<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Postcards Library 30
Little Log


Stephanie is one of those persons who can fit a lot of words onto a standard size postcard -- usually by writing sideways, around corners, and even upside down if she can find some extra space. Most of these go to family and friends. But some of them -- those which document our RV adventures -- find their way onto this portion of our website.

Postcard: It Takes a Team of Rocket Scientists

September 30, 2002

We were headed to Gerlach, Nevada, and the Black Rock Desert to join our son and his family at the annual Aero-Pac rocket launch. This year, our daughter in law, Ellen, would be launching a 10 foot tall, class M rocket. When I first heard about such an endeavor, I hadn't the faintest idea what a class M rocket was, and knew very little about this sport/hobby. I since have learned that it requires a lot of work, a great deal of perseverance, a large coterie of friends, and a good grasp of math. Teamwork or no, it was Ellen's rocket and we looked forward to seeing its maiden flight.

Getting to Black Rock Desert is an adventure in itself. For the first 50 miles south of Lakeview, highway 395 skirted the large ranches of southeastern Oregon and passed close to the shores of Goose Lake. We turned east on Highway 299 and climbed into the Modoc National Forest, across Cedar Pass and down to Cedarville, CA. South of Cedarville, the road became narrow and winding, with few pullouts and no shoulders -- and stayed that way for the remaining 100 miles to Gerlach. I cringed each time an 18 wheeler passed us. Since autumn is coming, and it's time to move the cattle from higher pastures, there were a large number of these trucks, and they only had one speed setting -- fast.

This was our second trip to the Black Rock Desert, and we remembered that the road to the launch site was a few miles north of town. The turn north was completely unsigned and we missed it, only avoiding a trip to metropolitan downtown Gerlach at the last moment. We decided there's no real need for signs, as the people who actually want to go to this particular, unusual, desolate spot already know the correct route. And judging from the number of cars we saw, few people do.

The Black Rock Desert is a dry lake bed, (called "the playa"), perhaps some 40-50 miles long and 10-15 miles across. It is hard to judge distances, however. Once you are on the lake bed, everything disappears over the curvature of the earth. On the horizon are the surrounding mountains, which change colors dramatically in the early morning and again at sunset. But you see nothing closer, until you are within a mile or so of it. Nothing grows here. Just countless square miles of flat, hardpacked, cracked alkali stretching in every direction. As you drive along, your vehicle raises clouds of extremely fine dust which permeates everything, no matter how well sealed. You cannot keep it out of your rig. It gets into drawers and closets. Any imperfectly sealed storage compartments will soon accumulate their beaches inside. It gets in your clothes, and makes your hair feel sticky. And that's even when there is no wind. Why in the world would anyone want to come to this desolate spot? Because it is the best place possible to launch rockets. You won't lose your rocket on its descent, you can see it for miles. And it won't get hung up on a tree -- there aren't any.

About 10 miles northeast of Gerlach, we saw a small sign with an arrow, "Launch". We knew the launch site would be several miles out into the desert, but from the shore of "the playa" we could see nothing but endless space. At various points in the distance large plumes of dust rose skyward, revealing the location of unseen vehicles speeding over the smooth surface in seemingly random directions. But where was the actual launch site? A water truck was running back and forth, sprinkling a path out into the middle of the desert. That must be the way. We detached and prepared to explore with the jeep. Just before we started out on this damp and relatively dustless path, however, I noticed a nearby sign. "Warning. This surface is impassible when wet". We bumped over sloppy grit until I convinced Tom that dry grit was preferable to wet grit. Out into the desert we went, but saw only a few cars -- no RVs and no rockets. Stopping a BLM truck, we asked directions. The driver pointed north, "didn't you see the convoy?". We hadn't seen anything resembling a convoy, but had been passed by one truck and trailer. Maybe that driver knew where he was going. Back we went toward the rig, and as we approached it, we noticed a small orange pylon. Driving toward it, we saw another, perhaps a half mile away. When we reached that one, we found still another. Aha! This must be the "path" into the playa leading to the launch site.

For about 7 miles we drove across the flatness of the lake bed and saw nothing -- though the widely spaced pylons seemed to beckon us on. Just as I thought this was another misdirection, and we would never find the launch site, something odd appeared on the horizon. At first I believed I saw some large trucks driving along a highway on the hills dozens of miles away. But I knew there wasn't any highway there. Then these "trucks" stopped moving and I began to resemble huge boulders. Soon these "boulders" appeared to be floating just above the surface of a large lake. (I knew that was an illusion). Next some of them developed wheels, and became RVs. At that moment, right above them, a rocket streamed into the air, trailing a spectacular plume of white smoke. We had arrived!

As we drove up to the gathering, I was astounded we hadn't seen it before. At least 100 RVs of every type and description, (a large percentage being rental units!), were gathered in a semi-circle facing the launch area . Where an RV in a "normal" park might fly a colorful windsock, these RVs showed off their rockets. Tall skinny ones, shorter fatter ones, painted in imaginative colors, sporting names like "Barracuda", "Thor", and "Gladiator". I especially appreciated one name -- one rocketeer, possibly realizing how expensive and time consuming a hobby this can be, had named his rocket, "Brick Shy of a Full Load". Tents bloomed between RVs and vans. Cars were backed up to a blue rope marking the launch area from the spectator area, and had opened their cargo compartments. These were jammed with containers of all sizes and shapes, and all contained rocket components. We found our kids, with the Dodge dually and camper equally crammed with an astounding assortment of rocket equipment. There was Ellen's "Car #6", Tom Jr.'s "Pinky" (from Pinky and the Brain), boxes of rocket equipment and a smaller rocket for our grandson, Tommy. I was surprised to see they had enough room left even to use the refrigerator and stove.

On the other side of the blue rope were the launch pads. These are bases with thin upright metal rods. Each rocket has guides along one side, and is guided upward along these rods as it blasts off. Two rows of these launch pads, the first set back about 100 yards, the next some 200 yards behind that are set out in the desert. Well behind them, some 1000 yards or more from the spectators, are three other launch sites -- these for the most powerful rockets. Which rockets are assigned to which line is not determined by how high they will fly, as I originally thought, but on much propellant they use. The rockets are ranked by letters of the alphabet, with each double the propellant of the one before. Thus, A is the smallest, B is twice A and so on. I was intrigued to learn that NASA's space program rockets are designated "XX".

