Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND: 8/8 – 8/11/2021

Welcome Sign

We finally made it to North Dakota. If you have never been here, I highly suggest that you put it on your list of places to visit. The locals here are very friendly, and Historic Medora (North Dakota’s most popular attraction) is a cute, little wild west town with a gateway into the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

We found a site at Buffalo Gap Campground. It is located about 15 miles west of Medora off Route 94.

There were no hookups, but it still cost $20 per night. We immediately purchased tickets online for the popular Medora Musical, known as the rootin’-tootinest, boot-scootinest show in all the Midwest. Seriously, that is how it is promoted in their brochures. Our tickets were for the 5:30 p.m. show on Sunday.

The next day, we got up early and walked around the town of Medora.

A beautiful display

As the morning wore on, it became uncomfortably hot with temperatures in the high 90’s. I realized that there was NO WAY that I could sit in an amphitheater later today in this extreme heat. We canceled the show and rescheduled for Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. We also purchased the Pitchfork Steak Fondue dinner that began at 6:00 p.m. at the same location. When it got unbearably hot, we returned to our camp. There was no electric for A/C or fans, and the outside air was lacking wind. Scott filled a small tub up with cold water and we dipped our shirts and bandanas into the water and then put them back on our bodies. I also put my feet into the tub of water. We sat there lifeless, counting the minutes for the sun to go down. By 6 p.m., we drove into town and enjoyed dinner at Theordore’s, an indoor “air conditioned” restaurant located in the same name hotel.

All cooled off – inside and out

The following day, we headed to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

We entered the park via the South Unit Visitor Center in Medora. Scenic Loop Drive is 36-mile paved drive with pullouts of overlooks and exhibit panels. Along the way, we were lucky enough to see wild horses and bison enjoying their natural habitat. We stopped and parked at Peaceful Valley Ranch Trailhead, where you could choose between two hikes: Big Plateau Loop (5.4 miles/Difficult) or Lone Tree Loop (9.1 miles/Difficult).

I just love the ”Warning” sign

We hiked 7.2 miles on Big Plateau Loop, which is actually only 5.4 miles long. How can that be? Well, we began the “short” 5.4 mile hike without any water or backpacks. It was a warm, beautiful day, after all, and we didn’t feel the need to carry any gear. (Bad choice!) We started the loop in a clockwise direction with cameras and good attitudes.

Start of the hike

Within the first two miles, we passed Prairie dog towns, a beautiful wild horse, and a hunting red-tail hawk.

More than 3.5 miles in, we passed a tour-guided group that had started their hike in a counter-clockwise direction. They told us that up at the top of the plateau there were hundreds of bison that they had to make their way through. Scott and I continued up the draw for another .2 miles until we met up with a family of four who showed us pictures of them walking within ten feet of these large creatures. We took some photos while we contemplated our next move.

This guy was too close for comfort and the rest of his herd were making their way to our plateau. We turned around to head out the way we had come. There was no way either one of us wanted to walk within ten feet of a bison, let alone a hundred of them. After a few minutes, we turned around to see the herd was where we had just stood. OMG!

So, that would explain how a 5.4 mile loop turned into a 7.2 mile hike.

On Tuesday, Scott took a 10-mile solo bike ride on part of the Maah Daah Hey Trail.

That evening, we enjoyed a delicious Pitchfork Steak Fondue dinner at the Tjaden Terrace followed by the “Medora Wild West Musical” at the adjacent Amphitheater.

Looking down at the Amphitheatre

You could either walk or take an escalator down to the Amphitheatre. It was a beautiful night and an entertaining show.

Our view from the second row

Next stop, Minnesota.

Idaho: 7/29 – 8/3/2021

While we were in Leavenworth, my Floridian sister informed me that she and her husband were planning a six-day trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She wanted to know if we could meet them there. Although we were not planning on heading in that direction, we could alter our plans. This would give us an opportunity to pop in on Scott’s sister, Shelley, as we diverted our eastern course and began to head south.

While we were in Central Washington, the temperatures were in the high 80’s during the day. There was a burgeoning heat wave bringing triple-digit temperatures to many western states. When we arrived at Scott’s sister’s home in Lewiston, Idaho, on July 29th, it was 105 degrees! Thankfully, they have a very cold, air-conditioned home. It definitely cooled off outside in the evenings and early mornings, but the heat of the day was extremely uncomfortable. We parked the rig on their property with the fridge running off the propane tanks. The ground was not very level and our rig was fairly tilted. We didn’t think anything of it since we were sleeping inside their house. Late the next morning, I went into the trailer to get some more clothes and food. It was unbearably hot inside the trailer. When I opened the refrigerator door, it immediately occurred to me that it was warm inside. The freezer was cool, but not as cold and it should have been. The outside temperature today was 106. Yesterday, it was 105. We had just made a large food shopping trip the day before we arrived. Now, we had to throw out most of the contents of the fridge. We took a gamble on our frozen food, much of which Scott’s mom had vacuum packed for us. Scott adjusted the trailer so that it was no longer on a tilt. That, coupled with the very hot temperatures, must have been the cause of the malfunctioning fridge.

