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Sunday, July 31, 2011

7,662 feet and what a view!

Today we got up early before the heat came (it was 64 degrees when we left the RV, 77 when we returned) and went for our bike ride.  We went to the American Legion Park which is about 4 miles away.  It has a paved trail that is about 4.5 miles long and goes through a dry canyon.

It was downhill at first and slightly uphill coming back.  We rode 4 times around some ball fields at the end in order to get a full 10 mile ride in.  But when we were done, we were really tired!

After resting and lunch, we went to Mt. Bachelor, about 20 miles SW of Bend which is about 20 miles or so south of here.  Once we arrived at the ski center, we found that there were still random spots of snow, some pretty good size.

We purchased 2 lift tickets ($16 each) and rode up the chair lift from the 6,200 foot level to the 7,641 foot level.

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The only lift open in the summer takes you to Pine Marten Lodge which has a restaurant open this time of year and has sunset dining packages.  Once at the Lodge, you get a close-up view of the top of the mountain, but the lifts to the top are not running this time of year.

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The end of the ride at the top of the mountain has a very easy way to disembark from the ride.  You just stand up and walk away!

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So here we are at 7,662 feet out in the mountains totally away from civilization and as I use my phone, I see that I have 4 bars of 3G signal.  A quick look to the right of the lodge shows a small hill with  cell system antennas on it.  No wonder I had such good signal!

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The view from here to the northwest shows several lakes along the Cascade Lakes Highway. 

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A great view of the surrounding mountains including the Three Sisters.

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As we left the lodge, we noticed a disc golf course!  Yup, they play disc golf here in the summer.  The first hole starts with a drop of about 100 feet, and then a climbing distance of about 400 yards.

Here is a close-up of the target for hole #1.  You can barely see it even at full zoom.

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Here is the same shot with no zoom.  The target is to the left of the lift tower and in the snow.  It would take quite a shot to make it from the tee1

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There are holes for the course all the way down the hill.  While waiting at the bottom, I saw several players exiting the course wearing bags around their waists that held about 30 discs and large beverage bottles.  Guess you really have to come prepared for this course!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

That Stinky Smell of Fire

We started today with a 7 mile bike ride around Eagle Crest Resort.  There are at least two golf courses at the resort and plenty of bike & walking trails.  We wanted to get out before it got too hot and by the time we were done, it was getting warm.

The trails are all paved, but with a lot of hills.  Thank God for our Hilltoppers.  Even so, when we were done, we were both tired and hot.

We came back to the RV and had lunch.  After lunch we had planned to do more exploring, but……..

We smelled something that had the odor of an electrical smell.  Looked all over and could not be sure what it was.  Originally we thought it was one of the AC units, but that didn’t appear to be it.  After a bit more time, I decided to call a mobile RV service to come out and see what they could find.

Good thing we did.  The problem was not the air conditioners at all, but the transfer switch.  One of the relays had a connection that was arcing and melting the wires.  You could even see where the insulation had charred.

Unfortunately, the relay contacts were melted/charred and we need a new relay.  Temporarily, Bill, the repair person, bypassed the transfer switch with a direct connection.  He hopes to order the part on Monday and have it by Wednesday to install.  More on that as we get news.

So we didn’t go anywhere this afternoon.  Instead we had an unexpected visitor.  A fellow blogger, Loree, lives in the local area and contacted Carol about getting together.  She was able to come and spend a few hours visiting with us.  She brought her companion Lucy, her pet Dachshund.  We spent the visit out in the shade because Bill was working on the RV and the power was off and with a 92 degree temp, the RV got really warm.

Really enjoyed meeting another blogger.  We feel that, after reading each other’s blogs for so long, that when we finally meet, it is like getting together with long-time friends.  I really encourage those bloggers out there to take the opportunity to meet fellow bloggers when you can. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

What is a Prine?

Yesterday I posted about the RV park here at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds.  I took a picture this morning of the park and below you can see the concrete pads and the paved streets.  The park is a bit more crowded today so it is not as empty as it looks here.

