Sunday, June 30, 2024

June 29

 Woke up earlier than intended. The ferry runs on Alaskan time, but since we lost internet sometime during the night, our devices are still on PDT. A bit confusing, but we can adjust.


Our second on-board dining experience was a bit on the edgy side. We want to the cafeteria for coffee and managed to squeeze a cup and 1/2 out of the pot before it went completely dry. The cashier was as sweet as could be, but she still charged the regular price, $1.75 a cup. We made a quick note to ourselves to retrieve our little traveling coffee maker from the car at the first Main Deck call. Access to vehicles is only allowed four times a day. Our next opportunity was at 8:30. We were not a minute late. 


We also brought up a vest for Stanley and a couple of sweatshirts. The weather has changed from yesterday’s warm, bright and sunny to today’s rainy and cold. I’m feeling for the folks on the Sun Deck. They are getting a real taste of Alaskan coastal weather - However, in  spite of the rain, the sea remains very calm so at least they are being spared being cold and sea sick. Hard to believe this ride is much smoother than an Amtrak rail, but that’s the case so far.  


Lunch was a pleasant surprise. The chowder was as good as I remembered. Followed lunch with a walk around the inside of the ferry. Outside is still yucky. Back to the cabin for more reading. Life without internet is just a bit weird. The lounge is full of people playing board games, reading, and actually putting jigsaw puzzles together, and having conversations. There are very few devices visible and they are mostly being used for reading. 


We had sandwiches for dinner again tonight. This seems to be working well for us. I really like our little fridge. It keeps everything fresh and dry and saves us a ton of money. Topped off the evening at the movie theater with a series of films featuring the town of Ketchikan Alaska, its history, economy, ties to the fishing and timber industries, and its ethnic diversity. There was nothing in the films about the Ketchikan of today. It has become a tourist mecca. Cruise ships discharge their passengers into the tiny town to buy geegaws made in Chiina, eat lunch, and have a photo made with the totem poles . There is really nothing left of the original village.


Times they are a changing.


Here are some photos I made through my window during the day so you can experience the weather just as I have.


Buenos Noches!


Saturday, June 29, 2024

June 28


 Happy 22nd anniversary to us! What a beautiful day to celebrate. Yesterday’s drizzle has been replaced by bright sunshine and we are off on another adventure.

We did such a fine job yesterday of packing up there was little to do this morning. A few last minute things in the suitcase, and a quick trip to Fred Meyer’s to replenish sandwich makings and we were ready. We filled in a couple hours with good books - nothing difficult about that. 

Just to make sure we were close to the front of the line for loading the car on the ferry, we were at the loading lot at 2:30 with boarding passes in hand. We were directed to Lane 3, right behind a bunch of motorcycles. Loading would begin at 3:00. It said so right on my instruction sheet. 



For the next couple of hours, we were entertained by the Kiwi USA Tour group At 4:00, the loading began and we watched practically the whole lot file onto the ship. Finally, the motorcycles ahead of us were waved on and that left us and a half dozen other small cars.


We were finally waved ahead a few minutes after 5:00. Seems that balancing the ferry is waaaaaay more complicated than I remembered. But then, I don’t ever remember showing up at the loading lot that early before. 



As a reward for our long wait, we were parked right in front of the elevator door - handy for getting the little fridge and suitcase up to the Cabin Deck. I went to the Purser’s Office for our room assignment and within minutes we were all set in room 43-A. With a fully stocked fridge, huge shower, and a comfortable seating area, it is quite palatial.





As the ferry pushed away from the dock we celebrated our good fortune with a glass or wine, a bit of hummus and a few crackers. Then a quick look at the sweet congratulatory messages from friends and family. And then we were at sea.


Dinner was very different than I had envisioned. We went to the dining room imagining a celebratory dinner of fresh Alaskan halibut. We saw the line  of waiting diners and reached a quick decision. We came back to our room where we enjoyed the most delicious ham sandwiches you can imagine.


The sea tonight is unbelievably calm. 


¡Buenos noches!

Friday, June 28, 2024

June 27

 Thankful Thursday

Stanley - So far so good. We couldn't have asked for a better trip so far. Cool weather in Washington.Apparently, our caretakers are doing well back at home. A message from Chelsea indicates all is well. They have had rain. Adrian is taking care of the yard. No problems to report except a need for more peanuts which means the blue jays are still around. Always a good thing! Scott PiliƩ is back on WGNO to guide us through hurricane season.

Dona - Always thankful for Stanley. He has been a real trooper on this trip. An excellent driver and absolutely no whining. Grateful, just as Stanley said, for the good caretakers we have in Louisiana. They seem to be on top of everything. Grateful that the art project last Saturday was such a  success. Grateful for the women on the committee who worked so hard. Grateful to have been a part of it. Grateful for family and friends. Looking forward to meeting with Alaskan family and friends from another time. Grateful for the reservations we have for the next few days after the ferry puts us off in Haines. We will be staying at Destruction Bay, Tok, and Galena. 

