<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Postcards Library 35
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: Following the Rivers of Autumn

October 11, 2003

We left our Island about a week ago, wandering south and eastward. As usual, we have no definite agenda, indeed, we aren't sure if we have any agenda at all, much less a definite one. If the weather holds, we'll head to Utah and then south to the desert. If winter decides to set in, we'll head south on a more direct route. For now, we have been following the autumn rivers, delighting in the golds of the cottonwoods and aspens, admiring the calm waters in the pools of low water autumn rivers.

We followed the Yakima River through its canyon on our way to spend a day with our daughter and her family. Although this is a catch and release stream, it was full of fishermen anyway, some fishing from float boats firmly anchored mid-stream, others fished from the banks or had waded, hip deep, into the water. A beautiful, golden day, far too nice to spend in an office, fish or no fish. We spent the evening at our grandson's soccer game (his parents have joined the "soccer mom and dad" generation), and headed off to our second autumn river, the Snake.

We followed Interstate 84 to Richland and headed east on highway 12, crossing the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. We followed 12 over the rolling hills of southeastern Washington, through the little towns of Waitsburg, Dayton and Dodge. Up over the Alpowa Summit and down once again to the Snake, Clarkston WA and Granite Lake RV Resort.

Granite Lake is situated at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers on the extreme eastern edge of Washington. 75 sites set right on the banks of the Snake, each site level and paved, surrounded by green grass and attractive landscaping. A green belt walk/bike/jog way runs in front of the park, and you can stroll upriver to a small marina, or downriver to the dock at Beamers Landing. Here you can catch a jet boat which will to take you into Hells Canyon. Each morning around 9 AM, several boats take off for a day trip into the canyon, complete with a mid-morning stop, lunch on the river, and often a stop at some Native American petroglyphs on the return. If you haven't time to spend a whole day in the Canyon, there are shorter trips which leave around noon. Whichever you choose, it's a great way to see an area only accessible by river.

Steelhead are running in both rivers, and the local fishermen are out in force here as well. Dozens of boats are anchored against the current, with the fishermen sitting placidly, hoping for a strike. Perhaps because of the unseasonably warm weather, the catch percentage is down, (these fishermen can keep their fish), but that doesn't keep them from trying. They ignore the wakes of the passing jet boats and pay no attention to an occasional jet-skier. We did see one boat with a fish on -- a real fighter, it jumped several times, and then swam under the boat. (Fishing with Tom taught me that's one thing you should never allow to happen). They lost the fish.

Leaving Clarkston, we headed up along the Clearwater into Idaho. The river is very low, lower that it should be even at this time of year, but the trees were golden, and the ground under them blanketed with fallen leaves. This is a truly beautiful season in Idaho high country. And we were headed into high country. When Highway 12 branched north toward the Lolo Pass and Montana, we took 95 south toward McCall, and at New Meadows turned southeast on State Highway 55. We were trying to trace this route on our version of DeLorme's Street Atlas, and were surprised to find it did not recognize the existence of this very major road. Instead of the direct route, DeLorme took us south on Highway 95, then west up into the 7 Devils Mountains. Roads up there are rough for any vehicle, and no place for our rig. Then it directed us directly east through an area known as East Mountain, on no road at all. Lesson: Consult paper maps as well as electronic ones.

McCall, Idaho, altitude 5,100', is a gem of a town. (Pun intended, as Idaho is known as the Gem State.) The town proper extends along the south shore of Payette Lake, with the outflow of the Payette River running from the lake south through town. Along the west side of the lake are many beautiful summer homes owned by "old Boise" families. Along the east side is Ponderosa State Park, a large park only open in summer, with spaces suited more for smaller rigs. Very popular for both summer and winter sports, McCall tends to quiet down in the shoulder seasons. And that's when we like to visit. But where to stay? There are only a few, small RV parks in town. This situation is about to change.

The McCall RV Resort was not easy to find, as there are currently no signs on Rt. 55. But a bit of reconnoitering led us to this RV resort-in-the-making. I was very impressed. A huge clubhouse will house a "four season" swimming pool and spa, an open area for RVer get-togethers, reception area and office. A large patio on the river side of the clubhouse will have an uninterrupted view of the Payette River. On the resort's 54 pristine acres will be 250 spacious, grassy sites, several of which will be set up on the "circle the wagon" theme. This is 4 sites set in a large square and reservable by persons traveling together. You'll have your own spacious interior yard for sharing time with friends. Although this section was not quite completed, it was far enough along so that we followed the suggestion of the park owner, and enjoyed a very quiet evening in a fabulous wooded setting (we had this entire section of the park to ourselves). I look forward to visiting this promising new resort again when it is finished.

