So Good to Go Home – Part II


Highway 2 – Michigan Upper Peninsula

When we left Glacier in the sunshine I wanted to believe that we would drive for the next five days in sun, broken up with big white clouds – even though I had looked at the weather forecasts along the way. The scientists said grey skies and rain.

They were right. We soon had heavy clouds and periodic rain and signs saying construction ahead. This was Montana still and I even got a glimpse of a sign that said “seek alternative route.” Anyone who as traveled in Montana, or maybe just looked at a map, will know that Montana doesn’t believe in lots of roads. If I remember right there were major roads going east/west; one in the north (under construction) and one in the south. Besides I have lived through lots of major construction and learned that you can always get through – unless it is a bridge that has been taken out. Jim teases me about saying “Just keep going, we can get through.” We kept going.

Oh my. As a lifelong resident of Michigan, I know potholes. They open up with every spring thaw and dodging them is our seasonal sport. Everyone in Michigan knows how to live with potholes. What we encountered in Montana is beyond comprehension. I think they had created a new road (U.S. Highway 2) of gravel and dirt so they could rebuild the bridges. And then it rained – from what I was told, for days. And potholes formed. So many of them that the surface was more pothole than road. We tried to avoid them, only to hit more. They jarred our teeth loose and moved our vertebrae into new positions. Our truck bounced right and the trailer bounced left. And the rain came down so all the potholes were filled with water that passing semis bathed us in.

We were ready for lunch but I knew the chances of finding a sunny, grassy little park to pull off in to have our usual lunch of crackers, cheese, apple, hummus and fig preserves was about as likely as my being asked to be backup singer for Diana Krall. And besides, we were miserable, needing some real, big-time comfort food.

We were bouncing through a small town and there on the right was The Wild West Cafe, with lots of big (dirty) trucks parked all around it. People were going in and people were coming out. I said, “Let’s get some lunch there, I need some comfort food, something hot.” By the time I had communicated this, I had driven past. That’s the way it is when we are pulling the travel trailer. Jim said we would have to go around the block – which I did and found parking long enough along the curb on the wrong side of the street, right beside the restaurant. I took it.

It was one of those warm and cozy restaurants where people knew each other. When we were taken to a booth, I noticed the woman in the next booth had just what I wanted – but I couldn’t tell what it was. When I learned what it was, I said, “That’s just what I need.”

And then she delivered it, set it right down in front of me. A big bowl of mashed potatoes (the real thing I was told) with corn and cheese and crispy, deep-fried chicken bits heaped on top. And gravy in a dish on the side. I looked at it with a smile on my face, pushing almost all guilt aside, poured on some gravy and took a bite. Just the comfort I needed. I took another bite and another, before I put a small scoop on Jim’s plate for him to try. Then I took another soothing fork full. I finished it all – and I was ready to roll.

We rolled out of Montana with just one more construction zone and into North Dakota and our next surprise. We have been frequently asked if we ever have trouble finding a spot to sleep for the night and we say no, there are always state and private parks. We can still say that because we did find one in the sparsely populated northern North Dakota. I found a sign at a small motel that looked like it was being remodeled. It said RV Park so we drove in because RV park usually means full hook-ups. As we are getting older we are enjoying having water hooked up so we don’t have to fill our tank (unsanitized) and carry drinking water and we like being able to dump holding tanks on site. When we drove in I noticed the water hook-up was a hose coming out of the ground hanging on a short shepherd’s hook – not the usual practice. I hooked it up and as water started running into the lines, I ran inside to turn off the open valves that allowed lines to drain out when we last prepared for travel. When I went back outside, Jim said he didn’t know where the sewage dump pipe was. Then he called me over where he had lifted the green cover by the water hose. There in an 8″ diameter hole was the smaller dump hole sitting in water with sludge floating on top, the green water hose emerging from it connected to a shut-off valve underneath the water. The most appropriate words spoken were, “Oh, shit.” Needless to say we didn’t use the water for showers, cooking, washing dishes, or drinking – and we flushed out the lines and the hot water heater really well at our next stop while boiling our drinking water. This now goes to the top of our gross camping stories – one up from watching a man eat an ice cream cone while emptying his holding tanks.

