Category Archives: Washington

Bellingham to SFO

September 15, 2007

Time travel back to August 23rd. I am writing this report from the comfort of my NYC apartment. I spent the afternoon looking at some of my photos from Washington, Oregon and California to refresh my memory. It was nice to reminisce a little. This trip will stay with me for a very long time. I have the feeling that I will remember little details out of the blue in the middle of the day which will put me right back on the highway.

Auto and train tunnel along the Columbia River

Auto and train tunnel along the Columbia River

Let’s get back to the trip from Bellingham to San Francisco. The weather was not the friendliest during my time in Bellingham and on my departure day. I chose to take highway 9/203/162 south instead of the horrible I-5 towards Mt. Rainier. This should be much less stressful and only a bit slower. The roads took me once again thru tiny towns along green fields with mountains not far. The roads were narrow and traffic was close to none existing. At least until I reached the outskirts of larger towns. I had to climb a couple of mountains which also meant a fast trip downhill. I did see the cop car on the bottom of the hill, waiting for all those speeders, but not in time to get to the proper speed. I believe I must have been going 75 mph in a 65 zone, luckily I did not get pulled over and there has been no ticket in the mail. It seems almost impossible to stick to the speed limit at those steep declines.

Historic train station

Historic train station

Around Eatonville, don’t ask how I remember, it was very woodsy and a creek was running along the left side of the road, really pretty. The weather had been quite good so far, little overcast but not gray. That, however changed when I got closer to Mt. Rainier. The mountain was none existing,

Dead trees on hillside along Forest Service Road 99 surrounding Mount St. Helens.  The trees died during the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Dead trees on hillside along Forest Service Road 99 surrounding Mount St. Helens. The trees died during the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

completely hidden behind a thick cloud cover. I didn’t even bother to drive all the way to the base. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see Mt. Rainier. Would I have been better of to drive thru the Olympic National Park over at the Pacific coast instead of traveling inland? I guess I will never find out. I decided to continue south to Mt. Saint Helens, hoping that the cloud cover would break. A woman at the visitor center near Mt. Rainier told me that it would be possible to get Cascade Locks, my destination for the day, on the Columbia River before dark. However, I should add at least an hour, each way, if I wanted to go to the viewing area along the eastern side of Mt. Saint Helens.

The drive on highway 25 towards the mountain was winding its way thru the forest, a very slow process. There was a dash of sunlight coming thru the clouds and I turned right at the turn-off to the viewing area, a full hour away. It was a race against the disappearing sun. I was so close I at least wanted to get a glimpse of the mountain. What I first saw were all the dead trees on the side of the mountains surrounding Mt. Saint Helens. They had been “killed” when St. Helens exploded back in the 1980s. It reminded me of all the dead trees in Yellowstone. Well, by the time I reached the viewing area the clouds had increased and I couldn’t see much of anything. At least I tried. Now the race with darkness began. The last thing I wanted to do was driving in the pitch black dark through the forest. I did not have many choices, there were no motels anywhere, and the closest campground put me quite a bit out of my way. Since I am somewhat stubborn, I headed towards Cascade Locks on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. Darkness once again came faster than expected.

Driving down a lonely forest road in the dark with tall trees to the left and right is not my idea of fun. There are no towns, not even tiny once, along the way for about 60 miles. The knowledge of the campground at the end of the road kept me going, a healthy dose of adrenalin helped as well. There were no lights, no houses and the small campground in the woods was dark as well. Not particularly inviting, and did I mention that I am stubborn? The only thing giving me a little light was the moon shining above. The dark creature on the side of the road turned out to be a big deer;

Driftwood along the Columbia River.

Driftwood along the Columbia River.

luckily he was walking away from the road. It took me two hours to drive the 60 miles. At that point I was too tired to set up camp and I opted for a motel. Not that easy either to find a place in the dark. I have a nose for wired places.   I am just glad that I didn’t see the big pile of old mattresses and furniture next to the motel

Multnomah Falls and Benson Bridge along the Historic Columbia River Highway

Multnomah Falls and Benson Bridge along the Historic Columbia River Highway

when I checked in. The bathroom was pretty unique, no shower walls only a curtain which separated the shower from the toilet, one continues floor. The mattress was about 30” of the ground; a step-stool would have been helpful. At least the room was quiet and didn’t smell.

