Saturday, July 24, 2021

All Hitched Up Then Turned Around

 July 14 - 19, 2021
Puyallup-Concrete, Washington

Wednesday morning we reluctantly return south from Port Townsend, driving separately, to the heat and bustle of the big city. It's the last "must-do" thing before we can continue our planned travels. And getting the new Blue Ox towing system installed is definitely something we must do!

I know we have a few friends who always drive separately to accommodate a run-around car in addition to their truck to pull a 5er. It's something they planned and it's part of their life style. For us, it's not ideal so we're looking forward to towing Dakota. 

When we get to Sumner I'm wishing I had my navigator as the GPS changes it's "mind" in the middle of an intersection, which means I've just missed the right turn. After climbing a hill through town I find a vacant lot for a U-turn, but when I arrive at the address for Infinity Coach I'm sure it's the wrong place. Two small driveways on either side of a small industrial building with packed parking lots. Bill confirms to me by phone that it's the right place so I use the Cummins lot next door to turn back. When he spoke to their office the same morning they said there was room to park the rig while we dropped off Dakota. Pulling into the parking lot I'm still convinced this can't be right!

Photo taken from the exit, just a tad snug.

They have to reposition multiple rigs everyday. 

Bill does the paperwork for the hitch install, and even I'm surprised I can maneuver the rig out of this lot with only one short back-up required. Whew! Glad to be out of there.

Washington State Fair RV Park in Puyallup (poo-yal-up) is the only place I find with vacancy for the three nights we need. No extensions as they have a large exhibition coming on Saturday. As is often the case with large fairgrounds, the website gives the administration address so the park is not where we go. Fortunately the person who took my reservation did mention the Orange Gate and having my navigator back onboard, we eventually find the entrance. 

Our camp host Amy meets us, and after I learn her life story both in Washington and California, she leads us to our level grass site with 50 amp FHUs. She comes back later to say she'll give me a ride if I need the grocery store - very nice! While I did some shopping at our last stop, we'd already planned for dinner delivery a couple nights. 

A first for me, I plan to take an Uber for Tessa's grooming appointment the next day. Both the food delivery and Uber drivers find us and we confirm that at least in the city we can survive a few days without the Jeep. Unfortunately it means we miss seeing our friends in Olympia and having another visit with my cousin, but we'll be back to the Olympic Peninsula. 

I spend the two hours of Tessa's appointment enjoying Sushi which Bill doesn't eat, and wandering through a couple nearby stores. 

It's been too long!

Infinity gives us a scare when they call Wednesday afternoon to see if we can pick up Dakota and do the rig install on Monday. Uh no, we have no transportation and nowhere to park the rig for the weekend. It's a big relief when Bill calls them Thursday afternoon and they confirm they'll be ready for us Friday as planned. Disaster averted.

We spend most of Friday exploring the area (with Dakota's new, barely visible hitch plate and braking system). Back at the lot we're treated to one of their rig re-positioning dances which is very impressive in that tight space. All hooked up, a brief tutorial, everything works fine, and we're back at our site before 5 PM for one last night.

Puyallup's historic downtown is clean and cute and doing a bustling business. 
While in Port Townsend Bill discovered our 50 amp plug needs replacing. We pick up the new one at General Delivery (something new for us, and we've used it three times this summer) before we left and he installs it during our "downtime" at this stop. So when we pull out on Saturday morning we're feeling especially good about finally having the hitch and updating the plug.

And we're excited about visiting the first new place since we headed out in April. Hwy 20 through the Northern Cascades here we come!!

Passing once more through Marysville where we've already been four times to make the Jeep purchase, we laugh that at least we won't have to come through again!

Famous last words......

Concrete, Washington, is the first stop on Plan B, made when Plan A in Canada fell through due to extended border closures. The last 30 miles along the Skagit River are stunning, and we're even more excited about the next 10 days in this area.  

Concrete-Gandy Creek KOA is tucked in the trees with level dirt sites. We have 30 AMP FHUs and shade that blocks our satellite. The weather is perfect and we spend three days with all the windows open to the smell of pines and the sound of wind in the trees. 

Decent front yard view for a full campground. 

We're not in Montana yet, but the skies are bigger up here too!

Sunday we are treated to jaw-dropping (literally, several times, mouth opened wide with Wows) natural beauty along the Cascades Scenic Loop (this part of Hwy 20). Tiny pit-stop towns, glaciers, huge mountains, glacier-flour river and lakes, trickling waterfalls, healthy forests, and brilliant blue skies, it's glorious.

Skagit River


Breath-taking Diablo Lake 

Newhalem is just living quarters for the workers at the hydroelectric plant and no services but a national park store, but it does have this cool vintage locomotive.

Most falls are dry, but a few drop along side the highway.

Enjoying the cool spray of a drive-through waterfall.

Colonial Peak to the right
I've been watching the fire/smoke in the area, and when Hwy 20 is still closed ahead of us because the fire is 10 feet from the road, I start once again looking at rerouting. Plan C means one of two routes we've already taken east, Interstate 90 or Hwy 2. 