Safety is a big concern here. Every rocket is checked out by several experts before being allowed to launch. A sign posted prominently near the entry table is decorated with a skull showing a rocket through its empty eye socket. It reads, "Danger! Hazardous Activities in Progress. You are here at your own risk and peril. Be aware of what's going on around you." Before each launch, the announcer scans the sky and announces, "the sky is clear, the ground is clear, we are ready for takeoff". Then the countdown begins. Nearby airports are made aware of the activities here, as a few of these rockets may attain heights of several miles. And 12-14,000 feet is not unusual.

I became aware of the possible danger almost immediately as I walked along behind the blue rope. One rocket got only 100 feet or so above the ground when it went into convulsions, spinning out of control and showering propellant sparks everywhere before it finally exploded. Several spectators, myself included, jumped for cover. Last weekend, a Q rocket, set more than 1000 yards away from the spectators, failed in its flight, blowing itself into small pieces, burning propellant everywhere. An S was launched recently, aimed at space. It was tracked by the airports of Portland, SF and SLC. The nearby Union Pacific railroad delayed its schedule. The rocket failed to get high enough to enter space.

Explosions aren't the only danger here. Should a rocket's parachutes not deploy correctly, it can fall to earth fast and hard. Occasionally the announcers would yell into the loudspeakers, "Heads up to the east (or west). Rocket coming in hard!"

Despite any dangers, the area was swarming with people. I estimated well over 500 people were here, adults working on their rockets, kids on bikes and ATVs, racing around on the flat, cracked ground. Someone had arrived in a private plane, using the desert floor as the world's largest landing strip. As the expected afternoon wind came up, several kites were launched, and one person was land sailing on a board with wheels and a sail. Lawn chairs were set out for launch viewing. Tables were set up along the spectator side of the blue rope, with vendors selling rocket parts, pieces of fusilage, paints for decorating the rockets, even one large pile of what looked to me like a varied selection of nuts and bolts. There was an area where you could get cold drinks, hot dogs and hamburgers. But most people were here to work on their own rockets, or to help with the rockets of their team.

I was surprised at the amount of work it takes to get ready for launch. Teamwork is critical. Ellen had to pack the propellant into her rocket, grease all necessary parts, and carefully load the parachutes so they would open at just the right time. As she prepared her rocket, she had several fellow rocketeers gathered around her, offering advice, but she did the actual work. Tom Jr., had set up a computer inside the rocket that would record all the vital statistics -- how high it went, at what height the 'chutes deployed, and a graph of its actual flight. All this information would be shown on a computer screen when the rocket was recovered. A second component inside the body of the rocket would broadcast a radio signal during the flight. The signal would be picked up by an antenna temporarily attached to the top of the Dodge, and fed into a laptop as the flight progressed. The raw data from this signal would somehow be converted into graphs and charts that would show things like climb rate, speed, G force, altitude, etc.

When you start launching rockets, you need no special certification until you want to launch a rocket using a rocket motor rated "H" or larger. By the time you get to "M", you need a level three, (the highest) certification. That was what Ellen was after that Saturday morning. The back of the pickup truck was loaded with a sling to hold the rocket body, and the rest of the truck was packed with people to help get it onto the launch pad. Out they drove into the desert, about 1000 yards from the spectators to the area reserved for the most powerful rockets. We watched using our binoculars as they got this behemoth onto the pad. Once prepared, they drove a safe distance away.

"Ellen Gonser, level 3 certification flight. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 ,1, Ignition," boomed the loudspeaker. Nothing happened. (We later learned the control tower thought Ellen would push the button to ignite the rocket; and she thought they would.) Everyone waited -- there's no going back to see if everything's OK -- and then the countdown began again. This time there was a loud roar and the rocket took off on a perfect flight. In a fraction of a second it was almost out of sight overhead -- but Tom managed to catch it just as it started its ascent...

For several seconds we could hear the loud roar of the rocket engine as it raced skyward, visible only by following the billowing trail of smoke. Propelled at nearly the speed of sound when the fuel had been exhausted, it continued skyward for several seconds, though now completely invisible from such a distance. There was complete silence as everyone's attention was rivited directly overhead, waiting for what hopefully would come next -- a puff of smoke that would eject a parachute just after the rocket had reached peak altitude and started its fall back to earth. A cheer went up as what appeared to be a tiny white dot (the parachute) deployed at precisely the right time. Over the loudspeaker came the words "Great flight, Ellen!". For several minutes the rocket drifted in the upper winds in a southerly direction, the truck now taking chase towards its anticipated landing. When its descent from its onboard instrument recording of 14,200 feet above the ground reached precisely 1200 feet, another puff of smoke and a larger chute deployed. Now the rocket descended more slowly to a soft landing on the playa -- entirely unscathed from its journey and ready to fly again on another day.

It was great to see the camaraderie that exists among the rocketeers -- how they can all cheer for each other when there is a successful flight, and share the grief when one goes wrong. There seems no sense of competition, and cooperation is the order of the day. After Ellen's flight, before she and Tom, Jr. returned to the camper to see what statistics the computer would show, they took the engine casing (they're in very short supply) to another camp, to be reloaded and used in another rocket. Then they came back to celebrate a successful launch at Black Rock Desert.

About noon we headed back to Junipers Reservoir RV park. The jeep and the coach were badly in need of washing, and we were due in Junction City for a day or so early next week. The Aero-Pac rocket launch was an fascinating experience, and one we'll do again. But perhaps there's a place where you can launch without getting so thoroughly gritty?

Postcard: Our Ol' Stompin' Grounds

September 26, 2002

We have a new agenda. In a week, we will be in the Black Rock Desert, watching a group of dedicated rocket launchers doing what they do best -- launching rockets. With this change in our plans, we altered our schedule. We would not go east into Montana and then south into the Salmon River country, but south down Highway 95. And south just happened to fit perfectly. Football Saturday was coming up, and we knew just the place where Tom could watch the games and I could try out the golf course. We were off to the Water's Edge RV Resort, in Cascade, ID.

This is a very special park for us. We love its setting, right on the banks of the North Fork of the Payette River, where Tom has found some good trout fishing. We enjoy the friendliness of Katrin and Ashley Johnson, the early morning summer "health" (and gossip) walks, and the Saturday morning cinnamon rolls. Missy loves the dog walk along the river, where she can run free without our worrying about traffic. Cascade has another, special, meaning for us. We came here often when the children were small and we were living in Boise.

We moved to Idaho from the Bay Area in early 1969, and lived there until summer of 1981, when Tom became Executive Director of the American Bar Association, and we moved to Chicago. We treasured our time in Idaho, and since we have left the "Gem State", our memories have become more and more vivid. We love to go back to our ol' stompin' grounds, to the places we haven't been in years. Saturday would be dedicated to football and golf; Sunday was free to explore. Sunday would be "No Name Lake" day.

