2012 Western Scooter Trip Updates
We had planned on going to Welcome, MN today; However – we got up at 7 and looked outside at the sky and then checked the radar and there was a big yellow/red blob headed our way. So we decided to wait until 9:30, but still rain and the weather people say hail and a huge downpour happening near where we would be going. So we decided that by 11:30am everything should be clear. And by 11:30 it pretty much had stopped raining, so we got everything ready and were on the road by 12:08pm. The roads were wet, but it was not raining.
We ran into a slight problem with taking the wrong road, but not for long and we wound up on 169 going south as planned. It was double lane, so the cars just passed us and all was fine. It did start raining a couple of times, but all was fine. The tricky part was after Mankato, 169 joined with hwy 60 down to Madelia. At Madelia we took hwy 15 to Fairmont and the road went straight south which means that the wind was hitting us crossways. I looked at the weather and they said something ridiculous, like 10 mph winds. It was so strong that you just had to lean into it, and when you would go past a clump of trees, you would have to straighten upright again. Those last 30 miles were very strenuous.
So anyway we decided to get a motel tonight - ($52) and lo and behold right across the street was a movie theater!! We saw the Avengers, I thought it was great.
As I write this part, it is 7:30am on the next day (Sun) and already 70 degrees. Expecting it to hit 90, very windy, but the rain shouldn't start until the afternoon. Traveling about 150 miles today.
Start – We got on the road at 8:30, the temp was 70 degrees and windy. It seems no matter what direction we are going we are crossways to the wind. Today we had to go due west for maybe 50 miles and it was horrendous. Besides the wind pushing you over, so you are constantly driving on a tilt, it was so strong it would have blown off our helmets except that we had the straps on.
So when we finally got to turn onto a 4 lane highway going southwest instead of straight west, it was a huge reprieve. You could just drive and watch the scenery and enjoy it. We saw 2 rooster pheasants – run right in front of John. Actually I thought a mourning dove almost hit him, but I guess it just came very close. We also passed a badger, that had been killed, and possibly a wolverine and there were many other roadkill. John also saw some longhorn cattle and a great blue heron. I missed those.
It got very hot and uncomfortable in the afternoon, although that dreaded wind helped to keep things cool. We are waiting for a big storm tonight. We put up our new tent (REI quarter dome 3+) for the first time camping and we expect it to do wonderful things. Like not leak.
John looked at the map and we are in South Dakota. I thought this was Iowa, but apparently a small portion of S.D. Sneaks over here into (North) Sioux City. And tomorrow first thing we will be going into Nebraska.
Start- We had an incredible storm last night. Early in the evening we watched the sky to the north with all kinds of purple, dark clouds. The storm warnings were all for the northern cities and counties and we went to bed with just a few drops of rain. Then around 10:30 John came back from the bathroom and said there was lightning all over the sky. I had been laying there listening to the rumbling of the thunder that never stopped. It was a constant sound for about 3 or 4 min. And the sky was light with lightning. Right after John decided to go out and put another tarp over our tent it started to rain and then hail. He stayed out there and got the tarp in place and was soaking wet when he came back in the tent. Not to mention hail damage to his person. It was like quarter size hail.
After that it just rained and rained. When we got up in the morning there were big limbs down, but none by our tent. We had a wonderful dry night.
We left around 8:30am and had to cross the river (the Missouri) to get to Nebraska. It was still cloudy and not too windy and shortly thereafter the sun came out and the wind started again. We did a lot of cross wind stuff again today, but the wind was probably only 20mph today; clearly not as bad as yesterday.
Nebraska is way different from Iowa. Still lots of openess, but the roads aren't straight as an arrow and there is much more contour and hills all over. Easier to drive. Not very many cars, but they are all going faster than we are. We did see some bison.
We went about 40 miles further than we were going to. We just heard on the weather radio that the winds will be up to 25mph tomorrow afternoon, but out of the northwest. Maybe it will push us to our destination
Start- We left this morning around 9:15am: The weather was quite cool, probably about 50 degrees. Therefore I wore a ton of clothes today and was just comfortable. We basically stayed on Nebraska hwy 15 most all of the day. The wind was kind to us today and pushed us. The roads were good, the scenery nice to look at. Plus we had a bonus of watching lots of hawks and turkey vultures flying around.
We passed through no cities until we got to Fairbury, NE. So we stopped there and got gas and then had a picnic lunch at one of their city parks. It was extremely dry in Fairbury, as it is here in Washington, KS where we are spending the night. The grass is all yellow and there are big cracks in the dirt just because they are not getting any rain.
We stopped at the library in Washington to use their wifi. And there are some Baltimore orioles flying around our campsite. The weather was good today, up to 80 I would guess, winds up to 15 or 20, but since it was pushing us it was a good thing.
May Wed. 5/30/12
Start - Last night was not a good sleeping night. John just plain didn't sleep well. I was listening to the crickets or some kind of bugs that I usually like to hear, plus you could hear the sound of the cars on the highway which I usually like to listen to, but then there was this overpowering noise from the power station, whatever it was, making a 2-sounded hum or whatever and it nearly drove me insane. I did eventually fall asleep but whenever I would wake up, that's all I could hear.
So we left about 8:30am and swung by the library to check out a specific highway on google maps. And then we were on our way. Again, good roads, very little traffic, pretty nice scenery. We stopped at Salina to get gas, but since we were close to our destination already, we didn't stop to eat.
The land seemed to suddenly get less hilly and become more flat; reminded me of Iowa. Then we went up a hill and suddenly there were hills everywhere. It was very odd.
We stopped at the state park and paid $11 for camping, along with $4.20 per scooter. Still a good deal. The lady showed us all of our camping choices and we spent the next hour driving all over the park trying to find them all. After eating lunch at one of the campgrounds; the one that had these big concrete umbrellas over a 20x30 slab of cement that had a picnic table on it, We decided to get back on the highway, cross the dam and go to their other camping area. And this place where we had lunch, there were signs in each of the “campsites” that said “no driving of vehicles or trailers on these areas. The point being that I guess you could just drive up to them and park on the grass, as there were no parking places. But the cement was just for the picnic table, or we guessed you could put on tent on it. Very strange.
At the other campground we got a campsite (a more normal one) and set up camp and walked around by the beach and then looked up at the sky. It was really dark. We came back and listened to the weather radio and they indicated that we were in the path of a big storm, with hail and high winds. So we took the stakes out and John found a more suitable spot to put the tent for being in a storm. We just picked it up by the groundcloth and carried it about the length of a football field. And we waited and waited and then it did start to rain thunder and has been going ever since. We ARE in a good spot. These storms seem to last an extremely long time. You think it's over, then there's another flash of lightning and it starts all over again.
Oh, today we went through Abilene and tomorrow we will be staying in Dodge City.
Start – Since it was incredibly windy in the morning, we hung around in the tent, checking the map for different routes and anyway we didn't get on the road until about 10am. We started out going south which meant the wind was pushing us. After that it hit us crossways and it was a challenge. We did decide to take whatever road it was that went diagonally toward our destination. We weren't going to go that way because it was a main artery but also just single lane. But after fighting with the wind we decided that anybody could just pass us if we were going to slow. It was a good decision. Wind wise it was much easier and Kansas people are pretty good at passing us. There weren't a lot of cars anyway.
We did stop at Fort Larned,a National Historic Monument. It was like other forts we have seen,that showed exactly what the fort looked like with all the buildings where they were at the time when people lived in the fort. It was a nice stop and we had lunch there too.
From there it was a short way to Dodge City. We are at a nice campground. It is supposed to get down to 48 tonight. I will dress accordingly. We stopped at Walmart and then we ate at Applebee's.
Start – As fate would have it, we woke up at 7am today to the
slight plinking of raindrops on our tent. After 5 min. it was over.
And so John packed up the tent wet. We left around 8:30. The wind
started out hitting us crossways immediately and the weather said it
was 10-20mph gusting to 30. It was just tough. And to make matters
worse, western Kansas is super flat and they clearly have no more
than 29 trees in the whole area we drove through.
There was nothing slowing it down. We did see some really neat wind turbines – they were everywhere!! There was even a little roadside area where they had a kiosk with information about the wind generators.
We probably drove about 80 miles before we came to a city so we stopped and got gas and ate at McDonalds. Then we were lucky enough to change highways; we were now going SW instead of due west, plus the wind changed and even when we were going due west again, we were driving straight into it, which was way easier.
We got to the turnoff for the city of Springfield, CO and John spotted the Comanche National Grassland office so we stopped there and talked to “Kim” about places to camp. There were many, but all accessible only by gravel roads and it would be dispersed camping. That is, you can camp whereever you want, but it's out in the open and rest assured there are no trees. But Kim also was just nice to talk to and she had plenty of information about the goings-on in Springfield and the surrounding area.
And so here we are in this quaint, old western hotel for $49. What a deal! It's very nice.
Start – We were on the road about 7:45am with very little wind and almost zero traffic. John saw some prairie dogs and we both saw antelope. The drive was uneventful. Our destination was Capulin Volcanic National Park and we could see it from a distance. We stopped at the visitor center and for $10 John got his “get into National Parks for free” Senior pass. So then we got on our scooters and hoped and prayed that they would make it from the visitor center (6877 ft.) up to the top of the mountain which was 7877 feet. The drive up was extremely scary because there was no guard rail. But we made it up without any problem. Then we did the mile hike. We walked to the top (8182 ft) and then we walked the outer rim to see the most spectacular views ever. We also saw a cute lizard. After we finished that hike, we took the .2 mile hike down into the crater. Realizing that this was a very old volcano, but it was still neat. We stopped at a very nice picnic area on the way back down to the visitor center, and had lunch.
