<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Postcards Library 5
Little Log


Stephanie is one of those persons who is always mailing postcards back to family and friends. Somehow, by writing in very small scribble, and filling not only the intended message area, but with sideways writing, arrows, and otherwise using virtually every available area on the postcard, she can get an awful lot of information onto a very small space. She'll be reporting in here from time to time on our travels, experiences, impressions and general state of mind.

Postcard: Water Caravans

June 28, 1997

Having just written a card about caravans as something we had not experienced, lo and behold - off we went on a caravan! This one was slightly different - it was a water caravan. We found the similarities to be striking.

27 boats of all sizes and makes arrived at Bedwell Harbor, on Pender Island in the Canadian Gulf Islands (a geographic continuation of our San Juan Islands). Having cleared customs, we were welcomed by our "Rally Masters", Hank and Joan Hill. These hardworking folks had made all the reservations, and were busily greeting the incoming boaters and insuring that everyone was secured in his individual berth. They were also in charge of an evening reception on this night and a restaurant dinner on the following one. This weekend was the Canadian holiday, Canada Day, which made advance preparations for a group of boats from the US essential.

From this jumping off point, many of the boaters/caravanners were headed north. The Gulf Islands are always a popular destination, but many travel even further - to Desolation Sound, which in this age of boating popularity, is anything but desolate; or further still toward Alaska. These "caravans" are most informal, but often individuals plan to meet in some cove or inlet, and they usually stay in touch via VHF radio.

Bedwell Harbor Marina is typical of the places frequented by clubs and individuals. Like RV parks, marinas depend to some extent (and woo whenever possible!) groups of yachters. There were two other groups, from Crescent Beach, B.C., and Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, WA, sharing the marina with us. Marinas provide meeting places, stores, laundries, and often restaurants. Bedwell's additional offerings included live entertainment -- a band and an Elvis impersonator, on this weekend. You can usually rent a small fishing boat, or a canoe, and kayaking has become increasingly popular. Beginning kyakers on hourly jaunts, double bladed oars at the ready, follow their instructors like lines of baby ducks to the water, where they learn the intricacies of kayak paddling. Bicycles are often available for rent. Hiking trails abound. This marina even has a swimming pool.

This was our first actual experience of caravans in any form. It was very enjoyable, with exceptionally friendly folk, ready to assist in any way. We shall try it again. Who knows, maybe next time we'll be on the road!

Postcard: Caravan Curiosity -- Tours and Rallies

June 23, 1997

We have yet to take a pre-organized trip with other Rvers. Our travel has always been the "where shall we go today" or, "shall we stay here one more day" variety. But curiosity and opportunity teamed up this past week, and we got some first-hand information about group travel - caravans and rallies. Our instructors happened to be from the Winnebago - Itasca ("WIT") tours. However, we're aware that there are many other similar caravans for other Rving enthusiasts.

We were camped in the South Seattle KOA, along with eleven WIT rigs. While Tom took a business trip to Chicago, I got the opportunity to ask these friendly folks about caravans -- how the trips are organized; the different responsibilities of caravan hosts, how they are organized, and where they go. For those of our readers who are as curious as I, here are some insights.

Although the company makes the arrangements, chooses the overnight parks, any restaurants, and tours of the various areas, the Wagon masters have the day to day.the control of the trip. Claire and Oren Gilbertson from the Bakersfield, CA area, were the experienced and affable wagonmasters on this excursion. They explained that one of their responsibilities is to submit biweekly reports, and their input, (what works, what doesn't), often will influence subsequent tours. Wagonmasters depart first on any travel day, ensure that the next park is expecting the rigs, that there is a group center open and useful for nightly get togethers and next day travel plans, and that things are generally as anticipated. The Gilbertsons and other wagonmasters must have prior experience in leading groups, which experience often comes from being club presidents, taking tours themselves, and a overriding delight in taking, and leading, these trips.

All of the RVers had taken at least one WIT tour before, and one couple was embarking on their 13th! While the tour was smaller than usual, eleven rigs equals 22 persons, one of the magic numbers for ordering tour buses. Bus sizes, I learned, come in seating for 22 or 44 persons! The size of the group also made it much easier to find suitable RV parks. The bigger the tour group the harder it is to find a park large enough to accommodate everyone.

The tour sounded fascinating. Since we live in this area, we know it well, and this tour really was "hitting the high spots" of Washington State. 24 days long, it had started in northern Washington, on the Canadian border. Here the WIT members met and got a close up look at the border's Peace Arch. Then they traveled the North Cascades highway to eastern Washington and spent the night in Winthrop. This small town is modeled after a "western" town, with wooden sidewalks and period storefronts. Here the Memorial Day and Labor Day rodeos draw huge crowds. Next they traveled to the German town of Leavenworth, thence to Yakima where they visited the Boise Cascade Corporation's lumber mill and the headquarters of the Yakama Indian nation. Then they headed west again through Mount Rainier National Park, toured the Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption area, and were spending several days in Seattle. They would lunch at the landmark Space Needle, have a salmon dinner at the Tillamook Indian village, and explore Pike Place outdoor market. Next they were headed further west to the Olympic Rain Forest and then south toward the Oregon border and the end of the tour. With such an ambitious schedule, it is easy to see just how busy the folks in charge can be.

