Friday, October 29, 2010

The Northern Cascades Fall Colors Caravan - Day 5, The Journey South & Home

Another week, and the last of the tale of the Fall Colors Caravan at last :).

I'm at the Cigar bar, as usual, however, this time I'm at a different one. This time, I'm writing to you from The Sports Den which is part of The Mark, on Canyon Road in Beaverton, Oregon.

In the past, this was my regular cigar haunt, however, I moved away from visiting it as often when they decided to change things around and try and put on a "High Dollar" image.

The Bartender that my friends and I loved was replaced with not-too-much-brains female bartenders who were there for looks, but not really all that useful when it came to knowing squat about a good cigar other than recommending whatever happened to be the most expensive.

The food got more expensive, and couple that with the place's regular shortcoming of closing at 11pm, and finding Greater Trumps proved to be a Godsend.

But, tonight, I didn't feel like sitting in my booth, which isn't what I'd call all that comfortable or conducive to writing for extended periods of time. A regular chair and a regular height table are so much more comfortable for typing long periods at!

And so, that leaves me off to tell you about my journey home from the end of the Fall Colors Rally.

* * * *

Day 5's Journey

View Larger Map

Highway 97 carried me away from Leavenworth and its Bavarian charms, and soon wrapped me up in green embrace. The number of people sharing the road with me gradually dwindled till finally, I was by myself weaving amongst the hills.

Till I came over the crest of one hill and the trees fella away like the curtains on a stage drawn open and rain worn sandy hills surrounded me and the only tall things were the massive wind power plants.

As I made my way down out of the higher elevations amongst the farms of these giant wind turbines, I could appreciably feel the Redneck Express regaining Horse Power and soon we were able to carry along comfortably at 60 mph, with only a light foot on the throttle.

If you actually take a look at this same area via the Google Street View option, not one of these windmills will be visible, they were all built after 2007, as that's roughly the year that most of the Google driving pictures were taken.

Eventually, US Highway 97 deposited me onto Interstate 90/Interstate 82 to journey east for a while before returning to the highway again. Along the way, I made a stopped off in Union Gap to take on fuel.

My last set of photos brings me to the town of Toppenish, WA a neat little town inside of the Yakima Nation's Tribal Reservation.

Why the last?

Remember a post or two back when I spoke about screaming belts and burnt rubber smell? It was shortly after that last picture was taken that the drive belt that drives the power steering pump and is also one of the two belts that drives the water pump let go with a loud "BANG!" against the inside of the hood.

So, not wanting to push my luck by trying to drive with only one belt driving the water pump and no power steering, I turned around and made my way back into Toppenish. The town does have an autoparts store, but it was already closed for the day by the time I reached town.

So, I left a message for work that I wouldn't be able to make it in the next day and overnighted in town. I don't even remember what the name of the place was I stayed at, by this point the Trip was over, and most things were starting to become a blur in memory, much in the same way that it happened to John Steinbeck towards the end of Travels with Charlie.

* * * *

The next morning, I went back to the Autoparts store, bought a new belt and did my best to to carve my arms up while removing all but one of the belts to install the new power steering belt and then re-tension them again.

It was getting on in the day again, so I snapped a few more photos as I reached Goldendale, WA, last stop before the Biggs Bridge crossing back into Oregon. I stopped by the observatory, but sadly, they're only open three days of the week, of which Tuesday is not included :p.

That pretty much wraps up my Fall Caravan tale, after I crossed the bridge into Oregon, the sun was almost completely gone, so I power drove on home, dropped Moby back with the misses and her mum (He was happy to see everyone after his journey with me), visited the misses and some of my family a while and went to bed.

Not the most exciting and colorful of endings to a tale, but it still brings to close my first big Washington Ramble. I look forward to doing it again, and I thank you all for reading along with me as Moby and I made our 5 day trip.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Northern Cascades Fall Colors Caravan - Day 4, Leavenworth, King Ludwigs, and Torklift pays a visit

My last entry was getting a little long and with sixty-three pictures to use for Leavenworth, I figured it might be a bit easier on those with slower internet connections if I separated dinner and the tour of town off from the journey there.

* * * *

As I left off, I had finally gotten my rig hooked up, all was right and good with the world once more and I could finally wander down to the gathering of folks over by the campfire.

Have I mentioned that the moment this group gets some place, a campfire (or two) is immediately started?

* chuckles *

As I drift around chatting with people and looking for a chair to purloin to rest my tired feet, I notice folks gathering around a gentleman whose covered one of the picnic tables in interesting products.

Come to find out, it's Mr. Torklift Rob Rapose from Torklift International out of Kent, WA. He's made the drive all the way out to demo some new prototype camper loading guides his company is designing for the Lynx corporation, the same ones that brought you the Lynx Leveling blocks that so many RVers come to rely on for those almost never completely level campsites that plague us all :p.

In addition to the new guides, he's got several different deodorizer products, both for your RV holding tanks and for removing pesky odors that have built up in your RV.

Free samples for all, yay!

I think I can hear the Redneck Express's suspension groaning as I pick up a bottle of Tank odor remover to try next summer when the black tank start's getting that rather pesky odor that no amount of tank treatment seems to be able to eliminate.

* * * *

Eventually, the time to make our way into town comes around. Luck is with me at last as I manage to grab a seat aboard a jeep that's ferrying folks into town for dinner and I finally get a chance to actually see some of Leavenworth that doesn't involve the Blessed Leavenworth NAPA Autoparts store.

