Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Coeur d'Alene

Left Grangeville on Friday, 7/23, bound for Coeur d'Alene and three nights there.  Along the way we made a stop in Asotin, Washington.  Asotin is the home of Matt Brady and family.  Matt, from Albq, was HS friend and college roommate of son, Mike, at NM Tech in Socorro and is now a biology professor at Lewis and Clark University, which is across the Snake River from Asotin in Lewiston, ID.  Asotin is a charming riverbank village and Matt, his wife, Kelly, and daughters Erin and Brinna (? - hope I've got that right) live in a classic two-story Victorian house, right across the street from the school where Kelly teaches and the girls attend.  Really an idyllic setting.  We had a nice visit, then walked down town (one block) and had lunch in Asotin's bakery/deli/cafe.   Here's a family picture of the Brady Bunch (bet they've heard that before):

The radiant beams from above are due to the fact that the sun is just over the top of the porch where the Bradys are standing.  Nothing mystical going on, I don't think.  It's great to see your kids and your kids' friends raising their own families.

Water sports are big in the Snake River Valley.  Kelly told a story about one of her first class sessions.  To get acquainted she told her students, Just ask me any question.  Student asked what sounded to her like: Do you wake bored?  She thought that was a little strange, but she answered the best she could:  No, I usually wake up in a good mood.  Students laughed.  What she had been asked is: Do you wakeboard - ride something like a snowboard while being pulled behind a motorboat?

Our RV park in Coeur d'Alene is on the Spokane River, just where it flows out of CdA Lake (it's not fun typing Coeur d'Alene). We got a prime spot overlooking the park's beach area.  Our traveling companions were thrilled.

We had a pretty leisurely two days and three nights in CdA, driving around a couple of lakes in the area, strolling the lakefront park, doing a little shopping, relaxing, and reading.  We were struck by how many homes were for sale in the area - nice lakefront properties.  Some lake scenes:

Downtown CdA is decorated with these large hanging baskets of flowers.

We attended the downtown Presbyterian Church, because they had a 930 service (we had our riverview site for just two nights; had to move by Sunday noon to another site - predestination?) and enjoyed it very much: friendly people, fine music, thoughtful sermon, etc.  After a meet and greet session, members were asked to introduce guests.  We were sitting next to a lady who was also a guest.  The person who introduced her said that she, the guest, had lived in CdA several years but just recently attended a funeral at the church.  It impressed her so much that she decided to come back for a regular service.  Then the lady who introduced us said, These are the Easterlings who are traveling through and have no intention whatsoever of coming back.  That got a big laugh.

The church's most valuable person was the lady who played the piano and organ, led a quartet who led the congregation in a couple of praise songs, and sang a solo - all with great skill and flair.  Susie wondered if she swept the floors and straightened up after church. 

I liked the praise-song portion of the service.  It was short, congregational singing of two songs projected on a screen, accompanied by only a piano and led by four singers, one of whom briefly introduced each song.  Proved the praise experience doesn't require amplified drums and guitars and a half-hour on your feet.  Harumpff.

Another nice touch was doing a couple of Christmas carols - it was July 25.  Preacher said one of the influential ladies on the matriarchs row had asked for it.  We opened with O Come All Ye Faithful and closed with Joy to the World.  Felt good.

It's Monday and we're off to Canada.


Susie and Rob

Sunday, July 25, 2010


White Bird Battle.  Thursday morning we headed down White Bird hill en route to Pittsburg Landing in Hells Canyon.  Part way down the hill a historical marker beckoned and we pulled off. 

It's an oft-repeated story in the West.  The indigenous Indians had been promised land when white settlers started moving in, but when gold, or oil, or whatever was discovered on their land, the Indians were squeezed into smaller reservations or moved off their homelands completely.  Up here it was the Nez Perce (pronounced nez pars) tribe.  They had played a key role in supplying Lewis and Clark and guiding them across this part of the country, but that was of no credit when gold was found on their land.  They were told to move into an area of only 10% of what they had been promised.  They resisted, under leadership of Chief Joseph.  White Bird canyon was the site of the first battle - and the Nez Perce won handily.  For details, see this history.

