2016 Summer AZ to PNW

Pictures can be found here

Itís spring and the world north of Arizona should be warming up sufficiently to start our summer adventures.  We began by leaving my sonís house in Dewey, AZ, near Prescott, and heading to northern New Mexico to my ex-wifeís property.  She and her husband have several acres in a remote development called Timber Lake Ranch about fifty miles southeast of Gallup.  We spent a week here last year also, so this time we know what we are getting into and wonít be surprised by the 10 miles of dirt road.  Barb & Rick live in the Phoenix area and bring their fifth-wheel up to this property each summer for several getaways each year.  Last year, once we navigated the dirt road to their property, we had to negotiate the narrow entrance from the narrow dirt road into their wooded lot.  The culvert that made the entrance was only ten feet wide, so I made the turn with no room to spare.  Getting in was tight, but getting out last year required stacking all my leveling blocks in the ditch to make a place for the rear wheels to pass without dropping down.  This year will be easier.  We arrived only a day after Barb & Rick did, and entered with the same tight quarters as last year.  But, while we were there, Rick installed another ten feet of culvert that he had obtained.  He also removed a tree at the entrance, making our getaway easy.  During the week we spent there, we mostly just relaxed in the remote quiet, enjoying being off-the-grid.  Of course we get our satellite TV there, but there is no phone reception, so no internet.  We took a couple of day trips from there.  One was to Gallup, where we stopped and had lunch at the El Rancho Hotel.  El Rancho is known for being the place where many movie stars stayed while filming old westerns of the fifties.  The trip to Gallup also included a pass through McGaffey via a four-wheel-drive-only dirt road.  We were surprised how many nice houses were along this road, since winter access, or even access after rains would be tough.  The other day trip was to Albuquerque.  In Albuquerque, we looked at manufactured homes which Barb & Rick may someday put on the property, stopped at Camping World where we bought a new toilet to replace our leaking one, and we had lunch at a cool place called the Green Jeans Famery.  This place is built from shipping containers, and houses several food purveyors and the Santa Fe Brewing Company taproom.  The taproom does not have food of its own, but all the other places deliver to them.  So you place your food order, and then sit in the taproom enjoying your beer.  The restaurant will deliver your food to you in the taproom.  The beer and the food were good.

On June 3rd, in the course of getting ready to leave Barb & Rickís, I found that the inner rear tire was flat.  Hoping it had a slow leak and might hold air for a while, I got out my hose, started the bus, and tried to air it up.  (Using the air system for the busís air brakes and air suspension, I can fill my own tires.)  As the tire started to air up, I could hear air escaping.  I reached my hand in and could feel the air coming out of a puncture in the tread.  It was a good thing the flat tire was a dual tire.  I hopefully can slowly drive it with the flat to Gallup, which although itís fifty miles, is the closest place to find a shop.  Getting somebody to come out to repair it onsite would be next to impossible since I would have to drive the car almost to Gallup to get cell reception, and then convince someone to drive the fifty miles to us.  We drove slowly towards Gallup, and as soon as we had cell service, Barb started looking for a tire shop.  She found one right in town, and after waiting about thirty minutes, they got us in.  I felt sorry for the guy who worked on it because we had just come off that ten miles of dirt road and there was a lot of dust.  He found a large screw in the tire, fortunately in the tread not the sidewall, so he was able to patch it and we were on our way $35 later.  We jumped on I-40 and headed west for our destination near the Grand Canyon.

