And The Winner Is, Idaho!

August 9-13, 2018

We call ourselves “interviewing” places for extended winter stays and had high hopes for Spokane, Washington based on recommendations from locals.  So we set our sights there, but had to pass through Idaho on the way.  That’s no longer a pass-through state for us and likely THE place!

The Heat Wave

We last left you in Libby, MT with some smoky skies and 90+ temps.  Fast forward to our next interim stop for two days in Moyie Springs, Idaho.  The forecast for those fateful two days was 104 degrees for the high with extreme fire danger and smoky skies.  Yuck.

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We’ve never been so grateful for towering trees and shade in our lives.  This spot in Twin Rivers Canyon Resort was just the ticket.  Getting there involved a very steep narrow gravel road with four hairpin turns, but we knew this from online reviews and disconnected Bitsy first.  I led the way in the Bits and boy was it a stunning view looking down over the huge dropoff.  The place is at the confluence of the Moyie and Kootenai Rivers and really is beautiful.  Since we only lazed around in the AC, I have no other pictures to show for our stop except this one.  Trust me, it’s pretty there.

Coeur d’Alene

Our next stop was Farragut State Park, only a short drive away from Coeur d’Alene and the reason we chose it.  Unfortunately it’s still smoky and we almost stayed cloistered there, too.  Almost.  A little cabin fever and a reasonably clear day got us out the door to our goal.  We must figure out why people love this town.  I’ve read several blogs and articles touting the wonders of CDA – yeah that’s the short name – and we wondered what all the fuss was about.  In addition, Cecil & Eloise (my parents) mentioned this as one of the places they loved when they explored the area.  Other than a quilt store Mom frequented, I had no idea what they saw in the place.  They never said and I never thought to ask.

 

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Now we know, or at least we think we do.  Beautiful, friendly, and easy to navigate are just a few of the reasons.  CDA has a great downtime vibe with a long beachfront right on Lake Coeur d’Alene.  Check off one of our wants – a body of water in or near town with a nice place to stroll.  We had a dynamite meal overlooking the water so check off good dining options.  It may not have some of the chains we’re used to, but appears to have all the cuisines we enjoy.  And with a population of about 45,000 people, it’s not too big and not too small.  In Three Bears terms, it’s just right.

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The waterfront with the floating dock walkway.  Lot of boats in the marina including sailboats.  Pat misses his sailing, so this is a true plus.

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Lots of people of all ages were enjoying this gorgeous city park and they were in the middle of a weekly free concert when we strolled by.  Oh yes, there’s a college here, too, so you get the added “young” feel and all the amenities that colleges bring like trendy restaurants and cultural activities.

Sailboats, seagulls, and more red geraniums than I could imagine.

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And the largest dandelions I’ve ever seen decorating even more green space.  We even had a person waiting on a bench help us score a nice free parking spot.  Add friendly people to the mix.

We were pleased to read about mild winters here (relatively speaking), but they do have all four seasons.  In my whole life, I’ve never lived anywhere with four seasons.  Florida and Texas have two at best.  And not too far away are ski slopes.  Pat could even get his downhill skiing fix and I could, well, not.  I mean I’d like to try cross-country skiing, but I find anything bigger than the bunny hill stressful.  Add hiking and biking to the list and this place has all the outdoor boxes checked.

Any big city stuff we’re missing is only about 30 miles away in Spokane, Washington.  This place felt like living in DeLand with the option of popping over to Daytona Beach or Orlando for shopping, eating out, or catching a plane.

Anyway, I know this post is short on photos and long on feelings, but it’s hard to capture a “vibe” on film.  Just know that Coeur d’Alene felt right to us both, plus I learned to spell it.  Pat says Idaho is a hidden gem of a state and we’ve barely scratched the surface exploring it.

Our next step in the “extended stay” plan is to get a place in CDA for the winter of 2020-2021.  Apartment, condo, small caretaker shack.  We don’t know what exactly, but we’ll plop ourselves down for December through March or April and see how we really like it.  Why so long in the future you ask?  Well, we already have our reservations in Arizona this winter.  Ugh, I know.  More desert, but somehow we’ll manage.  Then the following winter is back to our home state of Florida for a round of family and doctor visits.

