Monday, August 31, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Day 27 – Onward to Anacortes

We had a nice little 175 mile drive from Ellensburg over to Anacortes, thru the Cascades then up north of Seattle.  We just drove, I-90 to I-405, then I-5 to the turnoff to Anacortes on WA-20.  The drive thru the mountains was beautiful and as expected, traffic in the Seattle area was fairly heavy – no shots of the trip.

We arrived at Fidalgo Bay Resort early afternoon and after an unusual route thru the campground to our site, we got set up and relaxed.  The campground is owned by the Samish Indian Nation but unlike many tribes they don’t have a reservation as does the Swinomish Tribe just south of here.  The campground is divided into two parts with one closer to the water and the front row ones have a nice view.

The amenities of the resort all worked well but the sites were much closer together than we like and as they seemed on their map.  Since we spend very little time looking out the front window we opted for a less expensive site ($34/day) in the West Park, #178.  While there were several in the campground, this place is pretty cramped for big rigs. 

This site was okay for our five days (we're in the middle on the left above), but for a longer stay I would want one of the larger sites, but they are significantly more expensive ($62/day for the water front).

Remember that good beer I bragged about in the last post - unfortunately, the day before we left Ellensburg, I had a gout flare up (almost surely brought on by the beer).  I made the drive okay but putting walking pressure on my left ankle felt like it was broken in about six places.  More on this later.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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


8/19/15 event date

Saturday, August 29, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Day 25 – Rocky Reach & Leavenworth

One of things Bev wanted to do while in this area was go to a dam with a fish ladder and watch the salmon swim up stream and since I’d been to Rocky Reach Dam back in my working days I knew it would work.  My original plan was to drive on up to Lake Chelan but the major wildfire there made it impossible – it is the fire affecting most of the photos from the Ellensberg stay.

After proceeding through the heightened security, we made our way to the fish viewing room and got to see several large salmon, as well as some smaller fish, heading up stream.  It’s hard to get good shots of the 2-3 feet long fish thru the glass as they wiz by.

I was surprised to learn that the federal gvmt requires the dam operators to count every fish by species as they head up stream – seems like great info for those charged with managing the fisheries.  Each female salmon lays about 5000 eggs and only seven fish return to spawn.  This is the fish ladder as it winds its way down to the river.

This is a shot upstream toward Chelan where the large wildfire continues to burn about 30 miles away.

From the dam we went back to Leavenworth on a much less crowded Monday.  It is a tourist town at the base of the Cascades with a very good Bavarian motif - if you didn’t know better you might think you were in Germany.  

Since it was about 2:30pm, we decided to began with lunch at King Lugwigs – it was just okay German food at best and about what I would expect in a tourists town – tourist food = mediocre food at inflated prices.  

After lunch, the ladies headed off to do a little shopping and I went down the street about five doors to the Icicle Brewing Co.  After a small taste of three of their beers, I settled on the a glass of Bootjack and headed for the outdoor patio where I visited with a nice couple from Salem, OR.  The first two shots are from the web and the third one is of the trees on the ridge above town in the smoke.

As mediocre as the food was, the beer was very good and before we left, I had my growler (always in the RV) filled with more of this hoppy concoction.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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


8/17/15 event date

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 the 59er Diner 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