The next day I explored the Columbia Gorge. A beautiful stretch of the Columbia River between Portland and Mt. Hood. Reminded my of the Hudson valley, except the mountains were a little higher. There are seven waterfalls along the route. All very skinny and after having seen two or three of them I did not stop anymore. Remember, I saw the big waterfall in Twin Falls. Off I went towards the Pacific Ocean, Cannon Beach. I was looking forward to driving down the coast and spending a little time at the beach. Not necessarily swimming, but just sitting at the beach enjoying the ocean. Cannon Beach is very nice, small, not too touristy, little artist community. Made it to the beach just before sunset. It was very windy and foggy. Looked neat, the fog was moving around the big boulders in the water.

Girls playing in the Pacific Ocean

Girls playing in the Pacific Ocean

Got up really early the next morning and headed for the beach (I camped). Damn, totally cloudy, not nice fog, just gray clouds. Took me forever to find a place that was open for breakfast, it was before 8 AM!

The drive down the coast was not as great as I had hoped. The weather was the biggest problem, gray, very windy and cold. No way that I would be able to hang out at the beach, not even in a warm sweater. Traffic was bad as well. Too many really slow drivers on a two lane highway can be extremely aggravating. I stopped in Tillamook, a big cheese town. I visited the cheese factory. I have a whole new respect for packaged cheese bricks. There is a lot of repetitive handwork involved until those little cheese bricks end up in the plastic bag. I talked to one worker and she told me that everyone has at least one of their wrist tendons fixed.

Oregon coast looking north

Oregon coast looking north

By mid-day the skies had cleared. There were a handful of overviews along highway 101 with amazing views up and down the Pacific Coast. Long stretches of the highway were a little inland with no view of the ocean. Towards evening fog started to move in from the ocean. Within seconds the road was swallowed up by fog and it cleared almost as quickly.

Samuel H. Boardman State Park - Fog covers the Oregon coast at sunset.

Samuel H. Boardman State Park – Fog covers the Oregon coast at sunset.

I camped in the redwoods in Crescent City just south of the Oregon border in California. Thanks to my warm sleeping bag I didn’t notice that the temperature had dropped. The campground lay in fog and it was only 54F / 12C. Not really that cold, but with the moisture in the air it was finger biting cold. After a hardy breakfast I felt much better and headed to the Redwood National Park. You don’t realize how big those trees are until you see a skinny, little pine tree next to them.

Continuing on hwy 101 the highway turned away from the coast further inland, no more water only trees which obstructed the view to the left and right. The highway eventually split into 101 and 1. I stayed on 101, a faster route, I know this was not a race, but I really wanted to get to SFO, people to meet, things to do. The inland temperatures were much higher and the sky was blue. I past thru Sonoma wine country. The trees gave way to vineyards. A quick stop

Wine grapes in Sonoma County

Wine grapes in Sonoma County

in Santa Rosa. I was looking for some local honey. Unfortunately, it was 6 PM on a Saturday and the stores were closed, how dare they. Cute place, especially the old downtown.

I could not have asked for a better welcome arriving in San Francisco. Late afternoon sunlight giving the city a reddish glow, blue sky, light on the Golden Gate Bridge. All toped of by the moon above the city, wow. As it always goes no place to pull over. I got a crappy shot through the open window in stop and go traffic.

After 1 ½ days in SFO off I went to Lake Tahoe, what a beautiful place. Kayaking on the lake, resting, spending time with friends. What a great way of life.

This is the last trip report. Thank you very much for reading. I will send one more short e-mail with a trip recap, stay tuned. Would I do this again, definitely!

See ya.


