Sounding Off: Travelling On

While I stood waiting for my hands to dry under one of those wonderful blow dryers in a Welcome Centre restroom, I noticed a small sign that had been printed from a computer and taped to the concrete wall:

Please don’t flush diapers, Depends, or any clothing down the toilets. Our sewer system will get clogged and stop working.  Thanks for your consideration.”

I can’t help wonder why such a sign would even be necessary.  Are there really people out there who lack that much common sense? Are they the same ones who, here in the US right now, are protesting the possible lifting of the Income Tax Reduction put into place by George Bush, while in the same breath demanding more funding for job creation, social assistance and general economic stimulus from the government.  Do they ever ask themselves where the money would come from, if not taxes?


On Friday our “side-trip” through the Badlands of South Dakota took all day, there was so much to see! The rock formations are amazing and around each corner the colours and shapes change. At our first viewing area stop we met a couple who were on a motorcycle. Like us, they had recently retired and taken off, pulling a toy hauler.  They’d left that in Rapid City to do some day touring on the bike.

Two stops later, we noticed some people who were having trouble with their car.  Jim asked if he could help, and we spent an hour there. I chatted with the women and invited them into the motor home to keep warm, as the wind was getting cold. The men eventually came up with a temporary solution so they could limp back to Rapid City to a mechanic. We carried on to the next viewing spot, an area where fossils have been found and put on display. After having some lunch we took a walk through the trails and climbed some mounds.  We didn’t find any new fossils though. Five or six hours and two hundred pictures later, we found our way out of the Badlands. We stopped for the night at the Belvidere KOA. It got very cold and the wind whistled most of the night.

Saturday was a long drive through acres of rolling farm land, under cloudy skies.  We stopped at the town of Kimball, South Dakota, looking for some bread and other sandwich ingredients.  It was mid-day, yet the streets were all but deserted. Some of the buildings appeared to have been there, unchanged, since the 1800s.  We did find a well-stocked grocery store, got our supplies and made lunch while parked on the street. We didn’t think anyone would mind that we were taking up four parking spaces.

Mid-afternoon we arrived at the Minnesota Information Centre. The very helpful woman there gave us a list of available RV parks in the state and suggested that if we were looking to drive for another couple of hours we could get free camping at the Blue Earth Fair Grounds. That sounded great!  We made it our destination for that night. As indicated on the signs, there were “full” hook-ups”. The only problem was, septic and water taps were in one spot; electricity hook-up was in another, requiring a very long extension cord, which we didn’t have.  We chose electricity, but it seemed all of the reasonably level spots near the outlets were already occupied, and the ground looked pretty soft around the others.  We finally returned to the grassy area closer to the gate, where only one other RV had parked, and set up. Even there, the ground was squishy and not at all level. Like our neighbours, we had to do a lot of jacking, but it seemed pretty good when we were done. We had dinner and then took a stroll through the grounds, over to see the Jolly Green Giant. It’s a huge replica of the one-and-only Green Giant, but we could find nothing to tell us why he’s in the park in Blue Earth, Minnesota. We took some photos before walking across the street to Walmart to pick up a few more supplies.

By bedtime the RV seemed to be leaning a little, so Jim gave the jacks another turn or two. When we woke up in the morning I found that I was crowding Jim to the wall, and walking down the hall felt a bit like I’d had too much wine. When Jim, preparing to leave after breakfast, pulled up the jacks and went to pick up the three blocks of wood he’d placed under one of them, he discovered one block buried so deep into the ground that he had to get out a crowbar to remove it!

Today, Sunday, we just drove. The day was cloudy and damp. My arthritis was acting up so I slept a lot. We had a bit of a stretch and a walk when we stopped to eat lunch at a Rest Area near Lewiston, and decided that we’d attempt to get as close as possible to Chicago tonight. That’s where we are, in a very pretty KOA about fifty miles north-west of Chicago. It would be nice to be able to stay put for a couple of days.  I know Jim is getting tired of driving every day, but, tomorrow we will stop at the Chicago Museum of Science and Technology before starting the last leg of our trip. We should be pulling into our driveway sometime on Wednesday.