Still following the Payette River, the next morning we traveled south 26 miles to Cascade, to the Water's Edge RV Resort, (altitude 4840'). Our site this evening was only a few yards from the river, and we could watch the trout rising after the bugs that skimmed the surface of the placid water. I thought they, (the fish, not the bugs), looked at least 12 inches long; Tom held out for 8 inches. Size was no deterrent to several ardent local fishermen.

Cascade is celebrating its annual Scarecrow Festival. In front of most of the town businesses are groupings of scarecrows -- each themed to the business at hand. In front of the pharmacy, currently under construction, all the scarecrows are wearing hard hats, and sitting at a table at the Hard Hat Cafe. In front of the bank are two scarecrows costumes from the 1890's; a "teller" behind some screening and a counter, the lady customer in long dress and period hat. The Mormon church shows a wedding, with nervous looking scarecrow bridegroom. Four skinny scarecrows in large baggy costumes make a good advertisement for TOPS. My personal favorite was down the street in front of the propane dealer. Four large tanks had been placed in a row in front of the shop. The first one had a cow skull mounted on the front, and a scarecrow outfitter sitting astride the tank. Behind him, each of the other tanks was loaded with hunting and fishing gear, and roped together, for all the world like a pack train. Clearly the competition to have the "best" scarecrow exhibit in this charming mountain community is quite keen!

The weather forecasters warn of weather changes. Our warm sunny days are due to become to cooler, albeit still sunny ones. The sun still shines warm in the southwest, however, so barring one of our not infrequent changes in direction that's the way we'll go. A day in Boise, and then we'll follow I-84 eastward, catch I-15 in Burley, ID, and be off to Salt Lake City.

Or will we?

Postcard: All the Bells and Whistles

September 20, 2003

Note: We were recently asked by Country Coach whether we would be interested in driving a new '04 model coach and doing an article for their Magazine, "Destinations". Tom replied that we'd probably not be able to learn much without having a unit for a couple of days or so. And he also noted that we really don't do "product reviews" of a commercial nature. The only way we could do an article would be to express what we honestly felt about the coach -- the good and the bad -- however that turned out. To their credit, they agreed with these ground rules, and our impressions of the new coach will be included in the Fall edition of "Destinations". While we'll save our conclusions and evaluation for that article, what follows describes what was for us an unusual and interesting weekend.

Promptly at noon on Friday, September 19, we took temporary possession of "our" new coach -- a 2004 Intrigue Ovation. It's silver with red, gray and black striping, 42 feet long and absolutely beautiful. It's also, to me, a bit intimidating. Chad Ross had been assigned to check us out on the features of the new unit, and get us on our way. He did a great job in the short time we had available. Tom made sure he understood all the essential features needed to safely drive the coach, but he was also interested in seeing just how "intuitive" many of the newer systems would be -- so the lesson was far shorter than it would have been if we'd actually been taking delivery.

We often "look at" coaches at a rally, but that's usually a fairly casual process. You look at something very differently when you're about to drive it, and live in it for a three day weekend. Given that new perspective, I was somewhat overwhelmed by so many bells and whistles, buttons and knobs. As you enter the coach, you notice the modern and remarkably slender plasma TV now fits snugly above the front windshield . No more conking of the skull when you clean the front dash. If the Ovation's front plasma TV is not much larger than ours, it's because there is a huge screen that lowers from the ceiling just in front of it; and its projector is mounted in the ceiling near the center of the main living area. You can watch anything from TV programs to a DVD, to the day's football games, all in full life size. The coach has three slides, one on either side of the main living area, one in the bedroom, and 6 separate awnings. There's a navigating GPS system and Onstar, in case you get lost. There's a brand new, state of the art Microwave/oven/convection/you name it, it does it/Advantium oven. This comes complete with cookbook, plastic coated cooking guide and its own DVD. There's even a washer/dryer. I had always dismissed the idea of having a washer, figuring it took too much space, added weight, and would likely use too much water and power. I tried it -- I loved it!

Everything seems controlled by a remote -- Tom searched through the boxes of "owner information" and lined them up on a table. There were 12 counting the two wired to the front captains chairs. In fairness, after a bit of trial and error he learned how to control almost all of them with some sort of master remote. But I need help just changing our own coach's TV from satellite to cable. And that's with only the two measly remotes in what was beginning to seem like a much less spacious coach.

