Monthly Archives: August 2018

The Four Day Drive Back to Colorado Springs

July 25th, 2018
Driving Interstate 84 From Portland to Baker City, OR

This was about 290 miles to the A-Frame RV Park. Pretty small park. We didn’t call ahead until on the road so the only pull through we could get was a water and electric site, halfway into the parking lot facing the propane tank. It was a long drive. We filled up at a large Travel America truck stop, next to a Love’s, just leaving Portland so we didn’t need a fuel stop. We must have stopped for lunch somewhere but I do not recall it. What I do recall was our only encounter with an officer of the law in four years of full-timing, other than border crossing folks. Everybody has to talk to them so they don’t count.

After I-84 turns away from the Columbia River, it heads east and slightly south toward Pendleton, OR. It might have been a good idea, on that 90° day, to stop at the Burger King or Denny’s, or Wal-Mart and watch the people, something long enough to let the engine cool off a while. Perhaps the Wildhorse Resort and Casino in Mission, a few miles further east, if that floats your boat, would have been interesting. But we plowed ahead and started climbing, and climbing, thinking we peaked, and kept climbing, until the engine temperature hit the red mark which causes an immediate upshift in gears and slowdown. Luckily, one of many pullouts was available at the same time so we pulled over and turned off the engine.

A few minutes later a very cool, black Dodge Charger pulled in behind us. I couldn’t see inside his tinted window to see if this was somebody with a gun or a tourist stopping for the view. Turned out to be a dude with a gun approaching us. A very dapper state patrol officer met me as I opened our door and politely asked if we were having trouble, wondering if we had overheated. Upon answering in the affirmative, “Yes. Hit the red zone, just cooling off for a while”, I asked how his day was going. “Trying to keep cool”. As he walked away I asked him to keep an eye on me. Then that very sleek looking Charger kicked up dust and took off. Love that car. I know cops drive a lot of Chargers but this one was completely stealthy. So watch it going up Deadman’s Pass.

It was about seven miles or so to the top of Deadman’s Pass. It was steeper going down, another bump near La Grande, and then a fairly straight run to Baker City. But let’s go back to I-84 on the Columbia River.

A lot of these are pretty similar. The supreme editor prohibits picture taking while driving but I figured a way to snap my eyelids and connect my brain to the camera. I took about thirty million shots. Here’s a few more.

Must be a windy area ahead.

Just driving.

It was lovely the whole river ride.

There’s that Airstream again.

I think we’re getting to the end of the river view here.

Maybe this one’s out of sequence. Do you care?

And that’s it. Southeast on the straight, open road.

After the nasty climb up Deadman’s Pass, we spent the night in A-Frame RV Park in Baker City. The park name is obviously from the office building. It was good enough for an overnight stay.

July 26th
Baker City, OR to Picabo, ID

On the road again. Another 264 miles to a gem of an RV park. We are taking a bit of a side trip to check out Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. I first heard about this place when researching our big trip west in 1998 and it led me to watch the ridiculous Ted Danson movie, ‘Pontiac Moon’. The plot went something like this: his wife, Mary Steenburger, hadn’t left her house in seven years after losing an unborn child in a car accident. It’s the summer of 1969 and Ted decides he has to take his son on a trip to this park, which was called something else in the movie, and arrive the day of the moon landing. They are driving from a small town in California and Ted comes up with a route that will put just the right mileage on his 1949 Pontiac Superchief when it arrives at the park, to equal the distance to the moon. It gets complicated – Mary follows them, Ted has an accident, and the whole movie has long since gone off the rails. But I like road trip movies. I like road trips. No kidding.

Anyway, the choices for staying in an RV park near Craters of the Moon were slim. There is an RV park in the National Monument, but it has no hookups and we wanted electric, at a minimum. The other two that showed up in our searches were in Bellevue, at least ten miles out of our way north (and ten back), and in Arco, about twenty miles east, past the park. But then Google kept showing me Picabo Angler when I searched for RV parks in the area. I looked it up in RV Park Reviews and it was real, with good reviews, Andrea called up along the way and reserved a spot. It is thirty-two miles west of the park on US 20. Perfect.

Another long ride.

But pretty easy.

I think it was on cruise control for a hundred miles.

I liked that farming pattern.