Wall Drug leads to Badlands

Yesterday we enjoyed another sunny day.  Our one major stop, before stopping for the night, was at the Battle of Little Bighorn historical site. We only saw a portion of it because we had only three hours before it closed! Yup, we spent most of the three hours there anyway. It was pretty interesting. A ranger gave a half-hour talk about the battle, in a very engaging way, the kind that makes you want to listen, and wish that your high school teachers had been this interesting.  I might remember more of Canadian history details. Anyway, we did get a good lesson in American history, and to my surprise, he acknowledged that the Natives were treated badly and portrayed incorrectly in the past. I was also interested to see that one of the names displayed on the monument to the US Calvary who died there, was Yates, my mother’s maiden name.  Could he have any relation to my great-grandfather, who seems to have moved to the US?  Wouldn’t that be interesting.

It was nearly 6:00 when we left there, and an hour later before we decided to stop in Sheridan Wyoming for the night, at the KOA. It’s hard to believe that when we were in the area last we were enjoying the outdoor pools and hot tubs. Now they are all closed up and most of the camp sites are empty.

Today we drove out of Wyoming shortly after noon, and once we reached Buffalo South Dakota, we began to retrace our path towards home, with a planned side-trip to Wall and through the Badlands. We had to take a stroll through downtown Sturgis to see what it looked like without all the bikes.  We hardly recognized it! It seemed strange to see only a handful of bikes along the highways in the area too. Even the traffic lights at the highway entrance and exit ramps to Sturgis have been removed.  There is no need for them now.  There’s hardly any traffic.

Long before we reached Sturgis we began to see colourful signs advertising Wall Drug. After Sturgis, they became more and more frequent: Free Ice Water at Wall Drug; Western Wear at Wall Drug; Have you Dug Wall Drug?; Wall Drug ,Exit 109. Finally we reached the exit.  What is Wall Drug, you might ask? Well, it’s a Drug Store in the town of Wall, South Dakota, just at the entrance to the Badlands. It began in 1931 as a struggling enterprise. Today, because of a very clever marketing scheme, offering free ice water to hot, weary travellers along the highway, and posting signs to advertise it, it has expanded into the now famous Western-style conglomerate of many shops, cafes and museums. It still gives away ice water, an estimated 5,000 glasses every day during the summer. If you’re travelling along I-90 anywhere within 200 miles of Wall, you’re sure to see the signs that will lead you in. Wall Drug

Tonight we’re in a campground just a block away from Wall, joining many other RVers who probably, like us, chose to wait until tomorrow before starting the journey through the badlands.

We are half-way home.

Making Our Way Back Home


With some sadness this morning we said goodbye to daughter Sarah, son-in-law Kendrick, and sweet, almost-three year old grandson Callum. They left before us actually, on their way to hike up Jumbo Mountain with three other adults and three other young children! I wish them well.  I’m sure it will be challenging, but exciting. I wish I could be there upon their return to hear Callum’s version of the event.

The weather had started to clear by the time we got away, around nine-thirty. It had been raining for a couple of days, but despite that, we enjoyed several hours at the New Denver Garlic Festival yesterday. We swayed to the music of a local group of musicians, whose name I should have written down because my aging brain has forgotten! Their repertoire included a variety of tunes from many countries and cultures, including many Jewish traditional ones. The brass instruments, accordion and well-blended voices created an amazing and interesting sound. Callum watched intently, before finally joining his mother and others who danced in front of the stage. We were amazed by the number of stalls and the types of garlic, and other products that were available.  It was hard to make a selection for lunch from the many unique and wonderful cuisines being offered.  We settled on homemade crepes that turned out to be an excellent choice. On the way back to the car we stopped to check out the salmon being peddled from the back of a pick-up truck and came away with five or six pounds of fresh Pacific Salmon to put into the freezer.

