Vacation 2017 – Part 12

Our plan for the day’s drive was to drive through Kansas, and to stop in Kansas City, Missouri for the night. We wanted to have dinner with Cindy’s cousin, Alice. Stopping for gas and a meal, we expected to be on the road for five or six hours.

Not a mountain in sight

We rolled into Kansas City right around the time Alice got off of work. We found a motel close to Alice’s home and checked in. Cindy called Alice and made arrangements to meet her at a restaurant that was just down the street from where were staying. After a good meal and conversation, we went back to the motel to rest up for our last day on the road.

View from our motel window

This picture is actually one of the better views we had while on our trip, not counting the condo in Oregon. I’m thinking about starting a collection of pictures titled “From the Back Windows of Motels.”

We didn’t get up too early, because we only had about a four-hour drive to get Cindy to the motel where she was meeting and  staying with Trina for the conference. I would be driving home after dropping Cindy off.

We stayed on the Interstate until we had to get off for the motel. We found it, and contacted Trina. She was still about half an hour away, so we got lunch. Trina pulled into the motel parking lot a few minutes after we returned.

We said our goodbyes and I left for home. I had about four hours on the road ahead of me. I pulled into our driveway thirty minutes after the sun set. The vacation was over.


A few things I forgot to write about during our trip:

First: Every time we stopped to get gas in Oregon and Idaho, there were attendants there to pump the gas…even if you wanted to pump your own.

Second: Once, when we were in a desolate area, we started to get low on fuel. Then we saw an old gas pump setting in front of a wooden building that appeared to be last painted ten years earlier. There were a couple of motorcycles parked by the building, and two unsavory looking fellows standing in front of the place. We were desperate for fuel, so we pulled in.

I got out of the car and one of the fellows walked over to me.      He looked like a skin-head who had just escaped from a             maximum security prison He courteously asked me if I wanted the tank filled, and I said yes. In an effort to make small talk, I said that I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen a pump that old. He replied that the woman who owned the station had hired him to keep it in working order.

He was one of the most pleasant people I had met on the trip.

Third: I believe that I wrote about problems getting a WiFi connection in the condo. We eventually resolved that problem, but before we did, I spent an hour or so one morning in the restaurant at the condo office, drinking coffee and working on the laptop.

I won’t bother going on about how overpriced everything was on the menu, and how hoity toity the staff seemed. Why bother?

Anyway, I was sitting in a booth drinking over-priced, sour coffee and tapping away on the keyboard. When I heard a waitress ask a new customer how he was. His response was along the lines of “Terrible, the whole country is going to hell in a hand-basket.”

The waitress made the mistake of not ignoring him, but rather saying, “Oh?”

He went on to start rambling on how “they” were polluting the air and water in order take over the country…and on and on.

Meanwhile the waitress had been tying to get the fellow to order something so that she could get away from the table. She tried to convince him that it was very busy in the place, even though the place was three-fourths empty. She started to say, “I don’t have time…”

He broke in and said, “You’re right, we’re all running out of time.”

She said that she would get him a cup of coffee while he made up his mind about what to eat. She left his table and never returned.

I had been keeping my head lowered because I didn’t want to make eye contact with him. But at that point I glanced up to look at him. He was bald; probably in his fifties; and was wearing latex gloves. Of course he was.

He pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. I do not know who he called, but he started the conversation by stating that his topic was of the gravest consequences. Then he started in again on how the mysterious “they” were causing killer pollution. Then he went on to say that he had been the chief investigator and had found all of this out. He had all the documents to prove it, and he would share them. He said that he had sent copies of the documents to the Portland, Oregon newspaper, The Oregonian, but they hadn’t printed anything. It was obvious that the paper was in on the conspiracy.

They must have hung up on the other end because he put down the telephone. I was afraid that he would start wandering around the room and start talking to people, so I paid my bill and left.

This seems like a good place to end our vacation saga.

Vacation 2017 – Part 11

Morning in Utah

We left Ogden, UT the next morning and caught I-80 into Wyoming. This was to be our day of major travel. We wouldn’t be stopping to see the sights or to take pictures, only to fuel up the car and ourselves. I started in the driver’s seat that morning, and by noon we were in Laramie, Wyoming, where we stopped for lunch. We also hit the local Wal-Mart for a couple of last-minute souvenirs.

Cindy took over the wheel and we headed south out of Laramie on I-25 towards Denver, Colorado. On the northern part of the city we hit a major traffic jam, with cars  backed up for miles. I took out our atlas (paper, not electronic) and found a street we could take from the next exit. That street ran parallel to the Interstate, and connected to I-70, which we planned on using to flee Denver. It worked like a charm.

