Monday, April 11, 2016

Boondocking and Apple Pie Along I-10 in Eastern Arizona

 Yum! 

Since I wrote my last blog post in February, I've traveled between my homes in Why, Arizona, and Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and I've made some better stops than I used to along I-10.  

I don't attempt the eight-hour drive in one day unless Steve and I are traveling together.  That much driving makes my body hurt, so I always split up the trip into two days.  Plus, breaking up the trip gives me lots of time to run errands or go junking in Tucson or wherever I want to along the way. 

In the past, I'd usually stop at a truckstop overnight.  I rarely want to spend the money on a paid campsite or RV park site if I'm just going to rest up for another day of driving.  But on my last trip, I tried two free spots that are really worth knowing about.

On my way west, I'd intended to stop at the TA truckstop in Willcox, which is not a bad place to overnight.  Since I have a small rig (22-ft Toyota Dolphin), I can park just about anywhere and stay a little ways away from the noisy trucks.  But I always have to use earplugs to get to sleep there.

 Level parking lots on several sides of this fun store, plus there is a Cochise County visitors center next-door with additional overnight RV parking

This time, just before exiting at Willcox, I noticed some RVs parked by a store of some kind that was several blocks further away from the freeway than the TA truckstop.  As I exited, I saw signs for Apple Annie's Country Store and followed them.  This upscale pie/jam/gift shop has a nice level parking lot and it's next-door to a local tourism information building which also has good overnight RV parking in its lot.  No charge.  I don't know how long it would be okay to stay there, but it was much quieter than the truckstop and very pleasant.  I got up the next morning and went into the store when they opened at 8 am and bought a fabulous $14 apple-rhubarb pie and managed to get 5/6ths of it home to Steve in Why later that day.

 A tabletop for my friends at Passion Pie Cafe in Truth or Consequences, NM

 A sign I will hang once the permit is approved

I spent several weeks in Why, working on a new tabletop for Passion Pie Cafe and on a sign for my Sun Gallery in TorC and enjoying time with Steve.  On my way back east to New Mexico, I tried another overnight spot that was new to me, Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area, a BLM picnic area south of Bowie, Arizona.  You can't boondock in the picnic area itself, but you can pull off a nearby road and camp close enough to use the vault toilet at the picnic site, and you can camp for free there for up to 14 days.  

The view from my campsite at Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area

This area is beautiful--I heard and saw lots of birds, and there were cattle walking right by my rig and horses down the road a bit.  It took about 15 to 20 minutes to get from a gas station in Bowie to the BLM land, with the last two miles or so being dirt road.  It was well worth the detour off I-10, even for just an overnight stay.  This BLM area was so pleasant, I could see making it a destination and staying there several days to paint.

Some of my neigh-bors at Indian Bread Rocks

I got home from my trip to Why in time to attend an annual Open House at Spaceport America.  It was a beautiful drive out past Engel and one of Ted Turner's ranches to Spaceport.  I didn't understand much of what they were saying in the presentation because the acoustics in the hangar were awful, but I enjoyed seeing the facility and spending the afternoon with my friend Kat.  I'm guessing the $49 Spaceport Tour would be a lot more informative and interactive than the Open House was, but I haven't tried that yet.   




 




Visiting my Arizona winter camp, creating artwork and running my gallery has kept me pretty busy these past few months, but I also found some time to explore some primitive camping opportunities closer to Truth or Consequences...places I can easily get away to for just a few nights when I want to have some uninterrupted time to paint.   Both Elephant Butte State Park and Caballo State Park have primitive areas where there are no services and very few neighbors, for $8 per night.  I've been enjoying exploring the various roads into the isolated outer edges of these parks.

The Gallery goes well.  Both my artwork and my antique finds are selling, and I enjoy the interactions there with friends and the public.  


 Mosaic tile projects including an early 20th Century occasional table on wheels, a mirror, and a teardrop trailer shaped birdhouse
 
 Hi there!

Now that I've been in my storefront for a while, I've been able to resume doing mosaic artwork for the first time in a few years.  As an RVer, I really didn't have the space or weight allowance for tiles, grout, etc.  I'm also helped by a new compound tile nipper, which allows me to make plates into tile without hurting my arthritic hands.  I'm making birdhouses that are flying off the shelves, and it's fun.





I've also been experimenting with Day of the Dead type motifs, with mandala style backgrounds.  


 Reviewer James Durham writes about my gallery in The Ink, a Southern New Mexico arts magazine

Second Saturday Art Hop has been really fun each month at Sun Gallery.  In February, my friend Claudia made poison pen Valentine cookies which made everybody laugh.  


