Petroglyph National Monument

During our stay we ventured out to find the Petroglyph’s which were almost in Albuquerque itself.   Its spread out over a large area so we hit the visitor center first and checked out the map.  After looking at all the sites in the area we chose the one they allowed dogs on the trails which was quite a few miles north of the visitor center.  We drove  thru lots of neighborhoods getting there.    When we finally got there we were kind of surprised to see the trailhead was in a housing development and right behind a small store.   We parked and headed out on the trail.  Luckily for us it was nice and cool for the uphill hike.   There was no shade anywhere in sight,  I bet its blazing here in the summer months.   I was amazed how many drawings were on the rocks, there were hundreds,  probably thousands of them.   It made me wonder if the parents of the people doing this to the rocks were unhappy akin to the parents of today’s taggers?

This was a nice walk thru the desert just west of downtown Albuquerque.   We finished the loop and then headed back to the car.

 

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

This post has been a long time coming..   We arrived at the Balloon Fiesta a few days early to join up with the Escapees’ group,  a first time with that club.   Our area was at the extreme south end of the Balloon Fiesta RV camping lot.   Really it’s just a big dirt lot that we were told in prior era was the Albuquerque dump.   There were a lot of plastic pipes strategically placed sticking up a few inches for someone to open and monitor what was going on below.   When we received the park rules prior to arriving, I was wondering about the rule where it was a requirement to keep your generator or BBQ two feet off the ground.   Now, with the understanding of potential methane seepage from the ground, it all made sense.

You couldn’t believe how close everyone was parked to each other!   Our spots were 20′ wide, but they seemed much smaller.   We lucked out as the coach to our right (passenger side) decided to park way over to the right of their space, giving us about 4 extra feet of space on that side.   I had folded our outdoor carpet so we didn’t go past our space’s sideline; but when the next motorhome pulled in a few days later, I went back and stretched our carpet back out to its full width and still had a couple more feet of room for the patio.

We also got to get some real world testing of the new solar panels,  installed just prior to heading to this event.   They worked better than expected except for a lot of nuisance tripping of the 50 amp breakers I had installed.   Those breakers just weren’t up to the task and kept tripping at around 30 amps of power going into the batteries.  I had a difficult time finding new flush mount circuit breakers while here in ABQ, but eventually found some in stock at an unlikely place called Sportsman’s Warehouse.   Turns out, what I needed was also used for trolling motors and were found in the fishing department of the store.   I installed them and the tripping issue disappeared.  The only problem I found with the new breakers was I could not manually trip them.  So I ordered a new  Bussmann CB185-60 breaker from Amazon when we got home.  These have a way to manually trip them when I want to disconnect the panels from the batteries.

Anyway, back to the Balloon Fiesta.    Our group had a tent where they served breakfast and dinner most of the days we were there.   As the balloons go up starting at dawn, the breakfast serving began at 5am.   Very early for a retired guy to be awake.   But we did make it for about 1/2 the morning breakfasts,  or at least I did.  🙂

. The opening day of the fiesta we took the shuttle bus over to the field.  Thankfully the buses have a road of their own to travel back and forth from the campground to the launch field.  If they didn’t, it might have taken hours to get there.  The traffic was astonishing for that time of the morning,  everyone trying to drive there in their cars at the same time.

We walked onto the field.  It was utter chaos, there were so many people packed around hundreds of balloons trying to inflate and many others already inflated.  I have never seen anything like it.   It was like some of the old music festivals I attended back in the day, there would be 1/2 a million folks on a large field.   This felt like that plus the hundreds of balloons in different states of getting ready to fly.

Then the balloons started to take off in two’s and three’s and then many more were going up at the same time.  It’s an awesome sight to see from below.   All around us were flight “zebras” blowing loud whistles letting the balloon pilots know when it’s safe to take off as the pilots cannot see anything above them due to the very large bag of hot air above them.  I guess it could be disastrous if they rose quickly into another balloon.

We took so many pictures and videos, I filled up my phone the first morning; so when we got back, I pulled them all off including all the other photos and videos to make room for lots more to be taken during the next 10 days.