Then we headed for Raton, to spend the night. There was construction going on and there were numerous signs up about fines, etc etc for going over the speed limit of 55. And believe it or not, everyone did 55 mph. It was great; the speed we usually always do. After 16 miles or so, when the construction was done there was a sign for 70mph. It was a double lane highway and the people just flew by us. We like 55.
We could see storms arising ahead of us and it did rain. It's quite amusing because everyone says “we really need rain, it never rains”. And it seems that wherever we go it rains. So we're in another cheap motel again tonight - $45. It's very nice though.
John changed the oil and did a little repair on my bike, so we should be good to go. We were going to stop in the Taos area tomorrow, about 100 miles. But instead we will push on to about 200 miles so that the following day will be easier. We'll see if it rains tomorrow afternoon.
Start – We were on the road at 7:50 today because we knew we would be climbing mountains and figured it might take awhile. But starting out it was all flat. Big, wide open spaces, but flat. We saw antelope all over the place and some prairie dogs. Later on we saw some elk. After 30 miles or so we ran into a mountain. In fact we did stop at a wayside. They called it the palisades and it was extremely beautiful, with a fast running stream right along side the road.
Anyway, this mountain wound up to be about 8400 feet, but it was unrelenting. Just up and up and up. Luckily for us there was a truck pulling an RV that we ran into near the top and he couldn't go faster than 20 mph, so we made it. From there it was just up and down on your usual mountain roads; I think we got up to about 9400 feet and we made it without a problem.
Then we were at Taos. What a neat city; perhaps I would have to call it charming, kind of quiet but lots of stuff going on. It was not big and loud and brash. I liked it. But we had to move on to cross a bigger and higher mountain. In fact I have been dreading this since we started, as it's 10500 feet. But before we got there, we stopped at a makeshift spot to have lunch and noticed that the rain seemed to be coming our way. So we ate fast and moved on down the road. The long and the short of it is that we made it to the top of the mountain but it was a struggle. We crawled over the top at about 25mph, but very happy. Our poor scooters had to work very hard.
And now we are camped at an RV park that is quite nice. We did go through a little rain, saw some lightning, heard thunder, and the wind picked up considerably for a short time, but I guess that was just the front going through.
Start – We left around 7:50 today and had a very nice ride. We went through some mountain roads, and straight flat roads and general curvy roads. The temperature was good, little wind, not too much sun and not too much traffic. We had one area of construction where you had to drive about 20 mph so we got to really see the countryside.
The scenery was so awesome today. There was the flat mesas or high plains and then we saw cliffs , sometimes on both sides of the road, with the rocks ledges forming their own tables and neat rock formations and then you would turn the corner and it would be flat again. It was very enjoyable to look at. And we did that for about 100 miles until we got to Aztec, NM. Here we stopped to see the Aztec Ruins National Monument. It was very nice. We had been to Mesa Verde some years ago and saw those Anasazi Ruins. These that we saw today were related to the Mesa Verde ones.
From there we took the 2 lane highway to Farmington. This is a big city compared to all the tiny cities we have seen so far. We found a nice place to camp, got some gas and groceries and we're about ready for bed. Tomorrow Four Corners.
Start – We left early today about 7:30 and we had to drive through a couple of cities in rush hour traffic. It was double lane for about 40 miles and so it wasn't too bad. We saw all kinds of beautiful scenery again and this time red was starting to show up in the cliffs. They have the most wonderful formations to look at.
We turned off to go to Four Corners and it was nice. We had to pay $3 each, to get in, but it was all good. There were also booths of Navajo artisans there with their jewelry and pottery. Everything was absolutely beautiful. There was also a picnic area, but we weren't hungry.
I think the sign said Kayenta was 55 miles. That didn't seem so bad, but the winds were picking up. We turned to get back onto hwy 160 and the scooters were riding sideways into the wind. It was pretty bad. Then after 25 miles or so the sand started blowing now and then. Then we got to the top of a hill and looked down and all you could see was blowing sand, at the bottom. It actually got worse as the sand was almost continuous and I was just about beside myself when we got to Kayenta and there was a McDonalds.
I looked at the weather channel and they had issued a wind advisory for 20-30mph winds with gusts to 40. It was issued at 11am and we got to McDonalds around 11:30. We decided to call some motels and they were all booked (on a Tuesday)! But we found a place 10 miles down the road in the direction we were going anyway.
Since we got here (at the motel) fairly early early,so we went up into the mountains for a hike. (The manager said it was ok to hike on the other side of the road). We still had to crawl under a fence, to get started. We hiked nine tenths of a mile up and that was from 6200 feet to 6600 feet. And of course back down. We had a good time.
Start – We were on the road by 7:15am. It was quite lovely in that there was no wind!! Traffic wasn't too bad and we just had a nice morning. A lot of elevation change, up and down, up and down. As we neared Page, AZ, we came down an incredibly long hill, John saw Lake Powell off in the distance. Unfortunately I missed it. So after we got gas in Page, we just rode a little in the city so I could see Lake Powell. Well we went to like some kind of a neat wayside where you get out and just look from the top or you could walk down all the super neat sandstone rocks that we had been seeing and get to the point where you could look over and see Lake Powell and the Colorado River. It was great.
Then we started on our journey to see the Vermillion National Cliffs. But even before we got there, we passed through the most wonderful scenery, still much elevation change and at one point we went down a very narrow pass that went through a stone cliff about 100 ft wide. It was so neat. Shortly after that we stopped at a place that had a foot bridge across the Colorado and on the other side of the river was the visitor center. And as we were scootering along, today we saw these big huge boulders laying helter skelter in various places. It was as if they broke off from the top of the mountain. Many of them were 10 or 15 feet in diameter.
Then we got to the Vermillion Cliffs. Unbelievable. It was indeed a day of beauty. After that we started the climb to get to Jacob Lake, which is about 40 miles from the Grand Canyon. We climbed from 5400 feet to 8000 feet. Scooters did great. And the North Rim gets way less visitors, so we encountered very little traffic. After Jacob Lake, we entered a forest area, for the 22 mile ride to our campground. This was also extremely beautiful. There was a old burned area that we drove through that was at least a couple of miles. And after going along, we would come out onto these huge open meadows.
After we found a campsite in the Natl Forest, we rode another 15mi to the Grand Canyon. We just looked around, figured out where we would hike tomorrow, made sure our motel reservation was still good and then sat for a while at the Grand Canyon campground grocery store because that is the only place that has wifi.
At this time we are back at our campground, and tomorrow morning we will pack up and head back over there again.
Start – We slept in this morning. We were at about 8700 feet and the weather forecast was for a low of 33 degrees. Whatever it got down to, it was cold, so we waited until it warmed up before we got up. So about 9:30 we headed 15 miles to the Grand Canyon. We took the Cape Royal Road which was paved about 20 miles to the endpoint and then took a short hike to see the scenery. Of course it was spectacular. Plus we saw lots of lizards. Then on our 20 mile trip back to the main road we stopped at other turnoffs to see more outstanding scenery and to have lunch.
We then traveled to the country store and sat on their porch with all the other people who needed wifi. Then we went to see if our room was ready and it was. A cute little cabin whereby when you look out the window you can see part of the Grand Canyon. Actually this is like a duplex, we have a neighbor right there through our bolted door.
We took another little hike to see more astounding views and we have a reservation for dinner at 6:15. Luckily John noticed that somewhere along the line the time changed and we weren't aware of it. Weather today has been hot and dry, some wind – very nice.
Start – We were on the road by 7:10 since high winds were forecast. On the way out of the Grand Canyon we saw 3 or 4 mule deer and John ran over a chipmunk. The ride was very nice, relatively good roads, little traffic and good weather.
We stopped at the Pipe Spring National Monument and got a personal tour because we were the only ones on the tour. The tour was of the Windsor Castle; basically a fort built by the Mormans. Pipe Spring is a water source in this arid place where the Paiute lived and we learned about how the Mormans came in and started controlling the water and the land. Most of these places that we have visited have such sad, terrible stories about how the White Man came in and changed the way the Native Americans lived or killed them.
From there we went to Kanab, Utah on an extremely beautiful drive; seeing even more colors and swirls of colors in the cliffs. From Kanab it was a short 22 miles to Coral Pink Sand Dunes. I couldn't quite figure out why they would call it by that name, but as we got closer it became very apparent. If you think of sand dunes; you generally think of the sand as being white, well these sand dunes were coral pink. The oddest, most beautiful thing ever.
We have a very nice campsite (the only one of 22 sites open in the park). I'm sure we are the only ones who don't have off highway vehicles. They can ride in this huge sand dune area. There is just a small area that they can't drive in. John and I walked in the area that they drive in, and we walked to the highest sand dune. It was very hard. Plus we had to watch for stray OHV. But we had a wonderful time.
Start – We slept in today because we knew we didn't have far to travel. We were on the road by 8:30am. As usual we had relatively good roads, little traffic, fantastic scenery, cool temperatures and light wind. After a short amount of time we started climbing. Coral Pink was 6000 feet, we dropped to at least 5000 feet and then started seeing signs of 6-8% grades. So we were going uphill. The scooters did very well. There seemed to be a lot of traffic in the opposite direction. The wind began to pick up, but it didn't affect us much except when we were on the top or if we were traveling through one of the gorgeous meadows.
We stopped at Cedar Breaks National Monument. We had stopped here 10 years ago when we bicycled this route. It's awesome – the scenery is spectacular. It was super windy and cold on top, the elevation being 10,300 ft. And this was “get into a National Park Free Day”. We wouldn't have had to pay anyway, since we both have a Senior Pass. Nevertheless it's nice they have those days.
From there we started traveling down the mountain to Cedar City, 17 miles. Downhill is easier. And we had to marvel because the road we were going down was the same road we had bicycled up. We can't believe we did it. It took us 2 days to reach the top – 2500 feet each day. It took us about 30 minutes to scooter down.