While we were at this roadside stop a bicyclist pulled in.  Susie recognized him from the day before - distinctive long gray pony tail - and started talking to him.  A group of around 15 riders, all or many our age, were riding across the country.  They started in Georgia, so this was not a straight-across trip.   A second rider soon stopped to talk.  He said we call this (pony-tailed) guy Miracle Man.  He's the organizer of this ride and in Kentucky he tangled with a dog, broke his collar bone, and had other serious injuries.  We almost canceled the ride, but he had his wife come out and follow us in their pick-up while he recovered and recuperated enough to ride again. Rob was reminded of his serious bicycling days and admitted he sometimes gets the "itch" to bicycle long distances. Susie will satisfy her "itch" by following in Tuzigoot.

Pittsburg Landing.  The road to Hells Canyon is not paved with gold, but it is a good, hard-packed dirt and gravel road - 17 miles - narrow, winding, with steep drop-offs.  It goes from the Salmon River valley at 1500 ft. elevation, up over a ridge that tops out at 4300 ft., then down to the Snake River at 1200 ft.  Here are a few scenes.


They were working on the road doing dust abatement: spreading water and a magnesium mix, we were told, on the road to reduce the dust kicked up by traffic.  The various operators who do Hells Canyon river trips use this road and there are several homes and farms along the first half of the road.  Here comes the work crew.

Going in we had about a 30-minute wait, but that gave us a chance to talk to the flagger.  She and her husband have a ranch on this road and he's the foreman in charge of maintaining this road.  When needed, she works on his projects.  She likes getting out of the house, working with hubby, and the extra cash.  I envisioned her as a mail-order bride:  Wanted: strong woman who loves the great outdoors to marry Idaho rancher and work on his road crew.  Cheerful, positive attitude desired.  Or, just to avoid any accusations of sexism, let me say that maybe it was the other way around: Woman who loves the outdoors desires to meet Idaho rancher, preferably unmarried.

We asked about snow days.  She says her husband gets up at 3am to plow and spread gravel on the road so the school bus can get up the road.

We asked about forest fires -- as you can see above, there was considerable evidence of previous fires.  She said three years ago they had to evacuate and a neighbor lost their house to fire, but theirs was spared. 

She gave us special treatment.  We were first in line and it was quite a while before another vehicle showed up, so she let us move across the road to the shade while we waited and advised us to wash that magnesium gunk off our car when we got back to G'ville.

When we left the RV park Susie said, Shall I pack a lunch?  Nah, I said.  We'll be back from Hells Canyon in time for lunch at White Bird.  Well, with the road delays, that was a bad decision.  Nice flagger lady told us there were no concessions at Pittsburg Landing -- not even a vending machine!  This must be how the pioneers felt.

Hells Canyon is North America's deepest river gorge.  It doesn't have the vertical walls of the Grand Canyon, but the mountain ranges through which the river flows have peaks high enough that the elevation difference from top to bottom is greater here than there.  Here's the view from Pittsburg Landing, looking south, which is upstream.

Got back to White Bird, the village, about 1:30.  Stopped at first place to eat that we saw: Silver Dollar Restaurant and Bar.  From the parking lot you could smell the cigarette smoke, so we said, Let's see what else there is.  Answer: Nothing.  Back to Silver Dollar, we went in and found that the bar was at the front, restaurant was in the back, well-separated so we didn't get second hand smoke so we went in.  From this exterior shot you can probably imagine the interior.

There were a handful of customers: a married couple, a friend, and an elderly woman, who may have been under the care of the wife, but seated separately. We sat down at a table and had just about figured out that we needed to go over to the counter and order when one of the customers brought us menus. Then, his wife came over and took our orders, and delivered our sandwiches when they were ready. Meanwhile they were having their own lunches. Very friendly place. I had the house specialty, a grilled crab and swiss cheese sandwich. The crab was the fake crab lumps of white seafood you can buy. Can't say I ever saw this sandwich on a menu before, but it worked for me.