August 26, 2007

I don’t know where to start. As you might have noticed, my e-mails have become fewer and fewer. That’s not because I don’t want to write, but because my energy level has hit a low point. Also, I get to the campsite/motel too late to still pull out the computer and write. I am three weeks behind in my personal journal entries! Right now I just want to get home. It’s been almost five weeks on the road and in a different place almost every night. When I have stayed with friends, I have woken up and had no idea where I was. Sometimes I thought I was lying in the cab, not the bed, of the truck and I was surprised that the seats folded all the way back until I realized that I was sleeping in a very comfortable bed.

The beautiful scenery that I have been driving through for the last couple of days does not quite register the same way it did in the beginning, it’s just another tree.

Anyway, just a couple of additions to my last report:

Yellowstone National Park - Gibbon Falls

Yellowstone National Park – Gibbon Falls

Yellowstone: the nights were freezing cold, only 43F/6C. I was very happy that my sleeping bag was rated up to 35F/3C and the only thing that got cold was my nose. It was not too pleasant to crawl out of the warm sleeping bag into the cold morning air and into the bathroom which only had cold running water. I know it was not as cold as my dad always tells us it was when he was a kid and he had to break the ice on his wash bowl in the morning.

Highway 26 looking west

Highway 26 looking west

Idaho: Even though I didn’t spent much time there the one thing that sticks to my mind is the very sweet smell of the wet wheat after a rain shower. You know the smell of fresh cut grass, multiple that by 10 and add a little more intensity and you get close to the smell of wet wheat, just wonderful.

In my last e-mail I promised to tell you about my trip from eastern Oregon to Bellingham. Bellingham is located about 60 miles south of the Canadian border along the coast of Washington State.

I started out in Ontario, OR driving west on route 26. This was probably the most isolated stretch of road I have traveled on so far. For miles and miles not a single car, never mind anything more than a farm or two. Just field after field and a lot of sagebrush. I turned onto a dirt road for about 12 miles and all I would see was some cattle and rolling hills as far as the eye could see. Unfortunately, I could also see the smoke from some wild fires. I drove thru a handful of almost

Old general store and phone booth

Old general store and phone booth

ghost towns. One of them was Unity, 50 miles away from any slightly larger town in any direction. Unity was never very large, used to be a logging town with 250+ people, now there are only 80 left and the mills closed down a couple of years ago. Throughout this trip I have seen many dilapidated buildings, abandoned years ago and left to rot. And sometimes it is not clear if someone is still living in the falling apart trailer home with the junk cars in front or not.

Old tiller off Willow Creek Road

Old tiller off Willow Creek Road

I was heading towards Sisters, a town named after the mountains just to the west of it. The peaks of those mountains were impressive. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of them since the weather turned on me and clouds and rain rolled in. It was raining the next morning when I was leaving Sisters.

Due to the weather and a road closure I had to change my route to Bellingham. Instead of heading north from Sisters to Mt. Hood and than into Washington State passing Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainer before getting up to Bellingham, I drove west to Eugene. What a funky town. I haven’t seen so many grunch kids in a very long time, never mind so many homeless / drunk/drugged out people. Eugene is about two hours south of the Washington border and it is a pretty straight shot up on I-5 to Bellingham.

Figured I’ll be there by 8 PM, wrong it was 10 PM before I got there. It was the longest day up to then with the fewest stops and over 500 miles of driving. I am so glad that I had been avoiding the interstates.

I-5 is just awful. People don’t know how to drive; everyone drives in the left lane no matter what speed they go. It was so bad I was screaming at the drivers and eventually left the interstate and opted for a small detour with much better views, fewer drivers and no stress. I went back on I-5 north of Seattle; otherwise I would have never gotten to Bellingham.

I had two full days at my friend’s place which was great. I got to see the sites of the area and just had a nice relaxing time. However, the weather was not too kind to us, that is until I left, figures.

