Thursday, July 30, 2015

Great Falls

On Saturday, May 14, 2005 we left the Fairmont RV Park in Anaconda, MT and moved to Dick’s RV in Great Falls, MT. This was a leisurely 180 mile trip with snow covered mountains all around us. We went East on I-90 to Butte, then took I-15 to Great Falls. I was thrilled to be in Montana with Kathi and Montana was everything I expected it to be. Mountains, forests and desolation. When I retired, Montana is where I told everyone I was going and being there was special to us. The scenery was special, the weather was special and the sky was really big, like we had heard.

We drove through Helena and were on the edge of the Helena National Forest for a portion of the trip along I-15. It would be hard to tell you were in a national forest if not for the signs, because everything around the forest looks similar to the forest itself. Green trees were everywhere on hillsides and mountainsides. An added bonus was the Missouri River which we crossed five times during this short trip. The Missouri begins in the Rocky Mountains of Montana and flows south and east over 2,300 miles until it joins the Mississippi River north of St. Louis.

We found Great Falls a little warmer than Anaconda, I assume since we were not as close to the snowline. Mid-May is getting late in the spring so the temperature rise could just be normal as summer approaches.

We were surprised at the size of Great Falls. The city has a population of over 60, 000 with another 20, 000 people in the surrounding area. More important than the size of the city was that Kathi found a restaurant that she really wanted to visit – Tony Roma’s. We ate at a Tony Roma’s in downtown Las Vegas the first time we saw one of their restaurants. Their ribs were great. We also ate at Tony Roma’s on the Gulf Freeway in Houston before that one closed down near the time that I retired. The location in Great Falls served the same great ribs. It made a nice late lunch on a travel day.

After lunch we found one of the small Montana Casinos and played Keno and video poker for a few hours. I won $150 and Kathi lost her money again. Winning or losing does not seem to affect the amount of fun she has, but I am happier when I win – spoiled I guess.

We got Dick’s RV weekly rate of $139, so we were there for a week. Most of our driving time while we were there was spent outside the city. We love the rustic areas best. There was a local Walmart which is always a plus for RV travelers. We had a little rain during the week, but no snow as the temperatures got into the mid-60s in the afternoon and only down to 40 at night.

We talked to our youngest son, Christopher in Iraq one day while we were there and his moral was high; thus so was ours. We always talk to our oldest, AJ in San Francisco every day, since cell phones really changed the way we communicate with the family. Christopher had to borrow a satellite phone that was assigned to his unit for him to call us, so fewer calls when he is out of the country. We no longer lived together, but we stayed a close happy family most of the time. Life is good.

I have been feeling the heat so I pulled some snow pictures from our archives for display today. Think cooler.

An RV Park at the Baird Inn in Baird, TX in May 2010

Our Jeep at Charlie's service center in Sunset, UT  in April 2011.
Trees behind Charlie's April 2011


More snow at Charlie's in April 2010

West of Cameron, MT in June 2004

Monday, July 27, 2015

Anaconda

I apologize for not displaying pictures on my posts for the last few weeks. I had a Sony camera that was given to me at my retirement party from Shell Chemical Company, so laziness is the only excuse I have for not taking pictures. Taking pictures is so much easier now since everyone has a cell phone that takes pictures, usually better than most cameras that I would own. All I can think of is that we were in a dream world being new RV travelers and mesmerized seeing so many exciting things.

I am picking up our 2005 travel year on Tuesday May, 10th when we moved from Elmo, MT on Flathead Lake south about 200 miles to Anaconda, MT. We drove south on US 93 out of the valley with the Flathead National Forest to our east and the Lolo National Forest to the west of us. We got on I-90 going southeast at Wye which is just north of Missoula. Next we took CA 48 west off I-90 about 10 miles to Anaconda. It rained on us the whole trip, but we did not care. We still got to see some great scenery with the forests and mountains all around. We especially enjoyed the horse and cattle farms we saw along the route. We even passed a buffalo ranch. Seeing buffalo herds is always fun for us. We saw two herds with between 50 and 100 buffalo in each.

