Monday, July 25, 2011


I love traveling west on Hwy. 2. I guess I just love traveling west period. It brings back so many memories and always creates more. It started in the 50’s and 60’s with my folks. Traveling with another family, our little caravan of trailers would stop every 50 miles in some little burg. The adults would set out lawn chairs on the side of the road and the kids would let off enough steam to contain themselves for another 50. The subtle changes in landscape tell you how far west you have progressed. I am always looking at the western horizon anticipating the first glimpse of snowcapped peaks in the front range. You don’t see the peaks of Glacier National Park until you leave Cut Bank, MT and head west into Blackfeet country. It is a land that captured me at age 10 or 12 and never let go. My parents let us run the trails and explore the many National Parks of the West. We were never burdened with the fear that so many people bring with them today. I have spent years wandering the backcountry of Glacier and never tire of it’s grandeur.
Traveling west we pass broken down historic sod-roofed cabins slowly surrendering back to the land. I picture the family of immigrants that carved it out of this vast prairie. I am also reminded of all the agony thrust upon the Native Americans as we pass through the various reservation lands. The struggle to hold the land is ongoing. Spring 2011 was devastating to Minot, ND. Historic flooding creating life-changing challenges for many.
But as I drive the long days across the flat prairie states my mind is revisiting my dad promising ten gallon hats, horseback riding, snow in the mountains, grizzly bears and bighorn sheep.
The Empire Builder with it’s many passenger cars passes us eastbound out of Glasgow, MT. I stick my arm out the window and make the motion of pulling on a air horn. It always worked for my dad. I must have an ornery engineer. I get no response. Maybe there are new rules over fifty years of time and train travel. Perhaps the engineer is no longer permitted to give a short blast to friendly passing travelers. We were usually headed for a big annual Airstream Travel Trailer Rally in Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, the Seattle Worlds Fair or Cheyenne Wyoming.
Gaila and I still today like to find little out of the way overnight stops. In my parent’s day it could be anything from A&W Root Beer stands to a friendly gas station owner, an empty farm field or a motel parking area. There were few trailer parks then and zero RV parks. Today there are numerous RV parks but we rarely partake. We prefer finding small town city parks. Our first night in Montana we find just such a park in Culbertson, MT. It is just a small city park on a dead-end residential street. A small parking lot actually. It has restrooms, a dump station, picnic tables and friendly neighbors with kids and dogs and lawn mowing. We wonder why they want to put up with a new group of traveling strangers every night but we find this in many small communities about the West. We spent the night with a couple from Vancouver, Canada who tucked their motorcycle in behind our rig and set up their tent. During the night a few more stragglers meander in quietly and spend the night. Like most, this is a free, safe place to circle the wagons for the night. Change comes slow across the prairie. Life is slow moving at a steady pace. The land is vast, the horizon endless, just like the old movies playing in my head as I roll through.
--Keep Smilin’, Dick E. Bird

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


We’re home! It’s a beautiful Michigan morning and Oleo Acres (the cheaper spread) never looked better (my parents mowed and weeded)! It was great driving home by way of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We stopped early along the shores of Lake Michigan and relaxed on the last night of our trip. We enjoyed the cool breeze and a refreshing dip in the lake and had pasties for dinner. We knew when we got home we would have to hit the ground running. We have so much to do before the cold weather sets in. 

It was a very hot ride across the U.P. We would travel in the early morning hours because the compressor on the motor home was giving us trouble. We couldn’t run the air conditioner because it made a horrible noise and Dick didn’t want to put any more stress on the compressor. Fortunately, we made it home without breaking down. 
The trip was interesting in more ways than one. People have asked what were the hi-lights. For me it was the people we met and the time we spent with friends and family. Also, visiting the National Parks and enjoying the natural beauty of our country. 
What have I learned from this nine months on the road? I’ve realized that I need to even out my time away and time home. I’m not a full-time RVer. I would be just fine with a few months away in the winter and a couple of months in the summer.
We missed our Michigan friends and family and want to catch up with you. Give us a call or email and we’ll plan a time to get together, or stop in if you're passing by. It’s good to be back.
P.S. We also missed our dogs - we're back in the dog-sitting business.