When the road closure continues, and extends east, I cancel two reservations, and after many phone calls find openings to cover them. So we're not only back on a previous route, but also staying where we've stayed before. While not ideal, I can't complain knowing that our inconvenience is nothing compared to the thousands and thousands of acres destroyed and the loss of property and income suffered by others.

For such a small town, Concrete has two very good eateries. Lone Star serves amazing burgers, and 5Bees has a unique and fresh menu. 

Just as small as the town are the two state parks. Rockport is closed to camping, and is rapidly being reclaimed by the forest. Rasar has small sites for tents and 20' trailers, some with water and electric. The river is nearby but it doesn't look like any of the sites have access. Both have forest hiking trails.

Primordial feeling forest at Rockport SP

Concrete got its name from the downtown businesses all built of concrete to avoid destruction from fire.

We're bummed to turn around and return to Interstate 5 yet again, but will be pleasantly surprised by a beautiful Tuesday drive.

Like his older brother Ezra, Elliott is becoming a master of expressions. Cracks me up!

Saturday, July 17, 2021

On the Point in Port Townsend

 July 7 - 14, 2021
Port Townsend, Washington

A quick 30 mile drive in separate vehicles takes us north to the quirky and quaint town of Port Townsend. We've visited several times, and this time we're staying here. Point Hudson Marina and RV Park is on Puget Sound - full hookup utility posts divide a dirt and weed lot into very snug sites. Making the reservation in January, I was able to get us one space from the water's edge with full views in front. In addition to the beauty, we're a few blocks from town. A little town with a very busy main street where Fed Ex and UPS park in the middle of the road. Making for a challenging final few blocks to the marina :-)

A first for us is a fabulous restaurant a few yards from our home! Docs Marina Grill has great food, service and wine - we enjoy it a few times during our stay.

When we pulled out of Gig Harbor the steps failed to go out when Bill was getting out. With everything going on while in Sequim we scheduled a mobile tech for this stop. In the meantime we're up and down the step ladder, and Tessa is making the big leap in and out. Sigh.....

Front yard views.

Point Hudson Marina is very busy.

When we don't have a waterside neighbor our views are even better!

Fortunately our very, very close neighbors on the other side are quiet and friendly, since our slides nearly touch.

With our beautiful views we spend more time than usual at home. Port Townsend is one of my favorite places to shop, because there are so many unique and adorable places to browse. I spend a couple hours one afternoon, and bring home a couple scoops of ice cream from Elevated! Per usual, we take a few day trips, including a ferry ride to Whidbey Island.

Fort Flagler parade grounds and officer housing overlooking the Sound.

USGS research center at the beach.

Fort Flagler SP Campground has many tall whirligigs and flags - they're colorful and fun!

A foggy day at Fort Worden takes us to Point Wilson Lighthouse. Active from 1879 to 1913, restoration efforts are ongoing.

Fort Worden is an active part of the Port Townsend community, with vacation rentals, museums, classes, galleries, and a pub. 

I love this old theatre, currently sitting dormant.

The old schoolhouse currently hosts adult classes.

We've taken ferries in the rig, in the Jeep and on foot, and never "felt" the trip across the water like we do this time. Both of us are feeling a little green by the time we arrive in the Jeep at Whidbey Island. We're soon fine, and don't have similar effects on the return trip. Hope it was a one-off!

Whidbey has a wonderful diversity including beaches (of course), mountains, forest, farmland and small towns. Deception Pass is incredible, but with zero parking available on either side of the bridge I'm unable to get a photo. There is also major construction on most of the bridge.

Monochromatic morning leaving Port Townsend on the ferry.

North Beach at Deception Pass State Beach.

Tessa and I walk awhile on the pretty beach, but it's too rocky for zoomies :-(

Admiralty Head Lighthouse at Fort Casey SP. Like the other state parks in the area, the campgrounds are at or near capacity. 
Mike from West Sound RV arrives as scheduled on Monday morning, and within an hour has our steps working! So nice not having to use the ladder anymore. Not so nice is trying to find a rental car for our upcoming time in Sumner to get the hitch installed on the Jeep. I finally give up when the only available option in a 100 mile radius is $700 for three days! 

Also challenging is getting reservations for the next leg of our route. I was waiting to confirm Canada was not opening for tourists and that we would need to use Plan B on Hwy 20. But I waited too long and every place I call for a couple days is either full or I'm waiting for a return call. Plans C and D are mapped just in case. 

Our final day is a real treat when we get a visit from our high school friend Katie. We visited during our last trip to Seattle where she's lived for a couple decades, and this time she makes the drive to see us. Lunch at Docs and hanging out in our waterfront yard makes for a perfect afternoon. 