Here at Cedar City we are at the KOA. It's pretty nice. There are like 20 teeny tiny tent sites, with water and electricity interspersed here and there. So far at 4pm there is only us and one other tent. We got here early today and so are doing the wash, did some shopping and just kind of resting. We also have wifi here and cell service !! so we called and made a reservation at the A le Inn in Rachel,NV for tomorrow night. Tomorrow we look for aliens!!
Start – We left early today because we knew we had about 180 miles to go. We had nice scenery with the mountains all around us, although not as big and certainly not as colorful as Utah and Az. It is like high desert here so we see lots of scrubby plants with flowers dispersed here and there. It's all very nice. Then throw in very little traffic and it's great. In fact the cars travel fast here, so if anyone is behind they just zoom on by.
We did stop at a wayside where the Terrestrial Highway begins and it was quite amusing to see all the people jump out of their cars and have their pictures taken by that sign. We drove on the Terrestrial Highway and didn't seen anything strange. The roads here are so straight and with the mountains, it's just odd how you can see for so far. If you see an area off ahead on the road and think that it is 5 miles, it turns out to be about 15 miles; it's very hard to judge distance.
When we got to Rachel and the A'Li'Inn, our room wasn't ready so we sat around in the bar and watched all the people come and go. I was feeling rather poorly – super tired and dehydrated so I laid down and rested after our room was done. And also drank a ton of water. John went out hiking without me since it is BLM (Bureau of Land Management) on one side of the road so you can go anywhere. John also went out and looked for aliens, couldn't find any but he did see lots of stars. He did say however that you can see just as many if not more in the Boundary Waters.
Start – After feeling really terrible last night and then drinking a ton of water I felt remarkedly better in the morning. We slept in and had breakfast at the A'Li'Inn, before starting on the road. The plan was to drive right to Death Valley from here, but instead, we decided to stop at a motel tonight, in Tonopah. Tomorrow we'll go about 100 miles and stay at the city of Beatty which is then, a short drive to Death Valley.
Our drive was the usual – very little traffic, straight roads that go on forever and I think we went over 3 passes all somewhere between 6200 and 6500 feet. Scooters doing great. We keep seeing these big white areas which are dried up lake beds, I guess. We stopped at one and John walked out half a mile to see it. He said that the surface was totally flat and that one of the locals told him that after it rains, they like to go out there with their 4-wheelers because it's so slippery.
We got here to Tonapah fairly early so John changed the oil in the scooters. Oh, we saw an antelope today too.
Start – We were going to stop at Beatty today, but Death Valley is about the same distance so we went there. When I think of Death Valley I think of a desert, but this is totally not what I had in mind. There are mountains in DV and they are so unique in their shape and form. I think we were at about 3000 feet on first entering. We stopped at Scotty's Castle, which also has a visitor center. There were tours of Scotty's Castle, a beautiful “castle” from the outside and I'm sure it is also on the inside.
We camped at Mesquite Springs at about 2000 feet. We rushed down there to get a campsite only to find we were the only people there in a 40 site campground. We wound up getting out our thermarest mats and sat next to the bathroom because it was the only shade. We drank water and John did some work on the scooters. Then he drove to Ubehebe crater, a 600 foot hole in the ground. He said I would have enjoyed the view, but the wind up there was about 40mph.
We had dinner, still sitting in the shade of the bathroom and then set up the tent around 7pm.We did a little hiking around the campground and walked through the dry riverbed. Then we sat on the picnic table and watched the stars come out.
Start – Our riding today was still within the park itself, as this is a huge area. And today our elevation kept dropping til we got to sea level. And again the formations and colors of the mountains are so intriguing. There is so much to see. We stopped and did the short little walk about the 20 mule team borax. We stopped at Indian Wells, where there is a gas station, general store and a motel.
Then we went to Mosaic Canyon. We had to travel 2 mi on a gravel road, up about 900 feet. But this place was awesome. We walked up a canyon for about ½ mile, some of it very narrow. The colors were incredible and the walls so smooth. It was only 100 here, but with the canyon walls we were afforded some shade.
From there we drove to Furnace Creek at minus 190 feet and 110 degrees. Who wouldn't want to be here in the summer? Our patio looks out onto the golf course and there are some stores and a museum, tennis court, swimming pool, playground. We went for a swim. It was 85 degrees (the water). Air temp by this time was 116. It was wonderful being in the pool.
And then I started feeling poorly. I thought it was dehydration so drank tons of water, but I kept feeling worse. Diarrhea, vomiting, headache, thought for sure I was dying. So we called the medical service provided from the motel and she came up and then she called the EMT guy from the Park Service and eventually the Park Service ambulance came and took me 60 miles to Pahrump, NV to the emergency room. And John drove in on his scooter. Nothing like throwing up in an ambulance to make your day complete. What I had was viral gastroenteritis and guess what it was from? The water I had been downing by the pitcherfuls. Apparently the water in this area is very alkaline (John and I had remarked how disgusting it tasted) and somehow it can cause problems in people who are new to the area.
I got an IV started and a medication for nausea. Then about 1am the nurse comes in and says “are you ready to go home?” Even though we had that $200 a night room at the Ranch, we stayed at a casino motel in Pahrump. What an exciting day.
John rented a car from Enterprise, in Pahrump and we both drove back to the Ranch. This was a different route as compared to the way we entered the park and the mountains here were unbelievable. We went from dark mountains with white streaks and splotches to totally brilliant white mountains. And with the sun shining, it almost hurt your eyes to look at them. Then John drove the car back to Pahrump, got his scooter and came back to Furnace Creek.
I mostly sat around all day. Feeling incredibly better, but not fully recovered yet. Tomorrow we will leave Death Valley and head north on highway 395 in California.
We got up before 6 today to avoid the heat, but it was already 86 when we left. I thought it was pretty exciting to get to about 3000 feet and feel a cool breeze. We did have quite a climb to 5000ft, still within the park. This was a fairly tough climb, but as we were going down the hill there was a sign that we were going down a 9% grade! I have never seen any that high. Plus there were 2 bicyclers (in tandem) that had just biked up this hill. Wow.
So again we were on a road we had never been on before and it had its own beauty. In fact some of it was incredibly gorgeous. Death Valley is in fact one big long valley with mountains all around it. It is like a high desert, or really really low desert in some areas, but it's not just sand. Of course there are plants everywhere, but it is beautiful. And after we crossed over the 5000 ft pass, and started down we went through some areas where the mountain walls were right on either side of us. So great and we could look down deep into the canyon. We kept stopping to take pictures and from about 6 miles up we could look down and see what was obviously an old lake bed. From where we were it looked like golden sand, maybe 2 miles long, crossing the road and being only ¼ wide. How spectacular it looked way up there. When we got down to it, it was golden sand, but it was more beautiful seeing it from afar.
Shortly after that we left the park and traveled to Lone Pine where we stopped at the visitor center because I was just tired. Then we headed to Bishop. I thought it interesting because this place is just like Death Valley with mountains all around and we're still in a valley. The mountains on our right, or west are the Sierras, so they are higher than the ones in Death Valley. But I think Death Valley has many more varied and beautiful features to look at.
We did stop at Manzanar National Historic Site. It was one of the sites where the US forcibly housed the US Japanese citizens (and some of them were not citizens) during the time of the 2nd world war. We walked through the museum and then they had a 20 minute movie. I found it to be all very sad. A week or so ago we saw all the stuff about how we killed all the Indians, or at least drove them from their homeland. And now we inter the US Japanese men, women and children. I guess because we were afraid.
We are at Bishop in an RV park, basically in someone's back yard; but it's nice. There are trees here and a little dam behind us.
We left early today (7am) and had our usual nice ride on the 4 lane highway. After we got to Lee Vining, about 70 miles it started to be single lane. When we got up to go over the passes we usually had the extra lane going up. Otherwise it was single lane, but it was not as bad as it could have been.
We did go over a number of passes today, anywhere from 7 to 8100 feet. All were tricky, and the scooters worked really hard, but we made them all.
While we were on one of the 4 lane roads, we had a black bear run out in front of John. This was the fastest running bear I have ever seen. I guess animals like to run out in front of John.
Our last mountain pass took us very close to Lake Tahoe, and when we did at last enter the city of Lake Tahoe, I just groaned at the millions of people milling all over, and cars all over. It reminded me of when we went to see John's parents when they lived in Branson. Millions of people wandering aimlessly. And so we went drove through that mess for quite a while. We did find out that there was some festival going on that we had not been aware of, plus it is the middle of the weekend for heaven's sake. We are talking bad planning here on our part. We drove around about 2/3 of the lake before we got to Sunnyside (city). John had called all of the state parks in this area, and one private campground and all were full. Luckily one of the people he had talked to told him about this place (we are now camped in) and when John called her, she said that in fact they had a couple tent sites open so we raced over there. Actually it was quite impossible to race over there, but we did the best we could.
I am still unsure what kind of a park this is, but the lady asked us if we had a senior pass and we did so we got the campsite for half off. Plus it's a very nice place, with a small beach on Lake Tahoe.
It has been a while since I have typed and so if you need an update, just check out John's update as he is extremely prompt at getting it done on time. I do remember we went through a bunch of small passes on some fairly ugly roads, through the forest. After a while we came out in the open and the road stayed fairly flat for a while.
The only other thing that comes to mind is that we went through some small town and we just stopped to rest for a minute and their was a sign for a canyon dam dog. I guess Canyon Dam was the name of the city and so we had a dam good hotdog each. I think we were both starving.
From that point we were very close to Lassen and entered the park. It is extremely beautiful. After the visitor center, we started winding up and up and up. The road was perfect, there were a million pullouts so you could stop whenever you wanted. We got out and walked at a few spots, but mostly just enjoyed the scenery. We continued on til we got to the other entrance and that is where the campground was. It was a first come, first serve, honor pay system. There were very few people so we found a site. They did have showers, but you had to go to the general store area and pay $1.50 for 3 min. We both took showers.