In March, we had a Peep Show--a marshmallow Peeps diorama contest that got enough entries to make it really a fun exhibit.  

Peeples Choice Winner:  Martye Allen

 Gallery Choice Winner:  Linda DeMarino

I'm looking forward to more fun events that include artists of every age and experience level.  In May, I'm going to keep the gallery open for two weeks in a row for our local Fiesta celebration and then for Second Saturday Art Hop.  During that time, we'll have a community art show at Sun Gallery on the theme "So Many Chickens, So Little Time."  

The next several weeks, I'll be in the East Village, trying to beat my friend Marcy at Scrabble and soaking up all that New York City has to offer.  Flying there, not RVing.  See if you can find me in the audience on the Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert on April 18th.  I'll be there.           

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Six Months in the Southwest

  In front of Sun Gallery, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

My last blog post was in August, when I had just returned from a four-month West Coast solo RV trip.  I commented at the end that I was going to return to my routine, but couldn't remember what that was anymore .

Sometimes it's good not to remember an old story and to start a new one.  That's basically what I've been up to lately.

  Intuition Is My Compass, Mixed-Media on Canvas, 12 x 12 in.

I spent a few weeks just getting reacquainted with Truth or Consequences...hanging out in coffee shops, seeing friends, spending lots of time with Steve.  I also started making some new friends, since I'm now old enough to eat lunch and participate in other activities at the Senior Center.

 Jeff, John, Beverly and Joel enjoying lunch at the Senior Center
 
Something that has come up in my thinking many times over the years since I started spending time in TorC is the possibility of having my own art studio, art gallery, book store, antique store, or any combination thereof.  I began exploring this possibility in my talks with friends.


Desert Eden Mandala, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 in.

About mid-September, I decided not to partner up with anyone and to start my own folk art and antiques gallery.  The vision I've had for this type of business for many years has been to be open only part-time.  I've seen this model work in small towns where business isn't heavy enough to justify being open full-time.  TorC has a Second Saturday Art Hop, and I decided to have my new Sun Gallery open each month during the Art Hop weekend.

 Front window of Sun Gallery
 
I found a workable commercial space in the very busiest part of downtown TorC.  I'm in a block that is a beehive of small businesses, one of the hoppingest places in town.  After renting the space, I worked very hard to get it filled up.  I picked up my paintings, sculpture, mixed-media work, etc.,  from other galleries in town except RioBravoFineArt where I will continue to show my work.   

One of dozens of carloads of antiques that I have found for the gallery
 
I also bought many, many antiques in travels to Las Cruces, where I have a great working relationship with a woman who rebuilds, refinishes and even repurposes old furniture.  I also got to buy some great primitives from a local pecan farm where an old house was cleared out. Besides Las Cruces, I've had some fun shopping excursions throughout the Southwest this fall and winter.  

 Me on flute, Gina on djembe, Rich on keyboards, Bob on drums and Mario on guitar at one of our Second Saturday Art Hop openings at Sun Gallery

I opened the gallery in October and have worked pretty hard at it throughout the fall.  I was open for the Art Hop weekend in October, then headed to Arizona to do some antique buying and camping.  Most of November and December, I was open each weekend so I could garner the holiday sales.  Then it was back to just one weekend per month in January.

 A series of four large acrylic paintings about the Elements (Fire, Water, Air and Earth) that I painted after returning from my 2015 travels
 
This schedule is great.  It allows me to travel and make art in between gallery openings.  After my January opening, I had a full four weeks off before the upcoming February opening!  So I've been able to spend a nice long time relaxing at our place in Why, Arizona. 

 Local arts critic James Durham's first review of my new gallery

Just yesterday, I returned to Why from a quick buying trip to Palm Springs!  There is no better place for thrift store shopping than the Coachella Valley.  Driving along Highway 111, the loop through all of those connected desert resort towns, I was able to hit about 20 thrift shops in two days.  There were probably another 10 that I could have shopped if I'd had the stamina.  

 Desert Hot Springs wind farm
 
I had hoped to include some sightseeing in my Palm Springs trip--maybe a couple of nights up at Joshua Tree National Park or a side trip along the Salton Sea to Yuma on my way home--but we got the big winds this past weekend that hit the entire Southwest.  With 25 to 35 mph winds with gusts up to hurricane speeds, it wasn't a good time to drive my little Dolphin on I-10.  So I holed up for a few nights at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, which has a nice big lot for free RV parking.  

