Category Archives: 2003 Peepcar’s Last Big Adventure (Roundabout Seattle to New Orleans)

Hill (pronounced “Heel”) Country

From Ohio, we drifted south through Kentucky and places that felt impoverished and truly foreign. People parked their cars by the side of the highway, selling their personal belongings. I�ve heard of yard sales and garage sales and moving sales, but this was the first I�d seen of car sales. We passed through �hill country,� Tennessee and Virginia and North Carolina, where the accents became thick with twang. Stretches of the highway were named after different country music stars; I�d never heard of most of them.

In eastern South Carolina, we stopped to visit my brother, Steve. We drove his Camry (what a treat, after Peepcar�s miserable suspension) to a huge grocery store, but were appalled at the size of the produce section. When we discovered that the few fruits and vegetables they carried were already shrink-wrapped and packaged in plastic, we walked out in disgust.

Steve took us up into the mountains, stopping along the way to show us the bucolic fishing cabin he�d once lived in on Bush pond. It was a far cry from his current apartment living, where annoying neighbors are offset by a nice jacuzzi and swimming pool. We drove up and up, not as high as even the passes in the Rockies or the Sawtooths, but into country where the hillsides were carpeted with leaves in gold and red and green. From Caesar�s Head, where the fall colors merged into the blue ridges, we clambered down into the rock formation known as the Devil�s Kitchen. Then up to Whitewater Falls, where we picnicked and hiked down to the bottom of the falls. The crashing water over the rocks reminded me of a hike we took in Brazil.

Our time with Stevie was too short, and too soon we were headed across Georgia and Alabama. About once an hour, we passed a pair of derelict vehicles that made Peepcar look shiny and new. They had a rope between them and the second one was always spray-painted �IN TOW.�

The heat was stifling. We switched to shorts, our clammy t-shirts sticking to our backs. After a month of reading out loud while I drove, Barry finished reading �Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix� and took over driving. We were almost there.

Friends, family, food, and fun (plus a little flu)

There were six of us aboard the vessel. A storm blew up, and carried away our mainsail, but we forged on nonetheless. The crew took turns steering, cooking, and finally, sleeping aboard.

This scene was actually a blanket on the floor of the Miller’s house, with Barry’s sister Julie, her husband Cody, and their two little boys, Emanuel and Gabriel. The occasion was our farewell to the Miller family; after almost a week in Columbus, it was time for us to continue on. Someday, we hope Barry’s nephews will visit us aboard our boat, sailing in more exotic places than the living room.

We had other memorable visits in Central Ohio, starting with Linda and Perry’s Wyoming oasis. It was as though they’d picked up a piece of the old West and transported it to West Mansfield. Ruling the living room is a HUGE elk head and shoulders, and there are other heads and pelts, posters and photos and western memorabilia. On the other side of their “pond” (which I call a lake) is a fishin’ cabin where we stayed, surrounded by huge trees and water on three sides.

From there, we went to my brother Hank’s home in the Columbus Colony for the Deaf (he’s actually blind, so go figure). With his cozy apartment as home base, we visited a number of our favorite people — Dave, who introduced me to Barry; Mowgli, who entertained us in his evil lair of computing until 5 am; and Carol and Steve, who performed our wedding ceremony a mere 12 years ago. Despite the fact that Barry and I both came down with the flu, I don’t think we passed it on. Typhoid Meps and Barry foiled again?

We’re currently in Lancaster, Ohio, staying with Terry in his spacious home on Rising Park, surrounded by fall foliage. Yesterday, a doe and two spotted fawns spent most of the afternoon trimming the grass in the background. I can see one of them from where I sit right now.

One or two days is just not enough time for such wonderful friends; what would be nice is if our friends could schedule some vacation time to visit us on the boat and stay a little longer!

Chapter Whatever, in which we do not go to Krotz Springs

It’s been over a week since my last entry, and we have been wonderfully busy. From Nebraska, we headed through Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois, staying mainly on back roads.

Did you know that Nebraska has the largest collection of sand dunes outside the Sahara desert? The climate is currently wet enough that they have grass on them, but if they didn’t, they’d be drifting all over the midwest and causing major havoc. As it was, we drove for hours and hours without seeing a house or a car or even a cow!

