Saturday, August 26, 2006

Lake Creek

Moving right along, "Hello Montana!" Traveling through Kootenai National Forest, we didn't have a destination for the evening, but were hoping to make it relatively close to Glacier National Park. We passed many a roadside rv parks and a dozen signs marking forest creeks. Hmm... decisions, decisions...

We left the highway for "Lake Creek". Seven miles up a dirt road took a good half hour. Well worth it! We hiked a bit, jumped the rocks, splashed some and encountered a heard of wild Pokemon.

Aslin- I like Lake Creek, but there's a lot of bugs. We got to have a real fire and roast marshmallows. There are so many trees! A deer ran across the road but we didn't hit it. There was only one other camper here, he was on a motorcycle.

On bugs- The flies were a bit annoying, but no mosquitoes! Some interesting beetles, butterflies and an ant stranded on a small rock in the middle of the water. We built him a bridge back to shore.

The morning brought beautiful sun and a few song birds. Doesn't get much better than this...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bella Rose

Bakery and Coffee House
213 E Sherman Ave
Coeur d’Alene, ID

Aslin- “My ice cream was good- strawberry with real chunks of berry in it. Not like the Safeway kind. It was really frozen hard and still creamy.”
Ukiah- “I highly recommend the vanilla ice cream. You could taste actual vanilla bean. It almost tasted homemade.”

Fresh pastries baked on site, homemade soup, ice cream and coffee. The wood beams, brick wall, and lovely mural of an old red Schwinn with a wicker basket carrying tulips were welcoming after a particularly unpleasant night.

We’ve struggled to find our preferred campgrounds- maybe our map reading skills are not yet fine-tuned. Maybe shifts in federal spending priorities have led to park closures. Most likely, we’ve been distracted by the scenery, trusting that another site will come along.

Last night the parks didn’t have camping, the rest stop didn’t allow over-nites and I wasn’t quite prepared to set up in a truck stop, Wal-Mart or casino parking lot. (I’ve gathered a lot of tips on places to stay for free.) Blackwell RV Park, here we come.

A lovely resort on the edge of a lake… neighboring a pulp mill (apparently operating gave and swing shift.) 8:30 pm, 96 degrees. The mosquitoes owned the place and were not deterred by citronella, lemongrass or any other hippie balm. Whining and itching, we packed into the van, popped the top, put on the rear bug screen, made noodles with peanut sauce and managed to survive.

The truck stop would have been free, quieter and probably wouldn’t have objected to a small clothesline.

The sign promised ESPRESSO- but I was nervous when the woman behind the counter asked the difference between a “tall” and a “short” americano. In preparing to travel the country, I’ve given thought to an array of cultural differences we’ll encounter, but this scenario never came up. A second woman stepped in and we shared our appreciation for a small, say 6oz, “short”. Fantastic and much needed coffee. Thank you. It carried me through a day of wandering the town including an afternoon at the public library, a long swim in lake Couer d’Alene and our first trip to the Laundromat.

Jesus on Hwy 20

On our way out of town, stuck in I-5 traffic outside of Everett, the van ran too warm for comfort. We tried an alternate route, but with no mass-transit, the back up on Hwy 9 was worse. Listening to the wisdom of many Westy owners we choose not to push it. We still needed batteries, and maybe that Shucks would have a cup holder. As long as we’re exploring the strip-mall amenities, why not enjoy some teriyaki? An hour and a half later traffic was still stop-and-go. I cursed the single drivers in the carpool lane and watched the temperature gauge. We made it to Concrete just as the sun was setting.

First Stop: Concrete - Saturday, 8-19 - Ukiah
Yay, an RV park! It’s funny, because if your standing near the vanagon, and you look one way, it looks like a beautiful campground… On the other side, it looks like a small, yucky RV park… Which it sort-of is. We had been driving for a while (However, we didn’t cover much ground due to really bad traffic.) And it was starting to get dark… We’re staying here, because the name is so appealing. We played catch for a while and checked out the river. Now I’m tired. They (Aslin, Brad and Nora) are outside playing with Aslin’s Chinese jump rope.

Concrete offered a festival complete with free ice cream and a warning from a man camped in a lawn chair in his front yard. “Don’t park there. It’s a main street and if you get hit, you’ll be liable.” There was no sign, but we moved anyway.

Second stop: Marble mount – Sunday, 8-20 – Ukiah
Its time for some real camping! No electricity, here, which is fine, it’s the fact that there’s no water that surprises me. It’s really quiet here, except in the morning when the blue jays were apparently making a lot of noise, I didn’t hear anything, though. There is a nice river here; Aslin lost her flip-flop in it….

Our first drive through the mountains, east on Hwy 20 across Washington pass in the north Cascades. I crossed my fingers. Lights flashed in front of me, another Westfalia, saying hello, renewing my faith. Over the next 80 miles, we waved greetings to another half-dozen Westys, including one older than ours, and carrying 4 or 5 bikes.