After fighting some of the outbound traffic on I-70, we were soon zipping along, heading east. Our plan was to drive as far in Colorado as we could before the sun set.

Sun setting in Colorado

We made excellent progress. The sun started to set so we determined to stop in the next town that had a motel to spend the night. We drove until we were about and hour from the state line. We stopped in a town that I had Googled. The Internet told me that there were at least two motels there. We saw one and decided to pass it by because it looked pretty run down. Then we searched the town for the other motel. It didn’t exist. We drove up and down every street in the town. There was only the one motel, so we stopped there. I went into the lobby and found no one there. I rang the bell on the counter. No response. I waited a bit and rang it again. No response. I rang the bell and called out, “Hello.” No response. I rang again and yelled, “HELLO!” No response. I walked over to an open door that led to the manager’s room. “HELLO!!” I yelled. No response. I stepped into the room and looked around. I decided that looking for the manager was a waste of time. On my way out the door of the motel I decided to look behind the counter. There were no bodies, so I left with a clear conscious.

We drove another half an hour or so until we reached Burlington, Colorado. We pulled off the Interstate and checked in at the first motel we saw. It was interesting. The room we got appeared to be in the middle of restoration. The bathroom mirror was propped up on the floor in the bedroom between a chair and a table. The mattress, not a new one, felt as if a wrecking ball had been sitting on it for a few months. But it was a bed, and we slept the sleep of the exhausted.

Vacation 2017 – Part 10

Still in Oregon

We started the day still in Oregon. We drove to a nearby town to find coffee-to-go. It was a small town, and coffee seemed to be scarce. Finally I spotted a convenience store and told Cindy, who was driving, to stop there. She didn’t believe me at first because there were no gas pumps in front of the place. But she did stop and we went in for coffee. Luckily, I was right about coffee being available in the place.

It was a small store and while Cindy was busy choosing the type of coffee she wanted and went about adding the proper amounts of creamer and sweetener, I wandered around the place. There was a glass case with three shelves of hand blown glass objects. I started looking at some of the items on the top shelf, thinking that perhaps I would find something as a souvenir for Macey, our oldest granddaughter. I wasn’t sure what the items were supposed to represent, but they were pretty. I looked at the shelf below and realized that it was full of hand blown glass bongs. Oh. I took a closer look back at the top shelf and realized that thy were all hand blown glass pipes. Oh! Nope. I wouldn’t be buying any of those products for Macey.

Poor spelling

We got back on the road, still heading south and east. Later that morning we decided to stop in Vale, Oregon and get some late breakfast. I didn’t notice the spelling on the sign until we were out of the car and walking into the restaurant. The spelling was funny, but the food was excellent! From there we drove a few miles and entered Idaho.

I took this picture while passing through a very small town.

From the passenger seat

This lonely cow was the only one visible from where we stopped to stretch our legs and clean off the windshield of the car.

One is the loneliest number

Soon we were on Interstate I-84 and our driving became a matter of going as far and as fast as we could, because we had a lot of miles and time to make up. We drove to Boise, Idaho and then south to Ogden, Utah where we stopped for the night. We had driven in and out of heavy traffic, heavy winds, some rain, and a minor dust storm. It was a good day.


Vacation 2017 – Part 9

We got up early the next morning and packed the car. Then we drove over to Lee and Michelle’s unit to say goodbye. Michelle was still very sick, so they had decided to extend their stay for another day or two until she felt better. We said our farewells, turned in our keys at the office, and headed out to Portland, Oregon.

We needed to make good time on the trip back because we had to be in St. Louis in five days time so that Cindy could attend a conference. That meant that we would be spending a lot of time on the soulless Interstate Highway system. We drove to Portland where we got in I-84. We weren’t on very long before we had to exit the highway due to wildfires. We found no signs marking a detour route around the fire, so we decided to head further south and east in order to take US and State highways across the sate to the Idaho border. We knew that it would be much slower, but we also knew that it would probably be our last chance to see beautiful country up close.

Approaching Mt. Hood

And we drove through beautiful country. Unfortunately there was smoke in the air which gave a hazy cast to everything. The peak of Mt. Hood was obscured by smoke and fog. I have decided to not try to enhance for clarity the pictures that I took that day.

The foothills region

We left the Cascade range and dove into foothills region. There were fewer trees and flatter areas of land.

Smoke still in the air

We never were free of the smoke in the air that entire day.

Despite our hopes, and driving later than we wished, we weren’t able to leave Oregon that day.



Vacation 2017 – Part 8

The day after our excursion, I stayed behind and let Cindy go out with the others. I wasn’t in the mood to drive hither and yon on somebody’s whim. I had my own whims, and on top of that list was sitting around and reading all day. Or at least as much as I could. East of Eden by John Steinbeck was my choice. It was a good choice. I didn’t even break out my camera to take pictures. That’s why there is no picture at the top of this post.