We had a good night, Except that I had a bout of diarrhea again and after a while I figured out it was from eating the romaine lettuce. Don't know what that was about, but have been avoiding it for awhile.
We had a nice day traveling here and there. In fact we did not go through any cities today, but we did see a sign for gas, and so got off of our route to drive only a mile to get gas. Then back again heading toward Lava Beds. We decided to take a little known shortcut to stay off of the busy roads. For most of the time that we traveled on it, we got to see Mt. Shasta off in the distance, snow covered and huge.
We got to a fork in the road and took the one less traveled. The road was paved but extremely rough. I'm sure we never went over 40 and usually closer to 30. We were bouncing all over. We stopped for munch and 2 cars actually drove by. From there, the road actually got worse in that the rocks that fell into the road were still there and we had to dodge those, and any branches in the road were still there along with any bark or whatever that came from the logging trucks. After a while we came to a sign that said “you are now entering a highway that is not maintained”. HAH!!
Not long after that we got to turn onto a busy road. The road was great but the wind had to pick p to at least 20mph if not more. We didn't have to go too much further when we saw a sign for Lava Bed Pictographs. We decided to give it a try and wound up on a gravel road. We did see the pictographs and a sign that said entrance and campground 18 miles. After studying the map John determined that the gravel road should stop in about a mile and we would be on a paved road. He was right. A nice road too. We stopped at many of the scenic places and went on a couple little hikes and FINALLY got to the visitor center. It was at least 3:30pm which is very late for us.
We found a site, $5/night with a senior pass and so signed up for 2 nights. How can you go wrong?
We slept in til 8am today, got up and ate and headed for the visitor center to get some flashlights for the caves. Instead of going on Cave Loop Road, we drove out to all the other caves; most of them we had to hike back to see. And we climbed Schonchin's Butte, a crater that had a Forest Service guy up at the top, watching for forest fires. Plus he would answer questions of anyone who hiked the 7 tenths of a mile up there. Incredible view up there.
The caves were awesome. Some were small and short, some were massive (John thought the one to be 100 ft. in diameter. They let you run loose wherever you want with the flashlights they loan you for the day. It's amazing. You can go anywhere, caving. The ones we went to were sort of medium challenging. So one some you had to stoop to get in, or duck walk. Most of the footing was pretty good. A few of the caves we were in had like extra passages that John squeezed through to enter into other rooms. I just stayed out while he yelled what was I was missing. Some of the caves had steps and railings and some had ice in them. We also saw some pictographs.
We got back to the visitor center around 3pm and handed in our flashlights. We had a most wonderful day hiking and caving.
It was a very odd morning because I woke up and was hot. Usually I wake up and am freezing to death. But the sun was shining on the tent with very little wind and it was nice out. We were on the road around 8am for a nice quiet ride to Merrill, OR to get gas. We saw a deer, a hawk and some egrets. We were on the back roads and therefore never saw a sign welcoming us to Oregon.
We went a little further, after getting gas, to Klamath Falls and got groceries. Then we were on a busy highway – 97, but the traffic went in streaks and soon we turned off on hwy 62 heading to Crater Lake. We stayed at 4000 feet for the longest time and I was getting nervous because I thought all of a sudden we would go shooting up 2000 feet in about a mile and the scooters wouldn't like that. But as it turned out we had a very gradual elevation climb; me and the scooters were happy.
We saw some fantastic scenery on the way “up”. One was a river way down in a 250 ft. gorge, plus a waterfall way down there. Plus the sides of the gorge had these very strange looking spires near the top and then interspersed here and there in between in the midway section. Apparently having to do with fumeroles, the steam vents from when it was an active volcano. We stopped at a wayside and had lunch with mosquitoes.
Upon arriving at Crater Lake we stopped at the visitor center and saw a movie about the Lake and the geology of it and how it was made a National Park. They remarked in the movie, how no one could get to the water because it is in the crater. The thought never occurred to me that we wouldn't be able to get down there either. So you just stand up on top and look down at it. Indeed it is incredibly beautiful, but how long can you just look at a lake? With a hundred people up there with you, looking at the lake.
There was also tons of snow at Crater Lake. We had a short little movie on that too. They start in April, trying to get the snow off the road. As it was we were able to get in on the south entrance, and then drive the west rim to exit the north entrance. The east rim is still closed and there is almost no hiking because of all the snow.
So we drove down to Diamond Lake, maybe 10-15 miles from Crater Lake and are camped here with the mosquitoes. They are not overwhelming, they fall into the annoying category. But the sun is still up; we'll see what happens when the sun goes down.
We drove from Diamond Lake to Lava Lands Visitor Center. This is part of the Newberry Volcanic Nat'l Monument. This place is totally different from Lava Beds in California. Newberry is very structural with their rules. You need a number to drive to the top of the mountain, you can walk on the old lava but you can only walk on the part where they have blacktop and to just get into the park you have to wait in line, show your card and or pay your money and in the visitor center you can only watch a movie at a given time, like only every 2 hours. At Lava Beds in CA, they didn't even collect money, they did it by the honor sysytem, if you wanted to watch a movie you just walked over and hit the button, and you could go anywhere you wanted to go and walk through almost any cave you felt like going into. They did request that you take a free flashlight and then return it at the end of the day.
Nevertheless the walk on the blacktop was neat in that had all kinds of signs telling you stuff about the volcano plus John and I walked to the top (of the blacktopped area) and it was a very nice view.
From there we drove through Bend, OR on our way to Tumalo State Park. We got one of the last 3 sites. A nice park, but not much privacy afforded from site to site. But it was quiet and we enjoyed it. We also drove into town to the library and to the laundromat and then ate at the Fish House for dinner. A wonderful meal.
We knew we didn't have very far to go today so we just took our time and stopped at a lot of waysides and even went on a short hike in a very old growth forest. We stopped to have lunch at a wayside on the Santiam River. There were rapids and small waterfalls, and lots of rocks in the water, if you felt like walking out on them.
We got to the campground in the early afternoon and it started to rain after a while. In fact it rained on and off most of the day. And as it turrned out, it poured during the night. We were visiting with John's cousin Pat and her husband Al. They were kind enough to put up a tent for us, so at least our tent didn't get wet. We got to meet their children, Carley, Trisha and David, and their grandchildren, Arielle, Lily and Gunar.
Indeed, it did rain. We went on a little nature walk around some of the campground, that took us by the river and the water was so high. We saw quite a few slugs as we went on our walk. Everything was green and beautiful since they seem to get a of rain in the state of Oregon.
The reason Pat and Al camp here is because they have a trailer show featuring either homemade trailers or trailers that are older than some given year. These people are real fanatics too with the most beautiful trailers ever. On Saturday (today) you can go and look inside all of them and check them out. In addition there is a pot luck in the evening.
The potluck was outstanding Copious amounts of everything you could think of. And, yes it rained again last night. However when we got ready to leave, it was not raining and the roads were drying off. It was a short trip to Keizer and we even traveled through farm country. This was definitely a change of pace.
We arrived early afternoon. We are here visiting John's sister, Ellie. She is living here with her son and daughter in law, Andy and Cheryl. She is staying in her own little house that her son Andy fixed up for her, in a part of a shed that was on his property when he bought his house. In fact, Ellie gave up her house so we could sleep there and she is staying with Andy and Cheryl in Ben's bedroom and Ben is sleeping with his brother, Jack.
We all went on a hike down to the Willamette River in the evening.
Today we drove into Portland and spent the entire day at the OMSI museum and we went to their Imax Theater. We saw a movie about dolphins. It was a great and tiring day.
Today was shopping day. We went to Trader Joe's, Dick's, some other sporting goods store, Costco, and a drug store.
Today we went to the Waterfall. We hiked up about a mile and unfortunately at the very top, where you would normally look over to see the waterfall, we couldn't because they have had so much rain, that the path got taken out by a mudslide. We were able to see wonderful views of the waterfall from the bottom.
Then we went to the to see a dam on the Columbia River. It was quite exciting because we had to stop at the guardhouse before entering and the guard was armed. He asked if we had any weapons and we all said no. Then he asked if he could check the back of the vehicle, so the back door was opened and he didn't see any weapons so we got to go in.
This place was huge and they were spilling a lot of water over the dam and it was quite impressive to see the water all churned up. We went to the visitor center and I think it was 5 stories high. The dam was built by the Corps of Engineers. We listened to a little talk, just walked around and looked at stuff, went down a level or two and looked from the inside of the building out where the fish were swimming by. They have this neat fish ladder and they actually have someone who counts the fish, after they go up the ladder. They steer the fish down this chute of water, so they are able to count them before they leave and go wherever they go.
We also got to go to the powerhouse part of the dam. And then they had 2 different movies going on. We watched the one about Lewis and Clark. It was great.
Andy took time off from work to be with us the last 3 days, but he had to go to work today. We went to the Oregon Garden. This was just a wonderful garden with flowers, trees, bushes, ponds, fountains, a children's garden, a dog garden, a rose garden, and about 20 other special kinds of gardens. And they had a 400 year old white oak. We took a free tram ride upon arriving and then we got out and walked the whole thing. It was awesome. There was also a Frank Lloyd Wright House but it was an extra fee to get there, and we were too tired.
We didn't leave Kaiser until 9:30 and it was a long 30-ish miles to Oregon City on 99E. But when we jumped on 205 to go about 18 miles it was quite fast. In fact the speed limit was 55 and there were 3 lanes going in our direction and the only problem was when cars would merge into the right lane (which is the one we travel in). We had been on 205 the other day when we went to the dam on the Oregon side. This time we saw it from the Washington side.