Just after Katie leaves, Tessa gives us a real scare with violent sneezing that she can't stop. There are a lot of foxtails here, and I'm afraid she's got one stuck in her nostril. I call the ER vet in town only to find out they can't take her in because they're slammed. The next closest vet is 40 minutes away with up to a five hour wait!! It's terrifying that we can't get her any help if it becomes serious. Fortunately she eventually gets rid of whatever she had and is eating, drinking and playing normally. I call to take us off the waiting list and take my own deep breaths.

Katie and Bill - and the ferry coming into port.

Mt Baker in the distance. Nesting boxes up close.

Just before we leave this momma and fawn stop for a bite to eat.   

Like most of our stops, our time goes too fast, and I'm already looking forward to coming back in 2024 and staying longer. 

Next we return south driving separately, where hopefully we'll get the rig and Jeep connected once again.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Excitement, Exhaustion, Emergency Room, Exhalation

 June 26 - July 6, 2021
Gig Harbor - Sequim, Washington

I come from a very small family. An only child of parents with a total of three siblings who gave me three cousins. All boys. We were all very close as children but eventually lost track of each other over the years. My paternal cousin David is the one I haven't seen in nearly 50 years and he's the one I found last year! He and his wife Laurie live in Gig Harbor and that's why we're here for a few days :-)

Gig Harbor RV Resort is another disappointing Sun Resort that is hardly a resort, with terraced sites of weeds and gravel among tall trees. Thankfully we get partial shade although it means no satellite. 

We have lots of plans for the area, most of which don't happen for a few reasons. The extreme heat is an unhappy surprise. David and Laurie's return from California is delayed. We make two 160 mile round trip drives to buy a new-to-us Jeep. We miss getting to see friends Rebecca and Michael in Olympia, but plan to see them when we come back to the area in a couple weeks.

The very best though is Tuesday when we visit with David and Laurie and son Jake at their beautiful home. Having family is exciting for both of us, and we spend hours getting caught up. Jake has done a lot of genealogy on our family that adds to the fun conversation. I fail to get any pics which I hope to remedy when we have dinner later in the week. Sadly that doesn't happen either. Another attempt will be made!

While we're very happy with the new vehicle, we jump through a dozen hoops to confirm residency for the registration, and then fail to get the hitch transferred. It's absolutely exhausting. 

Originally from Canada, we named him Dakota after the Dakota Toads indigenous to his home.  The Copperhead color is a little different from Piper.

At the same time I'm finalizing travel plans for Bill's mom's memorial in California. 

Thursday we drive separately the 80 miles to Sequim, Washington. We're supposed to be at GilGal Oasis for six nights, but the next morning we're back in the Jeep driving to SeaTac and a flight to Fresno, California. It's our first time on Alaskan Airlines, and we're very happy with the service and the seating room. Tessa gets comfortable under the seat in front of us for the non-stop flight. Cousin Cindy is there to pick us up at 2:00. 

When we left Sequim it was once again a lovely 68 degrees. Of course Fresno is 100 degrees and awful.

Lots of family (unlike me, Bill has plenty) arrive for the lovely Saturday service and gathering afterwards. It's wonderful to see everyone, but I'm hot and tired and catch a ride to the hotel after dinner to cool off and relax. Bill stays to party with his boys and a few others. 

Sons Nick, Corey, Richie and Travis, and nephew David with Bill.

The hanging-out-in-the-AC crowd.

The everybody-else-is-by-or-in-the-pool crowd.

Granddaughter Reese with daddy Travis contemplating a swim.

Dad is happy that Corey brought the Cribbage board :-)

Perhaps the coolest pool toy of forever - a bucking bull!

We don't have a car so when Bill has a health issue in the middle of the night I have to call 911. He's taken to the emergency room while Tessa and I wait to find out what's happening. Fortunately it's a recurrence of an issue he had seven years ago, and after treatment and a new prescription, cousin Cindy picks him up, then me, and we're back at her house for breakfast. 

Another uneventful flight, but I lose Tessa's vest in the parking lot (arghhhh!), and by the time we get back to Sequim at 7:30 I'm completely fried. Soooo glad to be home.

It would have been closer to the airport to delay our drive to Sequim, but being the holiday weekend, and since I knew the rig would be very safe at the little urban RV park, it was the better choice to keep our scheduled stop. It also means that when the trip is over we're in a beautiful area that we love. July 4th we stay close to home, have a delicious lunch at Baja Cantina (the best Mexican food we've found on this route), and are asleep before the fireworks finish around us. 

Tuesday we head to Hurricane Ridge. Many others have the same idea, but the parking lot has a few openings, and we're able to enjoy the incredible views of the Olympic Mountains. Surrounded by such natural beauty I finally exhale. 

Line to enter the national park.

Fog wisps into Port Angeles.

We spend some time in the cute town of Port Angeles, and stop at the lavender fields. There's so much to love about this area.

Even though we still have to get the hitch installed (we're getting a new Blue Ox to replace the Roadmaster), which will return us south to the busy of the city, before that we're back on the water in Port Townsend, Washington. Let the exhalation continue!

Back in SoCal Ezra and Mommy pick apricots from their own tree!