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From Fat to Fit via Fort Bidwell

US Highway 395 Does not let us down

sunny 12 °C

Sunday 11th May, 2014: Room 129, Best Western Skyline Motel, Lakeview, Oregon

In answer to your question, Dennis, Lake Tahoe is 6,225ft above sea level. Higher than we thought and that explains why it was so danged cold.

I'm going to start with some news which shows how far the US has come since 1981 when we first came here. Whilst it made the news, it was all positive news, with the possible exception of Murdoch's Fox News, which we refuse to put on. Anyway, the NFL player, Michael Sams, who recently came out, was adopted by St Louis Rams during the NFL Draft. National TV news showed the guy's joy when he got the news. What a role model for young Americans today! Hooray for him, and his partner.

Well, we really are back on the road now. In a motel in a small town truly in the middle of nowhere. John has had his first swim of the trip, hooray, and Bob has the laundry well and truly underway. First to check in here so we more or less had the place to ourselves. Except John watched with horror as an old Chevvy pulled up and grandma, grandson and granddaughter went into the pool. He went and staked his claim and they kindly left one half of the pool to himself.

This followed by a soak in the hot tub plus salad last night and a sort-of healthy breakfast made us feel fit and healthy again. It doesn't take much!

Who realised California was this big? It's taken us the day to drive this little bit. Have to admit this trip has made us realise...


The snow was on the ground when we checked out of Harrahs, Lake Tahoe at around 8.30. But the roads were dry and clear. It was bitterly cold. We had our fleeces and sweaters so that was OK. We drove down to try and get a picture of the lake, now its normal deep blue colour and, within a few feet, we were back in California! We were right on the Stateline, the casinos being built just a few paces from California.


A quick picture then back into Nevada to retrace our steps over the snowy pass to Carson to rejoin Highway 395, here combined with US50 and an Interstate! This took us round busy Reno where we once stayed in lieu of Las Vegas but we quickly realised then that there is nothing like the real thing.

John thought he was being clever when we filled up in Nevada where taxes are much lower, but then we find the prices in the California towns were the same or lower.



Off the Interstate after Reno it became first, a four-lane highway and then a 2-lane road. And this is how we expected 395 to be. Far from dramatic but still interesting, through semi-arid range where there were a few cattle and a few scattered farms struggling to make a living.

Not much else to report, except, with the presence of artesian water, which we saw being pumped into ditches, the farmland became richer with more cattle and the occasional sheep and even one field of goats as well as deer helping themselves to the alfalfa grass being grown for the cattle.


Right into North-Eastern California, this really is remote. Scattered farms, many of them derelict, the others often with tons of junk round them. And few towns. We passed through one sizeable town, Susanville, where we had a noon breakfast (along with loads of others, mainly Mothers on this over-hyped Mothers' Day, having their special lunch).


This town prospers on the nearby federal and state prisons (aka Correctional Facilities) . We drove past two of them. Acres of concrete blocks surrounded by razor wire and guard towers. We speculated on young gang members from Los Angeles being shipped hundres of miles out here, and their families never being able to get out to visit them. It's a pretty brutal regime. But, hey, Susanville doesn't care about that. It means many jobs for a town like this.

By now US395 is pretty empty, and straight. It's a long way before the next town, 100 miles to be exact. People out in the sticks here have to drive a long way for a pint of milk! No gas stations either. No nothin'! The next town, without the prisons, was far from prosperous with most businesses closed and in a state of dereliction.


We finally crossed into just-as-remote South Eastern Oregon. Here the farms seem to be a tad tidier and slightly more prosperous. The lake referred to in the town's title of Lakeview is actually a vast dried up lake, the colour of sandy salt, as far as the eye can see. Not quite the picture we had.


It's a one-cafe town so we'd better go and get a salad, or some'at, before they close. We think Americans are getting even earlier with their eating. In one place, we were having breakfast at about 10.15am and a woman demanded her baked chicken and fries for her lunch and most people are thinking about having dinner by 4.30. They would die of starvation in Spain!

Some general observations: we have spotted at least 3 Basque restaurants, quite scruffy ones too. A bit odd out here in the wilds. Though, of course, Mexican restaurants are almost the norm. And we forgot we have to eat with our fork and leave our knife on the plate. What a palaver.

What we learned as we drove up this route was how savage the wars were with the local Indian tribes (1870s). The Modocs were the most troublesome and they were eventually all but wiped out by the US Cavalry, not without much bloodshed on both sides. The remnants of the tribe were shipped off to Kansas. Other tribes, like the Pit River Indians and the Shoshone had actually started the problems by attacking settlers. This was the bloodiest of all the Indian wars.