After exploring the North Cascades along scenic Hwy 20 in Washington, we headed for Montana to Glacier National Park. This place is so beautiful. The campgrounds were filled with vacationers, but we didn’t have to go far to experience solitude and quiet. Sitting next to the lakes in the early morning, drinking coffee, was a daily routine. There were a few hardy people swimming in the glacial fed waters but I would only go in so far to cool off. From the campground we’d walk or ride bikes on paved trails to West Glacier or Apgar Village. 
While on the West side of the park, Dick went on a solo backpacking trip for six days and covered nearly 80 miles. PICTURES OF DICK'S HIKE He always hikes alone. I’m used to that, but in this wilderness it concerns me. In the 16 days we were at Glacier, we heard of several grizzly bluff charges, including Jack Hanna - the zoo man JACK HANNA STORY (we were told later this was a young cub just trying to get past him to his mama). We also heard about the grizzly killing near Yellowstone. GRIZZLY NEWS Not only can the bears be a threat, but moose and landslides and glacier crossings etc... Dick says, “any bear pub is good pub because it keeps people out of the backcountry.”
There was an abundance of wildflowers and huckleberries. I’m sure there are more bear encounters when the thimbleberries are ripe. The woods are thick with  thimbleberry bushes lining both sides of the trails. We never saw a grizzly the whole time we were in the park - only scat. In the campground areas I did see some black bears along the trail and on the hillsides. Up at Logan Pass we loved watching the goats and sheep. We were very excited when a fisher ambled across the trail on the way to Avalanche Lake. Everyone else saw moose but us.
The morning we planned to move to Two Medicine on the East side of the park, I woke to find the window screen open about six inches. I sat up and counted cat heads. One was missing! Sheba had decided to go on a morning hunt. The squirrels and birds were always teasing her at the end of her leash and I think she was determined to get one. I was frantic when I remembered I had taken her collar with I.D. tag off the night before. We searched for about an hour and then as I passed the woods two loops down, I heard a bird making irritated noises at something. I decided to call for Sheba and heard this tiny meow saying, “go away, I almost got him.” She was crouched under a bush. It was still early enough to move to Two Medicine, but then we couldn’t get the motorhome started. So we stayed at Apgar another day while the solar panel charged the battery. 
You’re lucky if you get a camping space this time of year. We arrived at Two Medicine the next morning and got a beautiful spot overlooking the lake with Mt. Sinopah in the background. The aroma from the spruce and balsam was wonderful. 
Last year when Dick hiked I went to Pat Hagan’s Ranger Program. It was so good. We were lucky enough to attend two of his programs. He is a riot. Very humorous while teaching us about the mountain goat and birds of the park. You have to see it to believe it. We bought his book Seasonal Disorder. INFO ON PAT HAGAN'S BOOK
A couple times, at the evening campfire programs, we heard members from the Blackfeet and Kootenai tribe share information about their culture, traditions, and personal connection to Glacier National Park and really enjoyed Blackfeet singer and story teller, Jack Gladstone. 
Dick hiked another two days in the Southeast part of the park. I drove him 40 miles to the Nyack trailhead where he would need to cross the Flathead River. He was advised not to try crossing this time of year due to high and fast water. He would be hiking through woods to the first river crossing. He didn’t want me waiting around to see if he crossed. He said if he couldn’t make it across he would hitchhike back to the campground. It was raining when I dropped him off and it rained all night. I was all snug and dry in the motorhome. The next morning I sat up in bed and looked out the window and there was a perfect full rainbow across the lake. I grabbed my jacket and camera and took pictures. What a beautiful morning, so quiet and peaceful. Almost everyone was still asleep in the campground. When Dick made it back to me late that day, he said the river was a “three crotch crossing.”  Sounds like so much fun doesn’t it?
I enjoyed hiking with groups on Ranger led hikes. No bear sightings, but claw marks on trees and fur where they scratch their backs. BEAR SCRATCHING BACK ON TREE  I enjoyed hiking with groups that didn’t wear bear bells and holler “hey Bear” or clap their hands every five minutes. The ranger tells people bells don’t work and the way you can tell black bear scat from grizzly scat is the grizzly scat has bells in it. Hiking with a group is safe enough that you don’t need to worry about making noise to warn the bears. On one of the walks we watched a beaver carry a tree branch downriver. Amazing creatures.
It was difficult to leave this beautiful place but we knew it was time. My parents are camped at the Ole’ E Ranch in Acme, and Maggie is in Traverse City now. If we didn’t have those two main reasons to head east, we would have probably inquired about being the campground hosts for the rest of the season. 


