Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Retiring as Road Warriors

We keep adding to the annals of impossible trips.  This one was a doozie, and I think it has inspired us to retire from long travel days and especially from pulling trailers!
We are trying to relocate from our winter home in Georgia - after about 20 years of accumulating stuff down there.  Our home down there is similar to ours here in Washington State - property to be taken care of and lots of necessary tools.  Our favorite tool both places is a Kubota tractor.  The one in Georgia is newer and bigger and we began to harbor ideas of bringing it to Washington.  Our son loaned us his flat bed trailer, and we took it to Georgia with our nearly retired Dodge Dakota pickup.  
Taking the shortest (and surprisingly, the less high mountains) route from Washington to Georgia brought us to 6600' and snow in the air and along the edges in Montana on our way south.
Georgia in May is beautiful - and it smells lovely too - Magnolia trees in full bloom, corn in the farms is already 4' tall, and cotton planting is underway.
Sunsets are beautiful, but the sun is setting much further to the north than where we see it in the winter.  We repaired the dock, mowed the extra lots, cleaned house, met with neighbors, and then loaded up the tractor for our trek home after five days there.
Oh my, this is a bigger and heavier load than we planned for - kind of like telling a 75 year old woman that we had signed her up for a marathon. we go!  In the back of both of our minds was our son's promise to come and rescue us if necessary.
The first day we cleared four of the five major cities we had to go through:  Montgomery, Birmingham, Nashville, and St. Louis.  Frazzled and tired, but still in daylight, we stopped for the night just west of St. Louis after this bottleneck over the river where I-70 was narrowed from 5 lanes to ONE.  
By combining our potty breaks with stops for fuel and to eat another truck stop meal, we managed to clear the last big city (Kansas City) and get onto I-90 the second day.  So far so good!
We stopped at a beautiful lodge/hotel (with truck parking) in Murdo SD for our second night.  They had a great taxidermy display and western theme throughout - and a pool and hot tub where I swam laps and Ron soaked.  This curious sign was on one of the out buildings.  Still plodding along and still uneventful....

As we began the uphill trek through western South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, our poor old truck began to complain and both of us were wondering how far we could get before we had to call Tony to the rescue.  

When we were at 6400' in slow traffic in another construction zone, I saw clouds of smoke as I looked back to check the trailer.
"Are we smoking??"  I asked.  
"We've blown our engine!" Was Ron's response as he pulled over about 500 feet from the top of the pass just outside Butte where I had already booked a room for the night. (Both of us always go immediately to what I call the "cancer option" - like when you see a small bump and immediately assume it's cancer.)

We let the truck cool off, and Ron added the water and antifreeze that he had brought along, and the truck started right up.  We carefully drove the 6.3 more miles to our hotel with no further problem.  Neither of us slept very well - and I emailed Tony to let him know what was going on.  We were REALLY wondering how much further we could go before getting rescued.  Fortunately, we had already gotten past the worst elevations, and were within a day away for Tony.  

We heated up once on a pass just outside Coeur de Alene, ID, and I called Tony to see if he could meet us in Wenatchee as we didn't think our old truck would be able to climb either Stevens or Snoqualmie Pass with the trailer.  The trip to Wenatchee went well as we had no more hills to climb. Tony and Tina arrived about 15 minutes after we did and took over our trailer load.  Our truck did just fine once we lightened its load and we arrived safely yesterday evening, thanks to having kids who were willing to drop everything to rescue us!

Tony's truck:  a much better option!  At the beginning of the trip, I thought the trailer would be the weak link, then after we got going with the tractor loaded, I began to think the truck was the weak link.  However, at the end, I realized that WE were the weak link!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Eastern Washington in May

I think all of the mountain passes across the Cascade Mountains in Washington State are "scenic byways".  We went to Tonasket to visit family this past weekend, and enjoyed the views on two of these passes.  This is a view of Tumwater Canyon just west of Leavenworth on  Stevens Pass, US Highway 2.
The water in all the rivers is high - snow pack is going fast so not much snow even at the top of the pass.
Wild flowers are in full bloom and cover the hillsides.
Balsam Root in yellow and brown, lupine in purple, and all kinds of low growing flowering plants are so beautiful at this time of year.
Flowers are even popping out of the rocky hillsides.
Everything is so green and pretty and the temperature is about perfect.  It's a lovely time of year!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Oso Two Years After the Slide

While still alarming to see the side of a mountain that slipped into the river and across a major highway, signs of life are returning to the area.

A gate keeps the public away from the slide area, but
a small parking lot at the site allows people to stop and see the slide area, pay their respects, take pictures, and walk through the trees that have been planted to commemorate the lives of the people who were lost in the slide.
A memorial plaque tells the story of the slide.