On the road to 70—- A Detour and a Memorial of Sorts

This is my Mother’s purse. 

It has a lot to do with today’s post. Today, I am in Portland, Oregon, where I have had my home for the last thirteen years. I live on the East side in a little pocket town that borders on the Columbia Gorge. If you google The Columbia Gorge today, September 5, 2017, you will find that the Gorge is being gobbled up by a horrific wildfire. Since last Saturday afternoon we have lost over 10,000 acres of some of the most beautiful forest and hiking lands in the US. The entire Portland area is shrouded in dense smoke and neighborhoods are heavily dusted with ash. The fire is 0% contained at this point.

This morning, Tuesday, we woke up to the fact that the Eagle Creek Fire, named after the trail where it started, had exploded overnight and had not only crossed the Columbia River and ignighted the Washington side of the river but had also moved ten miles closer to my neighborhood. By noon my friends’ neighborhood, just ten blocks away, was put on “yellow” alert to evacuate. That is the “Get Ready” stage. Next comes the “orange” or “Get Set” level. After that it is a “Red” alert meaning “Go” and you had better do just that. Ten blocks away was close enough for me. I decided to pack up and leave, especially with the air quality being as poor as it was. My “gentleman caller” of thirty years, Carl, has a nice home about 10 miles further west and I could bunk with him until whatever happens, happens.

So, what to cram into the car? If we have another “explosive episode” with the wind, whatever I put in the car might be all that I have left. You really can’t grasp the notion until it stares you in the face. Of course you cram the “important” stuff into a bag. The passport, vehicle titles, checkbooks and bank cards, the house information and insurance information. Then what?

That’s where my Mother’s purse comes in. My Mom would clutch her purse no matter what. Cocktails….sure….there is was on her lap. Visiting friends….there it was on her lap. How about checking out a mine shaft…..yep….gotta have that purse! Kind of like Queen Elizabeth. 

After my Mom passed away 5 years ago, I found I now had her purse. Well, I had several of her purses, but this was the one she used while we took care of my Dad in his final days. I just couldn’t give it away, or worse yet, throw it away, so what? What do I do with it? Without thinking about it I just started storing little tokens in it. Her “Chicken Wrapper” rainhat, a remaining knife from the set of flatware we used when I was a kid. An envelope filled with the little notes, clippings and quotes she relentlessly saved. Her passport. Her address book. Before I realized it, I had a Mini-Museum of my Mom, all neatly assembled in one place.

There was no question as to what the first thing I put into the car to be preserved just in case the fire comes and eats my house. It gives me a feeling of calm if I have my Mother’s purse near me.


On the Road to 70…. Post #6

Lot of pictures today starting with a 6:30am look at dawn and the mountains.

I left the motel at 8:00 to go take a look at old town Livingston. The old train depot was high on my list.

A little more than a hundred miles into my day I stopped to have a snack (this time from my collection of goodies I have in my little cooler) I was about halfway between Butte and Missoula. The smoke in the air was really heavy. I thought that the smoke was coming from the fires in Canada, but Phil called my attention to the fact that there were a dozen wild fires within 70 miles of Missoula. I am really glad I brought eye drops, this smoke is really bothering me.

There are hills and mountains in that view, believe me.

Just before I got to Missoula I stopped at the granddaddy of all truck stops and I just stood there dazzled. All I wanted was something to drink rather than water and look at this display…and this was only one wall!

Those are just drinks! I think they also sold every chip and candy known to man.

From there I reentered the horrible traffic of the city from Coeur d’Arlene to Spokane. I am staying at a nice vintage hotel in the ‘old town’ section of Spokane. The Montvale. It is beautiful with an center court and some really beautiful artwork. My room faces the back and several older buildings that have been renovated. It definitely has a European Vibe to it.

I considered going across the street to the revamped Fox Theatre because Herb Alpert is there in person this evening, but I am tired from driving…..it was all up and downhill…in fact I crossed the Continental Divide at about 10:30 this morning at just under 6400 feet in elevation. 7 1/2 hours to complete 424 miles. Plus, if you give me a desk in front of a window I am happy.

And I love the color of the bathroom……

On the Road to 70 …. Post #5

My home this evening is Livingston, Montana. I have a mountain view…..
Not the best photo, but it is from my window and the day is very overcast. We have had a few spatters of rain since I arrived at 3:30, but very little. My room is very nice and it should be…it is the most expensive one I have this trip. But that is due to the location…..right in the middle of several National Parks. Yellowstone, Custer, Grand Teton, Little Bighorn….. in fact I am pretty sure those are the Grand Tetons in that picture. The best part of this room is that I am on the second floor and I can open my window! I hate hermetically sealed buildings. No Air! 