Cook took a break and went to the post office to get mail.  Couple who had served us said they'd cover for her and keep whatever money they took in.

When the cook came back she sat down and read a letter out loud.  It was addressed to "Box 2 or Box 31, White Bird, Idaho," and was from an inmate at the Corcoran State Prison in California.  Handwritten letter, difficult to read, but we all got the gist of the letter.  I don't think she knew the guy, or could quite place him.  Probably had lunch there while on the lam and remembered the friendly atmosphere and wanted to come visit or hide out when he was released or when he broke out.  We thought we were on the set of a situation comedy, having to keep a straight face.

As we left, Susie said,  We've never been to a friendlier place, or a filthier place.  I didn't mention that restaurant also doubled as a video store and there were stacks of videos around, covered with dust -- probably years since a video had been rented.  Susie:  Once in a while I have to put in my two cents in these blogs. There is no way that this eating establishment could be adequately described, or at best, pass the health inspection if indeed the state inspector ever came to White Bird. From the cracked linoleum to the curled linoleum to the missing squares of linoleum to the dirty carpet in the entry way to the "busted bagless vaccum" lying in a prone position under one of the tables to the dust covered coffee maker and stained glass coffee pots to the poor elderly woman trying to keep her eggs on her fork to her shakily handling a coffee mug equaling her size and weight to the loudly choppily read "letter from the pen" to the
"thanks for coming in" salutation from Miss Kitty the barmaid.....the only other comment from me is that Rob really knows how to treat a woman to a mighty fine lunch! 

The bar scene was priceless, too.  About a half dozen very diverse regulars, all raptly watching a Gunsmoke episode.  Mister Dillon, Mister Dillon!  We got to the car, laughing like fools, and wondering how long it takes for food poisoning to set in-----which, surprise, surprise....never happened.

White Bird Hill.  A sign described the old 95 route up the hill thusly:"many torturous curves and switchbacks - which, if placed together, made 37 complete circles - let the old road climb 2900 feet in 14 miles."   A new U.S. 95 route replaced it in 1975.  Here's what part of old 95 looked like on the GPS.

It was a fun drive, great views in all directions (unblocked by trees).  At the top, back on new 95, there was a young family lining up at a scenic overlook to take a family picture using their camera's timer.  We stopped and I took their picture and the wife took ours.

So long, White Bird.  We'll remember you fondly.

Grangeville.  That evening we found that it really was the Glenn Miller Orchestra, without Glenn - he's dead, you know.  The emcee said, You guys sound pretty good for being about a hundred years old by now.  Big crowd on lawn chairs, great music, kids playing on the park swings in the background, teenagers flirting.  Several Norman Rockwell paintings being played out all at once in Grangeville, ID on a pleasant summer night.  It was great!


Susie and Rob

Update: Wanted to show you some pictures of the farm and ranchland around Grangeville.


This is Tolo Lake where, when it was dredged several years ago, mammoth bones were found.

Next stop: Coeur d'Alene.


From Boise we trundled up the west side of Idaho, nearly 200 miles, to Grangeville. I picked this locale because it was close to the mountains and near several scenic drives.  Also, the Bear Den RV Park had an interesting website -- the park was started by a couple who wanted to scale back their active life.  How's that working for ya? I wondered.  It's a nice park, currently being expanded.  We stayed three nights and enjoyed some neat surprises -- unplanned gems that make travel so much fun.

Wednesday (7/21) morning we did laundry (not an unplanned gem), then took an afternoon drive to Elk City -- a mining boom town in 1861, not so active now except maybe in hunting season.  For some reason, it made me think of the sort of remote place where somebody like the Unabomber might hang out - his cabin was in Montana - where you might go to get away from almost everybody.  I'm sure there are no potential Unabombers in Elk City, though.