We are staying at an RV park just outside the Grand Canyon National Park, since camping inside the park in a forty foot RV is darn near impossible.  There are very few spots large enough, and they are reserved months in advance, which doesnít fit our wandering lifestyle.  This was our first taste of trying to mesh our full-time wandering lifestyle into popular seasonal destinations frequented mostly by people on vacation who plan months in advance.  So, we are staying at Grand Canyon Camper Village, in Grand Canyon, AZ, just outside the park entrance.  When I went to check in, I found that they did not have our reservation.  It appeared that I sent the request, but never got a confirmation.  I didnít realize that, so I hadnít followed up.  The result was that we could stay the three nights we wanted to, but would probably have to move to a different spot after two days.  I said that would be ok and we went to our spot.  The next morning we were up early and into the park.  We went to the main South Rim area, parked, and walked to the trail overlooking the canyon.  I have been here a couple of time, and Barb was here once when she was about 13.  No matter how many times youíve seen it, itís still impressive as you first look over the edge.  Over the years many changes have been made here to keep natural selection from working, but there are still opportunities for the truly careless.  As we were standing at the main overlook, there were two California Condors cruising back and forth along the rim, riding the airflow that comes up from the canyon.  They both had been tagged with 2Ē x 2Ē cloth patches with identifying numbers on them.  These little patches on their wings chattered as the air flowed over them and sounded like a flag in a strong wind.  We spent some time just taking in the views of the canyon, and then went in the visitor center, which is new since the last time I was here.  We then drove on into Grand Canyon Village and had lunch at the El Tovar Lodge.  El Tovar is a beautiful old lodge and the view from the dining room is stunning.  We also checked out Hopi House, which is now a large gift shop, but itís a cool old building.  After lunch, we drove east to Desert View.  (The road west of Grand Canyon Village is no longer drivable by private car.  You must take a bus.)  At Desert View, we enjoyed the view to the east where the desert goes on seemingly forever, and we climbed the historic watchtower.  Something we learned while at Desert View was there had been a significant airline crash in that area in 1956.  A TWA flight and a United flight with 128 souls between them collide in mid-air and crashed in the very remote area.  The crash resulted in many changes in the airline industry, including formation of the FAA.  In 2014 the crash site was declared a National Historic Landmark, and plaque was laid at Desert View.  We drove back to the main South Rim visitorís area, but before heading back to the RV, we drove through the main RV camping area to check it out.  We found it was nice, and there were more spots than I expected that could accommodate a rig our size, but there still is the problem that they get reserved so far in advance.  We did have a surprise in the campground though.  We had seen several elk along the roads as we drove around today, but now we came across one right in the campground.  It was munching its way along and was oblivious to our car.  We stopped and watched as it crossed the road right in front of us and continued munching on the other side.  Also oblivious was a kid who was shooting basketball hoops with his back to us and the elk.  The elk got to within less than twenty feet from him before he turned around and saw it.  The elk was still not excited and just continued on his way.

If we are staying for another day, we may need to move to another spot.  Barb went up to the office to see if we would indeed have to move or could we possibly stay put.  They told her we would have to move, so we started getting things ready.  When I went to put the big slide in, it started very slowly, then stopped.  Once it sopped, it wouldnít go in or out.  What was different from other times was there was no sound of gears grinding this time.  Barb went to the office and made another plea to stay in the same spot, but they said it wouldnít work.  So, we told them we werenít going to stay then.  If I have to crank the slide in by hand, Iím not going to do it for one day.  I cranked the slide in by hand and we headed down the road an hour to Williams, AZ.  We stopped on the way at the Planes of Fame museum.  Itís a small museum but was interesting.  We found a KOA in Williams and once we were settled I took apart the slide motor that failed.  This one had fried the motor windings unlike the previous failures that were gear related.  So, I took apart the previous motor with gear failure, and put the good motor together with a good gearbox.  I installed this hybrid motor and the slide came out fine.  Not really trusting this as a permanent fix, I ordered another new motor to be delivered to our next stop.

Our next stop was Barstow, CA.  Why stop in Barstow, CA you ask?  Because itís about halfway between the Grand Canyon and Yosemite national parks of course.  Why stay for three days?  Canít answer that one.  It did give me a chance to receive and install the new slide motor.  When we had put the slide out when we got to Barstow, it made a nasty noise when it got all the way out, and then wouldnít move at all.  I took the motor I had cobbled together out and found that it had broken the shear pin that connects it to the drive shaft.  I went to a hardware store and bought a new shear pin and installed the new motor.  I kept the cobbled together one as a spare.  The one interesting thing in Barstow was a small camper that spent a night across from us.  It was a little trailer obviously designed to be towed off-road.  But once parked, it unfolded into quite the little setup. 

