"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Monday, October 10, 2016

Weird and Rainy Portland

Portland still in bloom
Finally sitting down to post and you would think with all the rain here I would have done this sooner. Portland is weird and they embrace it; as far as I can see, it's a compliment. It's much different than I envisioned. It has that older city vibe to it and I think I was expecting something more modern. I like old, so I can say for the most part I like Portland. There's only one downside: the rain. I feel like we have had way too much rain ever since leaving Iowa and frankly I need more sun. Intellectually I knew it rained here but day after day of rain and gray skies, well that's enough for me. Part of it is we are pushing the season being here in October and I knew that too so I will plan our next visit here better. I don't think I understood until the last few years how much I am affected by the sun and getting outside. I really don't have even have to do much outside if I can just sit in the sun for awhile. So tomorrow we are heading south and east to find the sun and warmer temperatures. A short stop in Bend and then across Nevada all the way to Utah and then back to Nevada to the Vegas area to see my friend Nancy and her family. That's the plan but we will see how many times it changes between here and there.

One of the stairs in Alameda neighborhood

View from the top of the stairs

Cool landscaping

favorite house 1
The first week we were here our friends John and Sharon Hinton were also here. This was their fourth trip here so they are veterans of the city. They knew their way around and were nice enough to do the driving. They are Class A travelers so they have a car they tow and in this city that is an advantage because the streets are narrow and parking is a challenge. John planned several Urban hikes for us and it was fun to get a feel for this city. We hiked in the Irvington and Alameda Ridge neighborhoods that have beautiful Victorian, Tudor and Arts and Crafts style houses. Alameda Ridge has all these crazy staircases so we also got a good workout that day. The other hikes were in the Hollywood district, but the only real thing to see there is the Hollywood theater, which is pretty cool. Then a day of hiking through downtown. Sharon was on a mission to find the Portlandia statue. The GPS kept taking us in circles insisting we were right by it. Then for some reason she looked up and there it was about 3 stories above us. We probably walked past it several times. Mission accomplished! I also found a wonderful yarn shop downtown, which made my day. One other place that is iconic Portland is VooDoo Doughnuts. It is notorious for long lines but luckily our timing was fairly good and our wait in line was only about 15 minutes. We usually don't do the sugar thing but sometimes it's part of the journey. Our time with the Hintons is always fun and we always find stuff to laugh about. This time was no exception.

Hollywood Theater

Voodoo doughnuts

Sharon finds Portlandia

Each of the days we hiked we finished off the day at a microbrewery. The Portland metro area has 84 microbreweries. John Hinton took us to the ones with best ratings. I think Breakside is our favorite and we actually returned there after they left and may visit again tonight for one last brew before we leave. Oregon is the land of microbreweries, when we go to Bend (they have 23) we will check out a couple more.
John and Sharon Hinton

This second week has been a challenge with the rain. The first week we only had 2 days of hard rain but since then most of the days have had steady and sometimes hard rain. One of the days that was only a little rainy we visited the Oregon Zoo. A fun way to spend a day even if even the animals were hiding away from the rain at times too. Then on Saturday (bad choice but better for the rain) we decided to drive to Multnoma Falls.

This guy was reading a book

The GPS suggested the scenic highway instead of the parking lot by the interstate. Since we weren't towing and it was getting nicer, we took it. There were weight limits for this road but no width limits. There should definitely be width limits. Near the falls is a narrow bridge with a rock wall on side and a guard rail on the other. I pulled in the mirror because it was going to brush the wall and John stayed with one tire on the line with inches between us and that wall.  So if you don't have a car, the smaller the better, don't take that route. Compounding our frustration was the traffic. Should not have been a surprise since it was Saturday. We could find nowhere to park. The falls were right off the road so we viewed it and took photos from the truck. Same with Horseshoe Fall a little further down.
Multnomah Falls

Horseshoe Falls

So since it was still early we decided to go on to Hood River. Full Sail Brewery is there and we wanted to get a bite to eat. Its about 30 miles further down the road. All was well until my GPS alerted us to an accident ahead and really there was no going around it. It estimated the time to wait at an hour. That was about right. The accident occurred right where a construction zone started and the right lane was closed down. In our 6 years on the road this is the longest we have ever been sitting and waiting so I actually think that's pretty good. We finally get to Hood River and found a great place to park on the street not far from the brewery. There is a lot of metered parking in this city but we nabbed a free one. Yipee!! Full Sail is a larger brewery; we even drink their beers in Iowa. They also have a nice pub attached to the brewery. The food was ok, the beer was good and the view was wonderful.
View from Full Sail Brewery

After eating we walked through the downtown. It's really a pretty little town and I would love to spend a little more time there. An added plus was... yes, another yarn shop. My yarn stash is growing. When we left Portland it was rainy but in Hood River the weather was much better so it made for a great day.

