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Friday, April 30, 2010

I feel like a pioneer woman, hauling her wagon across the mountains of Montana in crappy weather

A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water. ~Carl Reiner

On Thursday, we woke up to a cold and snowy morning so we quickly packed up to get on the road. I’ve heard from a lot of you that you think our lifestyle is fun. It is. Most of the time. But it’s not ALWAYS fun and games, kids. Like here, when Jim is dumping the tanks in the freezing cold and snow. Not fun.



You may wonder why I am standing outside taking a picture of him doing this. Well, I just finished MY job. We always check lights before taking off. Jim sits in the truck hitting turn signals, brakes, etc., and I stand behind the trailer giving him thumbs up. So I get my chance to freeze, too. I also help guide him when he is backing up the truck to hook on the trailer.

This is typically how I sit in the truck on a cold morning. Blanket around my legs? Check.



Notebook at hand to write down notes? Check.



Camera on lap? Check.



Driver? Ch…..Uh, where the heck is he?



Ah, that’s better.



So we’re off into this snowy day. We haven’t even left the campground when Jim thinks that there’s something going on with the brakes on the trailer. He feels like the wheels are locked or something. The only way he’ll know for sure is if I, MOI, drive the truck/trailer, while he watches.

Uh, HELLO, I have NEVER driven the truck while pulling the trailer. Nevah! I know I should learn, but okay I haven’t yet.

But, really, I only have to drive straight, and I don’t have to go very far.

Jim hopped out of the truck, and I ran around and hopped in.

Okay, baby, don’t fail me now! I moved the seat up a little, released the emergency brake, and put that bad boy in drive. I pulled the trailer! Albeit only a few feet, but still! It’s a start! I saw Jim in the side mirror frantically waving his hands.

I put Big Blue in Park. Jim came up to the truck.

“What? Is everything alright?” I asked him, seeing how he looked like he REALLY wanted me to stop.

“Yeah, everything is fine.”

“Oh.” I think he was a little scared that I’d drive off without him.

Another crappy weather day in Montana.



The weather got progressively worse as we drove East.


What I absolutely DON'T like seeing in my side view mirror - SNOW!



Almost a white out!



It was pretty scary driving over the Continental Divide. We came upon an accident that had just happened in the two lanes going west. A piece of one car had flown into our lanes going east. A car on our side had pulled over and a man had gotten out, picked up the piece and handed it over to the couple standing next to their smashed car. The roads were quite slippery at this point. We had a 6% down grade and I was a nervous wreck!



The truck did slip once and I had visions of the trailer jackknifing. But Jim took it steady and slow, 20-25 mph, in 3rd gear, and we made it down safely. I prayed the whole time. Like I said - it’s not ALWAYS fun and games.

I wondered about this sign. Does this mean it’s your opportunity to SEE an anaconda? To WRESTLE an anaconda? To EAT an anaconda? WHAT exactly?



Funny. The last time I looked at a map, these two places didn't look anywhere NEAR each other!




This sounds like a personal question to me!



This morning I was hoping to wake up to sunny and 70 degree weather, but obviously I was dreaming. It was still wicked cold, windy, and yes, there were snow showers. We did not unhook the trailer from last night, so it was an easy pack up. Miserable in the wet and cold, but fast, anyway.

Our goal today was to drive to Buffalo, Wyoming, which is just south of Sheridan, and spend three days exploring the area. In fact, we already had reservations at a campground there. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. Yeah.

We drove through all kinds of weather - wind, rain, sleet, snow. We might as well have been mail carriers for God's sake! The farther east/south we drove (on Interstate 90), the worse the weather became. The snow fell down harder. There were hardly any other drivers on the road. What did they know that we didn't? Then Jim saw one of those emergency signs lit up on the side of the road right before 90/94 split. It said something about 90 being closed at the border of Wyoming. Say what? If you look at the map here, that is EXACTLY where we were headed.



We didn't have time to think of what to do before the 90/94 split happened, so Jim just continued on 90 while we discussed what to do. We were about 25 miles outside of Billings. We saw a rest stop up ahead and pulled into there. That's when I saw this delightful sign.



Can't read it? I know. I just wanted you to get the whole "essence" of the crappy weather, with the pine tree blowing, the snow flurries, etc. Now I'll zoom in on the sign.



It says, "Rattlesnakes have been observed. Please stay on sidewalks."
Although in this weather, I doubt that there's any rattlesnakes out and about! Not if they were smart anyway!