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Today was a different kind of day. Outside was a gusty, cold day - more like late winter than early summer. We stayed in most of the day. We both read. I finished my book, Dancing at the Rascal Fair. Not always a pleasant read, but the writing was first rate.

We watched the debate. We have both decided that Joe Biden should step down. It was painful to watch him. Although the substance of his debate was good, his delivery was not. I can no longer believe he has the stamina for four more years of this grueling job. 

The big accomplishment of the day was laundry and repacking for the boat.


We sort of skipped dinner and snacked on leftovers from the fridge. Watching the debate starting at 6:00PDT pretty much killed appetites. 



Thursday, June 27, 2024

June 26

I am full of recommendations today.

If you are ever in need of a place to stay in Bellingham WA, I can recommend La Quinta Inn. Very friendly, helpful staff, a nice accommodation at a reasonable price, and the best "included breakfast" I've had in a long time.

If you are ever in Bellingham WA and find yourself in need of any kind of Apple repair or replacement, I can recommend City Mac. When I walked in I had a cell phone that had become a land line, a broken phone case, and a lap top that had locked me out of the Blogger app. Four men were standing at the Genius Bar, all willing and able to assist me with my multiple issues. $120.00 and four hours later I walked out with a a new battery in my phone, a sparkly new case, an unlocked laptop, and a smile on my face. Highly recommend!

 

If you are ever in need of a deli dinner in Bellingham WA, get yourself to Fred Mayer on Bakerview Ave. ASAP. Look for the guy with the green pony tail. I guarantee  you a 5 star dinner in a paper bag. Conveniently located to my first recommendation. Just a 2 minute walk. Not bad - even in the rain. 


Speaking of rain, this was the first  we've had on the whole trip! Just a brief shower, but a cold one! Temperature dropped to 62 in the middle of the afternoon. Of course, we asked for it. We ran the car through a car wash just minutes before it started raining.



We were on our way to check out the route to the Alaska Ferry line-up area. As we discovered later  - there were step by step instructions on the internet, but finding it on our own was way more fun.


The evening menu : Hummus and Black Pepper Crackers
                                Hot Chicken Sandwich
                                Greek Pasta 
                                Chocolate Covered Fruit Gels
                                White Wine/Water/Red Wine

You just gotta love a day in Bellingham!
It was cold and windy all day today. 

Add two more deer to my list of wildlife. These babies had wandered into the parking lot behind the computer shop. It was fenced on three sides with a very busy street on the fourth side. They were still there when we left that morning but when we returned in the afternoon to retrieve the phone they were gone. This was in the middle of a commercial area. I hope they found refuge. 





Tuesday, June 25, 2024

June 25

 First things first. We agreed to finish our trip to Alaska and think about Marie’s Cabin on the way back.

Packed up and out of Wenatchee by 10:00. Back through Leavenworth and on North on Hwy 22. More beautiful scenery composed of rocks, water, and trees with a blue blue sky.




 


Steven’s Pass

Two of our favorite garden flowers in Alaska were digitalis and Shasta daisy. For many miles of our travel today, we saw these two growing wild either side by side or mixed along the edge of the highway. It was like driving through an Alaskan garden. 




Stopped for lunch at a rest stop after we turned onto the I5. I could visualize the master bedroom to the left, the living area to the right and perhaps a loft above. What a huge tree this must have been.


Mt. Baker in the distance  

We were all settled in Bellingham by 4:00. A little time for reading and rest and then lo and behold there was a Fred Meyer Grocery right next to our hotel.  For my friends in Texas this was like the most fabulous HEB you can imagine. For my friends in Louisiana it was like a Rouses on steroids and for those in Alaska, you know Fred Meyer. No explanation needed. We walked over and visited the deli counter. We came back with smoked salmon and bowtie pasta. So very yummy!


I’m reading Dancing at the Rascal Fair. It’s really good!

!¡Buenos noches!




June 24

Luxurious morning. Sunshine streaming through the windows. Cottage cheese and blueberries. Hot coffee. My darlin’ by my side. Who could ask for more? Me. I wanted to go someplace. 

Actually, this started last evening. We were talking about what a pretty place this is and how we might like to spend a little time up here next summer.  I got on the VRBO app that I have used so many times in Europe, just to see what might be available in the area. We found this little place called Marie’s Cabin in a town up the road called Plain WA. 

Cute as a button. We both sorta feel in love with the idea, but knowing wine may have been a factor we decided the best thing to do was go to sleep and think on it some more in the morning. 