I spent this Sunday in San Francisco. Half the day with a friend, walking around the Castro and Mission areas which are quite beautiful with their very colorful vegetation and I am not talking about the people. The second half of the day I did something I hadn’t done on the entire trip. I did nothing! Didn’t want to go out, didn’t have to be anywhere, could just sit on the balcony and enjoy the little bit of sun that shines around here.

Tomorrow I am driving to Lake Tahoe where I’ll stay again with friends and in a couple of days I am heading home!

You have to wait until the next report to find out how I got from Bellingham down to SFO and how the moon showed me the way in the dark forests around Mt. St. Helens.

 Thanks for reading all my reports and for your feedback. I enjoy getting that as much as you seem to like my e-mails.

Good night and see you soon.

Black Hills to Yellowstone

August 18, 2007

Where to start. It has been a long time since my last update and I have made it to Oregon, at least to Ontario on the south eastern border of the state.

Let’s go back 10 days.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

I, as mentioned last time, I did not go to the Joan Jett concert, instead I stayed in the Badlands and tried to get some good photos with setting sunlight. Well, I didn’t get anything too exciting. Just couldn’t find a good spot, oh well. Would have been too tiered to drive 3 hours to Sturgis for the concert anyway. I didn’t

Lakota Indian reservation

Lakota Indian reservation

even make it to the Wounded Knee that day, next time.

Harley Davidson motorcycle rally - Main Street

Harley Davidson motorcycle rally – Main Street

The Black Hills. I don’t know why people are so excited about those hills. Is it because of Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park? I had no expectations and I was very disappointed. Drove along the Iron Mountain Drive thru the mini tunnels to see Mt. Rushmore and headed straight north out of the hills. Other than the pine smell, there was nothing much to write home about. It might not have helped a lot that there were gazillion bikers there either.

Mount Rushmore National Monument

Mount Rushmore National Monument

Bikers continued to crowd the roads all the way to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. The bikers themselves are very nice folks. They just want to see the country as well. Some of them ride for 10 hours a day / 500 miles. I don’t even do that in the car. At the same time, they don’t really ride bikes; those Harleys are more like cushy chairs on wheels.

Devils Tower

Devils Tower

Devil’s Tower was pretty amazing. Not just a monolith in the middle of nowhere, but a monolith that is layered in a vertical way. It has something to do with the magma that was forced upward and when it cooled it contracted and fractured into columns. All this happened 60 million years ago. The drive from South Dakota to Devil’s Tower was suppose to take 1 ½ hours, it took me 3. I tend to drive very slowly in the beginning of the day to be able to see what’s around me and to be able to stop and take pictures. No, I don’t block traffic, I do pull over and let cars/bikes pass or there just is no traffic. I usually pay the price by the end of the day when I am nowhere near a campsite or motels. I made it to the campsite in Greybull, WY, about 3 hours east of Yellowstone. Thanks to the lack of sunlight, the sun was hiding behind clouds, I made it thru the Big Horn Mountains. If you ever make it out this way, you have to see these mountains they are stunning. The rock formations are amazing and the views are unbelievable.   There is supposed to be a waterfall, which I missed since I was rushing to make it to the campsite before nightfall. Setting up tent in the dark is not that much fun.

Horses by the Powder River Valley.

Horses by the Powder River Valley.

The next day I was wiped out. Couldn’t get going, had a nice conversation with the people running the campsite, they were from Amsterdam. Didn’t leave for Yellowstone until noon! It is just too much, not the driving, but too many impressions to adsorb. I feel like I have visited 3 museums a day for the last couple of weeks. I am not doing the landscape around me any justice. Good thing that I have stayed away from museums so far, I would be on total overload. I sat in the truck starring at the outskirts of Yellowstone Park before I drove in. Didn’t know if I could handle anymore.

Yellowstone; I am not sure what to think of it. Ask me in a couple of weeks. The drive into the park from Cody, the east entrance now closed because of the wildfire (17,000 acres burning), was great. Again, the

Yellowstone National Park - Dead trees at Mount Washburn

Yellowstone National Park – Dead trees at Mount Washburn

rock formations are unbelievable and the colors. Once I entered the park I was saddened by all the dead trees. In 1988 Yellowstone had several fires, all caused by lightning, in which case they are not fought, but they let them burn out. Yellowstone lost 36% of its trees and they have not yet grown back. It is almost depressing to see so many bare trees standing there like matches just waiting to fall.