Since then it has rained steady and hard until today. It is now cool but sunny. Ahhhh, I feel so much better already. Tomorrow we should have some good weather for travel. :) So I wish you sunshine and fun times.

Happy Trails.............................................

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


While in Coeur d'Alene, I was checking online for things to do in the area and came across a tour of an Alpaca ranch. Being the fiber, knitting junkie that I am, I knew exactly what we were going to do. I contacted the farm online to see if they were having tours, turns out it was Alpaca farm weekend so we could just come out to the farm anytime 10-4 and check things out, normally the tours are $10 each. So on Saturday the sun came out (which was a good sign) and off we went to the Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch.
John surrounded by Alpacas

It was a beautiful drive into the mountains, and thank goodness for GPS to help us find it. Since it was a special weekend we thought there would some other visitors but we drove in to find we were the only visitors so we ended up getting a private tour. Andy and his wife own the farm and are transplants from Alaska. The farm is beautiful and immaculately kept (as farms go). They have about 30 Alpacas along with 2 Llamas, 2 Angora goats, an Icelandic sheep and a couple other rescue sheep. Alpacas are curious but fairly shy, so they wanted to check us out but really don't like to be petted or hugged. They are so cute and so soft. Banditio is their most social alpaca and we did get to check out his coat. The Angora goats, whose coats make them look a lot like a sheep, were definitely the most friendly. they were next to us begging to be petted and we kindly obliged.
John and his Angora goat buddies

Besides the alpacas the farm has 3 horses and 3 miniature horses and cattle. Andy wanted to bring the horses from one pasture to another and asked if we would help. It was an easy job and gave us a chance to check out the miniature horses. He was telling us they were bred to be used in mines to pull carts of ore. These three were rescue horses they took on and they are adorable.
The baby (or crea) on the farm

Angora Goats

Miniature horses

Hanging out on this farm on a beautiful day with a beautiful view. We thoroughly enjoyed our day and if you are in the Coeur d' Alene area this is a unique way to spend a few hours. Then if your a knitter like me make sure to pick up some yarn at their little store. It is labeled with the Alpaca it came from. I know have some special yarn from Bandito and Carinia. I will have to find a very special project for it.
The view at Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch

We moved to Boardman Marina and RV Park in Boardman, Oregon, This is a beautiful little park. The sites are nice and large and it is on the banks of the Columbia River. The weather has been almost perfect these last three days. There is a nice trail along the river and just sitting outside has been great. We had too many cold rainy days the last few weeks so this is a real treat. Tomorrow we move on to Portland. Looking forward to more adventures.

Happy Trails.......................
Last light on the Columbia River, Boardman Oregon

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Yellowstone...what a treasure.

This is a little after the fact but sometimes these blogs run around in my head but I lack the discipline to sit down and put them on paper (or in this case the computer). We are in Missoula now and are headed towards Portland. John has had this destination on his list for awhile so since he's the driver, that's where we will go. I have us set up for 2 weeks at the Columbia River Resort. We read that it is easy to use public transportation to go into the city so that's our plan. I'm not complaining as it is a mecca for yarn shoppers and I love, love , love yarn shops!
View from the Biscuit Basin Overlook

Mystic Falls

So back to Yellowstone. It seems fitting that we visit this park, the first National Park on the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. We have been close to this park on several occasions over the last 6 years but for one reason or another we were unable to spend time here. I planned a week and really that is not enough time but the RV parks in this area are pricey and we are pushing the season a bit so a week is all we planned.

We stayed in Gardiner MT just north (as in spitting distance) of the north entrance to the park . I tried to get us into the Fishing Bridge campground in the park but they were full and I made that call 8 months in advance.  Instead we paid the bucks and stayed at Rocky Mountain RV Park. It is on a hill overlooking the town and within walking distance, though up a steep hill, of the restaurants and shops, so a very convenient location. It was a well kept up park and I think we would stay here again though I believe our next visit we want to be near the Tetons and the southern portion of the park.

Mother nature was not our friend this week though and out of the seven days we really only had 2 nice days. The rest of the days were chilly and rainy on and off. Monday it snowed in the higher elevations and Thursday when we were at the Canyon Village it was spitting snow. To further complicate things there were several fires that had places closed down and on Monday they closed the road south through Norris so anywhere we wanted to go after that he had to travel the loop and over the pass.

