July 30 2016 Doing nothing near Newport

Today we were very lazy and did almost nothing other than watch movies. We did drive as far as Old Town, which is on the east side of the Pend Oreille River, to get diesel for the drive tomorrow.
We did note a strange geographic anomaly today. Old Town, Idaho, is located mostly on the east side of the Pend Oreille River and if you drive west over the river from there you will see a sign on the bridge welcoming you to Washington. The sign lies. Old Town actually extends about 2 blocks on the west side of the river and after you cross State Street, THEN you are in Washington. Obviously some comedian schemed to confuse normal people by not having a river separate two states. Weird.

July 29 2016 The east side of the Pend Oreille River

My fatwa for Peggy to drive down the west side of the Pend Oreille River the other day was probably not the direction as navigator that I should have given. Today we got on US-2 to Newport, across the river into Idaho and immediately north on what was initially LeClerc Road which follows the east bank of the river. It was a better decision today.
This road runs basically parallel with WA-20 which is on the west side of the river. Our trip up 20 a few days ago was very nice but the really good stuff started north of Ione. Today our trip up LeClerc Road gave us a completely different view of the Pend Oreille River and it was great. LeClerc runs very close to the river in many spots and passes through mixed conifer/hardwood forests and some very pretty farm country.
About 25 miles down the east shore we came across a state exhibit of something called Manresa Grotto. We pulled over, parked and bailed out of the truck for a hike up a dirt path to a wossname. The Grotto turned out to be three sizable caves, the middle one the shallowest. The cave to the right was pretty fair sized – maybe about the size of a hotel room. The cave on the left had two entrances and is about the volume of a two bedroom house. It also had a spectacular view of the Pend Oreille River running through the emerald bottom land.
The caves are worth the short walk but, unfortunately, many inconsiderate jerks have been nice enough to augment the natural beauty with carved and painted graffiti throughout the cave surfaces. Some guy probably sporting a bright white scalp and many amateurish tattoos has provided a nice black swastika painted on the column between caves. I believe the caves were initially used by Native Americans mostly because the Grotto is on the Kalispell Indian Community lands.
We continued north from the Grotto through beautiful country. Peg spotted some wild turkeys and we spotted some waterfowl but we saw no bigger game on the road going north. There are many ordinary houses that have been embellished by the residents and the results are great. No two houses are the same. There are a few places along the road where the resident is the type of person who likes to keep everything he has ever owned and displays them for neighbors and passersby to appreciate. These guys seem to exist nationwide. The gorgeous scenery all along the rest of the road makes up for the few hideous junkyards.
At Ione we turned around by crossing the Pend Oreille and turning south on WA-20 until we got to Usk. Usk really is more an intersection than a town and we crossed back over the river toward Idaho and backtracked south on LeClerc Road until we came to US-2. After some poor navigation by today’s navigator (his name rhymes with head), we were able to find our way to ID-41 south to a place I think was called Tweetie. We turned west and back out of Idaho and into Washington for about the third time today. We sort of took a northwest direction from there on paved roads, except in the long sections with washboard gravel surfacing, on our way back to Diamond Lake and the Little Diamond Campground which is not on Diamond Lake. We had completed our loop for today and were almost home when a fawn tried to commit suicide by smashing into our radiator while we were moving along at about 50. Eagle-eyed Peggy spotted the almost doomed creature in time to apply the brakes. The guy tailgating us had a more difficult time and followed afterwards at a much greater distance.
It was a great tour today. I would suggest to all interested that the scenery on the east bank of the Pend Oreille is better than that on the west side in the area around Newport and points north. The area around Lake Sullivan is beautiful and the road there starts at the end of LeClerc Road in Ione.
We took a couple pictures during today’s wonderful drive and you can see a few of them by clicking here