Geologically, Yellowstone is very interesting and I think there is even some wildlife.

The biggest wildlife comes on two legs and it is called humans. I haven’t seen this many people since I left New York. This makes me wonder how I will handle the masses of people when I get back. It seems that people checked their common sense at the entrance of the park. They see bison, of which there are a lot in Yellowstone, they stop and walk up to them to have their picture taken. They stop in the middle of the

Yellowstone National Park - "Artist Paint Pot"

Yellowstone National Park – “Artist Paint Pot”

road, walk across the road where they shouldn’t, pull into parking spots for which you already signaled (feels like NYC). They should really limit the number of people they let into the park at one time. I guess, summer is not the best time to come and visit. I spent 3 nights in Yellowstone. I did see a grizzly, but even thru my 300mm lens he was just a small dot. Saw Old Faithful go off and even better, saw the Beehive Geyser go off which only happens a few times a week. Did take a “bath” in the Boiling River, needed it after a 3 hour hike up and down Mt. Washburn. The highest spot in Yellowstone, 10,400 feet or so with a 1,400’ incline. At the end of the third day I was so tired of seeing people that I asked the ranger at the campsite check-in where I could go for some peace and quiet. She suggested a pebble beach along

Yellowstone National Park - Old Faithful geyser

Yellowstone National Park – Old Faithful geyser

Yellowstone Lake, near a boat landing. What bliss. Only a few people and some kayaks. I was in luck; I joined a small group of kayakers for a 2 hour tour on the lake. Not as relaxing as laying on the beach, but what an opportunity to see Yellowstone from the water. Paddled along some geysers and even saw an elk standing at water’s edge. I moved very slowly not to entice her to swim out to the kayak. Since I wanted to be back on land before sunset, I had to paddle a little faster than the rest of the group on the way back. What a work out, had a sore butt the next day.

Yellowstone National Park - Dawn over Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone National Park – Dawn over Yellowstone Lake

Left for Grand Teton the next morning. Now those are real mountains. Had to control myself not to take too many pictures of the same mountain. There were fewer people in the Grand Teton compared to Yellowstone, but still too many. Went for a little walk, this time just flat no major inclines. Stuck my feet into Jenny Lake and headed for Jackson.

I stayed for two nights with friends in Jackson. They took me in with open arms. They are filmmakers / photographers and we had plenty of shop talk. They live outside of Jackson in a very quiet area surrounded by buttes. The hummingbirds were buzzing around our heads, I am not kidding. They have a feeder on the patio and those little birds dart for it often missing your head only by inches. The buzzing of

Teton Range and Jackson Lake in the Grand Teton National Park. Far left Grand Teton Mountain on right Mt. Moran.

Teton Range and Jackson Lake in the Grand Teton National Park. Far left Grand Teton Mountain on right Mt. Moran.

their wings is tremendous. Even saw a bald eagle pair and a juvenile eagle sitting in the trees across the Snake River from their patio. Who needs Yellowstone. Went to a local rodeo, was fun to watch it in person. I was very happy to have some company for a while and sleeping in a real bed with a private bathroom was not bad either. Since Richard and Diane had traveled the US extensively, they could give me some good travel tips. I changed my route slightly. Instead of going north thru Idaho to Washington State, I am only driving thru the southern part of Idaho and than into Oregon to a place called Sisters. From there I’ll head north to Mt. Hood and into Washington State, Mt. St. Helens and maybe Mt. Rainier. Since I am heading all the way up north to Bellingham to stay with a friend for a couple of days, I might save Mt. Rainier for the way back down. Looking at the calendar, time seems to be running away.