If only the pictures did justice to the experience.   There were just so many balloons taking off, it was truly a spectacular sight.   I especially liked the special shapes.  I think my favorite were the three honey bees that appeared to be holding hands during their inflation.   They were a mom, dad and baby bee.  The pilots were so skillful they were able to rotate the mom and dad to make them kiss just prior to liftoff.

The Wells Fargo Stagecoach balloon was fantastic, but we never saw it fly.  Seems they just inflate it, but as far as I know it never took off any of the days.   Yoda and Darth Vader were very cool and appeared together often.  There was a large stork and a giant statue from the mountains above Rio.   My guess is there were close to 100 special shape balloons.   The big green boot was probably the oddest of the bunch.

A few of the mornings and evenings there was a lot of wind out here in the desert and the balloons didn’t fly in those conditions.  Luckily the festival has an app for your phone that lets you know what is happening so you don’t traipse over to the field at O’Dark Thirty on a morning that proves to be too windy to fly.   There were lots of other things going on next to the field after the flights, one being a chainsaw carving tournament.   After the Fiesta was over and while we were camped at the Cummins dealer, I met one of the chainsaw carvers as their coach was having turbocharger issues.

Most of the days we chose to bring our chairs over to the edge of the field next to the Escapees tent where lots of balloons end up landing when the wind was just right.    From there you can get a better perspective of the amount of balloons flying at the same time.   They told us there were 555 balloons going up.   I didn’t count them, but it looked like there were more than that.

One of the days we were over there, a balloon came back down onto the takeoff field at a very fast clip.   The zebras were frantically blowing their whistles and running around to clear out all the people from the emergency landing area before it could make its hard landing on someone’s head.   It came down with a loud thud and I didn’t see anyone get hit.  Had someone been under there, I bet there would have been a lot of broken bones to deal with.   As it was, I was wondering how the folks on board that gondola fared.   We didn’t stick around to see if any ambulances arrived, but I didn’t hear any sirens as we continued to wander around the field.

We dry camped there for 12 days, our longest boondocking so far.  When we arrived at the campground, it was very warm in the afternoons; but within a few days, the weather became quite brisk early in the mornings.  A few days it didn’t get much over 50 degrees the whole day; and a couple of the days it rained, and we got to experience some thunder and lightning.   As you know if you’ve read our past blog entries, that’s not something we get to experience much living in San Diego!

Each night after the balloon Glows there was a sky diving team dropped above the field that somehow shot off fireworks as they descended.  I had seen smoke used at other events but never fireworks.   I’m not quite sure how they were doing that, but I would imagine that it could easily go very wrong for them.  After they landed on the field, a few minutes later there were 15-20 minutes of fireworks shot off from the launch field.  We brought our chairs over to the club tent and watched them with the 30 or so Escapees members.

The last day of the event was too windy for the balloons to launch and almost too cold for a couple of San Diegans!   Everyone in the campground, about a thousand RV’s, were supposed to vacate before 11am unless you made prior arrangements to stay one more night there.   I was thinking about doing that till the weather forecast predicted “snow” for late Sunday and Monday.     I had called a bunch of local campgrounds to find a place to stay, but no one had a spot available.  Seems like quite a few of the RV’s leaving the balloon fiesta campground on Sunday morning weren’t traveling very far.

We got out of the campground around 10am and were pleasantly surprised there weren’t any issues on the roadways or even much of a line to get thru the traffic signal at the entrance.   Within a few minutes we were pulling into the local Cummins dealer’s parking lot about 6 miles south of the fiesta grounds and there wasn’t another coach in sight.  I had been wondering if it would be packed due to all the campgrounds in the area being full.   I will need to keep these types of places in mind when needing electric hookups during future travels.  We already posted  about our troubles with the coach during this trip.

Next post should be about our visit to the Petroglyph National Monument.

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking Bad props..

While we were camped at the local Albuquerque Cummins dealer awaiting our new radiator to come in we ran across the breaking bad motorhome in Old Town.

We snapped a few pics, I especially liked the bullet holes in the door covered over with duct tape.  Afterward we decided to go find the car wash from the show.   I was curious to see if the cash was still there.

I couldn’t believe how large that car wash was.  It was massive!  I’m pretty sure you could fit a Saturn 5 rocket in there with room for a space shuttle or two.