“You can get so used to certain luxuries that you start to thinking they’re necessities, but when you have to forgo them, you come to see that you don’t need them after all. There is a big difference between needing things and wanting things - though many people have trouble telling the two apart.” - Anonymous
After leaving northern California, we took our time traveling up beautiful Hwy 101 through Oregon and Washington. Spectacular views of the rocky coastline, sea stacks, lighthouses, wildflowers, surfers, kite flyers (the Oregonians love their state), sea life and sunsets. The Oregon State parks are beautiful with trails leading to the beaches. One of my favorite areas was north of Florence. The beautiful Heceta Head Lighthouse, the one you see on so many calendars, and the famous sea lion caves. What interesting creatures. It was fun looking down on them basking in the sun on the rocky ledges from the scenic overlooks (that’s them on the rocks in the slideshow). Also, Cannon Beach with the famous, 235 ft high, Haystack Rock jutting out of the ocean. 
Our last stop, before crossing the four mile bridge across the Columbia River into Washington, was Lewis & Clark National Park Fort Clatsop. Crossing this bridge reminded us of the straits of Mackinaw and the Mackinaw Bridge in Michigan.
 In 1978, when we first traveled this route, we stayed at a free campground called “The Promise Land”. We remember driving through the coastal fog and being relieved to find a place to get off the road for the night. It was the perfect haven with free electric hookup. It truly was “the promise land”. We hoped to camp there this trip. It was not at all like we remembered, so we kept on truckin’ north to Kalaloch Beach, in Olympic National Park, where we had the best of two worlds, the beach on one side and the spruce forest on the other. 
We passed through the now famous town of Forks on our way to the northern part of the National Park. All you Twilighters know what I’m talking about.  There was “twilight” coffee, twilight tours, twilight you name it. Dick said he planned to stop for some “twilight” gas. The Lincoln Theatre (in downtown Port Angeles) was the one used in New Moon. Days before the showing of Eclipse, third in the series, there were fans lined up and camped in tents all along the sidewalk.
We camped at Heart of the Hills Campground near Port Angeles. This area has always been a favorite to us after living and working in Port Angeles thirty-two years ago. The town has grown a bit, with even a Walmart, but the downtown still has its charm. Dick had hoped to do an overnight hike in the high country, but the trails were impassable because of too much snow. We did several day hikes and especially enjoyed hiking up at Hurricane Ridge in the subalpine meadows; walking among wildflowers with beautiful glacier filled mountain peaks surrounding us. It’s how I imagine the Swiss Alps. I kept belting out the Sound of Music.
I was pleased to hear the park was removing two dams on the Elwha River that have stood since the early 1900s. This will restore salmon to the river and bring the area back to the natural.
We were on our way to visit Maggie in Anacortes. We took the ferry from Port Townsend over to Whidbey Island and north to Washington Park, a city park not too far from her. We would be there over July 4. A total of ten days altogether. Our friend Chuck Woodbury drove up from Edmonds to visit us. We are friends from the newspaper days. He was publishing Outwest Magazine the same years we published The Dick E. Bird News. He and Dick have a lot in common and we had a great day catching up. Chuck now has a website for RVers and has added Dick’s RV Shrink column 