Farmland along highway 20/26

Farmland along highway 20/26

From Jackson I only made it to Twin Falls in Idaho. Saw several wildfires in the distance. Driving thru Arco, the air ways filled with smoke. There are fires burning all over Montana and the eastern side of Idaho.

I got eaten alive by mosquitoes at the Twin Falls campsite. Still itches like crazy. Twin Falls has a beautiful waterfall, 50’ higher than Niagara Falls and not commercialized and hardly any people!!!

Shoshone Falls

Shoshone Falls

I have to get some breakfast now, it is already 8:30 AM. Have been typing for the last hour or so.

Train tracks at sunset

Train tracks at sunset

Have a nice weekend.

I start to forget what day of the week it is.

Winthrop to Spokane

You would have never thought that you are still in Washington State once you were south of Nespelem on highway 155. Last night I stayed at Pearrygin Lake State Park. Since it was overcast when I arrived, I could not see the real beauty of the surrounding area.

Methow Valley

Rolling hills sprinkled with trees. Not quite the same golden hills I have come to love in California. These didn’t have the golden grass, they had more of a brown tint to them. Driving east on highway 20 the hills stayed with me until I hit highway 155 when they just disappeared. It was not after I had made it through the mountains and forests of the Colville Indian Reservation when they resurfaced. However, this time they looked more like the off-spring of a California / Oregon marriage. The trees were replaced by sagebrush; the hills were no longer just round toped rolling hills, but more of the jagged edge variety. Add to that a handful of lava rocks; voila you have arrived in Eastern Washington.
The natural beauty of the area was disturbed by the massive Coulee Dam; the largest concrete structure in the United States. I guess that’s something to be proud of. The dam produces more electricity than any other.

Grand Coulee Dam

Once I got past this behemoth, nature took over again. I only continued for a little longer on highway 155 along the Banks Lake. Now the rocks had changed even more and looked more like New Mexico mountains covered in light green moss.

Banks Lake

The diversity of this country never stops to amaze me. Here in Washington you have a rain forest in the far west, moss covered trees just a little further east, the great Pacific with the San Juan Islands, which I still have to visit, and desert like conditions in the east. Can it get any better?

Cliff along Banks Lake

I spent the night at the Steamboat Rock State Park, just across from the highway, but it was really quiet. I had a gorgeous view onto this incredible rock on one side and the Banks Lake on the other. The lake is framed on two sides by great cliffs, straight up several hundred feet. You drive right next to one of them and realize how small you are and how insignificant you seem in the greater picture of nature. These cliffs have been here long before us and they are bound to be here long after we are gone.

Banks Lake

Before heading east I made a little detour to see the Dry Falls; once the most powerful waterfall on the planet. We go a few years back to the last ice age when the Columbia River ran over the falls. Wow, I can’t even image what it must have been like. It measured about 400 feet in height (that’s twice as tall as Niagara Falls) and over three miles in length. One could have produced quite a bit of energy with that one.

Incredible Dry Falls

Things come and go very quickly around here. Trees, cliffs it doesn’t matter. The cliffs of the Banks Lake just faded away and were replaced by farmland. I was surrounded by plowed fields, harvested and un-harvested wheat fields as I drove east on highway 2. The fields were gently rolling, like sand dunes.

Wheat filed

The afternoon light hitting the yellow stalks just right to look like gold. These fields are actually planted in an area considered desert.
By early afternoon I started to get tired really fast. I had hoped to make it to Idaho, but it looked like it would only be Spokane, Washington. Campgrounds near a large city are usually not the most beautiful and nature oriented once. The campground / RV Resort I ended up in was no exception. If you like asphalt and road noise this place was for you. It was a parking lot. OK, there were some shrubs and trees between sites, but it was not enough to give you much privacy. On top of it, I was facing the wall of a storage building, lovely. After so much beauty, how on earth did I end up at this RV park? A near by state park was full and another park further away did not return my call to let me know if they had space until I was already checked in, too bad. Good thing it was only for one night.