Today the sun broke through the clouds and the temperature gradually rose. After an hour the extra sweater was discarded; by mid-afternoon, the long-sleeves had to be replaced with short – one of the advantages of travelling in a motor home. When we stopped in Spirit Lake Idaho to get gas, one sign told us it was 80 degrees Fahrenheit; another said 90. Whichever, it was hot.

Our first stop was in Nelson, BC to say hello to Kendrick’s cousin Julia, who was working at a fruit stand there.  We wanted to buy some fruit to take with us, but after our last two experiences crossing the borders we were unsure what we could take.  We settled on some cherries and a couple of pears, which we figured we could eat before reaching the border.

We stopped in Salmo, BC at the Firefly Cafe and stuffed ourselves with yummy grilled Panini then finished the fruit before crossing into Washington State at about 12:45. I figured we were safe with the few fresh fruits and vegetables that remained in our crispers, because they’d all been purchased in the US; but the border-guard came aboard, searched some cupboards and the bathroom and confiscated a green pepper and a tomato! I guess the rule of thumb is: make sure you have used up all of your fresh fruits and vegetables before you reach the borders, because you never know what will pass and what won’t. We had to stock up again in Spirit Lake.

Tonight we are camped at a small RV Park in Cataldo Idaho, just off the highway, but looking onto Latour Creek and another beautiful sunset.

Winding down

Wednesday turned out to be a rather cloudy day. We had noticed the motor home giving an occasional hiccup a couple of times on Tuesday, but letting it rest and cool down seemed to do the trick. However, soon after we started out on Wednesday it began to do it again, so when we happened upon a transmission repair shop during our drive through Spokane, Washington, we thought it best to have it checked out. We spent the next six hours having our lunch and catching up on some reading, while we waited for the bad news. Just before the shop was about to close at five o’clock we were told that they could find nothing seriously wrong with the transmission, but they did a complete service on it, flushing out all the fluids and replacing them. This was something that was probably long overdue. We braced ourselves for the expected big bill. They’d worked on it for five hours (they took a lunch break) after all. The light shone on us once more; we were charged only for the servicing, a flat rate of $97.00!
Oh, remember the challenges we met at Best Buys back in Salt Lake City when we purchased a Verizon internet stick for the computer? We had to use an American address (thanks, Sis) to register it, but were told that after the first billing we could go online and change the address to our own. Well, Jim went online and tried to pay the first bill but because the US postal code had to be used as identification on the Verizon website, and our Canadian postal code had to be used with our Canadian credit card to pay the bill, he wasn’t able to pay it! When we left the transmission shop, we had to go in search of a Verizon store. Jim was able to pay the bill, but when he asked them to change the address on the account, he was informed that a Canadian address can’t be used. The stick should never have been sold to us if we didn’t have a US address. Best Buys didn’t tell us that. So now we have to figure out how we’ll get future bills and pay them!
We finally got back on the road at about six o’clock. Jim was well rested and figured he could keep driving until we got to Kaslo. It was dark and a little foggy when we reached the mountains, but it was too late to stop then, so we kept on trucking, very slowly. It was after eleven when we pulled into the driveway at the home of my daughter, in Kaslo.
I’ve spent the last two days taking care of business like filling a prescription that had run out, finally accessing my bank account (if you have a President’s Choice bank account, it’s pretty much impossible to access it in the US), doing laundry and, of course visiting with Sarah, Kendrick and my grandson, Callum. Their lives are busy as usual, but tomorrow we all hope to take in the Garlic Festival in New Denver. It will be our last day here. Monday we’ll be back in the US and heading for home in earnest. Sigh. Still so many more people and places we would have liked to visit.

Drifting along with the tumbleweed

RV Park

Tuesday, Day 35

I didn’t think I’d have much to write about tonight, since today was a dull, rainy day and we spent all of it driving. The only interesting place we stopped was at large produce and chocolate market somewhere along Hwy 84 or Hwy 385. They’ve all just melted together by now. We did buy some nice fruit and a couple of ears of corn for supper. Once we’d crossed into Washington State the terrain became very flat and monotonous. Earlier in the day there had been RV Parks about every five miles along the road. At six o’clock when we decided it was about time to camp for the night, none could be found. The few small towns that we passed seemed to have only a hotel or two. By the time we saw a sign for Lind that indicated there were “services” we were in need of gas, so we drove the two miles into town. That’s when the trip became more interesting!