Washington Park has spectacular views when you walk out to the water’s edge. We loved walking by the water at dusk when the sky was saturated with reds and oranges and the seals were playing and fishing off shore. It was magical. Away from the water’s edge it is thickly wooded. We were experiencing grim skies and the sun rarely showed its face for the first five days we were there. Having no sunshine for several days can be a major factor in determining my moods. Getting out of the forested campground helped. Everyone commented that summer doesn’t officially arrive until July 5th. They were absolutely correct. On the 5th it was sunny and summer temps set in, the dark gray waters turned to sparkling blues and you could see the beautiful mountain tops with snow covered Mt. Baker in the distance. 
We visited Maggie, in Anacortes, last September when she was working and living at the Shiphouse Bed & Breakfast. So now we had several more people we were looking forward to seeing again. I’m sure most of you know Maggie moved out to Washington, a little over a year ago, on a whim. During the slow season at the B & B she had another part-time job working at a little lingerie boutique downtown Anacortes. She has loved this area and made so many good friends, but recently made the decision to move back to Michigan. She flew back two days after we left Anacortes. We are happy that we made the decision to visit her again before she moved back home. We enjoyed a couple of campfire picnics with her and her friends. The three of us took an early morning ferry ride through the beautiful San Juan Islands, stopping at Orcas and Shaw Islands. We visited Oggie and Betty, Captain and First mate of the Shiphouse B & B, a few times over the ten days, and on our last day Oggie invited us and several friends over for a wonderful seafood dinner out on his patio overlooking the islands. 
Fortunately, I travel with a man of all trades. The motorhome has given us trouble twice since we left California. Dick had to replace the solenoid in Oregon and the starter in Washington. Towing a car comes in very handy when the motorhome won’t move. We just unhook and drive to the nearest auto parts store. We’ve also been fortunate that both times we were stranded within ten miles of a store and they just happened to have the part we needed, for a 1989 Ford Econoline 350, in stock. 
We are both looking forward to heading east to North Cascades and Glacier National Parks after almost eight months on the road. We first want to explore these beautiful places and Dick wants to do some long distance trips. Our ETA is around mid-August. We’ve been told our neighbor is mowing the lawn. We owe him big time! I’m wondering what my perennial gardens look like. I had a good friend help me get them started and then I abandon them. I have someone checking the house now and then and she says everything looks great and there has been no “mousecapades.” All is well. See you in a month!!
People in the campfire/picnic pictures:
KELLY SITEK (Maggie graduated with her and they were roommates in college and then Kelly moved out to Anacortes last September and they lived together at the B & B).
IAN FEATHERSTONE - Kelly’s boyfriend who is also from Traverse City and moved to Anacortes in February.
KRISTIE RAINCHILD - Maggie worked with her at the boutique and also lived with her for a few weeks before moving back to Traverse City.
LOGAN RAINCHILD - Kristie’s 3 yrs old son. What a cutie. As you can see by the pictures we had loads of fun with him. 