It was so tree-ful as we started heading up into the hills. Not much traffic and quite beautiful. Throughout the whole day I think the highest we got was 3000 feet. Lots of big stone cliffs, millions of trees, a great many rivers creeks and streams and just a few cities. It seemed like the closer we got to Mt. St Helens, the less traffic there was. And the reason for that is because the road to Windy Ridge is still closed because of snow. They are just beginning to plow to get ready for the 4th of July.
We were following the signs and we went past one and John stopped and said “did that sign say the road to Windy Ridge was closed?” We went back and sure enough – it was closed. Very shortly after that we saw a ranger and we asked him and he said that they don't plow. We did find out a little later that they have just started to plow.
So our new plan is to skip Mt. St. Helens and take the freeway to get to Ranier as opposed to using the back route, which is closed.
The ride to Mt. Rainier was partially in rain, partially sun. However when we finally got to Mt. Rainier the sun was out. We passed over 3 neat streams before we got to our campsite at about 3000 feet. We set up the tent and drove down about 1 mile to the museum and just to talk to the rangers about what there is to see. So we decided to see waterfalls and there was a neat one right up near our campsite. And the sun was out. It was about a mile to the waterfall. We left our motorcycle jackets hanging on our scooters like we always do, and the helmets and headed up. At the time we didn't know we be going that far “up” but we did. To start they took us to the dry riverbed, which was cool., but we had to cross the raging river on a log footbridge, that did have a handle rail on one side of it. It was medium dangerous, but then you have to throw in all the idiots out there with their idiot children. It took a while to get across because the dad and his kid right in front of us could only take one step every 20 seconds.
Finally got across and started heading up. Made it to the top and it was neat, but not super impressive. Headed back down and it started to rain. And this was the real thing. Not just a mist, or a drizzle. It was raining. The good news is we didn't have to mess around and wait to get across the bridge. We got to our scooters, put on our wet jackets and wet helmets and went to our campsite. So everything we were wearing was soaking wet, plus our jackets. We decided to just put on dry clothes, including our (dry) rain jackets, not even put on our motorcycle jackets and drive up (in the rain) to the visitor center. And enroute stop and see the waterfalls along the way. Now these waterfalls were outstanding. On one of them we had to walk down on snow to see it, but it was awesome. John was smart enough to still wear his helmet because when we got to the lookout you would get drenched from the spray. The lady from a Chinese couple came up to John and said “you are so smart, you are so smart”. It was hard to understand her, but they had been getting drenched with the spray and John had put his face shield down and never got his face wet. She thought that was the best thing ever.
We got to the visitor center, driving through rain, mist, fog so thick it was like driving in the middle of the night, and at about 4000 feet their was snow and it was freezing cold. We watched a Mt. Rainier movie, ate some dinner and drove back down in the same conditions we drove up in – ugly.
Got cleaned up, went to bed and decided never to come back to Rainier again.
It seemed to be a long drive to get to Pacific Beach. Since I am writing this days after it happened, be sure to look at John's summary to find out the real facts.
We had reserved a yurt because we had been in rain for so long, and of course it turned out to be sunny. But that's OK because the yurt also had a heater and it got quite chilly at night. We loved having a heater.
The tide was low and we walked waaayyyyyy out at the beach. It was a kite flying type beach and we saw the neatest looking kites. It was very windy, but when the sun went down, the wind quit and all the kites came down. We walked out again on the beach right before sunset, but we were too early and I was getting to cold so we just walked back to our yurt and turned on the heat. It was a great night.
We had some pretty windy roads at times today, but the traffic wasn't too bad. We had a reservation at Olson's Resort for a cabin because we just knew it would be raining. And unfortunately we were right.
Sekiu is a fishing town. If you live here, you fish. If you visit here, it's because you want to fish. And apparently the fish were biting like crazy. I think they were mostly catching some kind of salmon. So we drive into Olson's “resort” and it was not the picture I had in mind when you think of “resort”. We had to drive through gravel and mud and rocks and holes to get to the place. The lady was somewhat abrupt, and there were dogs and cats wandering in and out of the building whenever they wanted, and she says to us “you're in number 40. Just drive across the lot, cross the street and go up the hill. It's the one on the end.”
We weren't exactly sure which hill she was talking about, but we did find it. As John pointed out, it was all a fisherman would want. We did have 3 beds, a kitchen with a nice stove and refrigerator. But the ceiling was all water stained and sagging downwards, there was a crack in the shower, no sink in the bathroom, and whatever. They did have a heater, so I shouldn't be complaining plus it was clean. But it rained all night long.
To day we slept in, as it was still raining, then got up and had pancakes and bacon and waitied til 11am because it was supposed to stop raining at that time. And it did. We drove west about 20 miles to Neah Bay. There we stopped at the Macah Museum. The Macah are an Indian who live in that area of the Northwest, and had their land taken away from the US government. They still live there on a very small reservation but it was quite a museum showing how they lived and there was even a real longhouse set up that we could walk through. There use of woodwork was incredible. But we bought a pass so that we could drive another 5 miles or so to Cape Flattery.
Cape Flattery was one of the most awesome places ever. We had to hike about a mile and it was mostly all downhill, heading toward the ocean. The walk itself was super neat through the forest with some huge trees. They put a ton of work into the trail and had a lot of wooden steps to walk on. Not on a grade, but just flat, but this way we didn't have to walk in the sogginess.
When we got to the very end we had to climb up a 3 pronged ladder to get to the top of the platform. It was overlooking the Pacific and it was windy and the waves were crashing and you could see the spray from waves. There was also a Naturalist there with a telescope and binoculars and she would answer any questions you might have. She pointed out a sea otter to us and some sea lions (seals)? Over on some rocks. She also said that she had seen Grey Whales every day for the last week or so. We stayed and talked to her for quite a while. I believe she was a Macah Indian and she was very interesting to talk to and she told us that if we wanted good smoked salmon, we should go to this particular place in Neah Bay. As it turned out, we did stop to get some and it was fantastic.
From Sekiu we had to drive 71 miles to Port Angeles on a twisty, windy road most of the time. This is where we got the ferry. We were early and stopped to find out what would happen and motorcycles are special. They get to go on last. There were 2 other motorcycles also. The open space for us on the boat was in row 4, so we parked at the very end in row 4. This was a very big ferry; we went up and wandered all over the ship, inside and out. The ride was only an hour and a half.
Coming into Victoria, British Columbia was quite impressive. They told everybody to get back to their cars, so we went back and waited. As luck would have it, row 4 was the first one to leave and John went back and asked the guy if we could leave with row 4 and he said “sure”. So we didn't have to wait long at all to go through customs.
We got out onto the streets of Victoria – what a zoo. John found a place to park; for $2 with a credit card, we got something like 43 min. We walked through the city and saw the parliamint building, neat flowers along the way, we went to Fan Tan Alley an alley that was 5 feet across. A lady was coming through with a cart and we had to wait because we wouldn't have fit. We just wandered around the downtown area, went back to the scooters, drove them a little closer to the downtown and wandered some more.
Then at 5pm, rush hour, we decided to head to our campground, which was only 12 miles away. Unbelievable. This was just terrible. We inched along. I don't know how long it took, but it was not good. We got to our site and it was nice. They had 2 big sinks with hot running water to do your dishes.
Today we got up and headed out to see Juan de Fuca, which was 40 miles out. On the way we stopped at Sooke River Potholes. That was very nice with a steep cliff where you could look down and see waterfalls. They had a neat sign telling people why they shouldn't do any cliff diving.
At Juan de Fuca (Provincial Park) we had to walk down down down to get to the beach. It was a neat beach with lots of rocks and sand and rivers flowing into the ocean. At one point we had to walk across a log to get across the river. We went further and walked out on a whole bunch of bigger rocks, looking for tide pools but only found barnacles and clams.
The last place to see was French Beach, another Provincial Park. This was also a great beach, that was much easier to get to.
Today we slept in because we only had about 20 miles to travel to get to our next campsite. The plan was to drive to McDonald National Park because it is just outside of Sidney, which is where we will catch the ferry tomorrow. So we arrived at the campground around 10, easily found a nice site, set up the tent and then traveled another 10 miles or so to Butchart Gardens. It cost us $66 plus change to get in there, but they were very organized, in directing everyone into the place and then after paying, directing everyone into their appropriate parking places. Motorcycles got preferential treatment and we got to park right in the front. The organizational part of it reminded me of Disneyland, with signs all over telling you where to go and what to do.
It was an exceptional garden, the intensity of the colors of all the flowers was astounding. And so many flowers and various different gardens. My favorite garden was the Japanese Garden. It was just incredible. It was so big, so beautiful.
We had an very expensive lunch but it was sooooo good. After racing around the whole garden, we finally just sat around for awhile in their area where they wifi and the coffee shop and a few other buildings. It was all very nice.
Then we drove to downtown Sidney, to the waterfront and hung out there awhile. There were some very beautiful condos overlooking the ocean. Very posh. There was a huge pier and we went out and saw a couple of people crabbing and we saw what was probably a sea otter, but he stick around long; we didn't see much of him.
From there we went to the grocery store, got some fuel for our stove and checked out where we will pick up the ferry tomorrow. The weather forecast says 0% rain; high of 69 tomorrow.
Since our ferry didn't leave until noon, we weren't in a big hurry to get over there. Not to mention the fact that the ferry was about 5 minutes from our campground. We did leave early and hung around by the waterfront again. We stopped at Starbucks for wifi and wound up talking to a couple that had a Gold Wing.
We left and got in line for the ferry; only 2 cars ahead of us. It all went quickly and well and we just waited at the gift shop until we could board. For this ferry we were the first to board after the walk on passengers. It was also a big ferry and we sat up and looked out the window for our 2 ½ hour trip. We also got to leave early and so we got through customs early and were on the road.