A billboard on the edge of town told of its claim to fame: The Lion’s Club Combine Demolition Derby! A field across the street was full of smashed up combines. There was a faded sign for a motel a little further on, but the building next to it had peeling paint and old rusty cars parked out front. We were feeling rather sceptical of finding even gas. A place to park for the night was probably out of the question. But, a sign listing five churches in the town and a Medical Clinic gave us new hope. At the first cross roads we saw a gas station. It was closed. At the next was another that was open 24 hrs. When we drove up to the pumps no one was around. While Jim was trying to figure out the price and procedure, an SUV pulled up and the driver rolled down his window.

“Have you bought gas here before?” he asked.

“No,” said Jim.

“There’s a better place that’s cheaper. Just go to this corner and up three blocks.”

Off we went in search of it. Nearly empty lots everywhere contained rusted out farm machinery or automobiles, and gas tanks. We found a place that had some pumps, but again no one was around, so we went back to the corner. Finding nothing else, we turned around to go back and investigate it further. As we made the turn, a tall, frail woman in jeans and a plaid shirt appeared on the lawn of the corner house. There was something strange about her face. She was pointing and talking to us. When we stopped and I opened the window we saw that she had an oxygen tube in her nose and 40 feet of hose was dragging behind her!

“Are you looking for gas?” she asked. “Just go to the end of the street and around the corner.”

We thanked her and returned to the place we’d just been, shaking our heads in amazement. It was a derelict town, but the residents were certainly friendly.

We got some gas and headed back towards the highway. The woman was in her window and waved as we drove past. An old man and a younger woman stood outside the tavern smoking cigarettes. They waved to us too.

By now it was nearly 7:30 and we still hadn’t found a place to stop to eat and sleep. A few more miles up the road we saw a sign for a restaurant, and below it another sign said “RV Park”. We saw two other motor homes beside the restaurant. Jim went in to inquire about overnight parking.

When he returned he said, “That’s the park, there in front of us. It has 30 amp and water and it’s only $15, and we can have any site we want.”

I laughed, looking at the bits of pavement that wound through clumps of tumbleweed and scruffy shrubs. A closer look revealed the electrical posts and water taps half hidden in the long grass. This was indeed the RV Park and we were the only ones there.

We didn’t care. We had a place to eat and sleep. That’s all we needed. A while later one of the other motor homes pulled in beside us, so now we’re not alone.

Tomorrow we should be in Kaslo, if all goes well.

Making our Way Back Home

Monday, Day 34

When we stopped tonight in Salem, Oregon, Jim said he could keep on driving for another six hours! It was such an easy drive compared to the last several days of mountain climbing.

We continued up the Oregon coast and found the rugged shore line with the rocky peaks standing tall off shore, like sentinels guarding the bay,  even more interesting than the California coast. Then we reached the Oregon Sand Dunes.  We had to stop for some pictures of course!

There is a tree, the Myrtle tree, that apparently grows only in an area encompassing parts of  northern California and Southern Oregon. As we approached the city of Bandon we noticed a couple of shops that advertised Myrtle wood for sale.  We couldn’t get into the first one, but the second one turned out to be a better choice anyway. Inside the shop we found just what we were looking for — a few pieces of the wood cut into sizes just right for turning pens, or carving knife handles.  We know of two people who might like them. But we didn’t get out that easily.  The little store was full of all sorts of wonderful things that had been made from Myrtle wood. I would have bought gifts for everyone, if I could afford it! It’s a unique wood.  Every piece looks a little different, from colour to grain, and it’s quite light weight. Although my budget was blown long ago, I couldn’t resist buying at least one piece.  I chose a salad/serving bowl.

We made no more tourist stops after that.  From now on we will be pushing on to Kaslo, and then home.