“Treat your family like friends and your friends like family.” - Proverb
After Yosemite we headed for Foresthill, California and parked our motor home in my sister, Kathy's, yard. This was the first time Dick had been here in 13 years. Our original plan was to stay for only five days, but two weeks later we finally left. Kathy and her husband, Pat, spoiled us. We commented that their place was the best campground we’d stayed at in six months. Great company, delicious food, hot-tubbing under the stars, great spot surrounded by beautiful flowers and trees. (Kathy got the green thumb in the family, it’s not among my talents). We played card games and they taught us to play Cribbage which will keep our brains sharp.
Pat manufactures booster pump systems. Dick went to work with him one day. I don’t think he helped much or made them any money. He played with the plasma cutter and came home with his name tag cut out of steel.  
My brother, Joel, and his family live about 30 miles from Kathy and my parents were visiting from Arizona and staying at his place. We were planning to camp at his place at some point, but there wasn’t a space large enough for the motor home. On Memorial Day, Kathy invited everyone for a family reunion. I am the oldest of five. Kathy is five years younger, and Joel is 14 years younger. I have two other brothers who live in Indiana. Unfortunately, we have never been all together in at least forty years. 
The following weekend most of the family went on a camping trip. My parents opted out because they had been down the road that lead to the lake and campground before and said they would never do it again. My brother assured us it was fine and led the way. The motor home was mostly in 2nd gear. There were many curves with several climbs and steep grades and then about 3 miles of potholes. We took it slow and it took us almost three hours to go the 50 miles to the campground. It was worth the effort in getting there. We had the campground all to ourselves and the lake was beautiful with several runoffs from snowmelt. We had three days of more family time - fishing, hiking, campfires and great food and conversation. (We have been sworn to secrecy on giving out info on the campground).
After returning from our camping trip, we took a drive over to wine-country in our Saturn and looked up some friends we hadn’t seen in several years. First stop was Healdsburg to visit Valerie Hansen who we hadn’t seen since 1981. We met her in 1979 when we lived in Port Angeles, WA. I worked with her for a short time. Through the years we have kept in touch. It was great seeing her again and meeting her husband, Larry. Then we visited Becky Gulick. She and her husband, Steve (picture in video of him with the boat he built, and two small children live in Vallejo. We know Becky from Ocala, Florida where we spent several winters beginning in 1978. We worked for her dad at Ocala Breeders Sales (a thoroughbred horse auction). He invited us to meet his family and we were adopted by them and included in on every occasion. They were so good to us. Becky is the youngest of seven kids. We had the best time. What a great family. Lots going on at her house with children, chickens, cats and a dog. She fed us a wonderful meal and it was great catching up and reminiscing. 
It was time to move on up the coast of California and visit Redwoods National Park. My 13 year old nephew, Cameron, went with us for a week. I mentioned in my last blog that he was at Yosemite the same time we were. It was the first time Dick had seen him since he was born. He and Dick got along great. They drove me a little crazy at times but it was good to spend time with Cameron. They went on an overnight backpacking trip, rode bikes, played the guitar etc... We enjoyed exploring the big tree forests and the ocean beaches and tide pools. My brother drove north to pick him up and camped with us for a couple days. It was a long drive, but he had always wanted to experience the area too. He did most of the cooking and made sure we had a campfire every night. It was great to spend time with him. I just wish we lived closer. 
So now we are back to some alone time and heading up the coast of Oregon and Washington, and planning to see Maggie soon. Even though the state has its beauty and we will miss family and friends, we are happy to be out of California. It is a very congested state and it's having a rough time. Homeless people in the cities and even at the backcountry campsites. The price of gas was high because of an added tax, and campgrounds were more expensive than we have ever paid, and in disrepair. Arnold, it turns out, really is the terminator. 