 The heavy winds that kept me sitting in one place for several days
 
Yesterday on my way back to Why, I stopped in Quartzsite to lunch with some of my Solo Wild-Women RVer sisters.  And today it's great to be back here in the quiet Senoran Desert!  I have a few days to relax, then it's back to TorC for the February Art Hop weekend opening.  I have a few new paintings to exhibit in February that I painted here in Arizona this past month, and I've also been able to start doing some mosaic again now that I have space to work in and a nifty new compound tile nipper that doesn't make my arthritic hands hurt. 

 Back to doing mosaic after a few years' abstinence
 
I'll be going back and forth between our New Mexico and Arizona camps for the next few months.  Then I have some big travel plans for the spring (New York City!) and summer (RVing up the Mississippi to the Midwest).  Stay tuned!  I'll try not to get too busy to blog.

For those interested in visiting my gallery, please visit my Sun Gallery Facebook page.
     
An interior view of Sun Gallery
 

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Trip Home: Washington to New Mexico via the National Parks!


 Riding at Bryce Canyon National Park

When I last wrote, I had left Seattle where I visited with my son and other family and friends for over a month.  I was ready to start heading back to the Southwest, but not before I went to Olympic National Park.  All of the years I lived in Seattle, I had only driven past the park to get to various vacation destinations.  But now, on my "2015 No Regrets Tour," I took the time to enjoy the Olympic Peninsula.

Sol Duc River at Olympic National Park

I spent several days at Olympic National Park, trying different campgrounds and seeing the Park's many-faceted features.  My favorite place was Sol Duc, where there is a privately-owned hot springs resort and RV park within the Park's boundaries.  I opted to stay down the road about a half-mile at the National Park's own campground, for a lot less money.  I lucked out and got a spot that was right near the walking trail over to the hot springs resort.  The day fee for using the hot springs was something like $13, very reasonable.  You get a wrist band and can come back several times during the day or evening if you wish.  

My campsite at Sol Duc

I had an encounter with a neighbor at Sol Duc that reminded me that I have a life back home that I was kind of missing.  I had accomplished the main purpose of my trip (spending about a month hanging out in Seattle where I would be available to my son and friends on their schedule).  So, I stopped moseying so much and began to make tracks for New Mexico.  Besides, there was a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, so I figured I might as well head home a little more quickly than I'd planned.  I still went to most of the places I wanted to, but I didn't linger as long or meander as much as I had on my way north.

 Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

After Sol Duc, I stayed one really lovely night at the Fairholme Campground on Lake Crescent.  After that, I had hoped to stay at one of the beach campgrounds somewhere along the West Coast portion of Olympic National Park, but it was a very busy time and I had no reservations.  I couldn't get in at Quinault, either, and temperatures nearing 100 degrees were predicted, so I made a quick shot down I-5 to stay with friends in Eugene, Oregon, who have a 30-amp post in their driveway.  I was able to use my new roof-top air conditioner that I'd had installed in Washington, and it was great!  It literally scared the piss out of the cat the first time I turned it on, but she got used to it quickly.  

Whistlers Bend County Park, outside Roseburg, Oregon

From Eugene, my next goal was to visit Crater Lake, another place I'd lived close to for many years but had never visited.  I took the North Umpqua Highway (Oregon Route 138) east from Roseburg and stayed at a lovely little Douglas County Park called Whistlers Bend.  There were also lots of Forest Service campgrounds all along that road--so many great choices and such a beautiful drive.

Wizard's Hat, an island in Crater Lake

I enjoyed a wonderful day at Crater Lake National Park, but I did not find a campsite there.  This was something I ran into a lot on my way home at the National Parks, even though they say on their websites that they have first-come, first-served camping.  But that turned out okay at Crater Lake.  I took the two-hour trolley tour ($24 for seniors) all the way around the lake.  A ranger gave us lots of great information on how this unique lake formed, what wildlife live in the area, etc.  It was a great way to see the Park, especially for a solo traveler.  After the tour, I headed south to Chiloquin, Oregon, where I stayed overnight (free!) at the Kla-Mo-Ya Casino.  

 Beautiful Lake Helen, at Lassen Volcanic National Park

My next goal was to check out the Lava Beds National Monument and Lassen Volcanic National Park.  I hadn't realized it, but they are at the south end of what is called the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, which starts near Crater Lake.  All along this route, I enjoyed beautiful views of Mount Shasta, and I was also reminded of playing the old computer game Oregon Trail which had a California trail option that went through this area.  