I was the first to discover how to turn on some of the lights -- those little green spots under the counters had to mean something. But there have been so many changes in these coaches that it's taking us some time to learn how to perform such simple tasks as flushing the john. And I am technically challenged -- when something doesn't work, I start pushing buttons. 99 times out of 100 that is exactly the wrong thing to do. (The story of the 100th time? I restarted a projector during one of our laptop presentations at Life on Wheels, merely by pushing the "on" button. Was I ever proud of myself!)

We took this lovely coach, (Tom drove), from Junction City to Newport, to Pacific Shores RV Resort, where a site right on the edge of the cliff with a great view of the Pacific was waiting for us. At night in Junction City, the serenity is broken by a seemingly endless series of trains, each sounding its horn as it passes within 200 yards of the parked coaches. Here the crash of waves on the beach below our site doesn't disturb our sleep in the slightest. We slept well and were prepared for a Saturday of learning how to operate the various components of the coach (Tom) and exploring Newport (me). I don't mean that I didn't want to learn his part as well, but I had already experienced one "remote" experience. As we left Junction City, my seat (the passenger one), suddenly started to vibrate. For a few seconds I wondered whether there might be something wrong with me. I couldn't figure what was going on -- until I got up and discovered I had been sitting on the power button of the Road Control remote. I hadn't even seen it, much less know it was there or what it does. This remote selects the intensity and speed of vibrations throughout the chair. You get your choice of pulse, wave or zigzag. I chose disconnect, and put that one away until we'd have time to check this feature out at our destination.

College football Saturday, and there is no remote challenge too great for someone who simply loves his Saturday football. I returned from a trip to the farmer's market to find all the awnings out, the big screen down and the Oregon v. Michigan game in full swing. Tom was having a great time with life sized football players racing around in the front end of the coach, with the true sounds of gridiron battle pouring through the Bose speakers, and special effects from a subwoofer we couldn't find. I headed out to explore Newport.

There are 9 lighthouses on the Oregon coast, some with active lights, others merely historic reminders of days long gone. The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is one of those, out of service but still open for visitors. The second oldest standing lighthouse in the state, it is one of the most interesting. It was in service only 3 years before the Yaquina Head Lighthouse was built. That Lighthouse was supposed to be built in Depoe Bay, several miles further north. But the Bay was too rocky for the ships loaded with building materials to land. So the builders decided to build it instead on Yaquina Head. They didn't bother to notify the government of the change in plans until the Lighthouse was completed, and it was too late to change anything. But this new Lighthouse was located only three miles north of the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, immediately rendering the older one obsolete. But the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse did not die. Shuttered for a dozen or more years, it became famous as the setting for the ghost story The Haunted Lighthouse. On a visit to the Lighthouse, be sure to watch the video which tells the story of a young girl who was locked in the lighthouse and never seen again. It's reported that on some dark nights you can hear her moaning.

A large, half-moon bridge crosses Yaquina Bay just south of Newport. The first exit south of the bridge brought me to the Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Center's Visitor Center, a fabulous find for adults as well as children. A wide variety of research is done at the Center and a number of exhibits depict the findings from that research. I wandered past the Giant Pacific Octopus in her large aquarium, waiting for her 1 PM meal of crab and shellfish. There was an interesting exhibit on Tsunamis, complete with pictures and models which showed how the waves, relatively small while at sea, will react when they reach land. I saw the rumbleometer which measures pressure and temperature of the bottom currents as well as volcanic activity. I watched two small crabs in their aquarium fight each other over a large but empty white shell.

But my favorite was the mystery of the sick Dungeness crabs of Alsea Bay (a bay about 20 miles south of Newport.) This exhibit is a computer generated conversation with Scientist Bill, who is trying to discover which microorganism is responsible for the condition of some Dungeness found in Alsea Bay. While not harmful to humans, it gives the crab meat an unpleasant taste. By pushing buttons (my forte) on the screen you can see how scientists discovered what caused the crabs' condition. Fun for any kid -- of any age.