The next day, things were looking brighter even though the heavy clouds persisted. We were in Minnesota and the terrain was looking more familiar. I love seeing new geographical locations with changing terrain, but seeing the deciduous and pine forests that line the roads and the gently rolling farmlands brought me a sense of peace after five weeks of being on the road. Then we hit Wisconsin, one of the Great Lake states, and we knew we were close. Our next to the last night out was just inside the Michigan Upper Peninsula border with Wisconsin. We were in Yooper territory, we were home.

Footnote: Yooper was a resent Merriam-Webster “Word of the Day.”



So Good to Go Home


Sometimes things don’t work out even though careful planning took place. We did the best we could but we weren’t able to finish our trip as we had been dreaming of doing. “Things happen.” Could that be my accumulative wisdom from 75 years of living?

The last important place we wanted to visit on this trip was the west side of Glacier National Park in Montana. We have been looking forward to riding the Red Bus on the Going to the Sun Road up the west side since we took the bus up the east side a few years ago. I booked three nights in the newly opened RV park right outside the park entrance – that turned out to be the best part of our stay.


As we neared the park, the skies grew darker, the clouds hanging low over the mountains threatening to leak, just a little bit. Jim was struggling with the beginnings of a cold, and I was too tired to cook something from the freezer so I asked the young people in the office if the cafe on the corner of the road to the RV park was good. We went and had one of those meals that brighten the spirits. We split an elk burger, a new meat for us, and some healthy and not-so-healthy sides, the waiter was good, and the atmosphere was warm, comfortable with good music in the background, allowing us to share our ideas about our next few days.

As it turned out there wasn’t much planning to do. After trying online to book seats on The Red Bus tour, I gave them a call. There were no seats available on either day except two on the 8-hour trip that covers both the east and west road. I declined those seats because by this time it was about 45 degrees F (feeling like 38), with almost steady rain, the clouds covered the mountains half way down, Jim was really feeling bad, and I was getting an “intermittent” sore throat that let me believe my immune system would block whatever Jim had even though we were sharing the close quarters of the camper (never more than 12 feet apart) or sitting beside each other in a truck cab. I chose to believed this because we didn’t share silverware or toothbrushes.

Yes, it was providence that we couldn’t get tickets because the next day I had a fever and my joints were so sore I could hardly walk the 6 feet to crawl into bed. Our only conversations were about what OTC seemed to work best for which symptoms and did we have enough to get us to tomorrow. We were two sick puppies. Jim is holding to his story that he had a cold because he is still coughing, I know I had a respiratory flu because in three days I felt quite good. Good thing neither one of us has a high investment in being right, at least not any more. They are just our stories and we are sticking to them.

When we woke up Thursday morning the sun was shining, we could see the mountains and we felt good enough to hook up the truck and start for home along Highway 2. I was even able to get some beautiful parting shot as we were leaving Glacier, including this beautiful barn that was in a landscape photo I posted a few days ago.


We were in high spirits because we only had a little over half of Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, the narrow top of Wisconsin, the long width of Michigan’s UP, and the length of Michigan’s LP to go. Hurray! We were on the road again, again, again, again, again, and again.

Don’t go far, I have more of this story.



Multnomah Falls


I could see Multnomah Falls from I-84 as we drove to our campground at Cascades Locks in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon (the state of Washington is across the river) on our way back from Portland. I also saw the parking lot between the west and east bound lanes of the highway but we were too tired to stop. It is a tall waterfall, the tallest in Oregon, beautiful from a distance but I’m still learning how to photograph water falls (interpretation: I never feel like I’ve captured the power and beauty of them). I wanted to see it, but I wasn’t sure I could photograph it.

We took a day off from visiting great-grandkids to rest and do a little site-seeing on our own. My husband wanted to visit the Bonneville Dam and I chose Multnomah Falls.


There are two falls and according to Native American lore the falls were created to win the heart of a young princess who wanted a private place to bath. The Natives who lived in this region were Chinookan.

To get to the falls, we walked through something like a subway tunnel, under the two east lanes and a railway track.


