Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Rest of the Story…..

After 11 hours of sleep we got up and felt almost normal!  Not too much to report about our travel down I -81. The weather was nice, we stopped near Harrisburg at a Cracker Barrel to pick up a book on CD.  All the ones I had gotten from the library were way too long.  Usually they are too short for our travels – this time they were all too long – I got the only decent one that was less than 8-12 discs and off we went…

Clear weather and lots of nice farms along I 81

We stopped for gas once and for lunch at a Taco Bell.  Only time on our trip and we had one of Ben’s favorite travel foods – Taco Loco.

Taco Bell

About 3 PM we reached Lexington Va where our long time friends Steve and Margaret now live.  We have been good friends for longer than the 50 years we have been married so we had planned a little celebration with them. After lots of catching up on life – we had a great dinner that Margaret prepared and celebrated with a champagne toast!  Thanks Jenny and Nic for the champagne!

Steve popping the cork

A toast

and a great dessert

Good friends, good food, good conversations and memories, good nights sleep, good breakfast and we were ready for the last leg of our journey.

Saturday was a great travel day with fair weather but a little overcast – good for driving.

We reached home about 3 PM.  One good thing about traveling light as we did this time there was little unpacking to do!  A quick trip to the grocery was in order if we were to eat.

Only bad thing was the power had been off at least once and kicked our modem out; so we had no internet.  Too tired to deal with that we watched a little TV and went to bed early.

It is now Sunday AM and internet is back up, Jane is finishing the blog and we will enjoy a day of catching up around home before we get 3 weeks of mail tomorrow – not as bad as it was years ago since most communication is on line these days.  Guess that is also on the “to-do” list – reviewing the emails to see if we missed things during our off again on again coverage over the last weeks. Ben for sure has lots of work email to review.

This was a fun trip and quite different than most of our adventures.  We need to consider a bit before planning another trip that is dependent on primarily all public transportation. One comment of mine is my photography started out OK but did not hold up very well near the end!  Luckily the old Dell made it through the trip.  Now back to my learning curve on Windows 8!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Port Angeles WA to Pine Grove PA

This will be hopefully a somewhat accurate report on our 33 hour travel day from Port Angeles Washington to Pine Grove Pennsylvania.  This is not our intended plan for travel back to the east from the northwest – but it is what it is.
Sunrise from Red Lion Hotel

We left the Red Lion Hotel at 5:30 AM to check out, walk about 1 1/2 blocks to the bus stop for the Dungeness Coach Line.

Dungeness Coach Bus

This company runs a twice a day run between Port Angles and several other towns on the Olympic Peninsula, several downtown Seattle Locations (including the AMTRAK Station) and SEATAC Airport that is located about midway between Seattle and Tacoma. Bus was there on time and we left with about 10 other individuals on a small maybe 20 passenger bus.  We traveled through numerous small towns, across the Hood Canal in a long bridge, took a 25 minute ferry ride across Puget Sound, and down I-5 into downtown Seattle.  Puget Sound was really a continuation of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca that we had crossed when we came back into the US from Victoria..  Seattle is a huge city – we saw the Space Needle, lots of Starbucks and Seattle Coffee shops, and it looked like it would be fun to explore.  The AMTRAK station is right downtown.

Puget Sound from Ferry

Upon arrive about 9 AM at AMTRAK we got a phone call about another change in our travel on the Empire Builder.  We talked to the ticket agents and it seemed the mudslide of last week was not completely resolved. We would have a detour in North Dakota that would make us 5-6 hours late getting into Chicago.  Since there is already an issue of perhaps being late due to lots of oil transport in the North Dakota area.  We would most certainly miss the connection with the Chicago to Syracuse train meaning finding a hotel in Chicago and waiting another day until 9 PM at night to leave Chicago for Syracuse.  All in all it was not worth the effort and trouble so we did what we had considered when AMTRAK first called – we canceled the train and made reservations on a plane.

Ben working on Plane Reservations at AMTRAK Station Seattle

Waiting Room at AMTRAK - beautiful but few services - no food at all

I really wanted to see what the AMTRAK travel was like – to compare with the excellent service on VIA Rail in Canada.  Well I hate to judge all of AMTRAK on this experience but they sure did not measure up too well in our limited experience. Ben used the internet on his new Kindle to work out air travel home.  Most flights east leave early morning or are what is known as “red eye” flights – leaving in the late evening…so that is what we ended up with since it was now about 11:30 and we had missed the morning flights.  While this sounds crazy – the best available  connection was through ATLANTA!

