01-18-2016 Traveling South

Current Location: Desert Hot Springs California at 54 F and clear

Dang.  Open Live Writer refusing to publish tonight, so I am publishing this baby on WordPress.  For all you readers who don’t like this one compared to the blogger version, at least here you get photos….

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-13I can’t really claim the snowbird moniker, but somehow it seems that every year we manage to make our way south.  I think to be a snowbird, you might have to stay for the full winter season and only meander back north when the light and warmth return. Still, it is an incredible delight to slip away from all that cold stuff, the snow plowing, the crashing ice dams, the skating rink parking lot, and land gently back in the desert, with simply a light shirt on in the evening, and feet once again in sandals.  Ahhh.

We took our time this year, leaving later in January, and ambling southward slowly enough to spend some good time visiting friends. visiting friends-26 Mo and I met Laurie and Odel many years ago, when I was a brand new blogger and Laurie was one of the more well known bloggers in the newly minted rv bloggerland.  Later, long after Laurie stopped blogging and they sold their beloved rig Scoopy, we stopped in for a visit to their digs and they took Mo and I to Nevada City and introduced us to their good friends Nickie and Jimmy.  I love how these things work.  As I am writing this, I am remembering just how we all met, and I had almost completely forgotten the details. 

Visiting friends-37Sometimes these kinds of friendships come and go, but in this case, they are the kind that will last a lifetime.  When we get together, in fours or in sixes, it is always so much fun.  This time was no different.  Nickie and Jimmy invited Mo and I to dinner at their place in Nevada City.  The food was fabulous, what Nickie called “comfort food”, but oh my such deliciousness!

visiting friends-19Even better than the food, however, was the laughter.  Nickie has this wondrous inner child that comes out to play a lot, and makes me laugh till my sides hurt.  Mattie thought she was a kick as well, and the two of them slid around on the gorgeous hardwood floors until tiny Mattie knocked Nickie down, or at least that is what Nickie claimed.  So sorry, Nickie!!  I hope your bruises have healed.

visiting friends-27The “Big Plan” was for the six of us to meet the next day in Auburn for some yummy food, and then hike it all off with a great walk along the river and the waterfalls.  The only waterfalls were coming out of the skies, with big dark rain keeping us all inside.  Instead of hiking, the six of us sat together at a big round table at Awful Annie’s and ate and talked and ate some more.  It was great fun being together again.  We have hiked with Laurie and Odel, and with Jimmy and Nickie, but so far haven’t managed a hike with all of us.  That is on the agenda for sure.  What a fun bunch of people to know.  I feel so lucky. 

visiting friends-28Mattie made friends all around, but especially with Odel.  Did she ever love that guy!  I wish I had taken a photo of her looking at him with adoring eyes as he scratched her ears.  Mattie knows a good man when she sees one!

Our trip south this year was almost uneventful, with only a few tiny glitches.  Once again we had to get the rig over the passes, the only way to escape to the south requires driving those passes.  This time I was driving, so instead of documenting all the crazy stuff, I gripped the steering wheel as we rolled along on solid packed snow and glare ice with temps in the high 20’s and low 30’s.  Once again, getting over the Siskiyous was scary, getting past Mt Shasta was even scarier, and once again the ice didn’t clear until we reached the Pit River Bridge just north of Redding.  Sheesh~~ The only good thing is that at least this time it wasn’t actually snowing, but that ice was no fun at all. 

visiting friends-3Beale Air Force Base is just east of the I-5 corridor and Marysville, and only 34 miles west of Nevada City, the sweet little mountain town where Nickie and Jimmy live.  We decided to give the FamCamp a try and it isn’t a bad stop.  The campground is fairly isolated on the base, with long open views toward the east.  I was surprised at how full they were, and we were glad to have made a reservation.  $18.00 per night with full hookups isn’t bad, although the sites were muddy from all the recent El Nino rains.  Still, the gravel pad was level enough we didn’t have to put down the levelers, the power was adequate, and there was WiFi available, but I didn’t try it. My Verizon worked fine on the iPad, and I had no time or need to set up the computers or the MiFi.

visiting friends-7On the way to the campground, we saw an amazing airplane flying low and slow, circling above us.  I love that about staying at an air force base, lots of cool airplanes.  Found out later this was a U-2 plane, and that the woman pilot who flies them at Beale AFB is quite famous.

Once we arrived at the campground, we started our regular routine to unhook the Tracker, only to discover that the battery had gone dead.  Mo is pretty careful about making sure the key is in the right position, but figured she must have turned it a notch too far.  We managed to unhook, turned the MoHo around and jump started the Tracker, leaving it running while we got ready to drive up the mountain to Nevada City.

Everything was fine, and after dinner when we left to go back down the hill, she started right up.  The next day she started up again, no problem, and we drove the back roads from Beale to Auburn and Awful Annie’s. There was no need to unhook the car.  After our wonderful time with friends and food, we headed down I-80 through Sacramento all the way to Lodi on the 5, a whopping 70 miles. 

Didn’t bother unhooking the Tracker because we settled in comfortably to our cozy pull through spot in row E at Flag City RV Resort.  It is a perfect one night stop, half price with the Passport America card, easy on and easy off, and cheap gas at the Love if we needed it.  The next morning, Mo tried to start the Tracker and sure enough, once again it was dead.  OK then.  Where is WalMart?!  As Judy probably knows from her extended stay here last year, it is right down the road about 4 miles.  Within an hour, we had a new battery, installed in the misty rain, and all was running well again.  No problems since.  I guess it was time for a new battery.