We finally arrived at check-in for the park, Picabo Angler convenience store and gas station, across the main road from the park. There must be some big fishing nearby – could the name of the place be a clue? Half the store was devoted to serious fishing equipment with big signs touting their guide service. The guy ahead of me on line was booking a trip.

Once registered for the RV park, we crossed the road and entered, passing a big sign for Picabo Angler and Silver Creek RV Park. Why don’t they add the RV park to their Google listing? Each site is a beautiful pull-thru with full hookups, just one row of about a dozen sites. Ours was a hundred twenty feet long. All sites have nicely manicured grass and face a large sheep and llama farm.

That’s us. The Cruise America RV on the right was carrying a family from Denmark across the US West. Very nice family. We spoke with them for a while.

Lovely RV park.

Baaaaaaaah. White llama in the back.

And the black llama.

Baaaaaah again.

A hidden gem of a park.

That’s us again.

The Park is right on the road to Craters of the Moon coming from the west. Beautiful setting and convenient. Highly recommended.

July 27th

It’s thirty-two miles to Craters of the Moon. The plan is to get there by 11AM, park in the visitor center lot, detach the jeep, and check out the campground and the park to see if it’s worth staying overnight and exploring more deep into the day. I could tell by zooming in on Google maps that the parking lot had room for the 42′ Odyssey. I only use satellite mode. You gotta love Google maps if you’re an RVer. I use it all the time to see if we can fit in Wal-Mart lots and non-truckstop gas stations, and look for possible large pullouts for rest stops in the middle of nowhere.

The parking lot did have RV spaces but not many. In fact, we got the last one. First we went into the gift shop, one at a time as we brought Luna out to walk around. When Andrea went in, I sat down on a bench in the shade and tried to listen in on a ranger talk about twenty yards away. He was mostly out of my hearing range but I heard a few words about the origin of the park. At the end of his talk, this guy, in the green shirt,

raised his hand, loud enough so I could hear him speak, interjected that what was just presented is just a theory. He went on…Several scientists with PHD’s have formulated another theory that the world is only ~~~so many years old – I didn’t get the number but that’s when I started losing him. I got to wondering if he was armed. People that retarded – and, yes, shoot me for using that term – need to just shut up. Yeah, first amendment and all that but do not poison the minds of young children with total bullshit. When he was done proving to the group what an asshole he is, the ranger proceeded, “For the other 99 percent of us, let’s now take a look at some of the million year old samples in the exhibit.” Right on, young man.

The picture of the idiot, who kind of looks like Peyton Manning (sorry big boy), is out in the parking lot after he accosted a seminar attendee whom he thought might believe his lunacy. The guy kept trying to walk away while six-thousand-year-old-earth-theory-man keeps spouting off about several scientists with PHD’s can’t be ignored. But he can. The other guy walked away as shit-for-brains kept talking to himself. Should I ask a ranger to check him for weapons? As much as I loathe the stupidity of imbeciles like him, I also have concerns that they have gun rights and cults have been known to arm themselves.

What is wrong with these people? They make me lose my sense of acceptance. To each his own? When they are teaching impressionable children that science is wrong? Should we have truth police? Maybe all our national parks and monuments that protect eons old patches of earth which provide insight into the evolution (may I use that word?) of our planet, should have additional plaques and informational boards that state outright that any theory that places the age of the earth under four and a half billion years is false and we should speak up loudly to dispute absurd claims to the extreme contrary. And then provide the argument with evidence from the local environment of the park.

That guy both creeped me out and pissed me off. Count to ten…

Andrea came out of the gift shop – empty-handed? No. What are the chances of that? She got me a t-shirt! Yay! We detached the Jeep and took the seven mile loop drive. The entire park is just a moonscape of dried up black lava. It is not the result of a volcano, rather just a bubbling up of the stuff when the local plates were shifting and pushed the molten mess out of a few cracks in the surface.

First we drove through the campground and found it to be totally unwelcoming on a warm day, all sites sitting on the same black lava. Hot, hot, hot. No thanks. Knowing we were not going to stay, we knew we now had to expedite the tour.

The first loop stop included a short “hike”. It was actually a quarter mile walk due to closure of most of the trail. There were a few interesting lava formations.

Like this monkey headed lump.

Planet of the apes dude, no? Otherwise, eh.

Next, a large hill that all the tourists except me climbed to get a good view of the park, I guess.