This fire really kicked up while we were at Old Faithful

Old Faithful

Even with all the frustrations we enjoyed what we got to do. On our 2 nice days we hiked Lost Lake trail that starts right behind the Roosevelt Lodge. This is a beautiful mountain hike with about 400 ft elevation change to a beautiful mountain lake. I think this was our favorite hike. The weather was beautiful and there was no one on the trail with us. That feeling of being alone in nature  is such a joy and in busy national parks sometimes hard to find unless you are willing to go uphill.
Sapphire Pool

Our second hike was Mystic Falls. The trail head is at the back of the Biscuit Basin area. We got to the sign and it had Mystic Falls both directions at about .7 miles one way and an Overlook area  about .7 the other and the falls 1.7 mi. We decided to go to the Overlook thinking it would be a good vantage point to see the falls. What the sign didn't say was it wasn't an Overlook for the falls but for the Basin so 1 mile later and 600 ft of elevation change we had a beautiful view of the area and were exhausted. It was a climb and these slightly out-of-shape flatlanders did some huffing and puffing all the way up (and a decent amount of complaining). However it was well worth the effort as the views were stunning. The rest of the hike to the falls and back were a little easier and Mystic Falls is beautiful.
Hot springs

We did some other touring by car with short hikes since the weather was not great. We saw the geysers, Old Faithful, the Artist Paint Pots, Mammoth Hot springs and the Canyon area. The lower falls of the canyon are also a stunning site to see. The view from Artists Point is not to be missed, It is the most photographed point in the park and for good reason.
Lower Falls from Artists' Point

Our last trip into the park is when we viewed the most wildlife. Elk are plentiful and all you have to do is go to Mammoth  Hot Springs and hang out at the visitors center to see a bull elk and his harem. On Thursday we saw a huge herd of Bison. They were on both sides of the road. We also got to see some Long Horned Sheep and Mule Deer. We had a couple places people sighted bears and of course the ensuing traffic jam as every one wanted to get a photo. I always wonder what the bears think of that. People just act crazy trying to get photos. The poor rangers who are trying to keep both the people and wild life safe sure have their work cut out for them.

The combination of weather and construction kept us from exploring the southern part of the park and the Tetons so we decided we'll just have to come back and explore those later. I think I will plan for us to stay in the Tetons that trip and do both from there. One of the things I like about this lifestyle is knowing I can return another time and we don't have to do it all at once. The joy of being retired.

I am so glad we finally made it to Yellowstone and I am so thankful for these Public Lands and the opportunity it gives us to  explore this incredibly beautiful country we live in. So Happy Birthday to the National Parks may we protect and enjoy them for centuries to come.
Goodbye for now Yellowstone.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What I've learned from my granddaughter

Life Pro Tips is a topic on Reddit that collects the wisdom of people that have lived life and want to pass on a few of the things they've learned. But what would you call it if you get your tips from a three year old? I call it Life According to Evie. Or maybe: From the Mouths of Babes (although she would be quick to point out that she is not a baby, she's a big girl.)

When she was two, she taught me that when things go south, no matter how guilty you are you should hold your hands over your mouth, act surprised and say "Oh no, how did that happen?" When she was three she came up with this gem: "That's ok; that happens sometimes." I'm guessing she heard it from her mother or her dad, but she applies it with a broad brush. Anything that might be described with a preface of "uh-oh" is quickly followed by "That's ok; that happens sometimes." It's used to offer absolution and forgiveness, and to move on. Even if it was your fault. Or maybe especially if it was your fault. It's a bandaid for minor wounds, but once you start saying it, you start pushing the boundaries to how much stuff it will cover. This is from a little girl who still believes a kiss will fix many scrapes and bumps. This power is invested in parents and grandparents, but can only be given by the very young. And when does this kiss lose the power to heal? Never. It's not the kiss that changes, it's the belief in what that kiss can do. As long a you believe, that kiss actually helps. So how cool would it be if we could actually forgive ourselves, or someone else, and move on? All it takes are the magic words: "That's ok, that happens sometimes." You have to believe. You have to forgive. And you have to move on. For a three year old, it's no harder than breathing. She's my hero.

- John

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Black Hawk SP and the Black Hills

Black Hawk Lake, Lake View IA

Gabe & Melissa
It's been a great week even though the weather has been a bit iffy. After visiting with friends in Omaha (thanks for a great visit Judi, Al, Dixie and Dan) we ventured back into Iowa to visit our oldest son Gabe and his wife Melissa. Seems the summer passes and we never get enough time with them. They recommended a new spot for us to camp at, Black Hawk State Park on Black Hawk Lake in Lake View IA, about 20 miles south of their home in Early.  I reserved a site on the lakefront for a couple nights. The signage into this park is not great but we finally found our way there. The roads are a bit tight and when we found our spot and tried to park, it was going to be a bit tight because of 2 trees and then these crazy posts with the site numbers that made backing in impossible. Called the ranger and explained our dilemma, he said we could pull the problem post out. Really? He could tell I was skeptical and said he was on his way to the campground and he would stop by. Yep, the posts come out relatively easily, who would have thought. We actually talked him into the site next to ours so we didn't have to deal with the trees, so we stayed on site 49. The best site actually is site 50 next to that one and I have already decided to reserve that one next spring for a week. I have to say the kids were right, this is a beautiful place to park. Since they were working we had some time during the day to just relax and enjoy the lake. John also decided we should walk around the lake, he estimated it at 3-4 miles. Well, 6.60 miles later he admitted he had underestimated it a little. Longest hike we have done in awhile.  Beautiful lake, long hike and time with Melissa and Gabe makes for a wonderful day.

