Sunday, September 29, 2013

Into the Maelstrom that is the GPNW

The weather was kind to us this morning, it did not rain on us during departure. Happy we were about that. 
If you're in a Class A, does the space between your driver and passenger chairs look like this?  I need to apply some organization to our traveling paradigm.  It's not so bad when we're not forced to wear shoes, but still.

It was a windy drive, I think it was the worst day so far, because it was very gusty.  Look out there on the lake, see the white streaks?  Those are whitecaps, there were waves on the beach.

The wind turbines near Vantage were all moving.  The clouds were starting to gather as we headed west, into a big fat weather system.

Coming down Snoqualmie Pass.  Parking the bus and doing utilities was just the pits.  I hate wet arrivals, HATE HATE HATE.

Yesterday set a new record for wettest day in Seattle in September.  This usually doesn't happen until late October or November.  I think it's for me, since I'm back.

Starting about 7 pm tonight the coast is supposed to receive 70 mph gusts, we are expecting 55 mph gusts inland.  Our site is fairly sheltered by other RVs, so we are hoping not to have to bring the slides in.

Why, you ask, would any sane person come back to the GPNW at the end of September?   It's for the accursed foot.  Tomorrow morning there will be an MRI.  If there is, indeed, a neuroma in there, surgery is scheduled for the 9th.  It has just reached the point, that even after the monumental disaster that was the previous surgery on the right foot, I'm just done with the left foot being like this.  I can't hike for hours, I can't buy shoes, it just makes me nuts.
For those of you not blessed with thin flexible feet, a Morton's neuroma is formed when the sensory nerve (as opposed to a motor nerve) between the 3th and 4th metatarsal heads is repeatedly impacted by the met heads.  They aggravate the nerve, it forms a sheath, it swells, it hurts.  As a rule, they don't get better.  Surgery, when done well, is a reasonable response.

So that's what's new with  us. Rain and feet.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Spokane RV Resort

How you feel about the Alderwood RV Resort will very likely depend on the size of your RV.  It's an old park, built before the advent of giant RVs with giant slide outs.  Sites are about 9 feet wide.  When we came in we were instructed to get the right tires on the concrete curb that defines the site so we could put out our slides.  Walking through the park, there are multiple RVs with slides right up against trees.
Due to the narrowness of the patio, one gets half a picnic table.

This is our big slide, it's difficult to see, but we're up against a maple in the back, and the landscaping is such that we can not open any of the storage bay doors with the slide out.

This is Jim getting the grill out, with the pull out tray in a tree.

I get that it's an old park, however if they would take the plantings between the sites and most of those wretched trees, people could put their slides out.  It's a new world, prune accordingly!  Some trees could be kept, but the ones that are growing into the sites really need to go, as do the ugly bushes that are growing everywhere.  They're over run with grass, add nothing to the ambiance of the park, and limit access to the storage bays.
Having said all that, I will say that the staff is friendly and welcoming. Our site is too short for the bus and the pickup, so the manager let us park in the slot not used by one of the "cabins."  There is a small swimming pool if you like that.
Satellite reception is good, the Jet Pack is running 4G which ranges from good to slow.
We would not come back.  Actually we would not come back to Spokane, period. There is stuff to see and do outside, but it's just not a destination for us.  RVparksreview reveals that all of the parks around here get poor ratings. Originally we had intended to go to a new RV park in Deer Park.  A failure on my part to read and comprehend the map caused us to not grasp how far away it is from Spokane. It's about 30 miles out.  That's what caused us to stay here, after driving and driving and driving we decided that was stupid and washed up here. 
As I previously mentioned, we're about 10 miles north of the freeway.  There is no good way to get to the freeway.  All routes are through suburban sprawl with plenty of traffic lights.  If events compel you to come here, try not to arrive after 4 pm on a weekday so that you can avoid the epic traffic jams.

Friday, September 27, 2013


Thursday dawned crystal clear, if a trifle chilly.  One thing that northwesterners know for sure; if it's not raining get up and get out of the house.  We drove in to downtown Spokane.  It's a pleasant downtown core.  In 1974 the World's Fair was held on a small island next to the city.  See the clock tower mid photo?   That's all that remains of the Great Northern depot and railyard.  This article has photos of what things looked like before the fair, and the controversy surrounding it.
Wonderfully, Spokane has preserved the open space, put in bike and walking trails, and made it a very appealing place to be.

The old world's fair site.  The mesh thingy in the back was covered in vinyl and covered the US pavilion.

