Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Closer to home

When we drove through Stevens Pass, there was still plenty of snow, but as we made our way down the last mountain road, we could see that we were finally getting closer to home, and stopped for a leg-stretch at Iron Goat Trail.

The salmonberries were green, but well on their way. The blackberries in bloom looked as though they'll bear a good crop. Even a slug came out to welcome us.

Heading further down the road, I nearly yelped at the first sight of arbutus (or, as they call them here in Washington, madrones or madrona). It won't be long now 'til we're back at Chez Hoser.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


That's how Frank Zappa put it. And it pretty well sums up this weekend.

Yet again, our plan of no plans took us to a place that offered just the right change of pace. After one of those flukes where The Rattler decided which road to take, we found ourselves in Newport, Washington on the weekend of the town's annual rodeo.

Both of us had been on the lookout for a friendly rodeo, and several times back down the road, we’d been close. But we’d always either just missed it by a couple of days or it had been cancelled on account of bad weather.

But for this one, all the signs were right. We even found ourselves welcomed into the free grassy field where the rodeo contestants and their families were camped. With horses for next door neigh-bours (and yes, they neighed) and a band of excellent musicians parked not far away, we pretended that we had cowboy boots and went along for the ride.

Along with the rodeo events, there was a carnival, a Saturday morning parade, and plenty of junk food to choose from on the midway, including some very delicious huckleberry ice cream.

Among the people we met was the McMillan family, a dedicated crew of trick-riders. The video below shows one of the tricks the youngest, seven-year-old Davey can do.

A great break as we find ourselves truly on the road back home.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Paintbox memo

When we were visiting Glacier National Park, we saw a lot of artists painting landscapes en plein air. While out walking, I had a nice chat with one of those painters. She claimed her picture wasn’t ready to be captured in a photo, but didn’t mind my shooting an image of her well-used paintbox.

Since then, I’ve received terrible news – a friend was suddenly killed in a car accident. Although I’m still shaken by the fact, I’ve been able to think about the fragility of life and how important it is for each of us to do the things we’re here to do. Whether that’s painting or quilting or scribbling words or baking pies – or even just making sure we’re good to each other – it’s important that we use well whatever ‘paintbox’ we may have been given. And I know he'd want me to carry on, enjoying every stage of this long journey, especially the next one.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

To mark the Solstice

The sun peeked out this morning, so we packed a lunch and headed for the trail up to Avalanche Lake. We weren’t the only ones with the same idea, but there was plenty of room.
I knew that today marks the sun’s highest point, and that solstice would occur in this time zone at about ten minutes to noon.

I’d worn my watch, and as the time drew nearer, I started looking for some way to mark the occasion (if you’ve been to this blog other years, you know this is one of my traditions). And then, with hardly a minute to spare, there it was.

Who knows who might have built this little tower (I suspect a cooperative effort, with many contributions) or how long it might have stood. Or why they chose that particular spot of ground.

I just know that it appeared at exactly the right time, and can’t help but think it must bode well for a wonderful summer, although as I'm to learn the next day, not everything is as perfect as it seemed today. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On the shores of Lake McDonald

On Saturday, we had a wonderful hike along the shores of this beautiful lake. There was even an interpretive path through an area that had been burned out in 2003.

Again, we find that it's spring all over again. Even the mountain wildflowers are in bloom, so all's well for hiking.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Small town charm

Travelling through northern Montana means there aren't a lot of places to shop for supplies. Still, it's often amazing to find the array of goods available.

This general store, not far south of the Canadian border, had the usual -- T-shirts and hats with funny sayings, plenty of fatty snacks and watery beer. But it also had some fabulous antique furniture. The counters were glass cabinets, edged with what looked like oak. And this old cash register -- well, I had to take a picture.

I love the assortment of foods arranged around it. If you look closely towards the right, you'll see they still have a hooked stick (blue) for reaching down the cereal from the top shelf.

Prices might be a little higher than in the big-city supermarkets. But hey, the personal service and added charm make it worth it. And now, it's back to the bush.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


The spot pictured in the photo above seemed an appropriate place to watch the seventh game of this year's Stanley Cup Series. We weren't (quite) the only ones in the bar who were cheering for the Canucks, though I have to admit it got harder, especially by the last half of the third period.

But worse than the game are the reports we've heard on the radio while we drove today. Sounds like the usual drunken goons riled up the mob mentality into a downtown of violent chaos.

I can't help but wonder, would the same thing have happened if the Canucks had won the Cup?

Let's just hope this isn't the last chance for Vancouver to prove itself as the 'world class city' it claims to be. Right now, I'm afraid it's looking like a 'no class' kind of place. At least the next place we visited was a spot with plenty of class and charm.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

When it rains...

Because we're stopped at the house of one of my favourite Scrabble partners, she and I have spent a lot of our time having a marathon.

I've come to the conclusion that when you get lousy letters (all vowels, all one-pointers), they often seem to come in streaks.

That was the case when I played U-R-I-N-E, although at least I got to lay it on a triple score, which helped. But when I pulled my next tray of tiles, there were the same darn five letters. Good thing the million dollars a game we play for isn't something either of us will ever collect, even if there really is such a place as the Last Chance Saloon.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

C'mon baby, light my fire

We've been on the trail of dinosaurs again, so Alberta is where we've been wanting to be. When we arrived at our campgrounds in Drumheller, we found that they have mobile fire pits.

I've heard about 'bringing home the bacon' but bringing home the firepit, well, that's a new one (though 'firepit' would have been a better Scrabble word than what I came up with at our next stop)!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Big trucks and bigger bugs

Okay, maybe the bugs aren't really bigger than the trucks. They just sometimes look that way -- especially when I'm taking pictures through the smeared-up windshield.

But yes, the trucks are big here, with many of them pulling double-trailer loads.