We have been really lucky so far on this trip with gas prices being so low.  I filled up in Grants Pass for $1.87. Mo filled at Beale for $2.21, and we filled yesterday at the Pilot on I-5 for just $1.99!  Looks as though things might be a bit more here in the Coachella Valley with the Pilot running $2.69, but hopefully our time in Arizona will make up for that.  I love GasBuddy!  My favorite App!

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-9Once the battery was replaced and we were traveling down the 5, everything seemed to settle into place.  I think it takes a few hundred miles before it reallly feels like we are on the road, and that great feeling hit yesterday somewhere along the hills on the western side of the San Jouquin Valley.  Evidence of the drought has lessened a bit, with recent rains turning everything green.  Big signs are dotted among the fruit and nut orchards: “If water is used to grow food, is it really wasted?”  I found myself wondering about this a lot.  California is having huge water issues, with too many people wanting too little water.  If that water is used to let people in the valley have drinking water, which many of them don’t right now, isn’t that better perhaps than it being used to grow nuts for export?  Who benefits from that besides the farmer, certainly not the people who actually need food or water in California.  Lots to think about as you roll down that lonely but crowded asphalt ribbon along the hills bordering the Great Valley that grows a huge percentage of our food.

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-7We spent the night last night at the Orange Grove RV Resort  just east of Bakersfield on Highway 58.  I think most every RV heading toward the desert must stay here at one time or another.  It was raining this morning when we got up, but the mist let up in time for us to get the MoHo washed at the free RV wash at the park.  Of course, there are the free for the picking oranges, sweetest ever, and this year the crop is especially sweet.  Add to that free coffee and free truly fresh and excellent donuts for the taking and staying there is a pretty good deal at $39.00 per night.  A good wash of our two rigs usually costs us at least $15.00 in quarters if we do it at a car wash.  And the oranges are priceless!  I just hope I have enough to last until we return by way of Orange Grove RV Park.  I need to stock up again before I get back to the land of grocery store oranges.  Ick!Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-2

The rain started in earnest by the time we were actually on the road and it poured all the way to the summit at Tehachapi.  On the down side, the rains let up, but the damage caused by the terrible flash floods that roared through Sand Canyon last fall was still visible.  By the time we reached the other side and the desert stretched out before us, the skies were opened up and the sunlight was gorgeous and brilliant.  Ahhh…..it is like the world opens up when the sun shines like this, and the desert vistas stretch out before me.  I really really don’t want to live in the desert, but I need it like I need light. I guess that is why I love RVing so much.  That inner need for varied landscapes, the desert, the ocean, the South,the Florida spring runs, the hardwood forests, the Red Rock Country, I wouldn’t want to have to choose to only be in any one of those places forever.  I couldn’t begin to choose which one to give up, which one mattered most.  No need!  I can have it all!

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-14We stopped for lunch somewhere along Highway 58 before Barstow, where Mattie got her first taste of desert air and we opened up the slide and let the sunshine pour in while we made a nice lunch and took a bit of a break.  Mo drove the rest of the route, one of our favorites, from Barstow, down Highway 247, winding through the mountains down toward Yucca Valley and then down the big grade to Desert Hot Springs.

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-17Every time we come here, I am reminded of the wild, craggy, rocky, mountainous land that makes up this part of Southern California.  It is so incredibly rugged, twisted and tortured by all the tectonic activity, all the faults that folded and uplifted and shattered the landscape.  The desert here is anything but flat and boring, it is a wild world and so beautiful.IMG_5570

With only four days here this year, we won’t be doing as much hiking as usual, but I will treasure every moment of my hot pool time before we continue east.

09-25-2014 North toward Whidbey Island

Current Location: Rocky Point Oregon, gorgeous fall weather clear skies 79 degrees F

Deception Pass SP (1 of 73) After two days of exploring traffic patterns in Puget Sound, we were definitely ready to travel north toward something a bit less crowded.  After thoroughly reading everything Laurel and Nina had written about getting around in the San Juan Islands, I decided that traveling north via the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to the Kitsap Peninsula and taking a ferry from Port Townsend to Coupeville was our best route.

To the left is our original planned route, 114 miles, to the right is the alternate route, 195 miles and 5 extra hours!

rerouting to Whidbey Island original route 114 milesEven with a ferry trip, it seemed better than dealing once again with the traffic on I-5 north to Mount Vernon and accessing Whidbey Island from the north.  I went to the Washington State Ferry website and made a reservation for the MoHo and the Tracker, where the fare was calculated to be something in the vicinity of 67 bucks for both rigs.  Seemed reasonable enough.

The drive north was uneventful, with clouds parting a bit for lighter gray skies and even a bit of sunshine here and there.  I was a bit sad because I knew that Port Townsend was a great destination, and with our ferry reservation, we probably wouldn’t get much of a chance to see it.  Fate stepped in, however, and as we approached the terminal an hour in advance, as recommended, I was surprised to see large red CLOSED sign at the gates.

