Where are we?
October 2002

Subj:  120. Where are we?
Date:  Tuesday, October 1, 2002

We left the Port Townsend area this morning after getting the oil changed in the RV. We headed west then south to our current location. We are now in a town that has the first rural High Tech High school in Washington as named by the Gates Foundation. This town is better known as the gateway to the Northwest Coast. The town is also known for its abundant winter rainfall (162 inches in1997). We're glad it's not winter yet.

We enjoyed our six-night stay at the Evergreen Coho SKP RV Resort in Chimacum. The park itself is very nice, even if we didn't spend much time in the park itself.

We did visit Port Townsend, a Victorian style town on the water. It was really a neat place to wander around. We learned that the Army built three forts at different points around the Strait of Juan de Fuca near the entrance to Puget Sound. These forts were to protect places like Seattle from attack. The forts were decommissioned in the 1950s and now belong to the Washington State Park system. We visited two of those parks and they were interesting with great views of the Strait, the Hood Canal, and the Admirality Inlet.

We contacted some friends from Ridgecrest and visited Hurricane Ridge with them. Hurricane Ridge is in the Olympic National park and is beautiful. it was really good to see some friends we knew in Ridgecrest.

We also toured both Sequim and Port Angeles. These towns do not have the character of Port Townsend but they are both interesting. Port Angeles seems to be more interesting than Sequim. In Port Angeles we tried to contact Larry's ex-secretary and her husband. We know they were supposed to retire to Port Angeles but we couldn't find them in the phone book.

One of the "new" things we did was pick fresh corn. We were driving around the little town of Chimacum and found a corn field with a sign that said "You pick corn, 10 ears for $1.00." So why not. It didn't take long to pick $2.00 worth of corn. The ears were small but very tasty and very sweet. There is nothing like fresh corn on the cob.

Now, where are we? We are in the town of Forks, Washington, on the west side of Olympic National Park.

The Brauers
Havin' fun
In Washington

Subj:  121. Where are we?
Date:  Thursday, October 3, 2002

We left Forks Washington this morning and continued south on US 101. We are now in the Southwest corner of the Evergreen State. The town we're in has the same name as a well-known city in California, but we're not in California. Lewis and Clark, the explorers who opened up the Northwest, were here in 1805. There are two lighthouses here, including the oldest in the Pacific Northwest. The area is known as one of the nation's chief oyster growing areas.

Although we didn't spend any time exploring Forks for the past two days, it was a great place to have as a base to explore other areas. Our first outing was to the Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic National Park. We did take one of the hikes near the visitor center. This was a hike through the rain forest. What makes it a rain forest? Well, first it gets lots of rain, 140 inches a year or more. Second, since it's on the coast it has moderate temperatures. These two things combined make it like a jungle. There are huge Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, and Douglas Fir. There are also some huge Maple trees. The floor of the forest is crowded with ferns, so crowded you can't see the ground. The trees are covered in moss. The walk through the Rainforest is really magnificent.

We also drove up to the most northwestern corner of the contiguous United States. Actually we didn't quite make it since it was raining and the last seven miles was a dirt road. But we did make it to Neah Bay, the most northwestern community in the contiguous United States. Neah Bay is actually an Indian village on an Indian reservation. We went through the Makah Cultural Center, a wonderful museum that documents the history and culture of the Makah Indians with artifacts that were found in a 500 year old mudslide that covered the village of Ozette, an ancestral Makah village. This was really fascinating. The wood working skills of these people was amazing. Their artwork was beautiful. It was a great visit even in the rain.

We also visited La Push, another Indian village, and walked the wilderness beach at Mora. The beach was beautiful with lots of huge logs resting at the high tide line.

We just realized that we have driven almost all of US 101 in Washington. Shortly after we leave here in a couple of days, we will have driven all of US 101 in Washington. US 101 is really a beautiful drive. We knew it was great along the Oregon Coast and the Northern California Coast. Now we know it's also beautiful in Washington. We've seen lots of signs that Fall is coming, although it also seems like we have been traveling south just ahead of all the Fall colors. Still, it's obvious from the patches of red and yellow leaves on the trees that the peak of the Fall colors is near.

Now, where are we? We are in Long Beach Washington. Only a few miles north of us is another town called Oysterville. Guess what we're having for dinner.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun
Still in Washington

Subj:  122. Where are we?
Date:  Tuesday, October 8, 2002

We've traveled a bit since our last E-mail when we were in Long Beach, Washington. We haven't sent E-mails for a couple of days because we have been staying in State Parks with no way of getting an E-mail hookup.

