Friday, October 24, 2014

Desolation, Dust & Tiny Towns {Eastern Washington State}

Eastern Washington State has a desolate and barren beauty to it. For someone like me who grew up in an area with trees, plenty of moisture and green plants everywhere, sometimes I have to look a little harder to see the beauty. But it is there. Like this little oasis of a homestead in the middle of dry, dusty fields.

We took the less traveled roads on our way to Portland. It added time onto our journey, but was far more interesting then our usual route through the Tri-Cities. From Spokane, we hopped on Rte 195 south through to Spangle and Rosalia. Then we meandered along back roads towards Walla Walla (where they grow the best onions ever!). The route was punctuated with tiny towns. Like St John (population 558) which boasts "clean sidewalks and nice neighbors." If you've ever stepped on gum or dog poo on a sidewalk, you'll know that this is an excellent selling point for any town. Or Malden (population 203), where you feel like you've stepped back in time. Or Pine City, a near ghost town with a population too small to count.

We're coming up on elections in the States. There are posters everywhere, even in small towns. On the shed below, you can just make out a sign which says Elect Suess. When I saw this, I got so excited. Dr Seuss was running for public office! Finally, someone with common sense was putting their name forward! There was hope for American politics after all. The Sneetches were going to be sorted out once and for all. (Remember the star-on and star-off machines?) Then I realized it said "Suess" not "Seuss". My hopes were dashed.

I love looking at all the old buildings along the way and imagining what they were like in their heyday.

If you like old signs, there are some great ones in Eastern Washington. I particularly like the colors in the 7-Up sign. It would make a great retro t-shirt.

There was a great old "rip proof overalls" sign in Endicott, right next to the library. We've seen these signs before in our travels in North Idaho. The wind was blowing so hard that I thought the library sign would fly off the building.

As you drive through this part of the country, you breathe in the dust, watch the tumbleweed scamper across the road and wonder how anything grows in this place. But it does. Life always seems to manage to find a way. Even in the most desolate and barren of places.

Have you ever driven through Eastern Washington? Did you visit some of the towns along the way? Could you live in a place like this with dust storms and tumbleweed?

Drive on 11 October 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Going For A Boring Walk: Cougar Bay Preserve {North Idaho}

Just a few minutes outside of Coeur d'Alene in North Idaho is Cougar Bay, an 88 acre preserve protected by The Nature Conservancy. This is how they describe the area:
"Bordered by towering coniferous forests and lush meadows, Cougar Bay attracts migrating and nesting waterfowl, numerous shorebirds, songbirds, moose, beaver, otter and deer."
On paper, it seemed like a nice idea for a walk. In reality, it was a little boring. We didn't see any of the advertised wildlife. I really wanted to see a moose. I would have settled for a deer. Instead, we saw a wooly caterpillar.

This wooly caterpillar was one of the highlights of our walk. This particular caterpillar was moving. We saw two little girls on another part of the trail looking at a dead caterpillar and asking their mother what was wrong with it. We told them that there were some other ones further up that were moving. The mom seemed relieved and they set off to find more interactive caterpillars. I used to love these when I was a kid. They're supposed to predict how bad the winter will be, but I don't remember how to read their stripes anymore.

This stone thingamabob was another one of the highlights. You can probably tell by now that there weren't too many highlights on this walk. Scott added a tiny rock to the top of it. It didn't collapse. Which is a shame as it might have added some excitement to our walk.

There is a one mile loop trail on the Nature Conservancy preserve which connects to a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) trail which you can follow along the bay. At the end of that trail, we saw the third and final highlight of the walk. A rusted out old tractor. You might think it would make up for the lack of moose. It didn't. Have a look. I think you'll agree with us.

Have you ever been to Cougar Bay? Did you see a moose? If you did, can you email us a picture? Pretty please. Also, do you know how to read wooly caterpillars? If so, based on the picture above, how is winter looking to shape up in Idaho?

Walk on 28 September 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Going For A Walk: Fourth Of July Pass {North Idaho}

If you travel along the I-90 through North Idaho, you'll go through the Fourth of July Pass across the Rocky Mountains. Normally, people just head up the pass and back down the pass, while their ears pop at an elevation of 3,081 feet. But, it is worth a stop at the top to go for a walk in the National Forest Service recreation area. While you're there, you can check out the memorial to Captain Mullan who built the first wagon road across the Rocky Mountains to the inland Pacific Northwest. He stopped to celebrate the 4th of July in 1861 at this particular pass, hence the name. 