Jim asked a trucker if he had heard anything about 90 being closed, but he had not. We got out our atlas and found out that there are phone numbers you can call for each state to find out about travel conditions. Jim punched in the number for Wyoming, listened for awhile, then hung up. In a nutshell - roads were too hazardous to drive, yes 90 was closed. On to Plan B. Whatever that was. First we called and canceled our reservations at the campground. They understood since they were in the midst of bad weather. Then I called the Montana State phone number for road conditions on highway 94. That road was okay. Our only choice was to backtrack to Billings and hop on 94 and go east. We are now stopped in a small town off of 94 for a couple of days just to regroup, figure out our plans for the rest of the trip, and do laundry. Hopefully this current weather system that's been following us will pass before we hit the road again.

I didn't realize that gambling was legal in Montana. We stopped at a lot of gas stations that had this sign.



So every time Jim was busy filling up the tank, I wanted to empty my wallet in a slot machine. But I didn't. I controlled myself. It was hard. But I did it.

One other thing. I spied this smiley face on top of an oil refinery. At least someone's happy that the gas prices are going up.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

This, That and the Other - Or I have no clue what to name this post

So, before I leave the Seattle area in my blog, I had some odds and ends to share with you.

This is a little burger stand near the campground in Snoqualmie. It is called Small Fryes. It is known for its burgers and shakes.



But that particular day, I happened to have a taste for a hot dog. I looked at what else was on the menu and was so happy to see that they had "Chicago" hot dogs! I sure do miss them. Usually they are Vienna Beef hot dogs. My mouth started watering just thinking about them. There were a bunch of young men working in the kitchen. One of them was working the order window.

"Can I help you?" He asked pleasantly.

"Yes, I'd like a hot dog, fr.."

"We don't have any hot dogs," he interrupted me.

"WHAT?" I nearly screeched. "You DON'T have ANY hot dogs?"

"Well, we really don't have any BUNS. I could cut up a hot dog into four pieces and put it on a hamburger bun if you want."

Ugh. Doesn't that sound delicious? What is a hot dog without a bun? It's just a wiener without a home.

I put my head down on the counter and pretended to cry. Jim is used to my theatrics. He just stepped up next to me and placed his order. I had to resolve to eat a hamburger. It was good, but not when you have a taste for something else, you know?

This is the inside of Small Fryes.



I love this sign on the side of the building.



We had to drive into the main part of Snoqualmie to the laundromat. I saw many interesting things. Like this monkey tree for instance. Have you ever seen one? This is only the second one I have seen in my life. The first one was at our friends, Vicki and Pat's house. They had one growing on their lot. This is a very odd tree. From a distance it looks like a regular fir tree.



But here is a close up of the branches. They are very sharp and hurt you.


photo courtesy of Wikipedia


This tree was growing next to this house that happened to be for sale. I'd classify this as a "fixer-upper", wouldn't you?



These are what I call "mystery cattle". I've searched the net but can not find out what kind these are. Anybody out there know?



Right across the road from the mystery cows was this sign.



And this little house went with it.



I did a little research and found out that the "All Dogs Go to Heaven" offers cremation services for your deceased pets. She is working with the city on getting a pet cemetery on those five acres.

The pet spa offers a therapy pool for your pet, and various classes you can take from making your own dog food to communicating with your pet. I found it all very interesting. If you want to read more about it, click here.

How many of you remember the TV show Twin Peaks? It debuted in 1990 (can it really be 20 years ago?!) I didn't watch it myself, although I'm tempted now to rent the DVD's and watch them. It was a quirky show and had their own cult followers. Well, many of the outside shots were filmed right in Snoqualmie.

In the pilot, this big old log is shown. The log is still showcased on Main Street.



This is Snoqualmie Falls, which are 268 feet high.





The outside of the lodge (Salish Lodge) at the top of the falls was used in the series, too.

This is the Snoqualmie Train Depot. Tourists can take a 10 mile, 75 minute scenic ride from the depot, to North Bend and back all the way to the top of the falls, for as little as $10 or less. This will definitely be on my list for the next time we visit the area.



This is Woodman's Restaurant that is located behind the depot.


We ate dinner there one night for Jeff's birthday. It was all-you-could-eat rib night so of course, that's what Jim, Jeff, and I ordered. Carol ordered an eggplant dish, granddaughter Lauren had plain mac/cheese, and grandson Colin? Well, he was the smartest of the group. He ordered dungeness crab mac/cheese. You heard me. Okay. So the ribs were fine. Really. But, I asked Colin if he would give Grandma a spoonful of his dish for me to taste. I gave him my boo-boo lip and everything.

"Sure!"

