July 29 South Whidbey

We got up this morning and enjoyed breakfast and coffee with Devon and Dana. About midday, they took off to go back across the ferry to Mukilteo so we were free to fool around. I started my fooling around by watching a NASCAR race but when it ended, we hopped into the truck for a spin around the south end of Whidbey Island.
We drove down the west side of the island first, passing through the little towns or neighborhoods called Maxwelton and Sandy Hook. It is unfortunate that some forward-thinking individual or entity did not provide virtually any public access to their beaches, coves or bluffs overlooking the ocean or toward the Cascades. It is very difficult to find a place where even a picture can be taken of anything other than the three-story fronts of massive beach houses blocking all views of the ocean or the mountains. We did find one spot in Sandy Hook where we could see the Olympic Mountains across the Sound on the Olympic Peninsula. A bit further down we found a dead-end road leading between private residences that had a view toward the Cascades, Mount Baker and Mount Rainier down by Seattle. There was no parking. There are many fabulous views from Whidbey Island but almost all of them are private. Regular folks can just FO.
I’m not sure where the name “Whidbey” comes from but it sounds like the name of a rich British twit. Maybe he was the one who deleted all public access to nature in this area.
Despite the lack of public access to the beautiful resources in Washington, we did find a location where we could see west to the Olympics and east toward Rainier. To see ’em, click here

July 28 Concrete to Langley

Today was a travel day. We broke down our stuff, stowed it and left Grandy Creek TT near Concrete, WA. We spent a total of 23 days at Grandy Creek this summer and it has been fabulous. There cannot be many places in the world that offer more stunning scenery than the Skagit River Valley and North Cascades National Park.
We headed west on WA-20, crossed I-5 and kept going west toward Anacortes which is on the edge of Puget Sound. WA-20 turns south at Anacortes and crosses Deception Pass onto Whidbey Island. Deception Pass is not really a pass or a low spot through a mountain ridge; it is a cliff-lined ocean channel between Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands. It looked rough even though it was a gorgeous day.
We drove many more slow miles down the serpentine, one-lane road that is WA-20 until we got south of Whidbey’s only real city, Oak Harbor. We continued to Coupeville where we turned off on WA-525 toward Langley. There we turned off the highway and were soon set up in the spartan Langley Fairgrounds. There is no sewer but they do have 30 amp power and water. There is a dump station. It costs $25 a night but right out the big back window of the Invader is a great view across the Sound to Camano Island. There are very few customers in the campground and it seems pretty quiet, if featureless. There are few trees and shrubs but loads of little brown bunnies who seem quite tame. I understand some years back the county fair doled out bunnies to all the kids. It seems some of the bunnies may have escaped right here in the fairgrounds. It would be shocking to think that some of the parents of the lucky kids forced them to abandon the bunnies before getting in the car to go home. No pellet-generating, fornicating rodents for Daddy.
In the afternoon we had guests. First, Dana and Devon, our daughter and her man arrived after having a long wait to get on the ferry from across the Sound in Mukilteo. Not much later, Tonie and George, Peg’s sister and brother-in-law, drove up from their gorgeous house in nearby Freeland. There was much familial gabbing and hobnobbing. I made curry chicken to feed almost all the masses. George had endured a big day prior to arrival at our trailer and started to nod off after only not many beers so they headed back home before dark. Dana and Devon stayed the night, sleeping in Dana’s Subaru. It is lucky both of them are skinny because otherwise they would never fit.
See a nice picture of a downtown Oak Harbor attraction by clicking here

July 27 Last loop for this year

Our last full day in Concrete is today so we chose to take another loop up one side of the Skagit River and down the other side. Today’s drive started with us crossing one of the bridges over the river at Concrete and heading east up the south bank on the Concrete-Sauk Highway.
This road would probably be considered as just the way home to locals but is a stunning drive through magnificent terrain and vibrant vegetation and trees. At some places, the looming peak of the massive volcano, Mount Baker, fills up the scenery to the north.
About 8 miles up the south bank of the river, we were passed by an ambulance. Then a fire engine had us pulling over into the ditch. We followed them for a while until they stopped in the middle of the road to speak with a passing motorist. That seemed a bit strange. They finished their chat and took off again, lights ablaze. A mile or two later, they pulled off the right side of the road for a conference between themselves. We passed them but not another mile up the road we passed an oncoming male pedestrian wearing frightening plaid pants and little else and packing a chainsaw. We waved and he waved back. About another mile up the road we came across two middle-aged apparent tweakers standing alongside a car that had an overturned pickup truck another 100 feet down the road. The wrecked truck was on its side when we got there so we asked if anybody was hurt.
The male and female tweakers started rapid-fire simultaneous chatter regarding what occurred and it sounded as if neither had coordinated their reports. The things we were able to discern from their chaotic descriptions were that a guy wearing plaid pants and carrying a chain saw had stolen the truck, driven a short distance before flipping it and climbed out and fled. The tweakers surmised the alleged perp had stolen the chainsaw from a neighbor before taking off on his spectacular, but short, joyride. We left after making sure their was no dead or bleeding.
We eventually emerged from the south side of the Skagit at WA-530 which we followed into Rockport for our drive back down the north side of the river. We will miss this place. There are few places prettier than here and the weather this July has been great.
We even got a picture of the stolen pickup. Click here