I traveled 433 miles. I started at 8am and arrived at 3:30. So 7 1/2 hours… but I stopped twice for gas and also made a bit of a detour to the Painted Canyon in Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Really stunning!

The strange things you observe when you drive long stretches…. people in North Dakota and Montana prefer Chevys to all other brands. I would almost bet that one out of every third car or pickup is a Chevy in this neck of the woods. 

Another thing…I an getting used to pumping my own gas…though today I had to be reminded by a fine gentleman to put my gas cap back on. Thank heavens it is attached to the car with a wire. Not so with the old Honda….I swear I left gas caps scattered all over the state of Washington by forgetting them and leaving them on the roof of the car! They are not cheap!!

Anyway, off to Spokane tomorrow….

On the Road to 70 … Post#4

Heading Home today.

The North Dakota sky can be very different. 

I am breaking this trip home into three nights and four days. 500+ mile days are not that comfortable for me. Today was only 356 which allowed me to leave Phil and Janet at 9:30. That made time for a leisurely breakfast. I managed to clock in those miles in less than 6 hours including two stops for gas. I left with an empty tank so I stopped first thing and then again just before I arrived in Dickinson, ND where I am spending the night. I hate to have less than 100miles of gas in the car. Probably just my OCD popping up, but, I hate to worry.

The bulk of the day I drove on what seemed to be a fine line between sunny weather and raining weather. I had a few splatters on the windshield but not enough to even clean off the dead bug goo. Plus the sun did not break through until the last 75 or so miles, so very little AC use! A perfect weather day for driving.

Dickinson took on some of the overflow from the oil fracking fields in NW North Dakota so I am staying in a relatively new motel. It is a Red Roof and I must say, for $71 and change it is a bargain. Nicely appointed plus a mini kitchen.

I have gained back one of the two hours I lost heading out. That doesn’t make up for having to say good-bye to Phil and Janet. It hopefully will only be till December when I have to cross the MX/USA border for a couple days and can meet up with them in Arizona. 

Grand Forks Walking

This is a family visit to Grand Forks, so I am not running around doing a whole bunch of touristy things….not that I ever do. But we have been seeing a bit of the area by taking some short walks.

Janet and Phil live in a very nice neighborhood with a lovely park just around the corner. There is a meandering stream and beautifully kept grounds.

The weather has been exceptional, with sun and some light clouds. You can see the sky reflected in the water.

Another day we went closer to downtown and walked the River Walk along the Red River. This is where the flooding was most severe in 1997. The area has been reclaimed and beautifully landscaped. There is an imposing dike which hopefully will keep the river within its bounds during the Spring thaw.

This is the flood monument showing the water depth during some of the heaviest flood years. I should have used Phil or Janet as a reference point to show the height of monument. You can see a bit of a bench peeking out to the left and that should give you some idea how high the water rose. 

The river looks very calm and friendly this time of year. Unlike during the flood. 

This is a Wiki photo….thank heavens I was not there at the time.

Along the walking path there was a display of “weeds” or maybe more kindly put “wild flowers”. The most unusual to me is burdock….a bane to horse owners after it has dried in the fall and turned into nasty burrs. I am fascinated by the webby threads encasing the burr portion of the flower.

Another day we went to Turtle River State Park. I am always giving Phil a bad time over how “flat” the area is so he wanted to show me some more hilly country. This park is only about 30 minutes by car from his home.

Walking…..a perfect way to enjoy the surroundings…..


On the Road to 70…. Post #3

Did not get on the road until 8:30 this morning.

The reason for that, I’m sure, is because I feel less rushed. I pulled out and immediately stopped for gas and also bought a sandwich. I figured I would wait till I got a 100 or so miles out before I stopped to eat it. I am not much of a morning meal type of person.

Finally, after a little under 100 miles I pulled out of Montana. I have been in Montana for 3 days, granted, not 3 whole days, but it took me that long to cover the state lengthwise. I celebrated by stopping at a rest area for my Breakfast/Lunch sandwich. I failed to grab condiments, so it will be a dry sandwich. And the outside humidity is dry….really dry…. hovering around 20%. I have a spray bottle filled with water in the car and I keep spraying the dashboard and the ceiling. People passing must wonder what that crazy, old lady with the spray bottle is doing. I need the moisture in the air. It takes only about two minutes for a hefty spraying to completely dry up. The landscape is getting ever more level.

