Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Rest of the Oregon Trip 2014

Boringest road in the US!  Nothing but fields, a few trees, and some cows all across Montana on US 2.  Then we got to North Dakota.  Seems like from then on it only got worse: heavy construction on the highway because of all the oil tankers and other heavy equipment usage for some years now due to the discovery of oil in the area from Williston to east of Minot (pronounced Mine-ott).  The area is being built up quite a bit and that also includes dorm style housing which look like modern military barracks.  Traffic is very heavy no matter the time of day.

After we got past Minot, there was no traffic and it was a four-lane road with no construction.  We stopped in Rugby where the world’s tallest man (over eight feet tall) lived and the Geographical Center of North America.  The sun is up around 5 a.m. and doesn’t go down until after 10 p.m.  We spent the night in Devils Lake which we were told is rising year after year (not due to snow melt).

In eastern North Dakota, we saw lots of ducks and geese in the many, many marshes, puddles, ponds, lakes, rivers, and even in the ditches alongside the roadway. 

Then we got to Itasca State Park in Minnesota where the mosquitoes and midges about carried us off.  It got worse in Michigan!  I waded across the Mississippi River near the Visitor Center in the park. As we were leaving the park that morning, a black bear ran across the road in front of us, paused, then took off into the woods.
From Duluth the huge bridge was up and down and winding as it crossed Lake Superior into Wisconsin
We left US 2 in the UP and took I-75 south to pick up US 23 which skirts Lake Huron.  We stopped just south of another huge bridge where repairs were being made (so the speed limit was 20 for trucks and 45 for everyone else) to take the ferry across to Mackinac Island for the day.  We missed the 7:30 a.m. ferry by minutes.  Then got on the 8:30 ferry to have two busloads of fifth graders get on, too!  Talk about noisy!!!  Nobody wanted to sit up top in the open because of the spray from the boat except for about six students who half way across the bay came in from the cold and wet.

The weather was foggy and cold even when the forecast was for high 70s.  We walked blocks and blocks very slowly taking in the wonderful old mansions and resort inns built in the late 1800s.  We just couldn’t bring ourselves to attempt the steep hill up to the old fort.  The horse drawn carriages were a little too expensive. After eating lunch, we returned to the mainland on the 1 p.m. ferry.

We stayed on US 23 til it met US 20 in Ohio which we then took east to US 250 south angling toward Virginia to Front Royal then on to Luray before heading back home.  Yet again crossing over the 45th parallel.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Crossing Into Washington

One of the things we noticed right away while crossing through Oregon was the abundance of bright yellow rhododendron bushes virtually everywhere.  They were even on the dunes near the beaches. After we crossed back into Idaho, they disappeared.  We missed the Rhoddy parade in St. Angeles by one day.
US 101 in Washington is miles and miles of absolutely nothing by trees and road. The Hoh River is a green color but all the other rivers and streams are a slate gray color…just didn’t look like I expected.
On US 101 south of Forks, we noticed several groups of water mains coming out of the side of the mountain near the roadway.  They projected out then disappeared into the ground.
We finally saw all of three deer grazing alongside the road just west of Pt. Angeles.  We ended up on the northern side of Mt. Olympic National Park for the night.  The next morning as we were leaving, six deer crossed the road in front of us.
As we followed US 101 around the national park, we noticed street signs “Johnnycomelately Creek Road“ and “Linger Longer Lane” in Quilcene.  Then in Sheldon we saw the “Skyline Drive-In” and, yes, they were showing new movies!
We traveled down US 101 to connect with I-5 North to pick up US 2 to head back east but decided once we got on I-5 to take I-90 instead of US 2 as they both met in Spokane and I-90 would be faster.  We passed through Bonners Ferry, ID, and enter Glacier National Park on the west side.
We were disappointed to learn that the Going-to-the-Sun Road was only open about fourteen miles up to Avalanche Campground and Picnic areas. The road is being reconstructed after almost 100 years and also has yet to be completely plowed.  Snow fall was more than usual this year.
 The only campground reachable from there was Apgar and only the A Loop was open.  All the camp sites were for both RVs and tents but the pull-through sites were on the left side of the one-way road so that put RV doors on the road side.  We watched several fifth-wheel and travel trailers try to negotiate the parallel parking style spaces.  After about six to ten tries, they got finally got  parked completely off the road.
The first night, we saw three deer eating something in the fire pit of the site across the road.  The next morning I saw a weasel hot footing it down the middle of the road.  Some people with a tent showed up the second night after 10 p.m. and set about very noisily setting up camp and had two spotlights turned on so they could see what they were doing as well as yelling at each other.  They got mad when Frank yelled at them to quit it because it was after quiet hours started.  Needless to say, we weren’t the only ones who reported them to the park ranger the next morning.  Then they were sited $75 for not securing their foodstuffs.
Friday morning we heard on the radio that a 190-pound black bear had been found on the Going-to-the-Sun road dead after apparently falling off a snow bank.
We discovered we had picked up a mouse either in Washington or Idaho.  It ate a big hole in a tomato I had left on the counter and into the loaf of bread.  So we had to return to West Glacier Grocery to buy a couple of mouse traps.  It paid for its free ride with its life!
As we drove up the Road that day, we kept seeing gushing streams of snow melt just pouring off the side of the mountain – it had actually washed out some of the east bound lane but was passable.