We drove north from Cascade toward the resort town of McCall. About 10 miles south of town, we turned on Farm to Market road. We drove through the almost ghost town of Roseberry, a scene from Idaho history. Old buildings, some fallen victim to blackberry vines, some restored to their turn of the (last) century state, others still occupied, line the narrow streets of town. You can almost picture a horse and buggy coming down some of the dusty lanes. A few miles further north, is an old Finnish Church and cemetery, the names and dates on the gravestones reminiscent of times gone by. Here we detoured a mile or so to look at some acreage we used to own. The land is still untouched and undeveloped, a wilderness enclave in what is rapidly becoming an area of ranchettes.

We continued north on Farm to Market until its intersection with Boulder Lake Road. When we began coming here, there was no sign to the lake, and no name at all, so we dubbed it No Name Lake. (I prefer that name to the newer one.) When we first found this lake, there was little evidence that suggested anyone even knew it existed. The road didn't show on the maps -- and neither did this small lake. In the '70s, fishing was fabulous, just troll a bolo (lure) or wooley worm at the lake's far end. If you didn't get snagged on the submerged logs here, you would certainly get a trout, and the trout were large -- 18 inches being common. The trick was getting to the lake. In only 5 miles from pavement, the road initially wound through farmlands. But in the last three miles the road became progressively steeper and deeply rutted. I remember once getting our truck stuck in these ruts and being glad for a friendly push from one of the locals. Now the lake has been discovered, and there were several cars parked along the road. While still steep, the road has been greatly improved, the ruts largely smoothed out, and 4 WD is no longer essential.

The lake still looks the same. On one end, below the earthen dam, is a small campground, just spaces in the trees large enough for a small camper or tent. A backpacking trail runs the length of the lake, and climbs ever higher into the wilderness. Today I watched 4 men come down the trail, backpacks and walking sticks at the ready. We used to do that. The lake still attracts fishermen, but while we would bring a small car top boat, today float tubes are all the rage.

In our trips to No Name lake, we had occasional afternoons when the fishing was slow. Then we would drive to another, higher lake, Louie Lake. You can still hike there, an old campground sign says it's only 2 miles. Another, newer sign states that Louie Lake is now a trophy lake, barbless hooks only may be used, and no fish smaller than 20 inches may be kept. There is no mention of any driveable road, but there used to be one. Maybe we could find it.

30+ years ago, the Louie Lake road was no more than a narrow, rutted trail. It crossed a creek, climbed through the pine trees and ended with a steep uphill drive over huge boulders. Our CJ5 could barely make it, and I remember getting out of the car and walking the last quarter mile while Tom somehow navigated the seemingly impassible final stretch of this "road". We found one possible candidate for this old road. It dipped down to Boulder Creek, continued out the far side This looked familiar. Our old jeep had crossed the creek without difficulty, today we put our Grand Cherokee to the test. It had no trouble crossing, though I was glad for 4WD. We were off to Louie Lake. But were we? Dozens of logging roads branched off in all directions, and we had no idea which road might be the one we drove so many years ago. There was also a good chance that the old road was gone. So we turned around and headed back.

As we neared Boulder Creek, a large bull elk ran across the road right in front of us and disappeared into the trees. He held his head high and back, his large rack of antlers close to his shoulders. We stopped immediately to get another glimpse of him, but he wasn't about to slow down.

The sun was nearing the western horizon as we retraced our steps to Cascade and the rig. Since we had at least one extra day available on our "schedule" for Black Rock, we decided to stay another day. We knew of a circle trip that would take us through more of the country we remembered so well from long ago, and we could go see our cabin. Although we sold the cabin more than 2 years ago, we had owned it for more than 25 years, and I was most nostalgic about it. We were so close...

No highway number marks the turn from Cascade into the Boise National Forest. You must know that Horsethief Reservoir and Warm Lake are your first destinations. Horsethief has a reputation as a good trout lake, and this Monday morning, we were the second car on the road right behind a trout stocking truck. When the trout first are put into the lake, they stay in the immediate vicinity for quite some time, and are very easy to catch. Later, they will disperse and fishing gets harder. Monday morning, a school day, when there are likely few, if any, fishermen about is an ideal time for stocking. We slowed to watch the truck drive down to the lake. Then we went on.

Warm Lake is a summer retreat for many folks from Boise. Its cabins, campgrounds, lodge and restaurant are all closed for the season by this date, so we continued down the road to the bottom of the Warm Lake grade. Here the road begins a series of steep switchbacks as it climbs into the Boise National Forest. When we used to drive the road, this road was gravel, and there was always the possibility of landslides. Now it is paved clear to the first summit. At the summit, there was a sign I remember from years past. "Hunters -- Moose may not be taken in this area. Be sure of your game". It always seemed to me that it would be hard not to recognize a male moose.

Once over the summit, we followed Tyndall Creek as it wound through a rock strewn valley. (Its interesting to note the Idanoan pronunciation of "creek". Unless you are referring to one particular creek, Silver Creek just south of Sun Valley, "creek" is always pronounced "crik". Every time.) The road was now dirt and gravel, and would stay that way all the way to Stanley, 80 miles east. Various roads led off over the hills to tiny towns (and non-towns) with wonderful names -- Yellow Pine, Landmark, Deadwood. We bumped over hills and down into valleys. We passed one man on an ATV, and one truck. There was no other traffic in one 70 mile stretch. As we drove into Bear Valley, we saw signs of the oncoming hunting season. In many areas, RVs and trucks were parked, and in several places large tents were set up. Still no people; these camps have been set up to reserve the areas. The valley is lovely in the fall, with golden velvet grasses carpeting the valley floor. and contrasting with the greens of the pines and the yellow of the hemlock on the surrounding hills.

Over one final summit, and down the grade toward the cabin. Now Missy was beginning to notice our location. As we went on she started to whimper, softly at first and then more and more loudly. We decided to find out if she actually could remember where she was. The cabin is set back about 3/4 mile from the road, on a ridge with 6 others cabins. We used to let Missy out at the road, and she would run up the hill, make a hard left turn at the appropriate spot, cross Long Creek ("crik"), and head up the last bumpy hill to the cabin. If she didn't remember any one of these turns, she could get lost. We drove behind her almost all the way, and she remembered everything, including where there was water for a thirsty dog when she arrived.

