Another Epic Road-trip to the USA

Having spent the last four years touring parts of this continent: Nova Scotia/Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island; Las Vegas/Hoover Dam/Grand Canyon/Monument Valley/Mesa Verde/Four Corners/Carmel and the northern Californian coastline/Sonoma wine valley and San Francisco; Rhode Island/Cape Cod/Martha’s Vinyard/Nantucket/Boston/Plymouth/New Hampshire/Vermont and Maine. And that doesn’t include the long weekend jaunts to Montreal, the Laurentians, Mont Tremblant, Ottawa and Quebec city several times; St Johns and a Christmas in Vancouver. – God no wonder we’re broke –first time I’ve written it all down in a list like this.

So now sitting on a bumpy ( and I mean BUMPY) flight to Vancouver, we are now embarking upon our 4th and last (for a while anyway) road-trip,. The Plan is to spend 3 nights in Seattle, down to Astoria,  Oregon visiting the Boeing Museum and Mount Ranier park en route; continue south down the Oregon Coastline to Heceta; inland to Crater Lake national park; back north to travel along the Oregon Gorge fault line east to Timberline, and then onwards to Yellowstone  Wyoming(anyone else want to say Jellystone) for 3 nights; through Montana; Little Bighorn (for his truly) Devils Tower, north Dakota; then South Dakota – Deadwood (1 night at the allegedly haunted Inn – The Bullock), and Mount Rushmore – including Custer memorial park and the Missileman site.

Well that’s the plan:

HEALTH WARNING – If anyone is thinking of attempting this trip, you have to factor in the amount of hours just travelling from one stunning region to another; we have almost bitten off more than we can chew with this trip and having had to make one unscheduled stop to change the car, we can’t afford any more detours or we shall be seriously screwed!!! Will we make itttttttttttttttttttttttttttt………………….. Sure we shall

Vancouver airport – I love this airport, it is smaller than Pearson, more intimate and beautifully decorated throughout: BUT we have to do the US immigration/customs thing here rather than at {Pearson (because that was an internal flight), and as usual it’s a pain; they are so busy, we are asked to disappear for 20 minutes and come back later , so we skulk into the Maple Leaf Lounge (Thanks Air Canada frequent flyer rewards), and eat olives, salad leaves and drink Bailey’s; in that order (Air Canada took the cheese off the menu in their lounges to cut costs – REALLY!!!!). Anyhow nice to take weight off knee.

Newsflash if you are going between the domestic and international terminals at Vancouver (if), then be prepared to walk miles around this (did I say it was smaller – I’m pretty sure I could give directions to anybody now as we appear to have walked the whole thing!!!!), airport!

Onto a tiny prop plane flying low across southern Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands; over Puget Sound into Seattle.  We are seated right at the front facing all the other passengers and essentially set to fly backwards. Don’t fancy that so the terrific stewardess (there is only 1 ) moves us right to the very back seats with a fab view of the back of the props and the wheels. However beyond these, the Majestic Mount Ranier always the backdrop to my view to the east and Olympia National Park to the west – mountains everywhere in the distance; islands dotted everywhere below. Gorgeous, gorgeous evening,  with great visibility from this vantage point. 35 minutes later we touch down – oh and always a little disturbing when sitting right at the back of the plane to feel that the wheel on the other side has touched down, and  seeing the wheel on my side still a couple of feet above the runway – too much information!!!

Seattle Washington – I night at the Springhill Suites Marriott downtown

Excellent quickie cooked breakfast and marvellous service from the front desk. Join a 3 ½ hour city tour (Northwestern Tours) in a very small bus – touristy but it had to be done as only 2 whole days in this metropolis.