That’s Andrea in the middle, red top, below the pink and green couple. The woman in green looked to be about ninety. She was draped head to toe in that thing. Looked like she was used to these kinds of hills.

We skipped a couple of other stops on the drive. One was the cave section but I was told by a ranger that they involve quite a bit of scrambling (that’s a term used in hiking for climbing over rocks, usually on hands and knees). Not in the cards with the way my stenosis has been acting up, or getting worse. It was all kind of like what it’s going to look like after Dumbo gets in a war with somebody:

Life after death?

The last stop had short paths to two cinder cones.

The first one didn’t look like anything from the approach, but as you turned the corner:

There was a big, deep hole in the ground. Way down below was either a sheet of ice or salt or some white mineral. General agreement between me and the foreign tourists was ice.

The path that curved up and around, rather steeply at the top, led to a cone not all that interesting. The best I could come up with was the somewhat colorful inner wall.

And that was Craters of the Moon. Oh, we encountered some wildlife. On the first walk, a raptor circled above, waiting for one of us to keel over, or perhaps pluck a small child:

When we returned to the parking lot, a monster on the windshield threatened to pincer us to death:

On the road again. We drove through Arco, ID, whose welcome to Arco sign also includes the boast, “First Atomic Lighted City”. We wondered if the three-headed pan handler had also been so energized. About 20 miles east of Arco, the source of all that atomic energy can be found. We passed Idaho National Laboratory (INL) where everything you wanted to know about nuclear energy is known. Though you can’t miss the complex to our left – well, you can because I didn’t aim the camera that way – they seem to be playing it very cool in terms of road signs.

The real reason I took the pictures on this road were for the Twin Peaks. You can think of the old TV series, or the breastaurant chain.

A few miles down the road we arced off US 26 to US 20. Had we stayed on 26, it would have led us to ATOMIC CITY! But we continued to the booming metropolis of Idaho Falls, home of many of the nuclear scientists working up the road. Next time someone says they are from Idaho Falls, give them some space if they have a glowing personality. And, there’s a good chance you’re talking to somebody much smarter than you.

About thirty miles east of the big city, the Snake River meets up with US 20 at the Clark Hill Rest Area. On hindsight, I wish we had stopped there. I immediately saw large nests and bald eagles on telephone poles. No looking through binoculars to identify them. These were the real thing – three on one pole! I started slowing down each time I spotted an abnormality on a pole in the distance. Lots of nests, more eagles. A bit further down the road I slowed enough to stare an owl down. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture.

We finally arrived at Palisades RV Park, another we had called while on the road and another where we got the last site. Not exactly a site. It was in the “overflow” area. It was ok for overnight and though the lady was overly nice and accommodating, she still charged us full price, $45. For that, despite her being so nice, I’d recommend staying at one of the other RV parks. I don’t get mad (well, sometimes), I get even.

The RV park’s location is a short walk to the Snake River. That’s one positive for the place. I couldn’t wait.

We got to the river just as the evening mosquito hatch was in full swing. We were breathing them in as we nearly ran back to the campsite. Perhaps the location is not the most ideal. No eagles to be seen either. We hid inside the rest of the night. Mosquitos suck!

Jul 28th

Happy Birthday to me. For this birthday, same as the year I graduated high school, and for those who are guessing, MLK and RFK were killed that year, I treated myself to a somewhat scenic route and a night at The Longhorn Ranch Lodge and RV Park, right on the Wind River. Did you see the movie? The setting, though in winter, would have been fairly close to the Longhorn, but on, perhaps, the Shoshone or Wind River Reservation. However, like a lot of westerns, it wasn’t shot there. Rather, it was filmed mostly in Park City, Utah. The snow is real though. (We haven’t seen it yet. I looked it up. We’ll wait for it on HBO.)

Anyway, the route I selected to get us home in two stops from Palisades RV Park has us going a bit further on US 20 until it intersects with US 89. We take 89 to US 191, but instead of going south on 191 toward the ever-popular Rock Springs, WY on I-80, a shorter route, we head north toward Moran, passing through Jackson and Grand Teton National Park. At Moran, head southeast on US 26 again to Dubois. One night in Dubois, one in Rawlins, and then high tail it back to Colorado Heights in Monument. You ever wonder where that expression, “high tail it” comes from? Well, if you know, good for you. For others, look it up, keep wondering, or remain oblivious.