July 26 The left rear joint

The entire morning was filled up with leisure activity but in the afternoon we started to work on the Barbarian Invader’s pesky rear left corner. That corner has had a history of terrible caulk replacements and resulting small leaks when it rains. The caulk that we removed from the joint today appeared to have been applied by a chimpanzee so there is an excellent chance that I put it in. In addition to other minor faults, I freely admit to be wholly without talent when caulking is involved.
Much Goo Gone and vigorous brushing, scrubbing and cleaning later, we had a joint that looked like it was on a 9 year old trailer, only a bit dirtier. I replaced the rear left downspout and then set in to caulking the entire joint properly. My talents being what they are, we ended up with an almost clean joint that looked as if it had been caulked by a blind amputee. I hope there is enough caulk in the right places to keep water on the outside.

July 25 Dreaded shopping

Every so often we are obliged to take a break from unfettered fooling around and find ourselves forced to engage in productive pursuits. We tried to ignore our chores but by midday we were feeling remotely guilty and we took off for more populated areas to do some dreaded shopping.
First we drove the 30 miles or so to Bow where we stopped in at the Skagit Casino tobacco outlet for some products for me. The Native Americans seem to have absolutely fabulous prices for tobacco products, maybe because the sovereign nation ignores pesky rules and taxes the rest of us palefaces typically encounter in regular outlets located on the land we stole.
The next item on the schedule was Camping World. We returned and bought another water pressure regulator for our trailer. This is the third regulator in 2 months that we have acquired and returned to Camping World because the devices crap out very quickly after installation. The regulators themselves may function but the gauges on them go screwy such that it is impossible to determine if they are doing what is advertised. It may be because the devices are cleverly packaged, completely of brass construction and made by slaves in China that have no inkling of what the things are that they are assembling. To them, they could be speedometers or meat slicers or electrically unsafe power tools.
Having the almost sloth-like staff at Camping World complete our simple exchange in about a half hour, we departed for Home Depot in Burlington where we picked up some window operator parts for the Barbarian’s spacious restroom’s window. The old operator in the window was made in China and it had failed, of course. I estimate the window operator can be changed out in about 20 minutes so we should have the replacement process completed in less than 5 hours.
Next we went to the Burlington WalMart where we stocked up on groceries, RV supplies and a small pyramid of RV toilet paper that was dirt cheap. This toilet paper is also probably made in China because it comes apart as soon as it gets damp. Good for the waste tank, bad for the manicure.
After WalMart our rear seat was completely plugged with expensive loot so we started on the way back up the Skagit River but remembered that Julie, my sister, has introduced us to the concept of giving ourselves a reward even if we have not done anything substantial. We decided to reward ourselves with another trip to Skagit Burgers in Sedro Woolley. We ate there last Saturday night and the burgers were exceptional. They were just as good today. This tiny joint that looks like a cross between a caboose and a tug boat serves what may be the best burgers we will ever get. Their burgers don’t look like they are enormous but we find ourselves being seduced by their savory flavors and ingredients and being stuffed full at the conclusion of our dining. The burgers ain’t cheap ($8-$10) but you get what you pay for here – excellent fare. I ogled and almost stole Peggy’s remaining scrap of blue cheese burger after I had slam-dunked my Skagit Western heart plug.
We finally got back on the road and continued the trip up the Skagit to our RV spot alongside Grandy Creek in Concrete. Only a short stop for diesel and a detour around some traffic-stopping WDOT nonsense later, we wheeled into our campground and started the trailer re-stocking operation. I re-installed another soon-to-be failed water regulator but begged off on the window operator until I have 5 free hours to engage in my clumsy replacement efforts. I can hardly wait.