I looked all around while we were in Albuquerque but never saw Bryan Cranston or even Mike in his old Chrysler.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings

On the early morning drive from Silver City to the National Monument, Kathy remarked that this might be a disappointment after the other spectacular cliff dwellings we visited last year.    It took an hour and a half to drive the 44 miles to the park.  Most of the roads were 25 mph due to how narrow and windy with lots of sheer drop-offs.

We visited the visitor center to get a map and also to upgrade my metal water bottle to a nice plastic one with the Gila Logo.   It was much lighter than the metal one I had brought.    Afterward we drove to the trail-head and talked with the ranger about what to expect on the trail.   The first thing you cross is a fairly large metal bridge over the Gila River.    The trail is a loop, and the ranger said to take the first left to go up the valley.

We started out early in the morning as it was predicted to be in the high 80’s that day.   We were pleasantly surprised that 2/3rds of the hike up was in the shade and a perfect temp for a hike up a hill.   Then we came to the switchbacks and of course they were in full sun.   Lots of steps carved into the rocks, probably only about 180′ vertical, but in the sun it felt a lot longer.   We took advantage of a couple of strategically placed benches in the shade going up the rock face.

Once we got to the first opening, there was a small staircase to get up inside.  Obviously it wasn’t there when these were occupied.  The site was spectacular and really a lot more fun as we got to climb in and around the whole place.  The other sites we visited  last year were highly regulated where you could not get too close to the outside, let alone go in them.     So I was not “disappointed” at all.

The brickwork wasn’t as nice as the Cliff Palace, but being able to touch it was pretty cool.

 

The inside of the dwelling felt like it was air conditioned, a perfect place to live in the summer months.   The roof of the biggest chamber was black with soot making me wonder what it might have been like to breathe in there when fires were going.   I bet no one with asthma lived in there.

We wandered all around and went into a few of the rooms that were easy to get in.  One of them had a mural painted and some carving into the adobe bricks.   The mural was difficult to see, but if you got the right angle to the sunshine, you could just make it out.   Probably the first American wallpaper!

After we thoroughly explored the place, we climbed down the ladder to finish the loop trail back to the trail head.   This part of the trail was completely in the sun and by this time it was around noon, so it was toasty.  Luckily it was all downhill, except it was much steeper (shorter distance back)  and was stairs most of the way.   Pretty slippery going.   By the time we got all the way down to the bridge, my knee was starting to bark at me.  (Almost a year healed from spraining the MCL).

On the way back we took another route that we had passed the junction maybe 10 miles prior to the park.   It looked like a much better road but was about 10 miles longer to get back.    It was a good choice although Kathy wasn’t so sure.   There were some gorgeous homesteads/ranches along that way.  We hadn’t seen anything like them on the way up.

Just prior to the turnoff to the different road back, I pulled over and let some cars pass us, one beautiful convertible Porsche and a gaggle of BMW motorcycles behind the cars.

On the road back we passed a huge open pit mine with its overlook fenced off.   Not sure what was up with that.   It also had an out-of-place overpass built across the highway.  Apparently the large mining trucks needed to get to the other side was my best guess.

Just prior to the turn off to the RV park, I saw the same BMW motorcycles heading the opposite direction.  So the extra 10 miles on the better road we went on the way back  had about the same travel time!

 

 

Boise, Freak Alley, Warhawk Museum, Snake River and Vicinity.

We arrived in Caldwell, Idaho, in the early afternoon Sunday and got the couch set up to live in.   It was over 100 when we got there and it got hotter as it got later.   We drove over to Susan and Jeff’s house in the late afternoon and had a great dinner with the family.

Monday morning I booked campsites for Winnemucca,  Carson City, and Lone Pine,  for the drive home.   Still need to make a rez for somewhere near the Cajon Junction, but I never did make one as we just wanted to get home and not cook another day in the desert.

We then drove over to see Jeff’s construction site.  It was a huge project with 22 large apartment buildings, 290 units, way larger than what I was thinking.    We went out for burgers at a place called Famous Dave’s.  I had never heard of him, so maybe he isn’t as famous as he thinks.   After lunch we dropped Jeff at his office and we headed over to the capitol building, which was gorgeous inside with all the white marble, then the Old Penitentiary and Botanical Gardens.