We are now in the Beaver State. We are in one of the major cities in the Beaver State. We are in a valley that is known for agriculture. The city is home to the University of Oregon. As we drive around, lots of cars have "Go Ducks" stickers and flags. Of course the mascot of the University of Oregon is a duck. Now for some trivia. The University of Oregon is the only college that can use a Walt Disney character as their mascot; yes, Donald Duck!

Long Beach Washington was fun. Our first side trip was up the peninsula to Oysterville, a very clean, quaint little village. They have harvested oysters there since 1854 when the oysters would be harvested, shipped to San Francisco and sold for $1.00 each. That was a lot of money in 1854. We bought 3 dozen oysters for $10.50, and they were very good.

The Long Beach Peninsula is a strip of land formed by the sand that is carried down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. The strong, north flowing current in the Pacific deposits the sand north of the rivers mouth forming the peninsula. The peninsula is 28 miles of sandy beach. This is obviously a summer vacation area but even during October it was interesting (but cool).

Since Lewis and Clark, the famous explorers of the Northwest, considered the mouth of the Columbia River as the end of their exploration, there is a Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Ilwaco, only a few miles south of Long Beach. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovation.

After leaving Long Beach, we drove south on US 101 into Oregon. The first city we drove through was Astoria, where the movie "Free Willy" was filmed. If you watch the movie, you can see the bridge across the Columbia River that we had to drive across. We didn't stop in Astoria, we wanted to head further south to a town called Tillamook. Tillamook seems to be known for the cheese factory here. Tillamook Cheese is well known on the West coast. Unlike many factory stores, the prices in the store at the factory were very reasonable. Yes, we stocked up on Tillamook Cheese. We didn't know they also made ice cream. But, we had to sample their ice cream and it was very good.

That night we stayed at Camp Lookout State Park. It was a very nice state park. A short walk from our campsite was a beach. We walked the beach soon after we arrived, then walked it again after dark, and again before we left in the morning. It was a nice place to stay.

The next day we headed south again along US 101. This time we stopped near Newport at South Beach State Park, another state campground. This time we had hookups. It was another very nice state park with the beach about 1/4 mile away.  After we set up the RV, we took a ride to see two lighthouses still in use. We visited the Yaquina Head Interpretive Center which was very interesting about the Lighthouse, the Oregon Coast geological makeup, the tidepools, grey whales and seabirds . We wanted to visit the tidepools, but it turned very cold and windy.

After leaving South Beach State Park we had a leisurely drive to Florence, then east to where we are now.

We have driven US 101 several times and it still impresses us. US 101 in Oregon hugs the coastline most of the way through Oregon. When it's not along the coast, it's only a few miles inland. Everytime we drive this highway we see new things and stop at different places, it is really beautiful. Much of the coastline is very rocky but there are plenty of sandy beaches also. There are also a lot of small, quaint towns along the way. Someday we would like to take a month or more just exploring the Oregon Coast, it's that beautiful.

Where are we? We are in Eugene Oregon. Larry visited his daughter Michelle last night. Maybe we should say he visited his dog Whitney (who was very happy to see him) at Michelle's house. Of course, it was good to see Michelle as well. Whitney will be coming back to live with us as soon as we get our windshield replace (schedule for tomorrow, Wednesday, if it doesn't rain).

Maybe an explanation is in order. The reason we won't get Whitney until the windshield is replaced is that the RV will have to be at the glass place for most of the day. We think Whitney would be happier staying with Michelle for a couple extra days rather than running around Oregon in our little truck.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun
In Oregon

Subj:  123. Where are we?
Date:  Friday, October 18, 2002

We are now back in The Golden State. We wonder if the name comes from the Gold Rush of 1849, the color of the hills, or what the state capitol seems to want. We are in a small town that is the center of a year-round recreation area. Nearby, there are mountains for hiking and skiing, there are lakes and streams for fishing, and there are lakes for fishing and water sports. We'll only be here one night.

We stayed in Eugene Oregon longer than planned. We had to get the windshield replaced on the motorhome and that was no problem. Several times Larry had noticed that the bolts that held the tow bar brackets to the frame of the pick up had loosened. He tightened them several times over the past month. While we were in Eugene and Keith (Larry's son-in-law) was available they checked out the problem. It turns out the Camping World did a poor installation and the frame of the truck where the brackets were mounted had fatigued. Larry took the truck to a shop to see if it could be welded. We couldn't find a place that would even try to repair the damage.