Seems as though the bridge to land from the ferry on the Coupeville side had somehow broken, and the ferry had been turned around.  I can only imagine how all those folks felt!  The ferry was cancelled until the bridge could be repaired.  We could return via Tacoma and drive north along I-5, or we could drive back to Kingston and catch the Edmonds ferry there.

to Fort Lewis (58 of 97)Rather than worry about it, we decided to take a bit of time and enjoy walking around the downtown picturesque portion of Port Townsend where we had a good parking place for a few hours.

Port Townsend was as magically lovely as I expected, with wonderful shops and a vibrant feeling of both tourism and locals.  We found a sweet little cafe where the cappucino was not only tasty, but pretty, with a little window table to sit and enjoy watching the changing and somewhat chilly weather outside.  With the weather cool enough that Abby could wait in the MoHo, we enjoyed a leisurely walk through town, going in and out of interesting shops filled with color, art and creativity.  I was completely enthralled with a shop that celebrated the fiber arts with quilting, knitting, and beading as a focus.  I do love color, and the displays of fabric, yarn, beads and notions, all creatively jumbled together by color had me oohing and ahhing.  I did manage to keep my wallet intact, but it was a challenge.to Fort Lewis (71 of 97)to Fort Lewis (77 of 97)After deciding that we definitely will come back to spend more time in Port Townsend, we reluctantly traveled back south toward Kingston.  In line for the ferry with time to spare, we coughed up the 86 bucks for the MoHo and Tracker to cross the sound toward Edmonds.  The crossing was uneventful, and I didn’t even bother to try to get up top for the view.  By the time we reached Edmonds, it was mid-afternoon and the drive to Mukilteo wasn’t terribly difficult.  In line once again, and coughing up another 56 bucks for another ferry, we waited as the sunshine came out and illuminated the sound and the islands in the distance.

to Fort Lewis (81 of 97)to Fort Lewis (89 of 97)to Fort Lewis (93 of 97) We again enjoyed the ride, and this time I went top side to get some photos while Mo relaxed with Abby in the MoHo with a glass of wine and a good book.  However,as the day progressed we were getting a bit concerned about our arrival time at Whidbey NAS.  Google was telling me so many minutes, and we had a few less than needed to get to the Porter Gate where RV’s are allowed to enter the base.  We made it with just 3 minutes before closing.  It wouldn’t have been too awful if we had been late, as there is a special phone number to call and security will open the gate for you after a short wait.

to Fort Lewis (95 of 97) Once on base, we tried to follow the written directions from the website, and managed to get a bit lost before a nice guy in a car and a Navy uniform offered to lead us in to the Cliffside RV Park.  Of course, after being on base for a few days, it was so simple, but that first time in was a bit goofy. 

Deception Pass SP (13 of 73)  It was approaching early evening as we checked into the south loop of the park, where the manager had told us by telephone to go if we arrived after six.  He came down to meet us as we settled in, saying it was no problem for us to come to his office the following morning to settle up our camp fees.  I must say that the view from the campground was incredible.  After being in a deep dark forest at Lewis McChord, it was a delight to be camped on a high bluff directly above the sea with a 180 degree view of sky and water and islands in the distance.

Deception Pass SP (6 of 73) The sites were level and the lack of shade completely irrelevant in the cool, cloudy skies of this part of the northwest.  Full hookups and a spotless laundry right across from our site were added benefits.  Just below us was a fitness trail, paved for bikes and used by runners and walkers of all sorts. The beach was just below the path a few hundred feet and was littered with beautiful weathered driftwood and covered with tiny pea gravels rather than sand.  I think it was the nicest Family Camp we have ever experienced. 

Deception Pass SP (16 of 73)One of the sweetest benefits are the flowers!  A camp host is a dahlia fan, and he plants more than 1,000 dahlias in the campground.  Dahlias love that moist air and mild sunshine and they were in full bloom.  At the campground office, on a table outside the door, are a large selection of vases filled with dahlias for each camper to take to their rig.  Just return the vase when you leave. Without a doubt we will return for an extended stay to this camp. In a great location for exploring the area, at $30 per night it was a good deal for this part of the west where decent campgrounds are hard to find.

Deception Pass SP (30 of 73) We originally planned to visit Lopez Island on Friday, but with the rainy weather predicted for that day, and the sunshine predicted for the next day, it seemed smarter to deal with Saturday ferry traffic and stay close to Whidbey  and our home on Friday.  Waking to misty rain, I read about visiting Deception Pass State Park and after our leisurely morning, we jumped in the Tracker to explore.

Deception Pass SP (70 of 73) Deception Pass State Park covers more than 4,000 acres on two islands.  The islands are connected by  the Deception Pass Bridge, spanning the salt waters of Deception Pass 177 feet below.  There are annual kayak races through the pass, but watching that swirling current and the incoming tide, you couldn’t pay me to drop a kayak into that water.  In fact, much of the San Juan Islands and surrounding area require a more seaworthy kayak than our sweet flat water boats. 

