Summer Travel Map

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A coincidental journey comes to an end

September 30, 2010
Long Beach, WA/Astoria, OR

56 days and 2,769 coach miles ago, we left Père Marquette State Park near Grafton, Illinois. What we didn't realize until later and certainly didn't plan in advance was that our route was coincidentally similar to the Lewis and Clark "Corps of Discovery " expedition of 1804-1806 (well, at least the May, 1804 - November, 1805 part). Sure, we saw the "Lewis and Clark Trail" signs along the way, stayed at one of the many "Lewis and Clark State Parks" (Iowa) we passed, and even visited one of the various National Park Service exhibits (Great Falls, Montana) along the route. It wasn't until we got to our current location along the Columbia River that I started thinking, "Hey, we started near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, followed (roughly) the Missouri to Montana, then the Snake to the Columbia and now we're near the Pacific". So, it became a no-brainer to make a day trip out to Astoria and touch the end of the journey that took the Corps some 18 months.

We packed a lunch and the pups and headed out early on another fine weather day. Since we're on the Washington side of the Columbia, we drove North on I-5 to Longview, then West on WA-4. We made a small detour to Long Beach for lunch, remembering that we'd stopped there during a Seattle-to-San Francisco coastal drive vacation that we took in the Fall of 1993. I commented that it was the "car vacation" (it took us 6 days to drive that portion of the Pacific Coast, primarily on US-101) that convinced me to try RV rentals. And, look at us now...

Long Beach ("World's Longest Beach" - another disputed claim for sure since it's only 40km long) has several entry points where vehicular traffic is allowed, so we parked 25 yards from the surf and had our lunch. The pups had a chance to run the beach and check out the water and all the different smells. We walked a bit along the beach, drove south a few miles then back, and generally enjoyed the sea air and sunny skies.

Leaving Long Beach, we were once again on US-101, retracing our steps from both the 1993 vacation and 2009's journey south (not wanting to think about the dreaded "Hebo Incident"). After crossing the 4.2 mile long bridge into Astoria and Oregon, we made our first stop at Fort Clatsop, where the Lewis and Clark expedition built shelter and wintered in 1805-1806. The facility is nicely done, with relatively accurate (they say) recreations of the shelter and the canoes used in their journey down the Snake and Columbia Rivers to the sea. Since it was getting toward mid-afternoon, and Geri and the pups were getting "car fatigue", we pointed the Rover toward home. I'll save Fort Stevens and Cape Disappointment (the points in Oregon and Washington that define the mouth of the Columbia) for our next visit to the area.

Looping back to Astoria, an older city that will be celebrating its bicentennial in 2011, we noticed the "Astoria Column" monument high up on a hill. At first, I thought it was a totem pole of some sort and, in a way, it is, as it's covered with a Sgraffito (similar to Bas Relief) mural depicting the basic history of the region and city. Founded by and named for John Jacob Astor as a fur trading post (and only beating the explorer David Thompson to the area by two months), Astoria was the first US settlement on the Pacific Coast in 1811. The area was under joint US-British control until 1846 when the Oregon Treaty established the 49th parallel as an international boundary.

The Astoria Column was built in 1926, funded partly by the Astor family (one of my grandfather's first employers after he - illegally - emigrated from Sweden in 1905). It was the site of the first "Community Antenna Television" (now known as CATV or "Cable TV") system in the US. Since it was a beautiful day, I made the trek up the 164 steps (puff, puff) for some additional photos. What a view!

Click here for pictures from today's adventure (use the navigation arrows to change pictures...

Heading home, we stayed on the Oregon side of the river, following US-30 east until we crossed back into Washington at Longview, since there are no other crossings until Portland to our south. Dinner was simple and delicious: a pre-packaged half of a rotisserie chicken, a split baked potato, a nice corn sauté and Geri's Killer Chicken Gravy with Mushrooms. Paired with one of our recent Walla Walla Syrah acquisitions, it was a fine way to end a great day.

Trying a new thing with an embedded slide show:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Oooo - waterfalls!

September 29, 2010
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Today was a fantastic day. We had a leisurely morning and then headed out early in the afternoon, south on I-5 to I-205, then east on I-84. Not all the way to Hartford! Just a few miles to Historic US-30. Not all the way to New Jersey! This area, just about 30 miles east of downtown Portland, is home to several neat waterfalls along the southern bank of the Columbia River.

Historic US-30 follows the Sandy River and then climbs high above the Columbia River just east of the small town of Troutdale. Our first stops were at Gorge overlooks: "Portland Women's Forum" (originally called Chanticleer Point, they purchased the site and donated it to the State) and Vista House at Crown Point (built in 1916-1918 as a rest stop on the original Columbia Gorge Highway).