If we had known this a bit earlier we could have just continued on our Dungeness Coach on to SEATAC airport!  About a block from the AMTRAK station was a Seattle Light Rail station. We found we were near Chinatown!  I suppose some might have taken the opportunity to explore downtown Seattle but we had our luggage and to be honest were a bit frustrated with the situation. We hopped on the Light Rail and before we knew it we were further south along Puget Sound and arrived at the huge SEATAC Airport. We got tickets for light rail from a kiosk; since we did not have the correct change we used a $20 bill and got 14 $1 coins for change! We must have walked at least a mile finding Delta, getting our tickets from a computer, finding a place to eat lunch, and then a place to read, charge up kindles and phones, and people watch.

We spent the afternoon near an arrival area and it was interesting watching people. One group of about 20 people was welcoming their family member home after his retirement from the Army – he had served 20 years.  They had quite a celebration.

About 5 we checked 2 of our bags and made our way through security, took a train to our gate, and spent the evening reading and people watching from inside the security area near our gate.  We had dinner and enjoyed the down time – but it was a lot of sitting, walking, and watching!

At 10:45 we boarded our 4 hour and 10 minute flight to Atlanta.  Instead of gaining 1 hour each day on our way west – we lost the 3 on this one flight – arriving in Atlanta about 6:20 AM. I realized too late that the small TV screen at my seat could have shown me where we were. It was very clear and since I did not sleep well I saw lots of cities – only one I identified for sure was Houston. Also saw a nice sunrise.
Having flown seldom in recent years – by choice – things were different than we remembered.  Mobile phones, tablets, etc and all kinds of technology were integrated into the travel. The airport food was better than I expected – not great but certainly good. Both this flight and the one from Atlanta to Syracuse were 100% full.  The Delta staff were very helpful and pleasant.

Sunrise from plane near Atlanta

In Atlanta we were lucky – came in to Gate 25 and left from Gate 20 – or the other way around! So we did not have to hurry from one part of the airport to another. We had 2 1/2 hours between flights – just enough time to drink some coffee, eat a muffin, and sit a bit more.

Our flight to Syracuse left Atlanta on time at 9:15 and were in Syracuse  by 11:15. The Syracuse airport is not huge like Atlanta and SEATAC – we picked up our checked baggage, got the van out of long term storage lot  and were on I-81 headed South in 45 minutes!
Leaving Syracuse Airport
 We were both tired – Ben slept more than Jane.  We were going to drive until Ben felt too tired to drive and then we would stop.  We ate lunch in a small town in rural New York.   Our book on CD that we had listened to on the way to Syracuse still had 2 CD’s so we listened to them. We stopped about 4 in a very small town just north of Harrisburg PA.  We laid down for a nap and woke up 2 hours later to eat dinner at a recommended Pennsylvania Dutch Restaurant – The Red Lion !  (name of our hotel in Port Angeles).  This small town had 4 chain motels, a few fast food restaurants, a mobile home factory, a school, some churches, grocery, and a few shops.  Lots of homes that appear much as they must have when the town of Pleasant Grove was founded in 1832. Then a few miles on the other side of the town was the Red Lion.  It was good food but way too much of everything.

Made final arrangements to visit friends in Lexington VA – they have been so flexible with our ever-changing schedule.

Not a very exciting day or two days – but we sure used lots of types of transportation - small bus, ferry, Seattle light rail, light rail at SEATAC airport, 2 airplanes, and finally our Sprinter.  We sure covered a lot of miles. Not how we planned to end our trip but we are nearly home and have had a fantastic time.  Even this travel did not end up being as difficult as I had thought.  Tired though - going back to sleep!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Big change of plans. Got to AMTRAK to discover there would be a 6 hour detour in South Dakota which would cause us to miss our Chicago connection to Syracuse. Our van is in Syracuse. We canceled train and are at SEATAC airport waiting for a flight to Syracuse via Atlanta of all places. Not going to be a great next few hours.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Port Angeles – A day to regroup

There is little to report on today – this is the first day our our trip that we went almost no where! 

