Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Idaho Panhandle

Peter has sold our Free Spirit Sprinter van and purchased a new (to us) Ford 4x4 with an Alaskan camper from Dennis who lives in Blanchard Idaho.  We board an Alaskan flight to Spokane WA where Dennis is to pick us up. We are excited about our new camper as it'll make remote campgrounds and areas far from the maddening crowd accessible.

Seated and ready for take off for Spokane

All the way from San Jose

to over Spokane River

and city

Even though we have never met in person, Dennis is true to his word and picks us within a few minutes after our arriving at the curb outside Baggage Claim.  Dennis and Carol have generously offered to put us up for the night in their guest room.  Turns out they are both retired from careers in Washington DC.  Carol has had a particularly fascinating career as the aide to a 3 star general, in which, she traveled the world and drafted the Bosnian Peace Treaty. She should write a book.

Yes, we did take a flying leap into the unknown by buying a camper and staying with total strangers, but we are thrilled it has worked out so well. Thank you Dennis and Carol for being such gracious hosts.
Inside Spokane airport terminal

Our new camper!

Lovely view from Dennis and Carol's deck

The next morning we discover why our allergies are acting up.  Yellow pine pollen coats everything outside and is especially evident in puddles left from last night's rain. After Dennis checks us out on the truck and camper we leave anxious to get away from heavy pine pollen.  Dennis and Carol highly recommend the International Selkirk Loop which covers their part of Idaho and parts of southern Canada.  It looks fascinating, but we have unfortunately not thought to bring our passports/cards as we did not anticipate going into Canada. The Selkirk Loop will have to wait until next time.
Pine pollen covered driveway

and pooling in rain puddle

all loaded and ready to go

Our first mission is to get the truck sale registered in Idaho. We take Dennis' advice and stop in the small DMV in Priest River. There are only two ladies working at the counter. They quickly help Peter file the proper paperwork.  We wish we could replace the Capitola DMV with the Priest River DMV  as it usually takes at least an hour to accomplish anything in Capitola. But wait, just as the final registration paperwork is getting printed, their computer system breaks down.  We try waiting 15 minutes for their system to reboot, but the electrons are not cooperating this morning. Since we have camping supplies and groceries to buy, we leave for Sandpoint/Ponderay area where there is also another DVM.

We are uneasy about Sandpoint as it's one of the centers of  staunch conservative survivalists.  Sure enough, we quickly get stopped by a police lady for driving a vehicle without license plates. Peter explains to her about our trouble registering the truck in Priest River.  The lady cop thanks us for sharing our documents and directs us to the closest DMV in Ponderay to complete the registration.

The DMV is located in a shopping center with Yoks Market and right across from a Walmart.  YES - one stop shopping! Dennis and Carol recommended Yoks and they are absolutely right. It's a great market - half the store carries regular grocery supplies and the other half is stocked with health food/organic type goods. The staff are cheerful and easy going. While there I ask one of the staff about the market.  He explains it is completely owned and operated by a coop of the staff that work there. They determine not only how the store is run, but also choose their own health and retirement packages.  Since he is close to retirement, he is delighted to soon be receiving Yoks' liberal benefits.  No wonder the staff here are happy and helpful. It's a strange mix of political thinking in this part of Idaho with both ultra conservatives and more liberal minded business practices (at least at Yoks).

The man working in Yoks directs us to Sweet Lou's for lunch.  It's a great place and we both really enjoy our meals.  When the waitress learns we have just picked up a camper and are looking where to go next, she (and the guy sitting the booth next to us) is very helpful with tips on places to see and good campgrounds. Fully loaded with supplies, we head north on Hwy 2/95 towards the Canadian border past swollen rivers with kayakers to our first campsite at Meadow Creek, just 12 miles south of the Canadian border.
Kayakers pause on the bank of a river