We took most all of the back roads and ended up on hwy 99 in Everett, from which we stayed on 99 to take us into Seattle to see my niece Michelle and Alexander and their very cute dog, Buddy. After we got all of our stuff in their house, we walked down to the Ballard area of Seattle to ear dinner. It was about a mile walk and we got to see the neighborhood.
After we woke up, we had breakfast and then jumped in Michelle's car and went all over Seattle. We started at the Farmer's Market downtown by the waterfront. We got to see fish slingers. They have the fresh fish for sale in a semi circle where the people can get to it and there is a fish guy down in that area. When someone picks a fish the work guy calls out something, picks up the fish and tosses it to the guy up in the middle. The guy in the middle who does the wrapping up of the fish, makes some sort of a neat vocal sound and that is the cue for the the fish slinger down by the people to throw the fish up to the guy who wraps it. Iy is quite entertaining.
We just wandered around in that area amidst a million other people and then we headed down to the wharf, and along the way walked by the bubble gum wall. This is a wall pasted with bubble gum of all colors. I guess it was about 30 feet on a single wall. There were signs pasted that said “no bubble gum on the windows”.
From there we went to the Crab Pot, a restaurant. You order from a combination of 4 different choices (including some of clams, crab, oysters, salmon, sausage, potato, corn on the cob and some other things). You buy, for instance, combo #2 for however many people there are. We had 4 people but only ordered for 2. And we could barely finish it. They put a paper/wax table cloth on the table, each person gets a small wooden cutting board and a small wooden mallet. It also comes with sourdough bread. They boil the stuff and bring it all out in a single pan, dump everything on the table, put the bowl on the floor as that is where you throw the shells. There is a roll of paper towels on the table and you eat away. Besides being super fun, it was really good. And I seemed to be the only one who really liked clams, so I had clams coming out of my ears.
After that we went to the Aquarium. Very nice; it consisted of 2 separate buildings. We all enjoyed it. From there we went to the Space Needle. We walked around in that area and of course went up to the top. It was clear and we got to see the top of Mt. Rainier. Michelle also pointed out everything else to us; she was a great tour guide.
Since we still weren't hungry we drove to West Seattle. We got to see things from a different point of view. We also stopped at a beach on Puget Sound and then drove down the main street, also right on the water and admired the buildings and all the people. Traffic was very slow going. Then we went back to the Ballard area, the area where Michelle lives and we ate at another super cool place, called Blue C Sushi. They have the chefs inside of a fairly long conveyer belt and they make the sushi and put it on color coded plates, the color denoting the price. Ate way too much. It's so hard to let those plates pass you by, even though they do keep coming back around. And for dessert Michelle ordered some ice cream that is coated with rice flour and I think it is deep fried or something. Well, however they made it, it was great.
And yes! One more thing. We went to Troll Road, on the way back to Michelle's, and under the bridge was a troll. Actually it's called Troll Bridge. It was an art project to beautify the neighborhood and this was awesome. Who wouldn't want a troll under their bridge? We're talking big here, made out of concrete. It was probably 20 ft high and 15 ft across and just the neatest thing I've ever seen. Then we went home. What a day!!
We left Michelle's around 10am. John had to set up a place to have our tires changed. He called Marty back in Minneapolis to have 4 tires shipped to the city of Colfax to Clydes Custom Cycle, where we should be on Wednesday. We were on the back roads when possible, otherwise we were out there with everyone else as there aren't a whole lot of roads going to Cascade National Park. We stopped at the ranger station to find out about stuff and we asked him where there are waterfalls. He just laughed and said there are waterfalls everywhere; that's why it's called Cascade Park.
From there we drove less than 10 miles to Colonial Creek Campground, stopping to look at waterfalls. It was a nice campground, not very many people. We walked all over the place. There were waterfalls everywhere. We tried walking up one of them within the campground. It was fun, except that there was quite a bit of sand here and there and it was hard to get your footing. We also walked down to Diablo Lake.
We still had quite a bit of the Cascade Park to drive through. There were waterfalls every time you turned a corner. Big ones even. It is such a beautiful park, we would both like to go back there sometime and do some hiking (me) mountain bagging (John). Even though the mountains are not super high (about 7-10 thousand feet) there is a lot of snow still up there. We also stopped at a scenic point and they had the neatest path ever. It was perhaps less than a quarter of a mile, but it took you out onto the rocks where you could see everything.
From there, we drove out of the park, still seeing waterfalls everywhere. As we got out on the road away from the park and in lower elevations, it got hot and the mountains became little hills, but we were always alongside of a river, although I can't remember which river(s). However as we got closer to Coulee Dam, we were alongside the Columbia River. As we got very near, like within 10 miles, I started smelling something. And it was hazy out. John actually saw smoke and the fire trucks set back away from the road, apparently waiting for their call. There was a fire not too far away, but as we got to Coulee Dam, the smell and haze was gone.
We stopped at the Visitor Center and saw the movie. From there we went about 3 more miles to a US Forest Service campground. We chose the campground that was up on the hill instead of the one down on the water and there were only 3 other people in our area. It was a nice site. We even went for a little hike.
We left our campground and headed up, but not too much. I think we wound up being between 2500-3000 ft. The neatest part is when we would turn a corner and we would see green everywhere. The hills that would normally have sagebrush or scrubby plants on then would all be instead a rolling green. And different colors of green, with some yellows/tans thrown in that would be grains. Actually John thought that everything we were looking at was grains, even all the greens.
We got to our destination, Colfax, around noon so we ate a picnic lunch and went to the library. Then we went to Clyde's Cycle. Clyde, the owner, was an older guy. (He told me he was 75). He had a big shop with 3 ceiling fans and a regular type fan. It was fairly comfortable in there. Outside, where the scooters were parked in the blazing sun, it was hot. Upon finally leaving town we found out it was 104.
Jason, who was supposed to do the mounting of the tires on the rims, was at the doctors, so John started taking off all 4 tires. It went quite well. So we just waited til Jason showed up, which was after 2:30 I think. Clyde had some chairs set up for us inside his shop while Jason worked in there on the tires. So Clyde and John andI basically visited for at least an hour while Jason was working. We learned all about how he builds Harleys from the ground up and about all the painting he does on motorcycles. He was a very interesting guy.
When the tires were ready, John (and I) went out to install them on the scooters. For both bikes, the read tires went on easily and the front tires would not cooperate whatsoever. After much work, in the blazing sun, John got them both on. It was around 6 by then and we were both hot, hungry and dead tired. So we stopped at a restaurant in Colfax and then drove 15 miles to Pullman and found a cheap, but nice motel to stay at. If for no other reason, it gave us the chance to take a shower. And use air conditioning. We also had wifi, but nothing good was on tv.
We slept in, in the motel and got on the road around 10. We drove to Lewiston, ID and Jason the tire guy told us about this winding road that goes from the top of the hill down into the city of Lewiston. The regular highway (195) goes straight down and this is what most people choose to take. But the old highway has switchbacks and banks beautifully. I guess it was the road the wagons took when they were dropping that 1500 feet (?) from the top down into Lewiston. It was really neat. We stopped at Hell's Gate State Park but decided not to stop for the night. We saw the movie at the Visitor Center about Lewis and Clark and then ate a picnic lunch and were on our way.
We were on our way about 5 miles when my drive belt broke. As it turned out, we were on a four lane highway with a turning lane in the middle. So John pushed me on the scooter across 5 lanes of traffic to some kind of a wayside, where he could more easily work at getting the new belt on. That went much faster than putting the tires on. Yes, in the blazing sun.
We then got on hwy 12 and started crossing Idaho. We were alongside a river at all times. They had the road follow the river. It was very beautiful. We were still at a low elevation and it was very hot. So we decided to take hwy 12 to the city of Kooskia, because that is where the elevation starts to go up. We stayed at the Wild Goose Campground in the Clearwater National Forest. I am quite sure we got the best site of all of the 6 sites there. Our site led down to a beautiful sandy beach on some river. A beautiful clear river with rapids in it. The water actually felt nice even to me and we both went in where the sandy bottom was, without going so far as into the rapids. It did cool off at night.
John also changed the oil here. That went easily and well.
Today's goal was to get to the Lolo Visitor Center. It is within Idaho and after about a mile, we were in Montana. The VC was nice and even had wifi and coffee brewing for those people who like coffee. We spent some time there and headed on down the road. When we crossed into Montana they reminded us that we are now on Mountain Time. We stopped at the first campground we saw – Lee Creek. We decided to take an easy day so stopped here. Since it was still early, like before noon, we had a wide choice of sites, and they were all nice. This was a National Park. They are wonderful – inexpensive, they have water and pit toilets. However there pit toilets are incredible. They are super clean, there is no odor and they have more than 1, sometimes more than 2 in a campground of 12 sites. And wonderful, big picnic tables.
We decided to go on a self interpretive hike. It was fun, but odd because they didn't have half of the numbers listed, and for some of them they totally had to be talking about something else, than what was written for that particular number.
It rained quite a bit during the night.
It had quit raining by the time we got up and although everything was wet we just packed everything up wet. We wound up at the Cromwell Campground, just a short distance from the MacDonald Pass, going over the Continental Divide. Speaking of going over passes, our scooters are doing well, going over passes. This one was about 6200 feet. We always get to the top, just not always with a lot of vim and vigor.
At the top of the pass there was a cell tower, so while I called the kids, John went for a hike up to the top of the pass. In the evening we decided to go for a walk, and so I got to take the shortcut to the top. When John went up, he followed the road. On his way down he took a shortcut and cut through the forest. When we got to the top the sun was almost setting and we could look into the valley below and see the reflection of the sun on the top of the mountains. It was like a golden haze covering the top. It was breathtaking.
It rained that night. It never rains hard, just enough to get everything wet.