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Last night after my post, we went for a 5 mile bike ride around the fair grounds.  This morning we went on another 8 mile ride before we headed out on our day’s adventures.

We drove about 20 miles to Prineville.  On the way in, we stopped at a vista point that overlooked the city and surrounding area.  We then went to Pioneer Park in the center of the city and had a picnic lunch.  After lunch, we drove out to Prineville lake.  It is a nice state park and some of the camp sites have full hookups, though only with 30 amp power.  Unfortunately many of the sites are small and not level.

It was a good exploration of the area but given what we found, we probably won’t try to camp there.  By the way, it is the home office of Les Schwab Tires.

There is a great golf course adjacent to the park here, but it costs $75 to play which is a bit high.

The temperature is in the low 90s today and will be as hot or slightly hotter the next two days.  We will adjust our activities to avoid the high temp times of the day.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

There is no Red in Redmond

Today we left on another excursion, this one a week in Redmond, OR.  It is 153 miles from our home in Vancouver, WA to Redmond and it took about 3.5 hours.  We left at 9am (right at our target time we agreed on the last night – how’s that for a change?) and arrived at 12:30.

The route we took was highway 26 from east Portland (Gresham area) through Sandy up over Government Camp (elevation 4995’) and then down through Warm Springs and Madras and then south on Highway 97 into Redmond.  It was a fairly easy drive with no wind to speak of and other than a few mountain grades and curves, nothing really of any problem. 

As you come out of the mountains and drop to about 3,000’, the scenery changes abruptly from mountain forests to high desert scrub and the road becomes fairly straight.

The RV park we are staying at is the Expo Fairgrounds in Redmond.  Now we have stayed at fairgrounds numerous times with varying quality.  From the crowded dirt sites in Mariposa, CA (Just outside Yosemite NP) and Monterey, CA, to the spacious and apparently never crowded gravel sites at CalExpo in Sacramento, we thought we had seen the full range of fairgrounds.

Well, this place wins the award overall for sure.  First, the roads are all paved, the sites are all cement and drive through.  The hookups are all first rate including 30 and 50 amp connections.  The office/clubhouse is modern and the place looks like an RV park should and is definitely way above the other fairgrounds we’ve stayed at.

Right now, there are about 10 RV’s here in what I would estimate to be 125-150 sites.  However, the fair starts August 3rd, so I would expect it to fill up over the next few days.

There are also good restaurants in the area including the Applebee’s where we had lunch today.

It was up to about 88 or so today and as a result, we didn’t do a whole lot.  Carol did get in a small bike ride, but we will plan our schedule to do our physical activities in the morning when it is much cooler.

And if you were expecting Red soil or some other geographic reason to call this place Redmond, you will be disappointed.  The landscape is pretty much high desert and dry soil.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I will huff and I will puff and I will blow…….

Today got off to a very interesting start.  I normally use my Delorme GPS connected to my laptop to navigate while driving the RV.  It (usually) gives me great information on the best route and types of roads, etc.

Today it really blew it.  It said to go south on a road and eventually connect to US 395.   But after a mile or so turned to gravel but it was pretty good and smooth so I ventured a bit further.  The GPS said that the road was to continue straight.  But it didn’t instead the road shown on the map did not exist anymore in reality – it was a farmer’s field and he probably would not have been too happy with someone driving a large RV through his fence and field.  So we turned to follow another road that should have worked according to the GPS but it died too.  Fortunately I was just able to make a u-turn at a junction.  We returned back the way we came and navigated using the mark-1 eyeball.  That got us to US 395.

This route took us right through the middle of Spokane.  It was slow going through the traffic and the road work in the city.  Once we got on I-90, that too had road construction for the first 5-7 miles.  Once past that, we were free!

The route all the way to Kennewick was good, smooth, and fast pavement.  While driving outside of Kennewick, Carol’s WeatherBug app on her smartphone had an alert for strong winds and a cold front passing.  Just about as she said it, the wind started coming up and getting stronger.