The cabin looks much as it did when we owned it, but has obviously been well looked after. There are flowers in pots around the front door, and it's in the process of being painted. I looked through one window into the main room, and saw a child's small doll on the floor. We sold it because we now live too far away to use the cabin on a regular basis. Again it's being loved as it should be. I'm glad we went back, one last time.

Now we will head southwest, into Oregon, toward Burns and Lakeview. We plan on a couple of days at one of our favorite places, Junipers Reservoir RV park, and then a trip into the Black Rock Desert. It's rocket time!

Postcard: A Case for Indecision

September 19, 2002

As Jimmy Buffett puts it, indecision may or may not be one of the problems. There are so many wonderful places to go, so many sights we haven't yet seen, that it can be very hard to decide where to go next. One winter in Arizona, we found ourselves unable to choose between travelling east to Texas, or west to southern California. We wound up driving from Tucson to Phoenix, spending a couple of days there, then driving back to Tucson -- with no decision whatever reached on going east or west.

That happened to us again on this trip. We drove from Moses Lake to Clarkston, WA, ready to go east toward the Salmon River. But which way? East over the Lolo Pass, climbing along the Lochsa River, would be a beautiful trip. Or should we go south, and then follow the Payette River east toward Stanley? An equally beautiful trip, and an equally difficult decision. So we stayed right where we were, at Granite Lake RV Resort, took the jeep and went to explore the surrounding countryside. What a good choice (or non-choice) we made!

Granite Lake is right on the shores of the Snake River, only a little below its confluence with the Clearwater River. This is one of our favorite parks; large grassy sites and the river right in front of us, and immediately adjacent to an 8 mile walk/bike trail that follows the river's edge. The locals are expecting a good steelhead run this fall. Already the far shore is lined with boats, and there is a wait at the nearby launch ramp. (I have yet to see anyone catch anything, however.) From the park, it's only a short walk to the dock where Beamers Hells Canyon tours leaves daily. A large golf range with 18 hole putting course and golf store is right next door, and tempting me mightily. And, until yesterday, there was a mysterious road which I have long wanted to travel. It starts in Pullman, WA, wends south and west to a dot on the map called Wawawai and loops back to Clarkston through two more dots -- Bishop and Wilma. We had the day, and the loop trip looked very enticing.

Taking our jeep, we spent the morning in Moscow, ID, talking with Peggy Waterman, the coordinator for the annual Life on Wheels conference held at the University of Idaho. Then we drove west to Pullman and tried to find the road to Wawawai. We saw signs to Lewiston, others to Spokane, but nothing for Wawawai. The road became more and more residential, and I was expecting to see "dead end" at any moment, when suddenly we spotted a small street sign indicating we'd just intersected with "Wawawai Road". Not a sure bet, but a welcome clue...

The road led south and west out of Pullman, crossed U.S. Highway 195, and headed into the fabled Palouse countryside. We drove past scattered farmhouses, and wide fields full of harvested hay, bundled, rolled and ready to be stacked for the winter. Standing in one field we spotted a golden eagle, but even when we slowed the car and rolled down the windows for a better glimpse, the bird did not fly. He hopped a few feet away and stopped again. Hopefully, his wings had not been injured. In another field of closely mown hay, a running pheasant caught our (and Missy's) attention.

The road spiraled down, around the rolling hills to the river and Wawawai. No town here, but a beautiful, completely empty, little campground, 9 sites under cottonwood and sumac, with a large grassy day use area with barbecues and picnic pavilions. We stopped to explore, walking down to a small lake, a backwater from the main river. As we looked out on the lake we could see multiple somethings splashing in the water. Turtles? Too far north for alligators. No fins so they couldn't be fish, or could they? Carp. Large schools of carp were milling around in the brackish water. Every so often, a pinkish mouth broke the surface of the lake.

One of the signs in the park explained that this area had been used by Native Americans dating back many centuries. The word "Wa" translates to "talk". The name is actually something like "talk-talk", and describes this place as where different tribes would meet in formal discussions. Perhaps the notion of a "conference center" is not as new as we might have imagined.

Leaving Wawawai, we followed the Down River Road up toward Lewiston. There were several pullout areas, complete with picnic tables, along this road, but most were not in use -- no fishermen either this far downstream. At one point we saw an ocean-going tug pushing a large barge, bound for some large downriver port. The river was on one side of the road, the hills of the Palouse on the other. No towns, no ranches, just country as it undoubtedly was when Lewis & Clark came this way. We never found the dot that represented Bishop, but as we neared Wilma, we realized we were almost back in civilization -- logging trucks were headed for the mill there. Across the bridge to Clarkston, to Granite Lake RV resort and home to the coach. A trip we never would have taken had it not been for indecision.

The following day had a similar start. We'd thought we'd be moving on towards Montana, but a bike ride and a trip to nearby Lewistown to have breakfast in its quaint historical district put us further into the morning hours than we'd expected. It seemed a bit late for making this a travel day; and not having really decided which route we'd be taking, we signed up for another night.

There are three generations of Toms in our family -- my Tom, our son Tom, Jr, and our grandson Tommy. The three Toms are planning a fall deer hunting trip somewhere in Washington in the next few weeks. So we decided to spend this particular day scoping out the area southwest of Clarkston. We had learned that Beamers Hells Canyon Tours will take hunters upriver for hunting. But it turns out if you have Washington licenses, river access doesn't help much. They're offerings are ideally suited for hunting in the remote upriver stretches in Oregon and Idaho, where there is no road access. They recommended we take a drive along the road south, on the Washington side of the river, and check out the farmlands and Snake River breaks. Following this advice, we went off to explore the area. We drove south along highway 129 following the Snake towards Hells Canyon. About 11 miles upriver, we turned in at the small town of Asotin. We drove up into the hills west of town, only to find that private hunting clubs own most of the available land, so retraced our steps and headed south again.

Several years ago, we had driven this area en route to the Oregon towns of Enterprise and Joseph, so we were familiar with Anatone. Anatone is such a small town that there is a sign right as you come into town telling you just how small it really is. There are 48 people, 17 cats, 18 dogs, and 21 horses in Anatone.

There are also lots of chukkar around Anatone. At one point, we stopped to let the dog run around in a recently mown hayfield. She made a large running loop -- and stopped in her tracks. A very quick point, and a charge into a thicket put up about 30 of the birds. Missy hadn't been so excited in years. With a yelp of delight, she took off after the birds, across the highway, through a barb wire fence, and out across another field. All our yelling, "Missy, HERE", did no good at all. It seemed longer, but was probably only 5 minutes or so, until we spotted her, and were able to coax her to return to the car.

