Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Staycations

I am being inspired regarding how much there is to do and see in Western Washington and the PNW in general by reading the blogs of other RVers who are currently in the area.  Why is it, when we have got all these cool places to see and things to do, that we stay just stay home?

Well, part of it is that we are home because it is summer time and there is so much to get done around the house and in the yard.  I am, however, one to dump the chores and go do something.  Husband, not so much.

I've been reading blogs where folks are visiting the Pike Place Market, Mt Rainier National Park, The Lavender Festival in Sequim, hiking on the Olympic Peninsula.  If I read one where someone has been to the Sol Duc Hot Springs, I may just need to kidnap husband and say we are going.  Sol Duc has been on my bucket list for years.  We just never quite get around to it.  Anyway, I am a tad jealous of all you who are visiting our beautiful state.  We've had quite the run on good (if not just plain hot - for us anyway) weather.  We are now having a few days of rain, but the warm weather is to return this weekend and beyond.

Yesterday, I did ditch my better other half (who spent the day vacuuming and mopping floors - for which I am very grateful) and drove out to West Seattle to meet up with long time girlfriends at Salty's On Alki to celebrate a 60th birthday.  Four of us have known each other for more than 40 years, and we adopted the fifth one about 20 years ago.  It is always a good time when we can get together.



Before lunch, I stopped at the Hamilton Viewpoint to see if I could get a good shot of the Seattle skyline.  It was overcast, and I only came away with a somewhere between a just okay and decent shot.  Oh well.




I had to duck out early from lunch to avoid the traffic that was sure to ensue with President Obama's arrival into Seattle about 3pm.  I live about 30 miles northeast of Seattle but it takes me about 60 minutes to make the drive.  I had just passed Northgate, when I caught a glimpse of Air Force One making its decent into Boeing Field.  Good driver that I am, I did not try to snap a picture.  So it goes.  At least I was well on my way home before the State Patrol started closing on and off ramps.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Somewhere Between FHUs and Boondocking

This last week, I had my first experience RVing without full hook ups for more than an overnight.  Our galley gray water tank has a capacity of 28 gallons; the bathroom has a 50 gallon tank.

I admit, I am not a good water conservationist.  I run a lot of water when I do dishes (and yes, I am one of "those" people that pretty much washes the dishes before I put them in the dishwasher at home).  Therefore, I had to really plan and think about what I was going to cook.  How much could I just do on the grill?  How much could be done in the microwave in disposable bowls or on a paper towel?  We elected to use mostly paper plates and bowls on this trip.  We did use regular silverware.  We used paper cups, except for alcohol, which IMHO requires regular glassware to be thoroughly enjoyed.

As far as showers, we had to limit them to every other day.  Yes, I could have used the showers in the restrooms at the park, but that is uncomfortable for me.  I'd rather just do a quick wipe down with a clean washcloth in the privacy of my own rig.  I did make use of a large plastic bowl.  I filled it with water I had heated in the tea kettle.  I used this to soak my washcloth.  When I was done, I dumped the water into the black tank.  I did a similar routine on my shower days.  I used the shower head to get myself wet all over.  Then I turned off the water and used the bowl method for wetting down the washcloth and lathering up the soap.  I turned the water back on, rinse off, and once again dumped any left over water in the bowl into the toilet.

I pleased to say that between the two of us, we managed to fill both tanks only two-thirds full over a 5 day/4 night stay.

I read blogs of people who boondock regularly, and I have to admit I am impressed.  We do have a blue buddy type set up we can use, so I know I could manage if I have to.  It just seems like such a large amount of work for Kim. The water conservation part would be very hard for me.  I am way on the low end of that learning curve.

If you had asked me earlier this year, I would have said there was no way I would go boondocking.  Then I read a blog that made me realize I really shouldn't say I don't like something until I try it.  I like the idea of being out away from things and people, to sit outside undisturbed, to see the night sky without interference from street lights.  I'm working my way up to giving it a try.  Now I know I can do 4 nights without dumping the gray water tanks.  Next step will be learning to minimalize the amount of electricity I use so that running a generator can take care of our "needs".  I will have to re-define what are actually "needs".  The electric tea kettle?  The computers?  The TV?  The DVR?  The satellite dish?

Right now, given the choice, I would choose full hook ups.  However, I am willing to give other options a try ..... from time to time anyway.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Thousand Trails Mt Vernon, WA - Post Stay Review

We just finished a 4 night stay at the Thousand Trails preserve in Mt Vernon/Bow, Washington.  I do like this campground.  The vast majority of the sites are separated from other sites by a row of hedges, bushes and/or trees.  Each site is deep, wide and pretty darn private.  They are very well shaded.  The campground has similar facilities to those that I have observed in other TT Campground in Washington State.  There is a pool (large), a clubhouse, a playground, easy hiking trails, clean (not what I would call modern, but definitely kept up) restrooms, putt-putt golf, rental cabins and yurts.  Every staff member we spoke to was polite and helpful.  With Mt Vernon and Burlington 6 miles south, and Bellingham about 15 miles to the north, there are plenty of services nearby, including healthcare, RV repair, Walmart, restaurants, casinos, gas stations, etc. (Incidently, we paid $3.95 per gallon for diesel while we were there.)