Elk City is at the end of a 49-mile cul-de-sac -- that's what I mean about remote, though the road is paved -- that follows the South Fork of the Clearwater River -- a typically scenic mountain stream.  Here are some typical scenes.

Not much traffic or activity along the way -- on a Wednesday.  We did meet an UPS truck, though, and Elk City did have an unexpectedly large general store that provided our ice cream break of the day. 

Also came across a photogenic barn on our way back to G'ville.

See the cross?

When we left Grangeville on this drive we met a group of maybe a dozen cross-country bicycle riders, all spread out, riding heavily laden bikes, struggling up the climb that takes you from the South Fork river valley to the plain on which Grangeville sits.  Figured they must be a group.  We would cross paths with them again the next day.

Back in town we visited a bookstore, then as we were walking back to the car I espied a poster advertizing summer concerts in the park, starting the next night with the Glenn Miller Orchestra.  Let's plan on that, I said.  Susie, ever the cautious skeptic, said I bet they're just going to play recordings; that orchestra couldn't be playing Grangeville.  Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

The day ended with a nice sunset.

Approaching Grangeville from the SW you make a long, steep climb up White Bird hill.  This climb takes you from the Salmon River valley up almost 3000 ft. to the (fruited) plain above.  On Tuesday we had stopped part way up to give Tuzigoot a breather and to look at the scenery. 

Later, when we picked up a guide to the area I saw that one of the suggested scenic drives was to drive "old 95" up or down White Bird hill, the hill in the background of the previous picture.  Also saw that just south of the small town of White Bird, at the bottom of the hill, there is a road into Hells Canyon, to Pittsburg Landing, the only vehicle access to the Snake River in Hells Canyon.  So, the Thursday agenda formed almost unbidden:  Pittsburg Landing, White Bird for lunch, Old 95 up the hill, Glenn Miller in the evening.

Stay tuned.


Susie and Rob

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Raft Trip Update

Just in case anyone thinks I just stuck in a stock picture from a raft outfitter in the last posting, here's a close-up.  Lookin' right at the camera!



Boise, etc.

Got to Boise early Sat. p.m., 7/17, and found our RV park in Meridian, a suburb on the west side of Boise.  Went to see Susie's HS classmate, Melinda Madsen, and then to dinner with her.  Here are the two Vegas girls -- that's Las Vegas, NM, for the record.

Melinda really keeps up with her HS classmates, so she and Susie had a lot of stories to update.

Melinda runs a staffing agency with offices throughout the NW and is house-mother to a gaggle of Yorkies.  Here's a picture of a picture that's a bit fuzzy and poorly aimed, but you'll get the idea. 

These are show dogs and Melinda has been long active in the Yorkie world and been successful in the showing and breeding arenas. 

Sunday morning we attended the First United Methodist Church in Boise, grandly named "The Cathedral of the Rockies."   

And, grand it is.  Built in the cruciform style of European cathedrals, with high, vaulted ceilings and gorgeous stained windows, it is awesome.  You can read about its architecture here. It is also a very active church -- five Sunday services and lots of outreach programs. 

Here are a couple of window pictures copied from the church website.

The sanctuary was beautiful, but I couldn't find a picture that captured that adequately.

Monday was my chance to go whitewater rafting -- on the South Fork of the Payette River, about a half-hour north of Boise .  Melinda has a cabin in this area and we had lunch and stopped by her cabin before I left for the raft trip.

I'm the second yellow helmet from the left.  We were on the river about two hours and successfully negotiated about a half-dozen category IV rapids (class V rapids are the max) something like this one.  Our guide, Dustin, coached us well.  Didn't lose anyone overboard or come close to capsizing.  It was a blast.