We moved into the Fairmont RV Park for $17 per day. The manager told us they had six inches of snow the previous day. That explains the cooler temperatures we were enjoying. Kathi’s journal says I was wearing long pants, but I have no memory of that – I am too conditioned to my shorts. I only have two pairs of long pants and I have not seen them since a funeral three years ago. We like the snow, but do not want to live in it full time.

We were still using our Motosat dish antenna for internet service at that time and for some reason I never could get a signal to get on the internet. We blamed it on the weather, but never found out for sure what the problem was.

The next morning we had to unhook our utilities and close our motorhome back up to go into town for propane. After that we drove our car into the Walmart in Butte. We drove around Butte for a while and saw nothing that drew our attention and ended up in another small casino. I played keno and Kathi played video poker. We did not have any luck at the casino, so only stayed a couple of hours. We drove around looking for a restaurant, but did not find anything that suited Kathi’s taster, so we drove back home to eat.

Out the windshield we could see horses running up and down a hillside in front of us. Horses look majestic when standing by you, but they look really spectacular when they run in small herds. We even saw a small herd of deer hiding at the edge of the forest.

We got a call from our youngest son, Christopher who was in Iraq. He told us he was at the half way point of his tour. We were glad to hear from him and glad to hear he was safe. We were really looking forward to him returning to California.

Next Stop: Great Falls, MT.

I wanted to show some pictures, so I borrowed some from other adventures.

Buffalo at Little Big Horn National Park in South Dakota

Horses at Little Big Horn

Arlon at the Bristlecone Pine Forest near Lone Pine, CA. This is my normal snow attire.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Elmo, Montana

Today I am continuing our 2005 travel stories, picking up where I left off on my last post at the Blackwell Island RV Park in Coeur d’Alene, ID. After three days among crowds of people we sought the solace of Montana. We left CDA on Friday, May 6 and headed toward Elmo, MT which is on the shores of Flathead Lake.

The Coeur d’Alene and Flathead tribes were neighbors and trading partners. There were several other non-nomadic tribes in the area. They had permanent encampments, because the abundance of resources available. These tribes were considered wealthy compared to the Plains Indians who had to migrate to feed their people.

We left CDA on I-90 south of the CDA National Forest. We moved east through several small towns in Idaho, including Cataldo, Pinehurst, Smelterville and Wallace, then through Lookout Pass on the Idaho-Montana border. In Montana we passed through Taft, Saltese and De Borgia before turning northeast on MT 135 at St. Regis. We also got within sight distance of the Clark Fork River which flowed beside the highway for most of the rest of the trip to Elmo. I think we crossed the river seven times, but the most beautiful parts were driving along the highway and seeing the river views right beside us. We always find this adventurous.

We continued on 135 for 15-20 miles weaving though the pine-tree covered mountains until we got to MT 200.  Then north on 200 until we switched to MT 28 just south of Plains, MT and on into Elmo.

After a great drive with some sunny and cool weather then some rain showers and the cool of the mountains with river views and greenery along the way -- we were invigorated. What a wonderful life. We moved into the Arrowhead RV Park in Elmo. The price was right at $15 per day, but the sites were very unlevel and the area was too remote for Kathi. Remote to us usually means no Walmart within 100 miles. We had a great view of Flathead Lake out the windshield of our motorhome.

Saturday morning we drove into town to do our laundry. We have a small washer dryer in the Alfa, but it was not functional at the time. It rained most of the day, but the drive into town was still a sight to see.

We had clear weather and cool temperatures on Sunday and Monday, so we drove around the area to see what mischief we could get into. We followed MT 93 along the eastern edge of the lake and found the Flathead Jackpot Casino in Bigfork, MT. We had a few hours of enjoyment playing video poker. This was a long way from Las Vegas and the machines were certainly not Vegas type machines. Montana only allows casinos to have a maximum of 20 poker or keno machines with a minimum 80% payback for gamblers. You do not spend much, but you cannot win much either. But, who cares – we whiled away our time and it gave us a relaxing afternoon before moving on down the road on Tuesday.

Next stop: Anaconda

Monday, July 20, 2015

Coeur d'Alene

Continuing our 2005 travel story.