So there you have it.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!  Idaho is the place.

Next up  – Spokane, Washington.  See you on the way!

Sasquatch Lives in Libby

August 6-8, 2018

One more stop in Montana after spectacular Glacier, and it’s in Libby.  We made these reservations months ahead and couldn’t really remember why we chose this spot.  Turns out there are some pretty great things to see in the area, so we had a whirlwind three day visit.

Airstream On A Stick

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The RV park was charming and I started calling it the Airstream-On-A-Stick.  Well, ok.  Two sticks actually.  It was really easy to find the place and I didn’t miss the turn even once.  (Yes, that does happen other places.)  And you can own that vintage Southwind in the background for a mere $6500.  Bet there’s some burnt orange shag carpet in that baby.

Sasquatch Lives Here

Our first Libby Sasquatch sighting was in the RV park.  Pat and Jackson spied him lurking just on the other side of the creek that ran behind us.

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Pat said it needed to be a blurry Sasquatch photo to be authentic, but try as I might, my camera refused to take a blurry shot.  Now mind you, I get LOTS of blurry shots when I’m not trying to.

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The local bank has a bandit that looks suspiciously like Sasquatch, and he’s getting away with the loot, too.  We slowed down but didn’t stop.  Just didn’t want to get involved.

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There you go.  An authentic blurry Sasquatch shot taken on my phone in a moving car.  Pat thinks this one is more like it and I think it proves Sasquatch really lives in Libby.

Ross Creek Cedars

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Our first outing from Libby was to the Ross Creek Giant Cedars Natural Area.  I’m sure you’ve guessed that some pretty big trees live there.  We’re warming up for Redwoods and Sequoias later in the year.  Even on a hot day (90+), it’s so much cooler underneath the cedar canopy.

These cedars are truly enormous with some as tall as 175 feet, and many at least 1,000 years old.  You don’t fully appreciate the size until you come across a fallen tree.  The decaying ones are like natural dugout canoes.

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There was one tree with a hole big enough to stand inside.  I just wasn’t totally comfortable sharing that space with whatever might be lurking in there, so I picked this tree for my photo op.

Cedar fronds, lush ferns and rock pillars along the dry creek bed.

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I could not get enough of these things.  Inside out pomegranates perhaps?  Nope.  These are called Devil’s Club and are covered with very sharp thorns.  Signs warned you not to touch, and you can just see some of those pricklies underneath the leaves.

Kootenai Falls

We tried to visit Kootenai Falls when we first arrived, but we made the mistake of taking Jackson.  We got as far as the overhead walkway that takes you over the railroad tracks, but were stopped by open metal stairs with sharp edges.  Not paw friendly, so we had to turn around.  Our plan was to catch it on the way back from the Cedars without the J Dog.

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There’s nothing like the roar or rushing water and this stretch of the Kootenai River has falls and rapids for quite a ways.  Crystal clear and ice cold.

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My favorite photo is this one with the two trees hanging in the balance.

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We made it across the swinging bridge, too.  Only five people allowed on at any one time, so you have to wait your turn.

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The bridge in the distance and the look while we waited for our chance to cross.

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This spot reminded us of the canyon in White Horse, Yukon Territory.  Same emerald green water, but the rocks were different.  Here the colored layers jut up to make the flow exciting.

Libby Dam

Waterways in this part of the country have dams for irrigation, hydroelectric power or just plain recreation.  Water itself is such a precious commodity and I think out East we take it for granted since it seems to be in endless supply.  Out West, it all revolves around the water, and there never seems to be enough.

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Libby’s dam does generate power and created the Lake Koocanusa Reservoir.  A little hazy this day due to distant fires.

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The reservoir at the top of the dam.  I was being chased by a hornet at this point and yes, there was screeching.  I made it over to Pat where he promptly got bit.  Problem solved.

