Saturday, April 19, 2008

I've discovered that being at home has it's advantages!

For instance:

When you look out the window, there are no dolphins or otters to distract you. And the view is always the same, so you don't need to bother looking.

And: With two big sinks and a lot of dishes, you hardly ever have to do the dishes - as long as you can find something fairly clean.

With three litter boxes for Harley ... see above.

Internet is always available and shows up on a 22" LCD monitor.
If your waterbed heater is not working, you can always sleep in the spare room.

There is no annoying water dripping off the roof; it is frozen in silent icicles.

You don't have to depend on "The Trailer Hitch RV Center" in Pismo Beach for light or heat.

You can wear clothes you haven't had to for months; Long johns, toques, heavy mitts, snow boots.
No Mexican lady bothers you in the morning with hot tamales.
You have an $800 propane bill for heating the house when you weren't here.
Compare that with $104 of propane I used while on the road. If you are taking notes, it looks like I could save $700 (and the planet) if I spent more time on the road! Hmmm ...

Ice makes pretty designs on the wheels of your truck.
Those sand bags cluttering up the basement, can be tossed into the back of the truck where they belong.
It doesn't matter if you forget sunscreen.

While I was glad to get the truck and camper home without getting coated in snow and ice like last year, and I was glad to find a bare driveway and sidewalk, that has all changed!

We got a big dump of snow which has now covered the camper and the driveway and the sidewalk. Half of the highways in the area have been closed, and the ones that weren't closed did a good job getting rid of any vehicles going too fast.

Harley has more than one sink to play in!

The sun doesn't get in your eyes.

In spite of the appearances, the bears are back and the early robins are here. Not sure if the robins will survive this cold spell as they try to huddle on warm(er) pavement or around building foundations.

We have a good sized grizzly who walked through the edge of town while searching the railroad tracks for spilled grain. More of his friends will be around soon.

So you can see, there really are a lot of advantages to being home. I think I'll stay here for a long time.
At least until my next days off!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Welcome back to Canada!

I don't know if she was officially 'homeless', but I spotted at little Oriental lady in the alley collecting cans and bottles, so I donated my accumulated supply. We were 'camped' for the night at the Walmart in Oak Harbor. There are not a lot of good boondocking sights around there, and the one that looked good on Google Earth had a military checkpoint, and was obviously not open to the public. But I had some shopping to do, and found a useable wi-fi signal, so it worked out fine.
Morning was overcast and cool, and I had been watching my calendar, and decided that heading north again was the best option.
I looked around a bit at a Camping World store in Burlington, which is back on the mainland and on Interstate 5. Then I found the HobbyTown USA store in Bellingham, where I stocked my hangar with helicopter parts, for the eventuality that my r/c helicopter might at some point have an unplanned, or 'hard' landing!
I headed for the border, but not before stopping to buy some last minute 'cheaper' US gas to fill the tank.
As a result of the recent purchases, I upgraded my 'loot' estimate at the border, but had no hassle there after an only 10-15 minute lineup. The border guard was more interested in my camping on the Mexican beaches than he was about the beer that I could not purchase at the Safeway in Lynden, Wa, because of a town ordinance against Sunday sales of liquor!
But I must say that coming up with an accurate estimate is difficult as you have to try to remember things you bought over two months ago, and may have been using ever since. I did not try to calculate the amount of cat litter left in the box, or the number of strawberries yet uneaten. But as I said it was not a problem and I stopped just north of the line to swap out the US cash and coins in my wallet, for the much more convenient Canadian version.
Then it was direct to Tim Horton's for some good coffee!

If I had known my friends in the Brent Lee Band were playing at the Big B Saloon in Mission the night before, I might have tried to run the border earlier, but I didn't, so that's that!

Anyway, watching the calendar count down, and noting the weather was kind of cool and drab, I decided to keep heading east towards Alberta, after dumping my tanks in case of freezing weather ahead.

The coquihalla highway was bare and wet, but there was a lot of piles of whitish stuff near the summit. I saw these small vehicles which appeared to be driven on the surface of such stuff. It was all starting to come back to me now.

The 'welcome home' was emphasized when I saw the price of gas, which was $1.22/liter in Kamloops with my Shell discount, and $1.26 in Revelstoke and Golden. If the Google conversion is correct, that works out to about $4.70/ gallon in the US.

I spent the night in Revelstoke, then headed up Roger's Pass on the last leg home. I knew from the Roger's Pass web cam that the road was bare and wet, but I met a convoy of army and Parks staff headed down the road, no doubt to conduct some avalanche control work. They were behind me, so I was not worried about delays, but I was worried when I noticed that oncoming vehicles had snow-encrusted grilles and headlights! I thought it was supposed to be spring? I tried to flag down some high-flying geese and tell them to turn back!
When I saw some more of those 'over-snow' vehicles being towed on the road, I knew that home could not be too far away.