We pressed on to the Gonzaga campus.  The university was founded in 1887 by Father Francis Caltaldo. This is St. Aloysius, a Catholic church on campus.

The interior is beautiful

There is much more stained glass.

This is the first building on campus.

After leaving the campus, we headed back to the retail section for lunch.  Then on to the downtown.  This is the Davenport Hotel.  She's old, she's restored.  It is such a cool old building.

Continuing on up the street, we were amused by the sign for ella's Supper Club on the third floor.

The Spokane Civic building.  I love a building with arches.

Next door, with all of those columns is the Masonic Temple.  It's for sale, all of this could be yours.

Downtown Spokane was fun.  It's a clean space and not creepy.  They have done a good job of not tearing down all of their cool old buildings.
The outskirts of  Spokane are not as groovy.  The park we are in is about 10 miles north of downtown.  We've been on three of the major north/south arterials, and they consist of sprawl; big box stores, fast foot, gas stations, gridlocked traffic and the like.  Clearly growth management has not been a priority.  It is an unlovely area.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Butte to Missoula to Spokane

Monday we left Garryowen, MT and drove to Butte.  It had been our intention to spend two nights in Butte at the KOA.  It's not a terrible KOA, by the way.  However a winter storm warning which included the word snow was issued for our area. We do not like snow.  So Tuesday, we got up and went to see the Berkeley Pit
The mine was opened in 1955 and closed in 1983.  For reasons that are not clear to me, the water pumps were turned off when the mine closed, and ground water has been leaching into the pit ever since, it's now 900 feet deep.  If the pit water level reaches the natural water table, estimated to occur by around 2020, the pit water will reverse flow back into surrounding groundwater, polluting into Silver Bow Creek which is the headwaters of Clark Fork River.  Remediation is taking place, and one hopes it will be successful.  You may view the status of the water level at

The far side of the pit.

The structure with the stacks is the water treatment plant.  It doesn't look big enough to me.

This is a mansion which used to belong to a copper baron.  Now it's a bed and breakfast.

Butte is suffering economically, as are most old mining towns.  They've made an effort to create a historic downtown with a walking tour.  We had planned to spend time looking at the town, but the desire to not be snowed on trumped our desire to see Butte.  We were gone by noon, heading back to Missoula where it was warmer.
After over nighting at Jim and Mary's RV park in Missoula, we pressed on westward.  It pretty much rained all day today.  We saw this a lot.

We felt bad for these people.

This was crossing the border into Idaho.

Now we are in Spokane where it is currently not raining.  We had originally planned to stay in Deer Park until we reassessed how far out in the middle of no where it was.  It's really far. This park is ok.  We're pretty much killing time until we return to Issaquah, and this is as good a place as any.

In sporting news, Emirates-Team New Zealand did not win the America's Cup. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

7th Ranch Campground

While in Garryowen to visit the Little Bighorn National Monument, we stayed at the 7th Ranch Campground.  Over all it's a nice RV park.  It's built on the side of a hill, so you drive up to your site.  Most sites are fairly level, our first site was not doable, but we moved one up the hill and it was fine.

Here's the bad.  The sites on the eastern most edge of the park are difficult to exit.  You must trace an acute angle to leave.  Since we are a 40 foot Class A, we were forced to back out of the site in order to get on an interior road to exit.  This was complicated by the presence of decorative boulders.  Other sites don't have this issue, if you're 40 feet or more, I would avoid that side of the park.  The water is unbelievably bad, it is so soft.  Showering felt like a life threatening activity because the floor was so slippery.  However, it doesn't spot!  It tastes really bad, we had to go buy bottled water and ice.

The people running the park could not be nicer.  They escort you to the site, and assist with parking.  The Verizon Jet Pack was weird, it would cycle between 3G and 4G, and the 3G was actually better.  Satellite reception was excellent.  It's a nice looking park.  There was very little noise from the freeway or the railroad tracks.  You will hear some mooing from the local cows.
If you go, take food, there are no shopping opportunities.  Take bottled water and ice, as well.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Garryowen to Butte, MT

Oy!  It has been a day!  The wonderful tail wind we had going east was a rollicking head/cross wind all day.  I can not count the number of times the bus was pushed on to the rumble strip by unexpected gusts.  When we reached Butte I was feeling very jangled from the noise and the motion.  It's 5:45 and it is still hooting.

This is what it looks like.