River Road Wildlife Drive

There’s really no such thing as the Wildlife Drive, but there is a River Road and our camping neighbor told us if we drove it at about 7pm, we’d see lots of wildlife.  She didn’t steer us wrong.

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Mountain sheep were in abundance and they weren’t about to vacate the road on our account.  They even stared us down!  In addition to these ladies and gentlemen, we saw a bunch of wild turkeys and their little babies.  At the beginning of the drive, I’m hollering not to run over the babies as they ran in front of the car, while Pat is trying not to be rear-ended by some local throwing up his hands.  I’m sorry, but we can’t flatten the baby animals on our wildlife drive.  We also saw some deer and possibly goats, too.  Since our car didn’t end up getting hit, it was a very satisfying drive.

Other Things of Note

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Serious fire danger here.  It’s approaching triple digits and aside from the river itself, the place is dry as a bone.  No idling your car on top of grass, which is really just straw at this point.  No wood or charcoal fires either in the campground.

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This is how Jackson deals with the situation.  Halfway back from our walk he just completely flops down in the shaded campground grass.

That’s all folks from Montana.  Next up: the great state of Idaho.  And wait until you hear what we think!  See you on the way…

 

Glacier National Park

August 1 – 5

We’re finally visiting a place that’s been on the list for two years now.  Last year we didn’t make it here due to our whimsical route changes and the area forest fires, so this year we’re determined.  Glacier National Park certainly lives up to its reputation, and if you can’t make it to Alaska, this place will do!

West Glacier KOA Resort

The top rated KOA in the nation.  I have to say, of all the KOAs we’ve visited, this one is tops.  Roomier sites, immaculate & beautiful grounds, and great service.  They fixed our electrical issue on our first night when it was over 90 degrees out.  That earned big points for me since the heat was making me right cranky.  And only two miles-ish to the Glacier National Park entrance makes it darn near perfect.

Of course we had to  figure out our strategy for seeing the sights.  Finally got Pat well only to have a sick dog on our hands.  Chicken & rice and immodium are the cure-alls we are trying.  It took a whole week, but he finally did recover.  We think letting him drink from the lake at West Shore was our mistake.  They had “possible swimmer’s itch” warnings posted, but it never occurred to us that the dog would be effected.

Our Paths Cross Again!

Our friend Chris (Jeep Girl On The Move) and her faithful pooch Wash made it to Kalispell and decided to make a day trip to Glacier.  What fun to see a friendly face again.

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Jackson enjoyed seeing his friend, too.  They get along quite well.  Now we’ve seen them a total of four times in three different states.

After a fun lunch at the Wandering Gringo food truck, we bid them farewell.  She’s ultimately headed to North Carolina when her big adventure ends, so hopefully we’ll see Chris again when we head down the East coast in 2019.  The Gringo had lots of beautiful flowers and I couldn’t resist a shot of them in a wooden canoe and a claw-footed bathtub.  They even had a old-fashioned hand crank clothes washer overflowing with blooms.

Lake McDonald

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Lake McDonald is one of the major stops on the west side of Glacier National Park and our first stop.  They have a boat ride, so you know we’re on it.  Crystal clear water and colorful smooth stones on the lake bottom.

We had just a little bit of haze from distant fires, but a pretty nice day for tooling around the lake.  The park ranger narrated and pointed out the peaks and ridges.  Sadly as I’m writing this post, a lot of the views in the photos are completely engulfed in flames and this part of Glacier is closed.

Going To The Sun

Going to the Sun Road is the spectacular 50 mile drive that winds its way through the stunning terrain in Glacier National Park and the top “must-do” on our list.  It’s probably top of the pile for everyone since it’s only open mid-June to mid-October, weather permitting.  In fact, this year it didn’t open fully until June 23rd due to a heavy winter snowfall.  We still saw patches of snow around Logan Pass, the highest point on the road.

Our first waterfall stop and a look at that sparkling emerald water.