Nowadays, you don't need a wagon to get across the pass and explore the area. Just drive your car to the handy parking lot and set off on the trail head. As usual, we were unprepared for our walk. Well, in terms of having a trail map that is. Of course, I had snacks and water with me. I may not know where I am, but I'll always have something to eat. Usually, in the form of chocolate chip cookies. We wandered along the trail for a while and then we came across this sign which told us, "You are here." It was a little vague. 

We continued along the trail until it came to a fork. Which way should we go - right, left or back to the parking lot? The decision making process was overwhelming until we saw this sign for the Loose Moose trail. With a name like Loose Moose, how could you not decide to take that fork in the trail?

We wandered some more along the Loose Moose and found this trail map. Much better. During the winter months, the area is a used by cross-country skiers and snowshoers, so the map tells you which trails are for skis and which ones are for snowshoes. (Is "snowshoer" a word? Spell check says "no", but what else do you call them?) If you're into that kind of thing, you can check out the Panhandle Nordic Club's website for more info. During the rest of the year, the trails are used by hikers, bikers and horses. If you're hiking, keep an eye out for horse poop.

The club has a cute little warming hut along the Having Fun trail. That's the problem with skiing. You get cold and you constantly need to warm up. But of course, it is a perfect excuse to have some hot chocolate. Chocolate...yum. Maybe, we'll come back one day and try skiing on the trails. 

Walk on 29 September 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sailing Naked

Scott likes to sail naked. No, don’t worry, it isn’t what you think! It’s just his feet that are naked, not the rest of him. Phew! You can rest easy. If you’re sharing an anchorage with us, Scott will have clothes on. They might be tattered and stained, but they’ll keep him covered. I just like that phrase “sailing naked” – I read it in this great post by Commuter Cruiser about what they wear and don’t wear on their feet when sailing. And, you have to admit, it does make for a catchy blog post title. If I had called this post “sailing barefoot”, you would have probably yawned and moved onto a blog with pictures of cute kittens instead.

Nobody bats an eye when Scott sails barefoot in New Zealand. But, then again, shoes seem to be kind of optional for Kiwis. Unlike in the States where the law is “no shirt, no shoes, no service”, you can wander down the sidewalk and pop into any shop in New Zealand and they’ll happily serve you. When Scott sails barefoot in Scotland, folks think he is a little strange. But that probably has more to do with how cold it is in Scotland, even during the summer. Most folks there seem to wear shoes or sailing boots to keep their tootsies warm. For some reason, Scott’s feet never seem to get cold. Maybe it is Scandinavian heritage? Recently, Scott has been sailing in Idaho – barefoot, of course. People look at him like he is nuts. Of course, there is an advantage to not wearing shoes – you’re less likely to experience stinky boat shoe syndrome. If you are afflicted with this nasty problem, check out some of the tips from The Unlikely Boat Builder

I’m the opposite of Scott (in more ways than one, but that’s an entirely different blog post!). My feet often get cold and I’m constantly bumping into something and banging my toes, so when I’m sailing, I wear my trusty Lil Grippers. They’re dead brilliant. Made out of wetsuit material, they keep your feet relatively warm, even when they’re wet. And the grippy soles help you keep your grip. Best of all, they have adorable octopuses (octopi?) on them. Kittens might be be slightly more adorable, but the octopuses are pretty darn cute too. 

Lil Gripper2

The Lil Grippers were good for cruising in New Zealand as it never got too terribly cold, but there were a few days (and nights) where I would have been thrilled to have a pair of Dubarry boots. They’re super expensive, but I’ve heard such good things about them. Check out what Viki has to say about them on Astrolabe Sailing

What do you wear when you’re out sailing? Have you tried any of the shoes that Kevin reviewed at Sail Far Live Free? Or is there something else you wear that you’d recommend?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Going For A Walk: Manito Park {Spokane, Washington}

Spokane keeps surprising me. I've been visiting this small city on the eastern side of Washington State for over 20 years, but I don't think I've ever realized how much it has going for it until recently. We went for a walk in downtown Spokane a few weeks ago and I was surprised by all of the great architecture. (Do you ever find that you just walk through a place and forget to pause and really look at the buildings?) And then, just the other week, I was surprised to find that there are incredible botanic gardens located in Manito Park in the South Hills.

Manito means "spirit of nature" in the Algonquian language and with over 90 acres to walk around, you'll be feeling nature's spirit in no time. Here is a pretty flower to get you in the mood. 

If you like formal, European style botanic gardens, then you'll like the Duncan Garden. Even if you don't like formal, European style botanic gardens, I bet you'll still like it. Lots of color, orderly flower beds and a fountain. What's not to like? (Mom - you would like this place. All of the flowers stay neatly in their flowerbeds where they belong. Kind of like how you wished our toys would stay neatly in our toy box when we were little, instead of being scattered all over the floor.)