When we were in North Dakota, I even saw a few triples. They reminded me of when we lived in Australia. The 'road trains' there were common, and sometimes consisted of four.

Our 'truck' may feel small compared to these big rigs. Still, it's a great way to be moving our own freight down the road to even bigger critters, dinosaurs.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Not a boathouse...

...but a house with a boat.

Although you can see a truck parked out back, that vehicle wasn't going anywhere. This was one of several houses near Glasgow, Montana that had been turned into islands by the cresting Milk River.

Since this shot, we've moved north into Saskatchewan. The photos may not be as dramatic, as we haven't seen houses so affected as this. Still, there appear to be many, many fields that won't be able to be planted this year. Bread at seven dollars a loaf? Could be coming, sooner than we'd like.

At least we're able to move on down the road, and don't have to think about tying a boat up to our house (or even to our RV).

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Hockey Night in Montana

With so many campgrounds across the northlands closed due to flooding, we haven’t had a lot of choices in places to stay. And now with the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final, Cable has become one of our crazy considerations. I know, we could have a satellite dish, but aside from now during the playoffs, tv hasn’t been all that important. Besides, we’re supposed to be ‘camping’ -- aren’t we?

Our goal for the night, Fort Peck, is the site of an earthen dam built in the ’30s. The lake beneath the dam, although it looks beautiful, turns out to be much higher than normal. When we stopped at an overlook, a local pointed out the water’s traditional boundaries. Where the beach has always been is far out from the current shore. It looks as though it will take some while for the waters to recede, revealing that strip of land again.

There’s something downright weird about looking out over a lake and admiring how lovely and calm it is – but then realizing that it’s way too big, that it constitutes a disaster for many, and that despite its placid surface, it holds such menace for those who live near its shore.

As is the case at so many dams this year, even the spillway at Fort Peck had been opened, in hopes of redirecting some of the water. This is such a rare occurrence, our local friend couldn’t remember it having happened before. Still, in the midst of all of this, we knew we had to find a place to settle for night. Phoning around revealed campgrounds that were closed – or, of the couple still open, none with Cable.

Resigning ourselves to a night without hockey, we spotted a campground high above the lake, one that wasn’t on our list of possibilities. It didn’t have hook-ups for Cable or Wifi or water (we have a tank on board), but it did have great views. Turns out it also had hook-ups for electricity -- and nice, clean washrooms with big roomy showers, complete with deliciously hot water.

I made an easy supper and George prepared the site for a bonfire; we were set for a peaceful night of watching the stars come out.

But then, he came inside and started fiddling with the funny, old-fashioned antenna on top of the Rattler. And as it turned out, even though it only picked up three or four stations, one of them carried the game.

Happy campers, or what – especially with the results of the game!

PS We still had the fire, and had ourselves a great view of a sky full of stars, some of which we thanked – for finding this place and for not living on one of these vast floodplains.

Friday, June 03, 2011

We're in the West again

Yesterday, we drove the breadth of the state of North Dakota, making our way from Fargo, on the eastern edge, to Medora, almost at the border of Montana.

Along the way, we saw a lot of big things -- a big flood on the Missouri River, with water extending much too far over its banks; a big metal sculpture (supposedly the biggest scrap metal sculpture in the world -- according to Guinness); and some critters with mighty big heads, buffalo. Today we saw even more buffalo, as we visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park, home to the largest free-roaming herd in existence.

While we were there, we also saw several groups of feral horses. Technically, these aren't the same as mustangs (wild horses), as these are the offspring of horses that probably escaped from ranches. The colts, with their springy long legs were wonderful to watch. I couldn't help but think of the story I'd heard in Tennessee, about Daniel Boone letting his lame horse go free. These horses looked like they could have been related to such a happy creature.

But the picture of the boots? They're from a shop in town here. And they say a lot about just how western this last third of the state has felt. It's almost as if we passed some magical line across the land that tells you it's time to put your cowboy hat and boots back on. But cowboy boots or no, we're still on the track of playoff hockey!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

From Calm to Crazy

We started the day by going to Itasca State Park, home of the lake in Minnesota where the Mississippi River begins its journey south to the Gulf of Mexico.

The photo isn't quite at the river's source, (though it's certainly still considered part of the headwaters), just a little ways downstream, where it takes its first bend. Aside from the occasional buzzing mosquito, the place was about as peaceful as you could imagine.

We walked around, took lots of pictures, chatted a bit with the other few visitors there (such a treat to be a tourist during off-season -- no crowds), and lolled away a few hours.

By late afternoon, we were looking for a campsite -- this time one with Cable as necessary component (usually not even on our agenda), as the Canucks were about to play their opening game in the Stanley Cup Finals.

One by one, we ticked various campgrounds off our list, either by phone call or paying a visit in person. When we came upon our last-chance site, we discovered that the park where the campsite was located had suffered from the recent spate of terrible weather. The river running beside it had overflowed its banks by many feet. Many trees appeared to be growing out of the water, they were so immersed.

Huge tree branches were scattered everywhere -- hard to see in this snapshot out my window, but there's a giganto branch torn out of its tree, lying on the ground. And wouldn't you know, the wind damage to the trees happened during a storm on Monday night, the same night we were wondering whether we should run from the Rattler to the safety of our campground's washrooms.

Anyway, when that campsite proved to also not have Cable, well, we wussed out and found ourselves a motel room and even treated ourselves to the luxury of an ordered-in pizza. But the team's opening game made the added expense well worth it.

The experiences of the day also reminded me of how very glad I am that we decided to buy the Rattler, rather than having this be a 'tenting' tour (as we'd originally planned). By this time, we would have had to spend many nights tucked into the dry warmth of hotels. Instead, we've been comfy and warm, and continue our route steadily west.