July 28 2016 Shopping in Spokane

I am sorry to write that we did not do anything very interesting today. We started out the day with some fortified coffee before Peggy jumped behind the wheel of Charlotte and drove us about 35 miles into Spokane.
The part of Spokane we drove through was filled with tidy residences of regular old middle-income Americans and quite nice. The main drag that we drove down, Central Avenue, was a very busy road with an abundance of traffic signals timed such that movement of vehicles is very sluggish. To make a bad thing worse, some city crews were out to block some of the slow moving lanes so they didn’t move at all. It was about 90 degrees in Spokane so we were delighted that our dependable Ford F-250 has an ample air conditioning system and working power windows.
Spokane has both a Trader Joe’s store (our favorite place) and a Costco. After leaving the second food venue, we had many bags and coolers full of food and $500 less in our wallet. Once back at our beloved Invader, we were challenged to find adequate space to stockpile our loot but, in the end, we were successful provided we kill off a bit in a handle of Jack Daniel’s and drink a six pack or so of porter before we depart on Sunday. I believe we can do that.

July 27 2016 Pump them tanks

Today we were obliged to await the honey wagon operator. We had initially made an appointment to have our holding tanks sucked out at “sometime after 1:00 PM” today and fully intended to loaf around the Barbarian Invader until all the bad stuff was gone. However, yesterday afternoon a lady from campground admin came around and told us our appointment would now be “sometime after 8:30 AM” this morning.
To get the most bang for our buck, we got up real early for us, about 7:30 AM, and both took showers. I even got the dishes done so the gray water tank must have been pretty close to brimming when the honey wagon operator pulled up at 0900 hrs.
Regrettably, we had nothing planned for the rest of the day so we mostly devoted our day to watching some TV and a couple movie replays and getting in a little reading. There won’t be any pictures from today because we did not go anywhere or do anything. We had a good time doing this stuff anyway.

July 26 2016 The loop west of Newport

Our exploration today was laid out by me and that may not have been a real good idea. We started the loop by driving into the Washington town of Newport and turning counterclockwise. From US-2, which is the main street of Newport, we turned onto WA-20 and started northwest.
We soon came to the town of Usk where there are more letters in the town’s spelling than buildings. We then turned west on what started out as McKenzie Road. McKenzie soon disappeared and became Flowery Trail Road. Flowery Trail is a twisty path with some gradual slopes leading up to a low pass (4041′) before dropping down the west side of the ridge. There are scattered residences out here that are very pretty and quite orderly. Only some of them appear to be used year ’round. The dense forest on each side of the road has mature second-growth timber that is dark green and very healthy looking. Near the ridge there are some gorgeous views back into the Pend Oreille River valley.
Once we got over the hill, we descended to a small town called Chewelah that I can spell but not necessarily pronounce. Chewelah is very pretty with well-maintained older wood buildings and beautiful flower displays that have been installed dangling from the main drag’s streetlight columns. It looks like it would be a nice place to live.
In Chewelah we turned south on US-395. In this part of the world, US-395 passes through mostly very healthy looking pasture with occasional lakes along the highway. There are big patches of conifer and hardwood tree clumps that seem to separate the parcels and farms. We spotted an enormous field of sunflowers but most of the land appears to be used for cattle and horses.
We continued down 395 until we got to the village of Deer Park where we turned east onto Deer Park – Milan Road through more rolling agricultural land and Milan where the road became Milan – Elk Road that led us back to our RV spot near Newport.
The drive today took us through some very pretty but mostly unremarkable territory. We saw few animals other than the domesticated variety. Maybe I am becoming scenery-jaded because we have passed through so much gorgeous country in the last few months in the Great Basin and the Rockies. I need to readjust my thinking because there is certainly nothing ugly about this part of the USA. I think I will start readjusting right now with a big glass of Jack Daniel’s.
We shot a couple pix today. See them by clicking here