While the Wagonmasters lead the caravan; the Tailenders trail behind. Janet and George Ice, from Mercer Island, environs Seattle, were tailending on this trip. And while the Gilbertsons really loved being in charge and leading the pack, the Ices were equally enthusiastic about being the last in line. They are responsible for sending the group out in bunches of 5, so as not to unnecessarily disrupt traffic, and so that everyone doesn't arrive at once at the evening's destination. They enjoy following the slowest rigs, (and thereby seeing all the possible sights). They are very happy not to have to be in camp an hour before everyone else, to make sure all the arrangements have been made. They love arranging the stops along the way, for the occasional Wal-Mart, outlet malls or the most necessary grocery stops. George has the requisite mechanical skill to help with routine problems along the way, and since all the rigs stay in touch via citizen band radios, he can locate and assist whenever necessary. And have they had practice, they have been tailending for 25 years!

Janet described some special advantages she has found from caravans - welcomes by regional folks (one man brought the Krewe costumes for Mardi Gras to one of their meetings), tours to places the solo traveler would either not know existed, nor be able to explore on his own, and the ongoing enjoyment of meeting and re-meeting friends from across the country.

After this trip, they will don their Rallymaster hats and go to Banff, Canada. Here a new group of WIT folks will rally at one campground for a week and various activities will take place either on the grounds or very close by. But we got the feeling that tailending is their special love.

Hmmm.....maybe one day we should try this !

Postcard: Banff and Lake Louise

May 16, 1997

We have just returned to the small Canadian town of Radium Hot Springs after a 24 hour sojourn in Alberta. We left the 5th wheel in Radium and drove the truck 80 + miles to Banff. What a lovely trip, complete with an overnight at the Banff Springs Hotel, where Tom's meetings took place.

By the way, we were very lucky to find a place to stay/store the rig for these nights. We had neglected -- again -- to check the list of Canadian holidays, and found ourselves competing with the Canadians for spaces during their Queen's Birthday weekend. This list does exist, I believe in the AAA travel book, but is no good unless you use it!

Up an 11% grade for the first 4 miles, after which the road is level for the rest of the trip. You find yourself in a valley between steep crags which rise 10,000 feet above the floor. At this time of year, the mountains have a heavy snow pack, and the campgrounds are still closed. It is absolutely spectacular. Deer graze at the side of the road, elk spot the meadows, and we even saw mountain goats!

Banff is wonderful this time of year. A Canadian town in a Bavarian setting with an incredible display of tall peaks encircling it, with attractive shops, galleries and Inns. While it can be crowded in the summer, we are a little ahead of the season, and the town, while certainly not deserted, could be sampled at leisure. I took great advantage of this.

While Tom attended his meeting, I walked the length ( some 5 blocks) and width (about 3), of town. Across the Bow River, which runs through the town, and in and out of galleries and clothing stores. Exploring museums. The Whyte museum has a great photographic display of the history of Banff. I had noticed that the name Rundle occurs frequently - there is a Mount Rundle, one nine of the golf course is the Rundle, and it appears on shop names and street signs. In the museum, I learned that Rev. Rundle was the first minister in this area and worked extensively with the indigenous Stoney Indians.

In the afternoon, we drove up to Lake Louise, some 30 miles north, to visit the lovely old chateau, the Lake Louise Hotel. Here we were at a higher elevation than in Banff, and found snow at the sides of the roads, and the lake still frozen. The wind off the glacier was chilly, but the sun was shining and the whole picture was postcard perfect!

Now back to Radium Hot Springs and tomorrow we return to Beebee Bridge campground to bail our dog out of the boarding kennel. As it willl be Sunday night, we should find most of the weekend campers gone. We have a Sunday night song for all these weekend campers. To the tune of "now run along home, and jump into bed", the campfire song of my childhood, we sing:

"Now drive along home, the weekend is through
The kids are tired, and so-oo are you
You've hiked and you've fished, with all of your might
You drive on home, We want your campsite"!

