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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monroe, WA

While we were sorry to leave the Long Beach, WA area, we were not sorry to leave our campground.  We decided to drive to the Thousand Trails Thunderbird Preserve in Monroe, WA.  The original idea of this move was to spend some time in the Seattle area …  it didn’t work out that way, but more about that later.

First, our comments on the park.  We arrived at Thunderbird around 3:30 in the afternoon.  There were no sites available in the park proper, so we ended up across the street in overflow.  This section does not have sewer, but did have water, electric, and a great river view.  While we can make it around a week without a sewer we were scheduled at this location for almost three weeks, so it really was a necessity for us.  

 Let me take a moment to whine (no cheese please … no wait … send a nice brie!).  We are able to reserve a spot 120 days out … because we purchased an expensive membership.  But when it comes time to actually check into the park, our expensive membership means absolutely diddly squat.  Every monthly member, daily user, or passer byer who happens to get to the park before us can take whatever site they wish, leaving the guy with the expensive membership to compete for a site …  If this is the case … how about a refund, because I am paying way more than the next guy and should be able to call 120 days ahead and have a site with full hook-ups waiting for me, without having to purchase one (annually or monthly) on top of my already expensive membership + dues.  (Ok, that’s off my chest).   

So anyway, we needed sewer.  We asked the ranger who was going out and he assured us that it would be at least five days until something opened up.  We got up early the next morning and took the Segways over to the other side and patrolled until someone pulled out … then we swooped down on it like hungry vultures (that’s what our membership is reduced to … no longer a VIP member … but a Vulture Member).  Before I could pull the rig over, another woman tried to take our site, but my lovely wife fought her off (I’m not sure if bear spray was involved …) and we landed in a site with full hook-ups… only 30 amp and no satellite reception … but full hookups. 

It turned out that one of the reasons the park was so impacted (besides the impending Labor Day Weekend) was that the Evergreen State Fair was in town.  The fair was free the first day, but regular admission was $7 for seniors.  If you are in Washington this time of the year the fair is worth seeing.  The animal exhibitions are some of the best we have seen at any fair with each type of animal having its own pavilion.  There are wood carvers, quilters, wool spinners, and artwork to look at and experience.  And what would the fair be without fair food?  Lynda had a deep fried Twinkie and I tried a black walnut shake.  Here are a few of our favorite pictures.

After a week at Thunderbird, Lynda’s mother called for her to come to Hawaii’s big island, as she was having surgery.  As you already know we are old … and, therefore, Lynda’s mother is ancient … so she flew out for a week.  They did manage to get up to the volcano and dine at the restaurant furthest south in the U.S.  I spent the week repairing things I had put off  and watching war movies … Go John Wayne!!  By the time Lynda returned we were ready to move again…

Lynda's Mom at Hana Hou in Hawaii

Volcano National Park

So until next time keep doing what you love!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Long Beach, Washington

We could have stayed a lot longer in Seaside.  The park was nice and there was plenty to do … or not to do … depending on one’s preference.  But when your time is up … it’s up … so we packed up the Winnebago Tour and headed up the coast to Long Beach, Washington.  This is a short trip … around sixty miles or so and took a little over an hour up Highway 101 … take the bridge across the Columbia River and basically you’re there.  In Long Beach there are a number of membership parks that belong to ROD, Coast 2 Coast and, of course, Thousand Trails.  We opted for the Thousand Trails park in Long Beach and it turned out to be a bad choice.

The Thousand Trails Long Beach park has very small and tight spaces that are further complicated by the bizarre placement of the electric and water stanchions.   The utilities are placed in such a way that if you happen to get an odd numbered space your door will open (if there is enough room) right into another rig and both rigs’ utilities.   We were lucky and found an even numbered site (so far … so good).  We spent a fairly comfortable, but tight, week or so before the Clampett’s moved in next door.  These folks came with a cab-over camper two pickup trucks, a car, a freezer, a smoker, a bar-b-que, a deep fat fryer, 5 ice chests, and two tents.  They crowded over the site lines both on our side and in back of them leaving a mere four inches between my motor home and their crap.  Of course management at the park did nothing.  And before you ask … no we didn’t complain.  Note to management: just because people don’t complain does not give you leave not to enforce your rules!  Get off your butts, drive around your park and take care of issues before they are issues … that’s your job … not the members.  As a result we really couldn’t wait to leave this park and with so many other choices in the area, we will not use this park again.  On the Moore scale of 1-10 we give the park a 3.