Deception Pass SP (35 of 73)Deception Pass SP (43 of 73) Deception Pass SP (47 of 73) Deception Pass SP (48 of 73) Deception Pass SP (54 of 73) Deception Pass SP (57 of 73) With the pass just minutes from the campground, we had the entire day to wander out to Rosario Beach and walk the trails on Rosario Head and then back toward Bowman Bay.  At Bowman Bay there was a beautiful CCC interpretation center, but it was closed for the season.  There was also a perfect kayak launch site and with better weather, it would have been a lovely paddle.  We would have loved to have a bit more time to hike out to Lighthouse Point, but decided to save that hike for another visit.  One could spend many days hiking around this beautiful park.

deception pass map As I have often mentioned, I live in a forest.  I do know that forests are often shaded and quite dark.  However shaded and dark is a mild description of the depths of darkness in the thick forests of Deception Pass State Park.  The firs and hemlocks are huge and the understory is impenetrable. The shades of green are beyond counting, but most of them are in the darker range of shades, and the deep blues of the water and gray skies added much to the gloom.  It was a beautiful gloom, just not one where I would want to spend any great length of time.  Beautiful to visit, but I wouldn’t live there.  I need more light!

Whidbey Sunset SP (1 of 30)Whidbey Sunset SP (8 of 30)Whidbey Sunset SP (18 of 30) Light arrived in full force just as we returned in early evening to our camp.  The sun burst below the cloud cover over the water to the west just a bit before sunset, turning the grass green gold and lighting up the skies.  With Abby on her leash, we walked south on the trail, waiting for the sunset. High over the water, we found a perfect viewing bench.  No green flash, but the light and the color was a perfect end to a wonderful day.Whidbey Sunset SP (23 of 30)

 

 

Playing in Puget

Current Location: Whidbey Island NAS Cliffside RV Park 55 degrees F and dark skies

to Fort Lewis (40 of 97)Fort Lewis Travel Camp site 107

When planning our Puget Sound trip, I discovered again the fabulous retired military benefit of camping at Military Family Camps that are on many bases throughout the country. Finding good camping in this highly populated part of the west isn’t easy.  Boondocking sites are few and far between, with no public lands in the vicinity, and state parks are expensive.  I was delighted to locate two FamCamps in the vicinity of our planned travels.

Just south of Tacoma, at Joint Base Fort Lewis-McChord in what is called North Lewis, is a lovely forested spacious camp along American Lake.  Within noise distance of I-5, the thick forest muffles the sound of the interstate and I only heard traffic in the dark at 5am as the morning commute commenced.

to Fort Lewis (49 of 97)We had reservations, and were efficiently sent to site 106, a back-in spot surrounded by trees.  Cable is provided and until we turned on the TV we didn’t know that a digital television was required.  Ah well then, let’s set up the satellite.  Of course, we were surrounded by trees, but the empty site across the way, a pull through site, had full view of the southern sky.

to Fort Lewis (50 of 97)Without any difficulty, I went back to the office, requested the change, and in minutes we were settled into the new site with the satellite all hooked up.  Until the rain started and the signal scrambled.  Often camping without benefit of hookups, much less television, it was no big deal, but it is nice to keep abreast of world events now and then.

to Fort Lewis (52 of 97)My Verizon MiFi worked great, which was also a good thing since I saw nary a sign of the base wifi that was supposed to be available in this campground.  Mo was running low on prednisone for Abby and we needed to find a vet who would refill her prescription. 

to Fort Lewis (47 of 97)We found a vet at a nearby PetSmart who agreed to see Abby, and decided that we could continue north to visit Gig Harbor for the rest of the afternoon.  Gig Harbor is a beautiful small town with a famous walking waterfront, lots of good restaurants, and art galleries.  A trendy, touristy, fun place.  I have read about it often, and always wanted to visit.

As we crossed the Tacoma Narrows bridge on Highway 16 we were warned that traffic backup in Gig Harbor was more than 4 miles out.  Having no clue as to the cause, we simply assumed that it was standard traffic stuff for an area known for congested traffic.  We made it to town eventually and parked a few blocks up from the waterfront and the Tides Tavern, our destination restaurant.

to Fort Lewis (22 of 27)Tides was delightful, and I did have to do a “food porn” shot of my incredible salmon sliders.  We were just in time for happy hour, and in addition to a great beer selection, the happy hour menu was perfect for our late afternoon lunch/early supper.  Mo had a single piece of fish and chips, but my sliders were on fresh baked slider buns, slathered with chipotle aioli on one side and basil pesto on the other.  Yum.  Oh, and don’t forget the fried pickles as well.  First time I had them was in Seaside Florida, and these weren’t as good, but still yummy.

to Fort Lewis (23 of 27)Our waiter was perfect, just chatty enough and the service was excellent. Our waiter showed us where Mt Rainier was located in the clouds.  The tavern is famous for its view of the mountain. He told us where we might walk to see the town, but as we watched the rain pour down we decided that a drive through might be a better choice.  Gig Harbor is great, but not so much in a heavy pouring rain. to Fort Lewis (24 of 27)

That is when it got interesting.  The traffic was bumper to bumper, completely stopped no matter which way we turned.  It was impossible to get over to the freeway, so we drove north a bit, while I navigated with the phone to try to find a way around to get back south.  We turned off into no man’s land, only to find more bumper to bumper traffic in the middle of nowhere.

to Fort Lewis (27 of 27)It seems there had been a huge wreck on the freeway, with both directions closed for many miles.  With some creative navigating, I got us to the exit just before the bridge and we finally got out of the stop and go traffic.  It was an interesting experience…many hours of complicated driving and navigating for an hour or so of relaxing at a nice tavern on the water.