 Mount Shasta was on my horizon for two days of driving

I visited Lava Beds one day, overnighted at Lower Rush Creek Campground in the Modoc National Forest, and went to Lassen the next day and afterwards stayed at Gurnsey Creek Campground in nearby Lassen National Forest.  I didn't linger at either of these parks because most of the visitor activity involves hiking.  I've learned on this trip that I do best at the bigger National Parks where they have bus rides, ranger talks, maybe a little nature trail, a nice lodge with rocking chairs on the deck, etc.

The next goal was to find a campground somewhere along the way to Lake Tahoe where I could stop and rest for a couple of days.  I wanted to cross all of Nevada via U.S. Highway 50, "America's Loneliest Highway," in just a couple of days, but needed to be ready for that push.  I made a wonderful unexpected find, Martis Creek Lake Corps of Engineers Campground near Truckee, California.  It was not as lush as the beautiful Pacific Northwest campgrounds I'd become accustomed to, but it was pleasant enough.  Being near the Truckee Airport, there were lots of fun experimental aircraft to watch, and I sat outside and did a little painting.

My nice little boondocking spot along the Loneliest Highway

I did manage to make it across most of Nevada in two days, boondocking one night about halfway across the state at an unmarked picnic spot in the Humboldt-Toiyaba National Forest, east of Austin, Nevada.  Just a pull-off with a picnic table under a tree.  It was a great place to rest, and I was on the road again early the next day.  

Before leaving Nevada, I spent a day at Great Basin National Park and camped there at Lower Lehman Creek Campground.  The main activities at Great Basin are taking hikes or driving up to about 10,000 feet to look at bristlecone pines.

The view from my lovely Red Canyon campsite

My next destination was Bryce Canyon National Park, but I was so floored by the sight of Red Canyon, outside Bryce in the Dixie National Forest, that I had to stop for two days.  I camped at Red Canyon Campground and had a large campsite and a fabulous view of my very own hoodoos.  It was at Red Canyon that I noticed that the hip bursitis that had begun to plague me in Oregon and Washington was gone!  I was able to do a bit more hiking than I had for a while.

The dining room at Bryce Canyon Lodge

After not getting campsites at several National Parks, I decided I would visualize a wonderful visit to Bryce Canyon, with a good campsite, a bus tour, and a trail ride.  It worked!  Everything went exactly as I'd hoped.  I happened to arrive at Bryce Canyon on a weekend when they were having a geology fest, so there was an excellent tour led by a university geology prof.  I stayed two nights at Sunset Campground and was pleased to find out that, after having two knee replacements, I could still go on a horseback ride.  It had been a bucket list item for me to find out.  Another bucket list item was to eat a meal at one of the National Park lodges, so I did that at Bryce, where I enjoyed elk chili.

Leaving Bryce Canyon, it was tempting to head further up Scenic Byway 12 (Utah State Route 12) to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Capital Reef National Park, especially after several other Bryce visitors told me that Capital Reef was their favorite National Park.  But I can see that there is another trip up that way for me sometime.  The entire Colorado Plateau is beautiful, and I'll head up that way another summer.

Instead, I headed south to Zion National Park.  The scenery was gorgeous as I drove from the east entrance to the south exit, but again I did not linger.  There were no campsites available, and I was having a day when my inner introvert was unable to deal with the high energy of Zion's crowds.  So I drove on through and headed all the way to the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona, where I stayed at DeMotte Campground.  It was a friendly place--the camp host drove out to my site as soon as I arrived to get me registered and sell me some campfire wood, which was very handy!  However, a neighbor started his generator at 4:58 a.m. the next morning, so I got up and left early.  Thanks, Generator Guy!

My first glimpse of the Grand Canyon, from the North Rim

It was good to get an early start.  I covered a lot of miles.  I headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Again, I was unable to find a campsite, but I had a nice breakfast at the Grand Canyon Lodge, took several walks and looked at various viewpoints, and then headed on.  I ended up spending the night (free!) at McHood County Park on Clear Creek Reservoir, a few miles outside of Winslow, Arizona.  This nice little lake had lots of people fishing, swimming and boating during the day.  It was nearly 100 degrees during the afternoon, but the evening brought cool breezes off the lake and was very pleasant.  

The next morning (two days ago), I left Winslow, not knowing if I would make it all the way to Truth or Consequences in one day, thinking perhaps I'd stop at Datil.  But it was my boyfriend Steve's birthday, so I was motivated to drive the 325 miles or so home.  I got here in time for supper, and Steve and I went out for pizza.