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Here’s the view as you drive.  I drove and Pat took some shots with my phone.  I had my eyes on the road since it’s pretty narrow and the drop-off makes your heart pound.

I found a tiny pull out for Bitsy for a few more views with the real camera.

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The view from Big Bend.  That stripe in the middle of the mountain is the Going to the Sun Road and oh, how tiny you feel beneath those peaks.

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The mountain goats were perched up high watching the tourist show.  Best view in the house.

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The Red Bus tour will take you along the road and stop at all the good places.  We considered riding in one of these cute cars, but the tour length and our sick dog didn’t go together.  Instead we did our own tour in Bitsy to see the highlights, eat dinner and complete the full 100 mile drive there and back.

Favorite shots from Logan Pass.  One of the Red Busses, peak & the trees, ground squirrel sampling berries, and plenty of wildflowers.

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Our favorite “flowers” of the day were the ones that looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.  I’m sure there are eyes underneath that “hair-do”.

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Here’s Pat at Lunch Creek, a pullout just after the pass heading east.  Probably my favorite shot of the day.

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Lunch Creek from the other direction looking up at what is clearly a glacier valley from long ago.  At this point, we’ve decided to hoof it for the end of the road and the east park entrance for dinner with a plan to pull off of at a few spots on the return trip.

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If I had to pick a runner-up photo for the day, this one of Wild Goose Island would be it.  Sunset is on its way and the haze is beginning to settle in as we make our way back to West Glacier.  According to National Park Service info, this is one of the most photographed spots in the world.

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This impressive rock face resembles Prudential’s rock to Pat.  Also a good look at one of the burned out sections from fires in the past few years.

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My little sunset chipmunk.  He’s not a bit concerned about us.

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Our final shot of the day.  Pat gets credit for this one using my phone pointed out the car window.  He’s capturing the smoke that’s settled into the valley and we’re concerned that a new fire might be brewing.  Fortunately not, just smoke moving in from afar.  I now understand the song lyrics “the mist of the smoke of a distant fire”.  Perfect description.

And a fun fact from one of the rangers.  Rock plows patrol the road daily.  We saw one and they look a lot like a snow plow mounted on the front of a truck for pushing the fallen rocks off the roadway.  Who knew?

Two Medicine Lake

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After our scenic drive, we picked out a hike on the East Glacier side of the park at Two Medicine Lake.  Finally I get my iconic photo.  A fisherman in waders fly fishing.  When I think Montana, I think of this view.

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Pat on the path around Two Medicine Lake.  We were headed to the falls, but knew the trail was too long to actually make it with the time we had.

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Flower of the day – Mountain Paintbrush.  Reminds me of the Texas Indian Paintbrush.

A few more views.  Big booming thunder got our attention after we turned around.  The weather changes so fast coming over the mountains.

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Backward glance at Two Medicine Lake with the storm coming over the peaks.

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One last photo.  Guess what comes back first after a wildfire?  Beautiful Fireweed.

That’s some of the best of Montana.  And it’s the land of elk repellent, public lands and the big question.  Do you have a defensible position?  Meaning, can you defend your property against wildfires?  And that is so very important in this area.  Western Montana is a little slice of heaven, though, and we’ll be back.

Next Up:  One more stop in Montana.  See you on the way!

More Montana

July 8 – July 31

Here’s my Montana-for-a-month post complete with stories, state parks and photos.  This is simply a beautiful state with all the things we like best – lakes, rivers, TALL trees and mountains – not too big, not too small, just right.

Black Sandy State Park

For this stop, we’re right outside Helena, the capitol of Montana.  Needless to say, we made the most of the dining options and retail.  We even managed to sort through our “stuff” and donate a laundry basket full of it to the local Goodwill.  Now Pat’s backpacking gear has a permanent storage spot and my crafty things are better organized and easier to get to.  Probably not the lead-in you expected for the state park, but trust me when I say, the town was better.  There was, however, one single solitary site that was good at Black Sandy, and it was OURS!

