Friday, August 22, 2014

The Unplanned Return Home

I am at least full three months behind in posting.  There's good reason for it though -- my brother's critical illness. A great effort is underway to catch up... a little bit at a time, beginning with this first installment.

Our awning repair in Mount Vernon, Washington was completed on Wednesday, August 13. The very next afternoon I received word that my brother was hospitalized, seriously ill with a poor prognosis. With the awning repair out of the way, there was nothing to keep us in the Pacific northwest, so we arose on Friday morning, August 15 (my brother's birthday), requested a medical emergency refund of our final three paid days at the campground, pulled up stakes and began the 2,600 mile trip southeast to North Alabama.

The route we selected was fairly direct but diverted us a bit from previous trips, taking us through places we vowed we'd return to visit.  There was simply no way we'd stop or waste precious time. Spectacular scenery was passed up as we inched our way across the country. At the end of the first day we had not even gotten out of Washington state. Traffic in the Seattle area had been horrendously slow. We spent the first night at a Walmart parking lot in Spokane.

The second night was also spent at Walmart. This one in Butte, Montana. The third night we stopped at Indian Campground in Buffalo, Wyoming, allowing us to relax in a long shower, eat a proper dinner, do a sink full of dishes and wash a load or two of clothes. So far, the trip was pleasant and uneventful.

One of the many pretty sights along our trip was Chimney Rock in southeast Nebraska. It was late in the day when we approached it and I managed to capture one of only about three pictures of the entire trip. I knew I would later regret not taking more photos, but my heart simply wasn't into sightseeing or even the travel. I only thought of my brother.

Being great fans of the movie "Lonesome Dove", Wayne did want to be sure we went through Ogallala, Nebraska (mentioned frequently in the movie). There was nothing in Ogallala but now we can say we've been there. I took no pictures of it.

The fourth night was spent in another Walmart parking lot. This one is North Platte, Nebraska. It was about here I realized we were traveling eastward along the "westward trails" commonly referred to as the California, Oregon, Morman and Bozeman Trails. They followed the North Platte River. More splendid scenery.  No pictures of any of that either.

The fifth morning, leaving North Platte, Wayne became uneasy about the wear of the coach's front tires. These are the Goodyear tires that came new on Endie (2011). There's less than 20,000 miles on them but they've begun to "cup" even though Wayne takes care to watch them, rotate and have the front end aligned as needed. In Lincoln, Nebraska on the fifth day, new Michelin tires were mounted late in the day. We stayed in an overpriced campground in Lincoln. Early next morning, the new tires were balanced, the front end aligned and we were back on the road before noon.  Later Wayne was unable to locate his best reading glasses. He left them on the counter of the tire store. One of the tire salesmen mailed them to us at my brother's house.  .

Daytime temperatures were in the 90's by this time and that makes it too hot to stay overnight without all night air conditioning.  At Higginsville, Missouri, we stayed at the Great Escape RV Park.

The route we'd chosen would take us through St. Louis, which ordinarily wouldn't mean much, but in early August, the shooting death of  a teenager in Ferguson, Missouri resulted in violence in and around that area.  I checked the map to see if we could route away from the city's center and avoid the affected area. This part of the trip was the on the seventh day.  Seeing the news helicopters on the outskirts of the city reminded us of the nearby unrest.

The GPS route took us along the southern perimeter of St. Louis where we avoided the area of Ferguson and got a good view of the St. Louis Arch and Busch Stadium.

Downtown Saint Louis, the Arch and Busch Stadium where the Cardinals play baseball.
Calvert City, Kentucky hosted us at the end of our seventh travel day. The marathon is beginning to take it's toll and we both were glad to know we'd reach our destination the next day.

By early afternoon on the eighth day, we arrived in New Market, Alabama. The County Park Campground doesn't accept credit card reservations so I sent a special request to my very good high school friend asking if she'd be willing to make a quick dash over to reserve a spot for us at Sharon Johnston Park Campground. Thanks to Marilyn, we had a site reserved for the upcoming weekend.

The route with overnight stops marked.
By the time we reached our destination, my brother had been discharged from the hospital and was home. We found him sitting outside, thin and frail, but cheerfully waiting for us to arrive.  I was so happy.  