Verizon cell service was fine; we had 4G with 3-5 bars most of the time.  The Wi-Fi at the clubhouse was decent - not slow but not fast.  We have suspended our Millenicom for the summer because we are going to be at home most of the time.  I suspect it would have been fine given that the cell service was good.

My only "complaints" and I use the term loosely because things are what they are:

For a few of the days, we had unseasonably warm weather for this area.  The voltage in the park dropped in late afternoon when people were returning to their rigs and starting up the AC.  Our EMS (electrical management system) shut off our power.  It was mildly annoying, but once the temperature cooled down, the voltage went back up.  We just made it a point not to run too many electrical things at the same time.

Also I think having to do with hot weather, there was an annoying batch of flies that had apparently just hatched.  It was really most bothersome the first night, and eventually they went elsewhere.  We had a citronella candle burning whenever we sat outside in the afternoon and evening.  The mornings were fine.

As I had said earlier, the park is heavily shaded, which of course means satellite reception is difficult. Had we brought more cable, Kim thinks we could have picked up a signal.  Those who were camped around us had their dishes out by the roads.  We just put ours away and started re-watching The West Wing (one of my favorite all time shows) on dvd.

The park sits not far off the I-5 freeway, and you do hear freeway noise.  It is mostly background drone, but if you are bothered by it, be aware.  We were in spot B-39 and it did not bother us.  We heard it, but could easily ignore it.  One night, we did hear train whistles.  It was also the warmest night of our stay, and I think we just weren't sleeping well because of the heat.  I understand there is a race track nearby as well.  I've heard complaints about the noise on the weekends, but we were only there during the weekdays, so I cannot comment on that.

Although, it seems I wrote more about the cons than I did the pros - I liked this campground and we will stay there again.  It is great for us for a quick getaway.

Two Casinos, Fish and Chips, and A Beautiful View

Thursday, we took a drive into the town of Anacortes, WA.  I'd only been there once before, and that was to catch a ferry to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.  I was a bit surprised about how "big" the town was. I lived in Seattle until I was in my early 20s.  However, since that time, I have lived in relatively small towns.  I spent 10 years in Westport, WA (population at that time about 2,000).  From there, we moved to Snohomish, WA.  We have been here for 25 years, with a few other small town moves in between.  The current population of Snohomish is 9,000.  Anacortes has a whopping 16,000 residents!  That's big in my eyes, and way too much traffic. Of course, the majority of the traffic is due to the ferry terminals which take travelers to the San Juan Islands, as well as to Sidney, BC, Canada.  So, the "big town" reference is relative.  If you are from a large city, Anacortes is a small town.

The names of many towns in Washington state are of Native American origin, however, Anacortes was named for Annie Curtis, wife of early settler Amos Bowman.  And that's my piece of trivia for this blog entry.

While just driving around the town, we spotted an RV park down on the water, so we went to check it out.



Here are a few pictures of the sites and one of the back deck of the social hall/lodge.  I'm pretty sure those sites that back up to the water are pretty near perfect in the summer.  I wanted to be those people sitting outside, enjoying the view!






We stopped at a lookout for the view and found this.






This is a Douglas Fir, from The Olympic National Forest, approximately 970 years old.  
It was 242' tall when cut.

Back in the truck, we were just driving around.  Kim is a retired commercial fisherman, and he had been to the shipyard in Anacortes many times, so we drove down to take a look.  We saw some signs pointing to the Cap Sante lookout.  It is a short, but narrow and winding road up to the top.  Not appropriate for anything other than passenger vehicles (cars, trucks - no RVs).  The views were gorgeous!





Next stop, lunch!  We were just tooling around side streets, and I saw a sign for the best fish and chips at the Island Cafe.  I have to say, I concur.  We were too hungry to think to take a picture before digging in, but here is what was left when we were through.



And our final stop in Anacortes was at the Northern Lights Swinomish Casino.  It's a small casino with a lovely RV Park out back.  




Both Kim and I left a small contribution to the Swinomish tribe before moving on to the Skagit Casino.  This casino is just down the road from Thousand Trails Mt Vernon where we are staying, so I suggested we stop and see if our luck had changed.  It hadn't.  At that point, it became obvious is was gin and tonic time back at the campsite.










Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Checking Out The Area Around Mt Vernon, WA

First off, let me say that we actually live about 50 miles from where this Thousand Trails park is.  I'm pretty familiar with the area.  When we are close to home, we try to visit a few places we haven't been before, and as well as a few that we know and like.