This is a relatively short drive of 144 miles. But, it is packed with scenery. Right out of the gate – yeah, a horse racing expression – we have to stop at Palisades Dam.

Sorry. That’s all I got. You can see the dam beyond. But the main reason we stopped was because we had a FaceTime call coming in from Bree and Patrick and the cutest grandkids on the planet. Reception was so-so, cutting the call short. Osprey swooped around from the cliffs to our left. More Bald Eagles nested on telephone poles. Worth a stop, call or not.

We drove on and as we approached Alpine, ID, paralleling the bulging Snake River beyond the dam, we saw RV’s hangin’ near the shore.

Alpine, Idaho. Who ever heard of that? If you go back to a post about The Fountain of Youth RV Park on the Salton Sea in California, you’ll recall that I thought it was THE depository for witness protection folks. Having travelled through 98% of the states (sorry, North Dakota, still no reason to visit though you are probably number one on the list), the Secret Service can drop Rick Gates off just about anywhere and he can get lost in the system immediately. Now, if I had a choice, after I release the Pee-Pee tapes, I’d start a new life in San Diego. It’s all about climate.

But, we’re now turning left on US 89 to Jackson, and still following the Snake River. Gorgeous.

I think this is the same picture, zoomed in.

We had lunch there, one of our few, truly beautiful lunch stops. Come on, I know you’ve got lunch stop envy. We listened to rafting groups go by as we had PBJs.

A few miles south of Jackson, a major highway renovation project on US 89 provided me with my first birthday present. The road is in terrible shape. The speed limit drops to 45 but it should be about 20. The vibration on that shitty road was so bad, I got present number 1 – the compressor for the front end air conditioner/heater stopped working. WTF? Did a wire get jolted off? I don’t know. It’s on my to-do list.

Navigating Jackson is fun, at 42′. Streets are tight, but they get out of your way. What a tourist shit-show! If you’re going to visit the Tetons and you hate crowds, avoid Jackson. Book a year in advance and stay in the park or anyplace away from Jackson. But that’s just me. I want the money in my pocket to stay there.

Leaving Jackson, we head north and immediately upon leaving town are drawn to the Tetons to our left, but this plane coming in for a landing is quite the distraction.

The sky was hazy, perhaps caused by western wildfires. The zoomed-in shots were just not worth showing. How about this one from a distance?

If you haven’t been, the Tetons and Yellowstone should be on your bucket list. Book one or two of the lodges at least a year in advance. You can fly into Jackson but look into Bozeman also. Yellowstone is huge, like bigger than Rhode Island, so don’t expect to see it all in three days. If you’ve got some adventure in your bones, and more days, rent an RV in Denver and take the route up 26 to Moran.

Speaking of, at Moran, we head southeast on US 26. Some of that drive is mind blowing. The mountains to the northeast are spectacular. When the road finally straightened out and the speed limit allowed us to get moving, I received birthday gift number two, WHAM! A rock smacked the windshield, passenger side and up pretty high. Scared the shit out of both of us and created a spider crack about two inches in diameter. Calming down, we proceeded to the Longhorn RV park.

Nice place. Spacious sites, some back-in sites right on the Wind River. Negative – some family reunion was going on so there was no peace.

Before calling it a day, Andrea came in and asked why water was flowing out of our outside electric compartment. DOH!

Birthday present number three:

That L-joint is part of the moving rack of wires and plumbing from the bedroom to the rear bathroom. One of the brackets in the immovable section broke and the L-joint started moving too much. That olive-green thing is a bowl. I didn’t uncover all this until we got back. In the meantime, the solution was to turn the water off and open a couple of faucets to relieve the pressure. Turn the internal pump on when necessary – “ok, I need to flush now.” Only one more night to go.