Next stop, the Yaquina Bay Jetty. Two rock jetties jut into the water just south of town, enabling fishermen, whale watching boats, cruisers and sailboats more easily to cross the bar where the river meets the ocean. On the north side of the jetty the waves crash against the rocks and spray across the entire jetty. On the south side, the water is much calmer, and here the boatless fishermen line the rocks trying their luck. In the water between the walls of the jetty are fishermen, crabbers and even a few divers testing the currents. The Coast Guard had a ship stationed at the mouth of the jetty this morning, and a helicopter flew overhead. Either they were doing some sort of naval maneuver, or just waiting for some boat owner to try something foolish. I drove out toward the ocean, parked the car and walked out to watch the kite flyers along the water's edge. Next week is the Lincoln City kite festival; perhaps they were practicing.

All too soon, it was time to return to the coach for the evening. Tomorrow, we'll be back in Junction City for one last night in the new coach, and then we'll move back into our own rig. It was a fascinating experience, and we've both taken extensive notes on our impressions. Soon we'll be pooling our thoughts and preparing an article that will describe what we liked, and what we think needs further thought. There will be some of both, and we intend to tell the story as objectively as possible...

Postcard: Looking South

September 16, 2003

We were a bit anxious to be off on our fall jaunt -- so anxious, in fact, that we left our Island a day early. We were due in Coburg, Oregon, for some service work at the Cummins dealership there, and then would be attending the annual Country Coach Class Reunion in Eugene.

But we were having a bit of trouble deciding which way to go. (No surprise there). We had three days to travel 360 freeway miles -- far more than enough time. Should we travel east, and come south through the eastern plains of Washington & Oregon? Should we go out to the coast and sample the cooler (perhaps foggier) air in that clime? We solved our "problem" in our usual way, with procrastination. We'd stay another day right where we were -- Fidalgo Bay Resort in Anacortes. Our decision was due in part to the Seattle weathermen, as seems to be often the case, their forecast was wrong. They predicted rain and it was one of the nicest days of late summer. We decided to go geocaching. There was an intriguing cache on the Ebey Bluffs of Whidbey Island, a great place to spend a beautiful afternoon.

Whidbey Island, the second largest island in the US (Long Island's first), is just 20 miles south of Fidalgo Bay. Located on the north end of the Island, the city of Oak Harbor and the nearby Oak Harbor Naval Air Station bring civilization to this otherwise pastoral island. Just outside of these bustling communities, you can walk along a beach, and, except for the occasional low-flying jet, forget that the city and its base are nearby.

We found just such a place, parked the car and began the climb to Ebey Bluffs. First we walked up some 2 dozen stairs, then followed the trail along the edge of the cliffs. Looking north across the Straits of Juan de Fuca, we could see the southern promontories of Lopez and San Juan Islands . Looking west, we could see the northern rim of the Olympic Peninsula and the town of Port Townsend and further to the west, Sequim and Port Angeles. We watched ferries crossing the Inlet, several sailboats heading north to the Islands, and a large freighter bound out toward the ocean. Looking south, we could just barely make out the outline of Mount Rainier, towering above Seattle, more than 100 miles away. Just the perfect day for a leisurely walk -- especially when we later learned that the predicted rain had actually occurred to the south.

But staying another day had its price. We now would have to drive the I-5 corridor, starting in Everett, 35 miles north of Seattle and continuing south past Olympia, 60 miles south. With full two days before we were due at Cummins Coach Care, we still had plenty of time. Our first day would take us only a few miles south of Olympia, to the small town of Rochester. We'd heard of a nice RV park there, and Rochester is right at the doorstep of the mysterious Mima Mounds.

The Mima (pronounced "myma") Mounds are 400+ acres of lumpy prairie, with mounds ranging from 1 to nearly 8 feet in height, up to 70 feet around and about 75 feet from top to top. Bunchgrass covers the mounds and mosses, lichens and flowers grow in the spaces between the grasses. No one seems quite certain of the origin of these mounds, and every theory has its counter theory. Are they remnants of the glacial period? Are they the work of gophers? (I wonder at the size of the gopher that could make one of these mounds!). My favorite is the Paul Bunyan theory, which I read in an information kiosk at the visitor center. It seems Paul wanted to lower the level of this acreage and hired some Irish workmen to dig up the dirt. But he didn't provide the kind of meals the workers wanted and they quit in the middle of the job, dumping hundreds of wheelbarrow loads of soil on the plain. Makes as much sense as gophers!

This plain is cris-crossed with walking paths which wind between the mounds. In summer, they are covered with wildflowers, Camas and Chocolate lilies, buttercups and wild strawberries. Today we hiked in a gentle, persistent rain, (our summer having taken the day off), and the mounds still glistened with the yellow of goldenrod and the blue and white of asters.