Fall has arrived here in the Pacific Northwest. It felt very autumnal looking at the leaves changing color, flowers fading and plants starting to die back in preparation for the coming winter. Despite the change of seasons, the roses were still going strong. Rose Hill is a really nice rose garden. Not as nice as the one in Portland (it is the City of Roses after all), but still pretty impressive.

Right next to Rose Hill is the Gaiser Conservatory. There are just two conservatories open to the public, but they're worth exploring. Unfortunately for you, we took a number of shots of plants and flowers up close. You now have to look at a few of them.

Sorry, I don't know what happened there. It turns out they were all cactus pictures. And kind of strange ones at that. But then again, cacti are strange to begin with. I feel I must regain your trust with another picture of a pretty flower. 

There has been a lot going on for us lately, so it was so nice to stumble upon the Nishinomiya Japanese Garden. Such a peaceful place. The minute you walk through the gate, you can feel your blood pressure drop and the tension in your shoulders ease ever so slightly. 

We really liked the botanic gardens at Manito Park. I bet you would too. What's the best botanic garden you've ever been to? Have you seen the one in Auckland, New Zealand? Overall, it is just okay, but the children's garden more than makes up for it. You can read more about it here.

Walk on 26 September 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

More Life In Coeur D'Alene Lately

We've been in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho for a while now, so I thought it was time for another installment of "Life in Coeur d'Alene Lately" - see here for the original post. 

Scott has been doing more sailing on other people's boats. He has been racing pretty much every weekend out on Lake Pend Oreille in North Idaho. 25 races in six weeks isn't too shabby. I'm not too sure how many races they've won, but I know he has been very happy to be back out on the water. Scott also got the opportunity to tag along while a new racing buddy of his checked out a boat that he was thinking of buying. As we're starting to look for our next sailboat, it has been great experience for Scott to watch someone else go through the boat buying thought process. (If you don't have a boat and you want to get out on the water, check out this post with some thoughts from Scott on how to sail on other people's boats.)

We love Ethiopian food. This isn't your ordinary love. This is the real deal - we really, really, really love Ethiopian food. I think you get the idea. And guess what? One of my sisters-in-law loves Ethiopian food too! She took us to Queen of Sheba in Spokane, Washington the other night for dinner. It was delicious! I was so excited about the fact that there is an Ethiopian restaurant in this neck of the woods. When the food came, we all just started snarfing it down so fast that I forgot to take a picture until after a fair bit had been devoured. So the picture above isn't really the best. But it does give you an idea of what the food is like. You eat with your hand (right one only please!), scooping up the stewed lentils, vegies and meat with injera bread from a communal dish. If you haven't tried Ethiopian before, you had better get yourself down to your local restaurant pronto and order some doro wat and miser wat. Once you do, you'll be hooked. (If you want to read more about our love for Ethiopian food or if you want to sail to Ethiopia one day - check out this post.)

We've been going out for drives lately. We have the worst maps ever, so usually we just end up driving around back roads without a clue where we'll end up. Not knowing where you're going is often the best way to explore an area. You never know what you'll end up seeing. Like these two llamas standing by the side of the road. They were really focused on something over in the distance. The goats, chickens, cats and other critters came over to check us out, but the llamas ignored us completely. Maybe they're camera shy. Or maybe they're just rude.

Do you know what this is a picture of? If you do, you probably grew up in North Dakota or Minnesota - the land of the hotdish. Hotdish is a type of casserole which usually has some sort of starch, meat, frozen or canned vegies and canned soup.* Being married to someone from North Dakota, I've heard about hotdish, but I've never actually seen one before. That is until the other night, when we had a tater tot casserole. Yes, that's right - tater tots. If you're not American and you don't know what tater tots are, they are these weird little tubular hashbrown concoctions that you got served at the school cafeteria. If you're American and you don't know what tater tots are, then you've led a very sheltered life. If you've never had them before, run out and get some. They're delicious. Grease, sodium and potatoes generally are. 

It was thanks to a friend of another one of my sisters-in-law, that I got to experience hotdish culture the other night. She very kindly brought over a couple of casseroles for the family. She's from Minnesota - they're nice folks out there. In addition to the tater tots, she also brought us a chicken curry hotdish topped with toasted Rice Krispies. Yes, you read that right - Rice Krispies. Not sure that it is a traditional topping which is served with curry in India, but, surprisingly, it works.

Well, that's more of life lately in Coeur d'Alene. What's been happening where you are? Have you had anything interesting for dinner lately?

*Note: Scott will claim that the term "hotdish" only refers to a particular type of casserole his mom made with ground beef and elbow macaroni. Other folks use the term more generally.