We’d hoped to boon dock (park in a parking lot for the night for free, without services) at the local Walmart, a place that always welcomes out of town visitors, but we noticed signs posted on the perimeter warning that no unauthorized parking was allowed.  A security guard was patrolling the lot so we asked him if we could stay there.

“Sure,” he said. “Just park over along the curb, out of the way, and go into Walmart to tell the manager you’re there.”

It took us a while to find the manager and when we did she told us that Walmart had no problem with us camping there, but the city of Salem is one of the cities  that has passed a by-law forbidding it.  They will have you towed away. She directed us to a nearby RV Park which is quite classy yet less expensive than any we’ve been in yet. So the light continues to shine on us and we are grateful for this opportunity.

A Day of Rest

Sunday, Day 33

Seems like I lost track of the days once again! Jim just informed me that this is day thirty-three!  It’s hard to believe that we’ve been gone so long, but on the other hand, we’ve seen and done so much it seems impossible that it’s only been thirty-three days!

Today we took a break from travelling.  Given the fact that this is a long weekend, we felt maybe it would be a good idea to remain where we are in case we couldn’t find another campsite for tonight. I forgot to mention in my last post that we are at the Driftwood RV Park, in Port of Brookings Harbor, Oregon. It just happens that this weekend, Labor Day Weekend, is the Annual Slam’n Salmon Ocean Derby here. There were craft vendors and food vendors set up along the boardwalk, and lots of boats in the harbour. We strolled through the crowds this morning and enjoyed a bowl of clam chowder at one of the restaurants. I found some time to catch up on the blogging before we got out the bicycles and rode back to the harbour for the Salmon BBQ and the Derby awards.  The largest salmon catch of the weekend was 36 lbs – wouldn’t that be fun to reel in!

The barbecued salmon was delicious and the corn that accompanied it was sweet and juicy.  At the end of the day, trays of left-over salmon were being offered for sale, all marinated and cooked. What a nice addition that would be to our now nearly empty freezer, but we didn’t think we’d have enough room. A woman overheard us asking if we could buy half a tray, and she offered to share one with us. We heard her whole life story before the negotiation was completed, but she even delivered our share to the motor home, since we had no way of carrying it on the bicycles! What a friendly town.

Everyday’s a Holiday

Saturday, Day 31

As I begin this blog, we’re driving through some very twisty parts of Hwy 101. The speed limit is between 30 and 35 mph. The road is lined on both sides by towering redwood trees, except for the occasional turn when we find ourselves looking across massive sand dunes along the ocean on our left.  We have just left Eureka, California and will be somewhere in Oregon before we stop for the night. From there I’ll try to finish this and post it. Road signs tell us to watch for Elk.  There is an Elk Reserve in the vicinity.

We found the Elk, at least a couple of them, in a meadow at a National Park. Signs posted also warned us of bear and cougars who inhabited the woods as well. We didn’t venture too far off the boardwalk, but I did pick a few wild black berries. Yumm!

We had our lunch in the park before continuing on. Hwy 101 is a much better road and for most of it the speed limit is 65 mph, so we made much better time. When we reached Crescent City the GPS directed us to turn onto Hwy 199, which would take us easterly to Hwy 5, the fasted route to Kaslo, BC.  However, we hadn’t spent a night at a State Park by the ocean yet, and we’d been seeing so many enticing ones along the way, we decided to stay on 101 for another day. We crossed the border into Oregon around 3:00 and stopped at the Welcome Centre to ask about camping at any nearby State Park.  We were reminded that this was the last long weekend of the summer! We’d forgotten, since we’ve been on one very long, long weekend for a month now! All the State Park sites were fully booked. The attendants at the Welcome Centre made some phone calls and found us a site at a private RV Park, within view of the ocean and a short walk to it. The price isn’t much more than that of the State Parks, and we have all the amenities so we’re happy. We took a walk down to the beach before dinner, and had an interesting conversation with a crab fisher, who explained the process and the regulations. The air is still a little bit cool and refreshing.

Wait for it!