Great guide/driver; bubbly with exactly the right temperament for this sort of gig. Travelled all over Seattle main sites include the colourful and yummy Pike Place Market elevated but looking over the waterfront. Seattle waterfront; Historic Pioneer Square; Klondike Gold Rush (National Park) museum; Lake Washington; I-90 Floating Bridge; Mercer Island; Puget Sound; Fremont neighbourhood;Lake Union & Ship Canal; Ballard Locks with the amazing salmon ladder; Magnolia Bluff and Space Needle & the Seattle Centre, Fremont, and these were just some of the highlights!
We were dropped off with our luggage at the Marriott Waterfront hotel on Alaska Way looking over the waterfront – great sea-view room. Quick turn-around and off back up to Pike Place Market via the Bell Street Pier Waterfront Trolley which is essentially a lift taking you from shore front level up to the elevated level of the main city drag and Pike Place. Mosied through the Market place – really brilliant but heaving with damn tourists!!. Wanted to grab a china mug with the original Starbucks logo on it from the first ever Starbucks location opposite the market, but the queues were out the door and down the street – went in later in the evening to get one instead.
Walked about seven blocks south on 1st Avenue to go back to Pioneer Square and go back to the Klondyke Gold Rush Museum; as usual a wonderful north American information hub with ranger-led talks and a brilliant 1950’s National Geographic style documentary on the Klondyke Gold Rush up through Skagway Alaska to The Yukon,  and Seattle’s consequent meteoric rise to fame and fortune as a result of the city being the jumping-off point for the 250,000 or so prospectors or stampeders as they were called. They either followed the Chilkoot trail or went the White Pass route from Skagway Alaska to get to the gold rich seams up in the Yukon. The journey took months, involved the sacrifice of thousands of pack animals en route, and because of the law passed by the Canadian border patrols (Mounties), each stampeder had to carry with them a ton of specific provisions before they would be allowed to continue their journey over the border. Guess which city made itself the one-stop shop for these provisions?
After a brilliant coffee and lavender shortbread in one of the zillions of coffee shops –this one was called Zeitgist, which was opposite the Klondyke museum, we did an underground tour of the original Seattle streets before the Great Fire of 1889.  As the brochure for “Bill Speidel’s” Underground tour states – this is a “humorous stroll  through intriguing subterranean storefronts and sidewalks entombed when the city rebuilt on top of itself after the Great Fire of 1889” . Hugely enjoyable thanks to some highly amusing and relevant scripting delivered in our case by a high school teacher with excellent “stand-up” skills.
Snack and drinks inside Pike Place Market in a great little restaurant/diner (Athena) overlooking the waterfront – no air-conditioning, diner furniture and dark wood and just the sort of ge no-fuss, unpretentious and workaday place we like so much
Day 2  – Marriott Waterfront Alsaka Way
  • Breakfast in Pike Place market in Copa Cabana – upstairs on long veranda overlooking the market. Pretty pastel sun umbrellas; great eggs; rubbish service but who cares we’re on holiday.
  • Washington State Ferry single fare ferry ride across to Bainbridge Island and back – only 6 bucks return fare with incredible skyline views of Seattle, Mount Ranier, Olympic National Park mountain range and Mount Baker. A fraction of the cost of Argosy ferry tour (but without the commentary)
  • The fabulous meal in the 1962 Space Needle 360% revolving restaurant – “Sky City”. Much smaller and more compact than our CN Tower restaurant in Toronto, but to think that this marvellous sci-fi inspired/inspiring Jetson look-alike futuristic Tower was built for the 1962 World Fair – how marvellous a feat of engineering it would have been in an age of hope and optimism when space exploration/travel was in its prime.
  • The monorail; again built in 1962 and feeding into the Seattle Centre and the Space needle park.
  • The seasonal blackberry margarita – second one of these never-before-had cocktails as blackberries are growing on just about every verge.
  • The elderly American couple who both hogged two of the cardio machines in the tiny gym at the Marriott this morning – I thought I was going to blow a gasket.
  • Bainbridge Island – I don’t think so………. there are probably better ways of spending the afternoon.
  • Dimitrios Jazz Alley closed at 1opm as only 1 show on a Sunday – pooh.
  • No mention of Frasiers apartment or local coffee haunt; loads of refs to Greys Anatomy and Sleepless in Seattle. BUT Frasier’s sign-off   Goodnight Seattle, we love you (I think) in my humble opinion really put Seattle western world’s (and beyond I suspect) radar.  Only a passing nod to its most famous fictitious resident on a Tee shirt selling in Seattles Best
 Day 3 – Seattle to Astoria Oregan (about 5 hours via Mount Ranier National Park)
  • Mount Ranier National Park – if visiting more than 1 National Park buy an annual pass.