Also, there had been a battle between Californian troops and local settlers who wanted to become part of Nevada, not California. This was eventually settled peacefully, however. The county was named Modoc, after the tribe that had been obliterated......

Finally, when we were preparing to stop for gas, John thought he would test the new TomTom's voive recognition capabilities by telling it to "drive to the nearest gas station"...please..., it was a few minutes before we realised that it was indeed taking us to the nearest gas station but that it was going to take 9 hours. It was only going to take us to Lakeview Oregon, and back. Stupid woman.....



Posted by Johnash 18:58 Archived in USA Comments (10)

A Straight, Long and Winding, then Straight then..... Road

US395 continues to reveal its secrets

21 °C

Monday 12th, May 2014: Room 407, Hampton Inn, Pendleton, Oregon

We've had our swim and a few minutes in the tub, already. Hampton Inn, nice and comfortable and modern! But the desk is too high for the chair and Bob just brought me a pillow to perch on. I'm still typing at an angle. They spend millions building these places and no one thinks about the height of the desk?? Now, that is a high class problem! I can turn my head and watch the trucks on their way to/from Portland from/to the East Coast on the Interstate (I-84).


Just to explain a bit more the Michael Sams/NFL story. It was not clear. He is an up and coming player, playing for a college team till now. He wants to make a career playing in the NFL. He would have been well advised to keep quiet if he wanted an easy life and a guaranteed career. But he was brave enough to come out before the NFL draft, which decided his future. He was waiting on the phone to see if he had been drafted and it must have been torture as he was 8th from last being chosen. No wonder he was emotional. What a brave man. Unfortunately there has been something of a backlash in the social media. To be expected I suppose. There is still an incredible amount of prejudice here against all minorities. But never have we experienced it, thankfully.

Sorry for that little detour away from Highway 395. As we started off, 335 miles, a 6hr 11 minute journey, TomTom was telling us. We did not know why those miles should take so long. But, allowing for a couple of stops, as ever, Lori our TomTom woman was spot on.

I have to admit, it was daunting, after 20 minutes still 300+++ miles and hours to go. However, 395 again did not let us down because, as we dropped down into the "city" of Pendleton, our stop for the night, we were regretting the journey was nearly over.

Apart from 3 stretches when US395 joined with East-West routes for a few miles, the road was all but empty. We were seeing another car in the other direction perhaps every 10 minutes and only twice did Bob get overtaken. Once by a camper and once by the UPS man, who must have had a four hour journey to deliver a parcel halfway along the route!

There was only one place that could be labelled a town on the whole route. For the most part it was totally empty, apart from one or two steers, or there would be the odd farmhouse or ranch.

During the first stretch, once we had left dry Goose Lake behind, we were up in the high Oregon desert. After an hour or so, tedium could easily have set in. But then it changed to open range, hills and valleys, Douglas Firs, pine trees, more open range, and finally prairie. We saw one couple who could be labelled tourists before we turned off at Pendleton. No one, just no one seems to be travelling this road. Aren't we lucky??


We lost track of how many times we climbed up to a pass of 4-5,000ft, then down the other side. Poor Bob always seemed to be driving on the "bendy bits". To which John would respond that he could be going faster round these bends....

(Who spotted the flag on the back of our 'Yukey'?)


Stan was delighted to find a lot of wildflowers were out including what looked like a long patch of bluebells, not to be seen again. Stan has made a lot of entries in his "I-Spy, Oregon Wildflowers" book. Arthur was bored, as he constantly kept telling us. Luckily we had had breakfast at the motel as there were very, very, very few places to stop.


We stopped for gas and coffee at the only town (Burns) and were served, for the first time, by a human being in the form of a young man who was full of weather news and cleaned our windscreen as well.


Towards the northern half of today's journey, we suspect it would be busier at weekends as there were cabins and RV parks. So we guess lots come out into the hills for a spot of huntin' & fishin' at the weekend.


To be honest, weekends are a pain when planning these trips. Nowhere is good at weekends. Not cities, not National Parks, not "out in the sticks".

This time, we have planned out flights for Sundays so that has soaked up a couple of them!

Tomorrow into Washington and Spokane for the night. Here is the route today.



Posted by Johnash 17:56 Archived in USA Comments (3)

Spokane, how is that spoken?


sunny 24 °C

Tuesday 13th May 2014: Room 1022, Doubletree Hotel, Spokane, Washington

Well it was a pretty nondescript journey really. Our wonderful road, 395, was mainly 4-lane highway and then absorbed into Interstate 90. So we had a list of "little stories" to tell you to fill this space.