I join Camptoboat and a few others out in front of King Ludwigs as we wait for the others to arrive before going in to get our seats in the quiet group dining area in the rear of King Ludwigs.

Before we sit down to dinner, let me fill you in on a little history about the Bavarian town in the Washington "Alps".

From Wikipedia.

The first route across Stevens Pass was built by the Great Northern Railway in 1892. The townsite was across the Wenatchee River from Icicle and was named Leavenworth the same year the rail construction began. Captain Charles Leavenworth, president of the Okanogan Investment Company, purchased the land in the present-day downtown and laid the streets parallel to the new railroad tracks.

The railroad construction was completed during the winter of 1893. Lafayette Lamb and his brother, Chauncery Lamb arrived in 1903 from Iowa to build the second largest sawmill in Washington state.

Leavenworth was officially incorporated on September 5, 1906. A small timber community, it became the headquarters of the Great North Railroad in the early 1900s. The railroad relocated to Wenatchee in the 1920s, greatly affecting Leavenworth's economy.

The city struggled until 1962, when the Project LIFE (Leavenworth Improvement For Everyone) Committee was formed to transform the city into a mock Bavarian village to revitalize its economy. Owen and Pauline Watson, owners of a business on Front Street, formed the committee after visiting Solvang, California in 1958 and thought it was an excellent idea for Leavenworth.

Leavenworth is home to the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, which opened in 1995 and contains more than 5,000 nutcrackers dating from prehistoric to modern.
Leavenworth's annual Oktoberfest celebration is claimed to be one of the most attended in the world outside Munich, Germany. Leavenworth's transformation into a theme town was inspired, and assisted, by Solvang, California. Later the Washington town of Winthrop followed Leavenworth's example and adopted a town theme.

* * * *

Eventually, enough of our fellow campers had arrived and we made our way inside to be seated.

The menu at King Ludwigs isn't the biggest you'll find at a German Restaurant, but the quality of the food is good, and the Accordian Player who came and entertained us during and after dinner was well worth it.

I can't remember all of the songs that were played and the we sung along to, but I know we covered a fair number of the songs from the old classic movie, "The Sound of Music" in addition to one of my regular favorites, "Roll out the Barrel".

Eventually, that well known song and dance of almost all Octoberfests held in the US came around, "The Chicken Dance."

Our beloved accordionist asked for two people to come up and dance, a man and a woman. We got one brave lady and he started in, but we couldn't get a gentleman to join her. In the end, not wanting the dance to be incomplete, I joined in.

You may need to watch the video in a darkened room, Camptoboat shot the footage, but the low lighting in our dining area made getting a clear video a bit hard.

I'm the fat guy in overalls and the bright orange Dodge cap if there's any confusion :p.

Something I learned is, never try and do the chicken dance after stuffing $60 worth of food in yer belly, it left me percolating for the remainder of the evening, I'm still relieved that I didn't explode from sitting close by the campfire later that night with the amount of gas that kept leaking out of me, LOL!

* * * *

Eventually, we had to say goodbye to King Ludwigs, Camptoboat had once again come through for us and had arrange for a taxi-van to come and shuttle us back to camp. The effects of the several pitchers of beer had a firm hold on all those riding and it wasn't long before everyone launched into singing, "The wheels on the bus go round and round..." all the way back to camp.

Not all of the campers who were staying at Leavenworth that night had gone to the dinner, those that had remained behind had expanded the campfires by that point to two and created a mobius strip around the two fires with chairs.

I joined in around the campfires after fetching Moby from the camper, where he'd been staying with the TV on to keep him company till I got back from dinner. That's another thing he does well. Unlike Murphy, who will start barking and whining constantly the moment you're out of sight, Moby finds himself someplace comfy and curls up to sleep till you get back.

And he's really good and remembering folks who gave him food ;).

In the tradition of Caravan campfires, Rick continued to exercise his abilities as resident firebug and continued adding firewood to the campfires till he turned one of the two into a blazing smokey inferno by discovering the Super-Pitch logs that were towards the bottom of the firewood supply.

As you can see, everyone around that campfire wound up making for the hills to keep away from the thick, black smoke roiling off.

Eventually the fires burned themselves back down to a reasonable size and Moby and I were able move back in near the fire. The ground had been warmed enough near the fire that Moby found himself a comfy spot and laid down to keep warm. His short coat of fur wasn't helping him to stay terribly warm that cold October evening.

It was sufficiently cold that Peter got desperate and parked his rear directly over the fire. Remember my comments about my concern about myself detonation?

Before long, or rather, the moment we got back, the Scotch and Canadian Whiskeys came out once more and before long detailed discussions about "staying hydrated" began as the libations were dispersed.

But, as they say, all good things must come to an end and before too long it was once again a truly late hour of the evening and we all said our evening goodbyes, a few of the drivers were departing for home or parts elsewhere early in the morning.

Moby and I ambled our way back to the camper to ready ourselves for a long nights sleep in preparation for the long drive ahead.

* * * *

The next morning found me to be the only camper left in the park, all others had packed up and departed by the time I had set foot outside to begin preparations for our own departure.

To my amusement, I discovered that the Redneck Express was now nestled under its own blanket of pine needles. On more than one occasion the previous afternoon, we would bear witness to a "needle-storm" whenever the wind kicked up through the mountain peaks.

The internet at the park was finally working that morning, so I spent a little time to browse the forums and check my bank account before pulling up chocks and starting for home.

Before I close my Leavenworth chapter, allow me to provide you with a brief photo tour of the city along its main highway thoroughfare.