  • Lose cell-phone service for most of journey, yep that’s a highlight folks.
  • Astoria – was not expecting much – at the mouth of Columbia and Snake rivers; what a little gem. Lots of Victorian Heritage buildings,
  • The historic Elliott Hotel which is where we spent the night – wonderful beds!! Felt haunted and judging by the number of entries it scored in a couple of “haunted Astoria” books in gift shops, WAS haunted. Bonnie the breakfast lady rocked
  • Takes over 3 hours to get there from Seattle.
  • Lose cellphone service for most of journey
  • We should’ve stayed as I’d originally planned in the Cannery Hotel on the water; spa atmosphere, gorgeously refurbished and hideously expensive but man what view; actually being stilted over the sea. Apparently Astoria had been built over the water on wooden piles (still there) but as is usual for these turn of the century primarily wooden structured towns and cities of the era, a great fire destroyed most of the original buildings, and actually being on the sea was the death knell, as the fire started below the wooden structures and fanned by the sea breeze simply ravaged the town in minutes as the fire brigade couldn’t access the source of the fire
Day 4 – Astoria – Oregon coastline to Heceta (Around 5 hours with stops)
  • Captain George Flavell heritage house; gorgeous and not like a traditional Victorian house with all its excesses. Serene, marmalade coloured wood shutters, floors and furniture.
  • Views along the Oregan coastline particularly Cape Perpetua,  got more spectacular every mile south we went.
  • Seal Rock Bay  – yep that’s right just one rock where the seals were basking – can you actually ” bask” when the ambient temperature in the dog days of July are in the low 50’s?? Sooooo cold, so no wonder the myriad little resort “cities” (as they are so grandly called even though are mostly very small linear conurbations) appear to have very few visitors inhabiting their hostelries and hotels!!
  • AND the piece de resistance was the Heceta Head lighthouse (south of Yachats), where we had booked to spend the night. Fantastic preserved turn of the century (19 century), Light-keepers cottage, overlooking cormorant blanketed rocky cliffs, sea mist shrouded head-lands and huge rolling breakers; The lighthouse itself just a little further up the cliff with it’s Fresnel light and 6 simultaneous beams piercing the sea mist and sending it’s rays out into the seas is the most powerful lighthouse on this stretch of the east coast. Use communal kitchen and have picnic supper on the  wrap-around porch overlooking the cliffs, then  go for a hike up to the Lighthouse in the pitch dark using the courtesey flashlight left in our room for that very purpose. We have the light-keepers room at the top of the house so our private bathroom is across the hall with a claw-foot bath looking directly over the lighthouse – brill.!
Lowlights – NONE
Day 5 – Heceta to Crater Lake National Park (Almost 5 hours with couple of stops to see sea-lion and elk)
Huge 7 course breakfast, with 12 very interesting guests takes over 2 hours so missed our booked Crater Lake hike and boat trip. Decided to take a chance that we’ll get it switched to first thing Thursday morning, and went further south along the Oregon coast to visit Sea Lion Cave (the largest sea cave in the world and filled with 2 species of migrating sea-lions). Only 52% on the coast – blimey!
Hack it via the Umqua valley; 4 hours to Crater Lake. Do the 33 mile Rim car ride stopping first at Cleetwood Cove ticket office to plead with the Park Ranger for a space on tomorrow’s hike ( we are put in reserve so no guarantee)
Approaching via great swathes of forested scenery; slowly climbing altitude to arrive at a junction with the Lake Crater falling away below us, a stunning azure blue , the caldera cliffs cradling an almost perfect blue disc of water. Just a couple of odd island formations dot the Lake,  Wizard Island ( an eruption of the original volcanoe) and Phantom ship which itself is a cinder cone.
Buy tons of mossie spray for hubbie – I don’t need it provided he is with me at all times when outside; they prefer him to me (who doesn’t).
Crater :Lake Lodge is just stunning- built in 1917, it blends beautifully with the landscape. We have a third floor room looking over the Lake. The Lobby – wood and slate, soars up to several interpretive galleries and over the Lakeside restaurant and bar. A walled patio out the front is lined with wicker rockers running the entire length of the lodge with of course an amazing view.
Crater Lake –  7700 yrs ago.Mount Zazama erupted to form Crater Lake. Deepest volcanic Lake in the world (1943ft) with the greatest clarity of any Lakes in the world (no streams or ecternal sources of water feed the Lake). It took only 200 years to fill the Lake to it’s current capacity, because of the record level of snow-falls “enjoyed” by this area.
Civilised supper in the wonderful dining room which is choc-a-bloc with pieces of Stickley furniture
Until the next post………….

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