It didn't resemble any of the RV convoys I had seen in Mexico, but I did see a flock of campers headed down the road, so perhaps spring was not that far off? We call them 'campers' or truck campers, but I found out in California at least they are referred to as 'slide-ins' or 'cab-overs'.
There was one more bridge to cross as it were, and that is the big, very high 'Park' bridge as they call it, east of Golden on the #1 highway. I did not burn the bridge behind me, as I plan to go back before long. The pics do not do it justice, but there is no where to pull off for a decent shot. It's 405 meters long, and really high!

Here is one I found online, taken from below.

But just to make up for my lack of pics, I have provided some additional stuff for you to look at, if you have the time.
Here is a YouTube video someone made with a good view of the construction from below on the old highway.
And a musical YouTube view of driving over the bridge from the top. When driving over the bridge it is so wide and the railings are so high that there is really no feeling of height. But when you see it from below ...
Yet another video from below while under construction - with a Creedence soundtrack!
Okay, if you are really bored, you can watch this BC government's 150th birthday video - which happens to have a clip of the bridge included.
As I pulled into the home neighborhood, I could see that winter had not entirely left yet,

But look at that; my driveway was bare!
It was 11:40 AM. My odometer showed that the truck had traveled 11,905km, not including distance on the ferry!

It had been 73 days, 7.5 hours since we were last parked in this driveway.

We have now spent 32 days in Canada in 2008, 21 days in Mexico, and 51 days in the US.

It will be the end of June before we will have spent as much time around home as away, and the same time till we have spent (suffering) under a stick roof, compared to the freedom of the camper.
But, have no fear, the camper will be going places during the summer on my days off, and the blog will keep going as usual, but with updates a little more sporadic, depending on when photogenic things happen at work or in the area.

And Harley and I will be hanging out, planning our next expedition. I hope you have enjoyed the ride along with us. Stay tuned.

Photo: T. Damm

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I don't know what is up with Internet Explorer, but I must say that viewing this blog with it is less than satisfying! It insists on displaying random bits of html code that it should not. If you use a browser like FIREFOX, at least the presentation is proper, though I can never vouch for the content! So, use Firefox, eh!

Birds, Bikes, Boats & (more) Bridges!

Beverly Beach State Park is getting the highway bridge replaced right in front of the campground, and they have made a lot of progress from when I headed south in February. It looks like they are almost ready to start putting some road deck in place.
They have a temporary bridge built in the background to keep traffic flowing during the two year project.

This small slope overlooking Cape Lookout (how appropriate) State Park appears to be a hang gliding and/or paragliding launch spot as there are bits of flagging on convenient sticks and branches all around.

These photos from Cape Lookout State Park, near Tillamook, Or.

This homeowner on the coast near Cape Lookout State Park apparently does not want visitors. Not satisfied with a normal chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, this place has rolls of razor wire on top of the fence. And the little booth by the gate has a security camera in it. Perhaps this is the Conrad Black prison?

There are other nice houses here who did not feel the need for razor wire - or even a fence.

One last bridge. This is the one over the Columbia River at Astoria Oregon. The far end of the bridge is in Washington state.

Last night I crossed the Columbia River at Astoria, Oregon, and came across this rest area on the Washington side. See what it is named, and see if you have any idea what it means. I know I didn't. Answer at the bottom!

The birds were hard to get photos of. They were either too small, or too far away for any decent pics! I was camped on a dike along the Palix river in NW Washington state, and the tide comes up the river right to where I was camped.

In the morning, large flocks of little shorebirds were flitting about in fine formation, feeding in the very shallow water as the tide receded. And high up above were long V's of Canada geese headed north to you-know-where. Close by, there were chickadees, hummingbirds and blackbirds.

Last night there was a huge chorus of frogs singing so loudly, that they almost drowned out the sound of the nearby gunfire!

You will be glad to know that at least 10 Harley Davidson's were NOT on the roads of western Washington today. I know that because I counted at least 999,990 that were. Maybe this is the first nice weekend they have had here, but it was sunny and nice and the roads were packed with bikes. No space for bike pics.

The Coast Guard seems to have everything in hand on the Pacific coast. I was watching this CG cutter headed north up the coast - where it eventually stopped to check or service a navigational buoy. Almost at the same time, the CG helicopter headed south on it's regular patrol of the coast. See video below.

And finally, more boats!

This time we took the ferry from Port Townsend over to Whidby Island
You might recognize the truck.

We played chicken with this large container (?) ship named Grand Venus. I guess our ferry knew it was being intimidated and we let it go by in front of us.