July 29th

Dubois to Western Hills Campground, Rawlins, WY

This is a 198 mile drive. The scenery is what you might think of in a western movie but perhaps a bit more rolling hills. In my mind it is quite beautiful. Sorry, I failed to take a picture. About 40 miles down the road on US 26, you have to bear right onto US 287 toward Lander. It was another 70 miles or so to our rest stop, named Sweetwater Station. Have you seen ‘Once Upon a Time In The West’? One of my favorite movies of all time, set in Kansas as the railroads moved west, filmed in Spain and Monument Valley, starring Henry Fonda as the villain, Charles Bronson, the vengeful hero, Jason Robards, the likeable bandit, and Claudia Cardinale as the love interest. The first scene (Google “Once Upon a Time In The West Opening Scene”) lasts about fifteen minutes and includes two old time western actors, Jack Elam and Woody Strode (first African American professional football player, turned actor), and one of the great exchanges in a western. Elam, Strode, and another toothless bad guy, with their three horses, approach Bronson who just got off a train.

Bronson: “And Frank?” (Referring to Fonda)

Elam: “Frank sent us.”

Bronson: “Which one’s my horse?”

Elam: “Well…looks like we’re… (turns around and smiles at his buddies)..looks like we’re shy one horse.”

Bronson: (shakes his head) “You brought two too many.”

The bad guys get a look of terror in their faces and then all hell breaks loose. Watch it on you-tube. Oh, the movie’s all about the future train stop, Sweetwater.

Rawlins is a truck-stop/oil refinery town along I-80. The campground is a little bit west of the US 287 intersection but it is great for an overnighter. The lady running the place is really nice. The RV park is nothing more than a gravel parking lot with a variety of hookup combinations, mostly pull throughs. All we needed was electric but got a full because of our length (with the jeep).

July 30th

Last leg, 279 miles. This is a long one for us. Avoiding the construction mess in Cheyenne, we take US 267 south at Laramie. That takes us through Fort Collins, a tight drive through the college town, and eventually to I-25 south. At 200 miles, outside Longmont, we rest and I finally get what I’ve been craving for days – two McDonald’s cheeseburgers (no mustard, please – New Yorkers don’t put mustard on hamburgers – and I prefer to pull the pickles out and eat them separately. Shoot me.)

On the road again. Just have to negotiate Denver traffic. One moment of indecision – the RV GPS, loaded with our weight, width and height, wants to route me around the city on 225. The warning message is 11′ bridge! What? I’ve driven this a hundred times. Keep following the other trucks. A mile or so before we get to the football stadium, signs indicate that trucks should stay in the middle lanes. Oh yeah! A couple of overpasses by the stadium are arced and very low at the far left and right. Been awhile. No problem.

Finally. Back at Colorado Heights Camping and RV Resort. Our second favorite site, C29, is available. However, the owner jacked up electric rates to $8 a day. This would be a nice park if it wasn’t right on Monument Hill near the top, elevation 7,343′. Northbound traffic is flooring it. Trucks roar. Southbound, trucks use engine braking which is also very loud. The noise is incessant. Some say they get used to it. White noise. At night, when you go out and look at the stars, it’s always there. This past weekend (Aug 11-12-13) was the peak of the Perseids. We went out the first two nights. Saw at least 10, a couple of real long ones, accompanied by the drone of never ending traffic. That’s no way to look at the stars.

Anyway, that’s it for travels this summer. We’re here to see the kids as much as possible. And get some repairs done on Odyssey. By the way, I replaced the L-joint but had to buy a $45 crimping tool for the job. I hate plumbing problems.

Have a good rest of the summer. If we take any good day trips, I’ll be in touch. Otherwise, looks like Gold Canyon, AZ will be the next destination in October.

If anyone has a question about any of the places we’ve visited, or you’d like to discuss politics, religion, or the meaning of life, email me at bjcarlin71@gmail.com.

One more thing – Dr Ford, the shot was not effective.

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Portland and the Columbia River Gorge: 7/22-7/25/18

This is it! The last sightseeing stop on the great west coast odyssey. Did you ever get to the end of a 10 day vacation where you’re out doing something everyday and think you need to take a break from vacationing? Try 122 days, about 4,000 miles driving a behemoth, and another 5,000 touristing. What? OK, I checked. More like 7,000 on the Jeep and, no, the odometer is disengaged when towing, all driving.

We’re now in Portland Fairview RV Park. The RV park is one of those Thousand Trails “Collection” parks with a $20 surcharge. The location is pretty good on the east side of Portland, just a few miles from the scenic byway through the Columbia River Gorge. Nice park, well maintained. Sites in the upper section, which is where they apparently put the transients like us, are not very big. We fit, just barely. All concrete pads with a separate pad for your toad – that would be towed (vehicle). Mowed, green grass between sites, each with its own small street lamp with your site number on it. The lower area – it is pretty steep going down to the trash dump, just as nice, seems to have more of the long-term campers. It is one of the best parks we’ve stayed at during the journey. We didn’t spend much time there. We’re tourists!