Next, we stopped at four different waterfalls: Latourell, Wahkeena, Horsetail, and Multnomah, capturing a few images at each one. Since there are 77 waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Gorge, we barely scratched the surface, I suppose. We enjoyed the afternoon, though, and it was fun to drag the cameras and tripod around without having to hurry.

We have a picture of Multnomah Falls, second highest year-round waterfall in the US (a disputed claim, of course) at 620 feet, in our living room in AZ that's one of the only pictures in the house that I didn't take myself. Maybe I captured a similar view; I'll know more when I actually sit down and work with the images in Photoshop to fine-tune color and contrast, and to erase all the people (it's a popular spot on a nice day).

Click here then use the navigation arrows for a few unprocessed pictures (between us, we made about 130 photos).

Back home after fighting some Portland rush hour traffic, we had a nice dinner (Geri's Awesome Butternut Squash Soup and Grilled Sandwiches) and called it an early night. Too much fresh air!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Can you be chillin' if it gets too warm?

September 28, 2010
Woodland, WA

It's been a relaxing few days here along the Columbia River. The weather has turned unseasonably warm.  We've seen a few interesting boats go by, more than just the routine river barge traffic. We had another family visit. And, we had a chance to visit someplace we've seen on TV.

Picking up where we left off last Friday, Geri's reasonably happy with her hair (not cut exactly the way she likes but "way better than it was"). Since we hadn't planned anything for dinner, we both thought of Chinese take-out (that's what all the years we've had together causes), and stopped by the local "China Garden" for a take-out menu. Later, Geri phoned the order in and I went to pick it up. Hmmm; 6:30 on a Friday evening and the dining room is empty. Should have been a clue; the food was passable but not great. No leftovers. I found out later that the place to go is about 5 miles north, in Kalama. Oh, well.

Saturday was a beautiful day, with clearing skies and warmer temperatures. We relaxed around the Park and enjoyed the day. I made Lamb Shanks with Toasted Orzo, doing the preparation work in the morning and searing the shanks and then braising them in the crock-pot for half a day. They came out fine but the sauce wasn't something we'll make again (it called for 2:1 Port to red wine ratio in the braising liquid, and the Port just wasn't a happy addition). The Orzo was prepared similar to a Risotto and was pretty good, except that the recipe called for a splash of the braising liquid to be mixed in, and it wasn't any better there than on the lamb. I'll stick to my traditional Lamb Shank recipe next time, I think.

Sunday was a more normal weather day, with clouds and seasonable temperatures. We caught up with Geri's great-nephew, Michael again for the third time this year. This time, we got to catch up with his wife and boys (Leslie, Brendan, and Cameron) as well; they drove down from their place in Puyallup, near Tacoma, for the day. After they checked out the beach and the over-sized chess set, we went to a pizza shop in Vancouver (WA) that's known for their over-the-top pies, and were we ever surprised! The waitress looked at us funny when we ordered a "large" for Geri and I; we just assumed we'd take some home for a lunch. Well, out came the biggest pie I've ever seen, vertically speaking. The crust was relatively thin, like we prefer, but there had to be three pounds of mushroom-green pepper-sausage-pepperoni-black olive toppings on there, plus two whole thick-sliced fresh tomatoes on top. I was defeated by two slices. We had leftovers, all right!
No way could we even make a dent in this monster pizza!

Yesterday was bright and sunny again, and downright warm. No, it wasn't "Arizona hot", and it certainly wasn't "LA hot", where new all-time high temperature records were set in southern California, but upper-80s is way above average for this area. The air conditioning got exercised, to boot.  We took advantage of the nice day to get out, once again driving into Portland to check out a different neighborhood (Woodstock). We made a visit to Otto's Sausage House, "as seen on TV" (we heard about the place on a recent Triple-D episode) and loaded up. Weiners, Frankfurters, Chorizo, Linguica, bulk Italian, etc. Fortunately, a) we have enough room in the freezer and b) we have some of Geri's Famous Sauerkraut ready for reheating. Chili, Kraut, diced onions - Mmmm. We'll make our own "dirty water dogs" later in the week. That didn't stop us from enjoying the last of Geri's Famous Meatloaf for dinner, though.

Today, we had a mix of sun and clouds, and basically stayed around the Park, making ourselves productive. Geri got dog food made and did laundry. I got a rack-and-a-half of ribs on the grill to cook low and slow and did a few small projects around the coach. I realized late in the day that we didn't have any barbeque sauce on board (we finished the Dreamland!), so a quick Internet search yielded a few recipes that I was able to use as a guide to whip up something pretty good. Now, if I could just remember what I did to recreate it!

This one sailed up-river early one morning.  It's a car carrier, bringing vehicles from Asia.

Container ship, probably from China, probably Wal-Mart Christmas items...

OK; I was a little late getting the camera on this one.  It's "Turmoil", the 17th largest private yacht in the US at 209', and is owned by the family of the guy who started Lands End.  Over 14,000 gallons of fuel capacity - ouch!