Road side curiosity - Gehrke windmill

Moving on

After more than two weeks in the same spot I am finally leaving Bellingham. This was not an easy moving on. After so much time you not only get used to the company, but you get attached to the people around you.
I will miss you Carol & Sid, Dean & Louise. Thank you for everything! Next time I will go to Mount Baker. I will relish and cherish the pesto sauce and zucchini bread Carol made and Louise’s wonderful tomato chutney. I hope it won’t be another three years until we get together again.
I am now sitting in my camper in Winthrop in eastern Washington, sipping mint tea with fresh mint from the garden, listening to the raindrops falling on my roof. The drive through the Cascade Mountains along highway 20 was beautiful. The fall foliage is already starting to show. Didn’t we just have Labor Day? The Skagit River with its beautiful green / turquoise color ran along side the highway until it turned into Gorge Lake, Diablo Lake and Ross Lake. All created by big dams. Once I made it over the 8,000 foot passes the mountains moved a little into the distance and gave way to farmland and that straw like golden grass. As beautiful as mountains and forests can be, I think there is nothing greater than the wide open spaces which give you an unobstructed view all the way to the horizon. OK, there might be a barn or two.
The gray and rainy weather today was a clear reflection of my mood. Tomorrow the sun is suppose to shine, let’s hope so.

Food and New Yorkers are spoiled

It has been some time since I blogged about food. Now that I have been on the road for almost six months I have experienced a variety of food issues, mainly the lack of good produce.
Not eating meat and poultry definitely limits my choices at restaurants / diners, especially when I travel through small towns out in nowhere. My standard choice for lunch is a grilled cheese sandwich (GCS) or tuna salad sandwich, not always so easy to get. You would think that it is very difficult to mess up grilled cheese. I guess you live in a larger town. A standard grilled cheese sandwich comes without tomato and most of the time when I ask for it the waitress ask if that would be on the side or on the sandwich it. Not a good start. The last place where I had a GCS was in the middle of nowhere in Oregon. The place could have been named “Greasy Spoon”. The sandwich consisted of two slices of white bread (one piece was the end slice) and ONE slice of Kraft singles cheese. I don’t even know if that qualifies as real cheese or if those are just chemicals mixed with oil. The French fries was still dripping with grease. No wonder people get bigger and bigger. It has happened that I forget to ask for the tomato and I end up with one hell of a dry sandwich. Of course there are exceptions. In Atlanta, Texas at a store with an old fashioned lunch counter the sandwich was dressed up with some pesto sauce, very nice. You ask why I don’t get a salad. Well, again you must live in a larger town. The salads I have had generally are made with iceberg lettuce, a slice of tomato and shredded cheese and some sort of dressing. Nutrition value equal zero. Not that the sandwich is any better in that regard, but at least it is filling and tasty.
It is not all bad, I have had some really good grilled veggie sandwiches, but they are rare. The biggest problem in small towns is the availability of fresh foods. The freezer department generally is way bigger than the produce department. Worst case the only vegetables I found in a supermarket were some potatoes, onions, a little broccoli and maybe one other vegetable. How can anyone cook dinner with that? Then again, there is the freezer department. When I do come across a great produce selection I always want to buy everything, but have to remind myself that I can’t eat everything before it spoils. Not every vegetable freezes well. I get excited when I see Portobello mushrooms. There have been fruit and vegetable stands along the road in California, but by far not enough and there selection is often limited to the current harvest.
Another small town problem is that the local market often only carries the basics; for everything else you have to drive 30! miles (one way) to the next town. Having lived most of my life in New York City, I just can’t imagine living in a place where I have to spend an hour driving back and forth to buy food. At home I have at least six supermarkets or grocery stores within a five block radius. Not to mention the corner delis for quick buys when you are too lazy to walk one block or when you realize at midnight that you ran out of milk. The selection and quality of produce we have in the city is just amazing and we do take it for granted. The crazy thing is that every tiny town, no matter how remote has a post office…
Here in Bellingham at my friend’s place I am starting to get a little spoiled. Carol has a great vegetable garden in the front and back of her house. I just walk out and eat string beans right of the vine, the zucchinis are huge and yummy, the mint is plentiful and smells so good, lettuce, garlic and more. Her neighbor has strawberries that are out of this world. Along many streets grow blackberry bushes free to all who want to pick their own.
It is not just special stuff, if you call Portobello mushrooms special that at times is difficult to come by.
I thought it was difficult to find my dark, dark European style Rubschlager bread, but I had no idea it would be just as hard to find my cereal. I wasn’t able to find any from Arizona to Northern California, not even in San Francisco, at least not at the places I looked. I was happy to find it in Mendocino, California. I thought buying five boxes should be fine. I would surely find more along my way to Bellingham, Washington. Well, I didn’t find any and I was at the verge of running out. I am sorry; I don’t just eat any cereal. A word to Kellogg’s – you need more stores which carry Mueslix! I emptied the shelves of a supermarket in Bellingham twice and have a three month supply now. Let’s hope I find my bread soon before I have to have it shipped from New York.
Yesterday I was in haven when I walked into a cheese store, Quel Fromage, in Fairhaven. I am not a snob, but I can’t just eat supermarket cheese. Cheese does not only come in yellow and orange squares. The last time I bought cheese was in New Mexico when a friend brought back some cheese from Whole Foods. At Quel Fromage I bought five different, melt on your tongue, cheeses that should last for some time. I am so glad that I have a refrigerator.
Next time again some travel stuff with photos, maybe even the last installment of my highway one trip.