The scenery was good, mainly rolling wheat fields with small towns with grain elevators the main feature. We drove into a couple of "historic downtowns" as they were signposted, but they were depressing in their destitution and neglect. Very sad, but this is the story of America, with a few notable exceptions.

large_IMG_0369_640x480.jpglarge_IMG_0373_640x480.jpglarge_IMG_0374_640x480.jpg large_IMG_0376_640x480.jpg

And since arriving in Spokane (how would you pronounce it?) located on the Spokane River, we know that this city of some 100,000 souls is certainly a notable exception. We were not prepared for how nice this town is.

It has spent billions into a revival programme for its downtown. And it's working. A convention centre is one key,


as is a glorious waterside park, to take advantage of the spectacular falls right in the city centre.


Added to this is the "benevolence" of a Spokane couple, who own much property here. They bought the dilapidated Davenport Hotel which was about to be demolished. With courage and foresight, they rebuilt the hotel to an amazing reproduction of its original 1914 glory, when built by Mr Davenport. Their names "The Worthies" aka Walt and Karen, to their friends (and enemies no doubt).


We walked back to the Davenport after a wash and brush up at our hotel, to take advantage of their "early bird" $17.95 3-course menu.

John's pan-seared wild salmon with baby beets

and Bob's "Creole Chicken Pot Pie"

Excellent value in luxurious surroundings. Back to our room in time to watch "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune"!

We love Spokane but have to leave it tomorrow to try and get to the end of Highway 395, in the hope we can get across the border into Canada.

Oh, the pronunciation of "Spokane" varies but my bet is that your pronunciation is not one of them. It should rhyme with can as in "Coke can" which, in turn, rhymes with cayenne, or something like it!

And finally, a picture from the Davenport walls, a meeting of the local ladies group. I think this is probably very similar to Eastbourne ladies circle that I have heard about!


Oh, and finally, finally, Bob reminded me that, during our long drive yesterday through empty Oregon, we were so far away from civilisation, we could not pick up any radio stations. So we switched to satellite radio that is fitted to the car and spent a delightful couple of hours listening to "Rural Radio". We were so excited that it was "Bovine Day" and we also learned all about the broccoli market, strawberry prices, Kansas and Chicago wheat prices not to mention the latest iceberg lettuce bids and offers.


Posted by Johnash 21:28 Archived in USA Comments (8)

US Highway 395, a fond farewell.

We have driven it all, almost!

sunny 22 °C

Wednesday 14th May 2014: Room 316, Super 8 Motel, Castlegar, British Columbia

This just came on TV. Incredible. Well done cat!

Well it's over. US395, that is. Quite sad that the theme of this part of the trip has been completed. From Hesperia, near Los Angeles, to over the Canadian border, it has shown us a lot of surprises. We thought it finished where USA finished but it went another couple of miles until it reached "Crows Nest Highway", Canada Highway 3.


But, back in Spokane (how do you pronounce it??) a few paces from the Doubletree, we picked up our favourite highway,


and, having filled up with gas (prices vary widely from area to area as well as state to state - we'd forgotten that in Oregon, you are not allowed to serve yourself, hence the young men coming out to help us! But not, unfortunately, in Washington), we get into the traffic leaving Spokane. At first it's Interstate standard for a few miles, then divided highway, but, by the time we leave most of the traffic behind, it's the two lane highway we know and love.


We spot a wonderful traditional Airstream trailer (aka caravan). Apparently these weigh a ton and could not be towed by a standard European tow-car.


We cross the Columbia River, with lumber trucks lumbering in the other direction.


We leave behind the traffic that was following Highway 20 and are virtually on our own. Already it feels like we're in Canada.


We approach the border with some apprehension.


No need to stop at the US border point, but have to wait at a red light as the female Canadian border official gives the car a once over from a safe distance. We are then beckoned forwards to the window. Passports and a few questions, about our plans, where we are from, whether we have firearms (we have tied a gag round Arthur's mouth), where we are staying, whether we had visited before. It took about five minutes and John having asked her how long it took her to get to work, expecting an answer of an hour or so (the answer: 5 minutes) even found out where she lives (Christina Lake). We believe she may have been wearing sensible shoes and was certainly very friendly towards us, given her onerous role! She waved us on with no further ado.


We drove away from our planned route to visit a very pleasant town, Great Forks. We bought some cream for Bob's sore toe, guided by a very helpful pharmacist, then had coffee and a cup of Borscht (see below) in a homely cafe. We feel oddly at home here in Canada. Despite the accent, it does feel more "English".


