Great American Dream Road Trip — Days 34 & 35

Aug 2nd — Day 34 Waking up this morning we realized we didn’t bring a change of clothes into the motel with us.  We arrived around 8pm last night but with the last 4 hours of driving being so congested I was bushed and didn’t feel like bringing anything in from the van.  Needless to say, Sue was quick with the “I told you so” when we didn’t even have a toothbrush with us. Before we can continue our road trip I will have to put my dirty clothes back on and go out to the van and unload it.  Well, I certainly don’t mind doing it but I will not do it without first having a cup of coffee.  So first I will sneak off to the lobby.  Lobby coffee is bad enough but I’ll be dang if I’m going to stoop to the “make your own room coffee”.  I am not that desperate. DSC_0337Returning from the van with our luggage I get to the door only to notice there is no handle on the door.  Instead there is just a hole where the handle should be connected.   Oh well, I came out this door so I don’t see any reason why I can’t go back in it.  I stick my middle finger in the hole to pull the door open and low and behold it was stuck and when I gave it a pull I ended up pulling my middle finger.  I felt something in my hand snap and the pain was excruciating. Sue had to come and push the door open from the inside.  After dropping off the luggage at our room I went down to the office to report this incident to the manager.  Because of the pain I asked the manager to report this and out of courtesy to turn on my Wi-Fi for the room.  I went back to the room and did a little research on line and believe I ended up with a partial tear of the flexor tendon in my middle finger of the left hand.  I can only hope it will heal itself because I have no intentions of going through surgery while on this trip.  I will use the “buddy system” and tape the finger to my index finger.   Well if the van could survive a tranny injury then I guess I could survive a simple little finger injury.  It was almost noon before we decide to head into town and do a little exploring.  Ha Ha,  This is a Thursday and Seattle may sleep at night but they certainly don’t sleep during the day.  Traffic isn’t quite as bad as it was during rush hour but it is still more then I am use to dealing with.  enteringseattleWe crossed a bridge heading towards downtown and traffic actually started clearing out so we decided to just drive around town a little.  Sue actually took some interesting pictures thru the windshield while I had to keep an ever-alert watch on the idiots that seemed in a hurry to go nowhere.  suesseattletower1We did get a glimpse of the Space Needle but that is about all as finding parking was a joke.  We knew that the U.S. Navy Blue Angels were to put on a show tomorrow and that sometime today they would be giving some kind of preview.  We had no idea when but someone told us that if indeed they did do this then the best place to view it would be back across the bridge we just came over and a spot along the waterfront. So onward, back through all the construction going on, through the massive traffic patterns, and back across the bridge we went.  Not knowing exactly where I would be going I continued on.  Looking for a break I cut-off what ever primary route I was on to what looked like a river drive or park road.  I immediately found a place to pull over and we decided to get out and take a walk around. DSC_0338This didn’t turn out to be an area where we would be able toDSC_0354 observe any Blue Angels but it did serve as a relaxing break and a stretch of the legs.  We just walked around what seemed like a park, snapped a couple of pictures, and then headed back to the van. We didn’t have to drive far before we found what we were looking for.  I believe it was a suburb across whatever body of water from downtown Seattle.  The waterfront was nice and there was a few other people there.  We no sooner got out of the van and heard a jet in the distance.  Yep, the Blue Angels were at least out and flying. DSC_0461Getting a picture of these guys wasn’t easy.  By the time you heard them they were usually gone.  But as you can see by thesuesjet picture on the left I caught three of them and the one on the right was taken by Sue.  I am also including a short video I was able to get.  Not the best but at least you have the sound. PublicMarketWell after about two hours we decided it would be a good idea to head on over to the place we received the most recommendations for visiting while in Seattle.  That would be the Pike Place Market, or as some say, The Public Market, or as others may say, The Farmers Market.  Well no matter what you call it, Pike Place Market is a special community within the heart of Seattle’s downtown.  More than the city’s beloved public market, Pike Place Market is a vibrant neighborhood comprised of hundreds of farmers, craftspeople, small businesses and residents.  Each group is an important and vital makeup of the Pike Place Neighborhood. After  dealing with the traffic of Seattle I sure wasn’t looking forward to our visit to San Francisco or L.A.  I wanted the country roads of Montana and the Dakotas again.  But, they were behind us and all I could hope for was surviving the west coast traffic at least to AZ and all points east. DSC_0499I decided to head back to the motel via some neighborhood roads.  One of the neighborhoods we went thru was very colorful as depicted by the pictures.  I don’t think I could drinkcolorfulhome enough that would make me drunk enough not to find my home here.  Well maybe I would walk into the wrong blue house, but if I lived in the one on the right, well I think I would find that. Well we finally made it back and decided to just grab a bite to eat at the local Denny’s.  That was within walking distance which allowed us to walk a few calories off.  After eating we went back to the motel where I attempted some more research on my flexor tendon and then settled down to some TV and a good night’s sleep.