Until we started traveling and finally got to Idaho, I had never heard of Coeur d’Alene – It is a long way from Texas and Kathi and I led a pretty busy life before we retired. Working more than full time jobs, raising two boys, entertaining and being entertained by family and friends who were doing the same did not give us a lot of time for thinking about other places. Our tendency has always been doing things we enjoyed over and over. The vacations Kathi and I took almost always had us flying into Las Vegas for 3-5 days and flying home to get back to work.

Now being RV travelers we were getting to see and do some different things. Wow there is a lot to see and enjoy in this country. We talked a few times about Canada, Mexico and Alaska, but decided early on in our RV travels we would stay with the contiguous United States and see what we could, knowing we would still miss a lot.

Coeur d’Alene is thirty miles east of Spokane, WA and sits on the north shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene in the Idaho panhandle. It is also known as Lake City or just CDA. Tourism appears to be their biggest industry. The Coeur d’Alene Resort takes up a good portion of the downtown area.

On Tuesday, May 3, 2005 we departed the Yakima Nation RV Park in Toppenish, WA and drove toward Coeur d’Alene. The planned trip was about 240 miles and the day was great for travelling – cool with sunshine. The trees were green, the grass was green and farms were sprinkled along the way with crops we could not identify. Mountains were visible for a backdrop in most directions. We started on I-82 moving east and switched to US 395 near Kennewick. Moving northeast on 395, we merged with I-90 at Ritzville, then passed through Spokane on the way to the Blackwell Island RV Park in Coeur d’Alene. Yes, we were on an island surrounded by the Spokane River.

The park was eye-pleasing, but too expensive for us at $31 per night, but we wanted to see some of the area and agreed on a three night stay. After getting our Alfa RV hooked up to utilities we stayed in to recuperate from our drive. Sitting seems like a funny way to recuperate from driving, but it seems to work for us.

On Wednesday, we drove around the lake looking at all the people enjoying water related activities. Driving was slow with continuous vehicle and pedestrian traffic moving to and from the lake. Next we drove into the mountains to see the beautiful homes, seeing many large farms along the way

The next day it rained in the morning and cleared up in the afternoon. We went to the Coeur d’Alene Casino and had their buffet for lunch. The buffet was okay at best. After a couple of hours I was still even and Kathi had lost her gambling allotment, so we called it a day. We went home to prepare for another travel day on Friday. Montana here we come.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Toppenish

Today I am continuing Kathi and Arlon’s 2005 travel year adventures.

In my last post we were homed in Ellensburg, WA at the E & J Resort. On Thursday, April 21st we drove to Yakima and on into Toppenish where we found a casino to play for a few hours. We obviously had some fun, because Kathi wanted to move to that area, so we trolled around and found an RV park with good rates. We decided when our rent was due in Ellensburg we would move to Toppenish. The weather was great in the area and there was still snow in Idaho, which was our next planned state to visit.

The following Tuesday, we took the short 100 mile trip to the Yakima Nation RV Park in Toppenish. The RV park was empty, but we were told it would fill up later in the week. The aroma from the cattle in the area was pronounced, but we liked where we were; we just kept the doors and windows closed throughout our visit. Stepping outside each morning was like a slap in the face, the aroma was so prevalent.

Kathi talked to our son Christopher in the evening. He was settled in at Kalsu in Iraq and now getting one day off each week. He was in good spirits which helped lift our spirits, also. Our Oldest son, AJ was in San Francisco and we were able to talk to him every day, so we knew he was doing fine. Christopher, being in hostile territory and only able to communicate occasionally, it was a real treat hearing from him and passing on the news to AJ.

Wednesday we ate the casino buffet for lunch and stayed to play penny slots for a few hours. The slots were a lot more fun than the buffet. I think buffets in smaller casinos do not serve the volume of food necessary to make paying a good cook profitable.

The following day was Christopher’s birthday and he got an opportunity to call us so we could tell him happy birthday – this was his 30th. It was good to hear from him but we hoped his next birthday would be celebrated in a more peaceful environment.