Fire was used by the Native Americans to maintain the prairies, and we could see where, today the Mima Mound area is burned in rotated sections to maintain the grassland community -- an attempt to maintain this prairie just as nature has maintained it for countless past centuries A fascinating walk, (and we did find the geocache). I'm amazed at the interesting areas we've found playing this game.

Tomorrow, we'll be off to Blue Ox RV Park in Albany, OR, get everything bright and shiny (including the humans), and be off for 4 days in Eugene. We are giving two seminars at the Rally, and then will have a bit of coach work done at the factory in Junction City. While our coach is in service, we will be taking one of the new 2004 models to the coast for a couple of days. We look forward to experiencing all the new and exciting changes that have been made to Country Coach in the past few years. What will it be like to drive a brand new 42' coach? Can't wait to find out!

Postcard: You know it's Summer when...

August 25, 2003

You know it's summer on our island when the days become longer, the sun goes to bed later, and tourists flood our town. Each summer, Friday Harbor hires "traffic cops" to control the weekend flow of cars off the ferries, and to keep the unceasing procession of pedestrians from wandering into the streets, oblivious of anything but getting to their next destinations. There are only two such patrolmen, and they only work on weekends, when the traffic is heaviest. Even with their help traffic problems still exist. That's the bad news. The good news is that this is only a weekend phenomenon, and the merchants here benefit greatly from all the tourist dollars.

You know it's summer when the all Island roads are filled with bicyclists, mopeds, and moped cars. Susie, an enterprising Island woman, has the lion's share of rental mopeds. Several years back, she purchased three "moped cars", the beginnings of a still growing moped fleet. These small, brightly painted cars have one wheel in front and three in back. The back middle wheel is flanked by two smaller ones -- just like training wheels on a toddler's bike. The cars seat two people and have a top speed of 35 m.p.h. They have become very popular, especially with families whose children are too young to ride a regular moped.

You know it's summer when you attend the 4th of July parade. When we moved here 15 years ago, the parade was a small event, with only a couple of fire engines, a clown or two, and always a Grand Marshall, usually one of the older Island citizens. Only a handful of spectators watched the parade, because all the rest were marching! You could dress up in anything red, white and blue, and march down Spring Street, turn right on Front Street, and that was all there was to the parade.

It's larger now, and you have to apply to walk in the parade, but other than that the small town flavor of this holiday still is alive and well. Three other islands, Shaw, Orcas and Lopez, now join San Juan for the festivities. (Orcas has rescheduled its parade for July 5th, since so many Orcas folks want to march in Friday Harbor). More fire engines than ever blare their sirens through town -- even Victoria, BC brings one over for our festivities. If you're a member of the Lions or the VFW, put on your yellow vest or blue blazer and march down Spring Street. Dress up your dog and walk with the local Humane society. The Boys and Girls clubs of the Island join the parade on gaily decorated floats. The local convalescent center always has a group of our elder citizens enjoying their ride.

In 1859, a disagreement between the British and American settlers on San Juan Island led to an altercation called the "Pig War" (because a pig was the only casualty). Each year, several citizens dress in the military uniforms of that era and join the parade to remind people of the history so well depicted at our two Island National Historical Parks, (American and British Camps). Like many small communities, many of the local 4H kids enjoy riding and equestrian showmanship. They always join the parade on their well groomed and often gaily painted mounts. If you don't have a horse, strut with your llama or alpaca. And, as in all parades, anyone who is running for any office will be joining the group, waving and smiling.

Waving, smiling and also throwing candy. In this parade, nearly everyone throws candy into the crowd. Children of all ages, (adults, too), scramble for wrapped tootsie rolls, hard candies and gum. Move over, Halloween!

You know it's summer when you go to the San Juan County Fair. It's a small fair by most standards, covering just a few acres of land. But it's wonderfully homespun, with many Islanders entering the Fair competitions. From fruits, vegetables and handmade quilts to 4H chickens and perfectly matched eggs, there's a category for everybody.

When we brought grandkids here in years past, I had insisted on at least one circuit of the non-ride areas. My theory is that you can't see the fair from the top of the Ferris wheel; you must experience it. So everyone had to follow grandma and admire the homemade preserves, artwork and quilts, and dutifully walk through the horse, cow, pig and sheep barns. Now that the kids are getting older, this goal is becoming harder to accomplish. As you enter the main gate, the carnival rides are immediately to the right and are an incredible draw. There's a Tilt-A-Whirl, one large, looping, upside-down most of the time, scream evoking ride. Another ride uses centrifugal force to keep you plastered against its side as it spins you up, down and out. This year, my grandkids discovered bumper cars. This ride was popular not only with children of all ages, but also with the guy running the ride. He'd start the cars going and then go out, get in one and bang himself silly with all the other "kids".