The next morning was our “Seattle Day” and after perusing several options, we decided to attempt a visit to the Chihuly Glass and Gardens show at the Seattle Center.  Neither of us wanted to do the same things we had done in past Seattle visits, aka Pioneer Square, Downtown, Pikes Market, all that “stuff”.  Also on our list was a visit to the Fremont District and the Ballard District, with perhaps a side trip to the Washington Park Arboretum.

It didn’t sound like a big deal or too much of an agenda until we actually got on the Interstate north into downtown Seattle. Bumper to Bumper.  Dead stop.  All roads on the Google Map traffic completely red.  Signs saying the interstate is gridlocked.  So.  Getting off the interstate, we drove downtown on the 99, enjoying the high level view of the city from the Viaduct…the one that needs some serious earthquake protection work, but that is another story.  The Seattle skyline is always magical no matter the vantage point.to Fort Lewis (54 of 97)

As we drove north, thinking we could bypass Seattle Center for the time being, we somehow ended up on 99, considerably west of our Ballard destination, but right in the middle of the Fremont district.  I was trying to navigate with the phone, trying to figure out where to go, when we somehow turned into a tiny side road that led us directly to the famous Troll under the Bridge.  I had read about the troll in years past, but it wasn’t even on our radar for this day of exploration. 

to Fort Lewis (1 of 97)The story of the troll is here, and definitely worth checking out. For us, it was a happy accident and we continued driving through the Fremont feeling as though we had been lucky.  We were in the baby car/Tracker, and even so the streets in the Fremont area are incredibly narrow and tight.to Fort Lewis (4 of 97)

Continuing through the district, we found the corner with the famous statue of Lenin that to this day is controversial.  There is another story behind this statue as well that is interesting.  The alternative culture of the Fremont is evident everywhere, with cannabis shops, art studios, artistic grafitti, and interesting people walking around.

to Fort Lewis (6 of 97)Without a good city map (a paper map!) I had to rely on the phone to try to navigate and without actual addresses it was a bit of a stretch to find “the Ballard District”.  We knew it was somewhere west, so kept driving narrow streets and tight traffic until we came to the Scandinavian Museum.  The Ballard District was originally very Scandinavian, but has since become more upscale urban and I didn’t see a lot of Scandinavian influence.  It was a bit confusing, but we drove most of Market Street.

Once again, this is the kind of neighborhood that requires more time to truly enjoy.  In the rain and with limited time, neither of us were really into the shopping eating and walking kind of thing that should be savored slowly.  Both the Fremont and the Ballard districts would lend themselves well to a B and B stay for a few days with ample time to sample the shops and brews and food.  Still, we at least got a taste, if a tiny one.

The Ballard Locks are in this area as well, and would be another fun place to visit with more time and less rain.

We could see the Space Needle to the south, and managed to navigate to the area, but then finding parking was daunting.  There are several public parking lots and one even had a weekday special for ten bucks.  I knew going in that parking would be difficult and expensive, but somehow when we actually got there neither of us was in the mood to pay a bunch for parking and a bunch more for the exhibition and we just decided to skip it.  I think both of us were getting pretty tired of traffic and crazy circuitous routes by that time.

to Fort Lewis (9 of 97)Thinking perhaps a walk in the Arboretum would be more to our liking, I attempted once again to navigate our way out of downtown Seattle toward the Interstate 5 and Washington Park.  The interstate north wasn’t too bad until we somehow managed to get into the Express lane and couldn’t get off until we crossed a bridge and then had to find our way back south over another bridge. 

to Fort Lewis (30 of 97)When we finally arrived at the spacious green expanse of the Arboretum, we were definitely ready for the calming effect of a walk among the trees. 

I used to love the energy of Seattle, it is a great city.  It is a city that should be seen without a car, arriving on a cruise ship, staying in a downtown hotel, making use of public transportation and walking a lot.  It isn’t a place to go to in a day with a car.  Ever again.  Not for me.  I was exhausted from continually trying to navigate, reroute, navigate again and keep up with the shifts. 

to Fort Lewis (13 of 97)The Arboretum is a treasure, a respite in the midst of a crazy day and we loved every minute we were there.  Again, it is a place that requires much more than just dropping in for a walk.  One could walk here for days and not see all the wonders, especially the 500 varieties of Japanese maples. 

to Fort Lewis (17 of 97)Our respite didn’t last long because we knew that in order to avoid complete gridlock we needed to leave Seattle no later than 2:30.  Daughter Deanna later told me we should have left by 2 at the latest.  I think that would mean we should leave before we get there to avoid traffic.  Deciding to skip I-5 altogether, which was already gridlocked, we drove across the 520 toll bridge (where the fees are only the pay by mail version if you don’t have a pass) to Bellevue and onto the 405 south toward Renton.  Again, bumper to bumper, stop and go…and this was 2:30 in the afternoon on a Wednesday!  By the time we hit Tacoma, it was 3:30 and once again it was stop and go bumper to bumper.

to Fort Lewis (18 of 97)Ignore the google time thing.  WRONG!

seattle day mapWe were both starving and I seriously wanted a beer! I searched for and found a brewery not too far off the interstate north of our home destination, and we managed to slip into the Tacoma Mall.  Turns out the brewery was right in the middle of the huge mall and the huge parking lot was very full.  Ack!  Instead, we opted for sliding into the Red Robin parking lot nearby.  With a draft Octoberfest and some kind of southern whiskey hamburger, I finally began to relax, preparing for the next jaunt south on I-5 to our campsite.