As we drove south, it became obvious that here, also, the private clubs own most of the land, so we returned to Anatone, and had lunch at the Blue Mountain Cafe. This turned out to be another great discovery in its own right, and we promptly added it to our list of very "Special Cafes". Though our map showed no obvious option for the return trip, we were interested in going back to Clarkston a different way. Jim and Laurie Mullins, the cafe owners, told us about a back route. Take Montgomery Ridge Road, drive out through the wheatfields, down the well-graveled Sherry Grade, back to the Snake River, Granite Lake and our rig. Another wonderful, if indecisive, day.

I don't know where we'll go tomorrow...

Postcard: Autumn Colors

September, 15, 2002

Was the weather actually getting cooler, with fog in the mornings and a hint in the air of autumn to come, or was it just our perception that the seasons were changing? Whichever it was, one morning we woke knowing it was time to get back on the road. We are headed east, to become "leaf peepers". Not to the Northeast and the brilliant reds and oranges of the maple trees, we're off to Idaho's Salmon River, to view the gold of the cottonwood trees. But what I didn't realize was that we would see fall colors long before we got to Idaho. Or that trees are not the only things to show the colors of fall.

The waters surrounding our Island have changed color. No longer the brilliant blue of the sunny summer sky, now they reflect the grey skies of autumn mornings. The purple of the thistles is gone, replaced by downy white fuzz. Petunias and geraniums have been supplanted by the muted colors of chrysanthemums and the more brilliant and showy dahlias.

We drove east from Seattle out of the foggy, misty day on the west side of the mountains and into the sunny, drier eastern slopes. We were headed for the town of Moses Lake, and an exploratory trip through those odd landforms known as the "potholes". The potholes were formed when the Grand Coolee Dam was completed -- the porosity of the underlying lava of the area permitted water to seep from the reservoirs and reappear miles away, forming small lakes in almost every depression. From the dam itself, some 75 miles north, there are lakes of every size and description, with names like Coffee Pot, Billy Clapp and Soap. Moses Lake sits around three "fingers" of a large lake, about 10 miles long, and a mile wide, but only about 30 feet deep. It is a very popular place for all sorts of water sports, with jet and water skiers flying down the middle of the lake and fishermen casting in the shallows.

We stopped at Suncrest Resort RV park, right across the street from an 18 hole golf course, attracting RVing golf enthusiasts. The resort is beautiful, with groomed lawns surrounding each site, a volleyball court and horseshoe pits, and three separate swimming pools. One of these has two water slides, with a sign at the top marking how tall you must be in order to use them. Another much larger pool is comprised of two smaller pools joined by a narrow neck. The kids swimming from one pool to the next can be watched by their parents from a bridge over this narrow waterway. The third is shaped like a 10 leafed clover, with a pedestal in the middle. From what I could see, this was a very large hot tub, with jets around each clover leaf and around the pedestal as well. But the pool area was locked, and the pools had been drained. All I could see I saw by gazing through the chain link fence. The RV office was closed and a sign on the door read "Sorry we missed you, please self register using the envelopes on the table on the left." Looking through the glass entry door, I could see milk, butter and ice cream in the store refrigerator, and gifts in the display case near the office desk. No people, at all. The gameroom was open, but there was no sign of the advertised modem hookup. It wasn't until the following day that we learned from the maintenance man that the park is largely closed down after Labor Day.

But we hadn't come to swim, but rather to explore the area. Leaving the coach, we took the jeep and drove south to Potholes Reservoir. 11 miles south of the Interstate, we turned west on state route 262 and drove along the lakeshore, along the top of O'Sullivan dam toward Potholes Reservoir State Park. A change from the misty morning had brought bright sun to the lake, and the slight breeze made tiny waves shimmer in the sun. And all along the route were the potholes. Tiny dark blue lakes, fringed with the pale green leaves and white plumed pampas grass, the darker green cattails with brown velvet tips, and tall purple lupine, looked like a scene from "Wind in the Willows". Most of the potholes were sheltering ducks. I saw a piedbill grebe, a great white egret, blackish American coots and several handsome brown Gadwalls.

Potholes Reservoir State Park is located on a peninsula jutting into the reservoir. Like several other area state parks, the campsites are located on various loops providing plenty of space between each site. With green lawns stretching down to the reservoir, and set in tall cottonwood trees, Potholes promises cool campsites on the hot summer days of Eastern Washington. We almost didn't get to take a look at the park, as the gate-keeper wanted to charge us the day rate of $5 just to drive around. After we promised we wouldn't even get out of the car, however; he relented.

Leaving the park, we started back to Moses Lake and the rig. At one junction in the road, Tom noticed a sign saying "Fresh Produce". I was a bit skeptical -- Island produce is a bit skimpy at this time of year, and even here we might find no more than tomatoes. But Tannemaker Hill farm turned out to have one of the best produce stands I have ever seen. We were encouraged to taste any vegetables or fruit we wanted. I chose not to sample the hot peppers, but was very impressed with the wide variety. The bright orange habaneros were next to the dark green Anaheims. There were other hot peppers as well in every color and shape, yellows, greens and reds. The bell peppers came in red, orange, yellow, green, and one that was striped purple, green and orange. The tomatoes featured a box of small orange ones called, "tomato candy". They tasted like candy, too. We couldn't resist a selection of bell peppers and red "grape" tomatoes.

The apple section featured local fruit, with colors from the palest yellow to the deepest red. Peaches, nectarines and pears were contained in several boxes next to the apples. The nearby melons ranged from green to yellow, the cucumber honeydew melon was approximately the size of a small squash and had very sweet fruit. Another melon, called sorbet, was like watermelon but with orange and yellow swirls inside.

In the next few days, we'll be driving down the Salmon River, enjoying the colors of the cottonwoods. But we will have already seen many of the colors of this autumn season, reflected in the waters and skies near our Island, the fall scenes of potholes and the fabulous colors of the produce from Tannemaker Hill.

Postcard: A Busman's Holiday

September 6, 2002

Over the past few years, we have attended various RV rallies, and enjoyed the RVing classes at Life on Wheels, in Moscow, ID and at the annual RVing Lifestyle Conference in Kelowna, BC. But it had been years since we had been to a real RV "show". We were off-Island this week, the Seattle RV show was in full swing, we had a couple of discount tickets -- why not go? We looked forward to seeing the new rigs, from the smallest tent camper to the largest motorhome, all decked out in their 2003 finery. We were off on a busman's holiday, doing, just for fun, what we have been doing with RVers Online the past 6+ years. So we left our coach at Fidalgo Bay RV Resort for the day, and took our Jeep to downtown Seattle.

