Author Archives: Dina Martin

California Part I: Indio

We spent our entire “month of California” in one spot, and we caught some grief from several friends about our choice of locations while we were in the Golden State. People wanted to know why we weren’t going to the wine country, or to see the Redwoods, or someplace by the ocean, or to San Diego. The truth is we could have spent an entire year in California and not seen it all… kind of like how we could do this entire expedition in reverse for four more years and not see anything we have already experienced on the Lower 48 in 48 Tour.

Back in 2013, when we were in our first state of Louisiana, I had to come to grips with the fact that we weren’t going to see everything there was to see. If we tried, we would end up exhausting ourselves and missing the point of our trip. Our motto for the Martin’s American Adventure remained in tact: see what we see and make a list of things or places we missed and might like to visit in the future. This approach allowed us to have experiences that were meaningful along our path, and not feel like we were in a race trying to scratch off as many parks or museums or monuments as we possibly could before our time ran out. We felt like this was the most civilized way to immerse ourselves in an America we wanted to observe and learn more about.

We selected the Coachella Valley as our destination for several reasons: it was a direct and fairly reasonable drive from Las Vegas; winter is “high season” in the desert; we could conveniently head east back to Texas on I-10 or I-8 when it was time to leave; and, neither of us had ever been there before. We only wanted to make one stop in one location during our last month of our tour because, frankly, the novelty of our adventure had worn thin. We had our eyes and hearts set on getting back to Texas and starting a new life that entailed living in a traditionally constructed townhouse.

As it turns out, we got lucky with our decision. The long-standing drought that had plagued California for years was abated while we were visiting the 31st state. Severe rains and flooding were rampant from San Diego to Sacramento, but nothing ever got too dramatic for us in the desert. It seems like the mountains that surrounded us diffused the weather systems before they ever reached us with full force. We were grateful to be outside of the locations that were getting drenched on a daily basis (we had all of that we could take back in Oregon).

There were a couple of routes to choose from as Mike planned the drive from Las Vegas to Indio. We could have traveled directly south on Highway 95 out of Vegas and down to Blythe, CA to 1-10, and turned west into Indio. Our Captain wasn’t interested in driving on any more stretches of narrow, shoulder-less, two-lane highway with no median, where he had to worry about oncoming traffic crossing the center line and hitting us head-on.  (He concentrated on avoiding that scenario on the road from Reno to Las Vegas and his brain was tired of going there).

The second option was to travel south on I-15, over the the Cajon Summit, down into San Bernardino, then get on I-10 and head east into Indio. I wasn’t a fan of this route because it involved a long and steep downhill grade. This stretch of interstate around San Bernardino is also famous for its high winds, turbulence and fog. You might understand why I preferred the Highway 95 route, but when we pulled out of Vegas on December 27th, we went to Indio via Interstate 15. (On a side note… part of the Interstate we traveled over at the end of December was completely washed out – down the side of the mountain – a couple of months after our trek).

That day wasn’t the best of travel days (for me). The germs among the throngs of Las Vegas’ holiday crowds had contaminated me and I woke up that morning with a terrible sore throat. Google maps told us to expect a 4.5 hour trip. We ended up making it in about 6, pulling into our spot as dusk started to cast dark shadows on our new campground. Mike felt fine and did a great job of driving the Monaco through the heavy traffic that congested the roads all the way to Los Angeles. It was a long day for him too, though. I think we were in bed immediately after plugging in and walking the dogs.

The Coachella Valley spans about 45 miles from Palm Springs through Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta and then to Indio. Each community is situated beside each other along a linear track with little or no distinction between city limits. About 100,000 snowbirds flock to the area each winter. Conventioneers and tourists bring in about 3.5 million more people annually. The socio economics of the area are interesting because even though it is really one big metropolitan area… money is the main thing that divides the communities. Palm Springs is THE place with all its Hollywood history and mid-century architecture (if you want to “be seen” you head to downtown Palm Springs and hang out on a patio somewhere). Palm Desert is pretty ritzy too (the famous El Paseo shopping district is a cousin to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills). La Quinta and Indian Wells are resort havens. Indio is sort of the worker’s neighborhood. It is the least opulent and closest to the abundant agricultural industry that surrounds the Salton Sea.

The next question we got alot was “why Indio” (as in… why are you staying in the slums of the Coachella Valley)? Well, because RV resorts 35 miles up the road in Palm Springs were quoting us prices of $3,000 per month. We got a bargain at Indian Waters RV Resort for $1,300 during the month we visited. The general average of monthly rent costs on our trip so far had been about $500 or $600 – so we were still splurging.

As it turns out, we loved the spot Mike picked for us. The park was fairly large, which meant there was plenty of room for the dogs to get a walk without leaving the premises – if we felt lazy.  The landscaping was well manicured. Our power and water all worked fine. The staff organized so many activities, it was sort of like a camp for adults. In the winter. With lots of alcohol. There were two pools (each heated to a different temperature), a hot tub, a ping pong table, a billiards room, pickelball courts, bocci ball lanes, outdoor firepits, horse shoe pits, and other amenities I can’t think of right now. Each day we could take advantage of yoga classes, toning and strengthening classes, water aerobics, volleyball in the pool, movie night, poker night, billiards tournaments, happy hours with line dancing, free waffles and OJ every morning. You get the idea. We were not bored.

Most of the guests at this resort were folks from Canada that came down to the same place and stayed in the same spot each winter. They were all good friends and the parties seemed to rotate from rig to rig each evening. They were all very friendly too. We immediately felt welcomed into the tight knit community and that was nice. I forged a friendship with our neighbor Linda from Ontario, and we did a couple of fun things together. My aunt Sharon’s neighbor, from Lake Oswego in Oregon, had a second home in La Quinta, and I was also able to get together with her for a couple of happy hours. We felt like “locals” by the time we left.

Our month passed by very quickly. I was sick for about the first week, then I made Mike sick for another week or so. There was so much going on at the RV Resort, some days we never left. On the days we did get out, we (I) shopped; Mike hit golf balls at a nearby driving range; we checked out some local restaurants and bars in the area; I went to a couple of art festivals; we spent one day driving through Joshua Tree National Park; we drove down to the the Salton Sea; I went on a few hikes; we spent an afternoon roaming around El Paseo Drive; we spent a day fishing and hanging out Lake Cahuilla State Park; we took advantage of the Senior Discount on a dinner buffet at one of the casinos; we rode the aerial tram up to San Jacinto State park and watched sunset fall over the valley; and Cessna became a regular patient of a vet down the street. It was a busy month!

Starting our descent of Cajon Summit on 1-15. At this point we were at an elevation of about 4,200 feet. A couple of hours later when we arrived in Indio, we were at -13 feet! (yes, negative 13). I was not enthralled with this leg of our drive… although the views WERE nice.

Our spot at Indian Waters RV Resort.

The spots at this park were fairly spacious.

We had a view of the dog park out our front window.

It was impossible to get bored at Indian Waters. In addition to ping pong on the patio, there was a billiards room behind one of those doors, and a work out room behind another. Those are just the activities “in the picture”.

Two swimming pools (each heated to a different temperature), and a hot tub too.

The most extravagant Christmas Light display on our ENTIRE adventure. And this photo was taken AFTER the new year!

The only English speaking mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Indio was not until noon.

We loved seeing random hot air balloons float over our campground on a regular basis.

There were lots of Farmer’s Markets in the Coachella Valley. This one was in Palm Desert.

I cannot personally say that the hikes in the area were “beautiful”, but they were challenging and I liked that. Other folks thought the scenery was gorgeous. To each his own. I’m just not a desert kinda girl.

I love stumbling upon cairns along hiking trails.

This lush green golf course was such a juxtaposition against the harsh terrain of the desert landscape.

A panoramic view from “The Cross”.

Do you see the tiny little hikers making their way up the hill to where I was at “The Cross”?

I loved this sculpture outside a gallery on El Paseo.

We stumbled upon this fun interactive chalkboard while walking the dogs along El Paseo.

El Paseo is like the Rodeo Drive of the desert. We had a beautiful view from the upstairs patio at Tommy Bahama. I guess that is why we lingered there for about 3+ hours one afternoon!

Good Morning!

Another Farmer’s Market in Old Town La Quinta.

St. Francis of Assisi had an earlier mass in english, so I ended up attending church there instead.

Poor Cessna has been battling a problematic cyst on her back for about a year now. After it was treated by yet another vet, we couldn’t properly bandage it. She had to wear this t-shirt while the wound was messy. She didn’t really like having a wardrobe. This dog prefers going au natural.

The Salton Sea is located directly on the San Andreas Fault. The surface of the water is 235 feet below sea level. It is actually five feet higher than the lowest point in Death Valley. It is the largest lake in California.

The last dollar bill we signed and left on the wall of an establishment was at the Ski Inn near the Salton Sea. Now I need to backtrack through my notes and figure out exactly how many dollars we left across this country. Anyone up for a scavenger hunt?

This little guy was the mascot of our RV park. He was very social.

The main road in our campground.

The dog park at the campground was also a drainage ditch. After it rained, it became a dog lake.

Lots of art in the Coachella Valley. This was an art festival in downtown Palm Springs.

Who doesn’t love seeing a big bright rainbow?

We went to watch the Texans play their last game of the season at a new place called Big Rock Pub. The service was dismal, but the decor was worth seeing at least once.

Gillian and I met in Harrah’s Blackjack Dealing School the summer before our senior year in college. She went to UC Davis and we, of course, came from UT for summer jobs. During my California stop we both drove about 1.5 hours to “meet in the middle” for a long overdue visit. Although we were able to set aside time for a 4-hour lunch, it still wasn’t long enough for either of us.

No explanation necessary. (And this is NOT the lowest point in North America).

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway climbs 2 1/2 miles through Chino Canyon to Mount San Jacinto State Park.

Tourists were sunbathing at the bottom of the mountain. Up top they were traipsing through the snow!

Mount San Jacinto Selfie.

Of course Mike took a photo of the airport. The horizontal highway in the distance is I-10.

The world’s largest rotating tram car. Manufactured in the Swiss Alps, of course.

Wacky clouds.

I bought tickets to a George Benson concert at one of the casinos in the Coachella Valley. When the date of the show arrived, Mike was fighting the flu. Luckily, our neighbor, Linda, went with me instead.

Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area, just south of La Quinta. Mike’s last fishing excursion on our adventure.

Cessna taking in the views of Joshua Tree National Park.

I knew there would be Joshua Trees in the National Park, but I was not prepared for the majesty of the rocks!

Joshua Tree family selfie.

Rock climbing is a big deal in Joshua Tree National Park. I was just trying to fit in.

Smiling fish rock.

Hook ’em horns! Do you see it?

A panorama from Keys View in Joshua Tree. The best vista in the park.

The San Andreas Fault is down below us. If you look closely, you can see the Salton Sea at about 9 o’clock in the photo (about 100 miles away by car).

More random cairns in Joshua Tree National Park.

Teddy Bear Cactus. Cylindropuntia bigelovii. Don’t touch. But I do love the gradations of color in each plant.

An oasis in the desert. Literally.

The Southwest Art Festival in Indio is held at the Polo Grounds during January each year. It is tied with St. George, Utah as the best art show I have ever attended.

Last night out on The Martin’s American Adventure. My Aunt Sharon’s neighbor, Dixie, (who also owns a home in La Quinta) to my right. My wonderful next door neighbor (at Indian Waters RV Resort), Linda, on my left. THAT was a fun night out… didn’t feel so hot the next morning when we fired up the Monaco and started our trek home. Just sayin’.

It was painfully obvious that Mike and I were both anxious to get on back home when we confided in each other that we thought the balsamic vinegar on this plate looked like the shape of Texas.

Nevada Part II: Las Vegas

We pulled out of Reno on December 19th. It was a good weather day and we were happy about traveling with favorable road conditions. We drove east on Interstate 80 for a short while until we got to Fernley, then we cut over on ALT 50 until we reached Fallon. In Fallon we turned south on Highway 95. Our reservation at the Circus Circus Casino RV lot did not begin until the next day, so we planned to drive until we (Mike) got tired and then boondock somewhere. We expected the entire drive (from RV Park to RV Park) to be about 7 hours, so it made sense to break it up into two sessions. No reason to kill ourselves on a travel day.