Almost as popular as the rides are the food booths. Each year I look forward to my egg roll fixes, one for each day of the fair. Other people are equally certain that the best foods are the vegetable filled crepes or the barbequed chicken on skewers. One afternoon, after the rides were over, and certain they'd be too dizzy to accept, I offered the kids an after-ride ice cream cone. Silly old grandma.

There were several booths set up along the midway. Our daughter-in-law, Ellen, had a booth showcasing a game she invented for visitors to San Juan Island. Called "Seekers", it's a card game about the attractions of the Island. It's played thus: You get points for identifying a picture on one side of the card and answering the question on the back. How do you identify the picture? As you drive, bike or hike around the Island, keep your eyes open. Each picture is of something fairly easily found here. But just because you know what a picture is, doesn't mean you'll be able to answer the question on the back of the card. For example, I immediately recognized the picture of the lighthouse on the south end of the Island. It's within two miles of our house, and we walk there nearly every morning. But I had to go to the exact spot to able to answer the question on the back of the card, "what year did the San Juan Historical Park come to be"? The game has become very popular with the Island locals -- we who thought we knew it all.

Our grandkids enjoyed the booth sponsored by the Republican Party -- because of its jar filled with pennies. Guess how many and win a prize. Ty, age 7, insisted on "a billion, 30", even though I tried to tell him that was probably too many. For the two older kids, the man behind the desk had a additional question. "If you sat in a boat on a lake with this penny jar on your lap, and then dropped the jar into the water, would the water level rise, fall or stay the same?" That question took some serious thinking. Only on San Juan Island. Only at the San Juan County Fair.

I always enjoy the Scarecrow exhibits. My favorite this year was one resembling a large fish, with a man's arm hanging out of his mouth. Put this on your dock to keep the otters away. Another huge scarecrow stood about 7 feet tall, with a pumpkin for a head and two long arms. Attached to the end of each arm was a small line. The line was attached to the roof of the shed and extended toward several bales of hay covered by a blue tarp. When kids came by to look at this enormous scarecrow, a person hidden behind the hay bales would make the scarecrow's arms wave about, and the scarecrow would seem to talk to the kids. Several surprised children were telling the scarecrow all about the fair, while others were trying to find where the voice was coming from.

You know it's summer when the kids and grandkids come to visit. Our small house is crowded with 2 children, their spouses and 4 grandkids, but that's nothing compared with our neighbors. Jim and Rosemary Eckmann have 4 children, all married, with a minimum of three kids each. Counting friends, there will be 14 adults, and 16 children crowded around their dinner table each night. We're not the only ones, other Island families have company also. Our relatively quiet Cape San Juan is alive with the sounds of children playing. Bicycles and strollers are becoming commonplace -- for now.

This morning, the weather was cooler than usual. The leaves on the small maple tree next door have turned a brilliant red. The weather man assures us of many more summer-like days, but we can sense the seasons changing. Within a week or so, school will start, the tourist crowds will diminish, it will be easier to drive our Island roadways, and it will be time for us to plan our annual sojourn south.

Tom and I have had a busy and memorable summer, with a trip to Alaska in June, the Idaho Life on Wheels Conference in July, and August spent on our Island with family and friends. But somehow it seems like the summer has sped by, that I should have done more, that I may have missed something. I know that as you grow older, time seems to go faster. But I'm not ready yet. Bring on our fall excursions!

Postcard: Getting Away from It All: 40 Miles Forward, 50 years Back

July 29, 2003

Sometimes things just happen. Call it chance, call it luck, but a series of decisions can change a whole RV trip. That's what happened to us on our southern coastal loop trip on the peninsula between Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay. It just happened that we took the coach instead of making the trip in our jeep. It just happened that we went south on 101 to Raymond, rather than taking the short route directly to the beach. It just happened that we found a park n' ride right outside of Tokeland, a small, quiet town on a peninsula jutting into Willapa Bay.