I did Google the name of the ship but did not come up with much other than the fact that it is registered in Panama - which is common. I did find some 'pilot' records of it in the Vancouver area, as well as some in the Arab emirates, but nothing recent or interesting.

The Answer:

The Megler Rest Area is located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 15, downstream of Megler Point. This area once use to be the terminus of the Ilwaco Railroad and a ferry landing, complete with a waterfront restaurant (see more below). All that remains today are wood pilings in the Columbia, best seen in Megler Cove (on the downstream end of the Rest Area). Megler Cove was the location of Lewis and Clark's campsite of November 12-14, 1805, refered to by the men as "Dismal Nitch". In 2004 this area became part of the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks, a grouping of sites important in the Lewis and Clark story.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

B&B’s this time.

Nope, not Bed & Breakfasts, but (more) Bridges and Boats!

I was not finding much in the last day or two to temp my camera, except more bridges.

I think the first one I saw was at Reedsport.

Then we got into Newport and found the really big one. We also looked around a bit at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, but it was a bit late in the day to do it justice, so we’ll visit it another time.

While about to walk out on a very long fishing pier, a pretty large boat was seen coming in from the ocean, under the bridge and into the harbour. I got there just in time to get a bit of video of it coming under the bridge. But then, it stopped right inside the harbour that looked bit small for it, and spun about, and headed right back out under the bridge, and myself who was now out at the end of the pier.

A couple of guys who were pulling crab traps there did not know anything about the boat, so when I got back to headquarters (the camper) and the internet, I checked out the name of the boat from my photos!

We also joked about how many miles/gallon a boat like that would get, or rather, gallons/mile. Below gives an estimate of gallons per day at least.

And here is what I found.

MT. MITCHELL, commissioned in 1968, had been in service as a Hydrographic Survey Ship with the NOAA. She was completely refurbished and updated by GLOBAL SEAS and put back into service in 2004. This significant modernization to the highest SOLAS, ABS and USCG standards provides an unmatched habitability standard for crew and scientific compliment. During this most recent dry dock, the MT. MITCHELL completed a rigorous five year ABS special survey. This unique, state of the art vessel boasts comfortable berthing for up to 47 non-crew personnel, a large galley with a 38-seat mess hall, a comfortable lounge, multiple computer and lab spaces with high-speed data connections, among other amenities. There are over 3,000 sq feet of working deck space accessible by a 15-ton pedestal crane, a 32ft. launch, and an articulating A frame.

GENERAL Hailing Port: Ketchikan, Alaska

Flag State: USA (Official Number), USCG Certificate of

Inspection, Subchapter U, SOLAS Compliant

Classification ABS Maltese Cross A1 AMS, ACC

Call Sign: WDA 9674

Designer: MARAD

Builder Aerojet General in Jacksonville, FL. Completed in 1967.

Refit/Upgraded in 2002 in Port Arthur, TX

DIMENSIONS Length Over All: 231 ft. (70m)

Breadth: 42 ft. (12.7m)

Draft, Mean: 13 ft. (3.9m)

Draft, Max: 15 ft. (4.5m)

PERFORMANCE Cruising Speed: 12.5 knots

Flanking Speed: 14.0 knots

Range: 10,925 nautical miles

Fuel Consumption: Appx. 2,000 USG/day

Endurance: 45 days

Gross Tonnage: 1,453 ITC, 1591 Regulatory

Net Tonnage 436 ITC, 578 Regulatory

Light Ship


1,289 tons

PROPULSION Main Engines: (2) EMD/567C 1200 H.P. Each General Motors Diesels.

Propellers: (2) Bird-Johnson Controllable Pitch, (3) Blade, 8.5ft dia.

Bow Thruster: (1) Detroit Diesel 8V71, 350 H.P., 5,000 lb. Thrust,

Controllable Pitch Propeller, Philadelphia Gear Drive


A photo of the bottom of the ship - and no, I did not take it!

And a photo of the type of work it is capable of. (from their web site)

While perusing the news and weather from back home, I came across these news photos of a really big dump of snow in Calgary. Can’t wait to get back there.

Ya, right!

Back to the bridge. It was apparently built from 1934 till it opened in 1936, and was the only way to travel along the coast without having to resort to ferries to cross the river. Another amazing feat for the time. Not many computer simulations or lasers to help plan this one. I wonder if they had ‘slide-rules’ back then, or if it was all calculated long hand?

And, after all that research, and learning that the bridge was a mere 72 years old, I decided that it must be safe to drive across it!

Don’t forget to check out some of the advertisers on this blog. They pay me when you do!

And remember to click on any photo if you wish to see a larger version.

How DO they train the elk to do that?

Or, as one lady put it, "Take down those darn Deer Crossing signs; too many of them are getting killed there"!