It’s a miracle or just really good corn

OK, I know I am jumping back and forth in time, but this seems to be the only way I can stay current and play catch up at the same time.
I have been stationary for the last nine days at my friend Carol’s place in Bellingham, Washington. The weather has been great for the northwest, sunny, mid to high 60s and 40s at night. OK, it is a little bit too cool for me, but I take that any day over rain. I have switched from four wheels to two wheels, biking around town. Reminds me of back home in Hamburg where I used to bike everywhere. It is nice not to haul the camper around for a while.
This is my time to relax and not to do much of anything. Recharge time, five months on the road and 15,000 miles have left me just a bit tired.
Playing with Carol’s son Sidney, roaming around town, meeting new people, seeing old friends, and sitting around the fire pit in the evening, that’s pretty much all I have been doing. I am still hoping to catch up on my writing, keep your fingers crossed.
Oh yah, I have been eating corn on the cob! If you know me, you know that corn is the number one vegetable on my do not eat list and I do love my veggies. I tried a variety of corn in the past, white and yellow, and never liked any.

I am really eating corn!

This fresh Washington corn is super sweet and tender, yummy. Another culinary experience has been eating fresh, fresh Dungeness crab right out of the shell. Sitting by the fire and just cracking away and eating crab that was caught that day. A friend of Carol’s took us out on a boat crabbing. Basically, we watched him pull in the crab pods with the catch.

Pulling in the catch

No sitting around for hours waiting for something to bite. You need a fishing license to go crabbing and you are only allowed to bring in five crabs per license per day. The crabs you keep need to measure at least 6 ¼” across the back, that’s pretty big.

You shouldn't play with your food

We brought back 20 crabs and several of them measured more than the required 6 ¼”! Back on dry land it was time to clean and cook the crab. Not a very pleasant affair. I couldn’t bring myself to smashing in the crabs brain and than clean out its guts, sorry. I just like to eat them and rather not know how they end up on my plate. However, I did manage to clean a cooked crab.

Gutting the crab, after it is cooked

One of the crabs I had yielded enough meat for three crab cakes. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a recipe.
I am planning on driving up to Vancouver this week, only a 60 mile drive from here. After that I hope to make it to Montana before it gets really cold. I know you guys in the east are still sweating, but out here it is almost fall. I prefer not to get stuck in any snow storms. From Montana I am hoping to make it through Utah to Bryce and Zion, even there the temperatures are already hovering around the 40 degree mark at night. That is a very long drive.
Does anyone have any suggestions where to spend the winter? Not Florida, please.