We usually avoid downtown Seattle; the traffic problems can be terrific. So it is a measure of our desire to see the show, (and all the rest of the "big city") that led us there. The Show was held at the (the new) Seahawk Exhibition Hall, next to (the new) Seahawk Stadium (football) and across the street from (the new) Safeco Field (baseball) . We felt the tourists we are as we gawked at these two new buildings, and stared at the movable roof (open it for starry evenings; close it up during the (in)famous Seattle rain). We parked in the attached garage (paying for parking slightly more than the entry tickets cost), and went to the show.

We entered the Hall on the second floor, in the middle of the show vendors' booths. The first booth we saw was sponsored by RV Life.com, the company which publishes "RV Life, a lifestyle magazine". They were having a drawing, with prizes of a small motor scooter, his and her navy blue jackets imprinted with a bright yellow RVLife logo, or a year subscription to the RV Life magazine. (This last "prize" seemed a bit odd to me, as the magazine is free and can be found in most RV park magazine racks). To enter this drawing, all you had to do was print your name, address, phone no. and email address, and then note the Type of RV you plan to buy. You don't suppose this information would be shared with the various vendors at the show?

Does your RV need new wood trim? How about a new wall unit, a computer desk or a magazine rack? Someone at the show will be more than happy to help you. Traveling to a rainy clime? frogg toggs (www.rainonme.com) sells pants, jackets and raincoats of an extremely lightweight material. It feels a little flimsy but is actually quite sturdy, and completely rainproof. The descriptive tags attached to each item have catchy title, "How to dissect a frogg"! Representatives from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association were handing out pamphlets describing RVing in the most glowing terms, and describing the information to be found on their website. I was intrigued by the Super Vac, a wet and dry vacuum system, but it uses a 12 volt power source, probably better suited to smaller units.

Several seminars were planned for this 4 day show. Authors Mike and Terri Church had several talks on their favorite RVing spots in the Northwest, Alaska and Mexico. Other, more technical seminars were available on dinghy towing and RV performance. But the main draw for the show attendees was on the lower floor, where hundreds of RVs were parked awaiting their personal perusal.

From the smallest tent trailer to the 45' Wanderlodges, there were RVs of every size. From Alphas to Winnebagoes, almost every letter of the alphabet was represented. As we came down the stairs, I noticed the first booth. Liberty RV Center is a consignment dealership. Should you find a new RV just suited to your taste, they would help you sell your old one.

I was intrigued by the class Bs, the very popular converted vans. I found the Chinook a bit small (perhaps I was comparing it to our 36' coach), but one would have been perfect for our son-in-law, a rabid Washington Husky fan. The striping was purple and gold, there were large Ws on each door, and the words "University of Washington" were emblazoned under the driver's side window.

Two women had fallen in love with the large and luxurious Wanderlodge. One sat in the driver's seat as if she would never again leave it, and her companion was equally at home in the passenger seat. It soon became obvious that they were new to RVing, when they asked the salesman, "Do you need a special license to operate this?"

"No", he replied. (Was he unfamiliar with requirements in California, Texas and elsewhere?).

"Do you need special driving lessons to operate a coach this large?"

"No, just a bit of practice." (I could have told these gals a thing or two about learning to drive a big rig, but kept my mouth firmly closed.)

In the Foretravel Exhibition, we found one woman very impressed with one special feature. "Look, dear," she told her husband, " when I open the cabinet under the sink, a light goes on". She then proceeded to open a kitchen drawer. "Oh", she said, "but there is no light in this drawer".

Her husband patiently smiled and responded, "I'm sure, for a small fee, they could arrange that too".

Sliders, sliders, sliders. There were very few units that didn't feature at least one slider. Small truck campers had them, (one even had two), and the larger units had two, three and even four slides. The Holiday Rambler Presidential 5th wheel was one unit with four slides. Fully extended, it didn't even look like a 5th wheel. Situated under a large TV, was a (false?) fireplace. The flames twinkled and shone, reminiscent of a winter evening. In the same unit was a garden tub with skylight, a washer/dryer, a built in vacuum system and a dual door refrigerator. The unit was beautifully furnished but looked a bit un-RV-like. But I have been around RVs too long; all I could think of was how much it would weigh, and imagine the size of the truck that would be able to pull it.

The luxury rigs attracted large audiences, but the most of the buyers seemed interested in the mid-price rigs, good for a weekend trip or a short vacation. As they walked through one large diesel pusher, a man told his wife," It doesn't matter whether you like it or not, you can't have it". Another said, "Now, let's look at the ones we can afford". So the Winnebagos, Komforts, Montanas, Cedar Creeks, and others were getting a careful examinations. Older couples and couples with small children walked through the RVs, opening doors, looking into storage compartments, and in several cases, having serious discussions with salesmen. Whether they would buy or no, this was an ideal place to dream about the RVs in their future.

And us? I knew before we went that the show would be an excellent place to see all the latest models. I did not expect to lose my heart to any one of them. We have found the RV that is just perfect for us -- and happily we already own it.

Postcard: The Summer Beaches of San Juan Island

August 18, 2001

This is the month to stay home, to enjoy the summer San Juan Islands. News broadcasts bombard us with tales of weather elsewhere, flooding in central Europe, heat waves in the mid and southwest, humidity creating dangerous situations in the south; all signs of the "dog days of summer". Not here. Even when it heats up, and it hit 87 degrees this past week, there is a cool breeze off the water, and you scarcely feel the heat. To find those salty breezes, all you have to do is go to the beach.

Because some of the nicest beaches are located in National Historic Parks, you get a double treat -- a walk through San Juan history as you stroll along the sand. Two such parks are here, English (now called British) Camp, and American Camp. These parks look very different from each other, British Camp set in old growth maple and cedar trees, American Camp on the windswept hills overlooking the Straits of Juan de Fuca. The camps each contain the restored buildings of the garrisons headquartered here in the late 1850s, when the governments of Britain and the US each claimed ownership of the Island. 12 years after the dispute broke out, and after the end of the Civil War, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany arbitrated a resolution in favor of America.

Back to the beaches. About 8 miles north of Friday Harbor, you will find signs to English Camp. The shores of Garrison and Westcott Bays provide a long stretch of rocky beach. This is a great place to dig clams, pick oysters and splash about in the protected waters. You can explore the restored garrison buildings or walk through the formal English gardens. Take the trail to Bell's Point (the point between the bays), or hike the hills under towering madrona trees.