Highway 95 was fairly flat and straight, so I was excited about that. However, it was also a very busy road with only two lanes and practically no shoulder. Mike was on hyper- alert all day in anticipation that an oncoming vehicle would cross the center lane and slam into us. He did not have fun driving that day. As our travels progressed, we figured we would be near the Amargosa Valley when nightfall approached. This location is where Highway 373 intersects Highway 95 as 373 comes out of Death Valley National Park. Mike recalled that there was a rest area and a gas station near that intersection. The temperature was dropping and we were definitely going to need to crank up the heater overnight. If we boondocked, it meant we would have to fill up with diesel to keep the generator running so we could run the heater. As I looked at google maps I also discovered there was an RV park at that location with full hook-ups. The rate was $25 per night. We were going to have to spend money either way, so we decided to call the RV Park and see if they could take us for one night. We didn’t need water or sewer hook-ups, but the 50 AMP electrical connection would allow us to wait and refuel in the morning before we pulled back onto the road. I called the campground from the road. The man on the phone said he could take us. We pulled in right around 5:00 PM and it was already pitch black outside. It felt more like 10:00 PM than it did early evening. He guided us to a spot near the back of the park, Mike plugged us in, I made nachos for dinner, we hit the sack extra early.

We slept well and got up around 7:00 AM to do our regular travel preparations. We filled up with diesel upon exiting the RV park, and we were back on the road with more good weather to lead us into Las Vegas. We only had about 90 miles left on our route, so the drive was easy and quick. The highway expanded to four lanes with a center median shortly after we hit the pavement, so Mike was much more relaxed as we pulled into the Circus Circus lot.

One of Mike’s co-workers, who is also retired, had planned to come visit us while we were parked in Vegas. He had hotel reservations at the Mirage and his flight was scheduled to land around noon on the same day we arrived. We got ourselves parked and situated as quickly as we could. Once we were all set up, we walked over to The Mirage and found Doug at the Sports Book. It has been so much fun to have various people visit us during our Lower 48 in 48 Tour, and we really appreciated the fact that Doug chose to come spend Christmas week with us. The three of us visited over drinks at the bar and then walked across the street to the Yard House for a bite of dinner.

The rest of the week blew by in the blink of an eye. It was bowl season (as in football), so Doug and Mike spent most of their time at the Mirage Sports Book. I joined them on occasion. When I got sick of watching teams I didn’t care about, I wandered over to the Pai Gow Poker tables and donated some money to the casino. They hung out a couple of evenings without me when I went back to the rig to keep the dogs company. They enjoyed their time together and I enjoyed my time alone – so it worked out great for everyone.

We had some good meals at restaurants like Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen and Bar, The Hash House A Go Go, and another DDD spot called Fat Choy. Doug was generous enough to bring us some delicious home- made Texas tamales, so we were able to have a proper Christmas Eve dinner (its a South Texas thing, and since I spent my childhood years in the Valley, tamales and queso are a required feast on December 24th). I cooked Christmas dinner in the Monaco and we enjoyed hanging out with our friend.

Mike and I never expected Las Vegas to be busy during the Christmas holiday, but we were completely mistaken. The crowds were “regular size” when we arrived, but on Christmas Day the number of tourists on the strip exploded. I was amazed at all the bodies that appeared out of nowhere. It was crazy. Apparently people start arriving on Christmas in anticipation of the New Year’s celebration one week later. Tour companies were dropping off patrons by the bus loads. It looked like guests were standing in line at the hotel registration desks for hours! I was also amazed at how many people were toting small children in strollers. I can’t imagine why anyone would choose Las Vegas as a vacation destination with tiny kiddos in tow, but they must know something I don’t because there were kids everywhere! Seems like Disney Land or the equivalent would be more appropriate, but what do I know?

We dropped Doug off at the airport on the evening of December 26th, and we left Vegas on the morning of the 27th. It was time to cross Nevada off the map and head for state #48… California!

Walker Lake is a natural lake beside Highway 95 in the Nevada desert. Hawthorne Army Depot, which is the world’s largest ammunition depot, sits on the south edge of the same body of water.

Most of our drive to Las Vegas looked like this.

We ran into the Grinch on the way home from our first dinner in Vegas.

We were assigned a different spot when we made our reservation at the Circus Circus RV lot, but when we arrived #10 was open and it had a little grassy area beside it. When I checked us in at the office, I asked the lady if we could have that spot instead. She said no problem and had us reassigned in a matter of minutes. I thought it would be nice if our outdoor space was roomy. It never dawned on me that other campers would traipse directly through our stuff to get from one aisle of the park to the next. Piper didn’t like strangers creating a thoroughfare through his yard. I was afraid he was going to bite the next idiot that didn’t have enough manners to go around us. Mike set up the ladder as a makes-shift barrier to pedestrians. It was a successful deterrent about 40% of the time.

We had to stop in and say hi to Jimmy while we were in one of his neighborhoods.

Why yes… I DID eat my entire plate of Crab Cakes Benedict from Hash House A GO GO. I took more than half of the plate home in a box and made about three more meals of what was left – but I finished!

When one of your besties sends a text to say they are stuck in Vegas for the night because the pilot did not show up for their connecting flight between Denver and Houston, you drop what you are doing and drive over to their hotel to say hello!

I did not know there was a Cathedral on the Las Vegas Strip!

The Christmas Mass was very crowded and the music was magical.

Christmas dinner. Not as many options as a buffet, but far better flavor (if I do say so myself). I told Mike and Doug that I was going to order a Honey Baked Ham to pick up on Christmas Eve. They each got to choose a side dish for the menu. Mike selected Mac and Cheese. Doug requested Green Bean Casserole. I opted for a Spinach Horseradish Salad. Rolls and dessert completed the line-up. We stuffed ourselves.

One of my favorite things about Las Vegas is to go see the sculptures made of flowers at The Conservatory in The Bellagio. I walked over there alone one afternoon. Upon seeing the throngs of people when I arrived, I was so glad I had not forced Mike and Doug to come with me. It really was a miserable experience. At one point I was smack in the middle of the sea of bodies when one self absorbed woman had the nerve to ask me to move out of the way because she wanted to take a picture of her daughter and didn’t want me in the photo. On the inside I thought to myself “No S*%t Lady, where do you suggest I go? I don’t want to be in the picture either”! On the outside I smiled and said “Merry Christmas”. I’m pretty sure she knew I didn’t mean it.

A winter cabin made of flowers and other natural elements.

Polar Bears made of carnations.

Our friend, Doug, beside his favorite slot machine.

A view from the hotel portion of The Mirage.

We had a delicious lunch at a DDD spot on Sahara called Fat Choy. Wonton Soup, Short Rib Grilled Cheese, Fried Dumplings, Sesame Noodles, Soft Shell Bao. YUM! Thanks for treating us, Doug!

Nevada Part I: Reno

When we knew we were going to Reno, I remembered hearing of an RV Park that some friends had stayed at while they were in that area. I suggested to Mike that he might look into it while he was researching options for places to stay. He looked up Reno/Sparks RV Park and the reviews were fine. The location was also good, as it was just off of I-80 near the section of town where we would be arriving from Hwy 395, and departing east on the Interstate when it was time to leave. Since it met most of our criteria, he started pursuing a reservation for us.

Some RV Parks have a rule that says the rigs of their guests must be no older than ten years. It is their effort to keep the campgrounds “classy”. Our rig is a 2006, in pristine condition, so we feel we are classy enough to meet the needs of the RV Park owners. For the past year, our Monaco has been near the “cut-off” point. To avoid this hassle during reservation processes at parks where this rule is in place, we have just told them our rig was a 2007. What are they going to do… ask us for the VIN number and look it up online? Well the lady on the phone did, indeed, ask Mike for the year of our coach and he replied with the standard answer of 2007. She said that was pretty close to ten years old, so we would have to send her pictures of the Monaco. They would review the photos and let us know if they would allow us to stay there. Whatever. Mike complied and went outside to take the photos with his iphone and then emailed them to their office. Then the lady called him back and said the pictures weren’t good enough. He would have to resend some at a different angle. Good grief. He played along and we finally got approval to make a reservation. Whew, we were shaking in our boots. Not really.

We wanted to stay in Reno for a month because we would be arriving just before Thanksgiving. This time of year is busy for everyone, and we wanted to be in one location long enough to get all of our Christmas business situated (cards mailed out, presents bought and shipped, etc.). We also knew we would be receiving some packages from friends and family during this time of year, and it would be helpful to be in one spot for a while with an address where people could send stuff to us. This catapulted the red tape of our reservation process to a whole new level. Since we would be monthly tenants, we had to fill out a five page questionnaire and wait again to see if we were approved. Mike agreed to play the game and they were supposed to send us the paperwork via email. He kept getting emails from them, but no attachments. They couldn’t figure out how to get us the coveted questionnaire, and they wouldn’t approve our reservation until it was complete. At this point Mike was fed up with the whole process and ready to start looking for Option B. However, he didn’t say anything to me and kept his cool as he talked with the ladies in the office each day. I was not aware of his level of disdain. Before it was all over, he was the one that ended up having to talk me down.

We finally received the paperwork and I started filling out the information. When they had the nerve to ask us to list the name and duration of the last place we had stayed, I laughed out loud. I skipped that question (as if that information was any of their business and had any relevance at all to our stay in Reno). We didn’t return the paperwork, we just kept it with us – ready to hand over during the check -in process.

Our arrival date finally came. Mike pulled into the “arrival lane” and I went to the office to check us in like always. I told them our name and the dates of our reservation so they could pull up our file. The first question the lady asked me was if we would be staying longer than 28 days. No. She asked if I was sure we wouldn’t be staying longer. Apparently if a guest stayed 29 days, the sewer connection had to be plumbed with hard PVC pipes as opposed to the standard RV sewer hose. I again answered no. Our reservation was for 28 days and we would be leaving on the date indicated on the paperwork. Then she asked again if we would only be there for 28 days because the sewer connection issue was very important.  I answered her again that we would be there for 28 days. When she asked me the same question for the fourth time in a row, I just looked at her.

Then she panicked when she saw that the completed questionnaire was not with her paperwork for us. I calmly assured her there was no reason to fret and turned over the five page “application”. I wondered if they would notice I didn’t answer one of their pivotal questions. They didn’t. They also needed rabies vaccination information on Piper and Cessna. I was prepared and had copies available for them to keep. Then they wanted information on all of their immunizations. I went back to the rig and pulled their files to get the information the campground wanted. (As it turns out, Piper was actually due for his bordatella vaccination, which of course we took care of with a local vet during our stay. However, they didn’t even notice this on the paperwork I provided to them during check-in… so my point is that they were all excited about the paperwork, yet had no clue about any of the information they received). At the conclusion of the check-in process I had to sign and date a set of rules  – the exact same information that was included in our campground map/brochure we always get at the beginning of a stay. They copied those signed rules and gave me back my copy. I guess they thought I might have forgotten I signed them or something. Then the lady took all of our paperwork and made THREE copies to file away in different sections of their office. Really? They needed to keep three different copies of our useless paperwork? The management of this place held themselves in very high regard. I don’t mind going through the motions of a campground’s check-in process. I also understand each RV park has their own way of doing things for their own various reasons. This just seemed like a bit of overkill to me. The management seemed far more interested in their control of the situation rather than the process of welcoming guests.

The last hurrah was the dog park situation. This campground had no grass. Anywhere. At all. The landscaping was all set in gravel and sand. The green spaces between spots was astro turf. They were very adamant about the fact that our dogs were not allowed to pee or poop ANYWHERE except their dog parks. Well, the dog parks were small fenced squares of sand and gravel that reeked with the smell of ammonia. The staff at the park watered down and raked the areas during the day, but they were gross. Piper and Cessna HATED going in there. I did too. Piper actually tip-toed through the space when he was forced to use those facilities. It was pretty funny to look at. I didn’t blame him. Made me want to gag when we approached the fence. There was an apartment complex across the street from the RV Park, and those grounds were surrounded by a ribbon of actual grass. We tried our best to make it to that green space when it was time to do business – which meant a brisk walk the length of a city block (we were in the back part of the campground – farthest from the street) each time the dogs needed to go. No sniffing along the way. Stay focused and keep those bladders in check until we cross the street. Those dogs were real troopers for 28 days.