That's NOT snow, it's snow melt racing down to join the river.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Going South on US 101 into California

We missed the Elk Watching Center near Dean Creek…never saw the sign and, without a street address, the GPS can’t find most stuff.  We noticed most of the sand dunes along the ocean were almost as tall as the Sitka spruce trees the area is noted for according to guide book.  The weather was still breezy and chilly which didn’t stop a lot of people from enjoying the viewpoints.  I did go down a path that led to a crossover and down to the beach staircase which I used to get on the beach.  Distances are deceiving:  the beach was a lot longer than the path I had been on along the cliff. Then I came back to where we were parked and had to make stops at each platform going back up to the parking lot to catch my breath.  That’s what living in Florida for over forty years does to a person.
The road changed elevations quite a bit and was very curvy with no guardrails on the shore side.  As I get vertigo in those situations, I mostly looked at the roadway or at the cliff on the opposite side of the road.
Our final destination in northern California was the Prairie Creek Redwood State Park where we were assured we  would see elk in the meadow…they even had benches to sit on…..for hours and they were a no show!

We stopped at Trees of Mystery going back north on US 101 where Paul Bunyan and Babe stand guard at the entrance.  We took the shuttle to the ski gondola which then took us up and back from the viewing platform.  We still were not anywhere near the top of the redwoods!  The trail back down was downhill (I was assured by the attendant) with some level sections, so, Frank took the shuttle and I took the trail so I could get photos of the chainsaw sculptures along the way.   About an hour later, I arrived back at the entrance.

I don't know how I disappeared from this photo!!!  Frank took two of me in front of this gigantic redwood....I don't know how to photo-shop someone out.....

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Getting to the Oregon Coast and Heading South

Arriving in Oregon, we stopped at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center outside Baker City and on top of a hill where apparently most pioneers got their first look at what they had traveled so far to reach.  During the summer, reenactments are held around several wagons in a circle.  So far, the only buffalo we have seen was the stuffed one in the exhibit hall.

After visiting the museum of life size exhibits from the mid-1800’s, we headed for the coast on I-84 which follows the Columbia River to Portland.  We decided to take I-5 south to Salem before reaching the coast by way of Rts. 18 and 22.  The trees were mostly spruce and reminded us of US 340 between Luray and Front Royal.
We stopped at a visitor center to pick up brochures of things to see and do.  The Oregon coast mile-by-mile guide was numbered north to south as were the actual mile posts; the opposite of all the interstates and other US highways!

One of the first stops was at Sea  Lion Caves just north of Florence.  It was originally built with stairs down into the cave.  Now it’s all concrete block with an elevator.  We expected the seals to really smell rank but as it was a very cool day, they didn’t.

Further down the road in Depoe Bay; we found out that a whale and her calf had been circling the bay.  We were able to spot her a couple times. 
Traffic was light but we couldn’t find any accessible RV parking so we could go on a whale-watching cruise.  The coast is very different from Florida’s; it was very steep and has very, very large boulders.  At one point I held the GPS and saw that we were 600+ feet above sea level.  Access points are few and far between and involved multi-level stairs.
As we traveled south along the coast on US 101, we kept seeing signs which stated that we were either entering or leaving a “ tsunami hazard zone”.

As far as flora and fauna sightings, well, it was more flora and fowl.  We had seen many antelope along the route to Oregon but few other wild animals.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

OOPS! I think I've gotten mixed up about our route!

