Thursday, August 27, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Days 24 – Yakima

For this warm Sunday, we decided to leave the pups in the coach and head off to further explore Yakima (yak a maw – all short a’s) beginning with the farmers market.  It wasn’t a huge market but it had a little of most of the things normally found at a FM.

Bev & Pat bought some baked goods, artisan cheese, ground beffalo from the Zagelow Beefalo Ranch, and tomatoes – the bread and tomatoes were turned into delicious sandwiches for supper.

Most of the land in the Yakima is growing fruit or grapes and some of the apples are on a trellis much like the grapes.  

We visited three wineries beginning with the Bonair Winery where our tasting room pourer was also the owner so we got a lot of info about their 30 year history.  We enjoyed and bought a few of their wines.

Then we went to Silver Lake Winery, which was pretty upscale, but we didn’t care for their wines and only bought a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, but they were cooking up some delicious rings from Walla Walla onions on their patio with a fine view – except for the smoke which was now back.

Lastly we stopped at Paradisos del Sol and I was a little reluctant as it looked like an eclectic collection of stuff surrounding an overgrown house but Bev insisted – they even had chickens roaming the yard - but I loved the outdoor kitchen constructed of cement and wine bottles.

Boy was I wrong as owner, winemaker, and tasting room pourer Paul Vandenberg was very knowledgeable and entertaining and we ended up buying a whole case of his wines which were all blends but one – like you would usually find in Europe.  He also serves a small taste of food to pair with each wine.

Note his wine tasting protocol - "sip" to clear out the last wine, "sip" to taste the new wine, "bite" the food, "sip" to see how the wine goes with the food.

They also grow and sell delicious melons which we are still enjoying several days later.  This was the highlight of the day and proof again that you can't judge a book by it's cover.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


8/16/15 event date

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Days 22 & 23 – Leavenworth & Yakima

As we often do, we like to spend our first day getting to know the area so for our first day in Ellensburg we decided to drive up to Leavenworth then on up to Stevens Pass so we could get a view of the Cascades from the eastern side.  The drive along US-2 runs up the Wenatchee River for a while then departs to go to the pass summit.  

I was very surprised to find that the pass was only 4061’ feet in elevation (about a mile and a quarter shorter than Beartooth Pass in MT) but there was still a ski resort there.

Our plan was to stop in Leavenworth for lunch on the way back but after our drive through town on the way up to the pass, we decided it was way too crowded, even for a Friday, plus we had the pups.  We had noticed this place on the way up and nearly drove by on the way back but we decided to give it a try.

And we were glad we did as the food was delicious, served quickly, and the service was very good - I only got a shot of my meal which I washed down with a blackberry shake.  With less than 50 seats, table turn over was very important to them and I was surprised they could turn out such good food so quickly.

The next day we drove down to Yakima with the intent of visiting some wineries but we had the dogs and Coco got real barky at the first place we stopped so we decided to abort and just look around the area for a return trip.  The winds had changed direction and blew out some of the smoke from the fires so we were able to get some shots of the irrigated valley in contrast to the dry hills. Most of the green in these shots are apple trees, pear trees, or timothy fields.  All of the un-irrigated land looks like the third shot.

In addition to the fruit grown in the area, 75% of the hops grown in the US come from the Yakima Valley - they look like giant pole bean plants and this brewery is surrounded by hops fields.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


8/14-8/15/15 event dates

Sunday, August 23, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Day 21 – Onward to Ellensburg, WA

After five nights in the pretty Coeur d’Alene, ID area, we headed 200 miles down the road to Ellensburg, WA – why in the world would you go there you might ask and it’s a valid question.  As I’ve mentioned before, we like to park the coach in the middle of the places we want to visit and then make day trips – so Ellensburg it was.

The Trip
I love these shorter drives and for the next several weeks this will be the norm.  I’ve never really seen western WA, but after our trip to Grand Coulee Dam and this one, I can say for sure that they grow a lot of wheat – fourth largest in the country for wheat production.  

We saw fields of standing wheat, those being harvested, fields of stubble, and fields prepared for next year’s crop.  It’s hazy due to the 53 square miles fire burning near Lake Chelan (one of the places I wanted to visit but likely won’t get to).  As we topped hills it was common to see amber waves of grain as far as we could see (wheat field pics in previous post) and giant piles of these large bales were stacked everywhere -  I need to find out where they go.