I am certain you wonder, what happened with the entry way step?  There is a drive shaft that moves the step in and out, and it has sheared.  The mobile tech arrived after 4 hours (64 mile drive) and removed the wiring to the motor.  Using Jim's giant zip ties and some baling wire (really), he got the step stowed and restrained.   Every time either one of us approaches the door, we both yell in unison "no step" so that we don't step out as usual and break an ankle.  We have to get the part from Monaco, and we'll go back to Harrisburg to get Erik to fix it.
So - about Good Sam roadside assistance when something is broken.  They pay for mileage for the tech to reach you.  That's it.  Be aware of that fact because the tech who came out for the step tried to bill us for mileage in both directions, at $2 a mile.  That's a party foul.  
In sporting news, Oracle has come from behind and is now within 3 races of winning the America's Cup.  I swear, it's like aliens took the Emirates-New Zealand crew up into space and replaced them with weekend sailors.  The Oracle is boat is now faster, but E-NZ has made some astoundingly bad decisions that have cost them races.  I just can't stand it.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Little Bighorn National Monument

We spent several hours at the Little Bighorn National Monument.  It's well worth visiting if you are in this part of the country.  There is also a National Cemetery on the grounds.  This monument caught our attention, as it memorializes those who died in the cause of "clearing the district of the Yellowstone of hostile Indians."  See the teeny tiny white plaque stuck in the ground?

This is what the tiny plaque says.

There is a visitor's center.  It primarily deals with the artifacts retrieved from the ground after a wildfire in 1983 destroyed all of the obnoxious scrub that had taken over the grass land.  Once the fire cleared the vegetation, archeologists came in and dug for artifacts.  They did touch on the subjugation of the native peoples.  It's interesting that the US government would train the Native Americans in the "arts of peace", while they themselves were engaged in systematic genocide.

Custer's Last Stand took place on July 25 & 26, 1876.  In this time frame, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull knew their peoples' way of life was over.  The whites had all but exterminated the bison herds, so they really had no choice but to accept the reservations.  However, in this year, the Lakota and the Northern Cheyenne wanted to have one last traditional summer.  They and many other Native Americans came to Little Bighorn to live as nomadic people.  The US Army was sent in to force them all back on to the reservations.  Troops were arriving from three points, Custer's men were on horse back.  They knew there were Native Americans in the area, but what they did not know was that there were 7,000 of them.  Custer was on a hill about a day's ride away; he was concerned that the Native Americans he had seen, would see him and disappear.  Based on bad intel and arrogance, he attacked.  Custer's men never had tactical advantage, they were outnumbered and the Native Americans had the high ground.  By the end, 280 Calvary and Scouts were dead, and 60 Native Americans were dead.  That was history light, a much more detailed accounting may be found here.
The white markers are where 7th Cavalry fell.  The markers are either isolated, or sometimes in groups where many men died at once.

These are the markers for the Native Americans.

There is a 5 mile drive that is well worth doing.  Along the way there are plaques with text explaining what happened on the point where you're standing, and there is a cell phone number you call which brings up someone telling you what you're seeing.

There are also horses.

See the little white dots?  Prong horn butts in the distance.

This is the memorial that was erected to the 7th Cavalry.  The non-officers who died in the battle are buried at the base of it.  The officers were all disinterred and their remains taken elsewhere.  Custer was taken back to West Point at his widow's request.

The marker with the black on it is where Custer's body was found.  It had been moved, no one knows exactly where he was when he died.


It's a sobering place.  The loss of that many soldiers increased the Army's resolve to force the Native Americans onto reservations, and increased the harshness of their treatment.  In the end, they had to accept the reservations, or the government would withhold food rations, resulting in starvation.

On a lighter note, here is a photo of rush hour in Garryowen.  They make this trek every night, right about 6 pm.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Tale of Woe from Garryowen

Greetings from Garryowen, Montana.  I am a grumpy human.  Actually I am beyond grumpy, and am severely chuffed.  Allow me to complain a bit.
We're at the 7th Ranch Campground.  We came here because we wanted to see the Little Bighorn  National Monument, aka where Custer met his end. The park is built as terraces on a hillside.  Our first site was nose down, and it dropped off on the right.  The HWH could level, but the frame was so twisted the bay doors were hitting the slide skirt.  Not good.  The second site was better.  If we could go outside, the views are pretty spectacular, but I can't.  It's sort of like being in a bad science fiction movie, there are wasps everywhere.  They're the kind that dangle their feet and kind of hover.  They are just creeping me out.

 The flying stinging things are very fond of these flowers.