Glenn Miller was born in a tiny town called Clarinda, Iowa. We got a picture of his birthplace, since we camped outside of town. In Wyoming, we’d had one state park all to ourselves — no one else in the whole park and it was a bit eerie. In Nebraska and Iowa, though, there were a few other folks in the campground. Still, they’re all in campers, and they simply don’t come out to interact with us weird folks, freezing our butts off in tents.

We were heading east through Iowa when I got confused and made a wrong turn. After a while, I realized we were heading south on US 71 instead of east. I casually asked Barry to get out the map and tell me where this route would take us if we continued on it for a couple of days instead of continuing on to Ohio as planned. There was the sound of flipping pages (our road atlas has a page for each state) and a small “oooooh” from Barry. “Well, from what I can tell, US 71 goes straight to Krotz Springs, Louisiana,” he said, significantly.

In 1993, when we traveled across the country in our car, we had our mail forwarded to us via General Delivery. We would guess about where we’d be in a week and then pick a tiny, tiny town that was guaranteed to have only one post office, so as to avoid confusion. Krotz Springs was one of those towns. It was so small that after we picked up our mail, we asked the postmistress if there was a good restaurant in town. When we arrived at “Suzy’s Diner,” the lady drawled when we walked in, “Y’all the folks that just come from the post office?”

After reminiscing about our Krotz Spring visit and enjoying the Twilight Zone moment, we headed east again. We stopped to visit my two aunts, who live at St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. “The Woods,” as we call it, is a special place that’s been part of my family history for over 60 years — the motherhouse (home base, essentially) for the Sisters of Providence, the order to which Sister Mary Julia and Sister Mary Pat belong. My mother went to school there briefly, thinking of becoming a nun. Lucky for me (and my siblings!), she didn’t!

From Terre Haute, we jumped on various freeways and hightailed it to Ohio. I never thought I’d be driving ol’ Peepcar back in Central Ohio, where it came from. It does make navigation easier, though — the car just knows where to go.

All over Hell’s Half Acre

Did you know the original name of the Grand Tetons was the Three Tetons? Given that “teton” means “breast” in French, the guy who named it had quite a sense of humor.

We thought we’d be let down, leaving Yellowstone and the Tetons and heading across Wyoming. But we saw Hell’s Half Acre (looked bigger than that to me, but the consevative Christians probably didn’t want to make it sound bigger) and in a tiny town in Wyoming, I had a “tiger moment.” I pulled a sudden U-turn so Barry could see the ostriches, and I wouldn’t be wondering if I was hallucinating exotic animals again.

Yesterday, after walking the Oregon trail, we went to Carhenge. Imagine, if you can, 30+ cars buried in the earth, with others atop them, in a circle, painted gunmetal gray. It was eerie.

And when we got in the car to leave, I got a chill down my spine. As I placed the key in the ignition, I noticed that the odometer on Peepcar had turned over 217,000 miles — just when we drove into the parking lot at Carhenge.

Makin’ Hay: The Sawtooth Mountain Loop

Last week we drove through the Sawtooth Mountains, and it made quite an impression on us. (This is dated for when we were there, not when I actually wrote it)

We started out driving to Boise, Idaho on the interstate and headed up the marked scenic route 21 on our road atlas. We went past a reservoir that must supply much of Boise, and up a fairly winding road into the dry dusty red hills North of town.

As we drove up the into the hills, with the road going up alongside a creek, we started to notice the sunset. The sun was going down, and the hills opposite were getting a beautiful golden-red at the top, making two tiers, a darker, lower mountain ridgeline that was the shadow of the other side and higher, glowing ridgeline in the direct sunlight. I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

As we continued to wind up the road we started seeing more trees and it got steeper….and darker. We started worrying about whether we would find our campsite, and actually turned back, got directions at a beer oasis, then discovered it was only a mile past where we had turned around. We set up our tent, made dinner, and had a nice but cold night.

The next morning we continued up the river valley, which twisted and turned and got steeper. We stopped at a ranger station and got more information about the Sawtooth National Wilderness Reserve from a nice young woman. It was distracting, talking with her, because she looked like a twin of Sharonne, our former housemate!