Thursday we drove to Mitchell SD for just a one night stay. It was our anniversary (32 years!) so we went to eat at the Whiskey Creek Wood Fired Grill. No lunch today so we went early and had the place almost to ourselves. It was great. We both ordered their baby back ribs and they were fall off the rib yummy. We have been in Mitchell before and already visited the Corn Palace so one night was enough. We stayed at the R & R Campground right behind the Super 8. It's great for a convenient in and out stay.

Friday it was on to Spearfish SD and the Black Hills, where we are currently staying. The park I picked is the Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort. This one is a little pricier than I usually pick but it lives up to its resort status. We have a good WiFi signal, cable tv, there is a pool, tennis courts, basketball court, and horseshoe courts. The WiFi and cable are really the only two we have used but the WiFi has made it worth it. I am doing a photo book for my granddaughter and was able to upload all the photos I needed and I'm getting this blog posted, yippeee!!!! Just before bed I used the bathroom and when I went to flush the cable broke on the pedal. Crap. My first thought was " here we go again, in a beautiful spot and we will spend it fixing something". Luckily John had parts for this, as he had anticipated it happening so by noon Saturday he had it fixed and working better than it had in awhile. The good part about where we are parked is we are right across from the shower house so Friday night and Saturday morning we had easy access to the facilities which I have to say are quite nice.

So Saturday afternoon we took off to discover the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway and take a short hike to Roughlock Falls. This is a stunningly beautiful area, we've been in the Black Hills before and I don't think it will ever get old. The trail to the falls is paved and easy and wonderful. It was a nice break from the driving and fixing things. I had some fun with the camera so I hope you enjoy the photos. Even though the forecast called for rain, we had a beautiful day and the storm held off until evening.

Rain was and is in the forecast for everyday here but Sunday. I wanted to visit Devil's Tower which is a little over an hour away into Wyoming. I checked the weather app and at the Tower it looked like it would clear off in the afternoon so we decided to go. We drove in a drizzel and fog until shortly after we exited I90 and then it gradually cleared. It did cloud up again as we got to our destination, but no rain. We had missed this site on our other trips this way and it was high on my list of things to do. The day was actually perfect for the short hike and viewing this incredible rock. Climbing this rock is a big thing, with my fear of heights just the thought of it makes my head ache. There were several groups of climbers out so fun to watch them. It was late enough in the day we were actually watching their decent. We even did a little video we sent to Evie. She loves rocks and we told her she would love this really, really big rock. :) As we traveled back just before I90 the fog returned. The rain held off long enough for us to get back, stop for groceries and get into the rig, then it let loose again. Our luck is holding out.
Our approach to Devil's Tower

See if you can find the climbers..

A little closer now
A little perspective

Leaving and heading into the fog

Lunch with Laurie and George
Yesterday (Monday) we took a drive to Custer to have lunch with fellow full-timers and blogger friends Laurie and George. We have met them several times along the way but the last time we visited is when were both at Campbellsville to work for Amazon. They have had a year of challenges and it was good to catch up. George had surgery recently and it was particularly good to see him doing well.
We ate at the Buglin' Bull. Great burgers. It only seemed right to have a bison burger since this is where the bison live large. The drive there and back was serene. We made a short stop at Deadwood and checked out the downtown. Interesting and if you like to gamble there are lots of opportunities. The sun was out for a short time when we returned but it wasn't long before the clouds and rain were back. With all the rain in this area this week we feel very lucky to get out to the places we wanted and stay dry. Today we are just hanging out. We will do a little laundry and relax. Tomorrow is a travel day to Gerryowen MT. This is close to the site of the battle of the Little Bighorn and the Cuter museum which should fill the day we have there. Friday we will drive to Gardiner MT, our base for seeing Yellowstone. The weather there has not been good this week but is suppose to improve by the time we get there. They even had snow in the higher elevations. It should be interesting. 

Beyond Yellowstone? Maybe Oregon and Portland, maybe  Idaho & Utah. Suggestions anyone? Sometimes there are so many choices I feel like I can't make a decision. Well I've got another week so what's the rush, right?

Happy Trails.................................