We had wind with us all the last 100 miles or so.  The WeatherBug reported peak winds of 51mph which is pretty strong.  Strong enough that I had to slow down to about 50 or so.  Every time a truck passed me we really felt the backlash.

We arrived at Mayhill about 3pm and went to the state park.  Last night Carol checked it and saw 17 sites available, but when we arrived there were none.  So we went to Peach Beach which is right next door.  They had a site with water and electric, but no sewer.  To me, I was tired of fighting the wind so here we are!

Tomorrow we will drive the last 104 miles to home.  The winds are forecast to be just under 20mph which should be doable.  Just about time to start planning the next trip!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Are there any deer in Deer Park???

Today we reluctantly left West Glacier heading for home.  We actually got out 45 minutes early thanks to Carol’s early morning vigor!  The drive was basically 258 miles on US Highway 2 followed by 5 miles of local roads to the Deer Park RV Park and Golf Resort.

Here is a map of today’s route – double click to make it larger and use your browser zoom to make that even larger.

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We started up in the right hand top corner just outside Glacier NP.  Our route took us down through Kalispell which we had visited a few days earlier in search of the PCMCIA card for Carol’s computer.  We both  remarked as we passed through the city, how hectic that search was and how much nicer today’s drive through was.

Then we went west and about 20 miles or so further, we came across Thompson River Road.  Originally our route was going to have us take this road down to I-90.  But yesterday I had a feeling this might not be a good route.  I looked it up online and saw that someone had recommended it as a great scenic ride.

I called the Montana Dept. of Transportation but they were no help.  So on a Lark, I looked up the city of Thompson River, about halfway down the road, and asked the nice lady about it.  She immediately set me straight!  It is a gravel road!  It runs for 42 miles and most of that except in the actual city of Thompson River, is gravel!  Good thing I asked!

So as we passed by Thompson River Road today, we could see that it was indeed gravel.  I would not want to take the RV on that road towing the car.  The RV would kick up gravel which would scratch the car.

We were making good time and stopped about 8 miles outside of Libby, MT alongside a river to have lunch.  Good scenery out the window and I suspect Carol will have some pics of it in her blog today.

Libby is a small town of about 2,000 or so, but it is the first real town we had in the last 100 miles or so!

About 15 miles further we came to Troy which isn’t big at all, but you still have to slow down for it.  Then across the state line into Idaho.

Just north of Sandpoint about 2 miles is the town of Ponderay.  It is too small to see on the map above.  But my navigation program has the option to load external files with points of interest.  I have files for campgrounds in each of the NW states, one for rest areas, and most importantly, one for Wal-Marts.  So Ponderay had a Wal-Mart just where the program said it was and Carol went in to get a few supply items.

Then we headed west again through Priest River to Newport, which is just across the state border into Washington.  Newport looks like a nice little town on the Pend Oreille River.  The river is good size with a pretty color, at least it is this time of year.

From Newport, we went the remaining 40 miles or so to our campground for tonight.  A total drive of 263 miles.  It was 85 degrees when we arrived, but after 30 minutes or so, our on board AC units have us nice and cool.

The plan for tomorrow is to go to Maryhill state park just about 30 miles or so east of the Dalles, OR and 274 miles from here.  It is one of our favorite parks, though we have no internet there and very poor cell service.  So we may not post our blogs tomorrow unless we get lucky.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Wheels on the Bike Go Round and Round

Yesterday, we went for a bike ride in Glacier NP.  We rode around on the trails for 6.1 miles.  The weather was great and the ride went well.  We did have problems with one of our batteries as it was discharged.  If the battery switch is on, somehow it loses charge.  Theoretically, you need a load to discharge it with and I can’t find one, but it discharged anyway.  So Carol & I shared the one good battery for our hilltoppers.

Last night we went back into the park about 6pm and took our grill and barbequed some hot dogs to celebrate the 4th of July.  We used the picnic area in the Apgar area and had a great site just about 50 feet  from the lakeshore.  After eating, we took our fold up chairs down by the lakeside and sat on the shore for awhile.

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View from where we sat by the lake.