After we got ourselves situated in the campground operated by Big Brother, the month was good. We obeyed all the rules and checked out while our sewer connection was still legal. We got our Christmas all situated. We drove up to Lake Tahoe one day when the weather was good. We took another overnight trip to Penn Valley in Northern California to visit my former doubles partner, Joyce, and her hubby Tim. (They left The Woodlands and moved up there when Tim retired from Chevron several years ago). We went to a couple of casinos to watch some games in their sports bars and gamble at some of their tables. We had a few nice dinners at some good restaurants. The dogs got regular long walks at the nearby Sparks Marina Lake. Mike turned 55. All in all, it turned out to be a convenient stop.

The managers of this park were very proud of their spaces, but I was frankly unimpressed. They were tiny. The front half was covered with astro turf and the back half was designated for parking the car. So, in actuality, we had one half of a narrow space for outside use. When one takes into account that the neighbor’s sewer, water, and electrical connections came half-way into our “lawn”, it was downright crowded. It might have been the nicest park in the area, but we have enjoyed far better accommodations in various locations across the country.

We saw a Scheels Store when we were in Utah, but we didn’t go inside and I thought it was a grocery store. You can imagine my surprise when I wandered into the one located within walking distance of our campground – just to check it out. The first thing I saw was a giant ferris wheel, indoors, in motion, with people on it. It turns out that this business is an all sports superstore with 26 locations in 11 states. The Reno/Sparks location claims to be the World’s Largest All Sports Store.  I bought some Christmas gifts there.

The mirroring aquarium arches welcomed shoppers at two different entrances. Needless to say, I was intrigued after I got over my initial shock.

This mountain of stuffed wildlife trophies marked the entrance into the hunting section. (This is only one side of the full scale mountain).

Donner Summit on Interstate 80 heading into California from Nevada. We all know the story of that fateful November in 1846 when the Donner Party’s trek into California was blocked by snow. Only 45 of 81 emigrants survived. There is now speculation about the validity of their infamous menu options.

Tahoe National Forest is comprised of 850,000 acres of public land interspersed with 350,000 acres of private land in a checkerboard ownership pattern. Interestingly enough, the Tahoe National Forest does NOT include Lake Tahoe. The terrain ascends from 1,500 at the western edge to 9,000 feet at the crest.

A view of lake Wildwood from the balcony of my friend’s lake house. We certainly enjoyed our morning coffee from the deck as the sun made its daily debut.

While Mike was drinking his coffee, I jokingly asked him if he had spotted any eagles around the lake yet. Not less than five minutes later, this majestic bird came flying into the tree beside the house! We were lucky enough to get to watch him for the rest of the morning.

These gondolas in Stateline at Lake Tahoe did not exist when I lived there in the early 1990’s. They create a wonderful connection between the lake and the ski runs up on the mountain.

The California/Nevada border at South Lake Tahoe.

Cessna was eager to see the lake for herself after all I had told her about the magical place. We left Piper and Mike at the bar to watch football and walked down to a nearby beach so she could see first hand why I love this place so much.

Sunday Selfie in Tahoe.

The resort area around the Heavenly Gondolas was just starting to shine with all the holiday lights as we were leaving town.

God rays around the Sparks Marina Lake.

We loved this fish sculpture at the Outlet Center near our campground. You can’t see them, but the public art also featured individual fish jumping out of the rocky “stream” along the sidewalk.

It became Dungeness crab season when we were near the west coast. All the stores had them on sale. I couldn’t resist. I purchased one to prepare my favorite artichoke crab dip. The next day I mixed the leftovers with some angel hair pasta to make a yummy baked casserole.

No room for a tree, so our presents were placed on the dash board.

Bowl season was approaching while we were in Reno. This meant Mike spent many hours analyzing and finalizing his picks. We have been watching football EVER SINCE!

Some of the most entertaining items we have seen across this country have been local news casts. The smaller markets are usually a little quirky and good for an occasional chuckle. The weather teams always seem to feature the most colorful characters. This guy in Reno was sent out into the field to cover a non-existent flooding event. He was perturbed because he was stuck with an assignment in the rain. Apparently he was afraid he was going to melt, so he created a protective kilt out of a garbage bag. Poor guy works for a station that won’t even fork over the funds for proper rain gear during the “live shot”.

The landscape around Reno is brown.

When we first arrived to Reno/Sparks, several people mentioned to us that Mike should try fishing out at Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation. This body of water boasts award-wining cutthroat trout… as in 20-pound fish. I asked him several times if he wanted to go out there, and he always declined. Then one cold and rainy day he decided we should drive over and check it out. He suggested he would try some fishing while I found a trail to walk the dogs. I agreed and we loaded into the car. He opted for me to drive. As we started our 40-mile excursion the skies were grey. When we turned north off of I-80 it started raining. I asked him if he still wanted to keep going. He said yes. I kept driving. The rain turned to snow. We made a turn onto another road and I asked him again if he wanted to scrap the plan and return home. He said we should keep going. We started driving into a blizzard. He acted like nothing was amiss. I started wondering if we might be an eventual subject of a news magazine show like DATELINE… husband tricks wife into driving into a blizzard and claims it is an accident when she gets stranded and freezes to death (while he drives back out to civilization in the car with the two dogs). We had been getting on each other’s nerves, so the theory was plausible. I asked him why he would possibly want to pursue his agenda when it was so miserable out. He replied that we should at least drive until we could see the water. The falling snow was so thick, I couldn’t even see five feet in front of me. I doubted a view of the lake on this day was going to be very inspirational. I started wondering how gullible I might really be, and determined that if my demise did come to fruition, it would be due to my own stupidity. The asphalt road started to disappear under a thickening layer of sloshy snow. About the time I stopped caring about what he wanted to do, we came to a place where I could turn around. We paused for three seconds to take a picture of the water and then I got the hell out of there. As we were turning around we passed by a parked truck with a bundled up man preparing his fishing line. Really? How could that possibly be fun??? I wanted to check inside the vehicle to see if there was a disgruntled spouse inside. I would have told her to come with us, I wasn’t going to leave her out there to die.

The snow followed us home to our campground.

We saw a bald eagle on many of our walks around the lake at Sparks Marina. He never had a mate with him, and that made me a little sad. I ended up naming him Captain Sparky.

Smile for the camera, Captain Sparky!

Atlantis Sports Book Selfie.

Mike’s birthday was on December 18th while we were at this location. I gave him several choices for his birthday cake, and he selected chocolate peanut butter. When I picked up this beauty from Isabel’s Bakery, I knew it was a good choice. We started the day with coffee and cake for breakfast. We gave about half of it to our neighbor, and enjoyed the rest for about ten more days. It was so rich we could only eat a fork full at a time.

Since we arrived in Reno on the Monday before Thanksgiving, I was not enthused about cooking a big meal this year. I just didn’t feel like I had enough time to plan a menu, shop for the ingredients and prepare the dishes without the whole process being completely chaotic. I had the (what turned out to be) not-so-great idea of going to a buffet at one of the local casinos instead. We will never do that again. Not on a holiday. Everyone and their brother had the same idea. We waited in line for almost THREE hours, paid too much money, and had a crappy meal. I was so disappointed.

A typical view from one of our daily dog walks. We all got good and regular exercise on this stop.

The Truckee River empties out of Lake Tahoe and runs through downtown Reno.

The Biggest Little City in the World features a desolate downtown with clean streets and a large police presence.

Our exterior Christmas decoration(s).

Good Morning!

Captain Sparky overlooking the lake from a different vantage point.

The mountains to the west of Reno.

I ran into Whole Foods to pick up a few items I needed for our dinner one evening and happened upon this owl! Of course. Just what I expected to see inside a grocery store. A live owl.

Road Trip #2: Portland, OR to Susanville, CA to Reno, NV

On November 8th, Mike and I were enjoying a relaxing morning in Salem. We were just hanging out with no particular agenda in store for the day. I was working at my desk on my laptop and Mike was getting dressed in his bathroom. All of a sudden I started smelling a peculiar smell of ammonia. I felt like it was getting stronger when Mike came into the front room and asked if I smelled anything. I answered with an emphatic “YES”, and we jumped into action. He started moving through the coach to try and determine where the smell was coming from. I got online and googled “smell of ammonia in a home”. My search turned up “burning plugs” and I told him to check for something like that. He went outside to check the exterior of the coach and saw that ammonia was dripping from the outside bay that housed the mechanics to our refrigerator. Yes, the same refrigerator on which we JUST spent $200 replacing the control panel.

When I saw that he had pinpointed the culprit, I googled “ammonia from Norcold Refrigerator”. This time I learned we were supposed to disconnect the fridge from the propane connection in order to prevent a threat of fire. I yelled at him to turn off the propane. It was getting hard to breath, so I started opening all the windows and turning on all the vent fans to try to get some air flowing. I kept thinking about how glad I was that we were home when this happened. If the dogs had been there without us, there is no telling how sick they would have gotten from the fumes going unchecked. Or there could have been a fire. Or we could have been asleep and not awakened before the noxious fumes made us all sick. We had a sucky dilemna on our hands, but our rig and our health were in tact, so the rest we could take in stride.

While Mike was trying to sop up the liquid chemicals on the outside, I kept researching the problem online. Long story short… we needed a new refrigerator. Most of the online forums indicated that we would be throwing good money after bad if we tried to repair the problem instead of just replacing the appliance. Our fridge was original to the coach, so it made sense that the end of its life had arrived a decade after the Monaco was built. This was really going to bum out our Captain. Mike returned indoors and I gave him a brief synopsis of what I had learned. I knew how frustrated he would be, so I took the dogs out for a walk so he could process that bad information with some peace and quiet around him.  He’s the boss and makes all final decisions regarding maintenance and repairs, so he was ultimately the one that would need to decide how we addressed the situation.

We had a couple of choices. We could replace the fridge with a full-size residential fridge, or we could buy another one exactly like we had. There is a difference between residential refrigerators and RV refrigerators. Our RV fridge is connected to both electricity AND propane. A residential fridge is powered by electricity only. I prefer the RV model because the propane back-up means it constantly runs even if we lose power, or are not hooked up to electricity at all. When we lived in a regular house, the first concern when the power went out was the food in our fridge and freezer being ruined. If we are without power in the rig, we never have to worry about that. If the electricity goes off for any reason, the appliance automatically switches to propane for its power. The storage space inside the unit is a bit smaller than a residential fridge, but not worrying about whether it is running outweighs the size constraints. I cook a bunch, and we always have an abundance of groceries and leftovers inside our fridge. The size of the unit has never been an issue for me. Lots of RV’rs prefer residential refrigerators, but I am partial to the convenience of a working appliance at all times. Mike knew my inclination would be to go with another Norcold. When the dogs and I returned from our walk, Mike told me a new Norcold was going to cost $3,700 (before labor) … and the Monaco had to go in the shop to install it. Oh joy.

Next step: find a place in the area that could take care of us. Our initial plan had been to leave Salem on November 14th and drive down to Medford for a week’s stay at Valley of the Rogue State Park. That plan was scrapped. Mike called a handful of places and no one could schedule us until the very end of November, the middle of December, or even the beginning of January. If we waited around Portland for such a long time, we were looking at two issues… no fridge for all that time; and, we would be well into the winter season by then – which would make traveling south through The Cascades a bit treacherous because of the inevitable snow and ice on the roads during the cold season. I felt like maybe I should take the dogs on another walk.