 

 

 

The riverfront park or Boise Greenspace,  as it is called here, is pretty incredible with its 25 or so miles of pathways for walkers and bikers next to the Snake River.  There were lots of folks in rafts and tubes floating by while we were there.

After hanging in the shade of the Greenspace for a while, I wanted to drive down to the basalt cliffs southwest of town, but I missed the turn and stumbled on a very large earthen dam on the Snake River just a few miles from Boise before we could find a place to make a U-Turn.  It was complete with a hydroelectric power station.  We drove over the top to the boat launch area.   It was a big lake with lots of power boats pulling kids on rafts and tubes at high speed.

On the way up to the top of the dam, we spied a large cove at the bottom with a big water jet spraying up maybe 50 feet in the air and lots of people all around on kayaks, rafts and tubes trying to keep cool in the high heat of the afternoon.   We drove down there, but ended up turning around as all the signs said no pets allowed.   As we got close to the kiosk at the gate, one of the signs even said no pets allowed in the car either.    So we turned around and drove back toward the cliffs I had come to see in the first place.    Just prior to the turnoff for the cliffs, I spotted a small dam, so I stopped to take a look at it.   Kathy wouldn’t get out of the car it was so toasty outside.  She stayed in the air conditioning and I walked over to it in the sweltering heat.

We also found a diversionary dam further back the way we came.   It appears to take some of the water from downstream of the dam and divert it into irrigation canals.   We snapped a few pics of the basalt cliffs and headed back into town to find Freak Alley.   Kathy told me it was closed today, but that sounded a bit odd to me.  How would they close an alley?    It turned out to be one of the most interesting places in Boise.   What Kathy had read was closed was a place called Freak Alley Gallery, a store next to one of the entrances to the alley.

It was a great place to spend twenty minutes walking thru and looking at all the crazy paintings on the building walls.  There are some excellent artists’ paintings there.  The alley is about two blocks long.  I am sure my pictures won’t do it justice, but if you are ever in Boise, it’s a must see.

 

On Tuesday I headed out alone to see  the Warhawk Museum.   On the way I mapped out a much needed car wash for the toad.   To my surprise, it took a long time to find an actual full-service car wash.   Each “full-service” spot I drove to was self service, but included some free time on the vacuums. Appears that is what they call “full service” here in Idaho.   I had almost given up when I happened to drive past what looked like a regular car wash.   Pulled in and it was!    They did a great job getting all the dead bugs off the front of the car.   Now that I think of it,  we hadn’t washed it since leaving home.    The interesting part of the car wash was the gas station, regular gas was $3.35 a gallon and next door to them regular gas was $2.91.  That’s a pretty large difference for two name brand stations next to each other.

BTW,   I wanted a full-service place since it was about 106 degrees outside.

The Warhawk Museum is a small place crammed full of stuff from WWII.  Planes, vehicles and small vignettes with personal stories of GI’s.  The most amazing thing I saw in the museum was a glider from the D Day invasion force.  I didn’t know any had survived, and from the looks of this one, it may be the only one.  It was in pretty bad shape but really gave you a sense of how small and vulnerable to gunfire they were.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sure hope it’s a lot cooler back in San Diego as we should be there in less than a week!  (It wasn’t)

Heading for Winnemucca (the armpit of hell it turns out) in the morning.

Craters of the Moon and the Arco Idaho area

We left Dillon, MT, and headed south on the I-15 freeway till we hit Dubois, Idaho, where we turned right for the long desolate trip over to Arco, Idaho.   We passed a lot of nothing for most of the way there; but then coming over a small hill stretching out before us were a lot of green fields, obviously irrigated, in extreme contrast to mostly brown everywhere around it.   Eastern Idaho is similar to eastern Washington:  basically a desert with some irrigated areas.

We got to Arco. and as we drove thru the town, I spotted a conning tower from a nuclear attack submarine with the hull number 666 on it.   That was a pretty strange site since we hadn’t seen a drop of water anywhere near there.   We drove thru the small town, and on the other side we found our destination, Mountain View RV Park.   I went inside to register and it smelled very good in the office.   Turns out it’s also a restaurant open for dinner on weekends specializing in smoked baby back ribs.