We got up and still had to travel about 12 miles to get to Helena. We try to avoid the busy roads, and John did a great job of getting us through town without a lot of traffic. From there we had periods of fairly heavy traffic and then sometime there would be hardly any traffic. We camped at a city park. It was a neat place. It would seem that no one (except the motel) had wifi. But then John found out there was a library, so since it was Sunday, we just went and sat on the sidewalk in front of the library and got our computer stuff done.
We saw tons of wildlife today, deer, elk and probably some Sandhill Cranes. They just looked unusually big. We almost thought we wouldn't have to pay because no one had come by to collect by about 8pm. But then this really old dude came through in a car and stopped by our site. He was extremely friendly and sat down at our picnic table and talked awhile. And he accepted our payment of $7 – still a great deal.
It didn't rain last night.
Today we traveled on hwy 12 and then hwy 3 into Billings. We saw Billings from way up on a hill and it has so many trees. We drove down into the city and it was like crazy. We found a MacDonald's and figured out how we were going to get out of the city when John asked one of the MacDonald workers what was a good place to see in Billings if you only had an hour. And she said the zoo. So on checking the map we found out we basically had to go back the same way we came in, in order to see the zoo.
We went to the zoo. It was a little zoo, but nice. So from there John found a wonderful alternate route to get through Billings and on our way to Hardin. We stopped at the KOA in Hardin. There was an awning over our picnic table and a nice tree for shade and grass to put our tent on. They had a swimming pool, which we swam in, and a laundromat, so we washed our clothes. We decided to go out to eat and even take in a movie. We saw the Amazing Spider Man, which was pretty good. The surprising part was that it was raining when we came out of the movie. We had just taken one scooter so we zipped on back to our tent. Everything was dry except my helmet was sort of wet and John's gloves got all wet.
It rained on and off most of the night, but the wind was so strange; it would just blow like crazy and then it would be perfectly quiet. And it would keep on like that until I finally fell asleep.
We took the frontage road from Hardin to Crow Agency (city of) to avoid the freeway. From there we picked up 212. We had heard there were fires on 212 but we saw the results of the fire. The first one was fairly new because you could smell it. It was maybe 5 miles long on the highway.
We also stopped at the Little Bighorn Battlefield. I was quite surprised at the huge amount of people there. They had a visitor center with a museum, a film you could watch, some free talks about the battle, a tour bus that would take you along the entire battlefield route and there were a couple of trails to hike on.
We found out everything about Custer, the army and the Indians and how and why everyone died. And how again the US government took away the home of the Indians and their culture and way of life.
From there we were back on 212 and after a while and some construction, we came upon another fire that had occurred not too long ago. But this one was huge, like probably about 20 miles as we were driving, on both sides of the road and sometimes it would go back for as far as the eye could see. It was such that, we were not able to stay at the campground that we had planned to stay at. The Custer National Forest was closed, so we went 40 more miles to Broadus, MT and stayed in a motel.
We walked a couple of blocks to eat and we ate at a bowling alley. So then we watched some of the people bowl. Then on the way back to the motel, John looked down one of the roads and it would appear there was a rodeo. It was in fact a practice for the rodeo coming up in a couple of days. But we watched them for a little while. Then we came across a little league baseball game. That was also greatly entertaining. Finally we made it home to our motel.
We were on the road about 8am with not much traffic the whole way to Devil's Tower. The roads were pretty straight so those big trucks could pass us without a problem. It was a nice drive with rolling hills and some rocky ledges or outcroppings. We generally stayed in the 3500 to 3800 foot range. It was quite warm while traveling and twice when our GPS's hit 3800 feet, we could notice the coolness in the air. However here at Devil's Tower we are camped at 3845 hundred feet and we fail to notice any coolness. Now and then the wind blows and it is most refreshing.
We stopped first at the campground and found the perfect site. It is very dry around here, but our site has many trees so we are pretty much partially shaded somewhere within the confines of our site all day. The temp is 95 at 3pm.
We drove 2 miles to the Visitor Center and then took the 1.3 mile paved hike around the base of Devil's Tower. It was a very nice walk with many many people doing the same walk. There is a huge boulder field at the base that reminded me a lot of Devil's Lake in Wisc, except that a lot of these boulders are bigger. Maybe tonight we'll go walk it again when it is cooler and with hopefully less people. We also got to see some climbers; some of which made it all the way to the top. The top being 5112 feet and the base being 4245; so they climbed 867 feet from the base.
Today we hiked. We had a wonderfully cool night. The start of the hike was right by our campground. First we walked through the prairie dog village. They are the most annoying creatures. They scolded the entire time we were near them. We then went someone near the Belle Fourche River and then headed up into the hills. We got to see the red sandstone cliffs and then the yellow ones. Then we kept heading up to the Visitor Center/Devil's Tower area. Devil's Tower is the most amazing thing to see. It's like this big stone mass with nice columns on it, all the way around just popped up out of nowhere. We saw 3 sets of climbers. As we continued on our trail, around the other side of the Tower, we sat and watched the 3 set of climbers because they were coming back down and we watched them rapel. You could hear them talking, when they called out “rope” and “off belay” and “goddamit” when the lead guy down was having a heck of a time getting his rope to hang straight so he could rapel down.
We took another little trail and ended up back at the campground. It was around 11 so we had lunch and then just rested a little. Around 12:30 we decided to do the last trail; about a mile and a half in distance, but we scootered to this one. It took us along the edge of a forest, down about 100 feet to a ravine and then we got to walk in this ravine for a ways; with the temperature being noticeably cooler. From there we went out into the hot sun of a prairie-like setting, but the wind was blowing and it wasn't that bad.
We got back and the ranger lady came through and said it was 103 and tomorrow should be 109 tomorrow. That's probably why there are very few campers here today.
We were on the road by 7:45 today and encountered very few cars on the 100 miles or so from our campsite to Jewel Cave. We did gain elevation to about 5200 feet and totally expected to also encounter cooler temperatures, but such was not the case. In fact, it seemed warmer. There was quite a wind which helped, but the weather remains hot.
We got in the relatively short ticket line at Jewel Cave only to find out that the people with the tickets were down by the Visitor Center. This line was to buy whatever ticket for later in the day. We got there about 10:15 and were lucky to get tickets for 12:40. We just hung out around the Visitor Center and had a picnic lunch. Oh, and John's camera is broken, so he tried to fix that.
Jewel Cave is an absolutely spectacular cave. It's very long, around 150 mi and they keep exploring and finding more all the time. We got as low as about 300 feet inside the cave. But it's so big. The entire cave was big as we went on the ½ mile ? ¼ mile ? Tour. There were a couple of somewhat narrow passageways but by and large the whole thing was big with ceilings about to 100 feet. And there were beautiful things everywhere. I guess that's why they call it Jewel Cave. You didn't see a neat formation here or there, they were everywhere you looked.
We talked to one of the rangers after the tour and found out that there is a big fire,on 385 from Pringle to Wind Cave. Wind Cave is closed completely and they evacuated all the people in that area. That's where we were going to camp, and go to Wind Cave also. We are thinking about going to Hot Springs which is south of Wind Cave. Right now hwy 89 is open but the fire is spreading toward 89 so we'll have to see what is going on tomorrow.
ADDENDUM – We had a major storm here around 5pm. John just came back from looking for a camera and he brought some food and we were eating and organizing with the (totally useless) weather radio on. They mentioned high temperatures and a storm somewhere in Nebraska ta da ta da. We thought we heard thunder – nothing mentioned on the radio. Then it started to sprinkle, so we just got ready – the tent was up, there was a tarp over the picnic table but very little wind so John was trying to figure out which way the wind would come from. Well here in S Dakota, the storms don't mess around. The wind came from the west. It went from 5mph to 30mph and started raining. Then the wind probably jumped up to 55, the one thing the weather radio did mention. John started pulling the ropes down, so the tarp would come down, and that worked pretty well until it probably hit 60mph and pulled a grommet right out of the tarp, so we had a flapping end,and then the opposite end was supported by a heavy branch, so we had 2 flapping ends. We both needed to grab a corner to keep it close to us but the wind was so strong that it was almost impossible to keep it near you. If the wind got under the tarp it was almost comical to see, especially me, holding with all my might to keep it down. I kept wishing I could be in the tent, but I was stuck out here holding down my corner, while John was holding down his corner, plus both of us trying to keep things from blowing off the table. Then John decided he had to run out and get a different rope to drag under the table to help keep the tarp down and then it started hailing, while he was out there. We did end up in good shape. Very little got wet that was on the picnic table and the table itself stayed remarkably dry, but we both looked like drown rats. Our tent was in great shape. I hope the rain helped out with the raging forest fires.
The area with the fire never got any of the downpouring rain that we had last night. We got up this morning and headed out for Custer State Park because we planned to climb Mt. Harney. It is the highest peak east of the Rockies and west of the Perrynies (sp). It was a 3.5 mile hike one way. We and 8000 other people decided to hike it at the same time. Everything worked fine. It was listed as moderate and it was. We hiked up 1000 feet. The view was totally spectacular. On the way back to the parking lot we took a different route and so therefore got to see Little Devil's Tower. Plus in general we saw some of the most beautiful rocks as we were hiking along.
Now that we're back to our campsite (and it's raining lightly and thundering) I'm beat. I'm not used to hiking 7 miles. But it was a great day.
Today we left the campground and headed for Hot Springs, planning to camp at the Angostura State Recreation Area. On the drive down, we saw one of my least favorite signs - “road grooved next 15 miles”. It wasn't too bad, but we didn't go very fast. And I can't believe they actually did it for 15 miles. Also the fastest route to Hot Springs was 385 (or whatever) and that road was closed because of the fire. As we drove along we saw helicopters and trucks and people in a staging area for the fire.
After that we went to the campground and got a nice site. We wound up in an RV site which was ok because there were only a couple of trailers there and 2 other tent people. The place is huge, like maybe the road is 8 miles long (as is the lake) with 4 different campgrounds, 2 marinas and cabins and beaches and all kinds of things.