Port Angeles - at end of street is huge pile of logs

We returned to the Olympic Park Main Visitor Headquarters hoping they might have passport stamps for the locations that were not open.  No luck so I got a page to write a complaint on and ask for someone to send me passport stamps to put in my book. We watched the movie which did have some great views of the park. 

We ate lunch at the Cottage Restaurant – salad for Jane and soup for Ben.  Then ran a few errands – some rolls for tomorrow am at 5:30.  Ugh we have to be about 2 blocks from our hotel at 5:45 for a 6:00 bus to Seattle. The bus runs each day – 3 hours and will drop us right at the AMTRACK station.  We are going to find it interesting to compare the two train systems!

Second stop a gas station – if you returned your rental car without filling the tank you paid $9 a gallon for them to fill it!  Pretty good incentive.

Then Ben dropped Jane about 3 blocks from the hotel so she could look around in a few downtown shops.  Ben turned the rental car in and we both walked back to the hotel.All the clean clothes – I did laundry again today- are packed away ready to travel.

We ate dinner at Jasmine Bristo the Thai place we went last night.  Was going to take good photos but failed!  Main course was Coconut Fried Rice and Snow Peas, Mushrooms, and Pork in wine sauce. Great dinner.
Spring Rolls and Crab Butterflies
It WAS Lemongrass Creme Brulee

 I said not much to report!  I am told there is WIFI on the Empire Builder – our AMTRAK train from Seattle to Chicago. If no WIFI I will post when I can about the last part of our adventure.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Port Angeles – Drive to Cape Flattery

A surprisingly good breakfast here at our hotel – the Crab House is somehow associated with the Red Lion Hotel. They have about 10 different breakfast entree’s for the hotel guests at a reduced rate.  Ben had his favorite ham and eggs.  Jane tried the Granola Supreme.  It was fantastic not at all what was expected. Instead of containers of fruit, yogurt, and granola – I had what looked like an ice cream sundae.  It was really good.
Granola Supreme
After breakfast and some regrouping time we headed out towards Cape Flattery. This is billed as the most northwestern point in the continental US.  The drive was very interesting and for the most part beautiful.  Ben says his best description would be driving over Sam’s Gap on the “old” road – over and over again. The road follows generally along close to the US side of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca – separating the US and Canada. We drove as far west as you could go. Here the mountains rise directly from the sea and there are varying amounts of somewhat flat land where a river joins the sea.  In between these valleys are mountains – not really tall ones – maybe 1,500 to 2,000 feet but steep curvy road none the less.  Add to this that we were in and out of clouds and that the traffic was primarily huge logging trucks – think the coal trucks in SW VA on the older roads.  Got the idea?  It took us about 2 hours to drive the 70 miles to Neah Bay. 

Along Strait of San Juan de Fuca

We  passed through several very small towns and finally arrived at Neah Bay which is the main town on the Makah Indian Reservation. This reservation like the one yesterday seemed fairly  prosperous.  They charge a $10 per car fee to drive out to Cape Flattery and the beaches.  We ate lunch at one of the two restaurants open in town. Ben had an excellent French Dip sandwich and Jane just played it safe with a hamburger.  Both were good – Ben’s French Dip excellent according to him.

View of Harbor at Neah Bay - from restaurant

The drive on to Cape Flattery was about 5 miles through thick forest. We knew the Pacific was close but you could not see it or the Strait of San Juan de Fuca.  They meet here at Cape Flattery.  We parked at the end of the road and started down a trail. After going down a trail at a steep grade for about 200 feet we could see it was getting steeper and steeper – signage stating the trail was not for those with weak ankles, knees, or backs along with the increasingly steep grade convinced us to stop…so we were 1/2 mile from the actual cape – I say we made it in spirit!
Trail DOWN to Cape Flattery

We drove a little south to Hobuck Beach which was deserted but another beautiful view of the Pacific.  From here you could hike further south and be back in the National Park and an area called Shi Shi Beach which is said to have some outstanding sea stacks.  This area is certainly different from any beaches we are familiar with in the south but are equally beautiful.
Hobuck Beach on Makah Reservation

We stopped in the general store and Ben bought a tee shirt and some Gatorade.  We are really big spenders!
About 1/3 of the way back there is a road connecting the road we traveled on along the strait to the main road 101 that we had traveled twice. We knew it was a better road so we took that  way back.  Part of the trip back however did allow us to see the Strait of San Juan de Fuca with a clear sky as the sun had broken through and we could even see the Canadian Mountains on Victoria Island faintly across the water.