Our next stop was High Sierra RV Resort in Oakhurst, CA.  Again, getting a spot within the national park would be impossible, but this location gives us easy access to both Yosemite and Sequoia parks.  Our first full day here took us into Yosemite from the south entrance.  There was a line at the entrance gate, which was a sign of things to come.  As we headed north towards the main part of the park, we took a side trip to Glacier Point.  When I visited Glacier point back in 1979, there was still several feet of snow on the ground in early June.  This time, we saw a few little patches along the way, but for the most part, the snow was gone.  Glacier Point overlooks Yosemite Valley and offers great views of the valley, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome.  After Glacier Point we resumed the trip towards Yosemite Valley.  Our next planned stop was Bridalveil Falls, but we found the parking area full, with dozens of cars already backed up waiting.  Guess we wonít do that.  Once we got in the valley, we found the traffic crazy.  I expected the park to be busy, given that it is summer, but I wasnít expecting traffic jams and no parking.  We drove as far into the valley as traffic is allowed, then turned around.  I was hoping to be able to park and have a nice lunch somewhere, but instead we found thirty-minute parking at the grocery store, got pre-made sandwiches and drinks and then found a place to park along the road and eat.  We couldnít even find parking near any nice picnic areas.  So, while the park is still beautiful and the views amazing, the crowding takes away from the experience for me.

After a day off, we went south from the RV park to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks are adjacent to one another, with Sequoia being south of Kings Canyon.  So, it is common to pass north/south through both parks.   It was about an hour south to the Sequoia entrance which included passing through Fresno.  As we passed through Fresno we noticed a street named after me.  Mooney Avenue.  Who knew?  Sequoia doesnít have a central attraction like Yosemite Valley, or the Grand Canyonís south rim.  The attraction of Sequoia is the trees, and while the big ones tend to be clustered in groves, the groves are scattered throughout the park so the traffic wasnít as congested.  We stopped at several groves and marveled at the amazing trees.  We learned a lot about the big trees, like how they can be so huge but only have root systems a few feet deep, and how they survive forest fires and lightning strikes.  Part of the cycle of nature includes some trees eventually falling, and when they do they generally shatter into amazing shards of red wood.  The fallen trees eventually become part of the cycle as they decompose and become the host nutrition for new growth.  The pictures we took, even after another tourist showed me how to use the ďpanoramicĒ feature of the camera, just donít do justice to the size of these trees.  We also learned that redwood trees and sequoia trees are not the same, although the lumber would look similar.  Redwoods are big trees too, but much more common and regularly harvested for lumber.  We visited the Giant Forest Museum and had lunch at the Kings Canyon Visitor Center.  We didnít have time to drive all the way out to Kings Canyon, so we headed back west, out of the park and back to the RV.

Our next stop was near Sacramento.  The purpose of this stop was to visit old friends of Barbís.  In 1983, Barb lived a little north of Galveston when hurricane Alicia made a direct hit on that area.  Mike & Connie had a home right on the beach west of Galveston.  They evacuated to Barbís house to weather the storm.  Mike & Connieís house was destroyed, and the eye of the storm passed directly over Barbís area, but the house wasnít damaged.  Mike & Connie moved to California shortly after that, and Barb hadnít been in contact with them until a couple years ago though the magic of Facebook.  We got settled in the RV park and Mike & Connie came to us to say hi.  We visited a bit and showed them the bus, then went to their house for dinner.  The next day they picked us up and we took a ride to Lake Tahoe.  We went on US-50 which is ďthe back wayĒ but the prettier way to Tahoe from Sacramento.  We drove along the west shore of the lake to I-80 and then back to El Dorado Hills for dinner.  It was great for Barb to instantly reconnect with old friends, and me to newly connect with great people.