I was really enjoying our stay at Friends Landing. In just two days, we had settled into something of a routine. A bike ride around the lake before breakfast, while the temperatures were still cool. A day trip to see the surrounding countryside. Just the day before, we had found a new RV park in Hoquiam, the Hoquiam River RV Park. Located just off Highway 101, with wide level spaces, 50 amp hookups, and right on the Hoquiam River, this park promises to be a special spot. The owner told us he had no trouble obtaining the permits necessary to open his park. The town council members thought having an RV park would be great business for the city, and made the permit process as expeditious as possible. (It still took him about a year to finish the permitting process).

So we had three choices facing us this morning. Should we stay here? Should we move over to the new park in Hoquiam? Or was the lure of the coast too strong? We could go to Twin Harbors State Park, 5 miles south the popular fishing town of Westport. There we'd be just a short walk from the ocean. We wanted to get as close to the coast as possible, on the theory that the closer we could get, the cooler it would be. We kept listening to weather forecasts for Seattle and points north. With highs there in the 90s, and the best way home right up the I-5 corridor, we knew we wanted to stay as cool as we could as long as we could. The weather matter settled it. We'd head for the coast. Now, how to get there? Again we had choices. We could drive directly to Twin Harbors, 30 miles, or go around the peninsula, in which case it would be nearly 50 miles to the same spot. Since it was early, and we didn't want to arrive before the day's departing campers had left, we opted for the longer route. We'd take Highway 101 south to Raymond, hang a sharp right on highway 105, and follow it west and north.

Highway 101 climbs through the Willapa Hills as it wends its way south to Raymond. Beautiful hills, if you can ignore the clear cut areas. Every so often it looks as if the loggers have completely forgotten about reforestation. Then down to Willapa Bay and the sculpture town of Raymond. Metal sculptures decorate Highway 101 through Raymond. You'll see the metal replicas of animals of the area; deer and elk, cougar and bobcats. You'll see the metal people of Raymond, the pioneer families who settled here and the loggers who worked here. The sculptures invite you to stop and examine them more closely, and we have stopped on past trips. But today we were headed for the coast. We turned right on 105 and headed west, following the north shore of Willapa Bay. As we left Raymond, across the bay on its south shore we saw the RV park we thought we were headed for a couple of days earlier. It's still an inviting stop if you're traveling on 101, but I'm glad we found Friends Landing.

It was refreshingly cooler this morning. As the bay widened, we saw a bank of fog stretching across the water -- Mother Nature's air conditioning at work. The road wound through the tidal flats of Willapa Bay, rivulets of water weaving between muddy stretches, newly free of the tide. Jutting out into the bay was a thin strip of land -- a tiny peninsula with a tiny town perched atop. A quick glimpse at the map indicated this was Tokeland, a place we'd not visited before. Even though we had been driving at a most leisurely pace, we still had plenty of time before our planned arrival at Twin Harbors. We decided to stop and explore Tokeland, but we didn't want to drive into town and find there was no place to turn around. We'd need a good place outside of town to leave the rig. We pulled into the parking lot of a now closed fireworks stand, but it was too small to stop for any length of time. I checked out the park 'n ride across the highway. Its wide, paved entrance, the absence of any cars blocking our turn around area, and the fact that it was right at the junction of the Tokeland road with highway 105, provided reason enough to pull in and detach our Jeep for a quick trip into the village. (I couldn't help but wonder why the citizens of tiny Tokeland need a park n' ride, but I'm very glad they do).

The Tokeland road is only about 3 miles long. It passes several modest beach homes, a nice looking RV park, an old (historical register type old) hotel, and ends at the Tokeland Marina. There was another RV park here, but the day was now showing signs of warming, and the few shaded sites were already taken. As we retraced our steps, we passed a store advertising fresh seafood. Hoping for fresh salmon or halibut, I went in to inquire what the catch of the day was. "After 1 this afternoon, we'll have fresh cooked Dungeness crab," the pleasant young girl told me, "it was caught just yesterday". Since we are fortunate enough to be able to catch Dungeness crab off our dock at home, this delicacy didn't appeal quite as much as it otherwise might. We continued on.

Now came one of those times when two people have the same idea, but hesitate to say anything. I had noticed the Bayshore RV Park when we went by the first time, and thought it looked inviting. Now Tom suggested that we drive in and take a look. We pulled into one of the vacant sites and walked up on a low berm barely separating the sites from the beach. No hot hike over endless sand dunes to the beach here. Just a few yards and there was the water. And what a beach it was. A few feet of beach grass, and a strip of fine sand close to shore, and then a mosaic of waterways and tidal "islands" out 500 yards or more into the Bay. Birds everywhere. Down the beach a small family had set up a beach umbrella, the children were playing in the water, floating on inner tubes, or racing each other across the shallow water. A perfect spot on this warm and beautiful day.