Fog, Redwoods and a Long Day

Friday, Day 30

After we spent time visiting with our next door neighbours at the campsite this morning it was nearly eleven o’clock before we got away. The ocean was barely visible through the fog and for many hours fog drifted just above the road and through the trees.  It was another slow drive, up, down and around mountain peaks, but this time much more of it was through the Redwood Forests. The highway was even narrower and steep in many places, until we reached the junction at Hwy 101.  Before continuing on along 101, we stopped at Leggett to see the drive-thru Chandelier Tree, a 315 foot redwood with a diameter of 21 feet and believed to be 2400 years old.  The motor home wouldn’t fit through the opening, but I got a picture of Jim pretending to try.

That was our only stop except for taking the occasional picture and eating lunch along the side of the road.  We were determined to get to a full-service campsite tonight. We were running out of clean clothes and we weren’t sure how much propane we had left, since the gauge quit working a long time ago. We also needed a bank and a grocery store! We finally made it to Eureka just before dark. A fine mist was beginning to coat the windshield. We did our banking and a bit of grocery shopping, but by that time I was too tired and hungry to decide what we needed.  We got only the bare necessities. We were lucky to find a space at the nearby KOA.  This was a very long day.

Nope, it won't quite fit!

Searching for Family and Cool Air

Thursday, Day 29

Tonight we’re camped at Ocean Cove, California. It’s a site with neither hook-ups nor levelled lots. We can’t use internet, or empty our holding tanks or fill the propane tank.  But we’re right beside the Pacific Ocean, watching the sun go down, and the cool, crisp air is a welcome relief from the 105 degree temps this afternoon.  What could be better?

We didn’t travel very far today, but it was a slow drive.  Our first stop was in Sonoma where we began a search for a family who was very close to Jim’s Uncle Peter and with whom he and Jim had spent time during Jim’s visit. We had names and an address, but hadn’t been able to track them down after Jim and his family last visited them in 1964. It wasn’t too difficult to find the house, and it too was listed for sale. No offers of a tour were forthcoming this time though. There appeared to be no one home. A chat with neighbours on either side provided us with only one small piece to the puzzle. One neighbour had been there since 1968 and he didn’t recognize the name, so we could conclude that the family had left the neighbourhood sometime between 1964 and 1968.

We checked for records at City Hall and found nothing. We continued on to Santa Rosa, the County Seat, and at the Office of the Registrar were able to find a few more details about Peter’s death – he’d been cremated, which could account for the lack of burial records. There was nothing about the other family.  While we were parking the motor home in the parking lot, we’d been chatted up by a friendly fellow who talked about his motor home experiences and shared much of his life story with us. Once, when he was telling us about how he’d prayed for a good outcome to some financial situation, he asked if we were believers. We braced ourselves for a sermon, but our positive response seemed to suffice. He eventually let us go on our way and he went on his.

Disappointed with our meagre findings, we returned to the motor home to  find a book on my seat, obviously tossed through the open window,  National Sunday Law – forces unite amid stupendous crisis. Might make some interesting reading!

We left the cities, and the exhausting heat behind. Even the fans in the cab of the rv were of no use in that temperature.  The air was so warm it felt more like hair dryers blowing on us.

We soon began our journey through some rather narrow, always twisty roads that eventually led us to US Hwy 1 and the ocean.  We’d planned to stop at the next available KOA, in Manchester, so we could catch up on laundry, fill up with water and propane and empty the holding tanks, because we’d hoped to find

Sunset behind Jim, over Ocean Cove

a nice camping spot in a State Park the next night, where we knew there would be none of these amenities available. But the winding,steep roads reduced travel speeds to between 35 and 45 mph. The scenery was glorious, yet some of the turns caused us to hold our breath as the road appeared to drop away over a cliff. As I photographed one turn, I was stunned to see three cows on the narrow inside shoulder!

By 6:30 the all-day upper-body workout had Jim badly in need of a rest. That’s when we pulled into this very relaxing spot for the night. The laundry will have to wait for tomorrow.