Our next stop was Reno to get the bus serviced.  We could have taken the longer, easier route of I-80, but since we had previewed it in Mike & Connieís car, we took US-50, the more scenic and shorter route.  Some folks might be intimidated driving a bus on this road, especially when you first come over the hill and see Lake Tahoe below, but I wasnít on the passengerís side looking over the edge, so no problem!  We got to Reno and planned to spend the night at a truck stop before going to the Freightliner dealer for an oil change.  The Freightliner dealer isnít whatís called an Oasis dealer that caters to RVers, but I thought we could check them out before committing to the truck stop down the street.  Turns out while they didnít have any hookups, they had plenty of room to park and spend the night.  We found a spot to park and had a quiet night there instead of the sounds of a truck stop.  First thing in the morning, we pulled up to the service drop-off area and checked in.  They promised we would be done by 5:30 PM, so we had a day to kill.  I thought our first stop could be a casino to get a cool breakfast buffet.  Turns out only one of the casinos in Reno has their buffet open for breakfast, and it was ok, but nothing special.  Back in the mid-1940s, my parents lived in Reno, and my brother was born here.  I knew the address of their house, and wanted to see if it was still there.  We found the neighborhood, and while some homes of that era are still there, my parentís house isnít.  After that was done, we spent most of the afternoon in the driverís lounge watching daytime TV with several truck drivers waiting on their rigs.  Promptly at 5:30, as promised, we were done.  Our plan for tonight is in an RV park in Fallon, NV, about an hour east of Reno, so we paid the bill, hooked up the car and took off.  Getting to the park in Fallon late wasnít a problem because the office is in a convenience store which is open until 10 PM.

Our reason for coming to Fallon was because Barbís sister Diane lives here.  Once we got settled, she came to say hi and see the bus.  The next day, we had a visit in the morning from some fellow Alfa owners whom we were in touch with who were leaving Fallon.  They stopped and visited for a short bit and then Barbís sister picked us up for the day.  We went to lunch, toured Fallon, and then went to her house for the afternoon and dinner.

Our next stop was back west to the Bay Area.  As you might imagine, there are no RV parks in the heart of San Francisco.  The closest park we found on the northern side of town was in Vallejo, CA.  Vallejo is about an hour by car from San Francisco.  The park was just off the freeway, so the traffic noise was not fun, but we didnít spend a lot of time at the bus.  We met a friend in Berkeley for dinner one night. We had planned to drive into the city one day, but we found that there is a ferry from Vallejo to Fishermanís Wharf.  When you figure in the time and cost of driving, including tolls, and parking, the ferry was a better deal, and it took us right where we were going to go.  And it was a boat ride.  We got to Fishermanís wharf and went to lunch first.  We went to Aliotoís, which has been there for 90 years.  While it may be considered a touristy thing to do, itís a cool throwback to my past.  After lunch we walked to the end of the cable car line near Ghirardelli Square.  We bought round trip tickets and got in line for the ride.  The first time I rode the cable cars in San Francisco was probably 1979.  Back then locals used them for regular mass-transit.  Today they are primarily tourist rides, but they are still cool.  We rode to the end of the line at Market Street.  Back in 1979, that end of the line was where you could always find the nut case preaching about the end of the world or whatever other conspiracy theory they believed in.  Today, since any nut case can reach millions instead of dozens via social media, I expected to find the local talent gone, but I was happily surprised to a few still there preaching whatever their cause was.  The line to return to Ghirardelli Square was quite long, but we noticed that they were not filling every car to capacity before starting the ride back.  So, we walked a few blocks up the line to Union Square and caught one there.  Once back at the Ghirardelli end of the line, we stopped in the Buena Vista for a couple of original Irish Coffees.  We took the ferry back to Vallejo without any rush hour traffic.  While parked in Vallejo, we also took a road trip west to the Point Reyes National Seashore.  We found that the lighthouse at the end of the point was closed that day, but it still was a cool drive and great views.  It was about 60 degrees that day and the wind was blowing about 40mph, so it was just as well we werenít tempted to walk the trail down to the lighthouse.  We traveled back off the point, which is home to many dairy farms, and stopped for lunch at the Station House in Pt. Reyes.  Along the drive, we passed a remote area where there were harbor seals basking in the sun, and just a few miles down the road, we found Stinson Beach full of people basking in the sun.  Between Pt. Reyes and San Francisco is Muir Woods.  Itís hard to believe that a place this serene and beautiful is just ten miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge and busy San Francisco.  Another day of our Bay Area stay was spent visiting friends in Richmond which is on the far northeast shore of the bay.  Kim & David are working on refitting their sailboat and we spent the afternoon at the boatyard with them, watching the progress and then went to their condo for dinner. 