After several hours of online research and phone calls, we had an appointment at Camping World in Wilsonville – back toward the Portland metro area. The good news was that they could take us on November 17th. That was only a few days after we had planned on leaving Salem anyway, so it was workable. We called the State Park and cancelled our reservation in Medford, then I went to the office at our campground and extended our stay for two more nights. I bought a couple of bags of ice to try and keep the inside of the unit cold, then I called my aunt and asked if we could store the contents of our fridge and freezer at her house until we had a new unit. The next day we packed all of our perishable food into coolers and drove them to Lake Oswego. We put the frozen meats in my cousin Taylor’s deep freezer, and then we drove over to my aunt’s condo to store the rest of our cold stuff.

Our new plan was to leave Salem on Wednesday, November 16th. We would move the rig to the parking lot of Camping World and boondock there overnight, so we could be ready to hand over the coach promptly at 8:00 AM on the 17th. We planned to stay at Camping World again on the night of the 17th because we had no idea how long it was going to take them to finish the installation. No point in getting on the road during late afternoon rush hour.

Now, getting back to the big picture… Our route for the Lower 48 in 48 Tour has been governed by a very vague set of stipulations since we started our trip: North in the summers, south in the winters, east to west. We filled in the rest of the details as time went along. Each year of our trip during late fall, we found ourselves trying to out run the snow as we move from north to south. This year was no exception. The two states we had left after Oregon were Nevada and California. The two months we had left were December and January. We were getting nervous about getting over the Cascades and Sierra Nevada Mountain Ranges during winter months. Up until this point, we had a loose plan of traveling from Portland down I-5 toward the Sacramento area, then east over the mountains on I-80 to Reno. The more we dwelled on this route, the more we realized the mountain range that separates California and Nevada could get tricky when the weather turned cold. We revised our strategy and decided to go straight to Reno as soon as possible. We thought we could get through the mountains before the winter set in, make our way south through Nevada, and then spend our “month of California” in the Palm Desert area. Winter is very mild in those sections of the U.S., so we felt like this approach would be much less stressful.

Our revised game plan was to leave Camping World on Friday, November 18th and drive to Reno. The drive would take about 12-hours in total, so we would to do the trip in about three days… drive about 4-hours and boondock somewhere each night until we finally reached Reno around Sunday the 20th.

On Friday morning, we got up and started our regular routine in preparation for a travel day. I took the dogs for their morning walk and came back to start prepping the inside of the rig for the road trip. Mike was doing his thing: familiarizing himself with our intended route on google maps, and checking weather and road conditions along the way. It was about 8:00 AM when he came back to the bedroom and told me there was a winter weather advisory scheduled to begin at 10 that evening for portions of our route in southern Oregon and northern California. Snow and ice were coming. We had to get over the mountains before that night. He suggested we get on the road and drive all the way to Susanville, CA that day. I looked at the map. He was talking about a 10+ hour drive. No way. When he saw the petrified look in my face, he told me we had no choice.

Since I am a terrified passenger, a three or four hour drive in the Monaco is about as much as my nerves can handle. We’ve made a few trips that have lasted five or more hours, and it was all I could do to hold myself together toward the end of those journeys. I thought we would be risking a serious mental breakdown for me if we had to drive more than 10 hours in one day on mountain roads the entire way. However, he was right. We had no choice. I asked him to please eat a good breakfast so he would have adequate brain power and energy to pilot our rig. He told me to trust him. I told him he was a good driver and I knew he wouldn’t do anything that would infringe upon our safety. Then I put my big girl pants on and kept prepping the rig so we could get out of there as soon as possible.

We pulled out onto I-5 before 9:00 when the weather was still nice. The roads were flat and straight for a little while, then the terrain changed. We spent the rest of the day climbing and descending. We stopped in Medford, at the same park where we had hoped to camp, so we could walk the dogs and stretch everyone’s legs. We got back on the road and drove another 1.5 hours to Weed, CA, where we stopped for diesel. The skies were only partly cloudy at this point, but the wind picked up on this stretch and it got a little scary. We were heading into 40 – 50 knot gusts and the Monaco was getting blown all over the road. Mike clutched the wheel with both hands and held on tight. We would have normally just pulled off and waited it out, but we couldn’t. This was just the beginning, the weather was going to get much worse. By the time we pulled into the truck stop for fuel, it was so windy I didn’t even take the dogs out to pee. All three of us would have been blown to the ground before we finished our business. The wind was howling so much that people outside had to literally yell at each other to be heard.

After Weed, we turned east onto Highway 89. The wind abated after this turn because we were back in the forest where the trees blocked most of the gusts. We then turned onto Hwy 44 and made our way through Lassen Volcanic National Park until we hit Highway 36. We drove for a short distance on 36 until it dumped us out of the mountains at Susanville. During a brief moment when I had enough cell service to make a phone call, I had called Susanville RV Park to see if they could take us for the night. The lady in the office arranged for an after-hours arrival and we were happy we had a destination that included full hook-ups. We pulled in around 7pm… about 10.5 hours after we had left Susanville. We were all exhausted. I took a long hot shower in the campground laundry because we didn’t have enough energy to hook up the water connection until the next day. Mike cooked us some chili cheese dogs while I was in the bath house. We ate, walked the dogs again, and collapsed into the bed. I spent a few minutes meditating on prayers of gratitude for a safe travel day before I fell into a deep sleep. Mike was snoring before I even had my pillows situated. I can’t imagine how tired he must have been. He did all the work while all I did was fret.

The weather came in behind us that night, and we ended up spending three nights in Susanville. We needed all of that time just to decompress. On the third morning, the sun came out and it was time to hit the road again. We had a quick 90-mile drive to Reno and it was time to go when the highway was clear. As we were hooking up the Honda to the tow bar before we left the Susanville RV Park, a lady in a rig next to us stopped to ask us a question. We started chatting and she said she and her husband had gotten caught in the weather. They had also come from the same direction as we had, but they were traveling a day later than we were. At one point, they had reached a closed highway and had to turn around and find another thoroughfare that was open. Then she told us that the motorcoach parked next to them had gone AROUND a barricade on a closed road and ended up sliding off the highway. A tow truck had to pull him out of the ditch. Once again, we counted our blessings for listening to warning signals and taking action to ensure our safety.

We checked into Sparks Marina RV Resort on Monday, November 21st. I cannot tell you how happy I was that our spot there was reserved for 28-days. I was gonna need that much time before we had another travel day. We accomplished our goal though, we beat the weather.

The online reviews for Camping World were marginal at best, but we didn’t feel like we had any other option regarding the installation of our new refrigerator. In the long run, Camping World did a fine job. They let us buy the Norcold ourselves and have it shipped to them (so we didn’t have to pay an upcharge), they got us in when they said they could take us, they got us out within only a few hours, and the fridge still works. No complaints from the Martins.

The Winter Weather Advisory in the blue highlighted section on the map was directly over a large portion of our intended route to Reno.

Siskiyou Summit on I-5, just near the Oregon – California border, is the highest point on that interstate. The elevation is 4,310 feet. The clouds were below us.

The theme of the day was Mount Shasta. Our route had us turning onto CA Highway 89 as we passed by the western side of the mountain. Then we would drive east and skirt the south side of the giant peak. We were going on a modified version of a “Bear Hunt”. Couldn’t go over it. Couldn’t go under it. Couldn’t go through it. Had to go around it.

I didn’t realize Mount Shasta is a potentially active volcano. I just thought it was a regular ole mountain. It last erupted in 1786.

The second highest peak in the Cascades, from Highway 89. I’m glad we made it through this leg of the trip while the weather was still clear enough to enjoy such a pretty view.

It had been a LONG day by the time we reached Weed, CA. We refueled at a truck stop there and checked the map. We were two hours and twenty-five minutes from our hopeful destination of Susanville. It was late in the afternoon, but the eminent storm had us motivated and Mike said he could make the last leg of the drive with no problem. The highway was narrow with only two lanes and no shoulder. We were still in the mountains, so there were lots of ups, downs, twists and turns. There was one passing lane at the beginning and then another one toward the end. There were no other opportunities to pass on this stretch of our path. We got behind a beginner truck driver that drove about how I would – slowly because he was scared. He never went more than five miles UNDER the speed limit. Now you can be sure I don’t love riding in the Monaco on mountain roads, and a slow progression would normally make me very happy. However, it was getting dark. No street lights anywhere. Once the sun went down it would be pitch black out there. I started thinking I would rather us drive the speed limit and get out of the woods while we could still see, as opposed to making our way when we could see NOTHING ahead of us. No such luck. Mike did an awesome job of keeping a good distance between us and the newbie trucker. He never lost his patience. He took it all in stride. It did get dark. It was hard to see ahead of us. We were both intently watching for deer or other wildlife to run out on the road in front of us. Eventually we turned off of Highway 89 onto Highway 44 (The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway) at an intersection called Old Station. There was a short passing lane after the turn. Mike gunned it and we were able to make it around Mr. Brakelights. By this time the dogs were in serious need of a pit stop. We stopped at a rest stop outside of Susanville because they could not wait any longer. As we were walking them around the parking lot, our trucker friend pulled in to use the facilities. When we saw him, we told the dogs their time was up. We scurried back to the rig and got on the road before the new driver ever made it out of the men’s room. Under no circumstances was that truck coming between us and the Susanville RV Park.

After we were settled in Susanville, the storm arrived as predicted. I had no problem watching the wind and rain from inside our PARKED house.

Big deer roamed the campground in Susanville.

When the rain cleared and the sky turned blue two days later, we pulled out of Susanville and drove a short 1.5 hours to Reno.

Highway 395 heading south into Nevada.

A straight and flat road, my favorite.

The traffic was light and the road conditions were great for our arrival into the Silver State.

 

 

Oregon Part I: Salem

Since the beginning of the trip, our plan for Oregon was to get to one spot in Portland and stay there for a full month. You have heard me talk about my Aunt Sharon and her two sons with their families. Her oldest son and his family live in Spokane, WA (you’ve met them if you read any of my posts from Washington). She lives in Lake Oswego, which is a suburb south of downtown Portland, as does her second son and his family. She is my mom’s younger sister. We are super close. She was single when I was a little kid and my folks would put me on a Southwest Airline flight to Houston from Harlingen so I could go visit her. There are tons of baby pictures of me dressed up in all kinds of crazy outfits because she loved to do that. They are still good for a laugh when I pull the pictures out of the box to reminisce. I was so excited to be able to visit with this clan of mine that I started looking for RV parks in the Portland area way back when we were in Montana. Mike is usually in charge of finding where we stay, but I couldn’t stand waiting… I wanted to line up the details as soon as possible so I could have something concrete to look forward to.

Well, it is a good thing we started looking for a campground extra early. This simple task turned into a full-fledged quest before all was said and done. Apparently there is an affordable housing shortage in the Pacific Northwest. We couldn’t find anywhere to stay because all of the RV parks were crammed full with people who had moved to the area for work but could not find an affordable place to live… so they were setting up residence in their travel trailers. Everything about our logistics became a huge barrier. We would locate places that were big enough to take our rig, but they had no monthly spots available – only daily or weekly, at two weeks max. We found another location near Lake Oswego, but they did not allow dogs over forty pounds. (When I asked why the 40-lb limit, they actually told me it was because people with big dogs did not pick up after them. Morons). The next place we found put the dog size limit at 50-lbs. Another place we were willing to settle for capped the dog’s weight at 75 pounds. I told Cessna she was going to have to go on a crash diet and loose about 15 pounds. She laughed at me, then rolled over so I could pet her big belly.

By this time, we had been looking for several months and we were getting desperate. We still didn’t know where we were going to stay when we got to Maryhill State Park in the Gorge. We located another option called Willamette Wine Country RV Park and called them to inquire about availability. They told us that we would have to submit to a background check, along with a fee of $17 per person, and if we passed they would put us on the list. When I started asking questions about if they had room for us after we passed the check, the young girl on the phone was very vague. By this time I had started acting like an addict desperate for a fix… I would play any game and ignore any red flags if I could just secure a reservation somewhere. We filled out the application (complete with social security numbers and driver’s license information) and returned it to the campground. They called a few days later to let us know we were number THIRTY on the list. There was obviously no way we would get a space there in a matter of days. I was fuming! There is absolutely no reason they shouldn’t have told us the timing was off and they weren’t going to be able to accommodate us.  I am actually still planning to contact the Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce in their area to report this dishonest business practice. If either of us have our identities stolen within the next few months, you can bet I’ll be calling the FBI! I feel in my heart these people were nothing but dishonest thieves. I’m not worried about the $35 we wasted on the scam, but I am very concerned about the personal information they have on us.