Then, then!!!!!! Jim was perfecting our position in the site and he asked me if the entry way step was retracting.  Why no, not it was not.  The wretched thing has broken.  We can hear the motor grinding away, but it's not moving.  Until that step gets pushed back in to the bus, we're not moving, either.
Remember last August when we had the existential crisis with bus repairs?  At that time I called my insurance agent to have Coach-net coverage added to my RV policy.  Can do, he says, typing away, all done.  So I called them today to have someone sent out; nope, they have no record of us having that coverage.  WTH?  We also have Good Sam, so I called them.  They called at 3:45 to say someone from Pat's Mobile would be out in 75 minutes.  It's been four hours and the tech has just now arrived.
And, there is the water.  It's from a deep aquifer and it is so soft it's just revoltingly slimy.  The Brita is having no luck making it taste ok.  I see much bottled water in our future.

Six pm - it was 98 degrees.

So, after reading the RV blogs that I follow, I have determined that everyone is having fun except me.  How pitiful was that last statement?  Sorry.
Anyway, it could be worse, this could have happened at a rest stop, or at a freeway scenic viewpoint.  It could have been so much worse than it is.  At least we're in a full hookup site.  We have slack in our schedule for the return to Seattle, so the situation is not yet dire.  I will say this, we are NEVER driving to South Dakota again.  It's too steenking far!
There was no America's Cup racing today, the wind was from the wrong direction for the course. I think we're giving up on seeing the rest of the series.  At the rate they are going with weather delays, they'll be finishing up around Halloween.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mount Rushmore and Return to Buffalo, WY

We got new driver's licenses yesterday.  Apparently there is some question as to whether full time RVers will be able to renew online.  The capability exists, but we may be a special class of citizen who has to re-up in person.  Rather than return, I think we'll "move" to Texas.  The place is just too damn far from everywhere.
Afterwards, we went out to Mt. Rushmore.  Call me jaded, but I'm not sure why this is such a tourist attraction.  The area is surrounded by hotels, RV parks, tee shirt shops and other assorted stuff designed to separate people from their money.  So, been there, seen that.

Then we went to the SD Air and Space Museum, it's outside the main gate of Ellsworth AFB.  They have a base tour done in a bus, which allows one to visit a Minuteman missile in its underground silo. 

This is a B1B.  We were fortunate to see one in the traffic pattern over Ellsworth.  They are a noisy airplane.  However, cooler than that, we saw a B52H fly over the airport.  I have never seen one in the air.

This is in the museum, it's a control room for the Minuteman missile.  These things were all over the midwest during the cold war.  There was a combination of missiles in silos, as well as missiles on mobile launchers roaming the fields of America's heartland.

This is outside of Gillete, WY.  The stacks belong to a plant that processes coal, makes electricity and does something with natural gas.  It's huge.  It's part of the Wyodak Mine complex.

What I found interesting is that they are strip mining right up to the edge of I90.  See the black?  That's coal.

This is the mine as seen from space.  It's enormous.  The coal trains are also enormous, some of them stretch for a good mile.

As I have previously mentioned, there is much construction on I90 in both directions.  In many places the freeway in one direction is down to dirt, so traffic is diverted into the oncoming lanes, resulting in two way traffic.  This doesn't work so well when there is an oversize load.  We came to a complete stop on the freeway, due to its being closed to allow this to make its way down the road.  It's mining related, whatever it is.

More road construction.

Today has been full of agita.  We've been doing short drives so that we can get in to the campground early and get the satellite going in time to see the America's Cup.  Emirates-New Zealand has to win ONE more to take the cup, Oracle would have to win the next seven in a row.  Being stopped on the freeway waiting for the wide load to pass was the first aggravation.  Then, when we got in to the park, the race was no longer on the NBCSports lineup, too much wind given as the reason.  To date, two legs of the race have been called off due to excessive wind speeds, both times E-NZ was in the process of beating Oracle.  Finally, they got a race off in very light air, E-NZ was again beating Oracle, and the race was called due to not making the time cut.  We are never going to make it back to Seattle if the Kiwis don't get this race done and take the cup back to New Zealand.  They did get a second race off, and Oracle won.  If E-NZ doesn't win one more, they're going to have seek asylum, they will never be able to go home again.
We're back at Deer Park in Buffalo, WY.  I like this park.

Later we went for a walk and saw pronghorns in the field next door.

Tomorrow we are up and out for Garryowen.  It's where George Custer met his end.