Dustin talked about designing his ideal Idaho bachelor house.  (Right now he says he lives in an old school bus, which I gather is a beginner Idaho bachelor house.)  The front profile would have four doors: on the left a large, two-story door into his shop.  Next to that two garage doors, then a single walk-in door.  The shop would have a hydraulic lift for storing boats, snowmobiles, ATVs, etc.  The two garages would house more essential Idaho vehicles.  In the living quarters he'd have a large freezer for storing game, a microwave, a couch, and a TV set.  The folks on his boat expanded this idea to a subdivision of similar houses, circled by a white-water course (moat) powered by a diesel engine.  Etcetera.  The other passengers on my boat (there were three boats in our group plus a kayaker scout) were an Idaho couple, their son, and his girlfriend.  The latter two were on leave from their military posts, Army for him, AF for her, in Georgia.  We also had a guide in training on board, learning the rapids and the stories. 

Next.  North to Canada.


Susie and Rob

Sunday, July 18, 2010


From Westcliffe we went to Denver for a couple of days.  Monday evening we had dinner at Jeff's and most of Tuesday we spent with Malia.  Went to Toy Story 3.  Second time for Malia, so she wasn't quite as traumatized as Susie and I were.  Some terrible things almost happened to Woody and Buzz Lightning.  Here are a couple of action shots of Malia:

She loves her soccer clothes.

Tuesday evening we went to Mandi and Paul's apartment in the Lowry subdivision in Denver.  This area, formerly an AF base, is really nice.  Their apt. bldg., though new, is built to look like the former officers' quarters.  They're right across the street from the village shopping center -- nice shops and restaurants.  Had dinner and spent the night.

Left Denver around noon on Wednesday and drove to Laramie for the night.  Got treated to a colorful Wyoming sunset.

Thursday we drove I-80 across the southern part of Wyoming to Evanston.  Normally, I dig desolate, wideopenspaces, etc., but about 2/3rds of the way across the state I'd seen enough.  When snow fences are the most interesting things in sight, that's too desolate.

By the time I took this picture we were past the snow fences.

Next morning we angled across NE UT on I-84.  Now, here's a nice scene at the first rest stop.


A little further down the road we stopped to see the Devil's Slide:

We spent the night near Twin Falls, ID, which is situated on the Snake River.  River rafting on the Snake River was an activity I once thought I wanted to do, so I decided it's probably now or never.  There seemed to be only two outfitters in the area: one never returned phone calls; the other was booked, so I didn't make it, yet. 

We did some sightseeing.  Here's the Perrine Bridge across the river, and a shot from the bridge of the river valley.  It was somewhere near here that Evel Knievel, in 1974, tried to rocket across the canyon, but didn't make it.  


We also drove to the nearby Shoshone Falls - the Niagara of the West - actually 36 ft. higher than Niagara. 


A sign at the park entrance said the flow level was Low now -- perhaps why one outfitter didn't seem to be operating now.  You can see full-flow pictures at the above website.

Next morning we headed for Boise, where we're going to stay three nights.  Along the way, happened to see a sign for a state park and an Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, so we stopped to take a look.  This site is near Glenns Ferry, where a ferry once operated to transport people and goods across the river.

Before the ferry, though, settlers heading for Oregon could cross the Snake River here, from the south bank to the north, with their wagons, by following a stepping-stone path via the three islands.  Indian guides would show them the route.  By crossing here they had a better route -- better grass and water for their livestock -- to Fort Boise, but they faced the risk of losing wagons and supplies in the river.  Here's view of the crossing location from a Three Island Crossing website:


And here are a couple of my pictures of the area.


I'm guessing that's a remnant of the Oregon Trail down to the river bank.


In the middle of this picture is the tip of one of the islands.

Got to Boise in early afternoon.  We'll be here three days.  Susie has a Las Vegas HS classmate here and we'll visit her and go up to her cabin in the mountains north of here and I'll take a float trip in that area.  Next report.