I didn't know what was next though. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

RVillage... It's Like Facebook For RVers!

Looking through some other RVer Blogs today, I ran across . I browsed for a few minutes and decided to join.  If participants utilize this social network for RV travelers, it will be something I'll enjoy using.

We shall see.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bellingham and Mount Baker, Washington

During our 17 days in Bellingham, we made a day trip to the snow covered volcano of Mount Baker. At 10,781 feet, Mt Baker is perpetually covered in snow and ice. It is second most active volcano in the North Cascade Mountain Range. Only Mount St. Helens is more active.

A view of the "less snow" side. 
As the crow flies, Mount Baker is just 30 miles east of Bellingham, but the drive to Artist Point, the most easily accessible observation point to the mountain, requires over 60 miles of driving.  We stopped for information and lunch at the National Forest public service center at Glacier, Washington. It is is less than halfway from Bellingham to Artist Point at Mount Baker.

It was a beautiful weather day -- mid 70s. Warm in sunshine, cool in the shade. 

Our view for lunch in the parking lot.
Cross section of a 780 year old Douglas Fir.
Following our stop at the visitors center, we continued, yet unable to see Mount Baker. It's funny we saw the gargantuan white peak from many miles away traveling into the area, but can't get a glimpse this morning traveling toward it through the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.  Reminds me of the saying, "Can't see the forest for the trees".

The road before us -- Highway 542 into the Cascades

Spectacular views of the Cascade Range as we begin to ascend. 
The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington State extends more than 140 miles along the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains from the Canadian border to the northern boundary of Mt. Rainier National Park. Deep green, brilliant blue, bright white and varying soft gray colors make a beautiful scene.

The narrow road below is where we've just traveled.
Here, we've just finished one of the several "hairpin" switchbacks. 
Mount Baker was named for Lt. Joseph Baker, a young officer in Captain George Vancouver's exploration group in 1792.  Baker spotted the white peak from the ship as it sailed near Dungeness Bay.

Artist Point is the very end of Highway 542.  Here there's a small parking area and a point where ordinarily one would find a fabulous view of Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan. But dark clouds rolled in today and both peaks are almost completely out of sight. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the scenery among the clouds.

Lexie doesn't care for standing on the snow.
I think Ozzie liked it as he ran a little on his leash, a bit like he does on the beach. 
After spending a few minutes exploring in the snow, we started back down the mountain. We stopped at Heather Meadows, a scenic valley between Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker. Heather Meadows is a very nice tourist stop in itself with beautiful glistening lakes, mountain views and many walking/hiking trails.

The snow in the center of this photo will soon give way to summer flowers. 

The crest of Mount Shuksan to the left of the tall tree.
Shuksan is 9, 131 feet

This is a great walking area for people and dogs. 
The Mount Baker ski area was closed of course, but we couldn't resist a photo-opp at this "Experts Only" ski lift (below).  The old ski lodge was part of the set location in filming of "Call Of The Wild" in 1934. The movie starred Clark Gable, Loretta Young and Reginald Owen and it launched the popularity of the ski resort. The original lodge burned long ago. 

I'm holding Lexie in my right arm, Ozzie on my left side.

Mount Baker (background) supports 20 miles of active glaciers.
The public can join an expedition of the glaciers May through October.
We are not interested in taking such an expedition. 
Next stop going back along the same route, we pulled onto a side road to Nooksack Falls. Highway 542 follows the Nooksack River for miles and we've seen some pretty rough water along the way. The half-mile ride to the falls along the narrow gravel road ended at a tiny parking area in the shade of the tall Redwood trees. We left Lexie and Ozzie in the car and began exploring the area around the 100 foot falls.

Nooksack River upstream from the falls. 

A pretty confusing message here.
To the trail or not to trespass?  Humm..

A pretty clear message -- this place is dangerous. 

Notice one of the victims was pregnant.
Her unborn child is listed as another fatality. 

And so we did not venture down the trail to see Nooksack Falls as we certainly didn't want to add our names to this list.  Instead, we'll enjoy the photo as suggested on the poster.