After a brief argument with Peepcar (don’t worry, it’s fine now) we got going again and went up … and up … and up …. and finally over a pass. On the other side were huge burned areas, including the remains of homes. Suddenly, we were in a very broad, very flat valley with mostly pasture land. There were split-rail fences of a type I hadn’t seen before, that zig-zagged along and had two vertical posts wired together to hold them in place. We continued down this valley to the town of Lowman, and were now really getting into the Sawtooth Range.

The peaks are jagged, like the teeth of a saw. I took loads of pictures of them too as we were going in! I hope I can find some of my pictures that do it justice because my words wouldn’t.

Continuing through this broad valley we found more ranching, and then passed through the tiny town of Stanley, up in this valley right below the Sawtooth Range. Since Meps’ ankle was doing better, we selected a nice little hike up Fishhook creek on the advice of another ranger (who didn’t look like anyone we knew).

The trail went up a hillside away from the creek for a little and we were able to appreciate the aspens with white bark and yellow and orange leaves right next to the sagebrush (and other sage colored plants I’m sure) on the hillside. (Yes, we took even more pictures along here) Along the creek, we saw the river plain with golden dried grasses and red-gold turning willows among the trees. At the end of our trail, we found a meadow, where we had an breathtaking view of the peaks of the Sawtooth range, a little shrouded with distant high clouds and mist.

Back in Peepcar, we started down Route 75 again and found ourselves climbing back up … and up … and up … twisting and turning again to Galena Summit. We could look back over the entire valley leading up toward Stanley, and further.

As we were going along, I asked Meps “Can we go check out Sun Valley?” It’s a famous ski resort just two miles off the road. She wasn’t enthused, but agreed. We weren’t likely to be back nearby for many years and our Lets Go guide mentioned it as a world-class ski area.

Going down this beautiful river valley, we started seeing signs of civilization. Once in Ketchum, we were amazed. Everywhere were expensive-looking shops and restaurants and cars. After a full day in the wilderness and several days camping, it was a shock. How similar rich resorty areas are! (we have visited others before). And here, where water was limited (at least in the summer), everyplace had a close-cropped bright green lawn. We found more of the same in Sun Valley–Condos or time-shares, with huge parking lots (mostly hidden tastefully from the road behind rows of trees).

As we headed out of town, the road looked much wider and busier–obviously to allow throngs of people to head into Sun Valley. A few miles down the road was Hailey, which seems to accept all the things that aren’t quite “perfect” enough for Ketchum and Sun Valley–the auto repair shops and suppliers, the cheaper motels for folks who want to ski but can barely afford the lift ticket. And the housing for workers in the resorts, perhaps? Not screened tastefully from the road!

Finally, we started getting back into ranching country–it was a relief and much more suited to us than the resort we had just passed through. Suddenly, we passed something so cool we had to make a U-turn and check it out: A large group of scupltures called “Makin’ Hay” by Tom Otterness. It had three 25-foot figures made of huge cylindrical hay bales and iron. Whimsical art like this was just what we needed to restore our spirits! We continued on our way to Craters of the Moon National Monument, back on quiet roads and heading east.

Greetings from the Baker City library!

Well, we are traveling at the speed of fossilized tortoises, but the process is delightful. We drove over the mountains from Eugene, Oregon, following the Mackenzie river. Santiam Pass was the scene of a bad forest fire this year, but the devastation wasn’t as bad as expected, and you can see how a fire clears out the forest for new growth.

The first night up in the woods, we froze our butts off. Thanks for leaving the rainfly off, Barry, so we could see the stars! He says he’s not gonna do that again.

Then on to John Day and the fossil beds, and the Painted Hills. A couple of short hikes, since my sprained ankle is healing. This morning, after camping along the John Day river, we saw Sumpter and a huge gold dredge that was still operational in 1954.

In Baker City, we stopped for provisions and a picnic in the city park. Lo and behold, a public library right next door, with FREE internet access. OK, that’s enough of this drivel, time to hit the road again. We’re headed across Idaho this afternoon, and we want to get someplace (where?) before dark…

Vamos! (let’s go!)

When Barry and I set off on Friday from Camano Island, our infamous “Peepcar” was full to the gills. Thank goodness for side mirrors, for their was no seeing over the top of the stuff we crammed in. Most importantly, we were on our way and healthy, at last.