When Cindy came back from the sightseeing and shopping she started preparing a dinner for everybody. It was a good meal that got great reviews. Michelle and Lee also gave me wonderful birthday presents.

Hot Dog!

The highlight of the next day was the birthday party for Wyatt. He turned four that day. There were no children there, just adults. It was held on the beach where a fire could be built to roast hot dogs and make smores. The party started in the late afternoon. By the time rolled around for Wyatt to open his presents, we had to break out flashlights to add to the light from the fire. When he had finished with his presents Cindy and I decided to skip the smores and drive back to our unit.

On the way back to the access road we turned too soon and ended up stuck in the sand. I walked back to the fire to get help, and then hiked back. We were deep in the sand, and I was preparing to call AAA, though I’m not sure I could get cell phone reception, when a couple of good Samaritans with a tow rope pulled up in a pickup truck. In very little time they had us free of the sand and on our way.

The three amigos

The next day, our last in Gearhart, was fairly uneventful, though Michelle was sick. Michelle’s family came to say goodbye before leaving. Lee and Wyatt came back to our unit for a while to let Michelle rest. Later we went to their unit for dinner. And then we packed for our trip back east.

Vacation 2017 – Part 7

Cindy and I spent a large portion of the following day with Lee, Michelle and Wyatt. Michelle asked us what we wanted to see. I mentioned that Cindy and I had seen signs for Fort Stevens State Park where there was a military museum. We had also seen a sign advertising a maritime museum in Astoria, Oregon. And finally there had been a sign for the Fort Clatsop Lewis and Clark National Historic Park. Any one of these places would be fine places to visit. All of them were located north of our location at Gearhart.

Remains of the Peter Iredale

We started with Fort Stevens State Park. The picture above shows what is left of the Peter Iredale, which ran aground in 1906. It was a ship built during the transformation from wooden sailing ships to steel clad ships. No crew was lost during the storm that ran the ship aground. This is all that remains.

Pacific shoreline
Fort Stevens gun battery

We went on to view other sections of the coast, and some of the abandoned gun batteries at the actual fort.

In front of the museum

From there we went on to the modest fort museum. There we learned that Fort Stevens had been in existence since the end of the U.S. Civil War, and was closed in 1947. During World War II it had been attacked by a Japanese submarine, but their shells fell on the beach rather than on the fort. The men in charge determined that the U.S. guns didn’t have the range to hit the submarine. Rather than pinpoint their location, they decided to not fire back.

From the pier

We left the fort and drove into Astoria to find a place to eat lunch. Lee and Michelle’s first choice had a long wait for an available table. It didn’t seem wise to stay there with a three (going on four) year old boy. So we moved on. We found a very good barbecue joint on a pier. After we ate, Lee, Wyatt, Kyle (Michelle’s brother who had joined us), and I stood on the pier and watched the birds and the ships while Cindy and Michelle sampled wines in the nearby wine shop.

We eventually left the pier and started looking for the maritime museum. I was ready for an afternoon nap, so I didn’t shout and point out the museum when I spotted it. It was a short distance up the street from the Doughboy Monument (don’t ask me, we didn’t see it. I figured the monument was either to World War I soldiers or the Pillsbury icon.) So we started back to the condos. I had to put off my nap for a while because Michelle wanted another opportunity to stand on the beach and watch the waves. But it was a pretty good day.

Vacation 2017 – Part 6

Cindy and I slept in the next morning. As much as I like to travel, not starting the day in the car or even with the motel industry’s normal “complimentary continental breakfast” was a bit of a treat. I pulled out our laptop to connect to the free WiFi that was promised in a packet of materials in our condo. I couldn’t connect. The information we had been supplied suggested that we call the office for help. “Just dial 0” said the relevant page. That’s when I realized that there was no telephone in our unit.

Oh, well. I decided to take a trip to the office later. In the meantime, Cindy decided that it was time to go buy some groceries so that we wouldn’t eat all of our meals in restaurants. We got back in the car and headed out searching for a grocery store. Cindy also thought that rather than go into the store hungry, we should eat something to drive out any hunger pangs. That was wise.

We headed north. We were surprised that we had to leave the main highway in order to find a restaurant that wasn’t fast food. It took some searching, but we eventually found a small cafe that served breakfasts and lunches. It was packed. We each chose breakfast. Then we headed towards a supermarket that we had seen during our quest for a meal.

We shopped and started back to the condo. During our driving we had made note of signs for Fort Stevens State Park, where there was a military museum, and for a maritime museum up the road in Astoria, Oregon.