On the west side of the Island, stop at San Juan County Park. The small beach here is a perfect place to launch a kayak and explore the surface of Smuggler's Cove or Andrews Bay. Divers also frequent this protected area. Just remember that the water here tops out at about 48&Mac251; -- year 'round.

South of Friday Harbor, Jackson Beach has a public boat launch. This "island style" launch is suitable for only small boats and kayaks, but launching is free, though you may have to wait in line. The long stretch of beach here is popular with Island kids of all ages seemingly undaunted by the cold water. This is a favorite place for starting a kayak exploration of Griffin Bay.

About 6 miles south of Friday Harbor, you enter American Camp. In this area you can explore restored garrison buildings, or you can walk to several "redoubts", now merely piles of rock. Originally built for protection from the English, they were not used in this "war that never happened". Several times each summer, there are re-enactments of some of the events of this era. Winding trails lead to the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

A mile on down the road, you'll find signs to Fourth of July Beach. Picnic on the grassy lawn, or walk the short trail to the protected water of Griffin Bay. There's a small camping area with a wooden table, or you may choose to eat perched on one of the huge boulders near the water's edge.

I'm saving my favorite beach for last. South Beach stretches more than 2 miles along the southwestern side of San Juan Island. As you near the turn to this beach, you will be driving on the narrowest part of the island, following the water on the eastern edge, the beach hidden from the road. Turn right, drive up a short hill, and look over the expanse of rolling, grassy hills overlooking the Straits. This view is breathtaking at any time of year, whether seen in a winter storm or when the water is a summertime, sun streaked blue. The road continues down to the beach to a large parking area. Be adventurous, and turn north on a gravel road for about 1/2 mile. The road parallels the beach, and there are several places where you can park right at beachside. At this end, there are several rocky promontories where you can stand and watch the incredibly clear water just below your feet. The beach is sandy and pebbled with rocks pretty enough for anyone's collection. (Your kids will go home with pockets full of "treasures", and they will probably have loaded your pockets, as well.) If you feel like a dune stroll, there are trails wending in all directions. You can expect to see fox, feral cats, bald and golden eagles, and rabbits! Thousands of rabbits, providing meals for the predators, and unending excitement for our dog.

Drive back to the main parking area, stop and explore this special beach. Several picnic table and fire rings invite family outings. (Most of the Island beaches are closed to campfires). It's just a few yards across some dune grasses to the sandy shores of the Straits. In winter, storms dump logs on the beach, perfect for the summertime architects-in-the-making who build fanciful houses of sticks. In the late summer and early fall, it's a favorite salmon fishing area for the locals. You may see the "commercials", purse seiners and the smaller gill netters, setting their lines. You will certainly see pleasure boats fishing or whale watching; this area seems to attract resident pods of orca whales -- often outnumbered by the boats watching them swim by. Or just sit in the sun and don't watch anything. That is also a favorite occupation of beach-goers, especially to judge by the unusual reddish hues of their skins! Yes, you can get a sunburn in the San Juan Islands.

At the south end of the beach is Cattle Point and the Cattle Point Lighthouse. You can walk the beach down to the light, or you can drive south another 2 miles, park and walk out. You will be standing on the southernmost tip of San Juan Island, where the current swirls around the rocky point en route from the wide body of the Strait through the narrower Cattle Pass. There is a trail down to the rocks below, and, when the tide is out, this is one of the best tidepooling areas on the Island.

So, while the rest of the country swelters through August's "dog days", Tom and I become beach bums, walking the sandy shores of our Island home, enjoying the cool summertime winds. All too soon, the urge to travel will come upon us, and we will turn our thoughts to new adventures. Right now, this place is perfect.

Postcard: Gray-lining our Trip

July 27, 2002

Many of us who live in the Pacific Northwest have a very low tolerance for heat. When the temperature tops 75&Mac251;, we get testy, and if it gets to 80&Mac251;, we get positively cranky. (Of course, we have also been heard to gripe when the thermometer stays in the mid 60's day after day.) The day before we left, weather forecast said Eugene, OR had hit a record 97&Mac251;. "OK", we asked ourselves, "how to we get there in the coolest, most comfortable fashion?" On our trip to Moscow, we tried to stay cool by driving in the early hours and submerging ourselves in Lake Coeur d' Alene shortly after we arrived at Blackwell Island RV Park. This time, we would beat the heat by hugging the coast as closely as the road would permit for as long as possible before making the final run to Eugene. That meant driving the gray lines, those lines on the map that indicate a two lane, often narrow, always picturesque, road.

We drove south to Olympia to exit 104, the junction of Interstate 5 and highway 8, and headed west to the coast. We had two choices, north, on the gray line of state highway 109, to the beach towns of Moclips and Ocean Shores or south, on gray line 105, to Westport and Grayland. Had we gone north, we would have had to backtrack the same road the next morning, so we decided to try our luck getting into Grayland Beach State Park. On our way to Grayland, we passed Twin Harbors State Park. It looked interesting, and when we found that Grayland Beach was completely full, we knew where we would go.

Twin Harbors is a large park, with a wide variety of sites. You can camp under spreading cedars, or behind a row of sand dunes near the beach. Most sites are dry camping, and a few are too small for a large rig, but falling asleep to the lullaby of the ocean is better than any sleeping pill. The area is riddled with sandy beach access trails, wandering out over the dunes. A long, flat expanse of sand stretching to the water's edge, where the waves come crashing in, and enough shorebirds for any dog to chase. (Missy loved it). And the wind off the water kept the temperatures down!

There is a small, less scenic hookup section, and that's where we found ourselves this evening. Our refrigerator has been acting up, defrosting itself while on propane, so we needed electricity en route to Eugene. One of the attractions of a Country Coach rally is the "fix up" work performed by coach technicians, and we knew that Dometic would have a most knowledgeable person to advise us on our 'fridge's problems. Next time, refrigerator fixed, we will choose the ocean area.

In the morning, we drove around the north shore of Willapa Bay, through the little town of Raymond with its sheet iron wildlife sculptures. As we drove along the Columbia River, we noticed a large number of fishermen along the shores and out in boats. There must be a run of substantial proportions going on. But what kind of fish? Tom judged some sort of bottom fish, I guessed salmon.

We passed through Astoria and into neighboring Warrenton, one of two small communities on a peninsula at the mouth of the Columbia River. We had been looking for a barber shop, and found one right next door to a Tourist Information Center. In the time it took Tom to get his hair cut, I had discovered enough about this area to be convinced we had to stop. There was simply too much to see here to continue on. I had also found a place to stay while we explored -- Fort Stevens State Park.