July 25 2016 Down the Pend Oreille River

Today only some minor check-in paperwork, scheduling of the honey wagon to empty our holding tanks later and a propane check were on our daily fun chart. Our on-board propane supply turned out to be adequate and the honey wagon and paperwork headaches were over in about 10 minutes and we were free to spend the rest of the day exploring in this remote northeastern corner of Washington.
We drove from our spot at Little Diamond RV Park and Campground the few miles down to Diamond Lake, where we are not camped. Diamond Lake is completely surrounded by vacation homes and that pretty much eliminates public access to this pretty lake. At Diamond Lake we turned west on US-2 for a few miles before turning north on WA-211 until we got to the west shoreline of the Pend Oreille River and WA-20 which run through some gorgeous territory before looping a bit into Canada and returning to the USA just in time to pour into the Columbia River. WA-20 passes through alternating hilly forest and flat emerald pastures on the way through the communities of Usk, Cusick, Blueslide, Tiger, Ione and Metaline. Just a few miles short of Canada, in Metaline Falls we turned onto a gravel road which took us to a treasure called Sullivan Lake which is very pretty. We saw many deer, some bald eagles, a couple of loons and some cormorants all hanging out near the lake. It was so nice in this area, we stopped at an old mill spillway and found a spot in the shade overlooking the water where we ate our lunch.
All of this great scenery falls within the Colville National Forest. Near Sullivan Lake are not less than four federal campgrounds and not one of them had more than a half dozen occupied campsites and plenty of vacancies. Peggy and I would like to come back to this place. We finally got off the back road onto WA-20 and headed back toward our RV spot near Newport. This sparsely-occupied part of Washington is gorgeous and we are delighted to be here.
We took a few pix along the way today and you can see ’em if you click here

July 24 2016 Libby MT to Newport WA

Today we continued our trip toward the west. We left Woodland RV Park in Libby, MT, and headed west on US-2. We passed Kootenai Falls and passed through Troy before crossing the border into Idaho.
There was pretty good river, lake, forest and mountain scenery along the road in Idaho as we descended out of the Rocky Mountains towards the plains of eastern Washington. We did not stop in Idaho because about the only real town we passed through was Sandpoint, home of disgraced policemen from other states and home-grown Nazis from the local ‘hood.
We kept going right across the panhandle of Idaho until we eventually passed over the Pend Oreille River and the border into Washington at the town of Newport. This is at least the fifth Newport we have been in during the last two years: Newport, CA; Newport, OR; Newport, Maine; Newport News, VA and Newport, WA. As to the pronunciation of Pend Oreille, Peggy guessed it was Pend-Oh-Really? and I guessed Pend-O’Reilly but we ultimately learned that because these words come from a bizarre and arcane dead language, they are pronounced Pon-Duh-rey. Go figure.
Ten miles west of Newport we pulled into the Little Diamond RV Park and Campground near, but not on, Diamond Lake. They have a pond here which I suppose they call Little Diamond Lake but it really is not a lake. The campground does not have any camping spots near the pond but it does have a pool, a hot tub, electrical and water hookups and no wi-fi except at a building near the pond called the family lounge. Roads are gravel but it is very quiet. This is the first time in quite a while where we could not hear train horns blasting out two longs, a short and a long at each grade crossing. The best part about this campground is that it is part of the Thousand Trails system and we get to stay here for up to 21 days without charge except if we want honey wagon service during our stay. I believe I will go ahead and pay the $25 it costs to have a guy come to our site and empty our holding tanks instead of breaking down our blocks and chocks and utility connections and using the local dump station. It gives me an opportunity to run my sewer jokes by the honey wagon operator – Our poop is his bread and butter, it is a shitty job, we got a lot of shit to talk about, etc., etc.
We had some folks pull into one of the two adjacent empty sites late in the day. The old guy of the couple promptly flooded his and our site with water he left running outside his motor home. The wife came over and apologized for running water through our site and then they left to go play games at the family center with other bored campers. Not too long after they left, Peggy noticed they were again flooding the sites so I turned off the water to their RV at the source. When they returned from the evening’s entertainment, I told the old couple that they have some form of leak and may want to investigate it before their nice motor home is cascading water out the front door while they are tied up in a hot Yahtzee game.
We got a few pictures during the drive today. You can see some of them if you click here