We unloaded our groceries and stored them away. Then we started to once more relax. I picked up the book I was currently reading, Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and was soon lost to the real world.

Elk just outside
And more

Cindy got a call from Lee. He said that there were elk just outside their condo unit. I looked out of our patio door window and saw the elk between us and the ocean. It was the highlight of my day, and he highlight of our entire week at the condo.

Vacation 2017 – Part 5

Montana or Wyoming?

Here is a problem. My notes on the trip fail to mention where we stopped to stay for the night after we left Yellowstone National Park the previous day. And my memory is such that I don’t recall if we stayed in Montana or Idaho. I believe it was Idaho, but…

Anyway, we started out the next morning with the goal of getting into Oregon because we needed to be on the northwest coast the following afternoon. For some reason I made absolutely no notes during our trip that day. I don’t even know where I took the above photo. I just know that I was in the passenger seat and took the picture because of the black wall. That day we drove to Bend, Oregon, where we spent the night.

I got on the laptop that night and tried to pick a route that would keep us away from the wildfires. I found a very useful website that indicated the fires and the relative size of the fires on a map.


From Bend, we drove northwest on US 20 until we found the junction of OR 22. We were driving through beautiful country, but there was a lot of smoke in the air. A few times we were warned by signs that we were entering firs activity areas, but the roads were open.

Detroit Dam
From the top of the dam

We stopped at the Detroit Dam and lake. There was so much smoke that the visibility was terrible. I adjusted the 2 photos above to bring more clarity to the pictures.

We arrived at our destination, Gearhart, Oregon, in the mid-afternoon. We stayed in a condominium that was rented while the owner was out of town. I saw a notice in the office where we checked in that said to be on the watch for elk. It was rutting season and that they didn’t like to be disturbed. Interesting. Lee, Michelle and Wyatt were in another condo about a three minute walk or a five minute drive from the one we were in.  Both condos were on the ocean and we only had to walk up a slight rise to see it. It was time to relax.

Cindy at rest


Vacation 2017 – Part 4

Who would have thought

I never thought that I would write a sentence, let alone a paragraph, in praise of a highway rest area. And yet, here I am writing about the Lusk Rest Area in Wyoming. Cindy and I agree that this was the prettiest and the cleanest rest area we have ever visited. Due to our travels, we have seen many over the years. If awards are ever given to rest areas, the Lusk Rest Area deserves to win. Well done, Wyoming!


We continued on in Wyoming. The haze from the western wildfires became more noticeable the further we traveled. We stopped to spend the night in Dubois, Wyoming. This statue was one of many in the town. I failed to get the name of the sculpture and sculptor. We had a good dinner at the Nostalgia Bistro, where we celebrated my entrance into the ranks of septegenarianhood (it may not be a recognized word, but it should be…write your Congressman).


The next morning we headed out for the Grand Teton National Park. While we occasionally had clear skies, more often the views were partially obstructed by smoke and haze. The following picture is one that I took in the park. I played around with the contrast and saturation in order to get a clearer view of the mountains.

Grand Teton Park
Old Faithful

From Grand Teton Park we drove  few miles north and entered Yellowstone National Park. There were so many delays for road construction within the park boundaries, I started to fear that we would run out of gas. Finally we came to the Yellowstone Inn where we filled the gas tank and then our bellies in the restaurant. We decided that you can never see Old Faithful, the geyser, too often, but we almost missed it. I took this picture from a distance while it was winding down from its most recent eruption.

Vacation 2017 – Part 3

A view from the bridge

We continued on in Nebraska, heading more or less towards the northwest corner of the state. We saw a sign that indicated that there was a historic bridge on a road that branched to left of the one we were on. So we decided to drive over to see it. We found the Bryan Bridge which was built in 1932, It is an arched cantilever trussed bridge that is connected in the middle by a single pin. It was designed by a Russian emigre who graduated from the University of Nebraska Engineering, and was named for the then Governor of the state. I took a number of pictures from the bridge but only realized after we go home that I never took a picture of the actual bridge. You can see a picture of the bridge and read more about it at

We continued on to Valentine, Nebraska where we stopped at the pretty city park to eat a picnic lunch. We had packed food in our cooler so that we would not have to eat every meal in a restaurant or pick it up in a fast food drive-through. With the exception of a stray cat that wanted to join us, it was a pleasant meal.

From there we drove on to Chadron, Nebraska, where we decided to spend the night. Before checking in to a motel however, we drove a few miles south of town and went into the Chadron State Park, which was the first state park in Nebraska. In parts of the park you can still see the effects of a fire that happened in 2012. It was in this park where we first noticed the haze/smoke in the air from the wildfires that have been burning in our western states this year.