Postcard: The Road to Banff

May 12, 1997

Decisions, decisions... Which is the "best"? - choose the most scenic yet trailerable route, to take to Banff, the resort town in Alberta, Canada We could travel north on Interstate 5 and, once across the border, take the wonderfully named Crowsnest Highway, the Coquihalla Highway or the Yellowhead Highway. We could take Interstate 90, (good for getting where you're going, but decidedly lacking in the interest department), east to Spokane and then north into Canada. Not surprisingly, we decided on a route mixture - some red (2 lane, undivided), and some blue, (paved, undivided) roads. We will take US Highway 2 to Spokane, right through the heart of the ranching and farming area of eastern Washington, then drive north through the "panhandle" of Idaho to join the winding Crowsnest in British Columbia.

We will be starting from one of our favorite camping spots - Beebe Bridge. This neatly kept county park is right on the Columbia River, about half way between the Oregon and Canadian borders. We have a pull-through site with water and electric. At the bottom of a short grassy slope, the river rolls along . Birds abound. Our Brittany is being teased by the Killdeer (we call them killdogs) which act injured in order to lead potential enemies from their nests. Missy falls for it every time. In fact, we are wondering if the birds don't derive a lot of pleasure from leading this silly dog astray! In addition to the killdeer, I have seen cliff and barn swallows, Bullocks orioles, and Kingbirds. A beautiful starting place for a much anticipated trip.

US 20, our road east, winds along the Columbia, through the heart of the apple empire. Everywhere remotely possible, small (and some not-so-small) areas have orchards planted with pears and cherries in addition to the omnipresent apples. Mailboxes proudly proclaim not only the name of the resident, but which grower will get his fruit. Today "Crisp 'n Spicy" is on every mailbox.

As you leave the riverside and its ample irrigation water, the road climbs through cattle ranches and enters the Palouse, the wheat growing areas of Washington and Idaho. Then to the Interstate through Spokane and Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, and north toward the Canadian border.

Tonight we will stay just outside Bonners Ferry, Idaho, at Twin Rivers Campground. Here the campsites are nestled among tall old-growth cedars, and you can walk to the confluence of the Kootenai and Moyie Rivers. Beautiful. Tomorrow, Canada!

Postcard: Springtime in the Columbia Gorge

April 24, 1997

Almost 4 months ago to the day, we skated, in our truck, down the Columbia River Gorge toward Portland and the southland. Today, running from the April "showers" (windshield wipers from 0 to 60 in 15 seconds), which have been sweeping the coast, we are headed inland -- up the Columbia River toward eastern Washingon. What a spectacular trip.

There are two roads up this section of the river; one in Oregon and the other in Washington. The Oregon road is Interstate 84. It is the one to use if you are in a hurry or if the weather is bad (as it was last December). Neither being the case this morning, we took the more scenic Washington State Highway 14.

Highway 14 begins in Vancouver, WA and climbs rather steeply for the first few miles. It passes through the timber town of Washougal, and then enters the Gorge. Now the road traces the river; on one side there are steep walls of rock, on the other, meadows reach down to the water. Now there are no billboards and the few signposts discreetly point out the hiking trails or water access areas. This is wind surfer's paradise and even on a fairly cool day these hardy souls can be seen in abundance. (Wearing wet suits.) Every few miles the backwaters of the river are filled with fishermen. (Wearing warm jackets).

Several miles into the Gorge you come upon Beacon Rock. This huge rock stretches about 400 feet over the water - straight up. It does not appear to be climbable, but some enterprising soul has installed stairs , which ascend, in a series of short switchbacks, right up the side, and over the top.

Sprinkled along the road are several picturesque towns. Bingen, sister city to the German town of the same name, has a winery. Upper Wishram and Lyle have wetsuit shops, sailboard shops and old fashioned kid's nightcrawler stands. Myriad roads run into the countryside; tomorrow we plan on doing some area exploring.

As we progress east, the weather becomes warmer and sunnier. This afernoon, we are camped off Highway 97 at Maryhill State Park. The sun is out, the birds are singing, the dogwood trees are absolutely lovely, and we have finally found Spring. Hooray!

Postcard: Storms in the Islands

March 30, 1997

Many of the the San Juan natives pride themselves on remaining "on-island" all throughout the rough winter weather. They consider themselves true "Islanders".

The weather they brag about surviving has come to visit us in our 5th wheel tonight. The wind is blowing so hard that even with the stabilizers down, we can feel the whole rig shake. The TV, ( for some unknown and wonderful reason, we still have power), is telling us that that the wind gusts are in excess of 80 mph. Opening any door is dangerous; it could easily be wrenched from your hand and do untold damage hitting the outside of the 5th wheel. Over our stove, the outside vent is singing a banging tune and will keep us awake tonight unless we tape it closed. Ferry service has been cancelled, and the phones are out.

We are in Anacortes, where we keep our 5th wheel. Tomorrow, we will catch a ferry (assuming service is restored) back to our Island home. If this Pacific Northwest weather holds true, in our Islands, protected by the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, there will be more sun and less rain; and one of the last winter storms will soon be a memory.