July 23 2016 Koocanusa

No items on today’s chore list gave us an opportunity to explore up the road and Kootenai River from Libby towards Canada past an area called Koocanusa. We had no idea how this word is pronounced. I figured it might be koocan-U-suh but I preferred Peggy’s kook-ANUS-eh? which is a Canadian interrogatory. We got here by driving north from Libby on MT-37, a good road with great scenery.
We soon found that Koocanusa isn’t really a thing but rather a group of things with names like Koocanusa Dam which holds back Koocanusa Reservoir, home of the Koocanusa Campground and Marina. We initially drove to the furthest Koocanusa which was the Campground and Marina. This campground is operated by a vendor under license with the Kootenay (sic) National Forest. There are many RV spots right close to the lake and they seemed to have full hookups. There is a store. During our pass through the campground we noted that quite a few of the families out camping must spend a prolonged time here since they had big piles of firewood, many boats, Rhinos, soft-sided gazebos, elaborate barbecue apparatus and some even had decks and little screen fences. There is a boat ramp and a marina so you can leave your yacht in Koocanusa Reservoir overnight. Once we finished our recon at this place, we got on MT-37 headed back south.
The reservoir is held back by Koocanusa Dam, a spartan but sturdy-looking structure that probably stands 400′ above the lower Kootenai River. We stopped by the visitor center and I sat down to watch some old films about the dam construction where I learned that Koocanusa is a made up word with elements representing the Kootenay River, Canada and the USA, hence, KooCanUSA. The dam and reservoir are part of the greater Columbia River hydroelectric system which I think is about the same as the Bonneville Power Administration. Lots of ospreys here.
We resumed our trip back toward home when we decided to take a side trip up a road that goes to a place called Yaak (no kidding). Although the road is very nice with abundant emerald second growth forests along the side, there was not much else for us to see today. There are a few residences out here but most look like summertime places. Nice summertime places.
We continued toward Yaak on this road (Pipe Creek Road) until we got to the part where in turns into a skinny national park road where we turned around and headed back towards Pipe Creek. We spotted some wild turkeys out here but the brush is pretty thick along the road so we did not get any glimpses of big game other than one deer who tried to commit suicide by smashing into our truck grille. Peggy was quick on the brakes and the fortunate dearie got away unscathed.
We got a few animal pix, some dam pix and pictures of some Americana in downtown Libby which you can see by clicking here

July 22 2016 Kootenai Falls

Today we faced the dreaded laundry task. Our park here in Libby has a good laundry facility with about a half dozen washing machines. Thanks to Peggy’s wizardry with the laundry tasks, we were in and out of their facility before lunch which allowed us to go exploring, our favorite activity.
Peggy elected to sit in the navigator’s seat today and directed me to drive west on US-2. US-2 follows the Kootenai River which is a pristine flow running through a big fault in the earth so amazing rock bluffs border the river. We had only gone about 15 miles when we came across a turnout next to the highway that had a government sign announcing Kootenai Falls. We pulled over and parked. There were no signs indicating the distance to the Falls or the neighboring swinging bridge but we took off down the trail.
About a quarter mile from the parking lot we came to a structural steel bridge crossing the BNSF tracks that pass through the canyon. At the far end of the bridge is a 3 or 4 story stair tower that leads hikers to a dirt path on the north side of the tracks. After descending to the trail, we continued along the trail for a while longer until we came to the first place we could really see Kootenai Falls. The geologic forces that created the rock features here must have been pretty violent because the multi-colored rock formations are highly fractured. The rocks have very sharp edges; falling down here would leave bloody wounds on the uncoordinated.
Kootenai Falls is really a collection of small waterfalls that point in different directions such that the falls section close to shore might point west and the adjacent falls section might point north. There are many sections here and there is plenty of whitewater. The state has posted signs warning the stupid to stay away from the water due to treacherous undertows, currents and a shoreline that would quickly skin anybody falling into the main flow. Of course, we spotted some guy and his kids getting into the river right next to one of the falls sections but they were able to maintain their footing so we were not able to watch them be killed by their own foolishness.
Kootenai Falls is a spectacular Montana feature and the hike there is very nice. There is some up and down and the stairs to deal with but the effort is certainly worth it considering the magnificent scenery along the way and at the end. While we were on the pedestrian bridge over the BNSF tracks, the railroad gave us a treat by sending a freight train being pulled by two locomotives and pushed by two more under the bridge. The bridge vibrated some from the engines pulling hard and the massive load passing beneath us. The engineer was even nice enough to give us a tremendous blast on his horns as he went by.
The scenery along US-2 through this part of the world is gorgeous and we also got to spot several deer, an osprey nest with inhabitants and a female moose browsing on the other side of the river. What a place.
We took a few snapshots at the Falls and you can see them if you click here