We registered and pulled the coach into our campsite to deploy.  It was rather hot in Arco, so the first thing that got hooked up was the 50 amp cable to power both the A/C’s to get the heat under control.

After we were finished setting up, I mapped a route to EBR-1, the local nuclear reactor/museum 20 miles east of the town that was built around 1949-1951.  Harry Truman, the sitting president was there for its dedication.  It was the first reactor  built to generate electricity.   It was successful and generated about 300 KW.   It used what I thought was an odd system to keep the reactor cool,  liquid metal, not water. basically sodium and potassium that was pumped around by magnetic pumps mounted on the outside of the pipes which seemed ingenious.  If they broke you didn’t need to dissemble the piping to fix them.

We followed the signs to a single building way off in the distance with nothing else to be seen in the surrounding area.    As we drove up, there was an ambulance and fire truck.   Not the best sign when arriving.   The firemen were just hanging around talking to the young women working there, from what I could tell.   Probably not much to do out here for them unless there is a fire,  which didn’t seem to be a problem this day.

We just happened to get there as a reactor tour was about to start.  It was very fascinating to see a decommissioned nuclear power plant up close and personal like this.   Standing on top of the reactor vessel and looking down inside,  it is filled with concrete now.  Something I learned while there was this was also a breeder reactor, it made plutonium too.   They used that plutonium in another reactor designed to run from plutonium to make power.   If you are ever in the area, you must stop and take a tour.  They are free and well worth the time to drive a bit out of your way to see it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning there was smoke in the air.   We got an early start to visit the Craters of the Moon National Monument as it was supposed to be very hot again today.   The park was about 20 miles west of town.  As we drove out of the campground, we were wondering where all the smoke in the air was coming from.  Kathy was told it was coming from the fires in Northern California by a ranger at the visitor center, but I thought it was more likely coming from the large fires a bit north of Boise, as they were due west and much, much closer.

We drove into the park and picked up a map.   It was another $20 saved by the park pass we bought last year for $10.   All the roads inside this park were newly paved and in excellent shape.   Pretty much a first for that.  The area you can drive is a short loop, about 7 miles, and the overlooks were pretty cool, but you have to remember this is an ancient lava field.   Nothing has happened here in many millennia.    We took lots of pictures, but for all intents and purposes, it was a bit underwhelming to me.

But there were a couple cool spots,  the splatter cones and hillsides of miniature buckwheat plants that appear to have been planted on some sort of grid system.    It was still fairly early in the morning but was well on its way to being 102 degrees when we got there.

On the way back, we stopped by the conning tower in Arco and noticed on a large cliff face above the town lots of numbers painted on the stone cliffs.  Turns out they are the work of each year’s high school class.  The graduating class climbs up there and paint their years number.    Whatever happened to S mountain…  Hey,  that’s our blog’s namesake,  S mountain,  aka Cowles Mountain.

 

Kathy spotted the most oddly painted motel off to the right of the park hosting the conning tower so we had to take some pictures of that too.

Arco is a quirky little berg.    Oh, and Arco is the first town in the world to have been powered by nuclear energy.    That appears to be its claim to fame.    The Idaho National Laboratory is located 20 or so miles west and they are responsible for all the research on our country’s nuclear power generation systems past, present and future.

We had a pretty good dinner at the campground restaurant,  smoked baby back ribs were their specialty.  It wasn’t Phil’s ribs, but they were pretty good.   Especially considering we were in a “hole in the wall” town in the middle of nowhere.

Tomorrow we head for Boise!

Fort Flagler and Mystery Bay

After a leisurely morning, we drove over toward Indian Island and then onto Morrowstone Island and Fort Flagler.    On the way we spotted a large government facility that turned out to be the Naval Weapons Arsenal.   There were miles of tall chain-link fence topped with Constantino wire.   Not long after that we drove by signs for Mystery Bay and thought we should check that out on the way back.

First thing we saw upon entering the park were deer eating their way across a small field.  Then we found a great little beach with a large quantity of driftwood.

After wandering on the beach for a bit and spotting a few shells and smooth pebbles, we headed toward one of the old battery’s.   This has been the first battery that actually had artillery pieces on their mounts.   They were small 3″ guns.    There were quite a few other battery’s on that point, but none of the others had their guns mounted.