Today I have to clock in 527 miles to reach Phil and Janet’s front door. Driving this stretch is quite monotonous. There are few signs of human habitation and fewer towns yet. Passed a couple oil pumpers with accompanying storage tanks. I rather wonder what living in such isolated territory may be like. And I really can’t imagine what the winters may be like either. 

I’m on the home stretch now. But look at how flat it is! Phil says that it is not flat. He says it is gently sloping….. I tried to explain to him that it was the curve of the Earth he was looking at. Honestly, it is hard to stay alert. You also have to watch your gas gauge…. it is obvious that gas stations are few and far between. I pretty much checked the map every morning to see where little cities may fall on my route and plan my gas purchases accordingly.

It took me 8 hours, but I am safe and sound, sitting in Phil and Janet’s beautiful backyard watching the squirrels and bunnies.

On the Road to 70….. Post #2…… Grand Forks Road Trip

Today is hot.

 I knew it would be hot. Weather was reporting at least 100* in Miles City, Montana, where I will end up this afternoon. I got an early start because I really hate to use the AC in my car. I honestly feel it is an extra drag on my engine and gas mileage. Plus, I don’t care for the cold air blowing on me. 

Pulling out of Missoula the landscape was really beautiful. This is where “people of note” have their “Montana Ranches”. Quite a few could be seen from the Interstate. Mostly elaborate homes built on a nice sized piece of property, nothing resembling a working “ranch” like those of my father’s friends back in Alberta, where the animals and the barns were most important and if any time or money was left over the house may see a little improvement. I remember visiting The Backs’ “Ghost River Ranch” in Alberta where in 1954 the potty was still an outhouse.

I really had fun during our stay on the Ranch. Of course it helped that Judy (middle on horse) was close to my age and very savvy when it came to swiping vegetables from the garden. By the way, I’m last on the horse. The one with the cowboy boots. Got those at the Calgary Stampede!

Today, in comparison to Then (1954), the one thing that really impacted me was the Truck Stops. Each one I stopped at during the last two days had at least one 50 foot refrigerated wall displaying hundreds of canned and bottled beverages. It just boggled my mind. Remembering back to that trip across Montana in 1954 with Mom and Dad, it was just as hot as it was today. Mom taught me how to run cool water over my wrists while in the rest rooms to help cool me. Of course the Chevy Bel Aire (1954 blue and white) we were driving did not have AC. When we would stop at a gas station we would hurry to the “cooler”. This was a large insulated tub filled with ice. We would dig around in the ice looking for an Orange Crush for me. That was my favorite. At that time it was not available on the East Coast where we lived in Kenmore, New York. I don’t know if it was for that reason it was my favorite or because it was just good. If you didn’t like Orange Crush, there was Coke, Squirt and sometimes Vernon’s Ginger Ale. That was it. That was 63 years ago and how things have changed. Nothing is very “special” anymore, the way Orange Crush was to me. Simple decisions are rendered impossible in today’s world due to the hundreds of choices there are for one question: “What should I drink?”. How can we make the right choice. No wonder anxiety is so high. And kids almost have to become followers when they have little else to base their decisions on. This is why the advertising industry flourishes.

I ticked off another 487 miles in 8 hours including rest stops. The landscape flattened out and became dryer as I headed East and the wind picked up. 

I pulled into Miles City, Montana, and stopped at the Super 8 Motel I had made reservations for. The temperature did not disappoint the weather forecasters…. it was over 100*. After last night I was very leery about what sort of room awaited me. The gentleman at the desk, whose appearance reminded me of the movie “Deliverence”, did not reassure me much. I was given a room on the first, sub-level floor. Normally I dislike being somewhat underground, but with the weather being so hot, this was a benefit. And….other then having to rehang the drapes because they were half off the rod, the room was actually nice. Mini fridge, microwave, coffee service and a brand new bathroom. All that for $10 less than last night’s jail cell. No way was I going back out into that heat and wind…..I simply had my cheese, crackers, hummas and grapes for my evening meal. I didn’t want to tempt fate and I had had a lovely roast beef sandwich earlier in the day. Plus I was not exactly burning up calories sitting in that car, driving. 

Resting up for the final leg……