July 24 Concrete Rockport Darrington Arlington loop

We had no firm plans to be productive in any way today so we took a long loop drive through the foothills and subranges of the North Cascades. We accessed our route by driving east on WA-20 which runs by about 1000 feet from our RV spot. We followed 20 up the Skagit River to Rockport where we turned south on WA-530.
At Rockport we left the Skagit River and started following the Sauk toward Mansford and Darrington. It is a gorgeous drive through conifer and hardwood forest with the river next to the road except in a couple places where the road crosses bridges to the other side. Very steep mountains rise on both sides of the road. Some of the mountains were wearing big glaciers on one or more sides.
In Darrington, 530 turns abruptly west and we followed it toward Oso. A few years back some folks in Oso had chosen to build their houses at the foot of a large, geologically unstable hill despite being warned that the hill was sure to slide. Many others built there, too. The large, unstable hill did what hills of that ilk do – it slid. The massive slide covered the hamlet, instantly burying thirty-nine residences. Flooding took nine more homes along with a mile of 530 which were destroyed when the slide backed up the Stilliguamish River. 43 residents were killed and instantly interred. Nothing much remains of the neighborhood although the nearby town is still alive and kicking.
We continued through Oso to Arlington where we turned north on WA-9 back toward Grandy Creek and our RV. We found some nice back roads to check out on our way to the south bank of the Skagit River where we turned east, headed for the bridge at Concrete. Once we were on the South Skagit Highway, we turned off on a single-lane side road where we ran across a resident named Vern Ringhouse who was wonderful to talk to and also quite creative. He saw us getting ready to photograph some of his creations and strolled right over to chat. He was wearing overalls and had an infectious smile. His yard and sheds are sprinkled with whimsical sculptures and doo-dads that Vern creates. Vern is also a font of local knowledge and we turned off the engine in the middle of the road so we could hobnob with him for about half an hour.
Eventually we cut Vern loose and headed back toward our trailer with our second stop at the elk viewing area along the way. No elk today.
We shot a few pictures along the way and you can see some of them if you click here

July 23 A bit of maintenance

We didn’t get much done today. Peggy did Peggy stuff like cleaning out little nooks and crannies in the Invader and sewing while I went to work on a wonky caulked joint in the rear left corner. Much Goo-B-Gone was applied and scrubbed off in an attempt to get the rear corner surfaces absolutely clean but more needs to be done before I reinstall the new caulk. I’m beginning to suspect some of the materials used in fifth wheel RV construction might be substandard or inappropriate for the use because there always seems like there are a myriad of little failure issues that need to be addressed to keep the whole retirement getaway from dissolving.
Maybe it was those miles the Barbarian Invader was towed before we purchased it (an unknown quantity) or those we have pulled it (at least 40,000 miles) that have loosened things up that hold the trailer together. Maybe they are made by idiots but regardless of the cause, we intend to keep on sharpening our repair skills until the trailer starts to seriously nickel-and-dime us and buying a new RV is the only way out.

July 22 Loafing and racing

We had plans for this evening so we mostly laid low during the day. Peggy broke out a 1951 Singer sewing machine that had been salvaged from her mother’s estate and given to her by her sister, Tonie. I don’t like weighty items being smuggled into our trailer because we are heavy enough but I’ll gladly make an exception for this gorgeous little antique. It is an outstanding example of primitive mechanical engineering and works perfectly, in addition to being provided with its own very sturdy box.
The only problem with it was a rather shabby power cord that exhibited a few spots where touching the cord could provide lusty screams and quick movements, possibly due to cats gnawing on the elderly insulation. We made a quick trip to the hardware store in nearby Concrete which was about what I expected in a very tiny town. They probably have anything one might need but, due to space constraints in the store, finding anything is problematic. Unlike Home Depot, however, I very quickly found myself being attentively attended to by a smiling employee who immediately found some electrical tape and sold it to me. The sewing machine power cord issue is temporarily solved.
In the afternoon we made an early departure for our trip to Skagit Speedway so we could stop at a place called Skagit Valley Burgers. Despite the rather mundane-sounding name, Skagit Valley Burgers served both Peggy and me what we believe are the best burgers we have ever had. Peggy got a blue cheese burger that they properly dosed with all the fixings like grilled onions, blue cheese and really tasty meat that did not resemble chain restaurant burgers in any fashion. I got the Skagit western burger which had ample bacon, very savory fried onion rings, savory BBQ sauce and plenty of cheddar. Foolishly, we also purchased an order of their garlic fries which, although delicious, were entirely too much food because the burgers were massive. The fries ended up traveling home with us for later dining.
We were finally on our way to the races. Tonight the lineup was 360 Sprints, modified Sprints, modified dirt racers and something called the “tuner” class. Back on the 20th of July, we stopped by the nearby garage of Bud Ash to admire his Sprint cars and hobnob about his nifty stuff. Bud was scheduled to drive his number 57 360 Sprint car in some of tonight’s contests and he got a great start by winning his first heat race. Unfortunately, number 57 wouldn’t start for the second heat race and Bud’s car got pushed to the pits. In the main event, he still got into the race because he won the first heat race but he ended up having bad luck by getting caught up in a spectacular wreck on the third lap that destroyed too many parts for him to go on.
It turns out the tuner class is old beaters with 4 cylinder engines that make a variety of furious noises but do not go very fast. It looks like a very fun class because all the cars have numerous repaired dents, no glass, cheap tires and novice drivers. Chaos reigns but nobody gets hurt. The modified dirt racers resemble cars only superficially because they have some body parts but mostly they are a tubular frame with way too much of an engine. They roar around the track only colliding about five times per lap per car. We noted that, probably due to flimsy body parts and efforts to keep weight down, the modifieds sort of shimmy when they run with all the parts listening to different tunes. Peggy and I seem to have the most fun at races where older cars are used and wrecked.