In the end, Mike saved the day and found us a place at Premier RV Resort of Salem. It was about a 50-minute drive from the campground to my aunt’s house, but after all of the problems we had encountered, that drive was nothing. We were in our second half of our fourth year on the road and we had never encountered such difficulty with finding somewhere to stay. If I hadn’t been so committed to being close to my family for the month, we would have skipped Portland all together and gone down to stay in Medford, or something. I would have never dreamed we would not find anywhere to camp between Hood River, in the Gorge, and all the way to Salem. It was insane! I guess the moral of the story is that all business investors interested in pursuing projects related to affordable housing or RV Resorts should look into opportunities in the Portland area. We’ve done the market research. The need is real.

We pulled out of Maryhill State Park on the morning of October 12th, and drove three hours to the park in Salem. The first half of the drive through the Columbia River Gorge was amazing. We felt like we were driving through a virtual postcard.  When we got to the Portland metro area, we took Hwy 205 South and merged onto Interstate 5 at Wilsonville. At this point we were in the Willamette Valley so the highway was flat and straight. Mike did a great job, as usual, of navigating the Monaco through traffic. We arrived at our destination with no incidents – just as planned. We started setting up around 1:00 and spent the rest of the day relaxing. We were feeling thankful that our travel day had been planned for that Wednesday, because the weather forecasters were calling for a huge weather event to descend on the area beginning Thursday. We felt fortunate that our travel plans had us parked and set up before the rain, wind and cold blew in.

The rain started earlier than expected in the evening, and lasted through the night. Actually, the rain started that evening and didn’t stop. Ever. (We are in Reno now, but our DirecTV is still set to local Portland stations… and it is STILL raining). On the last day of October, the news reported that Oregon had missed logging the month’s weather as the wettest on record (since the beginning of keeping records) by only 1/10th of an inch. It was wet and grey the whole time we were there. Oregon is an enchanting place. The rain makes everything green and lush, but the dismal atmosphere had me fighting off the blues by the time we left. When it was not raining, the fog would envelope everything – and it wouldn’t lift until mid-afternoon. Which means we had only a couple of hours of sunshine before sunset arrived. I don’t know how those Oregonians take it in stride day after day.

Our month flew by in the blink of an eye. We put a bunch of miles on the Honda driving up and down I-5. Sometimes I would drive in to spend the day with my aunt. We went downtown to the Portland Saturday Market for shopping and lunch. Another time we went back to downtown so we could visit Powell’s Books. Lots of days we just ran errands and did family stuff. We went to lunch, we went to happy hour, we cooked. I tried to spend the night with Sharon one night a week. Mike came in with me to hang out at my cousin Taylor’s house on several occasions. My other cousin, John, flew in with his family over Veteran’s Day Weekend and we had an early Thanksgiving together.

I had a long list of daytrips planned, but the weather was completely uncooperative. In the end, we only got “out and about” a few times. We did spend one day at Silver Falls State Park. We drove to the coast twice – once to Lincoln City and once to Newport. We visited the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville. We did the 4T Trail within the City of Portland. We ate out a couple of times in Salem. Other than that we strayed from our typical tourist selves and just enjoyed the basics of family time. It was great!

Our drive through the Columbia River Gorge was delightful. The skies were clear and the wind was light until we were about half-way, then the gusts picked up (as to be expected).

The American Empress Riverboat heading east on the Columbia. We saw the same vessel docked in Richland when we were in the Tri-Cities area of Washington.

More Gorge views from our drive.

Even Cessna was impressed with the scenery during our drive to Salem.

Our spot in Salem was TIGHT. So tight that Mike had to back out when we left. However, we were greeted by a blazing red tree when we arrived. All the leaves were gone on the day of our departure.

The Willamette River in Salem.

Double love.

The beginning of our trek on the 4T Trail.

One of the views from Council Crest Park in Portland. We passed through the park on our 4T Trail expedition.

Council Crest is thought to be the highest point in Portland at an elevation of 1,073 feet. The view offers the sight of five mountains in the Cascade Range: Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Jefferson and Mount Rainier. In this photo Mount Adams is to the right and Mount St. Helens is on the left. Mount Rainier can be seen very faintly behind Mount St. Helens.

Mount Hood from Council Crest Park.

Mount Saint Helens from the OHSU facility in Portland (where we went from trek to tram on the 4T Trail).

The Tram. There is a charge going up, but going down is free.

The view from the tram.

We picked up the trolley at the bottom of the tram.

The trolley dropped us into downtown where we would catch the train next. It was time to stop for a drink! While we were at the bar, Mike had been texting his friend Doug (a fellow retired ATC) in Austin. Doug kept asking us exactly where we were and what our bartender’s name was. Mike didn’t think anything of it… until our server presented us with a second round of drinks. We were confused because we hadn’t ordered anything after we first sat down. Then the bartender informed us they were compliments of Doug. What?!? That goof-ball had called the restaurant, talked to the bartender, and paid for our drinks over the phone. What a fun and thoughtful surprise!

Sidewalk Food “Trucks” (more like stands) in downtown Portland. I could have sampled something from each one.

Taking the train back to our car in Washington Park.

When they said the weather would be nice, we planned a road trip to the coast. We waited for the fog to clear until 12:30, then gave up and left anyway.

The 101 Bridge in Newport.

Surfers at the Pacific Ocean. There was no sand in front of them. I was standing on rocks. I was in front of them. These Pacific Northwest People are hardcore. Surfing… except in cold and windy, totally depressing grey conditions…

Napping sea lions.

Oh Dear, the diver is in trouble.

Port of Newport on a “clear” day.

The Mayor of the Newport Sea Lions. He has some good points. And Swagger. He has that too.

Sea Lion Selfie.

The actual beach at Newport.

Highway 101.

Well, good morning Sun!

Fall in Oregon.

Powells’ books claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the WORLD.

We decided the best way to while away our time on the afternoon of the 2016 Presidential Election was to spend it drinking in Independence, America (Oregon). It was the cutest little town on the Willamette River. We had drinks and appetizers at the Three Legged Dog; where we obviously toasted our own tripod in Heaven now, Lilly Belle.

Thanksgiving 2016 Family Photo (taken Veteran’s Day weekend… because that is what worked for us). Not shown in photo: Mike [taking picture]; Payton [being Payton]; Mya [Doing baby stuff until a big person realizes she should stop]; Jake [watching the baby, so no big persons have to get involved]. Cheers to Turkey, Dressing, Crescent Rolls, Mashed Taters, Green Bean Casserole, Olives, cranberry salad, and other stuff that made us fat and more happy!

THE Spruce Goose.

The water park was closed when we visited the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, but I’m thinking this attraction with slides initiating from the inside of a 747 would be sort of cool.

The Black Bird.

May favorite quote in a LONG time.

The Space Museum portion of the Evergreen complex. Super impressive.

Downtown McMinnville, OR at dusk.

Mike’s friend.

Morning coffee with a view of Lake Oswego in the Portland area.

The Premier RV Resort in Salem. The owners made a very concerted effort to keep the campground tidy and groomed at all times. They also offered a multitude of amenities like a pool/hot tub, game room, etc. In the long run though… it all comes down to money: How many spots can we fit on this piece of land? More spots, more money. Super cramped quarters.

A portion of the walking trail that circled the borders of the campground. A loud and busy highway was on my left side, but the scenery still made for a pleasant stroll.

Food trucks at the Portland Saturday Market (we went on a Sunday). My aunt and I shared a papusa and a gyro. YUM!

I wanted to visit the original Voodoo Doughnuts while we were in downtown Portland, but the line snaked through about four layers of barricades. Oh well, there is one I can visit in Austin when we get back to Texas. Or Taipei… if I ever get there.

One good thing (maybe the only good thing) about all the rain we saw in Oregon was the frequent appearance of rainbows.

Dinner with one of my tennis team buddies and her hubby. Nancy and Andre recently moved back to the Northwest after being in the Houston area for a few years. I was glad I got to catch up with her while we were near.

One of the trails at Silver Falls State Park.

The forest seemed to take on a life of its own.

South Falls at Silver Falls State Park.

The dogs also enjoyed their hike at Silver Falls State Park. They weren’t allowed on all of the trails, but we got a good workout on the sections where we were legal.

More fall color.

Pacific Ocean Selfie. Another benchmark for the Lower 48 in 48 Tour.

The beach at the Pacific Ocean in Lincoln City.

The surf was very violent and there were giant boulders at random spots where the waves were breaking. I don’t think I would really want to swim in that water, but it was beautiful to watch from a distance.

Lincoln City sunset.

My second cousin, Rapunzel.

My cousin and my aunt. I come from good genes, huh?

Washington Part IV: Maryhill State Park

As we have visited with other RV’ers throughout our travels, people have routinely shared suggestions on things to do and places to stay for locales on our agenda.  Maryhill State Park in Washington has popped up regularly. It is a 99-acre state park with 4,700 feet of shoreline on the Columbia River. State parks don’t always have full hook-ups and big enough spaces to accommodate our size. This one had both of those compelling amenities. We had looked into reservation details when we entered The Evergreen State back in August. It is a popular place, obviously, so the park was booked. The prices were high at over $50 per night too, so we took that location off our radar and didn’t think much about it again.

As we were planning our route from Kennewick to Portland I saw that we would be driving right  by Maryhill when we were heading west on I-84. It’s location is at the beginning of the Columbia River Gorge, and it also turned out to be just about half-way between Kennewick and Portland. I looked online one more time and was pleasantly surprised to find we were now in the “off -season”. Reservations were no longer required and the prices had dropped too! We took our chances on finding an available spot and left the Tri-Cities on a Thursday morning with Maryhill as our intended destination. It was Columbus Day weekend and we weren’t sure if the park might be extra full with campers that had a three-day weekend. We didn’t really have a Plan B, so I was really hoping it would all work out.

We pulled into Maryhill after driving two hours on good roads in light traffic and with nice weather. The park wasn’t full, so we picked a giant open spot facing the river and got ourselves set up. We felt lucky to have secured a spot we selected instead of settling for an alternate site. We filled out our paperwork at the self service box and wrote a check for six nights. More campers arrived after we did, and others continued to show up on Friday, but the park was never at full capacity during the weekend.

The previous recommendations we had received were spot on. The place was gorgeous. We had been cooped up in tiny spaces for a string of recent campgrounds and it was wonderful to have some elbow room again. I loved looking out my window and seeing grass, water and mountains rather than into another traveler’s camper. We were down in the Gorge, so we did not have any WIFI reception. It wasn’t too much of a bother. We just drove into Goldendale (at the top of the mountain walls that surrounded us) to get connected when we really needed to conduct any business. The dogs got good daily walks. We had campfires. Mike didn’t get to fish because he couldn’t print his license without WIFI. I went on little driving explorations throughout the area. We drove into The Dalles one morning for breakfast and some scouting. The rest of the time we sat around and watched the Columbia.

We left Kennewick on I-82 south and took it until it hit I-84, then we turned west. We were only on I-84 for a short while before the highway lined up with the Columbia River. The views just kept improving from that point forward.

We left Kennewick on I-82 south and took it until it hit I-84, then we turned west. We were only on I-84 for a short while before the highway lined up with the Columbia River. The views just kept improving from that point forward.

Our spot at Maryhill State Park was the roomiest we've had in a LONG TIME. Maybe ever.

Our spot at Maryhill State Park was the roomiest we’ve had in a LONG TIME. Maybe ever.

This enormous wall of rock near the entrance of the park captivated me.

This enormous wall of rock near the entrance of the park captivated me.

Happy hour and a campfire (which we hadn't been able to have in forever... due to weather, campground restrictions and fire danger)!

Happy hour and a campfire (which we hadn’t been able to have in forever… due to weather, campground restrictions and fire danger)!

We were only in town one week, but that didn't stop us from becoming regulars at Hot Rods Bar. AKA: free working wifi.