Afterward we drove over to the other side of the fort, and while doing so, passed a very large concrete bunker system that was probably where the generals would hide during a battle.   It was buried deep in the woods away from the water.    Once we reached the other side, there was a very nice campground and another beach with lots of kids playing.   From there you could see Port Townsend across the water and a huge crane apparatus over on Indian island apparently for loading the Navy ships with ammunition.

On the way out, we turned down the road to Mystery Bay.   I saw nothing indicating why it was called that, but it was a nice county park that had a long dock for tying up your boat.   The signs stated you can tie up there for up to 3 days.   Now that’s pretty cool.  There was even a picnic table on the floating dock.   I cannot ever remember seeing a picnic table on a boat dock,  to bad we didn’t bring a picnic basket.

On the ride back we spotted a Mexican restaurant and looked it up on Google.  Had high ratings from hundreds of reviews.   We were very glad we stopped by for dinner.  It was really good Mexican food!

 

A visit to Port Townsend

Nice small town where the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Puget Sound meet.  We drove the 12 or so miles from our campsite to the tip of the peninsula driving thru Fort Worden so we could check out the Pt. Wilson Lighthouse.   It wasn’t open to the public, but we were able to walk right up to it and around the property to snap some pics.

It looked like it was in a lot better shape in the pictures that Google brings up when searching, so they must be fairly old now.    It’s located on a pretty spot on the point that separates the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the Puget Sound.

While we walked around, a fairly large ship rounded the corner and, in what seemed like just a minute or two, was barely visible in the distance down the Sound.   After we had taken too many pictures, we headed back toward the town.

While traversing this large hill between the fort and the town, we came upon a beautiful home overlooking the Sound with a really whimsical low brick wall snaking its way between the trees and the road.   We had to turn around and go back to look at it.   The home itself was a slightly modern take on a craftsman home with the great woodwork and amazing leaded windows, but that fence was like nothing I had ever seen.    I thought I could live there with the great view and high up off the water.   It was for sale; but when we looked it up on Zillow, they are asking 2.5 million…   Not sure our house in SD would qualify as the 20% down for it, so we moved on.

A few minutes later we were in downtown Port Townsend.   We found a place to park across from a waterfront park where we decided to have our picnic lunch.   No picnic benches were to be found, so we ended up sitting on a bench that was on a pier over the water.  Not bad but a table would have been a bit nicer.   We watched all the boats go by and also the large vehicle ferry coming back from Whidbey Island then a little bit later head back.

After lunch we headed down the main street to look at all the Victorian era architecture with Kathy looking inside all the buildings for their wares.   The buildings where great, and some of the old advertising was just visible enough on the side walls to tell what was being sold back in the day.   I also found the fireman’s bell tower while walking down one of the side streets.

We stumbled across a Victoria Era Steampunk shop.   That was a trip to see all the cool stuff.      They even had a lot of wooden ships’ mastheads that I couldn’t tell if they were old or just recreations.  They were great though.

We sauntered over to the ferry landing to pick up a schedule and check out the workings for our next journey to Seattle via a different ferry on Bainbridge Island.    But that’s for another post.

We left the ferry landing and walked up the other side of the street in the direction of the car.   Lots of pubs and shops along the way.   We did find another waterfront park with picnic tables, but the park at the north end of the town was much nicer and much more wide open, not just a vacant lot between two buildings like this one.

As we got closer to the car, we found an ice cream shop, and while Kathy was inside getting our order, I snapped this picture of a building I wouldn’t want to be in when the big quake hits here in the not to distant future.   It’s still hard for me to imagine they only found the Cascadia Fault in the late 90’s and are just barely telling folks about the overdue 9.0 quake on the Oregon and Washington coastal areas.    They have put up a lot of Tsunami Evacuation Route signs here in Washington.   On the coast of Oregon, there were lots of entering and leaving Tsunami zones, but the Evac route signs were few and far between.    The powers that be probably think it would hurt tourism and/or population centers for folks to start seriously thinking about that.

The sun went behind the clouds as we were heading north, and I wished I had brought my windbreaker with me.   Sort of got a bit chilly on this July afternoon.   We found the car and drove back to the campground to plan a trip for tomorrow.