The park is enormous, occupying several hundred acres on the western side of the peninsula. The camping area has 174 full hookup sites and 303 electric/water sites in 13 distinct loop camping areas. There are 42 tent sites, 4 group tent camping areas, and a hiker/biker camp.15 yurts and 4 group camps complete the picture. Each site is asphalt, and set well apart from the next, under spreading coastal trees. And the park spreads out from there. Originally commissioned in 1863, and deactivated shortly after World War II, the Fort is an important historical area with military museum, abandoned batteries, interpretive displays and guided tours throughout. Several roads stretch from the "South Jetty" (the most northerly part of the park), 4 or 5 miles south to the southern park boundary. Bike trails crisscross this area, winding over hills, along wetlands, through groves of towering trees in so many directions, with so many cross trails that you need a map not to get lost. On the beach, the 1906 skeletal shipwreck of the Peter Iredale is easily accessible from shore, the spines of its stern standing tall above the sand. It wouldn't be at all difficult to spend several days here, and many folks were doing just that. Bunches of kids on bikes and in-line skates were enjoying riding/skating between the loops. There were families having picnics at Coffinbury Lake, a long, thin lake with two swimming areas and a boat ramp.

Tom had wanted a hair cut; I wanted to find a car wash. Surely Warrenton would have one. I drove slowly through town, and, while I found no car wash, I found something much more fun -- Captain Joe's Fish Market. Here's where the charter captains bring their guests and catches for filleting. Here's where you can buy smoked and fresh fish, while you watch the fillet knives flashing. Here's where I learned what the fishermen were after this morning -- sturgeon. The season is coming to a close, the fishing is still good, and everyone was having a good time, guests and charter crews alike. The smoked sturgeon was delicious.

The weather stayed cool as we gray lined down the coast. Tomorrow we will head inland around Portland and south to Eugene. The forecasters are promising cooler weather for at least the next few days, and we are looking forward to our Rally. Several of the new friends we met in Moscow will be in Eugene, and it will be fun to see what they have been doing in the short time we have been apart. After the rally, we head home to our Island, where the weather is (almost) always cool, and the roads are all gray lines.

Postcard: School's Out

July 21, 2002

We had a full three days at home and then were off to Idaho -- to the Life On Wheels Conference. We would need our hot weather clothes, because a cool and wet spring has turned into a hot and dry summer. When the temperature reaches115&Mac251;, as it has in some eastern Washington cities, you may as well be in Arizona!

We carefully planned our attack on this hot spell. We left the cool coastal weather at Fidalgo Bay RV Resort in the early afternoon, and drove into the Cascade Mountains. Here it was still warm, but not as hot as we knew it would be in the eastern part of the state. Early, (5:45 am), the next morning, we were off to Coeur d' Alene, Idaho, to Blackwell Island Park. This park is located on the lake, right where the Spokane River leaves the lake. There is a large swimming beach, "roped" off (by log boom) from the boats and jet skis that regularly ply these waters. The water was cold, but the day was hot, and we spent several pleasant hours swimming, attempting to balance on the slippery logs of the boom, and then drying out in the sun. Not surprisingly, the park was full -- when we called, we got the last spot. I had hoped for a dinner "out" at the nearby Cedars restaurant, but the same heat that drove us into the lake drove RVers and townspeople alike out for dinner in this floating restaurant. Ah, well... Next time.

After a morning swim, we headed down the road to Moscow. Highway 95, the only north/south road in the state, is still narrow, winding and slow going, although road construction to improve this two lane artery is well underway. Next trip we'll drive these 80 miles on a straighter, broader highway, and reflect nostalgically about the winding "country roads' of past years.

The Life on Wheels Conference is different from anything I have attended. For 5+ days, conference goers are transported back to college. We attend lectures in various buildings on the University of Idaho campus, walking between buildings just as we did in school. There are 4 periods each day. The first one begins at 8 am, and the last one ends at 4:30 pm, with a 90 minute break for lunch. During each period, there are at least 10 different classes to choose among. You can learn about the technical aspects of Rving in classes called, "Maintenance and Repair: Propane, Parts I & II", or "All about Batteries". If you are more interested in the RVing lifestyle, you can choose courses titled, "RVing made Easy" or, "Extended RV Travel". If you are interested in travel, there are seminars on RVing in Mexico, Alaska, Northeastern Canada and the US, and RVing the Northwest. There are writing courses, genealogy courses, photography courses and nutrition courses. There is a course on Personal Safety for RVers, and one on Fire Safety. The list goes on and on; there is simply something for everyone at this conference.

This year, Tom and I presented two seminars -- one on our "Year on the Road" and the other "How to Choose a Campground/Campground Etiquette". It felt odd to be labelled "instructor" when we have so much more to learn about this RVing lifestyle, but we had a very good time both in our seminars and attending others. The attendees are the friendliest of people, all bound by the desire to learn about their rigs, what makes them work, what makes them fail to work, (and how to fix it), what to put in them and where it will fit. Interestingly, about 20 % of those participating in the conference did not yet own an RV, they were in Moscow to find out what such ownership might entail. Two "first timers" we met are certain they will return next year to attend some of the courses that they had to miss this year.

As instructors, we were chosen to participate in one of the two wrap-up sessions on the last afternoon of the conference. One of these sessions was the Tech Wrap-up, where experts on everything from refrigerators to chassis suspension answered questions from the audience. The other session, (ours), was the Lifestyle Wrap-Up, and we joined 5 other couples to field questions from the audience. And what interesting questions they were!

"In your opinion which are three best and the three worst RV manufacturers."

"Do you currently own a 5th wheel or a motorhome? Why did you decide to choose one or the other?"

"Do you feel that the RV you own today will be your last RV?"

"Where can I go to get credible and unbiased information on purchasing an RV?"

"We are thinking about buying an RV. My friends don't understand why we would want to do this, and consider RVers to be "trailer trash". What can I tell them?"

The answers and opinions of our panel were many and varied, and we could have continued our dialog for hours instead of the 90 allotted minutes. We agreed with some, but not with others. Life on Wheels -- an unsurpassed educational experience for RVers.

We got lucky with the weather. The last day was relatively cool, so we started west, stopping at Granite Lake RV Resort on the Snake River in Clarkston, WA. Next, home for a couple of days. Then we are off once again to Eugene to the Country Coach Rally. We do plan on being homebodies during the month of August. Unless....