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Good Hair Day

September 24, 2010
Portland, OR

Yesterday, it was cloudy and rainy all day long, just like it's supposed to be here, I suppose (although the forecast is brighter). We checked out a dog groomer (no appointments available during our stay here - must be nice to be that popular) and headed for Vancouver (Washington, not British Columbia) for shopping. After picking up a few staples at the Super-Wally, we made a heartening stop at Whole Foods. It's been a while, and we picked up a few specialty items and some Lamb Shanks that I had a hankering for after seeing them done on TV. Back home, Geri made a great version of her Killer Meatloaf, paired with Mashed Potatoes and sautéed Haricots Verts. With a nice Montes Cabernet from Chile, we had a great meal - and packed another dinner's worth away for next week.  Mmmm...

Today, it was back to Portland for Geri to get her hair done. This was long overdue, since she hadn't had it done since we were in Connecticut. She got it cut a little shorter than usual, so this should last until we're back in AZ in five weeks (can it really be then?). Now, we just have to get her a mani-pedi and get the pups groomed and we'll be all set!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Power's back"...

September 22, 2010
Portland, Oregon

Today, I was up early and heading south with the coach. Wait a minute! What about staying put for a couple of weeks? Yes, well, it's true that we'll be parked in the same place, but today was the day I had scheduled to have the new inverter/charger installed. I had the work done in Portland, at one of the authorized distributors for the manufacturer. I'm still miffed that the "old" one (it's only a little over two years "old") can't be repaired. Hopefully, the new one will be more reliable and in the marketplace longer. If this one goes, I'm switching brands for sure.
New Inverter/charger - ready for installation!

Anyway, I had no problem finding the place, in an industrial park near the Portland Airport, and was right on time for a 10:00 appointment. Geri packed the pups and all the laundry we had in the Rover and stayed back at the Park. I planned for a full day's excursion, knowing what happens with these things. And I had a backup plan if there were issues: with some additional tools (always have to have the right tools), I knew I could do the installation myself, since Al and I did the warranty swap on the old one in 2008 at his place in Connecticut. Upon inspection, the lead tech announced that it should be a straight swap and take a "couple of hours". I just smiled.

Well, by 12:30 they had the old one out and the new one bolted in place (had to drill new mounting holes; wait, first let's sharpen the drill; wait, we need a cardboard template for the holes; wait, I have to take a break after each hole because it's so hard to drill at an upward angle). This was the trickiest part of the job if I'd done it myself. Lifting a 75 pound box up to the ceiling of the bay and screwing it in place isn't easy, even if the holes do line up. I was able to watch all this unfold; had nowhere else to go. I offered a suggestion here and there and held the work light on occasion; "just trying to help". "Let's grab lunch and we'll have this wrapped up in a couple of hours". I just smiled.

The next challenge, of course, was the wiring. The 120 volt circuits (2 in and 2 out) all use 12-gauge wire that has to be connected to lug terminals inside a 3" x 4" opening in the side of the box. 12-gauge Romex is pretty stiff and it was difficult to make 90° bends and get the wires into the terminals while laying in the bay and trying to see in the side of the unit mounted on the ceiling. The existing wires were pretty well bent in several directions from the old installation, so I suggested we snip and start with fresh ends. Soon, all was in place on the 120 volt side, and the 12 volt wiring wasn't anywhere near as difficult as all the connections are on the outside of the unit. By now, three more hours had passed and it was 4:00 PM. I just smiled.

The remaining work was done quickly. The firmware for the generator start and control panel modules was upgraded. Zip ties were in place to get all the wiring back in neat bundles. I backed the coach out of the shop and fired up the generator. Charging? Yes! Generator off. Inverting? Yes! I paid up and hit the road right around 4:30, just what I expected.

Back at the Park, Geri was waiting with lots of clean clothes and a recommendation from the office staff for a good Mexican restaurant. Fantastic! Who doesn't like Margarita night? She had a burrito/enchilada combination plate (what else?) and I had Pork Carnitas which were very good. We each felt that we "won" and left happy. Maybe it was the Margaritas? Nah...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

...And lakes and rivers

September 21, 2010
Woodland, WA

Today was our travel day, the last one that we'll have for a couple of weeks since we'll be staying in Woodland, Washington, until early-October. We left the Wenatchee River County Park mid-morning after a few last photos, and headed west then south on US-97.

The County Park we stayed at has a separate section of barracks-style housing available for short-term stays by migrant workers employed during harvest season.

We didn't get a chance to try out the "fabulous" burgers - next time!

After a quick jog onto I-90 then I-82 toward Yakima, we once again turned west, this time on US-12. Around Noon, we found a nice pullout along Rimrock Lake and had a lunch break. The pups enjoyed walking along the overlook and Geri made us some great sandwiches. It's certainly great to travel with your "house".