Monday morning and we were out on a waterfall tour along the river, following the Historic Columbia River Highway. First stop, Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint. Really? An overlook that needs six words? Come on, man, or women! This is looking east.

You see that house on the cliff to the right? That’s the next stop, Crown Point State Scenic Corridor. What? Only five words? Well, it had better views. In truth, those long names are what you find on Google maps. They are a little shorter in reality. This view is looking back to the west (the east view wasn’t much different than the first pic if you crop out the cliff).

Luna was just loving yet another tourist ride:

NOT!

How about a little history about the making of the gorge?

Millions of years in the making. Any lunes out there doubt that? More on that in the next post.

Then it was on to Latourell Falls, and Multnomah Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls, and this falls and that falls:

Actually, those are shots from Latourell Falls, the skinny waterfall, and the others from the bridge across Multnomah Falls. Here’s one more from Latourell.

Some people just like to get wet.

This is from Bridal Veil Falls. I thought it was cool enough for its own place here.

Unfortunately, the Historic Columbia River Highway is undergoing major restoration from Bridal Veil Falls east to its termination in Dodson. We missed a couple of falls. To get to Multnomah Falls, the big one, you have to get on the interstate going west for one exit and turn around eastbound.

So, onto Multnomah Falls. It is right on Interstate 84. It has its own exit! And restaurant, and gift shop, and parking lot big enough for busses! Arrgh! Another billion people! The shots in the collage are from a bridge across the lower part, so you’re not seeing it all. If you must see it, you’ll understand why I wanted to leave this photo out, even though it shows its enormous beauty. Wonder if I could clean it up using one of those apps to remove photobombers.

Don’t you just want to be Alec Guinness in ‘Bridge Over The River Kwai’ and hit the plunger (he fell on it, last breath, “What have I done”) on the detonator and blow those waving fuckers off? (Where does this rage come from?)

There are at least three falls you can see from I-84. Pretty cool but kind of a road hazard as well. Then we went out to the fish hatchery at Bonneville Dam. Kind of cool and they allow dogs. But, by this time, the falls had exhausted my phone’s battery. I also discovered that the two port USB car charger was only working in one port. Not only that, though my phone indicated it was working, in fact it was draining my battery with Andrea’s plugged in the other port. When you can look at the percentage remaining go down with it plugged in, you know something’s wrong. Switching ports proved the theory. Science at work. (I just got a notification from Amazon that the 40 watt, dual 3.0 port sucker was delivered). That problem has bugged me for months. But I tangenticize…

Anyway, the fish were cool to look at. It would have been cooler to drop in a line in the pond of giant rainbow trout. They also have a large, below pool level window where you can see Herman the Sturgeon, a ten foot monster. Great place for kids and dogs. And Big Foot:

Funny, as I was sitting outside the gift shop with Luna, this very attractive, young woman and her daughter sat down across from us. She kept looking over and I thought, “I still have it!”. Andrea came out of the shop with a bag full of kids booty and then the woman approached. She said, “May I take your husband for a night?” Wait! I’m told that’s not what she said. Oh hell, I can dream. She said her mother has a dog that looks just like Luna and could she take a few pictures? I suppose if she approached me alone, I would have thought that to be a great pickup line. You hear that, you young singles? If you don’t have a pet as part of your repertoire, your mother or grandmother might, and might want a picture of one like hers. But be prepared to buy one for her if the line works!

The next day we attempted to find a stream to go rockhounding. We ended up near Mt Hood.

We found a stream under a bridge:

Luna and I had the shit scared out of us every time a car passed overhead. Andrea had fun,

but didn’t find much of anything.

On the drive out, we had to stop to take a look at this and wonder what it was doing there, right in the middle of the deep forest, with no one around:

So I looked it up. Columbia Helicopters started out as one guy, Wes Lematta, in 1957, and one helicopter doing odd jobs. The fleet grew and in 1971, they were the first in “heli-logging”. Now they have dozens of copters here and in New Zealand. They advertise themselves as leaders in heavy lifting but do all kinds of things. The one you see above, N191CH, a Boeing 107-II, has been in the movies. Have you seen ‘King Kong Lives’? Yes, the helicopter hauling away Kong was the one above. Kind of fun to find out stuff like that when you dig. Some of their others have also starred in ‘Runaway Train’, ‘Under Siege’, ‘Demolition Man’, ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park’, and ‘X2: X-Men United’. So how about that?

