Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Knife River Indian Village - July 6, 2008

Sunday July 6, camping near Bismarck, ND we decide to take a day trip to the Knife River Indian Village, a National Historic Site.

Entrance to the museum

It turns out to be a little farther than we thought, but still the tranquility of this site & interesting artifacts are worth the effort.

A reconstructed mound house

The mound houses lasted about 10 years, & although considered to be the property of the wife, the entire family lived in these houses, including the horses! Winters are brutal here, & if you wanted your livestock to survive the winter, they came in. Somehow I doubt if our modern day air fresheners would have done the job!

A seat of honor inside the house

We think you’ll agree, however, the homes were truly well thought out & provided insulation from the elements.

View of the interior

The Knife River

Friday, July 25, 2008

Medora, the 4th of July & the Medora Musical

The town of Medora sits at the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

“The population was 100 at the 2000 census. Medora was founded in 1883 by French nobleman Marquis de Mores who named the city after his wife Medora von Hoffman. Marquis de Mores wanted to ship refrigerated meat to Chicago via the railroad. He built a meat packing plant for this purpose and a house named the Chateau de Mores, which is now a museum.[4] The city of Medora is also home to the popular Medora Musical and the city has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state.” [This quote is directly off Wikipedia.]

What we find interesting is the town has its own post office, a sheriff’s car, several restaurants & a couple of bars, but no grocery stores & no funeral parlor. This leads me to think possibly you don’t have to prepare meals and you’d better die elsewhere! We actually speak to a few people who claim to be year around residents, but we're guessing there are more coyotes than people in winter.

Let the parade begin!
On July 4th, the town goes all out for the annual parade. It lasts about 40 minutes, and gives everyone a chance to show off their “toys.” Horses, bicycles, & antique cars are dressed to the nines, and they even have a float for the Medora Musical with the entertainers singing to the crowds.
Enjoying music from the entertainers
What's a parade without a stage coach?
Don't forget the shiny new tri-bike
The big attraction throughout the state is the Medora Musical. The town built a very large amphitheater & stages the musical during the summer months. People come from all over the state to see the musical, which changes each year. Basically it is the story of the history of the town and how Theodore Roosevelt once owned the Elk Horn Ranch, about thirty-five miles north of town. His cabin has been removed from the original site, residing in several places, but has finally found its way back to the National Park bearing his name.
The actual cabin from the Elk Horn Ranch
Interior view of Bob standing stove-side
T.R.'s actual chest
Just prior to the evening musical, the town prepares their famous Pitch Fork Fondue. Trust us, if you are ever in the area, pass on this feast. Buy tickets for the buffet only. The smell of the oil turns off my appetite while waiting in line. I saved my “meal” for the kitties, who seemed to enjoy it, carnivores all. Bob manages to choke his down!
This is the real deal - a pitchfork fondue!
View of the amplitheater while waiting in line

View beyond the amplitheater
The musical is great fun, however, and the view of the badlands through the stage magical. We even see a few lights as dusk turns to dark. Professional singers come from the nearby states to fill in the lead rolls, but Broadway will have to wait.
Waiting for the show to begin

Kicking up their heels & singing their hearts out

Coming up - Knife River Indian Village near Bismarck, ND

Theodore Roosevelt National Park - July 1 - 6, 2008

It’s time to power down the road & drive into the heat. Reluctantly we leave the Pacific Northwest & head east only to find the dash air isn’t working. I call Cummins Coach Care in Spokane to reserve a place for us. We get hookups for the night & the next morning they find the problem, a connection in the engine compartment which came loose. By noon we’re all fixed up & after taking time for a great lunch at the Northern Quest Casino, we head east, reaching Missoula before nightfall.

I spot a great empty lot next to the city snow removal equipment & we stay the night there. Next day we drive just beyond the I-90 & I-94 split & stay at a wonderful rest stop about 30 miles northeast of Billings on a bluff with a fantastic view on I-94. What is most apparent, however, is the haze. The next day we learn the haze is coming down from Saskatchewan, Canada due to forest fires.

Arriving at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the Ranger asks if we plan to stay in the campground. I inquire as to availability & space & am pleasantly surprised to learn there is plenty of both, which comes as a real surprise over the 4th of July weekend. Our campground is just a short walk to the Little Missouri River.