We went for a swim at the beach and then drove to the lookout and just checked out the whole Angostura area. Then we drove into town to eat and looked over the town a little. Then we went back to our site and there was a storm. These are really quite intense storms. Lightning like crazy, super strong winds and of course rain. We got through that ok; it may have rained again during the night, but just plain rain.
Today we drove into town. We started out doing the laundry. Then we had a picnic lunch and then we went to the Mammoth Site. It's a place where there are many mammoths that have been found in this one given area. It was because there was a pool of water, and as the mammoths would try to eat the grass; being in the pool, the sides were slippery and they couldn't get out. Apparently this happened over a couple hundreds years and only 2-3 fell in a year. But it was a cool place.
Then we went to Evan's Plunge. This was a spring fed swimming pool with a temperature of 87. It had 2 water slides, and a “Tarzan rope” where you could swing out into the water and then drop into the water. There was also an outdoor pool and a whirlpool. We had a great time. John even went down the water slides. From there we went to eat and then headed back because it looked like a storm was coming. Oh, and we got to see a beautiful rainbow.
We drove through a bunch of scary lightning, and a little rain but by the time we got back, the storm was over. So we just hung around until the real storm came. It was extremely amazing. The sky was black. Plus part of the sky color was red. I have to think it had something to do with the fire. But anyway, the lightning started, but it was way far off. We just sat on the beach and watched as the sky got darker and darker and then you could see where it was actually raining. Where the sun was shining, the cloudy part where the rain was coming down, looked red. There was actually a rainbow on the one part of that dark black sky.
Then the lightning picked up and got closer and closer and when the lightning flashed and the thunder boomed ¼ second later, we went back to the tent. Another exciting storm; the tent did well and we had a good night.
Today we traveled on a 4 lane highway and drove to Custer State Park. We stopped and saw a herd of bison right by the road. Really neat. Then we stopped at the Visitor Center. Then we drove on the “Needles Highway”. It was about 15 miles (?) of a super curvy road that goes up to 6200 feet. On the way we got to go through some 1 lane tunnels that were also not very high. It was neat. And at the top of the mountain, we got to see the rock formation, the needles. It was absolutely spectacular.
From there we went on highway 44 heading for Keystone and stopped at some of their rock shops and just looked around at their mall. Then we headed for Rapid City and the KOA. After camping in some of the beautiful National Forests and State Forests, KOA's suck. On the bright side, they do have wifi.
So, continuing from last night, we had a storm come through. It's getting to be old hat for us. John had extra tie downs on the tent, the scooters were covered and everything was put away. There was lots of lightning, thunder, rain, no hail, and incredible winds.
This morning we got up and had all the pancakes you can eat for $3/person. The KOA puts this on. Then we traveled down to the state of South Dakota school of mines to go to their Geology Museum. We got there early, so we went to their paleoentology building at looked at this diorama of 3 “kind of dinosaurs”. It was like the mom, dad and baby and it was really cool. Apparently when they made it, they used real eyelashes on the painted eyes and they looked pretty real. They also had this awesome geological map painted on the floor that was probably 8x12 feet. It was one of the neatest maps ever. Then we went to the Geology Museum to looked at hundreds of rocks that were named, so you knew what you were looking at. There was also a geology student present so you could ask her anything you wanted. And their were also dinosaur bones and a gazillion fossils and it was really neat. And free.
Then we went to get my haircut! From there to MacDonalds and then to the Ellison Airforce Base, Aviation Museum. They had all kinds of planes in the yard that you could look at, and in the buildings there were writeups about all the wars we have been in and all the planes and amunition and all stuff involved with protecting our country. We also went on a bus tour of the base and got to go inside a Minuteman Silo.
The weather has been threatening all day and there has been some rain, but not much where we have been. It may stay dry tonight. Oh, on the way back to our campground we stopped at Cabela's. That is really a cool place with really neat stuff. That was as neat as the Geology Museum.
Tomorrow – the Badlands. It's supposed to be 90 and sunny but with 10-15 mph winds out of the NW.
We got an early start, about 7:15 on a nice cool morning. In fact I was cold driving, but tried to enjoy it. They were doing road construction every where we turned. But what they do is take one lane and put a thin coating of tar on it (they call it oil, but we know better). Then, I think on the same day they put very small gravel (pea gravel)? on it. Then they put up a sign that says – 25mph loose gravel. However since it is usually 100 degrees out the gravel gets compacted very quickly so everyone still goes 70mph except we go about 55. The road we were on going into the Badlands had 33 miles like that. Then they had some more within the Park itself between our campground and the city of Wall.
But anyway, the Badlands is so beautiful. Our campground was very nice. Each site has a shade awning, over the picnic table. It's made of wooden boards that are about an inch apart so the wind can blow through. And there was wind. We drove the 30 miles to Wall and stopped at the overlooks and the trails. We went on one trail that took us up to a plateau that was somewhat strenuous to climb up; but it was really fun.
We have been to Wall before, but toured the Main Street again and then headed back. In the evening we went a short distance in the opposite direction to go to a couple of other different trails. The formations are so weird, how they just like pop up out of nowhere. We went on a hike where the Park has put out yellow markers, so you can go out a ways. But they show you the way so that you're up on the top. You could walk down into the canyons, but it's so narrow down there, plus there is not much to see. But it's like some of the formations could be called bridges because they lead you from one area to another. It's just neat and quite amazing and beautiful.
We were up and on the road by 7:30. Very little traffic. We did have to go on the interstate for 12 miles but it was newly paved and wonderful to ride on. When we got off and turned onto our road (34? 14?) we again ran into construction with the loose gravel that isn't really loose. But they had a flagman after about 20 miles because it was a single lane road. So we drove up behind the other cars to get in line and John's scooter stopped. He tried to start it and it started but wouldn't keep going. He did it again and again with the same results. It would start and run for 10-30 seconds and then stop. He determined that it wasn't getting gas and when he took off the seat and check under there, the spark plug had come off of whatever it is supposed to be on. So he put it back on and we were in business again.
Oh, but the whole thing was, this happened on that “loose gravel” and when we drove over onto the shoulder we discovered for sure that the oil was actually tar. After we got back on the scooters, there was tar all over our running boards from our shoes. Once I tried to pick up my foot and it was like stuck in place.
So we made it to Pierre, got a campsite, changed the oil and had dinner. Then we drove around the park and it is fairly big except they had a flood in 2011 and some of the hiking trails still aren't available for use yet. This park has very little written information about what is going on here and after we drove around the park, it's because there isn't much going on here. People come with their big boats to play on the water and that's about it.
There was a small storm in the evening with some wind, but it wasn't too bad.
We got up, expecting to see rain and the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the wind was BLOWING. We were on the road by 8am and confirmed the fact that there were at least 17mph winds, as the weather channel said. As the morning went on, we're pretty sure they were between 20-30 with higher gusts. When the wind gets a hold of your helmet and you can barely keep your head in the correct position, you can be sure it's probably over 20mph. It's really tricky when you go over bridges because if the wind is pushing from the left and you're doing all you can to lean into it to stay upright; on the bridges it slams you from the opposite direction and we both almost wound up in the wrong lane.
So except for the excitement of the wind, not much else happened. We saw a pheasant and we stopped at Fort Thompson and looked at the Big Dam. The place just has a lot of water(the Missouri River) and today there were big waves out there. There were some boats out, but not very many.
We are camped at Lake Herman, a SD state park and we got the very last campsite. This is prettier than the campground we were at last night, with a lot more trees. Last night we had so many mosquitoes, so I hope there aren't any of those here tonight.
We slept in this morning and then didn't have breakfast because we went to MacDonalds for breakfast. They have wifi so we spent quite a while there. Then we decided to do the wash. After that we went back to MacDonalds for lunch and after that traveled to Pipestone.
The plan was to meet Tracey and the kids there at the Crossings Motel. Tracey et al will be staying until Wed. We will be leaving on Tues. They had not arrived yet so we went to the Powwow here in the city of Pipestone. We had some Indian tacos and then checked out all the booths and then watched the Grand March where everyone came in while they had 3 Native Americans chanting and drumming. It was very interesting, but somewhat slow. We stayed for about an hour or so and then headed back to the motel.
Tracey and the kids were there and we went to the Pipestone National Monument. We went on the ¾ mile self guided hike and watched the short little movie. We then had dinner together and went to the pool.
Today we drove to Blue Mounds State Park to swim and see the bison. However the bison were not very cooperative because they were not even to be seen when we first arrived. We took a short hike up over the hill and still could not see them so we went swimming. Then we had lunch and when we were ready to leave we could see the bison way way off in the distance. They were like right in the middle of their big area and so we just barely saw them.
We said our good byes to Tracey and the kids and left Pipestone about 9:30 am. We encountered some cross wind but not as bad as previous days. The ride to Chuck and Char's farm near Belgrade was uneventful. We layed over a couple hours in Willmar getting caught up on our internet chores and timing our arrival to coincide with Chuck and Char's at their farm. We got a tour and saw all the work that Chuck had done since the last time we were there (last summer). He did a super job on the hard wood floor planking, stair way, railing around the upper loft and cabinets. It was some very impressive wood work!! We had a great time getting caught up with Chuck and Char in the evening and were treated to dinner on the grill.
We slept in and had a great breakfast at one of the local restaurants in Belgrade. Lots of good food at reasonable prices. We spent the morning hanging out with Chuck and Char. I got to drive Chuck's huge new John Deere tractor. WOW lots of cool stuff--- enclosed cab, air conditioning, sound system, huge tires, 4 wheel drive, multi speed power take off, etc, etc, etc. We left around noon and took our time, with several rest breaks on the way. I had mixed emotions on the ride home. It felt good to be getting back home but that meant our scooter adventure for this year was coming to an end.....................