After leveling – no tilt – functioning fridge

Shelley had to work Friday and was “on-call” over the weekend that we were visiting. After all, this was a last minute visit on our part as we were not originally planning on traveling through the area. That evening, Shelley’s husband, Jack, cooked us a “chicken” dinner. His daughter, Jordan, and her two kids came over to join us. It wasn’t until after we finished eating that I was told that the chicken was actually pheasant. There’s always a first! It was pretty good, but I may not have eaten it if I knew what it actually was. Such a Jersey girl.

When we last visited two years ago, there were nine six-week old puppies born to their English Setters Tess and Gus. At about eight-weeks old, all but one pup had moved on to new homes. Dakota, formerly as a pup known as Wolverine and Dak, was now towering over his parents and part of a threesome of hunting dogs. It was fun to reminisce over the fun we had with the nine puppies. These three were also entertaining and very loving.

Tess, Gus and Dakota (Left to right)

The next day we sat around waiting for Shelley to get a call, which didn’t come until 5:00 p.m. We mostly stayed inside as it had reached 111 degrees, for a third consecutive day of 3-digit temps. Jack and Shelley now housed three dogs, three chickens and a bunch of pigeons. When let out of their pens, the chickens made their way around to the front of the house to the dirt planters that once displayed beautiful flowers. These planters became the “pets” spot to cool off.

Later that evening, Jack, Scott and I took the mile walk to get the mail. Thankfully, it had cooled down quite a bit front he scorching heat of the day. The deep-blue sky was masked with a smoky haze.

Sunset walk to get the mail

On Sunday morning, Shelley got a 9:00 a.m. call and off she went. We packed up and left a few hours later. It was a short visit, but always worth it!

We drove 288 miles south to Boise. It had become increasingly difficult to find empty sites at RV campgrounds. We were able to find a spot just outside of Boise in Caldwell. We would stay at Ambassador RV Park for two nights. Immediately after we set up, we drove 40 minutes to Scott’s brother, Russ’ home. Russ prepared a delicious meal of ribs, brisket, and chicken served with watermelon, melon and a cold pasta salad. We hung out for hours talking and eating. Then, as we sat in their front yard at dusk, I got my first mosquito bites of the summer. Lovely. Thank you, Idaho.

The next day, we drove to meet my friend, Nils, at The Sandbar Patio and Grill on the Boise River. It was nice to see him, albeit for a few hours. The last time we got together was in Utah when he lived in Park City. He seems to like his new surroundings and we wish him the best!

The next morning, we drove about six hours south/southeast to Idaho Falls. We spent one night at the Snake River RV Park and caught up on laundry. Tomorrow, we will continue south towards Jackson, Wyoming. We have 13 days to go before our family arrives. Woo Hoo!!

Leavenworth, WA: 7/26 – 7/29/2021

Because there were several active wildfires along Route 20, the northern corridor of Washington, we traveled east on Route 2 which runs through the center of the state. Leavenworth is located roughly in the center of the state of Washington, about 177 miles east of Seattle. It is a Bavarian-styled village with Alpine-style buildings with restaurants serving German beer. It is also the home of The Nutcracker Museum, which displays thousands of nutcrackers – some hundreds of years old. It was founded in 1995 by George and Arlene Wagner. Who knew there was a nutcracker museum? I certainly didn’t. Yet, I was somewhat of a collector when my daughter was involved with Ballet Arts Company and the annual production of “The Nutcracker Ballet.”

The Nutcracker Museum
Black Swan Gift Shop
Hotel and Brewery


Another Bavarian Hotel

We stayed at Icicle RV which was a five minute drive into town and located on the Wenatchee River. I forgot to take a picture of our campsite, but we had access to the water.

Icicle Creek

At The Nutcracker Museum, all patrons can enter the building to browse the gift shop, but there is a $10 charge to go through the museum itself. I have never seen so many nutcrackers in one place! They were stacked on shelves behind a clear, glass shield. Some had signs that read, “Do Not Photograph”, due to their ancient beginnings dating back to Roman times. There are over 7,000 nutcrackers shown in many different woods and metals, ivory and man-made materials. The icon of the museum is Karl, a six-foot beer drinking Bavarian, carved by Karl Rappl of Oberammergau. Here are a few of my favorites.

