Thursday, June 29, 2017

Day 289 - End of the Road

Even without adding in the air miles between Alaska and Seattle, we still covered just a bit less than 23,000 road miles in NiRVana and Satan.  Wow!  46 states, two countries, and a whole lot in between.

We loved "almost" every minute of our trip.  Key West got a bit stale after two months, it was unusually cold in northern Florida, and the rains throughout March and April were amazing.

We saw all of our immediate families over the course of ten months, visiting and caught up with lots and lots of old friends...some who we had not seen in over 25 years!  It was great to experience America and its wonders.  The national parks and monuments were awesome and we spent a lot of time in them hiking and biking.

This was a great way to start our six year journey.  It gave us some insight on how to get along in tight, 24/7 quarters.  That worked out fine.  We have developed a better appreciation for each other and the little things we do every day that somehow got past us in the last twenty years...ha-ha.

With our home and business successfully sold and the deal closed, we are now ready to depart the US and begin exploring the world.  We have traveled to over 70 countries thus far and over the course of the next five years we will easily break the 100 mark.  Our goal is to keep moving, staying in one place no more than a month at a time, moving on to a new city, new country, new continent.

Continue to read our blog and who knows, maybe you, yourself, will find passages about YOU in it as well.

Days 287-288 - Monterey, CA

We arrived in Monterey and got a spot at the local fairgrounds.  After almost 67 years, this is the first time I ever visited the fair!  I was born in this city, lived here on and off throughout my first years, and come back often.  I have relatives here, two favorite cousins, and it seemed appropriate before departing the country that I return one more time.

Joy and Victoria are my age, a first cousin and a third cousin, and they are pretty much all that is left of my Monterey family to whom I still connect.  We spent the two days on and off with Joy and enjoyed an huge, traditional Italian dinner all together on our last evening.

Finishing up with some last minute shopping needs, we took a long bike ride around the peninsula, had lunch as a local haunt, and finished getting NiRVana ready to say goodbye.  We are now down to what will stay in the RV and the two traveling bags that we will take along on our world adventure.

It all still seems a bit like a dream, the last 11 months are a memory, and the future is opening up one day at a time.  Our immediate reservations have been confirmed and we are just about ready to take off.  A few days left in Southern California and the world awaits.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Day 286 - South to California

Our drive down I-5 was uneventful, fast, and HOT!  We arrived in Eugene, OR late afternoon and found free overnight parking at the River Valley Center, a large mall with a huge parking lot.  Once we were parked, a security guard came by to welcome us, give us a handout on the dos and don'ts, and put a parking pass on the windshield.  Nice!  The balance of the evening was spent catching up on some TV and doing paperwork in anticipation of our real estate closing tomorrow morning.  Yippee!  Almost there!!!

Days 279 - 285 - Oak Harbor and Coupeville, WA

We drove up from Portland to Anacortes and then down to Oak Harbor where we checked into to an RV park just south of Deception Pass State Park.  We made our base camp here, a short fifteen minutes north of Oak Harbor.  For the next few days we busied ourselves with visits to local doctors to set up our medical relationships while we are traveling.

It has been a full circle for us the last ten month.  We started out here on our motorcycles and have now returned after a combined 23,000 miles of driving and riding in NiRVana.  It has been an awesome trip as most of you have witnessed on our blog.

Tom got a bit of a surprise during his visit with the doctor finding a nodule on his prostate.  A few blood tests showed nothing of concern, although the anxiety waiting for the results added to our pre-takeoff jitters.

During our stay we successfully closed the sale on our home and business in Alaska.  This was our last piece of unfinished business and the relief of having it all put to bed was gratifying, to say the least.

We cleaned up the RV and took five boxes of stuff we have accumulated to our storage facility.  It was a bit strange to open up the locker and look inside at EVERYTHING we felt compelled to keep and store for the next five years.  Actually, it was a lot less than we have remembered.  And honestly, the thought of spending $6,000 over the next five years to keep it all safe was bewildering.  Is there really anything in there worth that much?  Ah, yes, the jewelry and artwork.

Our dear friends Dan and Louise Stewart live in Coupeville.  There were our neighbors and best friends in Anchorage, having relocated about four years ago.  They have both been going through health challenges the last few years and our time with them was limited to one day and one evening. We did get a chance to hook up with Sandy and Don Harper who live on the northeast shore of the island.  We enjoyed dinner and a lovely evening catching up.

Sunday morning finds us heading south via the Port Townsend ferry and the on to California.  Over the next few days we will amble down I-5 to Orange County with a stop in Tracy to visit the cemetery where my grandparents are buried, followed by two nights in Monterey to visit family.

We plan to arrive in Fountain Valley on the 30th giving us just four days to catch up with family and make our final arrangements for a July 5th departure to the WORLD.

It is happening.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Days 277 - 278 - Portland

IT IS TOO DAMN HOT!!!  We arrived in Portland after a fabulous drive through the Columbia River Gorge.  Wow!  Stunning mountainscapes, water, and sky.  We settled into a lovely RV park on the Tualatin River about 20 minutes south of downtown and looked up a long lost nephew and his wife.

Bill Carlton is the son of Bobbie's oldest sister, Andy.  It had been over 30 years since they last saw each other.  His wife Allison was lovely and together we enjoyed catching up before treating them to dinner at a favorite Italian restaurant they suggested.