Meadow Creek Ghost Town

Our first campsite in the camper

We find a spacious campsite next to the Moyie River.  Other than the campground hosts, we have the campground pretty much to ourselves.  After dinner, we are surprised by a knock on our door.  It's the campground hosts with a fine Black Box Malbec wine in their hands. We are delighted that we all fit comfortably around our dinette and end up swapping stories and laughing well into the night.  They are from the Minneapolis/St Paul area in Minnesota. Scott teaches dental hygiene at (I believe) Saint Paul College and Diane teaches high school English. We ask about the swollen rivers and why there's a trail that leads across the impassible Moyie River.  They explain the rivers are running particularly high and dangerous due to last winter's heavy rains and snow pack.  In fact, two people have already drowned around the campground.  One was a hapless hiker who believed he could cross the river at the trail and became a Darwin candidate. The other was a prison escapee just across the Canadian border, who tried to wade down the river across into the US to evade his pursuers.  Needless to say, he didn't make it and his body was found close to the campground.

The next morning we discover the water pump in the camper is frozen and debate where to get it fixed.  Before leaving the campground, we take a closer look at the Moyie River where the hiker met his fate before taking off to see the falls on the Yaak River just across into Montana. Although we never find the falls, we enjoy a nice little hike and do find an impressive hole across the river.
Moyie River in flood

Locals have a good sense of humor

Hate to get caught in this raging hole on the Yaak

We stop in the cute town of Troy MT  for lunch and also to make phone calls while we have cell service about repairing our water pump.



We bring our maps and phones into the Silver Spur for lunch and to powpow about our options. It's another great lunch stop and by the end of our meal, we decide to circle back to Ponderay where they can fix the pump tomorrow morning. 



So instead of continuing farther into Montana, we turn right off of Hwy 2 going south on Hwy 58.  We stop for for the night at Bull River Campground.
Driving south on Montana Hwy 58
Camp at Bull River

Cabinet Gorge Reservoir

Late in the afternoon we hike up the trail running alongside the Bull River. The air is cool and moist from earlier rains that day and the forest is dotted with spring wildflowers.
White Lilac

Indian Paintbrush

Wild Lily?

The next morning we head west on Hwy 200 that takes us back to Ponderay, which is located on Lake Pend Oreille, the largest lake in Idaho.  A Canadian fur trader is thought to have named the lake in 1809 after the ear pendants (Pend Oreille) worn by the local Kalispel tribe.  Oddly enough both the town and the lake are pronounced the same.  When asked, the towns people of Ponderay tell us they got tired of visitors mispronouncing the French "Pend Oreille" and converted it to the English phonic of  spelling "Ponderay."

The new water pump is installed in an hour or two and we get another great lunch at Lou's. Since it's a Friday, we then drive south on Hwy 95 so we can get an early campsite at Farragut State Park.
Driving south on Hwy 95

Sign for Farragut State Park

Nice campsite

Although we have only had the camper a few days, we have already fallen in love with it.  Peter calls it the "Swiss Army Knife" of campers as it can easily be reconfigured for different purposes.  For example, the telescoping top is set down for traveling and up for camping in. The dinette can be a living room or a dining room, etc.
Kitchen on left, dinette & bed

I especially like the large windows

Looking back at the entrance

The next day's drive takes us further south down through green rolling hills of spring wheat.



We decide to cross over into Washington at Lewiston ID/Clarkston WA. These two cities are named after the Lewis and Clark Expedition and straddle the Snake River which marks the boundary between the two states.
Time to fold up the Idaho Panhandle and move onto Oregon



Monday, September 25, 2017

Friends & Family, FL

After Christine and the kids leave for home, we drive to Oviedo.  There we meet up again with Jill and Mark to visit with Aunt Ann and cousins.
Mark & Jill's new van

Aunt Ann with Peter

Mark makes a new friend

Cousins Mac and Joann treat us all to dinner at Tibby's New Orleans Kitchen. Thank you Mac and Joann - the food was delicious and our time together was precious.
Inspecting the menu

Fun New Orleans decor

Joann and Mac with grand baby

The next morning we clean up the rental condo and drive to Palmetto, FL for a visit with our friends and former neighbors Martha and Pete. 
We start off with lunch at the local marina



Peter and Martha take in the view

while Pete catches up on the news


After lunch we wander down the docks getting a laugh out of some of the boat names and picking out which ones we would like to own.
Offshore Investment

Daddy's Money

Ohh - I like this one! Buy me?

