Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Final Blog

Monday, 11 July
Well, we're back home in Salem. After the disappointment in Kalispell we decided to do the final what was planned to be two days in one. We had tentatively planned to try to reach the Zirkle family in Richland, Washington. The McIntosh connection to the Zirkles is through Janet Low McIntosh who married Dean Zimmerman, and many of the Ohio McIntoshes are descendants frin that marriage. I did not have a phone number for them, so I rang for information. There can't be a lot of Zirkles in Richland who are not related to Janet Low McIntosh, so I had high hopes of reaching a cousin there. But all I got was a discrete answering machine, and the message I left inviting them to have dinner with us went unanswered. So there was no reason to take a liesurely two days for the last 475 miles.
So we rose early, went through the now pretty familiar routine of eating and preparing the rig for travel and headed for I-90. This time, however, it was to hell with saving gas; this time we would drive a reckless 65 miles per hour! Whoopee!
The drive through eastern Washington is very interesting. Not so much for its beautythough it is, but for its geology. At the end of the last glacial period there was a huge lake in the vicinity of what is now Missoula, Montana, formed behind sheet of glacial ice. When the glaciers retreated they released cataclysmic floods across eastern Washington and through what is now the Columbia Gorge. This it did several times over a period of several thousand of years. In western Washington the repeating  floods scoured much of the soil from the volcanic base and distributed it in braided patterns of soil and rock. Where the plains of the Midwest are cultivated into seemingly seamless crops of corn and beans. In western eastern Washington, however, the farmer is forced to follow the braided patterns these ancient violent floods left behind.
The effect in the Columbia was even more dramatic because the flood water carrying huge boulders which chiseled a narrow channel through the Cascade Mountains between what is now Oregon and Washington.
Valerie and I felt a bit like we were being hurtled by these ancient flood waters as we bounced along, and I thought to myself, “Since most of the photographs I have taken on this trip have been from the cab of our rig, the final blog would be done that way on purpose rather than by necessity as it had been for the rest of the trip. The only shots that were not taken in this manner were the last two: Multnomah Falls and our home. Multnomah Falls, because it was impossible to see while speeding westward on the freeway, and home, because that is where the trip and the blog end. So fasten your seat belts for the final leg of the journey. And keep in mind that a click on a picture will make it larger.

 Scab lands, eastern Washington. Farmer have to work around the rock.

 Here there is no working around the rock; the rock has won.

 It may be flat here, but there no soil.

It is hard to see in this photograph, but there is cultivation beyond the rock.

Here it looks like the Midwest: cultivation without boundaries.

It is easier to build on the scab lands than it is to plow it.

Sage brush survives in the rocks, barely. The farmer has found good soil in between.

Again, no soil to cultivat; it was washed away during the Missoula Floods.

On the other hand, grapes do well on the rocks, especially chardonnay.

So do apples.

This farmer has figured our to work with his land:

Plant where the soil is.

Now we're in Oregon driving east, driving through the gorge.

The hills are dry on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains and, in the summer it can be hot -

on both sides of the Columbia River.

But in the mountains it can be quite cold in the snow. This is Mt. Hood. It is 11,240 and is capped by several glaciers.

The gorge is beautiful, but busy. Here a train is next to I-84.

And windmills augment the power generated by the dams. There are 14 dams on the Columbia; we passed 4 on this trip: McNary, John Day, The Dalles, and Bonneville.

On the west side of the Cascade mountains the moist ocean air promotes heavy forestation. On the down side, it means for a fair amount of rain, mostly in the months from November through May.

Multnomah Falls is one of many along the eastern half of the Columbia.

Vista House on Crown Point provides a spectacular view of the gorge and is part of a highway built in the early 1920s. Parts of it are still drivable.

Thanks to all of you who put us up, or just put up with us. We loved seeing you all, and your love and generosity mean a great deal to us.

And now that you know where we live and how easy it is to get around this wonderful land of ours, we hope you will give us the opportunity to repay you by coming to our home. And as you can tell be this picture, the grass is green here, even in the winter.

Much love to all,
Bruce & Valerie

Monday, July 11, 2011

Blog 18

Saturday, 9 July
From Grandview RV Park we traveled up I-90 north to just below Missoula, MT, and set up our RV in Ekstroms Stage Station in Clinton, MT. It turned out to be a beauty. The setting was in an open pine forest and the principal buildings were reconstructed log buildings. The forest and the buildings gave the place a warm feel even in the high mountain air. 
Another positive aspect was that it had an excellent restaurant with a real cook. The meals were not prepackaged meals which needed only to be warmed up. The meals were prepared and cooked right there. Scrumptious! This was a fortuitous coincidence as it was Valerie's birthday. We skidded the tires and ate in the restauranta nice treat for both of us: I didn't have to cook and she didn't have to eat my cooking.
Sunday, 10 July
This was to have been a very special day and one of the highlights of the trip—especially for me. My brother and I had arranged to have a marker placed on the grave of our father's mother in Kalispell, MT. She died 11 days after our father's birth and was buried without a marker of any kind. I visited the cemetery several years ago and had found the place of her burial. It's a strange feeling standing in the place one knows is where a family member lies buried, especially under such tragic circumstances. The incompleteness of her life gives one pause, and the blankness of the unmarked grave seemed to me something that had to be rectified. One needs something to see, to touch, or to feel to mark the passing and give it meaning.
So you can imagine my profound disappointment when I arrived at her grave and found it still unmarked. Apparently, the marker is still in the process of being manufactured. But I had traveled thousands of miles, and although nothing real had changed, it hurt not to be able to trace my fingers on the letters of her name, much as people do on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Ah, well, that is something that will have to wait for another day.
And, once again, there is so much grandness and beauty in the Flathead Lake area, one can not long dwell on ones hurts.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blog 17