Monday after we arrived, it became apparent we were going to miss our screened cabana (there are a good number of flies here), so we took a quick trip to the new WalMart in Mt Vernon, and then over to Camping World in search of a reasonably priced alternative.  We were looking at $150 + at both places, and as we had a perfectly good one at home, we decided just to tough in out.  A friend told me a to fill a plastic bag with water and then hang it on a tree or off the awning, and it will discourage flies, so we are giving it a try.

After the shopping failed - not exactly failed as WalMart here did have the "baby" Coronas that I like - little 7 oz size - that I can actually drink before it gets warm.  A regular bottle is a bit of a waste for me.  Anyway, I had never been to Big Lake which is just east of Mt Vernon, so we took a drive around it.  There were homes and property there that are pretty darn close to my dream homestead.  Homes with decks offering a sunrise view, with rolling grass hills down to the floating docks, on a lake big enough to allow motor boats.  They are probably out of my price range, but now I have a dream.  We did find an RV park on the lake.  I'm not sure if they offer daily or weekly rentals, but they do rent by the month.  There was no where really to pull over and take a picture, but I did have this older real estate listing that at least shows a picture.  I don't recall seeing any For Sale Signs, and that is why I think this is an old listing - but the picture will give you an idea.  I don't believe they have a website, but you can google the phone number and address if you are interested.  It looked very clean and nice.

Big Lake Resort and RV Park

Tuesday's drive took us up WA 11/Chuckanut Drive.  Do not drive your RV or pull a trailer here.  There is a weight restriction, and the lanes are very, very narrow.  However, there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view.




We also stopped in to check out Larrabee State Park.  I think I am a shirt tail relative by marriage to the Larrabee the park is named for.  I believe he was the brother or cousin of my paternal great aunt's husband.  Charles Xavier Larrabe donated the 20 acres in 1923 and it became Washington State's first state park.  There were a few FHU sites that would accommodate our 33' fifth wheel.  According to the website there are 26 utility sites with maximum site length of 60'.  This is a reservation park.  I was surprised at the cost per night - around $35 for the FHUs.  Pretty much what you would pay for a "resort" park in Western Washington.  However, it was a nice park with beach access. Here are a few pictures.  As you can tell, I'm going through "tree" thing, picture-wise.





I would have taken a picture of the camp sites but they were full and it seemed a little intrusive.

Wednesday's outing, took us back up to Bellingham for lunch with Kim's oldest son, Tim.  We ate at Avenue Bread and Deli on Railroad Avenue.  It was a great place for lunch with lots of options for sandwiches, salads, soup, and drinks.


Next we set out to cross off two things from my local bucket list.  I have always wanted to go see the Sculpture Park at Western Washington University.  It wasn't quite "hot" yet, so Kim agreed.  Unfortunately, we found that the sculptures were spread out around the campus.  I had surgery a few weeks ago, and wasn't up to a long walk.  We will have to put this off until spring or fall, when the weather cools down.

We did, however, get to check one thing off the list;  making the drive around Lake Samish.  Lots of nice homes scattered among old summer cottages.  We did cruise by a mobile home park (I believe it was called Park Terrace) where we saw some spots with RVs.  From the look of things, they appeared to be long term renters (large propane tanks and decks with potted plants plus there was no signage welcoming over-nighters.  It was clean and kept up, and they did have a lake access private park with a floating dock.

I saw a sign for a Whatcom County Park that looked like it had a swimming beach.  We will have to check that the next time we are up here.  It looked nice. The info for this park is below.  I believe it is day use only.

Lake Samish Park

Tomorrow, I'm think a day trip to Anacortes and maybe Whidbey Island is in order.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Thousand Trails Mount Vernon/Bow - At First Glance

We arrived at this TT preserve yesterday.  We had driven through the preserve a few weeks ago, and already had some camp sites picked out.  We found B39 open and found it to be a spacious site.


There are trees and shrubs between most all of the campsites here.


This is the amount of space be have behind our rig.


My only real complaint so far has been that there are an unduly number of horse flies.  We've talked with the management and it seems that they last for about 1-2 weeks and then disappear for the season.  Unfortunately, we picked "the" week to be here.  And also unfortunately, someone who will not be named (what the hell - KIM) forgot to pack the screened cabana.

There are a number of annual leased sites here.  Just as in Leavenworth, they are well maintained and people have done lots of upgrades in their sites - i.e. brought in gravel, potted plants, bird feeders, etc.  I think I would consider leasing a site as soon as I find "the" park that feels like home to me.  I'd have to love it to lease (with a slight nod to HGTV's show - Love It Or List It).

More of a review at the end of our stay.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

An Alternative To Walmart Camping

Now this looks interesting....

Harvest Hosts

It offers free overnight camping for self contained rigs at wineries, farms, etc.  It looks like you must join "the club" for $40 a year, but the website does give you an idea of where the various spots are.  I'd much rather stay overnight at a winery than a Walmart parking lot.  We may give it a try.