At Mazama the van was still running with no fuss. A man in white walked towards us. White robe, white hat and as we drove closer, a long grey-white beard defined the man. “Is that Jesus?” I asked Brad, squinting. Hanging from his neck, the cross confirmed it.

“It is Sunday. He’s just walking home from church,” Brad answered.

He greeted us, first with a wave, then the peace sign.

Third stop: Steamboat rock state park – Monday, 8-21 – Ukiah
Go for the hook-up campsite, and you get another RV park… We’re right by the water, but its more of a mosquito swamp than anything else, I would never swim in it, I saw some gasoline at the edge. There are barely any trees here, and all the sites are way too close together, oh well, we’ve been driving more than long enough. But I still can't believe the people next to us brought a microwave!

Note- Steamboat was redeemed with further exploration. We found a private swimming beach and studied the canyons, envisioning rivers long gone. Deer families roam freely and sage covers the hillsides.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Owlhouse FAQs

(yes, these are the haircuts you get when thinking you'll be on the road -away from our favorite stylish hair-crafters- for who knows how long.)

“So, when are you leaving?”
Early August. Maybe mid. Okay, later than we planned, but we're out the door today, Friday 8/18. The question remains, should we catch a matinee of Little Miss Sunshine before we go?

“What made you want to do this?”
This trip is inspired by the need to "try something different." We considered a range of "somethings"- but opted for the extended road trip and organic farm work. Still on the back burner are thoughts of volunteer vacations to Greece to care for sea turtle nesting grounds; farming or teaching english in Croatia, Ecuador or Argentina; recording whale migration in Scotland; or farming and ecobuilding on Maui. Ok- it looks like those will be trips for another year. But we're definately going to Mesa Verde in Colorado.

“What about school for the kids?”
They won't be going. Having spent most of their school careers at the Clearwater School, they’re fully capable of learning and growing in non-traditional settings.
Ukiah "We'll be learning a lot more practical stuff on this trip anyway."
Aslin “I’ll really miss my friends, but you know how it is, sometimes you just have to get out.”

“What about work?”
Planning and preparing for this has been a job in itself! On the road we'll be doing some volunteer/work-trade work through the WWOOFer program.
Nora “After 8 (or 10) years at the preschool I’m taking a leave of absence. I’m looking forward to the inspiration Katie and Lilly will bring to the school.”
Brad “I quit… but I’ll have the option of going back. I’m keeping an open mind.”

“Where are you going?”
It's a really open ended trip, and we're planning just one leg at a time. We'll head east through Idaho, and into Montana and Glacier National Park. Then, up into Alberta where we'll be volunteering at farms in Carstairs (N of Calgary), Millet (S of Edmonton) and Mayerthrope (NW of Edmonton). From there we'll cross the Rockies, spend some time in BC and swing back through Seattle in early-mid October. If all is going well, we'll head south for the winter.

“What about your house?” Dawn and Kailin will be holding down the fort. Steph and Kat helped for a while, then Misty moved in despite the squirrels. Thanks Ladies! ;)

“Are your pets coming?”
Cutie loves to come on walks with us, but he never crosses the busy streets, so he'll be staying home. Plus, he's working on a new relationship with Phaedre and kind of wants to hang around and see where that will go.
Shell couldn't find any good burrowing spots in the van, so he'll be staying home too. We're crossing our fingers that the van will carry us into the SE and we'll be able to send him a post card from his ancestral home.

“Why didn’t you do this 10 years ago when gas prices were affordable?”
Aslin- “ I didn’t exist.”
Brad- “ I wasn’t’ brave enough.”
Nora- “We hadn’t closed on the house yet, so I doubt the bank would have agreed to refinancing with cash back.”

“Can we leave comments on your blog?”
Please do! Just click "comments" then "post" your response. We'd love to hear from you- questions, comments, suggestions for places we should visit, phone numbers for your cousin who might let us stay with her for a night in New Mexico... We'd also appreciate if you'd sign your name.

Monday, August 14, 2006


I can't really talk about the van without sharing some of the back story.
We've been looking, searching for a van for months. A half-dozen slipped through our fingers, including the one in the neighborhood, sold 15 minutes before we were ready with cash in hand. More common was the seller who opted to keep the van. There's love in these babies. Telling their stories, listing their attributes or even mentioning the work soon to be needed must be inspirational to a would-be seller. So we didn't get the van in Seattle. Or Kent. Or Everett. Or Spokane. By late July, the search grew to any and all western states.

I made calls to Arizona, Nevada, Colorado. A minute into a conversation with K in Utah, I realized his van was not for us. He, like every other seller I've talked to was happy to share his Volkswagon wisdom, so I listened. Turns out he has a "stable" of Vanagons, including two campers and he'd be willing to part with one. A few more conversations and a chat with his mechanic and I'm on my way to Salt Lake.

Initially, the signs were hard to recognize. The van wasn't ready the day I arrived. It just needed a few things. An emergency break cable, a headlight. Noon tomorrow, for sure.