Back on the road, we were soon at I-5 where we turned south, heading for Woodland, about 20 miles north of the Washington-Oregon border. In this area, the Columbia River (the border between WA and OR) curves to the north before turning back west to the Pacific Ocean. The RV Park we're staying at is right along the riverfront so, weather permitting (this is the Pacific Northwest after all), we should have a nice view of river traffic from time to time.

Dinner tonight was a pre-planned meal: cut-up rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, and another corn sauté with pancetta and onions (didn't have any mushrooms on board this time). I paired it with a bottle of the "Boom Boom" Syrah we'd picked up in Walla Walla. This was the same wine we had at the Corn Exchange in Rapid City in August, and we put a few "in stock" when we visited the tasting room last month. Excellent match...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sun and rain...

September 20, 2010
Leavenworth, WA

Today, we had a mix of clouds and sun in the morning, so we decided to take a short ride up US-2 to the little town of Leavenworth. Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed town, similar to the Danish-themed village of Solvang, CA, near Lompoc. Not that it was settled by German immigrants or anything; the town decided to reinvent itself specifically as a tourist stop to generate income. We figured it was worth a walkabout.

Unfortunately, the closer we got to Leavenworth, the worse the weather got. With low clouds and rain, we decided it wasn't worth schlepping around town with the pups and getting soaked. We did take a ride beyond town in the Wenatchee National Forest, and saw quite a few possible photo opps for a future visit.

Just as we came back through Leavenworth, there was a little break in the clouds and rain, and we were able to snap a few photos.  Lots of places had multi-colored flowers on display.  10 minutes later and it was raining again.

Interesting decorations in the center of town.

Some things are just over the top...

For dinner, Geri made a great little pizza in the convection oven, using fresh toppings and a store-bought dough. I dug into the "wine storage drawer" for a nice Chianti and we ate well, as always.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Raindrops and Experiments

September 19, 2010
Monitor, WA

Today was supposed to be cloudy and rainy and the day lived up to its billing. We decided to make it a "lazy Sunday", with not a lot on the agenda. It didn't rain all day, but we had one huge downpour, with a little thunder and pea-sized hail, mid-afternoon.

Interestingly enough, we both found new recipes to try, so dinner became an experiment in new ways to do "soup and a sandwich". And, it only took two trips to three different stores to get everything we needed!

I started with a Roasted Tomato Soup recipe I found online. Using the grill box as an oven, I roasted the tomatoes and garlic according to the recipe, then pureed the peeled results in the food pro. With a little cream and a drizzle of infused oil, it wasn't bad but I definitely have ideas on how to improve it (peel and seed the tomatoes before roasting, roast at a lower temperature, puree out more of the coarseness) the next time.

Geri made Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Sharp Cheddar and Apple Slices. They were very good but perhaps not the best match for the soup. They'll be better the next time as well, with the addition of some thinly-sliced roasted pork tenderloin medallions.

To complete the mismatched experimentation with new things, I popped the cork on a Washington Merlot that wasn't the worst match possible but went better with the sandwiches than the soup. Interestingly enough, this was one of the few wines we've ever had that was better when first opened than when we finished it up a couple of hours later while watching TV. Most wines will open up with a little air; this one seemed to dissipate. Go figure...

So, all in all it was a good set of experiments, as everything didn't work perfectly but we definitely learned some things for future reference!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Let's go for a ride; never know what we'll find..."

September 18, 2010
Wenatchee, WA

Today, we had a mix of clouds and sun and brisk temperatures in the morning, so we decided to pack the pups in the Rover and do a little local sightseeing. Geri had checked in with our AZ neighbor, Clisby, and knew where she used to live in Wenatchee, so we sought out that area, high on a hill north of town with great views of the Columbia River Valley, first. After that, we made a clockwise loop, back through East Wenatchee with stops at Safeway and Costco (didn't realize it was time for Christmas decorations already!).

Back across the river again, we found the Post Office to mail a few things and then happened upon the local Farmers Market. It was actually a Harvest Celebration, and they had several blocks of downtown closed off. As we wandered through, we passed the farm stands, lots of kids activities, a classic car display (mostly Model As but a "T" and a Chevy and even a Franklin mixed in), and some food vendors. The last thing we spied was a set of tables pouring local wines, so we took the plunge. They were interesting but the value proposition wasn't aligned (i.e., not good enough to buy, especially at the prices they were asking), but at least we got to keep our glasses.

By then it was late in the afternoon and time to head home. Since we hadn't made a dinner plan, Geri had picked up a small piece of Salmon. I wasn't really in the mood for that but was willing to go along, but we soon decided that we didn't both need to have the fish. A quick stop at Albertsons yielded a T-bone for me and, surprisingly, a switch to King Crab Legs for her (Salmon now relegated to a lunch option). So, we poached the Salmon for future use, steamed the Crab and grilled the steak, and split a baked potato. Everyone was happy!