Our idea of a nice big camping spot!

Honey by the Little Missouri River

The first “hosts” to greet us are the Prairie Dogs, millions of them! The ranger’s explain they are the primary food source for coyotes & birds of prey.

Greeted by a Prairie Dog
The park also is home to the American Bison & wild horses. These photos were taken as we drove along the loop road around the southern end of the park.

The picture of the Bison was a real plus. He was standing right beside the road. I didn’t dare get out of the car. Bob rolled down the window & I took two quick pictures. .

Seeing the horses was a real plus. The park is home to about 135 wild horses, & given the size of both the upper & lower parks, we were fortunate to see them.

Wild horses as seen on the loop drive

Important discussion

Note the badlands. Badlands National Park is located in South Dakota, & perhaps a little more dramatic. But in fact, these badlands exist in many places. Imagine coming west in a covered wagon & being confronted with this terrain. There was no way through. You simply had to go around them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

La Conner and the San Juan Islands

Our stay at the Northern Lights Casino is limited to one week, so we move off the island onto the mainland at a private RV park in La Conner. This charming artist town is renowned for its many art galleries, sculpture gardens, world famous Rainbow Bridge & historic buildings including the Quilt Museum. Located on the very edge of the mainland due west of Mount Vernon, it connects by the Rainbow Bridge to the Swinomish Indian Reservation on Fidalgo Island.

Rainbow Bridge, La Conner WA (Photo taken in 2007)

Waterfront view, La Conner WA

Spirit Wheel, downtown La Conner, WA

This year we actually bought something in one of the art galleries; a beautiful handmade glass dish. Remember, everything we buy has to fit into Popeye, AND survive the trip.

A tight fit at the Potlatch Resort, La Conner, WA

We shoehorn ourselves into the no frills park, fortunately grabbing an end space, as I will need to back Popeye out. The turns are on the tight side for a rig our size. The best part of this park is its location, right at the wharf & an easy walk into town. This year I spot the best bumper sticker seen thus far: Buckle Up. It makes it harder for the aliens to suck you out of your car! Regrettably I dont get a picture, but it certainly makes a dent in my memory bank.

Typical shop, downtown La Conner WA

Sculpture Garden, downtown La Conner, WA

More art on the waterfront, La Conner, WA

La Conner is also world known for their tulip festival. Located on the edge of the Tulalip Valley, each year there are thousands of acres of tulips in bloom, right in the middle of tax season. . . . rats!

The ferry awaits at Anacortes, sailing to San Juan Island

Our next excursion is back on Fidalgo Island. For the first time, we park our car instead of driving onto the ferry, & buy walk-on tickets to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. Usually we take the car in order to drive around San Juan Island & visit Roche Harbor, the British Camp, the alpaca farm, Lime Kiln Lighthouse to view the Orca pods, & the American Camp at the south end of the island. For some reason, we have never had the opportunity to walk all through Friday Harbor & visit all the shops. Thus we decide today is a good day to do just that.

Arriving at Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island WA

Honey (look at that long hair!) downtown Friday Harbor (photo taken in 2007)

Alpaca Farm, south of The English Camp (Photo taken 2007)

Lime Kiln Light House, west side of San Juan Island (Photo taken in 2007)

The Ferry docks right in the heart of downtown. Besides interesting little shops, caf├ęs, the Museum of the Whale, you also get great views of Shaw, Orcas & Lopez Island, to name just the ones the WA state ferry system services. There are over 200 named islands in the Puget Sound, with ferry service to less than a dozen that I am aware of. We’ve met people who have lived on some of these remote islands for over 27 years & commuted by float plane or boat.

Bob enjoying lunch in downtown Friday Harbor

Over lunch, we get into a conversation with the waitress. She and her husband live on a boat in Friday Harbor & usually spend 5 months of the year travelling the Inside Passage. Now I’m really green with envy. She tells us they rarely go off island to shop as it usually winds up costing more; they buy things more because they see them, rather than need them. How true! How many items have you brought home only to stick in a drawer for “future” use?