Susie and Rob

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Dear Friends and Family and Accidental Visitors to Tuzigoot.blogspot:

First stop on our journey (to Canada) is Westcliffe, CO. We’ve been here several times over the last 10 years, most often to attend the High Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass Festival. This year has the added attraction that we’re hosting a weekend get-together of the Zia Chapter of the Allegro Club. We’re the “wagonmasters,” which means we picked the site and organized some meals and other activities. (FYI: the Allegro Club is an organization of owners of motor homes built by the Tiffin Company. Two of their models are the Allegro Bus and the Allegro Bay, hence the club name. But, they have other models including the Phaeton. Our group for the weekend was made up of four Buses and two Phaetons. We’re inclusive, though, and the Zia Chapter includes some SOBs – owners of Some Other Brands.)

Westcliffe is in the Wet Mountain Valley, elevation 7900 ft., 52 miles west of Pueblo, some 350 miles from Albuquerque. This valley is on the east side of the Sangre de Cristo range; the Wet Mountains are the east side of the valley. The RV park is two miles south of town.

I never get tired of taking pictures of the mountains and valley. We wanted to introduce our Zia friends to this gorgeous area (none had been here before), so that’s why we selected this time and place to wagonmaster a rally.

I first “discovered” this area probably 30 years ago when a group from work that I went backpacking with came here and climbed the Crestone Needle, one of the 14ers in this range. From backpacking to motor-homing: who’d a thunk it?

We drove up on Wednesday, July 7 to make some final arrangements. The Zias (five additional couples and rigs) arrived on Thursday, just in time for a late afternoon rain and hail storm to top off our tacos-by-Susie dinner.

Friday’s activity was a lady’s tea/shopping/lunch outing. On Thursday Susie found a tea shoppe, owned and operated by a lady who had moved here from Albq four years ago and started the business, so that’s where the ladies started their day on the town. Westcliffe has a nice collection of shops and galleries and has a nice down-homey small town feel – not the same as the better-known Colorado resort towns. We really like it.

My early Friday activity was driving around the valley, getting barns and mountains pictures.

For more on Westcliffe, check out last year’s Westcliffe visit: http://tuzigoot.blogspot.com/2009/07/goin-home.html.

The Festival is hosted by two local bands, who happen to be big-time bands nationally. A song by one of them, the Dry Branch Fire Squad, follows On the Road Again in our blogsite playlist.  Incidentally, you can stop the music if you wish by clicking the pause bars.  Or, you can skip on down and find a song you like.  The other host group is the Sons and Brothers.  You can find videos by both groups on the internet.

Here’s the Festival website: http://www.highmountainhayfever.com/home.asp. The proceeds benefit the local medical clinic, now grown to be a medical center. And here's the locale.  All the visiting bands rave about the backdrop.

The hit band of the weekend was the Ebony Hillbillies, an old-time (mostly) string band from New York City. Among the venues they play are NYC subway stations -- go here for a sample of their music.  The strings were fiddle, bass, and banjo. Percussion was provided by spoons and washboard. The washboard player wore expended shotgun shells on his fingers and had some incredible solo breaks. Gloria, the spoons player, also sang and vamped. Her song about I Want a Fat Man brought the house down on Friday and she repeated it by popular demand Saturday and Sunday. She commanded the crowd to get up and dance (shake the junk in your trunk?) and clap your hands and we did.

The most moving moment for me, though, was “Hard Times,” sung and picked by the banjo player – an older gentleman, face covered by a floppy-brimmed hat.

“"Tis the song, the sigh for the weary. Hard times, hard times come again no more.  Many days have you lingered around my cabin door.  Oh, hard times come again no more.”

Written by Stephen Foster in 1854.  Chokes me up just thinking about it. You can visualize the scene around the slave cabins on an old plantation and feel the emotion. It's on our website playlist.

Friday evening was a potluck dinner, then Saturday morning Susie cooked pancakes and trimmings for the group (I microwaved bacon). Saturday night we all ate at the Feed Store Restaurant – here’s most of the group.

Sunday morning was a breakfast potluck, then farewell to the Zias. Group picture – a shady bunch, you can see.

We stayed the day – the Sunday morning gospel music is a highlight for us – and headed on up to Denver on Monday for a couple of days.  Stay tuned for granddaughter pictures.


Susie and Rob