We were only in town one week, but that didn’t stop us from becoming regulars at Hot Rods Bar. AKA: free working wifi.

A calm Columbia River.

A calm Columbia River.

This happy garden was next door to a farm stand down the road from our campground. I bought some delicious fresh freestone peaches, pear sweetened cherry jam and jalapeno jam. Gunkel Orchards knows what they are doing!

This happy garden was next door to a farm stand down the road from our campground. I bought some delicious fresh freestone peaches, pear sweetened cherry jam and jalapeno jam. Gunkel Orchards knows what they are doing!

Peach trees from www.gunkelorchards.com

Peach trees from www.gunkelorchards.com

Commercial transportation on the Columbia.

Commercial transportation on the Columbia.

Mount Hood from the Maryhill Museum of Art.

Mount Hood from the Maryhill Museum of Art.

Across the river, at the location of the exit to the campground off of I-84, was a conglomeration of truck stops and fast food places. It was messy during the day, but at night the lights looked pretty on the water.

Across the river, at the location of the exit to the campground off of I-84, was a conglomeration of truck stops and fast food places. It was messy during the day, but at night the lights looked pretty on the water.

We met a space alien that came down to earth in the mid 60's. He's been carrying his ship with him this whole time. He says it holds firewood, but I'm not buying it.

We met a space alien that came down to earth in the mid 60’s. He’s been carrying his ship with him this whole time. He says it holds firewood, but I’m not buying it.

The landscape is so dramatic near the entrance to the Columbia River Gorge.

The landscape is so dramatic near the entrance to the Columbia River Gorge.

Mount Adams on the way to Goldendale.

Mount Adams on the way to Goldendale.

Mount Hood in the distance on our drive to The Dalles, Oregon.

Mount Hood in the distance on our drive to The Dalles, Oregon.

Columbia and Snake Rivers Voyage on the National Geographic Sea Lion. Retracing the Pacific Northwest portion of Lewis and Clark's epic expedition. The small ship was docked in The Dalles when we went for a visit. Looks like fun to me!

Columbia and Snake Rivers Voyage on the National Geographic Sea Lion. Retracing the Pacific Northwest portion of Lewis and Clark’s epic expedition. The small ship was docked in The Dalles when we went for a visit. Looks like fun to me!

The Columbia River from the Maryhill Museum of Art. The views are spectacular even before you enter the building of exhibits!

The Columbia River from the Maryhill Museum of Art. The views are spectacular even before you enter the building of exhibits!

Washington Part III: Tri-Cities

When we left Spokane we had our eye on Portland, Oregon. One option for a route was to take I-90 West over the Cascade Mountain Range, into the Seattle Metro Area, and down I-5 into Portland. I was in no way interested in driving over a mountain range and into crazy traffic if there was another way. Mike was not interested in listening to me fret during the mountains and the traffic, especially if there was another way. We had both been to Seattle separately and together. The area’s beauty is magnificent, and we will return for another visit again… but we chose to bypass the Emerald City on the Lower 48 in 48 Tour. After all, this adventure is about seeing parts of the country we DON’T know about, so it made total sense to take another route through a part of the Evergreen State that we had not experienced before.

We started out on I-90 West and turned south when we got to Hwy 395. The terrain started out with a sprinkling of trees beside the highway and then turned into rolling hills of amber and sand- hued fields after we turned south. The traffic was light on our two-hour drive and it was a good travel day. Our destination was the Columbia Sun RV Resort in Kennewick, and we were settled into our new spot by early afternoon. The park was fairly large and very nice. The landscaping was impeccable and the grounds were kept very clean and tidy. The swimming pool and hot tub were both heated, so we took advantage of the facilities during some days when the weather was gorgeous.

We ended up staying at this location for two weeks. We didn’t do too many touristy things on this stop because we were primarily focused on chores and errands in the Tri-Cities. Mike spent lots of time cleaning the coach because some RV Parks do not allow that, and he had to take advantage while he could. I tried to work on my blog as often as I could bring myself to focus on my computer screen. We had a nice little yard with some grass to enjoy, so we spent many hours sitting outside and watching baseball or football on the television. The winter weather was approaching, and we wanted to take advantage of the mild temperatures while they were still lingering in the air! For exercise we drove the dogs to many of the walking trails that border the Columbia River so we could increase our heart rate while looking at some pretty scenery. Mike thinks it is foolish to drive the dogs for a walk… so some days it was just me and Piper, or just me and Cessna (the dogs alternated keeping me company). Nothing too exciting happened during our Kennewick stop, but that was fine with us. Two weeks of low key “regular life” was relaxing and productive all at the same time.

Leaving Spokane on I-90 West.

Leaving Spokane on I-90 West.

Highway 395 South toward the Tri-Cities.

Highway 395 South toward the Tri-Cities.

Our site #31 was roomy. A busy street was behind us, but the trees along the fence line made it feel more private.

Our site #31 was roomy. A busy street was behind us, but the trees along the fence line made it feel more private.

We were able to take advantage of the heated pool and hot tub at this campground.

We were able to take advantage of the heated pool and hot tub at this campground.

Most of our outings involved walking the dogs on various sections of the pedestrian trail that borders the Columbia River.

Most of our outings involved walking the dogs on various sections of the pedestrian trail that borders the Columbia River.

Badger Mountain behind the Columbia River.

Badger Mountain behind the Columbia River.

Sunset Selfie.

Sunset Selfie.

The Tri -Cities of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick are virtually one giant community connected by a series of bridges that cross the Columbia River.

The Tri -Cities of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick are virtually one giant community connected by a series of bridges that cross the Columbia River.

Spudnuts Donuts are made with potatoes instead of flour. I had to bring a sample back to the house so we could determine which was our favorite. Mike liked the Maple, I loved the chocolate.

Spudnuts Donuts are made with potatoes instead of flour. I had to bring a sample back to the house so we could determine which was our favorite. Mike liked the maple, I loved the chocolate.

Another section of the trail along the Columbia River. This time from a park in the Richland area.

Another section of the trail along the Columbia River. This time from a park in the Richland area.

A marina in Richland.

A marina in Richland.

The American Empress Riverboat lets passengers experience the trail of Lewis and Clark along the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

The American Empress Riverboat lets passengers experience the trail of Lewis and Clark along the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

There was a giant pumpkin patch behind our campground.

There was a giant pumpkin patch behind our campground.

Dogs relaxing at happy hour.

Dogs relaxing at happy hour.

Another part of the trail in Pasco.

Another part of the trail in Pasco.

I think this section of the trail is in Pasco too.

I think this section of the trail is in Pasco too.

 

 

 

 

 

Washington Part II: Spokane

While we were in the area, Mike had wanted to get the Monaco’s engine serviced at Cummins Northwest in Spokane. It was time for a seventeen-point check, he wanted to have the chassis lubed, the transmission fluid needed to be flushed and replaced, and we had a leaky gasket somewhere. This particular Cummins shop had electric and water hookups for the coach clients, so it would be convenient to park in their lot while we waited for our service.

We pulled out of the Blackwell Island RV Resort in Coeur d’Alene around 11AM on Thursday September 15th and made the 45 minute drive on I-90 west to the Cummins location. We found an available spot on the end and Mike plugged us in. We were set up in no time. He checked in with the service desk and was told to be ready to hand over the coach at 7AM on Friday morning. The work was only expected to take part of one day, but we asked if it was okay if we stayed in their lot through the weekend. The shop was closed on Saturday and Sunday, so we didn’t feel like we would be in the way.

The reason we wanted to stay for a couple of extra days is because my Aunt Sharon had made plans to drive up to Spokane from the Portland area for the weekend. She was going to stay with her son John and crew, and we wanted to spend family time together while we had the chance. Staying at Cummins gave us the opportunity to stay in the area without paying a campground fee! That was good for our annual “rental average” since Blackwell Island was pretty expensive.

Everything went fine in the shop. They took our rig into the Coach Care Bay first thing in the morning as promised. Mike and I went to have a big breakfast at a place called Chaps Coffee Co., and then drove to downtown so we could explore the heart of the city while we walked the dogs. Once we were all tired, we drove back to Cummins and waited in their customer lounge until the maintenance was complete. We got the rig back around 3PM and moved it to another good spot on the opposite end of their lot. We hooked up and got situated again, then left and went to my cousin’s for a DELICIOUS brisket dinner.

Saturday afternoon was dedicated to watching football and grazing on more food back at John and Katie’s house. We returned to the Monaco in the evening and as we were preparing to go to bed, Mike noticed the fridge was not working. One good thing about the full-time RV community is the enormous online network available for trouble-shooting problems and issues related to big rigs. Before Mike was half-way through his first cup of Sunday morning coffee, he was online with someone at www.norcoldguy.com – diagnosing the fridge problem. It turned out to be a control panel that had gone bad. As Mike continued to investigate repair options, he decided he could replace the panel himself. We just needed to order one. If we got in the car and drove to a warehouse to buy the panel locally, it would have been $400. If he ordered it online and waited for a 2-day shipping delivery, it would only be $200. Go figure. We decided we could easily save $200 and wait around for the part to come in the shipment. He marched back into the Cummins service office and asked it we could stay a couple of extra days while we waited for the part to arrive. They said no problem and we really appreciated that!

As it turns out, we were at Cummins in Spokane for a full week. My aunt drove back to Portland on Monday, and we spent our remaining days exploring the “Lilac City”. The downtown area had lots going on. The dogs got good walks along trails in the community each day. We ate at a couple of other DDD restaurants around town, and spent one afternoon throwing away our money at the Northernquest Casino. (After a couple of cocktails Mike and I split up like we usually do in a casino, I go to the Pai Gow Poker Table and he shoots craps. When one of us runs out of money or nerve, we go find the other person and call it quits). By the time we left town our engine was running smoothly and our refrigerator was working just like new. We felt like we had won some sort of prize since we hadn’t paid rent for a full week! Of course, our costs associated with the engine maintenance and fridge repairs off-set the savings… but we didn’t dwell on that. We just looked at the bright side!

Cummins Northwest had seven spots with water and electric hook-ups in their parking lot. We felt lucky to get an end spot on the Thursday we arrived. The extra space allowed us to extend our slides and have a comfortable evening while we waited for our 7AM appointment on Friday.

Cummins Northwest had seven spots in their parking lot with water and electric hook-ups. We felt lucky to get an end spot on the Thursday we arrived. The extra space allowed us to extend our slides and have a comfortable evening while we waited for our 7AM appointment on Friday.

After we handed off the Monaco to the technicians we enjoyed breakfast at one of the DDD spots in Spokane. We even took a bag of day-old scones home with us from Chaps Coffee Company.

After we handed off the Monaco to the technicians we enjoyed breakfast at one of the DDD spots in Spokane. We even took a bag of day-old scones home with us from Chaps Coffee Company.

One of the bridges over Spokane Falls in downtown Spokane.

One of the bridges over Spokane Falls in downtown Spokane.

The leaves were just beginning to change.

The leaves were just beginning to change.

Gonzaga University.

Gonzaga University.

We saw a chairlift in downtown Park City, Utah, but this is the first downtown I've encountered with its own gondola system.

We saw a chairlift in downtown Park City, Utah, but this is the first downtown I’ve encountered with its own gondola system.

Spokane has dozens of festivals throughout the year. We were in town during the Lantern Festival at Riverfront Park.

Spokane has dozens of festivals throughout the year. We were in town during the Lantern Festival at Riverfront Park.

17-Point Check.

17-Point Check.

A rainbow at my cousin John's house while my aunt Sharon was visiting. We were eating brisket, playing games and watching football next to the warm wood burning stove when we looked outside and saw this! It was a good day.

A rainbow at my cousin John’s house while my aunt Sharon was visiting. We were eating brisket, playing games and watching football next to the warm wood burning stove when we looked outside and saw this! It was a good day.

Our home for the week. We were fortunate to snag the other end- spot next to the green grass and with a view. If we only looked out the passenger side windows, we could barely tell we were in a parking lot!

Our home for the week. We were fortunate to snag the other end- spot next to the green grass and with a view. If we only looked out the passenger side windows, we could barely tell we were in a parking lot!