Without reliable wifi available on any kinda dependable schedule, I got ahead of myself on the postings.
Before leaving Wyoming, we stopped in Sage to see the geyser located in a small park just off the main highway.  Shortly after it was discovered, the National Park Service advised the local government that this one was messing up the timing of Old Faithful so kindly do something about it.  So they put it on a timer which lets it spew for exactly five minutes on the hour.

This little building was used in the late 1950's as a 'spotter' for incoming enemy aircraft or fired missiles.

Then we entered Idaho...

Thursday, May 29, 2014


As we cruised west on US 26 out of Ogallata, NE, we took a detour north to visit a roadside oddity just north of Alliance:  Carhenge created by a guy and modeled after Stonehenge.
Entering Wyoming, we stopped to see the Guernsey Ruts where we saw the deep ruts cut into the rocks on the Oregon Trail.  I followed them for several yards over some rocky land.
Still on US 26, we passed through Casper and headed to Riverton and Lander to spend the night in Sinks Canyon.  This is where the yellow-bellied marmot kept popping out of the rocks and looking at us all evening.  The sites (maybe two) that were anywhere near level had tents in them, even though the tent sites had raised level platforms for the tents.  Why do they take the level RV sites?  We have run into this at several state and national parks.
The next day we viewed the Sinks, where the river rushed into a mountain wall (or so it seems during the spring runoff) before dropping into a cavern only to exit into the river a few miles further on.  
After seeing all we could see in the park, we headed down the road to check out Atlantic City and South Pass City which are advertised as being ‘ghost towns’.  We followed a dirty winding road to get to them.  Alongside the road were huge patches of snow! The present population in Atlantic City is about 57 according to the sign.  South Pass City is mostly restored.  Maybe about fifteen people do still live there as we saw. 

We got back on I-80 following US 191 and got off at Rock Springs to travel around the Flaming Gorge.  This took us into Utah for about twenty miles.  The road has a lot of nine percent grades and winding switchback sections. The gorge is not easily seen from the road (US 191, Utah 44, and Wyoming 530).  These are paved mountain roads with some passing lanes.  At the dam was the visitor center and a great view point.  We did get a space in Deer Run campground  at the Cedar Springs Marina several miles down the road that was again not very level but it was paved.  Some of the campsites were ‘doubles’ and a couple of level looking sites had tents in them.
The next morning when I turned on the furnace (it was COLD!), it made a horrific noise like it was grinding something up.  When I tried again, the fan worked but no heat.  We could hear the igniter trying to light the gas.  The guy at the local repair shop who looked at it said it happens often that the wire comes loose and gets sucked in to the fan blades.  Fifteen minutes later we were good to go again.

We headed further up the road to Fossil Butte National Monument outside Sage.  The visitor center is where all the fossils are that we could actually see.  Again this was a very winding paved road up a mountain then back down again.  
At the topmost viewing area, the rangers were hosting a ‘fossil dig’ for some students that day.  We could also see some of the trail ruts from the top of the hill.
We were seeing wind farms all along the mountains.  Signs that promised elk, deer, etc., crossing the roads, were lies. We still hadn’t seen any buffalo.  Seems the antelope out number any cattle that we saw.  The wind was still very strong either as a cross wind or head wind, and at times it seemed like both at the same time.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Idaho ... I think

I'm having so much trouble locating accessable WiFi that this might be the last post til we get to VA at my sister's.  I'm in McD's right now (Wed, May 20) and therefore do not have my maps and notes with me.
We arrived at the American Falls view point to find that these falls are now behind the dam which had been built after the 1919 drought.  We were also seeing many windmills across the ridges of the mountains.

We stopped at Register Rock which is in a wayside park and enclosed in a pavilion with a chain link fence around it to protect it from vandals.  Even though we wanted to take the City of Rocks trail around Burley, we had to pass it up because of the heavy rain and the road conditions.

The city of Twin Falls was a mess of streets to try to navigate to find what we had come to see and the GPS was no help because we didn’t have a street address for the viewpoint park and, without internet service, I couldn’t find it.

We finally got directions to the Twin Falls Park and Dam; then a few streets away was the Shoshone Falls Park which was, again, a steep winding road down and back.  We also saw many streamlet falls alongside the main road.

Several times we saw signs for a snow zone and chain up areas along I-84 while travelling through the state.  When we ascended the road to the view of the Hagerman Fossil Beds, we could also see the Oregon Trail wagon ruts along the lower levels.  The park rangers were getting set up to have some school kids ‘dig’ for fossils.  All the real fossils are in the mountains across the valley and in the museums.