And, yes, we're parked right at the end of Easy Street...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Off to Wenatchee/Leavenworth

September 17, 2010
Monitor, WA
Off to Wenatchee/Leavenworth

No, we're not headed to jail (that Leavenworth is in Kansas) but rather to central Washington for a few days. We left Prosser as planned and had a nice, easy driving day. Heading north on "back roads", we soon crossed the Department of Energy Hanford Site, an interesting place even if we didn't get close enough to see anything. It's almost 600 square miles, and was the location of all the weapons-grade Plutonium in the US from World War II (Fat Man but not Little Boy) until the facility was put on "standby" in the late-1980s. Today, it's undergoing a massive clean-up involving 11,000 workers; they hope to have one section, along the Columbia River, completed by 2015.

Continuing North, we soon joined I-90. We pulled into a Scenic Overlook for a lunch break, and found the Wild Horse Monument high up on a bluff. Although a few hardy souls climbed straight up the mountain, we decided to enjoy the sculpture, and the view of the Columbia River Valley, from the parking area. The art installation of more than a dozen horse sculptures doesn't really memorialize anything in particular, just celebrates the history of the area. It makes for interesting road-side viewing.

No way was I climbing up there...
View to the south across the Columbia River.

Back on the road once again, we were soon exiting I-90 in George (George, Washington - get it?), heading north on WA-281 to Quincy, then northeast on WA-28 to East Wenatchee. After crossing the Columbia River again into Wenatchee proper on WA-285, we soon rejoined US-2 for the short leg to our destination, Wenatchee River County Park in Monitor, WA.

This is another park that we might have passed by if some research hadn't been done, as "conventional wisdom" says that a rig as large as ours won't be welcome at public parks. Well, this is clearly an exception, with about 50 spots, all paved and most at least 50' long. Full hook-ups with good 50 amp power is a little pricey at $29/night as public facilities go, but we're pretty happy with our nice spot right next to the Wenatchee River. Got a TV signal and their Wi-Fi works most of the time; what more could we ask for?

Well, we could ask for trains in the distance, I suppose. That's as opposed to tracks right on the other side of the river, about 300' away. Fortunately, there are only 4-5 trains a day and few at night, so we can tolerate it...

For dinner, Geri made some wonderful Chicken Parm, and we finished up the last of the leftover "gravy" I'd made a while ago with some Angel Hair pasta. Geri was happy to see the sauce finally gone, as she gets to make the next batch (she makes "sauce" and I make "gravy", each to our own likes).

Maya Lynn and Merlin enjoying a rawhide chew...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Live Long in Prosser"?

September 16, 2010
Prosser, WA

Well, that's the slogan from one local brewery, anyway. To be honest, though, after a very active stay in Walla Walla, we needed a couple of "down days" here in Prosser. Since the wine bin is overflowing, we decided to pass on more tasting room visits and just take a couple of days off. Geri did some laundry and I made a short trip to the Post Office and for some shopping, but otherwise we enjoyed the nice weather and did a bit of sitting outside at the picnic table with a book or a computer. The pups got extra walks, although they weren't quite sure how to react to the horses in the field up the road, alternatively ignoring and barking. Tomorrow, we move on...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bye Bye, Walla Walla

September 14, 2010
Prosser, Washington

Today was another travel day, all of 83 miles! It was a nice short drive from Walla Walla to Prosser, heading west on US-12, crossing the Snake and Columbia Rivers, and picking up I-182 and I-82 right to our destination. We arrived around noon and were quickly set up, even though we seem to be stuck right in the middle of a rally of fifth-wheel trailers. They seem nice enough, and if it doesn't bother them that we're in their midst, who am I to argue?

Even though the day started out cloudy and I felt a few raindrops while walking the pups in the 7 o'clock hour, it has turned out to be a nice day. We ran out of the clouds halfway through the day's drive and this evening has turned cloud-free and balmy. We put the chairs and dog pen out, and are enjoying wine (what else???) outside for a change. Tonight's dinner: leftover Chicken Pot Pie.  Mmmm.  Life continues to be good!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wine Stop!

September 13, 2010
Walla Walla, Washington

On Saturday, we broke camp and headed "downhill" from Northern Idaho to Southeast Washington. Our route took us on US-2 then US-95 down to I-90, then west through Spokane. Once we were on the other side of the city, we turned south again on US-195 to WA-26, WA-127, and finally west again on US-12. We left behind the pine forests and the cloudy/rainy weather and before we knew it we were in hay and wheat country again. Rolling fields of staggered crops stretched out on both side of us. As we crossed the Snake River, we started to pick up the "Lewis and Clark Trail" signs again.