To make a long story short, we now have a new (well, new to us) 1999 Toyota Tacoma truck. The camper shell from the Nissan fit perfectly and Larry and Keith (well, mostly Keith) installed it on the Toyota. We also had a new tow bar installed. It only took a few days to get everything in place. Thanks to Keith, we got a very good deal on the truck. Now, we're able to travel again.

Where are we? We are in Northern California in a town called Redding. It is the center of the recreational area of the Shasta-Trinity National Forests and the Whiskytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreational area. Frankly, it's not near a pretty as Alaska, Canada, Washington, Montana, Idaho and Oregon but it's still nice.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun
With a new pick-up truck

Subj:  124. Where are we?
Date:  Wednesday, October 23, 2002

This E-mail is going to be a little different from the previous ones. We've already described this place several times, in fact, we are back where we started last May. This is where we retired. Although we don't really live here anymore, it's a convenient place to be when we say our trip to Alaska is complete. We are back in Inyokern California. That's where we started our trip on May 1, 2002.

We arrived in Inyokern on Monday, October 21. We had plenty of time to surprise the three grandchildren who live here, and they were really surprised. It was great to see them.

Let us describe our trip to Alaska in general. It was simply great. We saw lots of fascinating places and did lots of fun things. We highly recommend taking a long, leisurely trip to Alaska. The idea of driving to Alaska can be intimidating, but it shouldn't be. With a little planning, a vehicle in good condition, and plenty of time, the trip can and should be a great experience.

We were gone for 173 days or over 5 1/2 months. We spent 74 days in Alaska and 54 days in Canada. We drove over 10,000 miles in the motorhome. We had one minor problem with the motorhome, that's when the hot water heater stopped working. That was fixed in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in 30 minutes. That was not a big problem.

We also had two problems with our little pickup truck that we tow behind the motorhome. In Watson Lake, British Columbia, Canada, we had a flat tire. That wasn't major. We had a more significant problem with the pick up when we discovered that the tow bar brackets had fatigued the attachment points on the frame of the truck. Because no one wanted to take the liability for welding the frame, we ended up buying a new pickup in Eugene Oregon. That was a major, unplanned expense but we had intended to replace the pickup in a few years anyway.

The only other problem was solved by replacing the windshield on the motorhome. Actually we expected to have to do this and, thanks to our insurance company, it was done efficiently.

During our trip we saw lots of wondrous things and places. We saw moose, caribou, deer, big horn sheep, elk, Dall sheep, bison, mountain goats, and bears. On some of our sightseeing boat trips we saw seals, sea lions, sea otters, Orca whales, humpback whales, bald eagles, puffins, and too many other birds to mention. Of course we also saw mountains, rivers, glaciers, waterfalls, hot springs, gold fields, and many other sights. We visited at least five US National Parks (Denali National Park, Fjords National Park, Wrangle-St. Ellias National Park, Glacier National Park, and the Olympic National Park) and four Canadian National Parks (Dawson City National Park, Jasper National Park, Banff National Park, and Waterton National Park). We even walked on a glacier!!

We also fished and caught Sockeye Salmon, Humpback Salmon, razor clams, and Halibut.

We met lots of people and, some will remain friends for a long time. Larry even helped several people with RV problems. Most of those people were ones who were not really familiar with RVs and had rented one. It's a pity that the rental companies don't check out their units thoroughly before renting them.

If it sounds like we had a wonderful trip, we did. Given the chance we would do it all again.

Now, what's next. Well, we will be in Southern California for a while. First we will take care of all the necessary things like dentist appointments and doctor appointments. Adrienne will be teaching a couple of CPR classes and Larry will be taking the Red Cross CPR and First Aid Instructor's Class. We also have a family reunion scheduled for San Diego. Of course we will also give the RV a good bath, inside and out, and get a good wax coat on the outside.

After that, we hope to get jobs for the winter in a campground somewhere in the sunbelt, but outside of California.

It will probably be a while before we send another one of these E-mails. They were originally intended to let our grandkids know where Grandma and Grandpa Brauer were and what we were doing. Now that we're with the grandkids it won't be necessary to send them E-mails.

While we're here, we do plan on updating our web site with the Where are we? E-mails and photos from September and October.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun
Back from the Ultimate RV trip to Alaska