Friday, October 20, 2006

On the Road Again

Well, it's been 30 days and over 3000 miles since we left Montana, and what a great trip we've had. I tried to create a map showing our route but the length and number of places we visited made it too busy to display. To recap our journey so far, we started in Missoula, spent the first night a Billings, then continued on to Wall, SD, where we visited the one and only Wall Drug; a city-block sized building of every piece of tourist junk you can imagine. We counted 47 signs for Wall Drug between Rapid City and Wall, and although how it got there is an interesting story, it didn't live up to the hype. From there, it was off to Sioux City, Davenport, Iowa, Richmond, Indiana, and Spring Valley, outside of Dayton, Ohio. There we visited with our good friends Kirk and Sue Birmeister, other friends in the area, and attended the retirement of Joe and Susan Berube, who were given a great sendoff by friends and family from all over the country. Then it was off to Brunswick, outside of Cleveland, for a visit with Brenda's mom Gladys, sister Joan, brother Ron; my cousin Jayne Kracker, and our friends Sue and Keith Winn. We enjoyed our visit, but it was time to travel again, this time to Johnstown, PA, my first civil service job. We visited with our good friends Pat and Sue Kiniry and drove around looking at all of the changes (mostly good) that have taken place in the area. We stayed at the campground of a dear friend, Grace Shofstall, a lovely place where we kept our RV during our Johnstown days. She's a remarkable woman of indeterminate age who does almost all of the maintenance and upkeep herself, while managing to find the time to create incredible works of art. A real joy to be around, she had us in tears with her story about being addicted to almonds and telling her doctor that she needed to be admitted to a drug and alcohol rehab center. Her park is lovely, and the trees provided a beautiful setting for our stay. Our timing was great for the fall foliage; the leaves were in their peak colors and the weather cooperated for most of our stay. While there, we visited the Flight 93 memorial, a nicely done temporary location in a rural area outside of Somerset. An amazing number of people find their way on the back roads to reach the spot where the aircraft impacted. There are plans for a suitable memorial that will be built once funding is available; hopefully in the next year or two. If you double click on the picture, you can see an American flag at the crash site in the field behind the monument. Also in the area is the Quecreek Mine memorial, the site where nine miners were rescued from a flooded underground mine after being trapped for three days. It's amazing to stand on the spot where a shaft was dug to the trapped miner's location 248 feet below; how they were able to locate the miners and drill a 30 inch shaft to pull them out one by one was a truly heroic feat. An interesting web site about the rescue can be found at Leaving western Pennsylvania and land of the hated Steelers, we headed south through West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and into Red Bay, Alabama, the home of Tiffin Industries and where our Allegro Bay was manufactured. We had hoped to stay at the factory campground and have some minor service done, but all 193 campsites plus 50 overflow sites were taken, so we decided to continue on south and have the work done at a dealer some time in the future. We spent a few days in Natchez, Mississippi, and are currently in Marksville, Louisiana, parked at the Paragon Casino RV park, where Brenda is working on winning us enough money for a new Marathon Coach (they start at $1.2M). We plan on returning to Natchez this weekend to see the annual Hot-Air Balloon Festival and will let you know how our visit went in the next blog. Until then, thanks for checking in on us, and for all of you that we visited in the last month, thanks so much for the great hospitality and for being such great friends!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Glacier National Park

Well, took me long enough to get back to the blog. As many of you know, we've left Montana, visited Dayton, and are now in Brunswick, Ohio visiting Brenda's family. So, journey with me back in time to our visit to Glacier NP........
While in Montana, Glacier was a four to five hour drive away from the refuge, so we decided to wait and spend the better part of a week on a visit. Since around 2 million people visit the park each year, we waited until September 11th so that the kids would be back in school and most of the vacationers would be gone. It turned out to be a good choice, as we found a great RV park with plenty of room, open parking spaces even in the most popular places, and sale prices on all of the tourist trinkets. We've been fortunate to visit many of the big parks; Yosemite, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and others, but Glacier was to us, a place apart from the rest due to its size - miles and miles of huge, chiseled mountains and glaciers; with the ability to travel into so many beautiful areas without having to look from a distance. We started our visit on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 50-mile road that hugs the mountains as much as 3000' above the valley. The road winds around curves, is barely two lanes wide, and has only a short rock barrier to separate your vehicle; the final frontier. Brenda enjoyed staring at the floor for most of the trip; she did look down once, babbled something intelligible, then wrapped a floor mat around her head and began to weep. Along the route are stunning vistas of high peaks, lakes, and glaciers. We took a break near the top of the pass where we heard what loud whistles back and forth between the canyon walls - turned out to be Marmots, which look like a groundhog on steroids with beaver teeth. At the top of Logan pass is a large visitor center and an area of beautiful alpine meadows stretching off into the distance. We watched hikers as they made their way to a glacier and lake three miles away; because of the altitude (7000') we decided to pass on the hike and save our energy for shopping. From there, we made our way down the pass, waiting for mountain sheep to move out of a tunnel and off the road, and down to an area of the park called Many Glacier. Here, we had lunch at one of many huge lodges built during the early 1900's which stands on the shore of a beautiful lake - sort of looked like the lodge from the movie "The Shining" . Imagine waking up in the morning and seeing the view across the lake. During our time at Glacier we drove the backroads looking for wildlife (Brenda's still "mooseless in Montana"), explored the eastern side of the park and contributed money to an Indian casino, and found the best bakery we've had in years at a 50-person village at the end of a 40-mile dirt road. One of our best experiences happened while we had stopped to look at an avalanche path. We heard something coming through the brush, and were amazed to see two black bear, one a juvenile and the other a small cub, climb trees right in front of us to eat berries. The cub didn't seem bothered by us, just ate berries for about 20 minutes and then scurried back into the brush. Apparently mom was around somewhere, but we never saw or heard her. We saw so many incredible sights here that we agreed that we have to come back and spend more time. We hope you've enjoyed sharing our visit to Montana & hope you'll continue to check in with us in the future. Thanks for all the positive feedback on the Blog. It was great seeing all of you back in Dayton & we'll be in touch as we continue our adventure!