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Our view was quite nice and we sat up on the hill overlooking the rest of the crammed in sites.  This state park rivaled some of the cramped quarters we’ve seen in private RV parks and if we’d had any other site, we’d have left.

There were some positives here, though.  Jackson was popular with the children and a large group swarmed him multiple times asking all about his breed, age, name, etc.  He loved it.

Then there was the dead fish girl.  We were walking Jackson near the swimming area, and a lady and two kids were wading along the shoreline.  “Ewwww, it’s DISGUSTING!”, we hear one of the girls exclaim.  She then proceeds to pick up no less than six gutted fish carcasses that were resting on the bottom of the shallows.  She’s got them hanging from her fingers like streamers and we can’t help but laugh.  The girl didn’t belong to the lady with her, so she thought it was pretty funny, too.  Little girl was headed back to her campsite to “show” her Dad the fish.

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My first painted rock find!  These Kindness Rocks are all the rage and people are painting and hiding them everywhere.  This particular guy is part of the Cowlicks County Rocks FB group.  I posted his picture and found his artist.  I promised her I’d re-hide soon, just not in a National Park.  Apparently the painted rocks violate the “leave no trace” policy and will be discarded if found by a ranger.

Gates of the Mountains

We did manage to get out and sightsee while we were at Black Sandy.  Just a few miles up the road is the Gates of the Mountains wilderness area featuring a boat ride.  If there’s a boat ride, we generally take it.

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This spot was dubbed Gates of the Rocky Mountains by Lewis and Clark.

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Normally this tour doesn’t dock anywhere, but we were ahead of schedule and got to explore a picnic area for a few minutes.

The view from each direction.

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It was a hot one and this deer regarded us warily while getting a drink from the mighty Missouri.

A gal was perched on the edge of this rock ready to jump to the water below.  No amount of coaxing from her boat or from us hecklers in the tour boat could get her to jump.  Our tour guide assured us that it looks way higher when you’re standing there than it does from our vantage point.

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Wouldn’t you love a little cabin like this one?  We looked at real estate magazines and for 52 million we can have a grand cattle ranch and spectacular log home.  There are cheaper ones, but why settle?

A few more shots from the scenic drive.  The one on the left is from the Devil’s Elbow overlook featuring Hauser Lake.  Top right is the Sleeping Giant.  Can you see him? Bottom right is the York Bridge over the Missouri.

Salmon Lake State Park

Salmon Lake State park was more like it.  Heavily treed sites right on the shores of another beautiful lake.  The drive on Montana 83 wasn’t bad either and it’s reminding us of our Alaska drives.  The mountains are a little lower, but we’re oohing and aahing just the same.

Jackson was the star of the show here, too, with a crowd of cuties named Riley, Isabel, Addie & Madeline hanging on him.  The boys could care less, but the little girls were in love!

The swimming was good here, too, for Jackson that is.  I find lakes to be ookey and don’t dip more than a toe in.  At least the lake bottoms here are smooth tumbled rocks of all shapes and colors.  Not the sticky mud that’ll suck your shoes right off your feet.

Our outing here was to visit the oldest Larch tree named Gus.  He’s 1,000 years old and pretty impressive.  Never even heard of this type of tree before.  Apparently the same as an eastern Tamarack?  That rings no bells either.

And that’s pretty much it for outings at this stop since Pat had what he thought was a raging tooth problem that turned out to be a sinus problem.

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Well, ok, we did go to the health clinic for the dentist visit.  They have a heli-port since big city medical care is not exactly around the corner.  In this neck of the woods, they have signs on the road indicating cell phone pull-outs.  After that you’ll have nothing for miles, and even then only one measly bar.

While Pat recuperated with decongestants and ibuprofen, I amused myself with reading and taking a watercolor card “class”.  The class consisted of videos I’d download while in “town” for meals or groceries, and then watch back at the motorhome.  It’s right about now when I realize that I made a great watercolor paper purchase in Helena, but have no water color paints.  Sounds like a job for Amazon Prime at our next location.