We spent the next few days driving around the area. The weather was great and we were enjoying being in the open air of a country environment. We drove back into Yakima to get a better look at the town and surrounding fruit orchards. Being city kids, we were always glad to see agriculture in action. We see a lot of orchards and crops we do not recognize and wish they would put more signs up telling us about the view we were enjoying. We recognized apples and grapes, but the other orchards grew mystery fruit.


Washington was fun and certainly a new experience for us, but we were RV travelers and as the weather got a little warmer the mood set in to hit the road and try to find cooler weather. Next stop: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ellensburg

This blog post continues our 2005 travels.  On Tuesday, April 19 2005 we left the Evergreen SKP Park in Chimicum, WA headed for the E & J Resort in Ellensburg, WA. Talk about a trip – this was an eye catching adventure with green trees, snow-capped mountains, streams and bays, a mountain pass and a meandering route. This part of the country is amazing to see. Water, water everywhere.

We left Chimicum moving south on WA 19 until we merged with WA 104. We went southeast on 104 and crossed the bridge over the bay just north of Squamish Harbor which took us to Port Gamble on the Kitsap Peninsula. That portion of the trip alone was worth the drive, but this was just the beginning of our near 200 mile trip to Ellensburg.

We took WA 3 south along the peninsula to Gorst, where we took WA 16 east, then south until it intersected with I-5 south of Tacoma. We took I-5 north and east until we branched off on WA 18 which led us to I-90 between Issaquah to the north and North Bend to the south. The intersection is near the town of Snoqualmie. Snoqualmie is the home of a beautiful waterfall, but we did not want to detour to view it on that day. Maybe next time. I hate to keep saying that, but there are so many beautiful and wondrous things we missed by traveling too fast.

We continued on I-90 south through the Snoqualmie Pass which took us over the Cascade Range at near 3,000 feet elevation. Going through mountain passes always seems like adventure to me, but I realize the adventure was with the pioneers that took wagons on trails across the mountains, while fearing being blocked by snow. Well, I am sharing their adventure just a little late for the wagon train.

We arrived at Ellensburg about 1:30 in the afternoon and found the temperature a little warmer than what we had in Chimicum. The E & J Resort cost us $96 per week, so we were happy campers. Remember this is 2005 and I am sure rates everywhere have increased since then. The park had paved sites which is always a plus for people driving big rigs. We do consider our 40’ Alfa motorhome a big rig. We found a barbecue restaurant and had lunch and spent the rest of the day at home recuperating from the drive. The next morning we drove around the area looking at all the ranches in that rural community. The weather was great, sun-shiny and cool.

On Thursday we drove south on I-82 to Yakima. The first time I remember hearing about Yakima was from Bea Arthur on “The Golden Girls.” As usual I was driven to see a city of which I had only heard the name. It sounds silly, but those are the kinds of trips I like to make. Maybe hearing the names of places adds to my heightened sense of nostalgia.

We looked around a bit in the countryside and noted a ranch-type aroma in the air. Sometimes it is breathtaking, but you get used to it fairly soon. We continued driving south on I-82 and ended up at a casino in Toppenish. We spent that Thursday afternoon enjoying life while playing penny poker machines at a casino on the west coast. It was way different than the life we lived in Texas in our previous lives. We were thrilled again and more thankful to be RVers and seeing exciting new places.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Our Week In Chimicum

Today I am continuing our 2005 travel story. I left off my last blog post on April 12th after our arrival in Chimicum, WA and the next day we had the submarine sighting. I am picking up the story today on April 14th. The day started off sunny. Soon the sun disappeared and it started to rain. Not long after, we noticed lumps in the rain. Sure enough it was hail which soon turned to snow. Being from Texas we were used to rapid weather changes, but this was too much. After the unusual weather morning we would never have guessed a beautiful sunny afternoon, but we had one. It left us stymied and happy for the way the day went.