The Route
We traveled I-90 and found it to be a good road the entire way.

The Campground
We stayed at the Ellenburg KOA and it was a pretty typical one – gravel roads and sites, a little grass but plenty of trees.  They have updated to have some longer pull-thru sites with 50 amp power but they are not long enough for a big rig to use without unhooking the car.  The trees prevented use of our satellite dish but they had plenty of cable channels – unfortunately the picture was fuzzy at best an unwatchable part of the time.  Our site had better than average WiFi.  

The campground is very convenient to I-90 (but we did get some road noise) and it’s not far to the downtown area.  If you are a fisherman, it is located on the banks of the very swift moving Yakima River.  

It must be a good stopover point as it got pretty full each night.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


8/13/15 event date

Friday, August 21, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Day 20 - A Damn Big Dam

As an engineer, it is hard for me to pass up significant engineering / construction projects and when I’m within a couple hours drive of a major one, I have to pay a it visit.  The Grand Coulee Dam was constructed between 1933 and 1942 to produce hydroelectric power and provide irrigation.  These are shots of Roosevelt lake above the dam and I’m always amazed at so much dry land there is around all of that water – like the brown California hills that run into the Pacific Ocean.

To give you a perspective on what you are looking at, the dam is 550' tall and just 50' short of being a mile across.  It's 500' thick at the base and 30' thick at the top, so it relies on the shear weight of the concrete to hold the water back - unlike an arch dam such as Hoover.

This shot is from the web and shows water coming thru the spill gates in the middle.

Grand Coulee is not the tallest dam in the US as it is 220’ shorter than California’s Oroville Dam nor does it create the largest lake, as Hoover Dam’s Lake Meade is three times larger than Roosevelt Lake but when it comes to power production, Grand Coulee is two and a half times its nearest US competitor.  At 6180 megawatts, it is the largest electric power-producing facility in the United States and for comparison, it’s more than four and a half times the output of Hoover Dam and just a little less than TVA’s three nuclear power plants.  This link from Wikipedia is a very interesting read.

Notice all of the power lines leaving the dam’s three power houses.

The dams on the Columbia River and it’s tributaries generate 44% of America’s total hydro-power with an installed capacity of 36 gigawatts (36 billion watts).  These are some power lines headed east.

I had no idea WA farmers grew so much wheat but it often went to the horizon.

After the trip, the ladies went downtown to the Coeur d’Alene farmers market but at 96F, it was way too hot for me and the dogs.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


8/12/15 event date

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Days 17 & 18 – Coeur d’Alene Area

After a busy time in Cody and two days on the road we just cleaned on our mobile house and relaxed our first day in Coeur d’Alene (CdA), a town of 43,000+ located on the shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene.  It is obvious that it is a tourist area as the main street is composed of mostly shops and eateries and it sits right on north end of Lake CdA .

On our second day we took a scenic drive on ID-97 which ran right along the east side of the lake down to the town of Harrison.  Due to the haze from the fires in the area, the following shots are from the web, but represent what we would have seen had it been clear.

Lake CdA is roughly 25 miles long, 1-3 miles wide and is a natural lake with the Spokane River flowing out of it and the CdA and St Joe Rivers flowing into it. - I was shocked to find that it was a natural lake.  It reminded me a lot of Lake Tahoe and I can imagine it being very pretty with snow on the ground.  

This is my shot of one of the lodges on the lake and of a wetland area where the CdA River enters the lake.

Thanks to the logging industry, Harrison was a thriving town in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and the largest town on the lake.  It is a now a very small town of less than 300 people and nearly every business on the main street is supported by tourists.  You can see it all from these shots each way from our car.

In addition to shops and pretty depressed looking homes, Harrison contains a city park, a city hall, and a marina/restaurant with an attached campground, which was basically a gravel parking lot with partial hook-ups - but a great view.

While we were there, this was the busiest place in town advertising the largest scoops in Idaho and for only $4 – Bev and I split one - huckleberry of course.

From Harrison, we headed cross country for a pretty drive on ID-3 thru the CdA River valley and discovered many more lakes and wetlands than we would have imagined – this is Swan Lake.

We then came along these guys grazing next to the road and after noticing the fairly high fence and having just passed a specialty meat purveyor, we decided they might be farm raised elk.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


8/9-8/10/15 event dates