Excited about finally getting back home, I prepared for our base gate entrance by getting out our ID.  Fort Lewis is a 100% ID check base.  UhOh.  Mo’s wallet was nowhere to be found.  Seems as though we spent the entire day with her driving and her wallet back on base in the MoHo.  With no clue how we were going to get back on base, we looked at each other and just kept driving.

At the gate, I had said specifically that I would be sure to keep my mouth shut and let Mo do the talking.  Of course, I am nothing if not mouthy at the wrong times, and in spite of my desire to keep my mouth shut, I started blabbering at the guard.  Sheesh.  In spite of my mouth, when Mo fully explained the problem, he let us in the gate, saying, “Just go ahead”.  whew! 

Back to the rig, wallet in hand, we got back in the car to go across to the other side of the base for provisions from the commissary.  Whew again.  Just writing about this day has exhausted me again, so I am not going to continue writing about our trip north to the Port Townsend ferry the next morning, reservations in hand.  Another crazy thing….but that is next.

 

02-22-2014 to 02-26-2014 Days in Key West

Current temperature at Sigsbee NAS Campground 83F Humidity 74% Partly Cloudy

Key West_049At the moment, we are holed up in the MoHo with the generator on and the air conditioning running full blast.  Being in the dry camping area at the NAS Key West (what used to be called Sigsbee Field) the air conditioner is imperative, even with our lacy shade trees overhead.  At the moment Mo is trying to get our CO2 sensor to quit beeping.  We don’t have a special stack for the generator as suggested, however even if we did, all the other generators going at the moment in these tight quarters might set that sensor off anyway.

Key West_033Jeremy decided to add to the humid, quite warm ambience of the MoHo by adding something of his own.  Albeit in the cat box, still requiring a nice kitty bath to make it all ok again.  Very indignantly, he is trying to lick himself dry now.  Nice to be able to not worry about him catching a cold.  The last few times I have given him a bath in Mo’s collapsible bucket he seems to enjoy it, at least for the most part.  I think his favorite part is getting all swaddled up in the bath towel and cuddled until he is at least partially dry.  He doesn’t complain.

the Overseas HighwayThis is our second full day in the campground, having arrived in late afternoon on Saturday.  The campground office was closed, but after reading several accounts of the procedure, and an emergency call to John (our recent new friends at “Our Trip Around the Sun”, we had an idea where to go and how to proceed.

Within minutes of calling the phone number posted on the office door, a campground host showed up in his little cart and went over the process of signing up officially on Monday morning and led us to what was to be our site for the weekend.  We were tucked back in a circular area with several rigs around us, all running their Honda 2000i’s to ward off the heat.  I guess one of these generators will power a 30 amp rig, but it takes two to power up the big guys with 50 amps.  Only planning on dry camping for 5 nights, we were content to use the generator on board the MoHo.

Key West_065Camping here is an experience at what is most definitely an inside culture of folks who know how to do it, how it works, and those who don’t.  Lucky for us, most of the folks know how to do it, and we have communicated enough with blog friends who have camped here that we had a basic understanding of the rotation system and didn’t give our host too much trouble.  He wasn’t so lucky with some folks arriving just before we did, with a lady waving her arms and looking disgusted trying to wangle a better site on their first night here.  We did know better than that, and Walter, the host, told us that the rotation at the moment is about 4 weeks with more than 200 rigs signed up on the rotation list.

Trumbo Annex, at the Coast Guard facility down the road, is completely full with long time sites that have been filled since Christmas.  We were told there is no chance of getting into that part of the family camp.  Dry camp in this part of camp is mandatory rotation, but with only five nights here, that isn’t an issue for us.  Tired from our journey across the keys, and the traffic and surprising heat and humidity, we settled in with the air conditioner and the generator going full blast. 

Key West_058We had a bit of a hiccup with the generator, being set for high elevation, and no doubt a bit moist from all the humidity, it coughed a bit and died.  Unsure what the problem was and with darkness falling, Mo decided to wait until morning to check the oil and the altitude adjustment.  All was fine after that, but our first night here was a bit of an adjustment for us as well.  With normally balmy temperatures in Key West, we weren’t expecting mid 80’s and little breeze.  From what I have learned, it happens sometimes, but not usually this time of year. 

During our evening walk around the campground, we ran into the camp host and asked what exactly you had to do to draw one of those primo waterfront sites.  He said, “Well, I have one coming in tomorrow that is too big for the site, so you could move in there after ten AM”.  OK then!

Key West_055We went to sleep pretty tickled, got up early to go explore town and get our bearings in the car before our scheduled move.  Back at ten sharp, we checked the site as instructed, and with it empty, we made our move.  No sooner had we dropped the jacks and opened the slide that another camp host arrived to tell us, “Sorry to tell you this, but you have to move.  This site has come up in rotation and you can’t be here.”