Today we did another bike ride (10.1 miles) covering some of the same trails and more.  It was getting warm out by then so we came back to the RV for lunch.  Later this evening we will celebrate our last night here by going out to dinner.

Tomorrow we head down Highway 2 all the way to about 15 miles north of Spokane.  It will be a total of 263 miles and during the trip we will go through Sandpoint, ID, a location we visited back in the late 90’s.  We will also return to Pacific time, so we will pick up an extra hour too.

Temps will be right about 90 or maybe slightly higher.  So we will be glad that we have air conditioning!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Oh Dear!

Today we started out by attending a worship service held here at the campground by volunteers from a local church.  It was really well done and brought back memories of a home church that we were in a few years back.

After that we packed lunches and went into the park again.  This time we drove towards Polebridge, about 25 miles NNW of the West Glacier entrance.  About 13 miles up the road though, it turned to gravel and we didn’t care to drive 24 miles round trip on a gravel road, so we turned around and started back.

On the return trip, we checked out all the roadside stops and at one, we were positioned to overlook a meadow.  In this meadow, there was a large deer just standing there.  I’m assuming it was a she due to the lack of antlers.

Every few minutes she would pick up her right front foot and stomp it on the ground and then let out a loud wheezing bellow.  Not sure what that was all about.  We had seen two younger deer about a quarter of a mile earlier and perhaps she was calling to them.

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After leaving the deer, we drove to Fish Creek to check that area out and then back to Apgar.  We had lunch on a picnic table that had a nice water view of Lake McDonald.

After lunch, and after Carol made her obligatory scan of the local gift shops for grandbaby items, we took a walk along the bike path to Apgar Campground.  Counting getting to the path, it is about a mile each way. 

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Looking down the bike path

Unfortunately Carol’s hip started bothering her and she wasn’t up for the return trip.  So I returned and brought the car to her.  I think the rest of the day is for relaxing and planning tomorrow’s adventures.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

In the eye of the beholder

Today dawned bright and clear.  We decided to drive into the park and up to Avalanche, about 14 miles up the Going to the Sun Road.  There was a significant backlog getting through the pay station to enter the park.  Yellowstone had an express lane for pass holders which really worked well.  Glacier didn’t and so the lines were slow to process.

Once we entered the park, we drove up to Avalanche.  On the ride there are many turnouts and overlooks that are well worth stopping for.  We weren’t going to stop at these until the way back because they are all on the left side of the road.  But the lake was so calm, you could get a great reflective image in it.

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Lake McDonald with mountain reflection

When we arrived at Avalanche, we fount that there isn’t enough parking there while the road is closed further on, so they used a campground loop and let you park there.  We were able to get one of the last spots.

Then we went for a walk on the Trail of the Cedars.  It is about .8 of a mile, but when you add all the other walking from the parking spot down through the campground and out to the trailhead, it was slightly under 2 miles.

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Avalanche Creek running down the mountains.

The path is an easy walk and is either paved or wood decking the whole way.  That made it an easy walk.  While crossing the bridge over Avalanche Creek, we came across a couple exchanging their wedding vows!  What a scenic spot for it!

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I Do!  I Do Too!

The walk is all through a forest and it is very quiet and serene.  We didn’t see any wildlife but we could hear many birds.

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The Cedar trees in this area thrive because of the readily available moisture.  Unfortunately, it is so easily available, that the tree’s root system spreads out near the surface.  As a result, it is quite common to see these trees tipped over with their root system showing.

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Fallen Cedar tree root system.

After the walk, we thought about taking a shuttle 8 miles further up the road where cars aren’t yet allowed.  But after waiting 20 minutes, our line hadn’t moved much and we were still about 45 minutes from even boarding a shuttle, so we abandoned that plan and started our return drive.

At one of the many pull-over spots, there was a ramp down the side of the mountain about 30 feet and you got a great view of the river flowing.  There was a really fast current at this point.

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We went to Lake McDonald Lodge which is at the eastern end of the 10 mile long lake.  Before the road was built, the only way here was by horse or boat.  The lodge area is full of blooming flowers.