A few of my favorite things from this place.  Chippy-munk, an automated firewood dispenser (don’t stand too close!), teensy flowers that bloomed like little ground-level fireworks, and finally my bright blue Evinrude.  Jackson and I were hanging around the waterfront and the inch-long blue dragonflies were all abuzz around this one bush.  Finally one was still long enough for a picture.

Rollins RV Park

Next up, Rollins Restaurant & RV Park, complete with full hook-ups.  After a few state parks with no water connections (that’s the way Montana does it), and schlepping to the dump station every 3-4 days, we’re happy to be here.  Still in the Flathead area of Montana and another lake view.

 

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They have a surprisingly tasty restaurant serving a mix of Korean and American dishes, thanks to their Korean cook, and a fence made entirely of bicycles of all shapes and sizes.  Be honest.  You had a banana seat as a child too, right?

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From the campsite.  Flathead Lake, sailboats, and yes, very big trees.  Heaven.

This stop was a mixed bag of things.  We headed straight to the medical clinic in nearby Lakeside upon arrival.  Pat is still feeling bad.  This time we get antibiotics and hope for a complete recovery.  We also finally get rid of the awning that broke before we even left Florida in 2017.  It has started to cause a buckle in the roof, so it must go.  Pat says we could wrestle it off ourselves, but then what?  The thing is a 17 foot-long hunk of metal longer than Bitsy.  For a very reasonable fee, a mobile RV repair guys comes out, removes it, then lashes it to his van and drives off.

It’s an Amazon stop, too.  Let the online shopping begin!

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Meet our latest kitchen gadget – the Anova sous vide.  That’s French for cooking under vacuum.  What’s the advantage?  Well if Pat’s friend Greg, the chef, and countless online reviews are to be believed, this handy little thing will cook any meat to the perfect doneness.  It’ll then hold it there for a nice window of time, ready for you to sear it to final perfection.  We’re hoping for great steaks at a reasonable price.  So far mixed results, but we’re still learning how to use it.  I will say I had the best corn on the cob of my life from this thing.  Perfect doneness with the butter cooked right in.

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Since we had to drive up to the big city of Kalispell for Pat’s meds, we took advantage of the dining options recommended by the pharmacist.  Here’s my dinner of wild boar & waffles, Montana’s answer to chicken & waffles.  An “odd looking piece of meat” says my friend Barbara.  She’s oh so right about that!  Kinda grey, kinda chewy and more like brisket than pork in texture.  The best part?  That pepper bacon maple syrup.  I typically like my bacon as, well, bacon, but you could practically lap this stuff up with a spoon.  Pat ate normal food.

Also at Rollins we met new friends, Stacy, Taylor and their son John.  They had Florida plates and I inquired as to where they were from.   Turns out it’s Atlanta and the 45-foot motorhome, tow dolly, and car are all rentals for a 28 day whirlwind summer vacation.  And finally we round out this stop with the play “Into the Woods” at the Big Forks playhouse.  Extraordinary talent and was almost as good as a Broadway show.

West Shore State Park

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Back to the woods we go, a whole six miles up the road to West Shore State Park.  Good thing since Pat is still puny.  He’s determined to rest up and get well for our next stop in Glacier.  Our sunset walks on the lake shore were so peaceful.

More shots from our stroll

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Cherries and “hucks” are in season and for sale at a gillion roadside stands.  I’m currently eating my weight in fresh cherries.  And these berries are NOT huckleberries.  Fortunately a guy in Glacier set me straight before I mistakenly identified them in this post.  They are Oregon Grape berries and may be toxic in large quantities.  But isn’t that the color of Huckleberry Hound?

In Other News

 

The stairs died and we have them propped up with 2 x 4’s.  Pat is slowly but surely feeling better, but now Jackson has the runs.  And we’re binge-watching Downton Abbey.

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Last but not least, you know you’re in bear country when everything down to toothpaste and deodorant must be locked up if not in a vehicle.  No bear sightings here, but I’m now qualified on two more kinds of bear-resistant garbage cans.

Next up: Glacier National Park!  See you on the way.