We rolled into Walla Walla in the middle of the afternoon, a pretty short driving day by our past standards, with 253 miles logged. Ah, life in the slow lane. The park we're staying at, Blue Valley RV Park, may have changed hands in the past year, as it used to be "Fairway RV Resort", probably so named because of its location next to a golf course. The Park's layout is a little odd, with two separate sections bisected by the local Humane Society's compound, but we had a nice spot with a good satellite alignment so we were happy campers.

Somewhere along the way, our meal plan (OK, "my" meal plan since Geri hates the concept) fell apart. I had us having pasta, but we had the last of the leftover Angel Hair for lunch. Pasta twice in one day? No way, José. On the other hand, why not be a little spontaneous once in a while? A little bit of quick Googling and Yelping, one fast phone call, and we were booked for a 7:15 dinner before Geri was even out of the shower. Brasserie Four, in downtown Walla Walla, serves a house favorite, Moules Frites, that Geri loves. I had Steak Frites. We were both happy, but even I admitted that she "won". With a glass of Rosé Champagne with our Terrine de Fois de Poulet (chicken livers) starter and a nice bottle of local Syrah with the entrées, we were stuffed and happy by the time we rolled home.

Sunday dawned bright and crisp, not a cloud in the sky. We actually had breakfast on the patio for a change, something we haven't done since AZ (and not much then this past winter since it was so cool). We started our local touring with a stop at the Farmer's Market downtown. It was small as these things go, and probably about 50% farm produce and 50% other "stuff" (from breads and rolls to trinkets to massages). We picked up a few things but were a little disappointed that two of the things on our list weren't available. Apparently, nobody grows salad greens around here, at least not in September. And - go figure - we couldn't get a Walla Walla onion to save our lives. A 5 pound, 10 pound, 20 pound bag? Sure. One or two loose onions? Nope. Who knew?

Next, it was on to wineries. I did a bit of research in advance, so we weren't disappointed. Not only did we need to focus on good quality, we needed to a) know that they had a tasting room, b) know that the tasting room would be open (many of the smaller producers here are by appointment only or closed to the public) and c) that the wines are affordable. I picked five wineries in total, two for Sunday and three for Monday.

Our first winery was K Vintners on the eastern side of Walla Walla. The winemaker, Charles Smith (not to be confused with Charles Shaw, of "Two Buck Chuck" fame), produces two lines. We had a bottle of his "value" label, "Boom Boom Syrah" in Rapid City and liked it, so this was a natural. We tasted five different wines and ended up with a "six pack" to go, including a couple of bottles of Boom Boom (a tremendous value at $15).

Next, we headed to Amavi, south of town. We'd never had their wines before but have read good reviews, and we weren't disappointed. Their facility is modern and only a year or two old, nestled on a rise in one of their vineyards. Another tasting; another half-case in the car. We also signed up for their "wine club", since they offer the flexibility of one shipment a year, which we can schedule in December for our convenience.

Since we still had time in the day (and the pups were safely home in the air-conditioned coach), we headed back downtown, had a sandwich from Safeway (lousy) and walked around Main Street a bit. Since it was Sunday, many of the shops were closed, but we did make one last stop at the Walla Walla Wine Works. More tasting and buying ensued and we were soon ready to call it a day. Geri made salad and I seared a piece of Yellowfin Tuna, so we had a relatively light dinner.

Today (Monday) was another beautiful day. I got some chores out of the way early while Geri slept in. A few calls later (dentist appointment for her for early-November to repair that darned loose tooth; confirm next RV Park reservations; argue with the Xantrex tech support crowd about whey they didn't call me back last week, why they can't tell me why my inverter/charger won't charge, and why they won't even try to fix it - "sorry; we can't get parts for that model anymore"; line up a new inverter/charger in Portland for next week; whew, I felt like my friend Dave, the serial caller) and I was all set. Geri was up, so let the day begin!

I picked out three wineries for today, all on the west side of town. Our first stop was at Cougar Crest Winery, the furthest out, figuring we'd work our way back. It turns out no cougars we harmed during the creation of the winery; the owners are Washington State University alumni (Go Cougars!). We had the tasting room to ourselves and managed to taste everything they were pouring. With many recent vintages getting 90-94 point ratings from the Wine Spectator and several 2005 vintage bottles discounted to make room, it was tough to choose but we managed to get by with a little over a case this time.

Next stop: Reininger Vineyards, another brand we've never tried but have read about. It being Monday, we once again had the tasting room to ourselves. This is quite nice, as you don't feel crowded or rushed, and can actually interact with the tasting room staff. They produce two labels, Reininger from the Walla Walla AVA and Helix from the Columbia Valley, further to the west. Both were good and both ended up in the Rover.