Kings


Awesome Christmas Tree Display
Holiday Figures
Mother Ginger
Three Kings, The Beatles, and Wizards
Me and Karl

On our last full day, we took a 4.31 mile-morning hike on Snow Creek Trail in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It was my first “real” hike since my ankle injury. Equipped with hiking poles, it felt great to be back at it again.

That afternoon, we floated on the banks of the Wenatchee River on rented river tubes. The water was chilly but the air was warm. It was a relaxing two hours with little rapids, if any. We did see a family of raccoons nestling under the brush on the waters edge, but our phones/cameras were in the car.

Next stop, Idaho.

Whidbey Island, WA: 7/8 – 7/26/2021

It is always wonderful to visit with Scott’s mom and stepdad at their home in Freeland, WA. Mom loves to cook and truly creates some delicious meals. Not only did we eat well, but we also enjoyed the game of Dominoes, along with lots of laughs.

Scott and I tried to get out each day for short walk/hikes. My ankle was healing nicely, and I continued to wear a brace to better protect it. We revisited some of our favorite hikes at the County Park (near Langley/Clinton area), Pitney Woods, and Ebey Bluffs.

Pitney Woods
Ebey’s Bluff

Spotted a bald eagle

We found a pickle ball court in Langley and played a few times. We met some folks that asked us to join their tournaments, but we were leaving the island the following week. It was during one of our games that I instinctually began to run after an escaping ball and realized that I could run without discomfort. It was a wonderful feeling for sure! No longer did I need to baby my ankle.

One weekend, Scott and I went on a two-night backpacking trip to the Olympic Peninsula with Mitch, Ani and Mila, (Scott’s family). Their two French bulldogs, Blu and Bubba, joined us. We parked at the trailhead and hiked in about 2.5 miles. We set up camp on a small island right on the river.

Start of our hike to camp
Crossing over the water to our island campsite
Our green tent
Scott’s morning stretch
Hanging out with Ani and Mitch

With Covid somewhat waning, our next plan was to first head east via Route 20 in Washington for some hiking in the Cascade Mountains. Next, we would continue east through Idaho and into Montana. Since the eastern side of Glacier National Park was closed in 2020 due to Covid, we thought we would spend a few days hiking there. Then, we would head north into Western Provinces of Canada, beginning with Banff in Manitoba. Ultimately, we would arrive in Alaska where we hoped to spend the month of September. We had reserved a site outside of Denali National Park for the first week in September so that we could meet up with my brother-in-law. After we fulfilled our Alaskan wonders, we would head back to Whidbey Island for another family visit. At this point, we talked about ending our full time adventure and find a place to settle down again.

By the end of July, the border to Canada was still not open. Scott and I made the decision to abort our Canada/Alaska plans for the second time due to the uncertainty of the actual border opening (along with any restrictions for non-essential travel) and the fact that my ankle was just beginning to get strong again. We would put off that trip to Summer 2022. We would put into effect Option 2 – traveling east along the northern border of our country. Now, with fires spreading in northwestern Washington, we had to somewhat revise our plans.

Next stop, Leavenworth, WA.

Seattle, WA: 7/6 – 7/8/2021

After six weeks of visiting family and friends in New Jersey, I flew west to meet Scott in Seattle. I was just in time to celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary of July 7th. He had driven our rig from Colorado to Whidbey Island, to visit with his family. When he picked me up at the airport, he surprised me with two nights at the Hyatt Recency before returning to Whidbey. We were on the 30th floor in a corner room with great views.

View of Mount Ranier in the background
Northeast View

We began our celebratory day, 7/7, taking a walk along Pike Place Market looking for places to enjoy our anniversary dinner. Then, we strolled over to Miner’s Landing to see The Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57 on Elliott Bay.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a deli and picked up wine, cheese, figs and crackers to eat for lunch. Later that day, we left the hotel and set out for our anniversary dinner. Although we planned to eat at the Cheesecake Factory, we noticed “Ruth’s Chris Steak House”on our way. I had never heard of this restaurant chain before. We switched gears and was able to get a table in the bar area. We shared Scott’s steak and my halibut for our own “surf and turf” cuisine. We told the server that it was our anniversary, and he surprised us.

Unfortunately, it was not the dessert we had ordered. This was bread pudding, but we ordered Creme Boule. He went back into the kitchen and returned with the Creme Boule. He didn’t charge us We took the bread pudding back to the hotel and had it for breakfast the next morning. DELICIOUS!!

The following morning, we set out for Whidbey Island to visit with Scott’s family.