While I’m out on that tangent, let’s branch off again. You ever wonder what those numbers on the side of flying machines mean? Like N191CH? They are the radio call numbers/letters. And did you ever notice that the numbers on all US airlines, that is, all aircraft registered in the US, start with N? It was agreed upon in 1919 in an international meeting of aviation folks that the US would use N for aviation radio call signs. We also were awarded the arbitrary W and K for radio/broadcast stations. Why N? The Navy had adopted it as a standard on ships in 1909, so why not aircraft? At international airports you might see plane numbers starting with C-Canada, G-Great Britain, F-France, Germany – sorry, you lost the first war so you can go with D for Deutschland, or those late to the show, J2-Djibouti. The rest of the numbers are up to the airlines, or private plane manufacturers. Southwest has some numbers to honor people, mostly employees. One for a non-employee is N289CT, for Charles Taylor, mechanic for the Wright Brothers. And N191CH? Well, don’t know about the 191 but, CH is clearly for Columbia Helicopters.

Did we have fun out there? If you have interest in such aviation information, these links are interesting:

https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/aircraft_certification/aircraft_registry/aircraft_nnumber_history/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_aircraft_registration_prefixes

https://crankyflier.com/2014/10/16/everything-youve-ever-wanted-to-know-about-us-airline-tail-numbers-part-1/

Remember when you used to get stoned and go out on those tangents, and one story would lead to another and then…what was I talking about? Oh, you still do. Come on back.

We’re back leaving Mt Hood. As we left the forest road and got back on US 22 west to Portland, I was reminded of the good old days:

I preferred EZ-Wider (after blowing my monthly GI-bill educational check on a big brick), or perhaps an Esmeralda (remember the dragon on the package?) for a party (sometimes of two). But Zig-Zag would do in a moment of personal introspection with headphones on, examining passages from ‘I and Thou’ or ‘Us and Them’, or perhaps contemplating eternity, the weird scenes inside the goldmine of your mind, the shredding of ego – or was it the shredding of my eardrums during ‘Dazed and Confused’?

Returning to the present, and Portland, the great west coast odyssey comes to an end.

We saw a bunch of mountains along the way:

And met some new friends:

Now we have about twelve hundred miles to go to get back to Colorado to see the kids.

Some notes from above ground and pics from the road to follow.

Puyallup, WA: 7/15-7/18/18; Randle,WA: 7/18-7/22/18

pew-AL-up, but I prefer Pile-up. We saw a nasty one on interstate 5 right next to Camp Murray, some military thingie. At least five cars involved, one crushed, and then four screaming ambulances, but only an hour wait for us. We were about a mile behind when it happened. How the fuck does that happen? Beautiful weather, traffic moving along just fine, then BOOM! Gotta be some asshole fucking around on their phone. Or just idiots who shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Pay attention douche-bags! You’re doing 70! It’s just so sad that good driving innocents get caught up in stuff like this. Just back off jack-off! Tailgaters are a pet peeve of mine. Wish I had a small canon that would automatically pop out from the trunk when some jerk crawls up my ass – and fires at the shithead! Get those fuckers off the road!

Sorry. I drive a lot and see all kinds of dumb stuff from up at the trucker’s level. When somebody gets killed on the road on any kind of day, unless it’s a tailgater who fulfills his Darwin Sanction, it pisses me off. Could you tell? (Counting to a thousand and waiting for the editorial staff to get on my ass for using Joe Pesci character language.)

In Puyallup, we stayed at the Washington State Fairgrounds RV Park. Very nice park, as are most fairground RV parks. They’re usually cheap, have full hookups, and generally close to whatever it is you came for. I don’t know if that makes sense but where else can you stay within 35 miles of the Pike Market Place in Seattle for $30 bucks?

And eat good chowder

It was ok

But not worth standing in line for twenty minutes. If you want the best chowder in America (as per the panel of judges on our extensive editorial staff), go to Florence, Oregon and head into the Old Town area to the large public parking lot. On the first dock you’ll see a small shack. Go there. Skip all the expensive restaurants.