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We also took a 1 hour long boat tour of the lake.  There are many great scenic views of the mountains from the lake and this one is one of the best.

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Looking east from the boat tour.

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The De Smet, our boat for the tour.

The boat is made out of wood and was built 80 years ago by a local boat builder.  There are other similar boats of his on the other lakes in the park.

As you can see, today’s adventure was full of beautiful scenes for our eyes to behold.  In fact there were way too many to put on this blog.

Tonight we are planning on going to a ranger talk at the Apgar Village outdoor amphitheater. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Doing their own thing……

Well, today we left St. Mary and drove to West Glacier.  Took about 2.5 hours for the trip.  Using the route 464 instead of highway made this a great drive instead of the rough one we had back on Tuesday.  Yes, there was wind along all but maybe the last 35 miles of the route, but no matter which way we went, we would have had that.

As Carol mentioned on her blog, her computer somehow or other lost access to all the USB ports.  This caused her major grief when she could not use her mouse.  I did some research online and found several others who had experienced this problem.  Unfortunately, they were unable to correct it even with a full software reload of the system.  Their only option was to maybe find a PCMCIA card with USB ports on it and install that as a work around.

Sounds so easy, but where the heck do we find one here in West Glacier?  These cards haven’t really been used for some time as all laptops in the last 7 or so years have built in USB ports.

So, we decided to drive 30 miles to Kalispell, a town of about 20,000 and see if the Radio Shack might have one.  We also planned to go to Wal-Mart there, so the trip would not be a total waste.

First, we went to Radio Shack.  No luck there.  They haven’t had one for 3 years or so.  But they did recommend a place called “Radio Active” which is a small electronics store.

After fighting through some traffic, our Android nav Program found the store for us.   (We have nicknamed the voice of the app “GiPSy” and in the interest of full disclosure, I must point out how much Carol hates the voice).  Went into the store, and of course, they didn’t have one either.  But they suggested Staples might have one.

So we fought the traffic in the other direction and went back to Staples.  You guessed it, they haven’t carried them for years.

We did pass an Office Max as we went to Staples, so we turned around and went there.  Nope, no luck there either.

We did find that the new Wal-Mart was out beyond the Radio Active store, so we doubled back (I think it is actually doubled forward by now) and went past Radio Active to Wal-Mart and bought groceries and some items needed in the RV.

On the way out, we decided to take one last stab and see if they had a Best Buy store.  GiPSy said they did and gave us directions right to the store which was out of town about a mile in the wrong direction (toward Whitefish).

We went there anyway.  By now, Carol was getting tired and just waited in the car for me to run in and check.  Well, low and behold, they had two of them!  So I grabbed it, paid for it, and took it to the car to be sure it fit her computer which it did.  Yippee!  Even Carol had to admit (after I forced her to) that GiPSy had worked!

We decided to just go to Whitefish and home from there rather than fight all the traffic in Kalispell again.  That actually worked out really well and the trip was enjoyable because a) no traffic, and b) we actually found the PCMCIA USB card.

Now the moment we were waiting for was at hand.  Would the card actually work as a “work around” and give her at least two ports.  Nope.  It never even had a chance to load its drivers – why? Well, because as it recognized the new card with the new USB ports, it actually reloaded the drivers (same ones I tried to manually load) for the old ports and they started working!  Yippee again!  Everything is back to normal.  I actually believe the new card would have loaded its drivers if I waited but I didn’t need them, so now we are going to hang onto the card.  Maybe just the threat of the new card coerced the old ports into working! <g>

On a different note (And more in line with the title above), it seems like the state and people of Montana have taken the concept of “personalized license plates” to the extreme!  We have literally seen all kinds of different plates here.  It is almost like everyone in Montana designs their own plate here.

Some, but by no means all, of the plates we have seen just in the last few days.

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So we are here now for 5 nights.  Carol has her mouse working now and has good Wi-Fi to go with it, so she is happy.  The weather is going to be super for the rest of our visit and I will shortly be grilling some steaks.  Life is good.