“For me and for thousands with similar inclinations, the most important passion of life is the
overpowering desire to escape periodically from the clutches of a mechanistic civilization. To us the enjoyment of solitude, complete independence, and the beauty of undefiled panoramas is absolutely essential to happiness.” - Bob Marshall

We are so fortunate to have such a variety of natural places in the US. Last December, we visited Padre Island and Goose Island in Texas and it breaks my heart to see what is happening to the Gulf. I can’t listen or watch the news.
We just spent ten days in beautiful Yosemite National Park, which is, understandably, one of the most visited parks in the system and it was already crowded in late May. We could easily get away from the crowds by riding our bikes or hiking. We learned fast to never drive the car. We used the shuttle, walked, or rode our bikes on all the fantastic bike trails. We met so many fun people, all having a good time and enjoying themselves in nature. I was pleased at how quiet the campground was even though they were always full. Everyone seemed respectful of quiet hours except for our first morning in the campground when Dick woke everyone up. (Click here for DICK'S BLOG) I take that back. It wasn’t always quiet at night. There is a Bear Patrol that drives through the campgrounds, shining bright lights into campsites and vehicles, making sure there are no coolers or anything that would draw bears into the area. We were woken a couple times by the patrol shining their lights in our windows and another time around 12:30 a.m. knocking on our motorhome door because we had a cooler in the backseat of the Saturn. There was nothing in it, but the bears don’t know that.
May was a good time to see the park. The rivers and waterfalls were even more spectacular because of the snowmelt. It wasn’t peak snow melt yet and they were monitoring the rivers in case they might have to close part of the campgrounds that were along the river banks. The one hike that was challenging but enjoyable was the hike to Vernal Falls. There is a picture looking down at people at the top of the falls. The steps were cut out of the rock and very steep. Dick went on an overnight hike and climbed Half Dome. That’s challenging enough when the poles that hold the chains are up, but it was too early for that. He did it with just the chain. In the meantime, I’m down at the park library reading Death in Yosemite. Not a good idea. I was concerned after reading the numerous stories about people who had fallen off Half Dome. He made it back just fine, but still is hurting from the strain of pulling on the chain. He was thankful for the power grip gloves left behind by a previous climber. 
Speaking of climbers. Yosemite is a climbers paradise. El Capitan is one of the world’s favorite challenges for rock climbers. We watched several of them scaling the wall face. While we were in the park a young man fell 60 feet landing on a ledge. He lay unconscious until morning when he could be rescued by helicopter. We haven’t heard if he is still alive or not.
We also visited the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias because I wanted to see the famous Wawona Tunnel Tree. A picture of this tree has hung on my parent’s wall for years. In the late 1880‘s, this tree and the California Tunnel Tree were cut to allow horse-drawn stages to pass through. Stories and pictures of this gentle giant traveled around the world. This tree had a larger cavity and could be driven through by all visitors until it fell in the snowy winter of 1969.
My 13 year old nephew just happened to be at Yosemite on a class trip the same week we were. I hadn’t seen him in a couple years but Dick hadn’t seen him since he was a baby. It was going to be like finding a needle in a haystack. We couldn’t believe it when, out of four different campgrounds, we found him in our campground (which had 238 spaces), in the loop next to ours. 
We left Yosemite to go visit my sister and brother and their families for a couple of weeks. To get there we traveled Hwy 49 thru all the cute little Gold Rush towns and Calaveras County where Mark Twain once lived.
I’m happy to hear you’re enjoying the pictures. It’s a good way to show you the beauty of each place we visit.

Friday, November 12, 2010


“When I entered this sublime wilderness the day was nearly done. The trees with rosy, glowing countenances seemed to be hushed and thoughtful, as if waiting in conscious religious dependence on the sun, and one naturally walked softly and awestricken among them.” - John Muir

Getting to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks was not easy. Not only because we had to go out of our way, but because we had to drive through a lot of California traffic to get there. We have always wanted to see these two parks when we traveled through California in the past, but there were always too many obstacles. This time we didn’t let that stop us. Dick gets very uptight driving on expressways and through cities. Being blind in one eye, he has no depth perception and depends on me to help with changing lanes, backing up, etc... I keep telling him to let me drive but that rarely happens. He loves to yell and call people names. The problem is, I’m the one who has to listen to him. Once we arrive and get parked, he is a happy camper - most of the time. I know how much he needs solitude and he is the happiest in the backcountry.
The big trees are amazing. In all the world sequoias grow naturally only on the West slope of the Sierra Nevada, most often between 5,000 and 7,000 feet of elevation. We took several pictures, but it’s hard to capture their immenseness. Kings Canyon is where the Grant Tree (the nation’s Christmas tree) is located. Sequoia National Park has the General Sherman Tree which is the largest living tree in the world, estimated at 2,300 years old. Of course we did several day hikes, exploring the canyons among the big trees. Dick wanted to do an overnight hike but there was too much snow in the high country. As you will see in the pictures there is still quite a bit of snow because of the high elevation, but the springtime weather was beautiful. I will keep this short because a picture is worth a thousand words. 
(the background music for the video is printed below the video)

The Mummers' Dance by Loreena McKinnett

When in the springtime of the year
When the trees are crowned with leaves
When the ash and oak, and the birch and yew
Are dressed in ribbons fair
When owls call the breathless moon
In the blue veil of the night
The shadows of the trees appear
Amidst the lantern light
We've been rambling all the night
And some time of this day
Now returning back again
we bring a garland gay
Who will go down to those shady groves
And summon the shadows there
And tie a ribbon on those sheltering arms
In the springtime of the year
The songs of birds seem to fill the wood
That when the fiddler plays
All their voices can be heard
Long past their woodland days
And so they linked their hands and danced
Round in circles and in rows
And so the journey of the night descends
When all the shades are gone
"A garland gay we bring you here
And at your door we stand
It is a sprout well budded out
The work of Our Lord's hand"