At 3:00 the next afternoon, I'd been at the mechanic for hours. We have to find a spare tire. An exhaust piece is missing. Warning lights signaled from the dash and I feel the start of an ulcer. (I should mention that I've never paid more than $2,000 for a car and am generally really happy driving my '79 Volvo.) We'll need a new alternator.

"You know, I feel like this just isn't coming together, and I'm in a bit of a time crunch, so I think I'm gonna head back to the airport." Ukiah's birthday was a few days away and if I was driving, I needed plenty of time.

Was I sure? That would be fine, no one wants me to have a car I'm not comfortable with...

My phone rings. Val assures me that she can work for me since there's now no way I'll make it home by Friday.

K pulls a part from another van. It will only take 5, maybe 10 minutes to install. Deep breath. I'll wait.

My phone rings again. Dawn says "Nora, I found your van! " It's in Issaquah and belongs to her friend. I flew to Utah. I spent all day with a British mechanic and a guy who at any given time owns 8-10 vans. I'm buying this van. Plus, it just got a new alternator.

You'd think I would have noticed, but the tabs on this baby expired in 2002. They're strict in Utah and no one wants a ticket, so we tow the van about 60 miles to get the title. We should make it to the DMV just before closing. Except there's traffic.

Two hours later we're at the bank for a cashier's check. My bank assured me I could buy one anywhere. "Any bank can run it as a charge on your debit. No problem, " they told me twice. Not so. At home in Seattle, I sent Brad rushing for a check that he deposited directly to the seller's account.

So we missed the DMV, but I'm willing to brave the possibility of a ticket. K has to unpack his fishing poles and camp gear. And replace the radiator overflow tank. I have dinner with his mom while he runs down the street for a part. Turns out she's a retired preschool teacher and immediately turns the conversation to the disturbing trend of introducing academics to 3-year-olds. We have plenty to talk about.

Handshakes, smiles, a pit in my stomach and I'm on the road. Finally. The brakes feel soft and I'm taking mental notes on the cleaning supplies I'll need. What's that rattling sound? If I can just get to Idaho...

Highway 84, about 1/4 tank of gas and truck stop ahead. I stop in Snowville to fill up. Three tries but the machine won't take my card. I ring it inside. $3.05 a gallon, I leave the pump to do its thing. The van smells hot. But what do I know. $32, not bad. What's that sound?

Gas pours out the underside of the van. I try not to cry. The guys at the station help me push the van, my van, to rest away from the pumps. I call K. My voice shakes when I tell him I want to reverse this deal. I want him to tow this bad boy back to his house. I know it's late. I'm at a truck stop in the middle of no where. He knows just how I feel. One time he bought a car and then it broke down... I start to panic. Then, I remember AAA.

It will take about an hour and a half for the driver to get out to me. I'll have to pay extra mileage to being it all the way to SLC. I buy a bruised granny smith apple and call a few friends for moral support.

The tow truck driver was fantastic. In Utah, a buyer can return a car within 48hrs for a full refund. "The Mormon church owns Coke so they have vending machines at some of the church gyms, but they don't sell coke, just water and sports drinks.." He use to be married. He always meets good people from Seattle, three girls broke down last week on their way to a rainbow gathering. He's not going to charge me for the extra mileage. He'll make sure I get to a decent hotel. We pull over when the sliding door rolls open. It won't latch so we tie it shut with a seatbelt.

I check into the Day's Inn a little after 3am. I'm not sure if it's the bed or just me that's uncomfortable. Morning turns to afternoon and I wait in the hotel lobby. Another guest asks my story. He calls his buddy in California and they find me a van in Eugene. It's a '77, I'll love it.

Eventually, K and I share another round of smiles, handshakes and this time apologies. He hopes the experience hasn't turned me off VWs. They really are wonderful, all that German engineering. I offer that it's probably a great van, but I just don't have time to stay and work the kinks out. I don't mention my sympathy for the loss of income that was going to help him settle his divorce after 22 years of marriage.

The flight home is rough. The pilot apologizes, drink service can't be completed as the attendants need to be buckled in.

We had brownies at Ukiah's party and it only rained a splash. 13. How time flies.

In Issaquah, Buttercup, Blossom and Bubbles stuck to the fridge in Scott and Mercedes' Westy. Just like our fridge at home. We adopted her and our mechanics seem to think we'll do all right...

Hard to believe this is the short version of the story.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


We finally got our van, it needed some work, but now its pretty much as perfect as you could hope for. I'm not sure what to say about it yet, so maybe Nora can fill you in... Ya, all you get from me are those photos, I'm not sure what would be interesting to say about it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Photo Booth

So, we got a new laptop, and We were totally messing around with the built-in camera... Ha... Never get tired of taking waky pictures...
[Click image to see full size]
-Ukiah (I'm going to start actually saying who posted this)

Monday, August 07, 2006


do not feel superior to him,
for you are not.
I just masterd the art of uploading images, its alot more complicated than it should be. But, I made a photobucket account and they host our Images so we can post them here. Now that I have gotten used to this system, Uploading is easy.
(This is a scan of a sticker)