Kathi did some laundry in late morning, then for lunch we returned to the Chimicum Cafe. Kathi did not enjoy it as much the second time, but everything was fine for me. Chicken fried steak and French fries are hard to mess up. The gravy had an odd flavor, but no complaints. While we were out we bought a birthday card to send to our youngest son, Christopher who would be 30 the end of the month. We got the card a little early, since we did not know how to anticipate the mail delivery time to Iraq. Kathi mentioned something about her baby boy getting older, but that is what they do. Our oldest son, AJ was in San Francisco going to College. He is 7 years older than Christopher.

The next day, we took the ferry across Puget Sound to Seattle. When I saw the line of cars and counted over eighty. The only ferry I had ever been on was at Lynchburg Crossing across the Houston Ship Channel. That ferry carried 25-30 cars at a time. I figured we would be waiting all day for our turn at the ferry and I wanted to turn around, but could not figure out how to backtrack, It was too crowded to get out of line and the road appeared to be one way only. I stepped out of the car to explore a way out and the line started moving pretty fast. Within fifteen to twenty minutes they loaded over 200 cars on their ferry; we were amazed.

We noticed everyone getting out of their cars and going inside so we got out of our car and followed them inside the ferry. They had chairs for about 50 people inside and probably 30 more outside. They had a concession stand and everything. It appeared that most of the people were regular ferry riders and many knew each other. It was a festive atmosphere. I am sure we looked lost and we were. I do not remember exactly, but I think the ferry ride was about an hour and a quarter. The Seattle skyline was majestic. We had lunch at Red Lobster before going home. The ferry was fun one time, but I did not want to go back the same way, so I charted a course and we drove back to Chimicum. I got lost, so we had a couple of diversions and still got home before dark.

On April 16, we drove to Port Angeles. It was a nice scenic seaside community, but it rained the whole time we were there. We found the Elwha River Casino and went in for a few hours. We had their buffet for lunch and the food selection and quality was mediocre.

The next morning around 1:30 am, we were awakened by our son, Christopher calling from Iraq. He was cheerful and had received all our letters and packages. We were glad to hear from him, but we needed more sleep. The next time we woke it was daylight and sunshiny. We drove back to the Sequim and Port Angeles area to see some lavender farms. It turned out we were too early and nothing was blooming. We enjoyed the scenic drive, dodging all the many waterways in the area. Another torrent of rain took us back home. We had been in town almost a week and we were anxious to move on to our next stop in Ellensburg, WA.



Monday, July 6, 2015

Chimicum

Promotion: My short story “RV Park Avenger” is available in e-book format for free the next two days, July 7th and 8th. If you have not read it, this is a good opportunity. You can look it up on amazon.com by title or by my name, Arlon Boozer. It is a good story about an RV traveler named Averal Saunders whose dog gets poisoned. Averal does some investigation and finds who he thinks is the culprit and sets out to avenge his dog’s death. A police investigation ensues and Averal is forced to avoid the police inquiry. I think it is a good story for anyone who is interested in RV travel or dog ownership. I would classify it as a simple mystery with some mayhem involved. I hope you check it out. I think you will enjoy it.

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Kathi and I are stationary in Texas this summer and I already miss the 62 degree days we normally have in the summertime on the Oregon coast. We are staying at the Green Caye RV Park in Dickinson taking care of some family issues and doctors appointments. We are also helping Kathi’s brother, Larry Clark and his wife Andrea as he recuperates from leukemia. He has gone through three stages of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Kathi and I take him to the Methodist Hospital clinic three days a week to get blood tests and assurance that his medication is adequate for continued recovery. We are enjoying the relationship we are having with Larry and Andrea, since we missed so much opportunity to be together while we were on the road.

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While we are stationary, I have been relating our 2005 travel year. In my last post we left off on Sunday, April 10, 2005 and we had just arrived at the Elma RV Park in Elma, WA. We drove around Elma for about an hour after arrival and saw most of the town. We got home before dark and watched TV in the evening. On Monday we spent a few hours at the Lone Eagle Casino. We did not plan to spend much money, because we generally do not have much success at smaller Indian casinos. This time I had a little luck and turned my $20 into $150. We accepted the gain with grace and left before I was tempted to expand my winnings. It was unusual in the fact that we normally stay until we give back everything we won and feel stupid about it later.