The morning came and we were still in love with the idea so off we went to check it out. It was just as cute as the pictures indicated. We could see ourselves sitting on the porch, watching the Wenatchee River roll by, making dinner in the cute little kitchen, and snuggling up with our iPads and phones on a rainy day . . . . oops . . . . . no internet connection available. Well, that put the brakes on that, but then we thought that might be a good thing for both of us. We don’t need to rely so much on the internet. So the love affair continued. 

Then we went down the hill to the local cafe for lunch. What a cute little place! And the young man who took our order was a sweet as could be. We could see ourselves coming down for lunch several times a week and picking up supplies at the grocery store and general store just next door. Then our Ruben sandwich came. There is no way that sandwich could have been worse.  Well, that put the brakes on that, but then we thought that might be a good thing for both of us. We don’t need high calorie, high carb count sandwiches. So the love affair continued. 

Then we went down to the town of Leavenworth, the cute little town designed to look like a Bavarian village, thinking how much fun it would be to come down and mix it up with the locals from time to time, but then we saw the traffic and the crowds of tourists and that put the brakes on that. But then we thought . . . wait . . . . there is more to Leavenworth than the traffic and crowds. There is culture.

Then we got back to the motel and thought some more about how sweet it would be to sit on the porch on a summer day and watch the Wenatchee River roll by in 78 degree temperature; and how much fun it would be to drive down to the cafe/general store/grocery a couple times a week knowing that Ruben sandwiches weren’t the cafe’s best, but knowing something else might be; and how much we would look forward to an occasional trip down to Leavenworth for a nice meal and and a movie or whatever else they might have to offer. And then we decided not to think about it anymore today. We’ll revisit this in the morning.

I managed a few pictures of Leavenworth.







And on the way back to Wenatchee I snapped a picture of about a million apple picking crates. Just to let you know these people are serious about their apples.


And, we stopped at the Prey’s Fruit Stand. What a beautiful little shop. Of course I bought cherries. As I told you before - tis the season.


Now, to bed. To dream. To consider what Marie’s Cabin might be like on a summer day. On the porch at 78 degrees. Maybe drive down to the Old Mill Cafe for a ham and cheese panini. Or a concert on the square in Leavenworth. Ah . . .. 

¡Buenos noches!

Monday, June 24, 2024

June 23

 On the road by 10:00. This was supposed to be a relatively short travel day, but Hwy 12 had other ideas. It wound up and down and around through farmland worse than it had wound up and down and around to accommodate the various streams it followed the day before. We finally pulled into our motel just before 6:00, but let me tell you about what we saw. 

The first few miles were a climb out of the Snake River Valley. Other than the climb, it was 100 percent different from yesterday. We went from lush heavy pine/fir/spruce forests to near desert conditions  in a rain shadow. The occasional tree almost appeared as blemish on the landscape. 

But coming down was 100% different from the climb up. Not forest. Not desert. Now we saw farm land as far as we could see from one horizon to the next, some small family farms, but mostly farming on an industrial scale. Without an accessible river this was dry land farming, but it was outside the rain shadow. The crops were mainly animal feed and wheat and they were thriving. 


In real estate the saying is “Location. Location. Location.” Often the value of a location depends on the availability of water. That is always true in the case of agricultural land, whether it is pumped up from the ground or falls down from the sky.

We drove through Pomeroy with its massive grain storage facility. Of course I failed to get a photo of the large units but let this photo serve as a small sample.

About this time, we noticed that for the first time in several states there were no snow plow markers and no designated chain-up areas. The road felt a bit naked without them. We also had no internet service. Sarah called and we were quickly disconnected. I tried to reconnect with her, but to no avail. 

And here was the Snake River again. An impressive bridge, but a thin blue line on the map. The river  will greatly increase in size before it disappears into the Columbia River. 

Finally, a break for Stanley - about an hour’s drive on Interstate 90. We stopped about half way for lunch in the shade of a locust tree. 

We pressed on past Moses Lake and the Rock Island Dam. And on north to the Wenatchee Valley. Miles and miles of fruit. Apples, pears, cherries, and grapes. Lots of grapes. But even more cherries. In fact, it’s the largest cherry producing area in the world. And the largest producer of organic pears. And it’s impossible for me to estimate how many apple trees. 


Take a look at the apple storage facility we passed on the highway. This is just a sample!

We made a quick trip to the grocery store to replenish lunch supplies and find a treat for dinner. We found our treat at the sushi counter and paired it with green salad, white wine, and the decision to spend an additional night in Wenatchee.



¡Buenos noches!

Sunday, June 23, 2024

June 22

 We left ‘Salmon on Hwy 95 N. My  first observation was the terrain. Mountains to the east,west, and north. It was a sure bet we were going to have to do some climbing to get out of this valley. And climb we did. One switchback after another. The road held in place by massive retaining walls. 

My second observation was that we had entered a world of National Forests. Who knew there were this many trees in the world?? My third was the vast number of dead trees. At first it looked like  drought and then insect predation. Still not sure which it is. Whatever it is seems to affect pines more than spruce. The higher we got the less damage we saw. 