The railway operated a stop at this site from 1884 until WWII using a timber bow-string truss bridge spanning the falls in the same location as the foot bridge. A lodge was built on this site, completed in 1925. It is a beautiful lodge that originally provided rooms and dining. According to Wikipedia the building was designed in the “Canadian” style, using cut limestone blocks laid irregularly, with a steep pitched gabled roof with cedar singles. It is rustic – like its setting but also very elegant.

I didn’t take many photos, instead sitting on a bench looking up at the falls, lost in a time long past. I thought about the steam locomotives chugging into the station and the type of people who were eager to live on the edge and/or had the means to do so in that era. When I processed my photos, the only option was Lightroom Color Preset “aged photo”. For this brief period of time I enjoyed a journey into romanticism.

Mt. Hood


Our grandson and his wife thought it would be fun to drive to downtown Portland and walk around one afternoon. I have heard wonderful things about Portland but the drive from our campground on the Columbia River took us through downtown so we could see how big it is and the traffic congestion on the highways going into and out of the city. I used to love a few days in a big city but in the past few years it exhausts me. And because of the car seats for the two youngest ones, we would have to drive – with the anxiety of not getting separated from them.

It only took a few minutes of looking at our maps and guide books to decide we wanted to take a drive south and west around Mount Hood, ending up on I 84 going into Portland. We would take an extra hour or two to take a big loop south before going through Portland to visit them. We called to tell them our change in plans and they were good with it because they were going downtown for Allie’s birthday the next day while we watched the kids. Now that is a win/win.


Highway 35 going south was a beautiful drive – good road, little traffic, curvy and hilly, with orchards and mountains and we soon learned there were lots of fruit markets. We went by a couple before I realized they were open and waiting for us; this one we didn’t pass by.


I was as excited as if I had struck gold in them-there mountains. Fresh peaches, pears, and apples. Eatable gifts to check out for people back home. And best of all, a bakery with outdoor tables to sit and savor.

We bought a couple of gift items, some white peaches and bartlett pears, and some baked goods – a cinnamon roll with marionberry (I think) jam on top, and cookies, snickerdoodle, oatmeal raisin, and peanutbutter/chocolate. We sat and ate most of the cinnamon roll and smiled as we talked. The temp was cool and the sun was warm and we decided we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on earth in that moment.

Oh, and I took some more photos.

I have decided that I need to shop at fruit and vegetable stands whenever possible. Sure I enjoy the fresh foods but it also keeps me grounded. It keeps me grounded in the reality that foods don’t grow perfectly, they have marks and blemishes and some distortions. Most of what I see in the grocery was picked well before it could develop imperfections. And then the grocer works hard to display the produce so it looks perfect even though it may lack flavor. Maybe I had to grow old with the imperfections that come with aging to appreciate this bit of wisdom.

When we reached US 26 to go west we were disappointed. The ambiance changed to more traffic, semis, and faster speed. We did see one last look at beautiful Mount Hood.

_DSC0046 Mt. Hood is 11,239 feet in elevation and considered an active volcano.



Mt. Edith Covell


On our last day in Jasper National Park we debated about whether to go to Mt. Robson (a very beautiful mountain peak that we had visited before), the Columbia Ice Fields (would drive by there on following day), or Mt. Edith Covel. We chose the later because it was the closest but still a long enough drive to make it a full days trip.

As in many cases, the drive to the mountain doesn’t take you to the mountain, but to an adjacent mountain with a good view. We had read the park literature from our previous trip to the area that said that travel trailers weren’t allowed on the road and trucks over 21 ft. long couldn’t navigate the switch-backs. Our truck was too long – but when we picked up newer literature we found out that they had done some repaving and trucks up to 25 feet are now allowed.

We pulled off onto the road leading up to the look-out. The road was narrow and the curves sharp – 15 km/hr translates to a crawl in miles/hour.


The road was carved out of the mountain side so there were no shoulders to pull off for photos – all had to be taken out the window of a moving vehicle. And the mountains came down to the road and overlapped so it didn’t seem like there was a way through.


The driver doesn’t look around on this road – in fact I frequently felt like Jim wouldn’t be able to make it if I, the passenger, took my eyes off the road.

The road wove its way higher and higher

We saw raging rivers and strange rock formations that I longed to explore with my camera but there was no stopping on our way up.

Down became deeper and deeper.


And around the next curve was the parking lot. More to come – stay tuned.