July 21 2016 In Libby

We are set up in the Woodland RV Park in Libby, MT. This is a beautiful part of the world with conifer forests stretching as far as we can see from our pretty spot among the trees in the park. The only drawback, and it really isn’t much of a drawback, is there are close BNSF tracks and long freight trains roll through at night tooting their horns when passing the local grade crossing. It must have been a real comedian that decided trains should blow two long whistles, a short whistle and another long blast each time the train crosses a road. Here in Libby, the geography is such that the blasts sound like they are coming from a tunnel. The echoes are impressive.
Despite being in this beautiful place, we needed to perform some maintenance on the trailer and accessories before we made any plans to go anywhere. Our power cord, possible source of our electrical failure in Monument Valley a while back, needed the business end of replaced because there was a substantial gap in the cable insulation and moisture could get into the assembly. Also, the rear right corner of the trailer has some trim issues that could allow moisture into the guts of the cheesy walls.
The cord male end got treatment first. We purchased a replacement male end in Helena a couple weeks ago and I set out all the tools I needed to fix it on our RV spot’s shaded picnic table. I figured I could fix it in about 15 minutes but an hour later I was still cursing away. By the time I finished, the table was in full sun. The cord issue was ultimately resolved and when we plugged it into the power supply there was no electrical crackling noises and our in-line surge protector LEDs indicated we had fixed it correctly.
Then the nasty part began. We bought our trailer used and we did not detect an issue with the back rear corner until after we were on the road. The lower portion of the flimsy outer shell of the trailer was separating and we were worried about it. There seems to be almost nothing solid to drive fasteners into in the corners of the box and so I was obliged to create a Rube Goldberg fubar to pin it together. Remarkably, it looks like I may have fixed it using some stainless steel bolts, long sheet metal screws and some caulk to re-seal the corners. I also smeared caulk on some other trim pieces on the trailer and, hopefully, we have excluded water from the interior of our traveling home.
As usual, my estimation of how long these repairs would take was way low and it was 5:00 PM before I was done with putting away the tools and cleaning up the trash. Figuring that it was too late to start any explorations at this point, we got drunk instead. I don’t know about Peg but I took a nice but short nap before waking up to watch Steven Colbert have his way with the Republicans who seem to be having a great time explaining the gaffes they have made during their weird Republican National Convention. Tonight, Donald Trump gave a speech that highlighted the depth of his ignorance. At one time he stated he was going to take drastic action, if he is elected, to protect the LBGTQ community from death by terrorists. He also shouted some blather about building a second wall, maybe taller, along our southern border to keep those pesky Mexicans in Mexico. I’m not sure another wall will work since the clever Mexicans have figured out a myriad of techniques to climb over, tunnel under or walk through the gaps in tough terrain where the existing sheet pile wall already stands.
There are no pictures today because nobody wants to see photos of a fat guy laying on his back working underneath a fifth wheel trailer or an old guy napping.