Into Montana

We stopped at the Lost Trail Pass rest area. It was somewhere in this area that Lewis and Clark almost gave up. They had not listened to their Indian guides and were stuck, unable to proceed due to weather and terrain. Looking around, I could see the problem. Good Lord, it would be a horrible spot to find yourself in without a map in winter.

From that point it was straight down along a winding path.  Good news: on this side of the pass there was almost no tree damage.

At the bottom we encountered a wide flat valley floor featuring several family farms and a series of small towns linked together with a continuous ugly strip mall:  Darby. Hamilton. Victor.  Stevensville. And finally Lolo.

A sharp turn to the west on Hwy 12 and the climb back up started almost immediately. We saw remnants of an old fire, and then the heaviest stands of timber you can imagine. 

And just like that we were back in Idaho.

The climb up resumed.

Just as we could almost touch the sky, we stopped at Lolo Pass Visitor Center for lunch. What a great stop. I made friends with one of the resident ground squirrels. He liked me well enough to eat the bread crumbs I dropped, but not enough to pose for a picture. 

I did get a picture of the Camas field. They were just beginning to bloom. My pictures do not even do them justice and I can only imagine what this area will look like at the peak of their bloom time. 

Leaving the visitor center at Lolo Pass we saw a sign that promised 99 miles of winding road ahead. And the road made good on its promise. A sprawling web of water had created our path in ancient times as melted snow water made its way down and around creating cracks and crevices carving out the landscape as it rushed to the ocean. Highway engineers simply followed the watery path. 

Beginning at Lolo Pass we  followed  Haskell Creek which soon joined forces with Crooked Fork which wandered away from the road to join up with Colt Killed Creek to become the Lochsa River. For a few miles we had no water on the left or right, but suddenly a much larger body of water appeared. It was the Lochsa River.

We followed it for miles as it continued its sculpting work. We watched it grow ever larger as it was joined by creek after creek like Shotgun, Post Office, Split, and Apgar. At Lowell, the Lochsa was overtaken by the Selway River, changing the nature of our stream and its name. 


Now, the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River was our guide as it continued growing in strength with creeks like Bridge, Three Devils, Big Smith, and Swan, just to name a few.  We drove out of the national forest, but we took the river with us. 


We followed the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River to Clarkston WA where it joined the Snake River. Meanwhile the Salomon River, where I took Stanley’s picture yesterday, had already joined the Snake River through another watery web. 

And now you know more about the Snake River than you never knew you wanted to know. But one more thing just for fun. In 1974 Evel Knievel attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon. He failed, but survived with only minor injuries. He died years later due to diabetes. Moral of that story: Eating too much sugar is more dangerous than attempting to jump a canyon on a rocket powered motorcycle.

A quick trip to Albertsons’s grocery in Clarkston yielded a delicious  seafood salad and a bag of  green grapes for dinner.

Someone is bound to ask about wildlife sightings. So far we are at 2 squirrels, 1 chipmunk, 1 elk, 2 deer.  I got a picture of one of them.


¡Buenos Noches!

Friday, June 21, 2024

June 21

 Warmer this morning. We left Wolf Den and Star Valley driving north to Alpine WY in Swan Valley and then turning west into Idaho. For almost 30 miles we had the Palisades Reservoir to our left. Beautiful vistas on a narrow road with no turnoffs is not a happy combo. 



135 miles of our travel today was along State Highway 28, Sacajawea Historic Byway. With mountains in the distance on both sides the valley is best described as high mountain desert plains. It is heavily farmed - almost exclusively animal feed with a few fields of rape seed and potatoes thrown in for good measure. It was a startling reminder of the importance of water. 



Irrigated


Not irrigated

It was a beautiful summer day and farmers were taking advantage. They were baling hay as fast as they could. We saw thousands and thousands of these huge hay bales. It’s amazing how much agricultural land is dedicated to animal pasture and production of animal feed. 


For several miles we followed the Lemhi River. We stopped at the overlook. 


And I met a new friend. 


More agriculture. More unirrigated desert plains. And finally Salmon ID. We visited Sacajawea Interpretive Center, a 71 acre park dedicated to Sacajawea and her role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. 


A quick grocery store stop, motel check-in and a walk downtown. Salmon has a very small, but vibrant downtown, a nice mix of tourist and local venues. Surprisingly, we saw very little art. No galleries and only one shop selling hand crafted jewelry. Perhaps there was more farther down the street. 

We stopped by the Salmon River and a woman walking by insisted on taking our picture. 


I snapped this one of Stanley with a bit more river in the background. 


We wrapped up the day with a dinner of fried rice, sweet and sour pork and orange chicken with a serving of green salad. I could get used to eating out of a deli. 

¡Buenos noches!