Posts tagged: Washington

Portland and Vancouver

By , August 14, 2010 10:43 am

We spent about a week in Portland, OR.  Actually, we were in Vancouver, WA, but that’s just across the river from Portland.  We met some great people in Vancouver at the nearby congregation. We didn’t originally plan to spend that long here, but a number of coincidences changed our schedule a bit…  More about that later.

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Portland is a pretty cool town.  There’s not much traffic for a city this size, once you’re downtown.  IMG_2683There are a lot of public transport options and a lot of people use bicycles to commute.  It’s a town that’s known for being “green”.  Unfortunately, that means parking for four-wheeled vehicles is a bit of a premium.  Just keep it in mind if you’re visiting.  Be prepared to park somewhere then walk to where you want to go.

IMG_2689We started by doing a guided walking tour, by Portland Walking Tours (I’ll supply a link later when I have a decent connection).  It was interesting and a good way to see the downtown areas.  It was a good introduction and gave us an idea of what we might want to do for the rest of our trip here.  I’d say it’s worth the cost if you don’t mind walking a bit.

At the end of our walking tour, we went back to where our Jeep was parked and had lunch.  The parking lots in the area are surrounded by little food booths of just about every ethnic variety you can imagine.  The food was pretty inexpensive and almost everything was cooked up as you order.  I ended up having something that was kind of Bulgarian, but I forgot what it was called.  It was basically a sausage, but made with some kind of thin dough as the wrapping instead IMG_3683of the usual sausage skin.  The whole thing was wrapped in a spiral, steamed and then grilled.  It could have been a bit spicier, but was good and plenty filling.  Dasy opted for some Thai Drunken Noodles, which were also pretty tasty, but I prefer the thin rice noodle dishes.  A couple next to us ordered a teriyaki chicken and rice bowl which looked and smelled incredible, so we snagged an order of that to go as well.  Our original assessment was correct… it was awesome!

IMG_2721We spent another day at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) and we also did a drive around Washington Park.  Washington Park is sort of a big collection of smaller parks.  It would probably be great for day hiking and/or biking, although it’s a bit hilly.  OMSI is one of the better science-type museums in the area (way better than Seattle), but it also reinforced our belief that we’ve been spoiled by the Smithsonians in Washington DC.  There’s a lot of hands-on stuff for kids, but there were some decent exhibits tucked away that we enjoyed as well.  The temporary Einstein exhibit was kind of cool, but I suspect it’s a bit too “deep” for the average bear and kid just walked right through it because there wasn’t really a lot that they could mess with there.  It made a valiant effort at explaining some of Einstein’s theories and I don’t think there would be many ways to do a better job.

Unfortunately, our plans got tossed out the window after that.  We ordered a couple packages that turned out to take a lot longer to arrive than we expected.  The campground we were at was completely booked, so we ended up having to move to another while awaiting the shipment.  It didn’t help that I caught some kind of nasty stomach bug or something.  I spent three or four days moping and trying to keep some small amount of food in me, while Dasy did her best not to get frustrated with me.  I’m still not completely up to snuff, but at least I can get out and do stuff now.

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Yes, it’s a pickle.

Mount Rainier National Park (continued)

By , August 9, 2010 12:27 pm

IMG_2618For the rest of our time in Mount Rainier, we spent a fair chunk of it at the Grove of the Patriarchs.  The Grove is on an “island” in the middle of the Ohanapecosh River.  You can get there via a nature trail that starts just past the Stephen’s Canyon entrance to the park.  If you hit it on a weekend, expect parking to be a scarce commodity.  We actually went up to the next parking area on the road and walked back a fair distance to get to the trail.

The trail leads through some old cedar next to the river, before crossing a small suspension bridge.  The bridge is only wide enough for one person, so everyone alternated with those on the other side.  I almost waded across the river instead, but the water was cold and I didn’t want to be walking around with sandy or wet feet the rest of the day.  Winking smile

Once you cross the river, you’ll eventually come to a boardwalk that leads around the grove.  Here are some of the oldest of the trees in the area.  Exceptional ones will have small plaques around somewhere describing them.

These are some monstrous trees!  After seeing these and the ones previously at Olympic National Park, I have a real hard time comprehending how big a redwood or sequoia might be. Confused smile

IMG_2612After a pleasant hike around the grove, we headed back to the Jeep so we could check out the Sunrise and White River side of the park.

Be careful of the drive to Sunrise, especially on weekends.  The rangers are pretty diligent about monitoring and penalizing speed limit violations.  I pulled into an overlook to let a motorcycle pass us… he was pulled over getting a ticket about two minutes later.  We spotted plenty of rangers both in and out of the park, so watch your speed everywhere (the park rangers do have jurisdiction outside the park, as they cooperate with the forest rangers in the area too).  There’s not much need to speed through…  as the drive is very scenic and it’s worth taking your time for it.

IMG_2642Once you make it to Sunrise, there is a ranger station, restrooms, backcountry and hiking permits, plus a cafeteria and gift shop.  Expect prices to be fairly unreasonable.  You’re in the middle of nowhere and at their mercy…  I seem to remember that the going rate for a hot dog was $5.  Pack your lunch!