So, my trip back to the Southwest took me only a month (July 8th through August 5th), while the trip north had taken me nearly three months.  I guess I was ready to get back to my routine (whatever that is!  I've been on the road so long, I can't really remember...).  

Today I had a meeting with the other local artists who show at Grapes Gallery and we discussed some upcoming themed art shows, so now I have some new work ahead of me.  I have several creative goals for the next few months, and then I'll head to Why, Arizona, where I'll stay for the winter and probably use as a base for some more travels. 
       

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Long Beach Peninsula and a Month of Camping Near Seattle







 
Me, in front of the Big Four Ice Caves in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

When I last wrote (over five weeks ago!), I had been on the northern Oregon Coast and was about to head into Astoria to get the RV's oil changed.  

The oil change guy discovered I needed new U-joints, so I went to an AA meeting and, by the time I left, I had a phone number of a full-service mechanic who was expecting me and was willing to fit me in immediately.  I got the U-joints, plus new windshield wipers and a check on my tire pressure, and then headed back to Fort Stevens State Park for another night.

The next day, I headed up to the Long Beach Peninsula.  I utilized my campground memberships and stayed at a couple of resorts that were on my RPI or Coast to Coast memberships.  I stayed one night at Eagle's Nest Resort in Ilwaco, Washington, where I saw deer wandering around in the campground, and another night at Pacific Holiday RV Resort in Long Beach, which was set back just a tiny bit from the beach.  Beautiful.  With my various campground memberships, I paid about about $14 per night.

 
Beach at Ilwaco, Washington

I decided to wait on going to Olympic National Park until I got some more work done on my RV in Seattle.  I'd been checking on Yelp for the best RV mechanics all the way up the West Coast and found one in Everett, just north of Seattle, who was reputed to be excellent.  I have had several problems come up during my travels.  

One problem was a leak in a pipe that leads into my hot water heater.  I don't use my hot water heater very often.  Really, for one person who normally showers at the campground shower rooms, it's hardly necessary--I can heat up a little water to wash my face or my dishes.  However, when I use water (either from being hooked up to water or from my freshwater tank), it goes to the hot water tank, anyway.  So the water leak was a problem even when I wasn't using hot water.  There's been enough damage from this little leak that I'll need to get my linoleum floor replaced once I get home.  And, until I got the leak fixed, I had to carry about a half-dozen gallon jugs of water with me for all uses, not just drinking, but also flushing and dish washing and so on.  I knew life would become simpler once I could use my plumbing again.

I'd also had some occasional trouble lighting my propane fridge, and I needed a new solar regulator panel, and my oven pilot would light, but the oven wouldn't heat up.  And I had been planning ever since I bought Solveig (the name of my Toyota Dolphin, Norwegian for "house of the sun") to add a roof-top air conditioner.  

So, after exploring some of the Long Beach Peninsula in the southwest corner of the State of Washington, I headed to the Seattle area to see about getting these repairs and upgrades taken care of.  I loved the drive from the Peninsula to I-5, where I found an art trail at the Willapa Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  I stayed overnight at a Love's Truckstop south of Chehalis, where I was able to use wifi next-door at Starbucks to watch a little streaming Netflix.

Art Trail at Willapa Bay National Wildlife Refuge


Salmon swimming in the trees

I arrived in Seattle on Saturday, June 6th, and called up my son and my best friend, both of whom were able to meet me that day at Golden Gardens Park in Seattle.  This was one of my old places to hang out years ago when I lived in Ballard, a Norwegian ghetto in Seattle which has now become an upscale neighborhood just like all of the other upscale neighborhoods.  The park remains the same, takk Odin.  We hung out and enjoyed a meal and sat in the sunshine.

 The beach at Golden Gardens Park in Ballard

Then I headed up to the Tulalip Resort Casino near Marysville, Washington, which I returned to several times during my visit to the Seattle area.  Tulalip is very RV-friendly, with one parking lot devoted specifically to RVs and another overflow lot available when the RV one is full.  I tried a couple of other casinos while I was in the Seattle area (Angel of the Winds in Arlington and Snoqualmie Casino near Snoqualmie Pass), and there is no comparison.  Tulalip is free and has fairly flat parking lots with lots of landscaping that makes it possible to get a sense of privacy.  It's also easy to get on I-5 from the casino to head into the city. 