Key West_064Instead of staying in our very hot, very fume filled site however, Buzz led me to a shady site that was a bit smaller and was right by the garbage cans.  Oh thank you for a small rig.  Garbage cans or not, this site is shaded with two lovely, lacy trees that are actually nasty invasive species that are overtaking the Keys.  At the moment, with the shade from those trees, we can sit outside in our site and enjoy the cooling breezes, and the MoHo doesn’t get all that hot during the day with just the Fantastic Fan running and the windows open. 

sigsbee 002There are several hundred RVs on site at this moment, and as I said 200 or so are waiting to rotate into a full hookup site.  Generators are allowed to run between 7am and 11pm, and there is a dump and water station.  We learned that if you try to dump during the dark there is a $15,000. fine.  Yup, you read that right.

With all the complexity, it might seem easier to just go to a regular RV park, but at the current rate of $147 per night at the local KOA, and no other parks around, we decided that paying $13.00 per night to camp here was worth it.  Thus far, after about half our five day stay, we have used about 1/4 tank of gasoline to run the generator.  Pretty inexpensive digs to stay in Key West.sigsbee 004

Next post:  Some of the more delightful aspects of staying and visiting in Key West and why we decided it was worth it.

02-05-2014 Finally Florida…and whatever was I thinking??

Current Location: Destin, Florida  44 degrees F with a low tonight of 34 and a high tomorrow of 43?

Destin Army Recreation AreaI have visited northern Florida during every month of the year except July and August, and nope, it has never been this cold.  Or maybe I am not remembering it properly.  Looking back at the blog, I see some complaints now and then during my Ocala visits about frosty nights and cold windy days. 

We have been incredibly lucky on this journey.  During our first month traveling south through Texas, through country that is known for sudden snow storms and cold snaps, we had gorgeous weather.  We missed the worst of the cold in Corpus Christi by a week, and then when it turned cold again in the south, we headed out on a Caribbean cruise.  Amazing timing!

tight quarters at Destin Army Recreation AreaI should be grateful…I really am…but yup, I am cold tonight.  We are settled in at Destin Army Recreation RV Campground, something called MWR….meaning Morale, Welfare, Recreation.  Unlike most military family camps, this one isn’t on a base and required no military ID to enter.  It was built for the morale, welfare and recreation of military folks in need of respite.  Of course, retirees like Mo still benefit.  Just today we were talking about what an incredible benefit these camps are for people who have served in the military. 

Destin Army Recreation AreaWhere else in the very expensive Destin area could you stay for just $19. per night with full hookups, including sewer, and an extensive list of cable tv channels.  The laundry costs a measly .75 a load and the showers are clean, again with roomy private dressing rooms and unlimited hot water.

There is a beautiful swimming pool, supposed to be heated, but as of this writing it wasn’t, but it was still quite pretty.  The kids splash park looked like it would be fun in warmer weather and the fishing pier extended far enough out into the bay that we actually saw flounder through the clear waters below us.

Destin Army Recreation AreaWhen we arrived back in New Orleans from our cruise on Sunday morning, the skies were laden and cold, with heavy fog warnings.  The fog never lifted all day.  Disembarkation was incredibly easy, but the shuttle that we had prepaid managed to do a switcheroo and changed the pickup zone without letting us know.  By the time we were picked up an hour late we were not happy.  The guy got no tip!

When we picked up the fur kids at the Canine Connection in Uptown New Orleans, they were in great condition, clean and happy and well fed.  With a minimum 7 day stay, Abby was given a free bath and Jeremy got his toenails trimmed. They were of course happy to see us, but we could tell they weren’t at all stressed out. Although Jeremy did stick to me for a couple of days like a little fur ball of glue.  Once back home to the rig, we found everything in good shape, with our small solar panel keeping the batteries charged up and all the food in the freezer still OK.  It was a test…and it worked.

IMG_1049I planned for a full day to regroup in New Orleans before our planned departure.  Monday dawned dank and damp and foggy and again, that fog never lifted.  New Orleans seems to be a fairly dank place….while we were there everything was damp and wet and moldy.  I didn’t develop a great love for the city, or the outlying areas we traveled when we were there.  Unlike the magical bayous of other parts of Louisiana we have visited, the sprawling, unplanned messy communities with bone jarring pavement on the Westbank didn’t impress me in the least.  I was glad we were leaving and had no desire to explore anything further. 

still tearing down the projects that were destroyed in KatrinaErin has posted about some wonderful sights in New Orleans, especially the murals, but in that dank fog and after being tired from the cruise, a day of laundry and vacuuming out the car and MoHo were all I wanted to manage.  It was good to get everything all freshened and ready to go for the next leg of our trip. We did manage to navigate 12 miles across town to find an Office Depot for some printer ink (that wasn’t in stock), found a WalMart next door (where the ink WAS in stock), and spontaneously stopped at a veterinary clinic where I bought another case of what my vet calls Ensure for old kitties, since it is from veterinarians only and my supply for Jeremy was dwindling.

The three month trip we have planned is basically a three part adventure.  Part one is behind us, with the southward journey through West Texas and the Texas Gulf Coast topped off by our Caribbean cruise.  Part two will be a month in Florida, something I have dreamed of for years now.  Part three will be the unknown route of the trip back west. 

leaving New OrleansWe crossed Mississippi and Alabama on I-10, with dark fog and rain discouraging any side trips.  I knew from blog reading that there was a lot to see on the Gulf Coast of both of these states, but I was Florida bound and the day was dang ugly.  I just wanted us to get from point a to point b.  It didn’t help that I had the first real killer headache I have had during our entire trip.  I tried to go back to the bed to rest a bit while Mo was driving.  (Yeah, I know…no lectures please)  The pavement was so rough that I almost got bounced completely out of bed, so that solution lasted all of ten minutes.