The next morning we took our Alfa RV east on CA 108 and north on US 101 to The Evergreen SKP Park in Chimicum, WA. It was a leisurely drive somewhat less than 100 miles. All the RV spaces in the park were 30 amp, pull-thru sites. Normally we prefer 50 amp electrical instead of 30 amp, so we can run both air conditioner compressors, but it was cool enough in Chimicum that 30 amp seemed adequate in April. After getting our RV utilities hooked up, we had an excellent lunch at the Chimicum Café.

The next morning we took a drive to Port Gamble and were stopped at a draw bridge while a submarine passed below us, escorted by three Coast Guard boats and a helicopter. This was pretty exciting for us, as neither of us had seen a submarine in motion before. Kathi informed me that the movie “An Officer and A Gentleman” was filmed at a naval base nearby. I was not clear how that related to our sub sighting, but I was glad Kathi knew this piece of Hollywood trivia. It was a beautiful sun-shiny day and we got rain in the evening. We were glad to be in Washington.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

From Timber Valley To Washington

We arrived at the Timber Valley RV Park in Sutherlin, OR on March 29th, 2005. We planned to spend a week in the park before moving along further north. We always enjoy the park because of the abundance of deer, jackrabbits, turkeys and colorful birds. The park has strict water policies and will not let you wash your RV unless you are a permanent resident. Evidently water cost from the city is exorbitant. Most of the residents of the park own their own sites and live there year around. We have not had much luck talking to them, as they do not particularly like temporary RVers in the park. It never made sense to me, so I just said hello to everyone like I normally do and often get ignored. It is okay, we still like the park.

An historic covered bridge near Sutherlin, OR

Colliding Rivers as viewed from Idleyld Park in Glide, OR -- just south of Sutherlin. The Little River merges with the North Umpqua.

Another covered bridge in Sutherlin. This one is still in use.

Small deer crossing the street inside Timber Valley RV Park.

Matchstick Plants in Sutherlin
The first week of April was still pretty cool and we had some rain almost every day. We got to enjoy the lilacs, tulips, daffodils and red-bud trees in and around the park. After a week, mostly inside due to the weather, we were ready to move along.

On Tuesday morning, April 5th we started north on I-5 for the 200 mile trip to Tillamook, OR. We passed through Springfield, Eugene and Albany before we got to Salem. We turned west on California 22 moving closer to the coast. CA 22 intersected with US 101 just south of Beaver, OR. We got to Tillamook about 2 pm and checked into the Big Spruce RV Park. Big Spruce is a Passport America park and we stayed there for $11 per night good rates – hot diggity.

We found it to be even cooler in Tillamook, which was okay with us. The trees were green and the flowers were in bloom and we enjoyed our drive through the mountains, appreciating the scenery. Part of the drive we even had streams trailing alongside the highway – what fun. The Big Spruce RV Park is right next to a beach on the Pacific Ocean. The RV park was about 5 miles west of town and somewhat rustic, but it fit our needs.

It rained the next few days, mostly in the mornings and evenings. We were able to get a good bit of sightseeing done anyway. Something that always strikes me funny in Oregon is that they will not let drivers pump their own gas. It is a state law. They say it is about safety, but my suspicion is that it is a jobs program. You always have to wait for an attendant to pump gas and diesel for you.

We did not find a lot to do in Tillamook, once we toured the Tillamook ice cream and cheese factory. We found no restaurants that Kathi wanted to try, so on Saturday we drove into Portland. It was about 80 miles and took us about an hour and a half. We found a place to play Video Lottery, which is similar to video poker. Kathi ended up about $30 ahead, so she bought lunch. The drives to and from Portland were nice with a lot of green wooded areas along the route.

The rain slowed considerably on Sunday, and we took advantage and drove our motorhome to the Elma RV Park in Elma, WA. The few sprinkles along the way were not an inconvenience, but the road film and dirt covered our motorhome. We needed a wash, but decided to wait for better weather. The RV park was small, but adequate for us. As we were driving around town, we found the Lone Eagle Casino which had an RV park attached. If we would have known we could have gotten a better rate and been close to those dreaded slot machines. Maybe next time.