July 21 Around the park

Sometimes, particularly when poor planning has occurred, things do not go well. We had vaguely scheduled a trip to the local wifi hotspot and a side excursion to see the local elk herd and maybe a quick stint at the laundry.
Due to a car show in Lyman and an airplane show in Concrete this weekend, our campground and all the other local flat spots capable of holding an RV are filled with a terrific assortment of spendy recreational vehicles. The downside to this situation was that there were no washing machines available for us to use. The laundry portion of today’s activities was in tatters.
We happily pulled away from the Grandy Creek laundry facility and decided to go spot some elk in the pasture up the road. We exited the campground, turned east on WA-20 and, after about 2 miles, swerved into the elk viewing zone. There were no elk to be seen anywhere. Our poor planning was rearing its ugly head. Since there is good data reception at the wildlife viewing parking area, we tried to make some reservations at RV parks ahead of us but that also was a miserable failure. Fortunately, we got to fail in a location with staggeringly beautiful scenery and failure ain’t too bad when it occurs there.
We wandered around on the local roads for a bit before returning to Grandy Creek TT and found, surprisingly, that there were a sufficient number of washers available at the laundry shed and Peggy immediately seized them. Peggy hung around the laundry while processing our clothes. Maybe she is concerned someone will steal her duds. I am unconcerned about that threat because my clothes are abnormally large and mostly ugly and virtually anyone stealing them will be disappointed with their efforts.
From the laundry I strolled over to the campground family center/pool/store/shower building and latched onto the camp wifi system and loaded many pithy blog entries onto this blog thingy. Astute readers can plainly see that I like to use accurate technology terms whenever demonstrating my prowess of interweb smartypants stuff.
We decided we had done enough planning for one day and went back to our Barbarian Invader for drinks.

July 20 More Lower Skagit Valley

We have become so entranced by the Skagit River area that we broke our “no backtracking” rule and took another ride down the south bank of the Skagit River from Concrete to Sedro Woolley and back.
South Skagit River Highway is a two-lane blacktop road with nearly continuous views of the emerald river. Many heavily shaded creeks pass under the road. Long sections of road pass under hardwood canopies that make the automatic headlight gizmo function. There are gorgeous homes sprinkled along the way. It is a spectacular section of highway.
Once we got to Sedro Woolley, we had a fit of responsibility and washed the truck. It gets worse; we also loaded up on diesel. Our miserable tasks for the day completed, we were free to continue fooling around so we stopped for a bit of wildlife watching. Today we spotted a family of foxes, a herd of more than 30 elk and not less than four bald eagles. As we wandered east toward Concrete, we drove past the residence of a log truck driver who had two winged sprint cars, one in the garage and one in the trailer. Peggy and I were invited into the garage where Bud Ash and Bud Ash, Jr. told us all we wanted to know about sprint cars and the insane folks who drive them. We realized we had seen at least one of the Buds in the big sprint car get-together a few weeks ago at Skagit Speedway. There is racing this weekend at the Speedway. We’ll be going.
We also stopped by the Concrete airfield because this weekend there is supposed to be a “fly-in” for folks with vintage planes. There were a few very nice examples arranged in the hangar areas but not much else could be spotted because the event actually kicks off tomorrow. We may be going back over to the airfield if we see the sky fill up with biplanes.
We got some pictures along the way. To see them, click here