The most pleasant owner of this park came up and asked if she could help us. Our reactions were the same. It didn't take long until we were headed back to get the coach, a reservation in hand for the night. We chose a grassy spot right behind the berm, although we could have parked under some of the oak and madrona trees a bit further back. This park is being improved and upgraded by its new owners, but with a very careful eye to maintaining its natural setting. The attraction here is lots of trees, grassy sites, attractive landscaping, a fabulous beach, and wonderful vistas. We had no qualms about not going on to Twin Harbors -- this place seemed a perfect stopping place for at least the next couple of nights, until we finally would have to head for home. In the scant 40 miles we had driven from Montesano, we had finally gotten away from it all. What took some time for me to realize was that, in these 40 miles, I had also stepped back about 50 years.

When I was a child, my family spent summers on the Olympic Peninsula at the Chevy Chase Inn. By today's standards, the Inn was not a fancy place. We stayed in a small cabin, with no one to make your bed but yourself. The "heater" performed only when furnished with wood, which you gathered by yourself. Meals were served at the Inn, where there was no menu. What they were serving that day was what you ate. (I remember one day when the fare was liver!) There was a 9 hole golf course adjacent to the cabins, and there were a couple of horses you could ride if you were bold enough. And then there was the beach. It was a steep climb down the trail to the beach, but there were a couple of places where the grown-ups could rest on a rustic bench, or just sit on the curving trunk of an obliging Madrona tree. We went down every afternoon, often dug for clams or just paddled in the shallow water near shore. (Even if one was a swimmer, the water was far too cold).

The Inn was decorated in Victorian style, with overstuffed chairs and pictures of "old" (to a nine year old), people on the walls. Everyone had their meals in a large dining room, at the same table and the same time. Mrs. Chase, the proprietress, rang two bells to announce dinner. First bell meant you had 15 minutes to get yourself ready for the second bell, which meant dinner was served. I don't remember anyone ever being late). At your place was a napkin, clipped with a clothes pin. (I wonder if my grandchildren would recognize a clothes pin today). On the pin was your name, and the year you first came to Chevy. It became quite a game to find the pin with the oldest date.

Climb the carpeted front stairs in the Inn and you found yourself in a long corridor, lined on either side with rooms. Each was furnished with twin or double beds, covered by chenille bed spreads with rag rugs softening the floor. No private bathrooms, but you'd find a couple down the hall, one with a shower, the other a tub. Return to the lower level down the back stairs, stairs so steep it's a wonder no one ever fell down them.

Those childhood memories and many others came back strongly as I sat in one of the chairs we placed on the berm and watched children playing in the water. We assured owners Fred and Sue that Missy would return when called, and that qualified her for a waiver of their dogs-on-a-leash rule while we were on the beach. Missy had a fine time racing through the shallow water and temporarily removing all the seagulls from "her" beach. It was quiet and peaceful and felt like I'd returned to Chevy Chase.

But contributing significantly to this feeling of nostalgia was the Tokeland Inn...

Right across the street from the Bayshore RV Park, the Tokeland Inn is being preserved as an historic landmark. You enter the hotel through a low ceilinged room, which serves both as a reception area for overnight guests, and as a hostess station for those wishing meals. To the left is a large kitchen (did I mention that Chevy had a large kitchen?), to the right a library, with big fireplace and comfortable, overstuffed chairs scattered around. From this room you can go upstairs to view the guest rooms, all left open except when occupied. You climb up a steep stairway, so like the back stairs of my memory, and view rooms that are furnished with antiques -- and chenille bedspreads. There are even pictures of "old people" on the walls. (But somehow they don't look so old anymore!)

We had a delicious breakfast in the sunny dining room (with menus), and then walked the grounds. The low porch running across the back of the inn was fronted with gladiolas and hollyhocks. A croquet set was waiting for someone to stick the wickets in the ground, place the balls and pick up the mallets. Right next door the Tokeland golf course (9 holes) is just about complete. I had to remind myself this is 2003, not the middle of the past century.

We spent two restful days at the Bayshore RV park, walking down the nearby quiet residential lanes in the mornings, and spending afternoons on the beach and warm shallow waters of the tidal flats. Then it was time to head back to our Island, where we shall soon host all our kids and grandkids for the San Juan Island State Fair. Time to return to today.

But now we know where to go when we want to get away from it all.