Heading over the huge bridge to Long Beach “Island”

We set out on Thursday morning for points north of Astoria, basically on the other side of the Columbia via that huge bridge on the edge of town.   It’s an odd setup, the bottom of the bridge is probably 300′ above the roadway below it.  The approach to the bridge is this big steep circular loop, like nothing I have experienced before.  The funny part, as we were climbing this circular roadway that reminds me of the mousetrap game when I was a kid, there was a 55 MPH sign.   It was so steep and curved, 55 seemed ludicrous!   We finally made it to the entrance of the bridge and went up and over this mighty structure, then steeply down the other side to a 4-mile-long causeway maybe 10′ above the water the rest of the way till you got near the other shore where there was another 3-truss bridge section, but that one was only 50′ or so above the water line.

We then headed up the 101 toward Long Beach and parts north.   I had expected lots of views along the way, but that proved to be incorrect as it was like driving thru a heavily wooded forest all the way to the northern tip.   Once there we realized we needed a Washington State Discover Pass and we didn’t own one nor did we know how to obtain one.   So instead of finding a place to eat a picnic lunch, we turned around and headed for the ocean hoping to find a spot.  We did find an ornate gate in a very secluded area on the way into the park and took a picture on the way out.   We also found another gate later, and I assume it may be the other side, based on where we were.

What we found was the oddest area I had ever seen near Oysterville.   Miles and miles of small bungalows with many undeveloped lots in between them housing trailers and motor homes on them with folks camping on them.    It’s like you buy property there to summer vacation in your RV; and then when you save enough money, you build a home on that same property.

We never found a place to pull over for a picnic and ended up in a small town named Ocean Park (sans any park)  and pulled into a parking lot to eat a late lunch.  Afterward we headed south to Long Beach.  All along the way we saw more of the bungalows and small lots with RV’s on them.  There is always something odd on our adventures.  We looked over and a guy was riding a bike and had his golf clubs on a hand cart hooked to the back of his bike.  Ingenuity at its best!

We arrived in Long Beach and found an ice cream shop, parked, went inside and found approximately 50 people in line for a cone.   We walked out and down a long road out toward the beach with the sign about the longest beach in the world.   It was a really long walk out to the end and a bit cool heading out there.  There were also a lot of port-a-cans lined up out there, probably still there from the 4th of July.  The sand goes way out and people drive their cars out there and park!

We found a sign listing all the shipwrecks off the beach and there were lots of them, about 200!!    We walked back toward the town thinking about that ice cream again; but when we got back, I decided to walk along the main tourist street.  Zillions of little shops, Fun Land, and restaurants on both sides of the street.    We did the whole stretch and back and hoped when we got back to the ice cream shop, the line would be shorter.    We got there, and the line was longer.   No ice cream for us today!

We proceeded to head further south to find the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.   We found the parking area, and again there were all the signs about not parking there without your pass displayed; so we headed out to find the other lighthouse that’s not far from it.   We found that one and there was a kiosk to buy the pass there.   But of course the kiosk was broken.    We decided to park there anyway, and a bunch of the other folks there said they didn’t have a pass either, so we winged it and walked out the trail to find the North Head Lighthouse.

It wasn’t very far, with a gorgeous view along the way there.   We took a few pics and headed back to the car as it was getting late in the day.   We drove out of the park and found the 101 to head back over the huge bridge and to the RV park.    Along the way I noticed a Mexican restaurant very close to the campground.    When we got back, I suggested Mexican for dinner.    That was a hit and I drove back for take-out.

A long day that ended with a pretty decent Mexican dinner!

 

Astoria, Oregon

After arriving at the Lewis & Clark Golf & RV Park, we settled in.  This park also got kudos from Kathy,  everything was shiny and meticulously kept up.    I even saw one of the ladies from the office cleaning one of the registration parking signs along their driveway.   I had read they might be the Dog Nazis here and the review was probably correct.   They really take pride in their facility so they have a lot of rules.

Our campsite is a pull-in spot overlooking a river and on the other side the golf course.   There is a wide mowed grass area between us and the river.    Quite a picturesque place to camp, and they clearly understood what RV’s need:  the hookups were correctly placed to point the coach at the pretty view.   Most places we’ve stayed do not appear to understand that concept.