Part of the Centennial Trail in Spokane.

Part of the Centennial Trail in Spokane.

Our captain is also head of maintenance.

Our captain is also head of maintenance.

A view from another one of our dog walks on the Spokane River Centennial Trail.

A view from another one of our dog walks on the Spokane River Centennial Trail.

The Spokane River is a tributary of the Columbia River. It is 111 miles long draining the north end of Lake Coeur d'Alene and emptying into the Columbia River.

The Spokane River is a tributary of the Columbia River. It is 111 miles long draining the north end of Lake Coeur d’Alene and emptying into the Columbia River.

We spent an afternoon/evening at Northquest Casino in Spokane. The screen at their sports bar was ginormous. It was the only place in the casino that was non-smoking, so we made the spot our home base during our visit that day.

We spent an afternoon/evening at Northernquest Casino in Spokane. The screen at their sports bar was ginormous. It was the only place in the casino that was non-smoking, so we made the spot our home base during our visit that day.

Our evening view courtesy of Cummins.

Our evening view courtesy of Cummins.

 

 

 

Idaho Part V: Coeur d’Alene

We were still technically in our “month of Washington”  when we moved from Potlatch to Coeur d’Alene. (That is the great thing about the rules about The Martin’s American Adventure… there aren’t any, so we can’t break any)! Our objective was to get up in the Spokane area so we could be close enough to visit my cousin and his family. They live in Rockford, WA, which is south of Spokane and less than ten miles from the Idaho border. We researched the RV Parks in Spokane, but nothing looked very interesting and our options were 35 – 45 minutes from John’s house. Mike found a place called Blackwell Island RV Park right on Lake Coeur d’Alene, and it was still about 35 minutes from my family. We opted for water, views and proximity to a quaint downtown over being in Spokane proper. Our objective wasn’t going to be compromised, so might as well pick a spot with the most pleasant environment.

When we were in Potlatch we were surprised to find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a full-scale asphalt paving project of the campground where we were staying. When we arrived, the pads at each site were concrete, but the actual road through the park was gravel. There was some construction equipment on site, but the work never really got into full swing until the day before we were scheduled to pull out. Our last full day in Potlatch started with the sound of tractors and MACK trucks circling around us at daybreak. The workers started spraying down the gravel surface with a water truck and we figured it was going to be a long and noisy day. It was. At one point, the camp host came over and said she would refund our money if we wanted to leave. However, it was late in the day. I don’t think we could have gotten around all of the construction equipment to pull out, and we had no reservations until the next morning, so we thanked her and told her we would stay through the end of our reservation (I should have asked her for a discount… but we were only paying $25/night anyway so I didn’t want to push it).

The next morning we hustled with all of our travel prep chores and got out of there by 9:00. We were ahead of the construction crew, so we guessed they waited for us to leave before they got back at it. Our drive to Blackwell Island was about 70 miles straight north on Highway 95. We hit a couple of patches of road construction, but the drive was fairly easy in spite of that. After we got parked and settled, I started researching things to do in the area, and became very excited about all the fun activities in store for our two -week visit.

Lake Coeur d’Alene was beautiful. The town of Coeur d’Alene was precious. The hiking and biking in the area was amazing. The views were stunning in every direction. We had a couple of family dinners at my cousin’s house, and they came over for meatball subs one evening. We took several daytrips to Montana, Sandpoint, into downtown Spokane and over to Harrison, Idaho. When we weren’t doing any of those things, we were hanging out in downtown Cd’A. It was a wonderful stop. At one point Mike even stated that he thinks Idaho is his favorite State on our Tour (prior to that is has been Florida).

Our drive from Potlatch to Coeur d'Alene was a straight shot north on Highway 95. It widened from two lane to four lanes as we got closer to the lake.

Our drive from Potlatch to Coeur d’Alene was a straight shot north on Highway 95. It widened from two lane to four lanes as we got closer to the lake.

The north end of Lake Coeur d'Alene drains into the Spokane River. Our campground was located where those two bodies of water merged. We even had our own little beach to enjoy.

The north end of Lake Coeur d’Alene drains into the Spokane River. Our campground was located where those two bodies of water merged. We even had our own little beach to enjoy.

This campground was one of the most expensive we have stayed in, and the spots weren't incredibly awesome, but the overall location made it worth the money.

This campground was one of the most expensive we have stayed in, and the spots weren’t incredibly awesome, but the overall location made it worth the money.

Mike went scouting for dove hunting locations one day. He didn't come up with any options, but he did get to see this view while he was exploring.

Mike went scouting for dove hunting locations one day. He didn’t come up with any options, but he did get to see this view while he was exploring.

We walked the dogs to the marina each day and this was the view from our regular turn-around point.

We walked the dogs to the marina each day and this was the view from our regular turn-around point.

Riverfront park is a 100-acre park along the Spokane River in downtown Spokane. It is a beautiful venue and the city takes advantage of this amenity by hosting special events and festivals constantly.

Riverfront park is a 100-acre park along the Spokane River in downtown Spokane. It is a beautiful venue and the city takes advantage of this amenity by hosting special events and festivals constantly.

We went to a big annual event in Spokane's Riverfront Park called Pig Out In The Park. Food, Beer, Music. Countless food tents and three stages of music going all the time. We drove over from our campground on a Friday evening to have dinner. I had an indian curry plate. Mike had a buffalo burger and an elk sausage. We were too stuffed to stop anywhere else, but this spit of beef still made my mouth water. All vegetarians look away.

We went to a big annual event in Spokane’s Riverfront Park called Pig Out In The Park. Food, Beer, Music. Countless food tents and three stages of music going all the time. We drove over from our campground on a Friday evening to have dinner. I had an indian curry plate. Mike had a buffalo burger and an elk sausage. We were too stuffed to stop anywhere else, but this spit of beef still made my mouth water. All vegetarians look away.

The best farmer's market in the area was the Saturday morning market in Hayden (on the north side of Coeur d'Alene). They had food vendors, arts, crafts, produce, baked goods, dairy products, plants and flowers, natural meats, and any other "goodie" you can imagine.

The best farmer’s market in the area was the Saturday morning market in Hayden (on the north side of Coeur d’Alene). They had food vendors, arts, crafts, produce, baked goods, dairy products, plants and flowers, natural meats, and any other “goodie” you can imagine.

Aebleskivers with cheese sauce. Like round pancakes speckled with small bits of ham, then covered in cheese. I never eat breakfast before I visit a farmer's market... that way I can sample things like these when I get there!

Aebleskivers with cheese sauce. Like round pancakes speckled with small bits of ham, then covered in cheese. I never eat breakfast before I visit a farmer’s market… that way I can sample things like these when I get there!

We made another DDD stop on The Lower 48 in 48 Tour. This time it was Capone's in Cd'A.

We made another DDD stop on The Lower 48 in 48 Tour. This time it was Capone’s in Cd’A.

As we get closer to finishing our trip we are thinking more frequently of selling the Monaco. Mike keeps us looking good at all times. It usually rains after he finishes, and then he starts all over again.

As we get closer to finishing our trip we are thinking more frequently of selling the Monaco. Mike keeps us looking good at all times. It usually rains after he finishes, and then he starts all over again.

The local beach near downtown Cd'A.

The local beach near downtown Cd’A.

The sea plane stayed busy with tours every day the weather was nice.

The sea plane stayed busy with tours every day the weather was nice.

Cessna always reminds me of the important things in life: Stop everything and role in the grass if it looks lush and the spirit moves you; and always take time to stop and enjoy the flowers.

Cessna always reminds me of the important things in life: Stop everything and role in the grass if it looks lush and the spirit moves you; and always take time to stop and enjoy the flowers.

Downtown Coeur d'Alene is bustling with restaurants, shops, art galleries and bars. The streets are lined with trees and light poles are flanked by baskets bursting with blooms of flowers. It was the perfect place to stroll around while window shopping and people watching.

Downtown Coeur d’Alene is bustling with restaurants, shops, art galleries and bars. The streets are lined with trees and light poles are flanked by baskets bursting with blooms of flowers. It was the perfect place to stroll around while window shopping and people watching.

City Park was the optimum location to enjoy a Sunday walk during pristine weather conditions.

City Park was the optimum location to enjoy a Sunday walk during pristine weather conditions.

Some of my bounty from the farmer's market. The flower bouquet was only $5 and the fruit was all so sweet and juicy that it tasted like candy!

Some of my bounty from the farmer’s market. The flower bouquet was only $5 and the fruit was all so sweet and juicy that it tasted like candy!

The reason we wanted to spend time in Spokane (Coeur d'Alene) was so we could visit with my cousin John, his wife Katie and their two smart, fun, polite, responsible, all-around amazing kiddos (and Maggie the dog). My mom and John's mom were sisters.

The reason we wanted to spend time in Spokane (Coeur d’Alene) was so we could visit with my cousin John, his wife Katie and their two smart, fun, polite, responsible, all-around amazing kiddos (and Maggie the dog). My mom  was John’s mom’s (my aunt Sharon’s) sister.

These steps made me want to follow them into the water.

These steps made me want to follow them into the water.

Another sea plane shot.

Another sea plane shot.

The Hagadone Family owns Coeur d'Alene. Duane Hagadone was presented the Horatia Alger Award as a distinguished American. The fortune comes from interests in publishing, real estate development, hotels/resorts, casinos, restaurants, marinas, retail. Anything with red geraniums planted in the landscape was a Hagadone venture (and Cd'A is COVERED in beds of perfect red geraniums). The house on the lake is 26,000 square feet with nine bathrooms and two bedrooms. They have another estate in Palm Desert, CA that spans 64,000 square feet. SIXTY-FOUR thousand. They also own a 164-ft yacht named the Lady Lola. It is equipped with a golf course and speed boats to retrieve the balls.

The Hagadone Family owns Coeur d’Alene. Duane Hagadone was presented the Horatio Alger Award as a distinguished American. The fortune comes from interests in publishing, real estate development, hotels/resorts, casinos, restaurants, marinas, retail. Anything with red geraniums planted in the landscape was a Hagadone venture (and Cd’A is COVERED in beds of perfect red geraniums). The house on the lake is 26,000 square feet with nine bathrooms and two bedrooms. They have another estate in Palm Desert, CA that spans 64,000 square feet. SIXTY-FOUR thousand. They also own a 164-ft yacht named the Lady Lola. It is equipped with a golf course and speed boats to retrieve the balls.

The Hagadone's also own the scenic boat cruises on Lake Coeur d'Alene, so I was happy to contribute my part to their maga-wealth.

The Hagadone’s also own the scenic boat cruises on Lake Coeur d’Alene, so I was happy to contribute my part to their maga-wealth.

The Coeur d'Alene Resort.

The Coeur d’Alene Resort.

Mudgy and Millie is an illustrated children's book about a moose and a mouse playing hide and seek in Coeur d'Alene. Bronze sculptures are set at different points of the town where highlights of the game between the two characters takes place.

Mudgy and Millie is an illustrated children’s book about a moose and a mouse playing hide and seek in Coeur d’Alene. Bronze sculptures are set at different points of the town where highlights of the game between the two characters takes place.

My cousin-in-law, Katie, suggested we might like to drive our bikes about an hour east to Montana and ride them on the Route of the Hiawatha. Of course we heeded her advice! When we got to the trailhead, Mike discovered he had a flat tire. We were so bummed, but we needn't worry. The Trail had bike marshalls along the way, and a service tent at the beginning. The nice ladies in charge hooked us up with a new tube and tire, and we were on our way! What a relief. We were so appreciative of that service!

My cousin-in-law, Katie, suggested we might like to drive our bikes about an hour east to Montana and ride them on the Route of the Hiawatha. Of course we heeded her advice! When we got to the trailhead, Mike discovered he had a flat tire. We were so bummed, but we needn’t worry. The Trail had bike marshalls along the way, and a service tent at the beginning. The nice ladies in charge hooked us up with a new tube and tire, and we were on our way! What a relief. We were so appreciative of that service!