All above Strait of San Juan de Fuca

 A word tonight about the logging on the Olympic Peninsula., There are 19 logging companies on the Peninsula. There is a Nippon Paper Pulp Factory in Port Angeles and a Plywood Factory as well.  I noticed another company making special order wood products.  So the forests here are very important to the economy. There are signs telling what years an area is harvested, replanted, and harvested again. There are signs saying NO MORE NATIONAL PARK LAND.  I imagine there are quite the political battles over this and other environmental issues.  I include several photos of the trucks and wood yards here for flavor.

Back at the Red Lion we spent an hour or so watching the large ships coming and going from the port; and then walked to Jasmine Bistro for an excellent Thai dinner.  They had a tapa menu so we ordered several appetizers and then each had a small size dinner serving. Everything was good – Chicken Satay, Dungness Crab Butterflies (like Crab Rangoon), Pork Pad Thai, and Dungness Crab Fried Rice.  Forgot to take the camera but they looked as good as they tasted!

Watching the water, reading, and typing this blog filled our evening.  Maybe we can watch some TV. Tomorrow is catch up day and we turn in our car and get ready to leave a 6 AM on Wednesday for the the final part of our Anniversary Adventure.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Day Four Olympic National Park

June 1, 2014
Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary to us!   Hard to believe we have been traveling this great earth together for 50 years. We have always enjoyed seeing new places and having new experiences so chose to celebrate by taking a different type trip that would take us to many places we had never been before in a new mode of travel – the train . I can’t even imagine how many miles we have logged together and separately.  Today is the actual anniversary date  but we have been celebrating for the past two weeks and have one more to go!  Today was beach day!

We left Kalaloch Lodge about 9 AM we wanted to be to Beach 4 which was supposed to have great tidal pools for low tide at 9:30.  Beach 4 was similar to the beach a Kalaloch but the sand was much darker, almost black. Bigger rocks, lots of pools, and rocks and flowers and a steep trail down to the beach.  The pools did not contain as much sea life as yesterday. The beach was somewhat different and we enjoyed it – except for the climb back up to the parking lot!
Trail down to Beach 4 - more was steps!
Beach 4

Beautiful wildflowers on cliff

No we did not build it!

Starting back up to parking lot
Next we stopped at Ruby Beach.  We wanted some photos of what they called the sea stacks.  We got a photo but did not climb down to the beach.

Ruby Beach
 We then drove to Forks and from there to another area where there were two places to access a beach area. The southern side of the area where a river flows into the Pacific is on the Quileute Indian Reservation.  The beach and town called La Push.  It was indeed the most beautiful beach we had seen yet.  There was a large resort here with hotel, cottages, and a campground.  I could stay a week in that campground – if there is anywhere to eat…we had thought there was a restaurant but it was closed.  There were lots of folks in the resort and in the campground so there must have been somewhere. We ate fast food at the town store – it was good but I would not want to eat it for a week!

Two Views at La Push

Lot’s of sea stacks here and beautiful surf. The Quileute Indian reservation was one of the most orderly and clean we have seen in our travels. Seems most of the village is involved with the sea and fishing or crabbing. 
After walking around and taking several photos we drove back inland about 10 miles and drove down the other side of the river to the portion that is National Park Land – there was a campground here and Rialto Beach.  Of all the beaches we visited today I believe this one was our favorite. Much higher stronger surf and the same sea stacks we saw from La Push but from a different vantage point.  Hiking north along the beach would have been fantastic but our bodies were not up to the task!

The 3 above are at Rialto Beach

We considered driving back to Forks (about 10 miles) to spend the night but we both wanted to be sure we had good internet for catching up the blog. We had not had email or phone service for 3 days so decided to drive the 50 miles back to Port Angles.  The scenery is beyond description.

Crescent Lake

It has been a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the 70’s.  The Red Lion Inn had a room for us so we are here for 3 nights until we take the bus to Seattle early on Wednesday morning to catch our train back east. This means we have 2 days to explore the rest of the Olympic Peninsula and maybe do nothing for part of a day.

COHO Ferry that we came from Victoria on - view from our room

Dinner was only a block away at Kokopelli Grill,  Ben wanted a steak and he had one of the best he has ever had according to him.  Jane had a seafood pasta dish with a slight southwestern taste.  It was great as was the salad and lobster chowder.  Maybe some of the best food of our trip., 
Jane plans to get the blog caught up and we will both watch our first TV in 3 days.  We really did not miss the lack of TV, internet, and email; but we did think it was time to reconnect!