He handed me a spoonful. I brought the succulent crab and noodles to my lips, opened my mouth, and died and went to heaven. OH.MY.GOODNESS. I am NEVER eating regular mac/cheese again. I searched for a recipe for Dungeness Mac/Cheese. There are a few available. Salty's has one. We have eaten at this restaurant. It's a pretty famous one in Seattle so I'd think the recipe has to be a good one. Click here if you are interested.

I've told you before how the Seattleites don't seem to mind the rain. They golfed in the rain a lot. One day we came home from some errands, it was still raining and I saw this scene. Look closely. See anything funny?



The umbrella is not over the GOLFER, but the GOLF CLUBS. Makes sense I guess!

Our time in Seattle had come to an end. We had such a good time with Jeff, Carol and the kids, and Jim's brother, Mark, and his wife, Chris, who is a wonderful, wonderful cook, and our beautiful niece Chloe.

It was overcast when we pulled out Sunday morning. The clouds just hung close to the mountaintops.



These yellow flowers growing on bushes are everywhere in the area - they are not forsythia, either. They remind me of gorse bushes found in Ireland. I just read that they are also in North America. Could they be in Washington? I like this photo because of the blue and yellow - my two favorite colors!



Doesn't this look so desolate? Reminds me of that song, "Miles from Nowhere".



The weather cleared up and big white fluffy clouds appeared. I just had to take a picture of the sky.



Because it reminded me so much of Georgia O'Keeffe's, "Sky Above Clouds IV".



We stopped for a couple of nights in Idaho, rested up, and hit the road again. We did NOT stay here, though. Thought it would cost too much.



Wednesday morning we entered into Montana. The weather wasn't too good. More clouds hanging low in the mountains.



Not too far into the trip this happened.



Look familiar? Yeah. This is the SECOND one since we left Arizona. What is up with THAT? This time it was the rear wheel on the right side of the trailer. Cause a little damage to the trailer again!

When we stopped for lunch we found out that, coincidentally, the tire company that we bought the tires at had a shop nearby. So afterward we hightailed it over there and they gave us a new tire.

We stopped in a teeny, tiny town called Garrison in Montana, where the only thing here IS the campground. It has been cold and windy. Going down to 29 fun loving degrees tonight and they are expecting snow showers. Yippee!

We leave in the morning. And not a minute too soon!

Note: If you look up the word "rambling" in the dictionary, you will find this post. Sorry - I do tend to go on and on.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Can you say Poulsbo?

Last Friday, Jim and I made a trip with my brother-in-law, Mark, to Poulsbo (pronounced Pulls-bow), often called "Little Norway". It is located on the Kitsap Peninsula. First we drove down to Seattle and the docks at Puget Sound to catch a ferry to Bainbridge Island.



The beautiful Seattle skyline from the ship.



Two brave souls on the deck! It was pretty windy and cool out there!



Mural on the side of a building near where we parked.



Brightly colored buildings line both sides of the main street.







Clothes blowing in the wind.



We ate lunch at Tizley's Europub. The food was delish!


photo courtesy of their web site

Jim and Mark waiting for their beer.



I love this little alley with the clothesline strung across it. I think the colorful clothes are staged, but it's still cute.



I spied this "rock fairy" in the window of one of the stores. I could kick myself for not buying it. You KNOW how I love rocks! Isn't it just adorable?



Nearby were these cute little boots.



This is Sluy's Bakery.



Just take a gander at some of the goodies in their window.



We went inside, and I asked Beau, here, to tell us all their specialties.



This is what we bought. One of their specialties is the cinnamon roll with cream cheese in the middle (red arrow). Another is rosette cookies (green arrow). And the third was the fattigman cookies (blue arrow). Recipes are available on line for the rosette and fattigman cookies.



Mural in the bakery



We stopped in a kitchen store and I was so excited to see that they sold Aebleskiver pans! So I bought my own pan. It didn't come with a knitting needle, but the woman who worked in the shop told me that I could use a fondue fork so I picked up one of those. Now I can't wait to try making some aebleskivers. There is some skill involved.

My brother-in-law, Mark. A true Viking!



After we browsed the majority of the shops we took a stroll by the water. The weather was getting progressively worse - the clouds had rolled in, the temperature had dropped, and it looked like it was going to downpour soon.

There is a nice boardwalk along the water that you can walk off your extra calories you ate at Sluy's.



The boats were all tied up neatly in their slips, waiting for a nice day.





I just loved this weathervane that was atop a nearby building.



These benches just called out for people to sit on and stare out at the water.



Poulsbo is a nice little town to visit, although you do have to pay for the ferry ride. From Seattle you pay for the driver, plus all passengers. From Poulsbo it's one flat rate.

Oh, by the way, my favorite of all the goodies we bought from the bakery? The cream cheese filled cinnamon roll. Yum!