The Route of the Hiawatha bike trail started with a 1.7-mile long dark, wet, cold tunnel. All bicyclists must have a helmet and a light to ride on the trail. You can see some riders emerging from the black just after we made it back to daylight.

The Route of the Hiawatha bike trail started with a 1.7-mile long dark, wet, cold tunnel. All bicyclists must have a helmet and a light to ride on the trail. You can see some riders emerging from the black just after we made it back to daylight.

This waterfall was at the end of the first tunnel too.

This waterfall was at the end of the first tunnel too. I heard it before I found it, and I knew it was going to be a spectacular ride!

The views were amazing, of course. Nothing but undisturbed forest land for as long as the eye could see.

The views were amazing, of course. Nothing but undisturbed forest land for as far as the eye could see.

Hiawatha selfie.

Hiawatha selfie.

The weather was a little grey on the day did the bike ride, so the photos weren't as pristine as I hoped they would be. A blue sky would have set off the green of the trees much more vibrantly.

The weather was a little grey on the day we did the bike ride, so the photos weren’t as pristine as I hoped they would be. A blue sky would have set off the green of the trees much more vibrantly.

We made our way across several of these bridges as the trail descended.

We made our way across several of these bridges as the trail descended.

One last photo of the train track turned bike trail.

One last photo of the train track turned bike trail.

This school bus had half of the seats in the back removed to accommodate bike storage. We caught the shuttle back up the hill to our car when our ride was complete.

This school bus had half of the seats in the back removed to accommodate bike storage. We caught the shuttle back up the hill to our car when our ride was complete.

The Coeur d'Alene Resort and Marina from Tubbs Hill.

The Coeur d’Alene Resort and Marina from Tubbs Hill.

Tubbs Hill selfie.

Tubbs Hill selfie.

If you are a guest at the resort and want to play golf, a staff member will escort you to the golf course in this beautiful wooden boat.

If you are a guest at the resort and want to play golf, a staff member will escort you to the golf course in this beautiful wooden boat.

We had happy hour with Jerry Garcia one afternoon.

We had happy hour with Jerry Garcia one afternoon.

The Farmer's Market in Hayden had a live band in full swing. During the short time I spent gathering fruit, flowers, and other goodies they played Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Jimmy Buffett. I could have stayed and listened all morning!

The Farmer’s Market in Hayden had a live band in full swing. During the short time I spent gathering fruit, flowers, and other goodies they played Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Jimmy Buffett. I could have stayed and listened all morning!

Lake Coeur d'Alene from I-90.

Lake Coeur d’Alene from I-90.

Another lake view from I-90.

Another lake view from I-90.

We took another daytrip from our camp and drove our bikes over to Harrison so we could ride on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.

We took another daytrip from our camp and drove our bikes over to Harrison so we could ride on the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.

I had hoped for 20 miles, but we turned around at the one- hour mark and only made 18.

I had hoped for 20 miles, but we turned around at the one- hour mark and only made 18.

Bloody Mary's and beer in Harrison after our gorgeous bike ride.

Bloody Mary’s and beer in Harrison after our gorgeous bike ride.

Lake Pend Oreille from City Beach in Sandpoint, Idaho.

Lake Pend Oreille from City Beach in Sandpoint, Idaho.

The most important command those dogs know is "wait".

The most important command those dogs know is “wait”.

This crazy mural in downtown Sandpoint featured UFO's, Big Foot and lake monsters.

This crazy mural in downtown Sandpoint featured UFO’s, Big Foot and lake monsters.

My cousin family was coming to dinner at our house and snapped a picture of this moose with her two babies in the water near our campground.

My cousin family was coming to dinner at our house and snapped a picture of this moose with her two babies in the water near our campground.

Mike went looking for the moose and tracked her down a trail until they were about 10-feet apart. Its hard to see, but her butt is in the foreground and her ears are at about "1:00" in the photo. Since she had two calves with her, he suspected it was time to back off and leave the cow alone.

Mike went looking for the moose and tracked her down a trail until they were about 10-feet apart. Its hard to see, but her butt is in the foreground and her ears are at about “1:00” in the photo. Since she had two calves with her, he suspected it was time to back off and leave the cow alone.

A little convention of antique car owners were gathered at our RV Park during the second half of our stay.

A little convention of antique car owners were gathered at our RV Park during the second half of our stay.

Boats and yachts were starting to come out of the water at the marina near our campground in preparation for the winter weather. The bigger vessels needed MAC trucks to get the job done.

Boats and yachts were starting to come out of the water at the marina near our campground in preparation for the winter weather. The bigger vessels needed MACK trucks to get the job done.

The Hagadone boat happened to be at the marina on our last morning. It was custom built by a company in Coeur d'Alene, and the mast was 100-feet tall.

The Hagadone boat happened to be at the marina on our last morning. It was custom built by a company in Coeur d’Alene, and the mast was 100-feet tall.

Idaho Part IV: Potlatch

We thought we left Idaho when we moved from Boise to Walla Walla but we were wrong. This Lower 48 in 48 Tour takes on a life of its own at times, and we have always just followed its lead. A short- term goal after leaving Walla Walla was to eventually get to Spokane. We had two reasons for getting to the northeastern corner of The Evergreen State. One of my first cousins lives with his wife and two kiddos on a 50-acre spread just south of Spokane. Of course, we wanted to spend time with them. Mike also wanted to take the Monaco into the Cummins Northwest facility in Spokane for some routine maintenance on the engine. The chassis needed to be lubed (because the screwballs at Lazy Days in Tucson couldn’t get to that task- even after they had the rig for 16 days), the transmission fluid needed to be replaced, he wanted to have a 17-point inspection done, and there was a leaky gasket that needed attention somewhere. When Mike called Cummins to get us an appointment, they said they could schedule us on September 15th. We had three weeks between our departure date at Walla Walla and our gig with the mechanics.

We looked at the map and determined there were two routes we could take to get from Walla Walla to Spokane. A longer-term goal was to make our way to Portland after Spokane, so we took that factor into consideration when analyzing a course. The most efficient route from Spokane to Portland is to take I-90 west until Hwy 395, and south through the Tri-Cities, then to I-84 west. Since our captain doesn’t like to backtrack, it was obvious we would be taking the “rural route” up to Spokane driving north and east on Hwy 12 over to Hwy 95 in Idaho for a straight drive north the rest of the distance. We had three weeks to kill so we figured we would find a place around the half-way mark and stop for a week. The best priced campground – with the highest reviews – about half way between Walla Walla and Spokane – along the Washington-Idaho Border is a city-owned RV Park in Potlatch. Mike couldn’t pass up the $25/day rate. And that is how we landed back in Idaho on The Martin’s American Adventure. Simple as that.

Potlatch, ID was a tiny lumber mill town of 791 people. Until the 1950’s, all the land and buildings within the town were owned by the Potlatch Lumber Company – which operated from 1905 to 1981. The mill is gone now, but the community is in tact. It was a nice quiet location in a charming rural setting. We made a couple of daytrips during our stay. One day we drove over to see Washington State University in Pullman. Another day we drove down to see Lewiston and Clarkston which straddle the Washington/Idaho state line that runs down the middle of the Snake River. When we weren’t road tripping, we just did normal life stuff like walking the dogs, cooking dinner, doing chores, working on the blog, and enjoying the reasonable nightly rate.

This is what most of our drive from Walla Walla to Potlatch looked like. They call this part of Washington State "The Palouse". The curvy roads had me a little kooky, but the traffic was light and I was grateful for that.

This is what most of our drive from Walla Walla to Potlatch looked like. They call this part of Washington State “The Palouse”. The curvy roads had me a little kooky, but the traffic was light and I was grateful for that.

I am guessing this is our last crossing of the Snake River on The Lower 48 in 48 Tour (heading north on WA Highway 127, between Dodge and Dusty).

I am guessing this is The Monaco’s last crossing of the Snake River on The Lower 48 in 48 Tour (heading north on WA Highway 127, between Dodge and Dusty).

Our Site at Potlatch Scenic 6 Park.

Our Site at Potlatch Scenic 6 Park.

The view from our front door.

The view from our front door.

A steam train was used at the Lumber Mill and now it is on display in the community park.

A steam train was used at the Lumber Mill and now it is on display in the community park.

Each tree in the park (and there were hundreds) was dedicated to a person or family. A granite plaque at the base of each trunk signified the memorials. I would have liked to have known Steve Jones.

Each tree in the park (and there were hundreds) was dedicated to a person or family. A granite plaque at the base of each trunk signified the memorials. I would have liked to have known Steve Jones.

This tree in the park was bursting with fruit. I was wondering what kind. My guess was crab apples? Plums? One morning I was walking the dog and a lady was picking up all the fruit that had dropped on the ground and putting it into a big canvas bag. I was excited to learn what kind of fruit it was, so I asked her to confirm my guess. She said she had no idea, she was just going to go home and make some jelly with it. Well, okay then.

This tree in the park was bursting with fruit. I was wondering what kind. My guess was crab apples? Plums? One morning I was walking the dog and a lady was picking up all the fruit that had dropped on the ground and putting it into a big canvas bag. I was excited to learn what kind of fruit it was, so I asked her to confirm my guess. She said she had no idea, she was just going to go home and make some jelly with it. Well, okay then.

The Palouse River. Mike caught some squaw fish.

The Palouse River. Mike caught some Squaw Fish, also known as Pikeminnow.

This is the Methodist Church we attended while on this stop.

This is the Methodist Church we attended while on this stop.

The depot in Potlatch was strategically situated. One side of the structure serviced the lumber mill activities. The other side of the building was for passenger travel.

The depot in Potlatch was strategically situated. One side of the structure serviced the lumber mill activities. The other side of the building was for passenger travel.

I posted a real picture of this glorious sunset on the Sunset Page of this blog, but this is what I got to enjoy through my kitchen window while cooking dinner. Amazing!

I posted a real picture of this glorious sunset on the Sunset Page of this blog, but this is what I got to enjoy through my kitchen window while cooking dinner one evening. Amazing!

The Methodists were celebrating with a service outside and a potluck lunch at the conclusion of church. The weather was wonderful and it made for a special Sunday morning. Although the members of the congregation vigorously invited us to join them for lunch, we declined. It is a bit overwhelming to be amongst a crowd when everyone else knows one another. In a church environment everyone is so friendly we end up answering a multitude of questions, so after a while it is time to go.

The Methodists were celebrating with a service outside and a potluck lunch at the conclusion of church. The weather was wonderful and it made for a special Sunday morning. Although the members of the congregation vigorously invited us to join them for lunch, we declined. It is a bit overwhelming to be amongst a crowd when everyone else knows one another. In a church environment everyone is so friendly we end up answering a multitude of questions, so after a while it is time to go.

On of the gentlemen at church recommended a local lunch spot about nine miles down the road (or three towns over). Mike ordered the special 1-lb burger. I think they had to bake the bun themselves! We took about 2/3 of it back to the house with us.

One of the gentlemen at church recommended a local lunch spot about nine miles down the road (or three towns over). Mike ordered the special 1-lb burger. I think they had to bake the bun themselves! We took about 2/3 of it back to the house with us.

A fun mural on a public plaza in downtown Pullman.

A fun mural on a public plaza in downtown Pullman.

The WSU campus has lots of neat art placed at various locations across the campus.

The WSU campus has lots of neat art placed at various locations across the campus.

The WSU Stadium.

The WSU Stadium.

WSU has its own dairy. They sell ice cream and cheese. I had a coffee toffee ice cream cone and brought some Cougar Gold back to the house with us.

WSU has its own dairy. They sell ice cream and cheese. I had a coffee toffee ice cream cone and brought some Cougar Gold back to the house with us.

We drove over to Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, WA to look around. Lewiston had a nice walking trail along the Snake River where it intersects with the Clearwater River (which is brown).

We drove over to Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, WA to look around. Lewiston had a nice walking trail along the Snake River where it intersects with the Clearwater River (which is brown).

My favorite thing in Lewiston was this awesome wave sculpture made of real-life metal canoes.

My favorite thing in Lewiston was this awesome wave sculpture made of real-life metal canoes.

lunch selfie

lunch selfie

Snake River panorama.

Snake River panorama.