August 5 Heading North for Mo’s Family Reunion

Current Location: Rocky Point, OR Breezy and Pleasant at 69F

trip north It was just over two weeks ago when we headed north toward Spokane for Mo’s reunion.  Her family manages to get together every two years and with five siblings, Mo’s turn hasn’t rolled around for almost a decade.  Our last reunion in 2012 was north of Denver in Colorado and we added on a great extended trip that time to visit South Dakota and Wyoming.  Loved that trip that we shared with Mo’s brother Roger and his wife Nancy! If you want to check out our travels through the Black Hills and the Big Horn Mountains, the posts start here.

This time we decided to take advantage of the Inland Northwest location and travel north into British Columbia and do the beautiful circle route along Kootenay Lake.  I was really looking forward to the trip.  When I lived in Coeur D Alene, I would make the trip north every once in awhile and have a special place in my heart for Kaslo.

When we were packing up to leave, conditions around the compound here were hot and smoky from so many fires that were burning.  Some are still smoking, but at least the worst of the fires are out.  It was a bit disconcerting to drive off early in the morning accompanied by the strong smell of smoke and a red sun. We looked at each other and said, “Well, fire could come whether we are here or not, so I guess we will just have to trust that it will be OK”.

There is such a mixture of delight and frustration when I know we are heading out for an extended trip.  Although two weeks isn’t anything like the three month sojourn last winter, I still hate to leave the gardens, the sewing machine, all the myriad life things that keep things interesting around here.  Blooming at home (14 of 28)Everything was looking fresh and the tomatoes were just beginning to ripen. Still, the road calls, and I was excited that we were actually getting on the road again, with some great plans waiting.

Blooming at home (11 of 28)Once again we traveled north on Highway 97, though Bend, to the COE campground at the mouth of the John Day River at LePage adjacent to I-84.  We could make the 529 miles to Spokane in a long day, but there is no reason to do that.  LePage waits, with half price using our senior pass, and hookups to manage the hot temperatures that always seem to accompany our trips in that direction.  I think the last time we camped here was on our way to Alaska in 2011, and it was something like 105F.

 Oregon day 1-9 Of course the heat gave us the excuse to stop at the ice cream shop in Shaniko (Where the West Still Lives) for a cool tasty treat.  I think that is some of the best home made ice cream I have ever tasted.  I’ll have to be sure and remind Sherry and David to try it out if they ever get to Oregon. 

Oregon day 1-8 When we arrived at LePage in late afternoon, it was only 104.  Sure do like having hookups for the air conditioner!  Dinner was simple, and indoors, since the hot wind that was whirling around outside made putting out the BBQ too much trouble.  Time for quesadillas, my go-to meal when I want something quick and good.  The hot wind was a great white noise and with the cool air blowing over us I slept very well.

Blooming at home (5 of 9) The next morning we took Abby for an early swim, walked around the park after breakfast, and readied the rig to meet Mo’s brother Dan and wife Chere at the entrance to the campground.  They were right on time and we caravanned north toward Spokane without incident except for a minor miss in Dan’s engine.  Dan’s Class A is 30 some feet and being a great mechanic he takes care of it himself.  He figured out the problem eventually, but in the mean time we stopped a couple of times to check it out.

Blooming at home (2 of 9) Traveling north on 84 to 82, and then 395, crossing the river in Kennewick, and then continuing north towards Spokane is a bit of a puzzle if you aren’t used to the route.  Having done the road a bazillion times, I still have to watch the GPS to remember which lane to be in to make the proper turns.  Mo was sure there had to be a more direct way north, but there isn’t.  Gotta get across the river and across a few interstates before 395 continues toward Spokane.

tricitiesWe never seem to spend much time in Tri Cities, just passing through.  Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland are all clustered along the Columbia and Snake Rivers and are famous for the big jet boat races every year.  The area has grown exponentially, with huge housing developments, lots of big shopping, and lots of traffic.  Good wineries abound, and it can be hot in the summer.  I know there is a lot to see and do in the area, but I have never had the inclination to do so.  Deanna and Keith (trucker daughter and her husband) stay there when they are on home time, with Keith’s brother who has a beautiful house in Kennewick along the river.