The next day starts with a shopping trip to the Amish run Ditwiler's Market.  Next door is a wonderful store of beautifully built Amish furniture.  Apparently there's a large Amish community in the area.  I ask how they got here visualizing a whole caravan of Amish horse drawn buggies migrating to Florida. Martha just laughs and explains they probably came down in buses not buggies. As a concession to modern society, the  Amish can ride in modern vehicles, just not drive them. Also, the Amish can use cell phones for business. Amazing, I learn something new every day.

After picking up supplies it's time for the beach. Martha and Pete take us to their favorite - Lido Key Beach. In a small beach side sandwich shop, we all order lobster rolls for lunch. It is delicious and hopefully not my last one.  OK, I'm ready to go to New England for a fall foliage and lobster rolls trip.
Jackfruit in Detwiler's

Lido Key Beach

Curious Egret by lunch tables

A great day at Lido Key Beach



Later Pete and Martha treat us for a ride on their new boat to the De Soto Memorial.
Pete at the wheel

Peter on look out

We're out of the marina

Waiting for the Citrus Train to cross a bridge

Yes - we can go now

Anchored at beach by De Soto Memorial

Since we've never been here before, we walk the short distance to the Visitors Center.  Hernando de Soto was an early Spanish explorer who had come to the New World in search of gold, silver, or a route to China. Originally, he had found wealth and renown as one of Francisco Pizarro's captains in the plunder of the Inca Empire. He was known both for his bravery and his ruthless subjection of native villages by capturing village chiefs and holding them ransom.



Even though historians dispute the exact route, De Soto's three year expedition throughout the southeast was epic in proportion covering nine states. It started in 1539 with nine ships, 620 men and 220 horses in an area generally described as south Tampa Bay, approximately in the location of the De Soto Memorial. Only a few of the men survived. De Soto himself died somewhere along the Mississippi River and was buried there. As far as the Spanish were concerned the expedition was a bust for not finding any gold or silver, or even a viable route to China; however, they did explore vast amounts of the southeast and provided descriptions of native tribes long since disappeared.
Sign for De Soto Memorial

Native canoe

Spanish subjugation of native peoples

We spend the rest of the afternoon lazing on the beach.  While reading in the shade of an umbrella, I notice sand being tossed out of a small hole next to me and wonder what kind of critter lives there. Soon a curious and surprisingly friendly ghost crab climbs out of the hole. S/he even poses nicely for the camera before scurrying back home inside its burrow.
Lazing under a beach umbrella

Crab burrow

Curious ghost crab

The tide has receded while we are on the beach, so we recruit some helpful picnickers to help push the boat off the sand bar.  Soon we are afloat and on our way to the marina.
Captain Martha

Yes - the bridge is open this time

First Mate Pete

The next day we are on the road toward the Tampa airport to catch a plane going all the way to San Jose. We have a few hours before our flight, so we take the Hwy 275 bridge over to St. Petersburg to see the Salvadore Dali Museum. Florida's long causeway like bridges are themselves works of modern art.



Salvadore Dali Museum

Large geodesic dome-like window

Fabulous staircase

Early painting

Peter studies a
cubist portrait of Lincoln

Classical Dali melting figures

Lobster phone

Tribute to Native Americans

I love this melting garden bench

Salvador Dali still looms large over modern art even many years after his death


We are pleasantly surprised by the light and airy Tampa airport where we enjoy an excellent lunch at a restaurant close to our gate. Sitting at a table next to us is a retired Florida couple who are on our same flight to California.  They ask what trip we have planned next. When we tell them we are going to eastern Oregon to see the total eclipse of the sun, the man responds he has seen seven of them and while all total eclipses are special, our first one will be a spectacular experience not to be missed. Sounds good to me!
Waiting for our flight

and we are off

back across the deserts

and wide open spaces

to land back in San Jose



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Retired and enjoying life.