Our last stop was Three Rivers Winery. This winery is part of the Foley Wine Group, one of our favorites from the Santa Barbara County area in Southern California. We're "wine club" members at one of their brands, Lincourt. Good news for us: free tastings at all Foley properties for wine club members. There were actually a few people in the tasting room when we arrived, with several cars in the lot and one of the local "wine tour" 16-passenger shuttle busses idling outside. We were happy to see the tour guide rounding up his passengers, when a "real" bus pulled up and dumped off 40 people on a "bus tour" of the Northwest. Then things got busy! We shifted to one end of the tasting bar and talked to several people (by this time in the day we were, shall we say, "talkative") as we finished our tasting. We made our selections for purchase and headed out; the tour group was still going strong.

Back home, we walked and fed the pups and I made up some Asiago and Sun-dried Tomato Burgers (sorry; pre-made by Safeway and OK but not great) and some homemade Frites (gotta make them when you see New Potatoes in the store). We paired this with a reasonably good but somewhat oddball wine from Three Rivers, a Malbec-Merlot blend. Go figure.

Click here for more pictures from our stay in Walla Walla.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Projects and cleaning...

September 10, 2010
Naples, ID

Not much sightseeing in this area for us, I'm afraid. Yesterday was spent debugging an issue with our inverter/charger as the charging side appears to be toast, and the unit isn't passing full voltage on one leg. It was an easy bypass for that, and our solar panels will keep the batteries charged until we can get the inverter/charger repaired or replaced. We did make a quick trip into Sandpoint, about 20 miles south of here, to find an ATM (cash reserves running low) and pick up a few things. It seems like we always have a grocery list going! Must mean we eat well.

Today is cleaning day. Geri's got most of the laundry knocked off and I'm going to wash the floor and the mirrors. She's made a batch of dog food, and will soon start on tonight's dinner: her Famous Chicken Pot Pie. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Montana: Check. On to Idaho.

September 8, 2010
Naples, Idaho

Today was another easy travel day. I'm really liking these shorter days, away from the Interstates. Today's drive took us from Hungry Horse, Montana, to Naples, Idaho, essentially along US-2 the whole way. Straight as that seems, it took 171 driving miles to cover the 108 straight-line miles, but it was all relatively smooth roadway and it's scenic country.

We made our first stop less than a mile from the start of today's drive, at the Huckleberry Patch right down the road. Geri loaded up on stuff to make pies, plus some pre-made pie and ice cream for our travels.

From there, our route brought us through Kalispell, then west and north through the Kootenai National Forest. Crossing into the northern tip of Idaho, we made a quick stop in Bonners Ferry for fuel and were quickly at our next destination: Blue Lake RV Resort. Now, I'm usually skeptical of parks with the word "resort" in their name" and, while this is certainly a nice "rustic" park with great owners, it ain't no "resort".

They do have a small vineyard (woo-hoo!) but it doesn't look like any wine will be made here any time soon.

"Wild" is right...
Not thinking we're going to be tasting the local wines...

But, we have a nice pull-thru, their free Wi-Fi works, and we have a TV signal from one of the rooftop antennas, so life is good. At least, that is, until the freight train passed by 100' away. (I knew we crossed a set of tracks on the way into the park - duh!). Hopefully, there won't be too many trains passing by...

Oops; there goes one now!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Planning and Packing

September 7, 2010
Kalispell, MT

Today, as planned, we ventured forth to Kalispell for shopping. Since it's been cool, we were able to take the pups with us as they can stay in the Rover.

Kalispell hasn't changed much since we spent two weeks here in the spring of 2009, but the shopping area out on the US-93 Bypass has grown. They even have a Costco now. And, the old Wal-Mart on US-2 has been replaced with a Supercenter out on the Bypass. Everything we needed in one convenient location! We loaded up on groceries and some wine as needed.  We did see an interesting local business advertised, though...

Even the license plate...

Back home with everything packed away, we did a little advance planning for our next move, laying out the navigation system's map for tomorrow's travel and double-checking our ideas for the next few stops down the road. For dinner, I heated up a batch of the Pasta Sauce I'd pre-made last weekend (can't be "leftovers" if you haven't already had some!), cooked up some Capellini, and popped the cork on a nice Chianti (no fava bean jokes, please).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Park Visit to Glacier - Snow Fix

September 6, 2010
Glacier National Park
Labor Day Park Visit to Glacier

Today started out crisp and clear, so we packed up snacks and dogs and headed for Glacier National Park. I took a few pictures around the campground before we left, though. We didn't have specific things we wanted to see on this, our second visit to Glacier (our first time being years ago on one of our "RV Rental" vacations). We took our time, stopped quite a few times for pictures, and ended up at Logan Pass, the highest point on the Going To The Sun Highway, the primary East-West road through the Park. Being a holiday, there was quite a bit of traffic and many of the overlooks and turnouts were jammed with cars. It's good to see people enjoying Glacier, although they'll likely have to change the name within a decade or so, since all the actual glaciers are almost gone. It's still a beautiful place, though.

And, if all the foliage starting to turn wasn't enough to point us south, we had a nice "snow fix" at Logan Pass.