Aug 3rd — Day 35   Today we will head up to Mount Rainier and finish up at our motel in Olympia.  But first we will swing by the Denny’s again for a good breakfast.  We’re not taking a chance on not finding lunch up in the mountains.

DSC_0539As we begin our journey just shy of the foothills of Mount Rainier we noticed this tiny church.  This tiny (18-by-24 foot) church sits on its original location in the beautiful foothills west of Mount Rainier. 

Prior to its construction, worshipers met in homes and the town hall until the church was constructed in 1906.  One of the town’s founders, Heinrich Lutkens, donated the land and material for the church. Pastor Karl Kilian designed this simple, yet pleasing building, and the townspeople built it themselves. Pastor Kilian served his Elbe flock from it’s construction until 1933.

The town’s first blacksmith, I don’t recall his name, forged the 4-foot iron cross that sits on top the 46-foot steeple, which also houses the first bell.  The original bellows organ is still used for worship and weddings.  

Just down the road in Elbe is the historic Mt. Rainier Scenic RR.  Naturally we had to pull over and take a look.  From what I understood, this is the longest continuously operating steam train railroad in the Pacific Northwest.  It is still used today to run through the foothills of Mt. Rainier for the benefit and enjoyment of kids young and old alike.

DSC_0545As it turns out, we could have skipped breakfast.  There is a nice little diner in one of the cars and it would have been nice to enjoy a nice brunch.  Instead we just settle down for a good cup of Seattle Coffee.  We also find there is lodging available in some of the cars and aDSC_0549 lounge car under construction for what I believe will be used for serving drinks.

DSC_0551If it wouldn’t have been for the time it would take I would have enjoyed taking one of those train rides.   However, Mt. Rainier awaits us and I am not getting this close just to miss it. 

After we leave Elbe we start up the foothills.  We still have about 35 miles to Paradise which is where we will spend our time.  I understand the views are magnificent from there and the chance of seeing some wildlife is pretty good.  Speaking of wildlife, check this out.  Click here for a short video.

DSC_0578DSC_0664As we progressed up the Paradise Rd we came across this little waterfall.  It wasn’t that big but it was  quite photogenic.  Again, we pull over and decide to get out and explore it.  After taking a couple pictures we were on our way again. 

As we reached about the 8,000 foot mark we had to pull over again as the picturesque views of Mt. Rainier were breath-taking.  Hard to believe that it is 14000+ feet and Peter’s Mountain back home is about 1100 feet.








We still had about 5 miles or so to Paradise.  As we arrived we found it to be just an open area with an Inn and Gift Shop.  From what I understand the Inn has always been a long time favorite to tourist dating back to 1916.  Hmmm, maybe I’ll make reservations for their 100th anniversary.  Don’t get me wrong, the area is beautiful.  And as we were told, we did see some wildlife.  In fact, as soon as we got out of the van.  We had to park about 1000 yds or so down the road but if we hadn’t we wouldn’t have got to see that furry thing on the wall that I assume was looking down over at the bear until the deer came up and scared him…

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 paradise innBy the time we made it to the top of the hill we were again needing a break.  Why not the inn for a drink? DSC_0619 So that’s what we did.  Of course it was an ice tea, I still had to drive to Olympia yet.  As you can see the view of Mt Rainier from here is awesome.  We hung around for awhile, took some more pictures, just sat is all of God’s glory, and then headed back to the van.  By the time we got back the furry animal, the bear, and the deer were long gone.