We made a long, interesting detour to Vashon Island to say farewell to Margaret Willson and see her new vacation property and “cottage.” Along the way, we stopped by K-Jo farms, where we hope to someday build our next boat. If Karen and Joe still need a barn in a few years, we’ll build them one (and borrow it for a little while to construct a boat in it).

When we dropped Margaret off at the bus stop, who should be driving her bus but Metro’s finest, Pat Ingrassia. So three of the four founding board members of Bahia Street had a five-minute reunion before we headed south.

One of my favorite things about Seattle is that it’s so close to my two sisters in Eugene, Oregon. And I have such cooooooool sisters, with great families. We get together to just hang out and talk, and we’re all great talkers. Uh, maybe we should have even stayed home and just talked, because we actually attempted to hike twice this weekend. On Saturday, we got hit by a massive hailstorm on the trail, and on Sunday, I sprained my ankle. Go figure. I think that’s Fate’s way of telling me I should be on a boat, not hiking on land. Or else that I should be wearing my hiking boots instead of my sneakers.

We’ll be back on the road heading east tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, sprain and all. Stay tuned!

Foxes and tigers and bears, oh my!

While waiting for Barry to get over the chicken pox, we took a couple little side trips with Sharon and Dave. It is possible to travel safely with a contagious person, but ordering ice cream for him is a challenge (I used the digital camera to record the flavors, then took it out to the parking lot and played back the photos for him).

On Wednesday, we made a short run up to Anacortes to see the lovely views from Cap Sante and Mount Erie. We’ve been sailing the San Juans out of Anacortes for years, so we know where to find the marinas, grocery stores for provisioning, hardware stores and West Marine. But our perspective is limited to a fish-eye view. Low to the water and slow-moving.

Sharon and Dave showed us Anacortes and the San Juans from a bird’s perspective. High above the water, you can see for miles, dozens of shades of blue. You can look right over the top of the largest island in the US (Whidbey) and see Port Townsend. We’ve seen many orcas, but this was the first time we’d ever seen a fox.

On Friday (Sharon’s birthday!) we headed inland for a visit to Mount Baker. We were driving along a 2-lane country road with Barry and me in the back seat. Dave was driving, Barry and Sharon were chatting, and I was looking out the window, watching the world go by. Cute little farmhouses, barns, horses, green fields. A tiger. A WHAT? I interrupted the conversation.

“Hey! I just saw a, uh, you know, a li– no, a tiger!” Dave didn’t alter speed. Barry and Sharon turned and looked at me. Meanwhile, my nose was glued to the window where my view of the tiger was blocked by a long, low ranch house. At the other end of the house was a driveway, with a sign, “No tiger access.”

The rest of the day, we saw some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Snow-capped mountains, reflected in still lakes surrounded by fall colors. Blue peaks in a blue sky, marching off into the distance. Even ptarmigans. But I was blase. Nothing could top my tiger.

Chicken pox? Aaaauuuugh!

I can’t believe it. Summer was ending and it was time to hit the road for New Orleans. We had argued and debated and discussed, and we were just about done sorting our personal belongings. And then, out of the blue, I got fever, chills, and SPOTS. For about ten days, I was totally miserable, out of commission, and (uh oh) contagious.

I’m all better now. We finished the arguments and discussions, took an entire truckload to the Goodwill, and brought the rest of the stuff here on Camano Island, where it will be packed into the car or stored.

And then, what should happen, but Barry comes down with fever, chills, and SPOTS! He’s parked in the same recliner where I recuperated from my knee surgery earlier this year. I think our insurance company is going to come take that chair away, because whenever one of us sits there, it costs the insurance company money in doctor’s bills and medicines!

We should only be delayed another week or so, but isn’t it funny how life throws these little curve balls at you when you least expect (or need) them?

A delayed and partial departure

Way back when, a long long time ago, Meps and I made some plans to quit our jobs and then get ourselves to New Orleans around May 2003 when Cayenne was going to be ready to start charging up the East coast of the US on her first cruise with Brian. Most of you have figured out by now that plans have changed a little since then.

Its now September and yesterday we just finished moving out of our house. We’re now at my parents house on Camano Island, and are still figuring out exactly what of our remaining possesions we want to keep and what we want to travel with. Meps has now recovered from Chicken Pox, and I’m still not sure if I’m going to come down with it or not. If I stay healthy we’ll be leaving soon, probably next week, and otherwise we’ll be here until I recover.