Next stop was a very short hop away at Sonoma Raceway.  Sonoma is one of the two road-course races on the NASCAR schedule.  I have not been to a NASCAR road race before, so this should be fun.  The main camping area is across the street from the track and we found our end-of-a-row spot with no problem.  Itís always good to get to a NASCAR campground early because the later you are, the more challenging the parking may be.  The spot was a typical 40í x 20í spot which means we just barely fit.  We did not plan to leave the facility for the four days we will be here, so I parked the car alongside the back corner of the bus with the nose under the rear slide and then set up all our chairs and stuff, blocking the car in.  Since we were on the end of the row, we squeezed a couple extra inches out, and when our neighbors came in, they didnít really squeeze as much out of their space as they could have, so we were quite comfortable.  On qualifying day we went up to our seats in the grandstand and were pleasantly surprised at how good they were.  At a road course, there is no one seat where you can see the whole track, but we were high enough in the grandstand that we could see about half the track.  Also, being as high as we were, we were under the roof that covers the top third of the grandstand.  Being under the roof meant we were in the shade, we had a nice breeze, and we had big-screen TVís that gave us coverage of the parts of the track we couldnít see.  Race day was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed the show.  We especially enjoyed the finish, where a last-lap pass resulted in Tony Stewart getting the last win of his NASCAR career.  The one negative thing about camping at Sonoma was the fact that they allow motorized toys in the camping area.  Every other track weíve been to bans them.  The people who camp here every year obviously make bringing their toys part of the event.  There was a constant parade of ATVs, scooters, golf carts, and a few creative homemade things like the motorized picnic table.  Many of these toys were being driven by kids and drunks, so it amazed me that we didnít see any serious accidents.  We did meet two other Alfa owners in the campground.  One couple was very friendly, interested in what we knew about Alfas and came by to see ours.  The other guy didnít seem to understand why we came to say hi just because we had the same brand of rig. 

Our next stop was right on the coast at Bodega Bay.  There is an RV park literally on the coast here, but thatís not the one we are in.  We are in the Bodega Bay RV Park which is on the north edge of the village on top of the bluff from the ocean.  We arrived at the park too early to check in, as there was somebody in the spot they had assigned for us.  We pulled into a different spot and waited until noon when the other folks left.  The weather right along the coast is much different than just a few miles inland.  Each morning we had fog, and the temperature only got to the low 60s each day.  Bodega Bay is a cute small village.  We found a neat little restaurant/bait shop called Fishermanís Cove where we had a good lunch.  The next day we took a car drive in a big loop.  We went north along the coast to the Russian River and then inland to Duncan Mills where we found a cute little restaurant for lunch.  After lunch we drove into Sebastopol, then south to Petaluma, then back west to Bodega Bay.  Bodega Bayís claim to fame is that it was the setting for Alfred Hitchcockís The Birds.  There isnít a lot of evidence of the movie happening today.

Our next stop was at Jaxson Keys Winery in Hopland, CA.  This was our first Harvest Host stop.  Harvest Hosts are places like wineries, farms, or other places of interest that have space to allow an overnight RV stay.  They usually do not have any RV hookups, just parking space, and all they expect in return is that you visit their gift shop or take their tour.  There is no charge for the overnight parking and no requirement to buy anything, but obviously they hope you will.  We got parked and then went to the tasting room.  There were a couple of other visitors there and we signed up for their tasting flight.  We had a seat out on the large porch overlooking the vineyard, and enjoyed half a dozen nice wines.  We bought two bottles after the tasting.  The owner made a point of telling us to enjoy the grounds after they closed and also to help ourselves to anything from the large herb garden.  It was a very pleasant visit.