One of the more plentiful crops on these islands is lavender. We stock up on lavender pepper & salt. The short bread is yummy too & makes a great snack on the ferry. Before boarding the 5:00 PM ferry, we walk around the docks ogling the neat boats. A harbor seal swims by & says hello. The day passes by all too fast, but the ferry is docking & it’s time for the return trip. Fortunately, the return trip offers stunning vistas of Mt. Baker & surrounding islands.

A local swims by to say "hello"

A picture perfect afternoon

Everyone rides the ferry

Pulling out of Lopez Island on the return trip

We're treated to stunning views on the return trip

Hope you enjoy the pictures. Coming up: a rushed trip through Idaho, Montana & finally, a 3 day stay in Theodore Roosevelt National park.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Pacific Northwest - June 16 - June 30 2008

Leaving Newport, McMinnville (about 40 miles southwest of Portland) is our first stop. Honey gets a chance to finish our taxes (how late is that?) and Bob visits the Evergreen Aviation Museum, now home to the Spruce Goose.

Home to the Spruce Goose, McMinnville, OR

After a day of shopping in Portland, we leave Oregon & go up to The Tulalip Casino, right off Hwy 5 near Arlington, then over to the Northern Lights Casino in Anacortes, on Fidalgo Island. Our favorite RV park is booked, but we have easy access to all of Whidbey Island, my favorite place so far, in all of the U.S.

Whidbey Island is home to Deception Pass State Park. If you have already downloaded Google Earth (if not, do so now!) you can "fly" there & see the famous bridges & stunning views. The pictures on Google Earth were taken last year. How do I know? The road in front of the North Whidbey RV Park, about a mile south of the bridge, was being paved while there last year. Follow the road through town & down to the end of Hwy 20 at Fort Casey, just west to Coupeville. Here are a few pictures of Deception Pass.

Entrance to the State Park where "Snow Falling on Cedars" was filmed

View as far as Vancouver Island, in background

View of Lopez Island in distance

Maid of Deception Pass, Whidbey Island State Park

Whidbey Island is ideal for ferry riding. Bob has marching orders to put me on a never ending ride on WA ferries if I should ever become senile. At least he would know I'd be happy! Fort Casey is the port for the Keystone Ferry, a half hour ride to Port Townsend, on the Olympic Peninsula. Fidalgo Island is the port for the San Juan Island Ferries, and also is available for the Victoria BC ferry. Am I in ferry heaven or what!

First chance we get, we head for Ft. Casey & the Keystone Ferry. Here is the view, while waiting for the ferry at Fort Casey:

View of Campground & Olympic Range while waiting for the ferry

The picture below is a "borrowed" ferry from Tacoma, as new ferries are under construction.

"Borrowed" ferry at Fort Casey, Whidbey Island

Hopefully, the "new" ferry will also feature the harpist who played for us on the lower deck. We have two of his CD's. They're fabulous!

David Michael, "Heart of the Harp"

The best part of leaving from Fort Casey, Whidbey Island to sail to Port Townsend, is the ferry docks right in downtown Port Townsend. The town is one of Washington's oldest, & has beautiful brick Victorian buildings all along Water Street, the main drag. Regrettably, they haven't removed the overhead power lines, and getting great photos of downtown is nearly impossible unless you're a pro with Photo Shop. The picture of Bob walking along Water Street doesn't show off the buildings, but you can get an idea of how pretty this little town really is.

Water Street, downtown Port Townsend, WA

When in Port Townsend, we always climb the hill up to Panne D'Amore, the best bakery on the Peninsula. They have focaccia to die for, loaded with fresh roasted veggies. I get hungry just thinking about it.
After a day walking the town, all the way down to Fort Hudson & back, looking at all the docked boats & site of the new heritage museum, it's time to head back. When you visit, be sure to book campground reservations way in advance. Port Townsend is home to both the Kayak Symposium, right around Labor Day, and also the Wooden Boat Festival, I believe in August. Be sure to check out Port Townsend on Google Earth. When I learn how, I will attempt to include the links.
These pictures are what you may see on the way back. Quite a ferry ride! Due to a temperature inversion, the days were not particularly clear.

Here comes the ferry!

Small by Comparison. View of Mt. Rainier

View west of the Olympic Range

Traffic on the Straight of Juan de Fuca

Coming into dock, Fort Casey, Whidbey Island

Alaska bound - "Hey, stop the ship. I want on!"