DSC_0684On the way back down we came across this area that we just had to pull over and check it out.  There was a gift store so we went in and checked it out.  I was telling the fellow behind the counter about the bear and deer we seen when we got out of the van.  He didn’t seem to be too impressed with my story and in fact guaranteed me that if I was to take a walk down the trail behind his building we would see even better wildlife.DSC_0744

Well we were beginning to feel the wear and tear from our last adventure but what the heck, if there was a chance of seeing more wildlife than we were going to do it.  We saw what looked like a wildcat or lynx in a tree, then a little further down the trail we saw a bear, and not much further then that blocking our trail was a cougar.  If you have trouble viewing any of the pictures you can just double click the image and view it at full size.

DSC_0759All I can say is I sure was glad Sue was along.  If needed I knew dang well I could out run her.  As it was, these critters had no interest in us.  They just went on about their business and we made our way back to the van.

We finally made it to Olympia by evening and decided to just stop at a fast food restaurant called Carl Jr’s.  This place was basically a Hardees with a different name.  Same menu and all.  Oh well, we had a burger, fry, and coke and headed to the Super 8 to check in.

The Super 8 wasn’t bad at all.  In fact on a scale of 1-10 if the Motel 6 we left this morning was a 3 then the Super 8 must be a 9.  It was 3 times better and we are tucked in for another good night’s sleep.






Vermont and Her Covered Bridges

As a child studying geography in grade school during the ‘50’s I found myself dreaming of visiting Vermont.  I don’t recall what it was about my studies that instilled this desire but it may have been the comments passed on by a teacher or maybe pictures of the beautiful green mountains.

Well as fate would have it my wife and I decided to travel to Vermont in August of 2009.  Our goal was to find and photograph as many covered bridges as we could in a week’s time.

We did a little research and found there to be over 100 covered bridges of which most were still in use.  They are carefully tended by the state transportation department.  Repairs can cost anywhere from a few hundred thousand dollars to more than a million. They are performed by a select list of contractors who know the original methods for splicing timber together to make strong, lengthy beams and can follow the original engineering design.

We entered Vermont from the south entering a little town called Halifax in search of the Green River where we would find our first covered bridge.  Ironically called the Green River Bridge and one of the more photogenic bridges we were to see.

Like many of the bridges in Vermont, this bridge is still in use.  There was a sign on the bridge stating a $2.00 fine for driving faster than a walking pace.  I witnessed vehicles adhering to this practice even though I’m sure the fine is no longer enforced.


We continued our trip zigzagging our way up through Brattleboro and Dummerston.  Then over to Newfane and on up to Grafton.  Spending the nights at any motel we came to by the end of day.  We continued to crisscross across the state from the southern end to the northern end traveling on roads that I’m sure some Vermont residents didn’t even know existed.


While our trip was primarily to photograph covered bridges we found that Vermont had so much more to offer.  From quaint little towns with 19th century churches to Lake Champlain, home of Vermont’s own Loch Ness Monster, “Champ”.   The country’s smallest capital city, Montpelier, to the Quechee Gorge and the Green Mountains.    Yes, Vermont is best known for it’s skiing and fall foliage but any visitor passing thru Vermont in the heat of the summer will only be too pleased with what they would find.




Kudos to the Gray Ghost Inn, a family owned and operated bed and breakfast located on picturesque Route 100 in Southern Vermont, located a mile from the slopes of Mount Snow and fewer than 20 minutes to Stratton.  You will find the innkeepers, Carina and Magnus Thorsson, to be more then accommodating and quite a change from the previous owner.

A stay at the Gray Ghost Inn is not only kind to your wallet but also entertaining in it’s history.  I will not ruin your stay by leaking any more info as to what you will learn.

To hear a beautiful love song and view a great video of fall colors, visit this site.

Author:  Rick Backstrom