Once we arrived in Florida though, things started to feel better.  I have no idea why.  Just something about the Florida landscape, the clean white sands among the pines, the feel of it.  I have no clue.  Must be all in my mind I guess, but eventually the headache lifted. 

tight quarters at the Destin Army Recreation campWe took a route south from I-10 that went through Navarre and toward the east along 98, avoiding any toll bridges to our location on Okaloosa Island, the location of Destin and the Destin Army MWR where we had a reservation.  We knew to expect tight quarters, so the campground wasn’t a surprise.  Our spot works for us with room to park the car, open the slide, and still have a tiny bit of privacy from our neighbors, but not much.  With the cold temperatures, we are glad for full hookups and our little electric heater.  I heard a rumor today that propane fuel is more than doubling in price in some places.  We filled our propane tank back in Corpus Christi and shouldn’t need more for a long time as long as we don’t use the furnace.

Destin HarborThis morning I woke up, excited to get my boat into Florida waters at last.  Watching the weather, we knew that the winds would be rising as the day progressed, but the sun wasn’t going to show up until later in the day.  Lucky for us, we decided to go kayaking early, and were in the water at the MWR boat launch by 9am, to partly cloudy skies and a stiff breeze.

I spent quite a bit of time researching the route along the southern side of Chocktawatchee Bay that winds around toward Destin Harbor.  It was only about 2.5 miles or so to paddle under the bridge and into the harbor, and we hugged the shore to avoid the worst of the choppy water.  As we rounded the point before the bridge, the current  through the channel was creating some crazy conditions and I was glad for a stable boat and a buttoned up life jacket.

morning kayak into Destin HarborOnce we were under the bridge and into the harbor, however, things calmed down considerably.  With the season not yet in full force, we didn’t have to fight too many big boats, but a couple of them passed us in the confines of the harbor and they looked very big from the water level of the kayaks.

We paddled about a mile or so to a small beach where the Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House is located.  They have patio dining and allow dogs, with even a special doggie menu, so we thought it might be a nice place for lunch.  Problem was, it was only 10:15 and of course, they weren’t open yet.  I thought maybe we could paddle the bay for awhile and then go back, but Mo was feeling uncomfortable about the increasing winds and that channel we had to get back through.

the water here was a lot rougher than it looks.  We landed on that tiny bit of sandGood thing we left when we did.  We got through the channel ok, but those big waves were pushing us along from behind and the current was coming downbay toward us.  I kept thinking…I am a good swimmer…I have on a life jacket….my camera is locked up in the Pelican case.  I even put my glasses in the pelican case before we tackled the point.

Once around the point, though, things got even worse, with a strong north wind coming directly toward us and making some pretty dramatic whitecaps on the bay.  Mo was ahead of me and she saw a small marina and headed in, hollering something at me that I couldn’t hear.  Yup…I was ready to go in as well.  We landed on the tiny little beach and managed to get out of the boats without getting rammed too badly against the rocks. 

glad to find a place to take the boars out of the waterFinally got the boats up on the dock and hauled ourselves out of the cold water and onto land.  The marina was closed with only one lone rather grumpy man around who didn’t seem to think much of two tourist ladies emerging from the water at his boat marina. He was a bit of a jerk actually. 

Mo stayed with Abby as I volunteered to walk back to the camp to get the car.  Lucky me, it was only a mile and a half and by then the sun came out in full glory, and away from the water there was barely a breath of air moving.  The walk was actually quite nice, and would have been better if I hadn’t been next to barefoot in my thin water shoes.  I got to see all the houses we had viewed from the water from the roadside.  The luxury of those waterfront houses can be seen fully from the water, but isn’t at all evident as you peer down the long driveways from the road.

managed to haul the boats up on the dockIt all turned out just fine, and we loaded up the boats and drove back home to the rig, happy to be warm and dry and in one piece.

The rest of the afternoon was pleasant, with a short drive to the town part of Destin to find PetSmart for some good dog food and a visit to the Destin dog park, well reviewed by people who have been in this area.  I couldn’t believe the shopping in Destin.  The main shops along the highway are just a tiny front for hidden corridors of outdoor malls that go on forever. 

We saw a huge Bass Pro Shop and decided to check it out, without realizing we had parked in an area called Destin Commons.  Almost like a city within a city, it is possibly one of the best shopping venues I have ever seen!  Good thing I wasn’t in a mood for shopping.  I simply wanted to get back home and out of the cold wind and make a toasty quesadilla for supper. 

Abby at the Destin dog parkAs I was walking along this afternoon, while Mo waited cold and wet at the marina, I thought, what an introduction to Florida kayaking.  The Florida part of this trip is mostly my idea, my little dream, and Mo keeps saying she hopes I get it out of my system.  I am pretty sure she would rather stay out west, or travel up to the New England states we have yet to visit in the MoHo and maybe continue into the Maritime Provinces.  Hopefully the weather here in Florida will warm up a bit and the kayaking won’t be so dang difficult!