Thursday, 7 July
We left Mitchell and the Corn Palace far behind us, including a lovely thing I tried to lure away. But she was a young thing and could not leave her mother.
There was also a T-Rex involved in the escape, but that's another story.

Crazy Horse from our campsite.

Probably from the first time we crossed the country from Oregon and back, we have stopped at the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills not far from its more famous neighbor, Mt. Rushmore. Mt. Rushmore is justifiably famous but it is dwarfed in size and concept by Crazy Horse, or, at least the conception of what it will come to be when finished many years away. In fact, all four of the faces in Mt. Rushmore will fit in the head of Crazy Horse, the only completed portion of the memorial.
Crazy Horse was started by one person, Korczak Ziolkowski, who had but $174 to his name when he began the work. Korczak worked alone for many years, then his children joined him, and, at the time of his death in 1982, not a single feature could be distinguished. The family has continued his dream, and now, with the face completed and much of the horse's head cleared for carving, the work has accelerated. The work is far from over, however, and, like the cathedrals of Europe, the work may take several generations.
Crazy Horse from US 385
Anyway, Valerie and I are much impressed with the concept and the passion of the work and, in our small way, like to support it. As we have done before, we camped in the Crazy Horse Heritage campground within sight of this work.
Friday, 8 July
In the morning went to the nearby visitor's center, dropped a few coins on the usual stuff and ogled at the amazing collection of Native American artifacts that have been donated, and the amazing photographs of Edward Curtis.

Then it was time to move on and out of this beautiful and inspiring land which the United States, in spite of treatises, stole from the people who considered sacred.
As we moved northward thunder storms began to form in the snow capped peaks. It was beautiful to watch from our safe distance.
Along the way, I was hooked by a billboard advertising Red Ass Rhubarb Wine made by Prairie Berry Winery. I had to stop and try some and ended up buying three bottles and three bottles more of their Crab Apple Wine as well. It's good stuff!
We had taken a bit too much time at the visitors center and the winery and were now late. We decided to call ahead to reserve a site in Hardin, MT. They warned us to watch out for a very strong storm poised to hit them. We had be watching thunderstorms forming in the mountains along side our route and were amazed at their beauty. Their warning reminded us that these storms, while perhaps beautiful, can be quite dangerous, especially in our rig, which is more like a box kite than an RV.
A storm avoided.
We spotted the storm well ahead of us and noted that it appeared to be headed east, perpendicular to our route, and that, at worst, we might hit its tail end. As it turned out we pulled to the side of the road until the winds dropped a bit and then proceeded on without incident.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Blog 16

Tuesday & Wednesday, 5-6 July
Today was a lesson in living with disappointment. We headed out for Cedar County, Iowa, to try to fill in the gaps in Valerie's great-great-granduncle, Isaac Pletcher (for those of you not conversant in genealogical speak, that would be the same as saying the the brother of Valerie's great-great-grandparent). We crossed the Mississippi River which was very full but apparently within its banks and in about 50 minutes were in Tipton at the Cedar County Historical Museum. Fresh in out minds was the memory of the outstanding Pickaway Historical Library in Circleville Ohio. There they had an outstanding collection of original documents, a librarian who knew which documents were the most likely to hold the answers to Valerie's questions, knew right where to find them, and had an assistant who was ready to make copies on excellent high-quality acid-free paper. At the Cedar County Historical, however, the attitude towards the collection seemed to be without focus, probably because there were insufficient funds to hire a trained curator. On the plus side they had constructed a rather nice facility to house the collection, but a collection without personal and sociological significance is little more than a collection of curiosities.
We drove on leaving what might have been known unknown. The contrast with the Windham County Historical Museum in Newfane, Vermont, and the Pickaway County Historical Museum, in Circleville, Ohio, could not have been greater. It was with little glee that we rolled into the Des Moines West KOA. The way west from this point has only a few points of points of personal interest separated by many rather uninteresting miles and no cousins to visit.
But I had forgotten what an amazing country this is! Mile after mile there is always something of interest. Unique, funny, curious, amazing, beautiful, and distaster. The way west may not have much of a plot, but it is a spectacular show. Our dampened spirits were soon lifted and our disappointments were put into their proper perspective.
Millions of acres of cultivated fields.

Agricultural art.

Fields and Flowers

Industry on a personal scale.

This farm is perhaps not so prosperous but may earn a few bucks renting space for the sign!?

Omaha and the swollen Missouri River.

Sand bags shield I-29

Flooding on the right - -

Flooding on the left.

A touch of whimsy

Driving through wind farms

Everywhere wind farms

Valerie & Henny at the the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.