We drove up over a pass, and found there is less snow than expected, the heavy snow that hit the Denver area not having made it this far North.


Now settled into a very comofrtable Super 8 Motel. We have all that we get in a Hampton Inn or Hilton Garden Inn, perhaps without the bells and whistles (eg no wardrobe, just an open clothes rack). We are just left with trying to work out the Canadian coins we have!

By the way, we really appreciate all of your comments. It's the first thing to check in the mornings whilst the coffee is brewing!

Now a bit more from Bob about the Borscht he had in Grand Forks:-
The borscht reflects the heritage and culture of the Doukhobors who were Russian pacifists. They settled in the area in the early 1900s having migrated here from Russia, sponsored Tolstoy and the Quakers. A surprise to us, the borscht did not have a hint of beetroot but appeared to be made from cabbage and potato with loads of pepper. "BORING" shouts Arthur, gag having be untied. Naughty bear.


Posted by Johnash 18:56 Archived in USA Comments (11)

omg, OMG!

Is this the highlight of the trip?

sunny 22 °C

Thursday 15th May 2014: Room 214, Best Western, Cranbrook, BC, Canada

Last night, we looked at the menu next door to the Super 8 and thought it was rather expensive (still trying to work out the value of a $Canadian!). We'd always said, "This trip we will definitely try an Arby's". And each trip, we definitely have not done so. There was an Arby's round the corner so joined the masses (1 drive through)..


for an Arby's Classic Roast Beef Bun Combo..


Arby's have not been doing to well for a number of years, as we saw here last night. Actually it was rather good. A roast beef sandwich with crunchy curly fries. Anyway, we have now "had an Arby's".


Today, not a long drive along Crowsnest Highway to our next stop, Cranbrook BC. But we diverted up Kootenay Lake to catch the ferry across then drive back down to pick up Crowsnest again.


First stop, as usual, is the nearest gas station to top up and clean windscreen(s)


We passed through the town at the bottom of the lake, Nelson, then up the Western side of the lake. There were a lot of cabins a lot of the way but were discretely built and the lake looked pretty good. We have found throughout this trip that we get great views, then stop at a "view point" layby only to find trees blocking the view. So up goes the cry "Cut those trees down, Reg!". Only one or two reading this Blog will fully appreciate that comment but you probably get the gist. Another well-known phrase or saying is "Reg, we've got a gusher!"


The ferry was still on Winter timetable and we had it with us but we did not try for a particular sailing (only one boat operating at the moment). We got to the ferry and it looked like we would be first for the next one. However, it had just loaded and the barrier was raised and the stop light turned to green and they let us board. So we had a zero wait.

We were so glad we diverted for this trip across the lake. It is quite possibly the highlight of the trip. One of the most memorable occasions, ever. We were both smiling with delight and pleasure as we pulled out into the middle of this 65 miles long lake. This is the longest free ferry crossing in the world (5 miles, 35 minutes). And, for us, the second best free trip ever, next, only, to the also free, Staten Island Ferry, New York.



During the crossing we changed to Mountain Time, losing an hour, though we gained more than that by getting on this ferry!

The drive South on the East side of the lake was tranquil and glorious


We had a minor holdup at some road works


but soon got to the town of Creston and spotted a good looking restaurant, or rather, Arthur did. We had had a very small bowl of cornflakes at the Super 8 so decided to have brunch now in lieu of dinner tonight. It was excellent, but still no proper Canadian bacon which we have been trying to track down for a while.


Arthur had the Double Yukon Special (no picture, lens not wideangle enough to get it all in), Bob had a pulled pork sandwich with salad


and John a couple of eggs with hashbrowns etc (much less than it looks, honest!)


Paul asked for more eye candy: here we go...


Also on the menu were Perogies (pron??) which, it emerged, were a Ukrainian potato special. Borscht one day, Perogies the next! Interesting.

We've noticed trucks here all have their own expression. This one looks as if it has toothache!


We arrived at the busy town of Cranbrook and tracked down an excellent car wash to deal with this mess.


We had no idea what Marycon was on about in her comment to yesterday's Blog: "loonies & toonies". It turned out the car wash accepted "loonies & toonies" so we believe they must be these odd Canadian coins? Oh, and we were given some new $CAN notes and they were plastic. Terrible. Watch out UK, they are on their way to you and you probably won't like them.

Near our motel.....


And we are now within striking distance of the Rockies and cross them to get to Pincher Creek, Alberta, tomorrow. We can see them from our room...


Jeopardy soon....... Oh, and thank you all for those wonderful comments!


Posted by Johnash 18:06 Archived in Canada Comments (8)

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