Riverside SP (3 of 5) We arrived at Riverside State Park in Spokane around 3, and it was 99 degrees F.  There always is a bit of confusion about exactly how to get to the campground area of the state park, and if you use a GPS, don’t count on it.  If you put in Bowl and Pitcher, you might have better luck, but either way the GPS will try to take you down through the golf course parking lot, down a very narrow street, around a very sharp right turn onto another narrow street to get to the campground.  After being there a few days we discovered it was a LOT easier to go north to Rifle Range road and out Francis Blvd no matter where we wanted to go in town.Riverside State Park

Brother Don and his wife Wynn were in charge of the festivities this year, and they came down to the park as folks began to arrive to make sure we were all settled in comfortably before bringing in something like 20 pizzas for everyone to share.  It was great fun seeing more than 30 Oukrops all together in one place. First night at Riverside Oukrop Reunion (3 of 15) First night at Riverside Oukrop Reunion (4 of 15)

Next:  The Oukrops descend on Silverwood and Boulder Beach Theme Park in Northern Idaho

Day 40 August 14 Visiting old friends Bonners Ferry Idaho to LePage Oregon

Day 40_5381Waking up to gorgeous sunny skies and toasty temperatures, the four of us decided that Sunday brunch beside the Kootenay River would be a great way to share some good times before we continued on our way home. The casino in Bonners Ferry is beautifully situated along the river and the “everything” veggie omelette was wonderful.  We finally left our good company at ten, and pointed the MoHo south on 95, through Sandpoint, toward Coeur d’Alene. 

some haze from fires along the Kootenay River in Bonners FerryI lived in the Coeur d’ Alene area for more than 30 years and coming back always feels like coming home. I have so many memories of those landscapes. Some of those memories are of my children growing up, some are of happy times at the lakes and rollercoasters with my grandsons, others are of the years I spent driving all the back roads and working the mountains. I never fail to feel a bit nostalgic when I am in Northern Idaho, yet as much as I love it, I know I was a different “me” back then.  I don’t think I could go back.

Of course I have old friends there, but none quite so dear as my friend Laura.  Although her kids were the same age as my grandkids, we have great memories of them sharing egg gathering, garden dirt, and summer lakeside playtimes when Coeur D’Alene was one of the loveliest places in the world.  I looked forward to seeing Laura on this sunny summer Sunday.

Laura and I have been friends since the early 80'sAmong many other things, we especially enjoyed shared gardening, our horses, camping trips with our women’s group, and cooking together. With so many miles between us, we don’t get together often, but when we do it is just so wonderful.  Heart friends, that’s what we are.   Laura is married to Alvin, a homebuilder in Coeur d’Alene, and he had some sad stories about the homebuilding industry in the last four years, but good news is that he just finished a beautiful home for some doctor. According to Alvin, the doctor even had trouble getting financing, and the rules and regs associated with building the house were far more daunting than they had been in the past when dealing with the financing companies.  Interesting stuff.

Day 40_5392The best part of the mid-day visit however, was the fun getting lost in Laura’s crazy gardens.  Laura laughingly called herself a “garden hoarder”, and I think she is right.  Lush, crazy, out of control gardening at its finest.  Laura is a respiratory RN at Deaconess in Spokane, and I’m not quite sure how she manages her acre of garden insanity while working full time and taking care of her little granddaughter.  We had a lovely lunch of garden goodies, topped of with some iced herbal tea while catching up on stories about old friends, family, kids, and grandkids.  It was a great way to make a long drive a bit more fun.

Laura and hubby Alvin in the kitchen he builtBy the time we left Laura’s it was close to 2 in the afternoon, and we decided that we were going to just drive until we reached the Columbia River.  It put us ahead of time an extra day, without the night in Spokane that we originally planned, and that sounded great to both of us.

We drove through the dry, open, dusty farmlands of eastern Washington, negotiated the winding ramps and exits of the Tri-Cities on 395 and fought the winds on I-84 along the Columbia River.  Our favorite little overnight spot at the LePage COE campground had number 11 open and waiting, even without a reservation.  Half price at ten bucks for electric and water is a deal for sure.  Again, it was hot and we really wanted power, but once we settled in the breezes started up in full force and we cooled down for a good night’s sleep before starting the last leg home. We started the trip with the first night out in LePage and spent out last night on the road here as well.

Capture 359 milesMiles driven today:  359

The rest of the photos from this day are linked here