The next stop was north on Highway 101 at Ancient Redwoods RV Park in Redcrest, CA.  Highway 101 is not the coast highway.  That is Highway 1, and it is not suitable for a big RV.  Most of the 101 is four-lane and easily passable, with a few exceptions where it narrowed down and had some redwoods right on the edge of the road.  The RV park is just off the highway a mile or so, and it is on state highway 254 which is also known as The Avenue of the Giants.  Avenue of the Giants is a thirty-one mile long road roughly paralleling the 101.  It is all two-lane and runs through many redwood groves.  Many of the huge trees are literally on the edge of the pavement and have scars from passing vehicles coming too close.  We took a car drive for the entire length of the road, stopping many times along the way.  Our stops included a picnic lunch amongst the redwoods, a walk along the Eel River, and many other points of interest.  The Immortal Tree was in the parking lot at the RV park and it had a marker on it indicating the high-water line from the flood of 1964.  The marker was about twenty feet up the tree.  We also visited a historical marker commemorating the site of Dyerville which was a town entirely wiped away by the same flood.  One of the groves we stopped at was the Founderís Grove where we took a little hike through the trees.  Of course with any natural attraction, you will probably find the unnatural attractions not far away.  Like the Legend of Bigfoot Shop, the Shine Drive Through Tree that is a family-run tourist trap with everything redwood or the One-Log House which is sort of an RV built out of a real hollowed out redwood log.

Heading north from Redcrest the 101 gets closer and closer to the coast as you near the Oregon border.  We took a detour off the 101 as we passed through the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park on the Newton Drury Scenic Parkway.  This road is a two lane, but traveled by tour buses, so we knew it was ok for us.  It was a very nice detour through beautiful scenery.  We stopped in Crescent City, CA for lunch with Barbís niece Kristen.  There was a parking lot right near her home where we could stop and we enjoyed a nice couple of hours with her and her husband.  We would have enjoyed staying longer, but we still had a few hours to drive to our next stop, Coos Bay, OR.  We have reservations at the Charleston Marina an RV Park in Coos Bay.  The 101 in Oregon does run right along the coast, and much of it is two-lane, so while it is beautiful, it demanded a little more attention to driving.  We arrived after the office was closed, but there was an on-site resident manager who saw us and gave us our site assignment.  The RV park is not much more than a paved parking lot with hookups, but it is right on the water and part of the marina, so it is a cool location.  We are here for almost a week, including the 4th of July.  The lady in the office told me that the place to see fireworks was at the Mill Casino.  She warned it would be crowded, so we went a couple hours early and got easy parking.  We went in and had dinner at their buffet, and still had time to kill before dusk.  We had not brought chairs, it was very windy, and it was pretty cool.  After we saw the layout of the place, and the barge where the fireworks would come from, we realized that we could see them just as good from the parking lot as from the boardwalk.  So we went back to the car and sat warmly out of the wind and waited.  When the show started, we got out of the car so we appreciate the whole thing, and the second the finale ended, we were rolling toward the exit before all those people in their chairs.  We took a couple of drives to the shore while we were here.  One was south of the ocean inlet to Coos Bay where we saw the Cape Arago Light, and drove through Sunset Bay State Park, Shore Acres State Park, and Cape Arago State Park.  St Sunset Bay, we saw lots of sea lions basking on the rocks just offshore.  Had we not had our binoculars, we may have missed them as they blend in with the rocks until one starts to move.  North of Coos Bay, we crossed the Conde McCullough Memorial bridge and immediately turned west towards the coast.  Just across the bridge you come to a huge sand dune area where people come to ride ATVs and buggies in the sand.  There was an RV park and several buggy rental and repair places all together at the entrance to the dunes and they all were quite busy.  We rode out to the coast and found more spectacular views of the ocean.  Within walking distance of the RV park, we found the Stillwagon Distillery tasting room.  We tasted all their rums and bought a couple of bottles.  A notable funny thing we found in Coos Bay was the local TV weatherman.  Imagine someone reading the weather forecast in the style of calling a horse race.