Day Three Olympic National Park

May 31. 2014
After the beautiful clear and sunny day yesterday we woke to cloud cover and mist over the ocean today.  But NO RAIN – we have been so lucky so far I am almost afraid to say that!  The forecast was for partly cloudy today so we shall see.
Rocks visible at low tide
 We walked over to the Lodge for breakfast and ordered buttermilk sourdough pancakes – a short stack (they were huge) – and an order of bacon to split.  They looked wonderful but were very tough and dense.  Not light fluffy at all – maybe the sourdough?  We should have split the pancakes too or had something else!

They Look Good don't they?
 It was low tide so we went down to explore the tidal pools and they were certainly interesting. Most colorful were the anemone and the starfish.  There were also many tiny whelks and other varieties of shells living among the mussels on the huge rocks.  Most of the rocks we explored are underwater except at low tide. There are also many small rocks that have been polished by the sea.  We collected a few and Ben got some driftwood – small pieces of course – space at a premium. 

Tidal Pool - Starfish and Urchins

Cabins from the beach 

As the tide began to come in we retreated back to the cabin and got ready for a trip south to a second rain forest – Quinault. We stopped along the way at a Trading Post/Gas Station on an Indian Reservation and bought a few things to round out our lunch leftovers from yesterday and to pick up something for breakfast tomorrow.  Wish I had thought to get some things at the store in Forks yesterday as they had a good bakery.  Oh, well – found some packaged goods that are bound to be better than the pancakes!

A word about this area. It is very remote.  We are about 45 miles from Forks a small town and about 80 miles from Port Angeles a medium size town.  There are 3 or 4 small Indian reservations along the western (ocean) side of the Olympic Peninsula. From what people say it is just as remote on south – we noticed 80 miles to a town probably about the size of Forks. There has been no cell coverage to speak of – occasionally I see 1 bar when I turn on the phone to check but then it will be gone…so definitely spotty. We have turned off our phones since they just search and search for no coverage. The lodge here has pay phones for your use and phone cards like we used to use for long distance to purchase.  I think the Lodge here and the one at Sul Doc must have internet connections for business but there is nothing available for the visitors. And there are no places to stay except in the town of Forks and on one Indian Reservation that we will visit later that is near Forks.

About 45 minutes south and east was the second rain forest.  The Ranger at Hoh told us it was somewhat different because they do not have the strong elk population to keep the undergrowth under control.  We were unable to get the passport stamp due to the ranger being “on patrol” - so the sign said.  He/she did return in a vehicle while we were eating lunch but never did open the Ranger Station and we were there a total of 2 hours. 
Ranger Station - fantastic setting

We shared a picnic table with a couple from Belgium who were enjoying a visit here in Washington and Oregon for a month. While we were eating lunch the sun came out to brighten up the day.
The half mile trail was different from the one yesterday.  There was a creek that meandered through the area and there was lots more undergrowth.  Where there was primarily ferns in Hoh; here there were also numerous wildflowers. We saw so many that were similar to what we have at home – oxalis, houstonia (bluets), foam flower, saxifrage (coral bells), and buttercups.  There were huge groups of skunk cabbage that had just finished blooming.  There were also many more epiphidic (grow on trees) ferns on the moss covered trees.  Many of the trees here were maple and birch where nearly all were evergreens in Hoh.  Both were interesting hikes with Hoh probably being our favorite.

We headed back towards Kalaloch and walked around a bit, made a dinner reservation, and enjoyed just sitting in our chairs relaxing looking out over the Pacific.  The tide was high at 3:30 and all the rocks we explored this morning were underwater.

Dinner was interesting and good but not great.  Ben had Scallops and Jane had Seafood Manicotti.  Spent some time looking around the gift shop to find something to purchase – nothing really of much interest.  T-shirts, earrings, drinking glasses, indian canoes or organic brand of shampoo etc.  Can’t say much for their merchandise selection. However they have a fantastic gardener!  Below is one of numerous hanging baskets that are everywhere.

Soon after we returned to our cabin it began to rain so we turned on the heat and settled in for reading and blog writing! Good thing I got some photos of the sunset last night – there will be no sunset tonight!