Click here for selected photos from today's adventure.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Rainy Day Activities

September 5, 2010
Hungry Horse, MT

Today was sunny at first but, just as the forecast predicted, we were soon experiencing a series of rain showers. It was downright chilly this morning, and I broke down and put the heat on. After being in the upper 40s most of the day, it's all the way up to 53°F mid-afternoon. I'm betting we'll have the heat on each morning for the next few days.

We took advantage of the rainy day to do some chores: PC and phone data backups are done, the printer's working again (IP address problems when switching to the repeater), a pot of pasta sauce is on, and we have a meal plan for the next week or so for our next shopping excursion, which will probably be Tuesday when we'll head to Columbia Falls and Kalispell (they have a Costco!). Tomorrow's weather is supposed to be a bit better than today, so we'll explore Glacier NP a bit while Nature cooperates.

Tonight's dinner: Pork Tenderloin with Risotto. Mmmm...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"It's all uphill from here..."

September 4, 2010
Hungry Horse, Montana

Yesterday was a "puttering around the house" day. Geri got a bunch of things done inside and I did a few outside chores, including washing a thousand miles of road grime off the Rover. I got out the silicone and touched up a few seams, plus did a general "make sure everything looks OK" review. We're in good shape. Geri made her Famous Pork Medallions with pan-roasted red potatoes and haricorts verts for dinner, and we enjoyed that a lot.

Today, we were back on the road, leaving Great Falls behind (beating our planned 10:00 departure by half an hour) and heading north and west to Hungry Horse, just outside the West Entrance of Glacier National Park. After a stop for fuel and a short segment on I-15, we cut off onto US-89, first heading west and then north through a handful of small towns. It seemed like we were climbing all day. This, in addition to the strong cross- and head winds (depending on our direction), made the drive seem longer than it really was. Near Browning, on the Blackfoot Reservation, we caught up with US-2 and looped west around the southern edge of Glacier NP. We were soon parked at our next "home", Canyon RV & Campground in Hungry Horse.

We noticed this rig as we were leaving; they must have come in the night before.  It takes all kinds!
Just as we got off the highway for fuel, we saw this "weather-vane" spinning around in the wind, right near the Great Falls Airport.  It reminded us of the DC-3 version we saw last year in Whitehorse, YT.

We're on the edge of the "footprint" of the satellite we use for Internet access; we've been having spotty service since we left South Dakota. We have Verizon access via USB to the phones as a backup, but most RV Parks (at least the ones we've been staying at lately) have Wi-Fi these days. Another bonus for us: we have a Wi-Fi "repeater" that has an external antenna so we can "jack up" a weak signal. It takes a little configuring, but works great in places like this, where the signal's just a little weak.

We did a quick walking tour around the Park with the pups, and enjoyed a glass of wine outside until the bugs arrived. By then, it was after 6:00 and the pups were telling us it was well past dinner time. I got the pasta water going and did up some orecchiette al dente, which was a fabulous match for the second half of the Lamb Ragu we had earlier in the week. I doctored up the Ragu with a bit more leftover sauce; Geri felt that the original was a little too gamy for her taste, and she was right as the second batch was excellent. With a nice Gabbiano Chianti, we had another nice meal.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How many falls in Great Falls?

September 2, 2010
Great Falls, MT

Yesterday was another travel day. We had some strong afternoon thunderstorms, an OK night en route, and another partly rainy (a new weather term I made up) day traveling through Billings and then along MT-3, US-12, US-191 and US-87 into Great Falls. We arrived at our destination, Dick's RV Park (managed by the Dick family, of course) early in the afternoon. Once set up and hooked up, we headed out to Wally World for a quick shopping excursion, picking up enough provisions for the next few days. We had more strong storms and savage winds during the night.

Today dawned completely clear and on the cool side. Good sleeping weather! We cleaned up a bit and took off for a ride after lunch. It's "Great Falls" after all, so there must be a waterfall around here, right? Well, ask Lewis and Clark, I suppose. They arrived here in June of 1805 and spent two weeks hauling all their stuff up Portage Creek and around. So, we headed out on River Road and soon found Black Eagle Falls, with a large hydroelectric dam built right on top of the falls. A short distance down the road, we came upon a similar scene, this time at Rainbow Falls. I could see Crooked Falls off downstream (no power plant there). We then headed further downstream on the north side of the Missouri, to Ryan Dam and the Great Falls of the Missouri, the first waterfall Lewis and Clark ran into and the largest (and "greatest" of the falls).

So, four falls, right? Well, before they built all the hydroelectric dams, there were five. Colter Falls, a relatively shallow cascade, has been submerged behind Rainbow Falls. Accordingly, no pictures of that one. But, click here for more pictures from today's drive.

Tomorrow, it'll be a more sedate day. I think I'll wash the Rover...