriotic, pro-military, pro-first responders. It definitely packed ‘em in on the night we were there. God bless America!

Moving day took us to the Wenatchee River County Park for a 3 day stint. This was a fairly nice park alongside the Wenatchee River. It was, however, a bit noisy since it sits between Hwy. 2 and a very active railroad track (I particularly enjoyed the 2 train runs between 0300-0330 hrs…NOT!). We took advantage of this stop to give the bicycles another workout and ran a stretch of the Apple Capital Recreational Loop Trail (about 12 miles worth anyway). It was a fairly scenic ride through the Wenatchee Confluence State Park and along both the Wenatchee River and the Columbia River.

We wanted to give Woody some outdoor time so we loaded him up