 

 

I checked and our elevation is only 7′ above sea level, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that the Cascadia Fault won’t let go while we are camped here.   I should probably look for the Tsunami evac signs today so I know which way to run if it does!!  🙂

We drove into town the next morning looking for the riverfront trolley, but we passed it and couldn’t go back due to a large traffic jam in that direction.   We decided to head up to the Astoria Column that we could see from the riverfront on a large hilltop.   They have some incredibly steep roads here.  We heard they were the steepest roads in the country except for Lombard Street in SF,  except these roads go straight up the hill and not switch-backs like Lombard is.    I saw one bicyclist going down the hill, and he must have been going 70 mph and wasn’t even close to being half way down yet.   That must have been a wild ride!   Hopefully his bike had the disk brakes some have.    The type on my bike wouldn’t make a dent on that speed when he needs to stop.

 

We arrived at the top of the hill and it was a spectacular view from up there.    You could see down to the town,  across the river and all the way to the ocean.   You could also see a very large river on the south side of the hill that joins the Columbia at the west end of town.   I wanted to climb the tower but thought better of it when I remembered my knee is not fully healed from the MCL sprain last fall, so I just took pictures of it.

There were 164 steps to get to the top!!  I thought it was neat that the little gift shop up there would sell you a balsa wood glider for $1 so you could write your name on it and sail it off the top of the tower.   The kids really seemed to love that.   You could hear them exclaiming from the top of the tower, which was about 160′ above us.

I was thinking that hilltop would be a perfect place to watch the fireworks tomorrow night,  but the last mile or so of the road getting to the top was very narrow and steep.   Probably impossible to get near there to watch the show tomorrow night.

After wandering around and enjoying an ice cream while looking at the view, we headed back down toward the riverfront to find the trolley.  The traffic jam was gone and we drove to what Google Maps told us was the place.   It was not.  It turned out to be where the trolley is stored.  So we headed off alongside the tracks to find a stop.

 

We found the westernmost stop and parked to wait for it.   It eventually got there and it was packed like a sardine can.   No one got off.  The conductor said they were heading back to the barn to change shifts and would be right back and there should be empty seats by then.   That made no sense to me as there wasn’t another stop between here and the barn and there were no cars near that barn.

They came back a few minutes later, and as I suspected, it was still filled to capacity.    The really funny part was the sign that said you should board at the rear.   The trolley was on a single track and they switched directions; so when they originally pulled up, the rear was the eastern end, and when they came back from the barn, the rear was the western end.  Maybe you just had to be there…

We got back into our car and headed eastward toward the center of the town.    As we were attempting to keep near the riverfront tracks, it dawned on me that someone mentioned its eastern terminus was at the Safeway store.   We drove there and parked then walked over to the riverfront.   About 10 minutes later, the trolley arrived and lots of folks got off.  There was now plenty of room to board.   It’s a one-hour round trip ride for a buck.  ($1)  It travels right along the riverfront the whole way.  Some of the time you are actually over the river on the boardwalk.

They provide a bit of history of the area and about all the old buildings you can see from the trolley.  They also give you a bit of trivia, like where lots of movies where shot, pointing out the places and scenes from Goonies,  Kindergarten Cop,  Free Willy, and others I had never heard of.

This trolley is electrically driven and is powered by a large diesel generator mounted on a track dolly and pulled or pushed along.   There was no way to turn the trolley around, so the motorman moved from one end to the other at each terminus.    They said that was much cheaper than building an electrical overhead system that the trolley originally used.      That reminded me that I had thought of building a small trailer with a generator to pull behind my Nissan Leaf to give it long-range capability.  🙂

The seats on the trolley had a unique feature.  Since you would want to face forward, when you got to the end of the line, everybody had to stand up and the back of your bench seat swung front to back to shift the direction you were sitting in.   We have never seen anything like that!!!

It was an enjoyable ride, but at the end you are pretty happy to get off.   It’s  a pretty bumpy, jostling ride on 100-year-old wooden seats that you will remember.   Dogs were allowed on the trolley, but Dusty was pretty scared with all the bells and clanging and air purges when the brakes were applied.  Poor thing hunkered down for most of the ride, but he behaved himself.    🙁