The park review completed --- there is a ton to do in this area.  We had a blast!  We started with a visit to the Visitor Center in Seaview, WA.  The people at the center are more than friendly and gave us a lot of ideas on things to do and see.  They also steered us to a few great eating spots.   Forty Second Street CafĂ© is a really wonderful place for breakfast or lunch (we did both … not at the same time) and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.   We bought an extra jar of their cranberry, strawberry, orange, and walnut conserve … Yum!!  Don’t miss this one!  We decided to dine at the Shelborne Hotel one evening.  It has a marvelous old-world feel to it and we really were looking forward to a lovely meal.  However, it was absolutely awful … wrong food, wrong drinks, and a waiter that had ADD … look ... a chicken (no we didn’t order that...).  Much too expensive for what you get.

We spent a day down at the small fishing port of Ilwaco.  We ate at ol’ Bob’s (sorry we can’t recommend this one) and enjoyed watching the fishing boats come in.  Many of the boats will take you out for a day of fishing.  If we would have stayed longer, I think I would have done this.  Nevertheless, it was a great place to watch the successful fishermen showing off their catches.  Some of the salmon looked to be in the 15-20 lb range …  That’s better than pan sized!

We bought an annual Washington State Parks Discovery pass for $30 to go see some of the Lewis and Clark sites on the Washington side of the Columbia River.  Daily fees are $12 so if you are going to be in the area for even a week or so, the annual pass is the way to go.   We visited the Cape Disappointment Interpretive Center (another $5 each … but well worth it!).  The Center has a terrific chronological display of the Lewis and Clark journey, many hands-on displays that are interactive, and another entire floor dedicated to shipping in the area.  Plan on staying at least a couple of hours.  In addition you can visit the lighthouse.  Here are some pictures of the ocean and the lighthouse taken from the deck of the Interpretive Center.

We went out to the Cranberry Farm & Research Center run by Washington State University.  We had no idea of the complexities involved in growing cranberries.  It was very interesting and is free to boot.

This area has a really nice paved bicycling and walking path that runs next to the ocean for 16 miles.  Lynda and I took our “Personal Mobility Assistive Devices” (Segways) on the path and had a great time “gliding” along and taking in the sights.  If you are an avid walker or cyclist … don’t miss this one.

A visit to the International Kite museum in Long Beach is a must!  You will be amazed at what you don’t know about kites.  It is a lovely museum and well worth the $7 each admission (senior rate).

We took a trip up the Long Beach peninsula to Oysterville.  If you are a big fan of Oysters or old houses it is a nice drive to take.  You can purchase all the oysters you want and then take a tour of the town.  There are many old houses like this one to be seen.  After you complete the tour turn north and take in the Leadbetter State Park at the point of the peninsula.  

We drove several times back to Astoria, Oregon (about 13 miles) to take in the sites there.  We started by taking the trolley that runs along the wharf.  It is $1 for a trip (stay on as long as you want).   Of course no visit to Astoria would be complete without a trip to the Astoria Column.  You can go to the top of the column by hiking up the 164-stair spiral staircase.  Before you go up, make sure you purchase a balsawood airplane to fly off the top.  The view is spectacular.  Here are a few pictures.

Another Astoria “must do” is a visit to the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  The museum is a bit pricey … $12 for seniors … but worth the price.  Included in the price is one of the best maritime museums we have experienced … huge displays with full-sized boats and a tour of a “light boat” (a boat used as a floating light house).

We returned to Oregon to take in Fort Stevens, used as a World War II fort for defending the west coast of the United States … did you know that a Japanese submarine fired upon the fort during the war?  Here are a few more pictures.

Our final trip to Astoria was to the Flavel House.  At one time owned by the first bar pilot on the Columbia River, it provides a good look at how the upper crust of Astoria once lived.  Before I leave Astoria let me recommend a couple of nice spots to eat.  First, all the locals we met recommended the Ship Inn.  I had the best seafood chowder ever here …  it was a special of the day … so I don’t know if you can get it, but on a second visit I had the clam chowder and it wasn’t bad either.  For the best fish and chips on the entire coast at a great price make sure you go to the Bow Picker.  You get five pieces of halibut (that’s right … not cod … halibut) and fries for $5.  You stand outside in a long line for this, but the food is great and so is the conversation with the locals … this is where they go for fish and chips!

We happened to be here at the right time for the International Kite Festival held in Long Beach, WA.  This is a wonderful weeklong event with a lot of activities and tons of kites.  Here are a few from this year’s festival.

Until next time .... Keep doing what you love!!