Billy is also quite famous!  He is the grandmaster HIGH SCORER for a classic video arcade game called Missile Command.  It was extremely popular in the late 70's.  They made a movie about him back in 2006 called "High Score" that won several documentary awards.  Needless to say his place is covered with video game equipment from that period.

The following day we attempted to visit downtown.  It was well over 90^ in the shade.  We stopped by the Ninth Court of Appeals to offer our thanks before heading up to Washington Park an the Rose Garden.  The flowers were beautiful and the park was really busy,.  The line to get into the Japanese Gardens was so long, we opted to return to camp and our air-conditioning.

Tonight we will enjoy dinner again with Bill and Allison before heading north to Seattle and our first homecoming day.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Days 274-276 - Columbia River

We drove three hours south for a three day stay on the banks of the Columbia.  We found a great RV park run by the city of Umatilla and settled in for three rainy days with nothing to do but relax.  This was our last break from the road.  From here it will be ten days of rushing around getting ready for our international adventure!

Day 273 - Spokane, WA

Our four hour drive to Spokane took us once again over the Rockies, our last big climb of this trip, and into the city of Spokane.  It's been a while since we've been on a big freeway and the traffic got some getting used to.  We found a nice RV park for the night, dropped off one of our handmade baskets at a friend of a friend, and enjoyed a quiet evening.  Jeni Stowe is a friend of ours, grew up in Spokane and was returning from Alaska for some personal business.  We missed her by one day...ugh.

Days 271-272 - Butte Montana

Taking a look at the map, we decided the best way to cross over Idaho and into Washington state was to head north following the Snake River and into Montana.  The mountain passes were at aobut 6,000' along interstates so we figured this was the best way to thank NiRVana for being such a trusted friend over these past ten months.  She enjoyed the ride almost as much as we did.

We arrived in Butte late in the day, took the car to a local brake shop, and had things checked out. They could not duplicate our brake loss, did some routine maintenance, and everything seemed in order.  While we really had not planned to spend any time in Butte at all, the local mine tour caught our eye and planned that for our next full day.  What a nice surprise.

The mine tour is in one of the most prolific silver and copper mines of the region.  The facility also had a completely reconstructed old west town with about 60 building, all fully appointed.  That alone was worth the visit.  The mine tour was amazing.  We went down 100' of tunnel and say stuff neither of us had every experienced.  Our docent was great, a retired mine electrician.

The town of Butte is on a high hill, "the richest hill in the world," and was a photo right out the late 1800's.

Days 269-270 - Craters of the Moon National Monument

While in Cody we saw a movie about Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.  That, along with a need to avoid another high mountain pass, took us south and into Idaho Falls.  From there we headed west over the high and very flat Snake River basin.  Along the way we visite the EBR-1 site, home to the first breeder reactor.  What an awesome surprise this was.  We spent a couple of hours visiting the nuclear site.

We reached another great KOA camp in the city of Arco and settled in for the night.  The next day we headed to the monument.  Must short of the turn to enter the park, the brakes went completely out in Satan.  We had to downshift and use the parking brake to slow it down.  Ugh.  We carefully got to the parking area of the visitor center and took a deep breath.  Thankfully it was relatively all flat land so we were not to freaked out.  We visited the park for well over three hours, hiking the longest of the trails i the system and at the end of the last hike, got a ride back to the center from a very friendly and accommodating ranger.  The craters and the landscape were awesome and breathtaking.

Days 265-268 - Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

We spent four days in a nice RV park south of Grand Teton National Park.  We had hoped to be able to park in Yellowstone itself by only a few campgrounds were open and none offered RV availability. As it turned out we were better off where we were as we discovered it was about as centrally located as we could get for all the things we wanted to do.

The views of the Tetons from our campsite were amazing--huge mountains rising right out of the plain and straight up into the air!

We headed north about one hour into Yellowstone the next day and spent the next nine hours on the east and north side of the park.  There we viewed the falls (the trail to the lower observation level was closed due to late snow.  The falls were tremendous with so much water from the huge snowfall this last winter.  The place was crowded with early season toursits.  As usual we were amazed at the number of Korean and Chinese visitors!

We enjoyed a picnic lunch on the canyon edge before heading further north over the Continental Divide and into the Mammoth Hot Spring area.

We drove back south at the end of the day passing through the geyser valley scouting out tomorrow's adventure.  The following day we headed back into the park and this time to the west side to see Old Faithful and its companions.  Today it took almost two hours to get back into the park and the place was swamped with folks.  The geyser walk was great and we covered better than 5 miles of trails viewing geyser and hot pools.

On our third day we decided to visit Grand Tetons and take a hike up into the high ground.  We decided on Inspiration Point.  The trail was busy with lot of hikers so even though there were bears everywhere, we didn't see any.  The rushing creek dropping down into the lake below was stunning and the almost six mile round trip up 1500' took about four hours.

On our last day we headed to Jackson Hole, a famous ski resort and took the aerial tram to the top of the mountain.  The views were spectacular at 10,300' and the tram ride was a lot of fun.  The resort was only an hour from our camp and we spent the whole day enjoying the views and the amazing clear skies.