Andrea saw the lobster roll on the menu and loved it. Wait, it was Dungenous Crabs.

The big thing in the marketplace is to watch guys throwing fish. And people posing with squid. WTF? After the first ten seconds among twenty billion tourists, I could give a shit about guys throwing fish. Guys throwing up might have been more entertaining. Besides all the fish stores, there were three hundred produce shops, two hundred and fifty niche gift shops, and a few hundred more places to throw your money at. And twenty billion tourists. I just loved it.

The second day in Pile-Up we went to a bead store near Tacoma with the largest collection of beads in the world. I didn’t go in. When she came out, Andrea told me they had a whole entertainment area for the men-folk who don’t find beads all that interesting. They had pole dancers who only wore beads. Cool huh? If only.

The horrendous traffic accident occurred on the ride back. It was pretty awful.

And then we were off to Randle, Washington, a handful of gas stations/convenience stores and the Cascade Peaks RV Park on US 12. The rustic, in the woods, section of the park looked…, well, just great for tent campers. We were directed to the part alongside the highway, for big rigs, and it was fine. A bit weird in that each electric box was centered for the four sites around it and only one of which was 50 amp, the other three 30 amp. We chose a site with no others sharing the box but the 50 amp outlet didn’t work. Overall, it was kind of a dumpy place but good enough for two nights and a great location. US 12 runs east/west (did you know that east/west routes are even numbered and north/south odd, mostly?), south of Mt Rainer’s Paradise entrance and north of the Windy Ridge viewpoint to Mt St Helens.

On Thursday, July 19th, we went to Paradise.

It was clear around the mountain for a short while. Check out all the snow and ice. (At 14,410′, it is almost the exact same height as Pike’s Peak. We just got back to Colorado and Pike’s Peak is bare. You can’t tell from the picture perfect weather we had throughout the northwest, but wow, they sure get their share of precip. Sorry, I’m way behind on these posts.)

If you are on just about any elevated level in the southern Seattle area, Ranier towers above everything, provided it isn’t shrouded with clouds.

The whole drive in was very scenic.

But, again, too many tourists at the visitor center, and major overlooks. We WERE very impressed with all the bicyclists. Kudos to all you crazy people.

On Friday we were off to the volcano. Actually, the northwest is littered with volcanos. They’re all going to blow again one of these days.

The drive to the Windy Ridge overlook,

the closest you can get driving to Mt St Helens, is on forest roads and sometimes, as with life, the journey is the thing.

That little piece of road just seemed worthy of a stop. As we started rising in elevation, we thought, at first, we could see Ranier from one of the overlooks.

Wrong. Mt Adams. From that vantage point, three big peaks are visible, on a clear day. We had yet another perfect day. Mt Hood is the pointy one far in the distance though it doesn’t photograph well from that distance. Zoom in on the info-board below.

And the third volcano from that overlook, Mt St Helens:

The next overlook gave us a peak at Spirit Lake, and a shoreline of logs.

Next, a better look.

Some facts?

Windy Ridge really doesn’t give you as good a look at the big, bad volcano than the earlier viewpoint.

However, the ridge was aptly named and the flowers were blooming.

It was so windy up there that they set up a few huge panels of plexiglass in front of a small amphitheater where, one might assume, rangers present the story of the volcano. One might have doubts about current presentations when you see the condition of the plexiglass.

Without the plexiglass:

The good thing about driving back on the same road you came in on, as opposed to loop drives, is that the scenery looks different from the opposite direction.

First, the devastation was clearer but so was the emergence of new life.

Remember, the blast occurred twenty-eight years ago. Some trees are pretty healthy now.

One last look at Spirit Lake, Harry R Truman’s grave.

And some views we missed going in:

One more:

A bit less awesome than Ranier but way fewer tourists. For you RVers with big rigs, the Cascade Peaks RV Park is a perfect mid point to see both attractions. Just don’t expect much of your rv park experience. You’ll be out touristing most of the time anyway. On the way back from Paradise at Ranier, stop at Cruiser’s Pizza in Packwood and be nice to the counter lady. She kept a smile on in a madhouse on a Friday evening. The pizza was just ok but, hell, it ain’t New York.

See y’all in Portland.