From Coos Bay we moved further north to Tillamook, OR.  We are staying at another Harvest Host here.  The Blue Heron French Cheese Company sells all sorts of cheeses and has a deli and gift shop.  They use to have a petting zoo which is now closed, but all the animals are still there and can be pet through the fences.  We got parked and settled then went inside to sample some cheese.  We toured the store, sampled several cheeses, and picked out some cheese to buy.  We then drove the car up the road another mile to the Tillamook Cheese company.  Tillamook Cheese is an attraction as well as a cheese factory.  The self-guided tour shows the whole process from the forty-pound blocks being made to the cutting into smaller hunks and packaging after aging.  Iím always intrigued by production line tours like this.  After the tour you exit through the cheese shop and the ice cream shop.  After all that cheese, we found the Pelican Brewing Company taproom for a meal.  In addition to good food and beer, we got to watch them squeeze a new tank in the back door with an inch or so to spare.  By the time we got back to the bus, the Blue Heron shop was closed and we were left with the animals for the evening.  We went over to the area where the animals were and pet a few, including the two miniature donkeys.  We had a good nightís sleep and in the morning I went into the store to get us coffee.  They were just getting things going and the owner was behind the counter.  She asked me if the donkeys had bothered us in the evening.  I said not at all.  Apparently, if you donít pay attention to them, they start braying until you do.  I guess since we had said hi to them, they were happy.

From Tillamook we have to head inland.  There is a load zoned bridge north of Tillamook that we couldnít have crossed, so we turned east on Hwy 6 for a pretty ride through the Tillamook State Forest to Portland, then it was back to the world of interstate highways north to Olympia, WA.  We are stopping in Olympia to attend Laid Back Attack, a Parrothead music event put on by the Parrotheads of Puget Sound.  A couple months ago, we realized that our schedule might mesh with this event, and when we saw the music lineup, we put it on the calendar.  We know most of the performers, and it should be a good time.  We are also meeting RV friends Tami & Dwayne here.  The event is being held at a hotel, with the music being split between the ballroom and the pool area, but the weather isnít cooperating, so some of the poolside acts got moved inside too.  We had a great time and met several old friends and made a few new ones.  The music was excellent of course, but the weekend was marred by a sad event.  The Saturday night headline act was Jim Morris and The Big Bamboo Band.  Unfortunately, on the way to the event Jim suffered a brain aneurysm and was hospitalized in a coma.  The show went on, with his band still performing and several of the solo acts who all knew him well stepped in to fill the void.  The mood was dampened and everyone was reminded of a recurring theme of many of Jimís songs Ė to live life now and to the fullest.  Jim passed away a few days after the event and will be sorely missed by the Trop Rock community.

From Olympia, we continued north to the Seattle area.  Kent, WA to be exact.  We stayed at a KOA in Kent, which may have been the tightest KOA we have been in.  The spaces were right on top of one another with barely room to park a car.  But, it was convenient.  Right across the street from the entrance was a bus stop.  For $2.50 each we hopped a bus to the airport.  At the airport, we transferred to the light rail to downtown Seattle for $3.oo each.  It was not only cheaper than parking downtown, but it was fun to figure out the local transportation, similar to the cruising days when we didnít have a car option.  We took the bus/train downtown two of the days we were there.  One day we visited the Public Market where the famous fish throwing guys are, rode the big Ferris wheel on the waterfront, walked to the Space Needle (but didnít go up in it), rode the monorail back downtown, and took the bus/train back home.  The other downtown day was spent at Pioneer Square where we took the Underground Seattle tour.  The tour was interesting, and the neighborhood was neat to walk around, have a meal and a few beers.  On two of our train rides, we were entertained by camp kids.  These were groups of a dozen or so five-year-olds under the semi-control of three or four adult counselors.  One group was remarkably well behaved while the other was a bit rowdy.  I was sure glad I wasn't responsible for them.  One of our Seattle days was spent touring the Boeing plant in Everett where they build all their wide-body planes.  It was a very interesting tour and I recommend it.  A highlight of the Seattle visit was reconnecting with cruising friends Denny & Renny and their kids.  We met Denny & Renny in Grenada in 2006.  They were cruising for a few years with their three kids who were aged about five to fourteen then.  Well, that was ten years ago and it was fun to see how the kids have grown.  We visited their house twice while we were here, once for dinner and once for an afternoon barbeque.  Another couple whom we met in Grenada but werenít close friends with was there too.  It was great to see them all and catch up with where we all had been.