Casino camping at Tulalip
 
I called my new favorite RV shop, Ryan's RV Town in Everett, and got an appointment first for an estimate and later to have the work done.  Then I scheduled the rest of my Seattle activities around these visits to the shop.

It would take too many words to describe everything I did in Seattle, but the highlights were Steve's two-week visit and camping with my son Sly at a couple of nice Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest campgrounds.  I also got to see my dear friend Helen, my cousin Joanne, and several other close friends.  I would like to have seen everyone I know and like in the Seattle area, but my main purpose was to have lots of quality time with my son, and that was achieved.  I also got to celebrate Sly's 23rd birthday and my 60th birthday while in Washington.   


Birthdays are far out!

While Steve was visiting, we stayed at Tall Chief RV Resort near Fall City, Washington.  It's a nice old Thousand Trails preserve that feels like a state park (big woodsy sites) with amenities (swimming pool, laundromat, wifi, etc.).  Again, I used my campground memberships and the stay cost us $14 per night.  So inexpensive, in fact, that we decided to rent a car while Steve was visiting, so we could leave the rig and the cat back at the campground while venturing out to sightsee.  I also purchased a screened canopy while in the area, which was great for bug-free outdoor dining and relaxing. 

My new Coleman screened canopy--I can put it up by myself in just a minute or two!

We got an awesome deal on the rental car, and I have to recommend Flightcar to anybody who needs to rent a car at a major metropolitan airport.  It's a whole new concept in car rental.  The BMW we rented for two weeks was owned by a local guy who left his car at the airport while traveling.  Our cost was only $25 per day!  For a Beamer!  

Our campsite at Tall Chief, with the rented BMW

During Steve's visit, we mostly relaxed and stayed at the campground, taking a few day trips here and there.  One particularly nice day was when we took the Edmonds-Kingston ferry and visited the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, over on the Kitsap Peninsula.  Steve loves submarines!  Later we stopped in nearby Poulsbo at the Poulsbohemian, which has the nicest view of any coffee shop I've ever visited, anywhere.  

Steve, with a nice pie from Remlinger Farms

Before Steve's visit, Sly and I camped for a few nights up at Troublesome Creek, a Forest Service campground north of Index, Washington.  It was quite a long, bumpy road to get to the campground, and I didn't realize until we arrived that my bucket of gesso had overturned and spilled all over other art supplies and sketchbooks and so on.  By the time Sly and I got all the gesso cleaned up, there was also quite a bit on the cat, and weeks later she still has a few areas of gesso-clumped fur.  Troublesome Creek was gorgeous and worth the drive.


 Repainting a canvas found at a thrift shop while camping with Sly

After Steve's visit, I headed up to Turlo, a Forest Service campground on the Mountain Loop Highway east of Granite Falls.  This campground on the Stillaguamish River also turned out to be beautiful.  There were some nice swimming holes right in front of the campground's beach.  Sly was able to join me for a couple of days there, and Helen came up for a nice Sunday visit.

Sly

When Sly came up to see me at Turlo, we drove in his car about 15 miles further into the National Forest to hike to the Big Four Ice Caves.  These are the same caves which, just two days later, crashed in and killed one person and injured five others.  We were lucky to have been there before this happened.  The temps were in the 90s and the cave was dripping as if there was a rain storm inside.  I don't really understand while the Forest Service didn't close down this site before the accident happened.  

 
Big Four Ice Caves, two days before the cave-in that killed one and injured five

Sly and I also unexpectedly came across a 4th of July parade in the small community of Robe, Washington, which is just outside the National Forest.  We went there for a cold drink and stayed for the festivities.  

Independence Day Parade in tiny Robe, Washington

After this last camping trip with Sly, I went back into town and got all of my repairs done at Ryan's RV Town (except for the oven, which they recommended replacing, something I'm not ready to do at this time), and then it was time to go back on the road.  Much as I will miss those I leave behind, I was really relieved to be out of that big city traffic!  

Now I have been on the Olympic Peninsula for a few nights, but so far trying to see much of Olympic National Park has been hampered by gray, rainy weather.  I've hesitated to drive up to Hurricane Ridge because I know I won't be able to see much in this weather.  So I'm hanging out in the Port Angeles area for another day or so to see if the weather clears up before moving on.  Currently I am using the wifi and drinking coffee at the very friendly Bella Rosa Coffee Shop and debating whether to drive back up into the National Park for a campground tonight or just to stay in town at Walmart or maybe find the Elwha River Casino?  I'm seeing it's 4:30 pm, so I guess I'm off to find a free parking lot here in town.  Ah, the life of the wanderer!