Next stop was a little north of Seattle to Whidbey Island for a few days.  The road onto Whidbey Island from the north includes a bridge over Deception Pass, which is a very narrow bridge.  There was no room for error with the tires inches from the curb and right on the yellow line.  Our time here included a visit with friends Tofer & Becky, whom we also met while cruising.  Tofer & Becky were living in St. Thomas on their boat with four of their children when we met, and now live in Anacortes.  We met because Tofer was the captain of the crewed charter that we did back in 2011 on Sweetest Thing.  We had seen them again years later when we were back there on MoonSail.  They eventually sailed back to the PNW via the Panama Canal and are living regular working lives again, although they still live on the boat.  We took a day trip from here around the Olympia Peninsula.  This involved taking a ferry from Whidbey Island to Port Townsend.  From Port Townsend we drove the northern shore of the peninsula all the way to Neah Bay.  We didnít have time to circumnavigate the peninsula, so we retraced out route back to Port Townsend.  When we pulled up to buy tickets for the ferry, the attendant asked if we had reservations.  We did not, so they told us we may have to wait two hours for the next ferry, which was the last for the night.  If we didnít get on that one our choice would be to find a hotel or drive about three hours south to Olympia and then back north to Whidbey Island.  About half an hour later, as the ferry loaded, we watched all the people with reservations drive by.  We were about the tenth in the unreserved line.  Finally they started waving our line to load.  But, they stopped a few cars ahead of us.  Then they called for a few more, but stopped at us!  I was watching for any signs of hope, when the guy at the boat waved for one more car!  We were the last to board, and we were literally halfway over the yellow line that should mark the end of the cars.  Apparently we cashed in some good karma points today. To make the good karma even better, as we crossed back to Whidbey Island, we were treated to the sight of several whales in the distance.  It wasn't like we were right next to them, but we could clearly see them breaching and the spray from their exhales. 

Next stop was further north to Ferndale, WA.  There was no particular reason to go to Ferndale other than we have a week to kill before our next commitment.  So, we spent a few relaxing days with no big plans here.  The one day trip we did take was to Mt. Baker, east of Bellingham.  Mt. Baker has quite a bit of snow on it, even though it is late July.  We drove highway 542 from Bellingham to the end of the road near the Mt. Baker Ski Area.  We were surprised at the number of bicyclists we encountered on the road.  And most of them were not kids.  Made me feel kind of inferior.  At the end of the road, we found parking and a ranger to answer questions.  There was lots of snow to play in and spectacular views.

Our last stop on our trek north and west was in Blaine, WA.  This is our last stop north and west because you canít go any farther without crossing the border to Canada.  We met friends Tami & Dwayne at a Thousand Trails park in Blaine.  At Thousand Trails parks, they donít pre-assign sites.  When you check in, you go find a site and then come back and let them know where you are.  We got there first and I was able to find one pair of spots together.  Hopefully Tami & Dwayne will arrive before somebody else thinks this spot looks good.  It worked out and we had a cool arrangement with our passengerís sides facing each other so we shared the grass between us.  We enjoyed just hanging with Tami & Dwayne for a few days and celebrated Barbís big 60th birthday while here.

Being as far north and west as we can go in the lower 48, this would be a good place to end this update.