Dasy did a half-hour tour on one of the ranger programs, while I chilled out for a bit and checked out the buildings and stuff.  I just wasn’t in the mood for more walking around today.

The rest of our time was spent in the campground or at Mount Saint Helens.  More about that next time!

 

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Olympic Peninsula – Cape Flattery

By , July 31, 2010 4:28 pm

IMG_2352On our last major outing in the Olympic Peninsula area, we went out to Cape Flattery.  This is supposedly the most northwest point of the continental US.  It’s on the Makah Reservation and requires a reservation pass (available all over the reserve for $10 – good for a year) and fairly decent hike. 

The hike was about a 3/4 mile each way.  But, be prepared for a 300 foot descent on the way to the point, which means a climb on the way back. ;)  The trail is pretty neat, but expect parts of it to be made of split timbers, with steps and stacked logs as well.  Not difficult for most people, but you’re not going to be getting a wheelchair or anything back there.

There are several points on the way out where there are small overlooks onto the coastline.  They’re pretty cool, but the real reward is at the end!  There’s a viewing platform with a spectacular view (when it’s not foggy) of the light house and surrounding coast.  It’s well worth the trip.

After heading back to the Jeep, we drove into the main town on the Makah Indian Reservation and found “the salmon guy”.  We’d heard that there’s a guy who makes great smoked salmon.  Our neighbors at the campground even asked if we could get some for them!  Well, we found the guy, tasted the salmon and promptly bought a couple pounds.  I have to say that I don’t like salmon.  Dasy does, but I don’t much care for it… at all.  But, this smoked salmon was incredible!  Suffice to say, it didn’t last very long. :S

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From here, we headed back to Shelton to spend a couple more days with my sister and her family and then headed out to Mt. Rainier.  More on that next time! 🙂

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Olympic National Park – Hoh Rainforest and Sol Duc Falls

By , July 31, 2010 8:17 am

Our second outing in the Olympic National Park took us to the Hoh Rainforest.  The is on the west side of the Olympic mountains, where the mountains push the wet sea air upwards, causing it to rain much more than anywhere else in the park.  Fortunately, we seemed to hit a good time in the year to avoid the rains and it was a beautiful, sunny day. 

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IMG_2169There aren’t any real scenic views or anything on the way into the park from the Hoh entrance.  The scenery is the forest!  The trees are HUGE and there’s a primeval feel to everything as you drive under that dense canopy.  Most of the ground is covered with water, mud or moss.  Ferns are also quite abundant.  We didn’t spot any dinosaurs, but I suspect there are a few wandering around in there somewhere. 😉

We stopped at the Sitka spruce, which is one of the first of the ‘giant’ trees that you’d encounter in the park.  It’s probably wider than our Jeep is long!  It’s big, old, and a bit gnarly looking.  I think it’s about 500 years old.

IMG_3322But, the real attraction is the visitor center at the end of the road.  Here you’ll find information on the rainforest and a few exhibits on the animals and plants in the area.  There’s also a small gift store, picnic area, restrooms and backcountry hiking permits.  Plus… trails!  There are trails for just about all levels, from 1/4 mile paved “kid friendly” trails, to multiple day hike-through-the-entire-park trials.

IMG_2193We went on the “Hall of Mosses” trail.  It wasn’t too long, but went through some of the old groves that we wanted to see (and we like moss).  The trail is about a mile and is relatively flat, although there are some fairly gentle inclines. The trees here are simply monstrous in size!  My poor attempts at describing them wouldn’t come close to doing them any justice.  There are a few pictures that give an idea of the size, but I’m not a good enough photographer or writer to really get the idea across.

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Our next stop was the Sol Duc entrance so we could see the trail and falls.  We decided to skip on the hot springs, as we’d heard that they’re not really that nice and are kind of commercialized (and we were there on the weekend).  I got the impression that it had been built up enough that it would be a stretch to call it “natural” any more.

IMG_2305I don’t know if the Sol Duc area is technically rainforest, as I think it’s far enough north to get a little shelter from the rains on the west slopes, but it’s still huge and primeval.  The trees are a bit different than the Hoh section and there doesn’t seem to be quite as much underbrush.  The trees at Sol Duc seem to be a brighter green and there were a fair amount of younger trees.  If you come to the area and don’t have time to see both Hoh and Sol Duc, it would be a tough to decide which to skip.  The trail is nicer at Sol Duc, but we only did the one.  There are a lot more trails at Hoh and a lot more species of trees there.  Hoh clearly has older trees, but there’s also a lot of dead stumps there.  Hoh is awesome, but there’s a feeling of “life” in Sol Duc that can’t be ignored.  It’s the kind of place where you wouldn’t be overly surprised to find a triceratops grazing on a patch of ferns just off the trail. 😉

Of course, the other thing that Sol Duc is known for is the falls. As with any decent sized river, there are generally smaller “feeder” streams.  You’ll cross a few of these on the way to the falls.  I always like these little streams because I can go rock-hopping and actually mess around a bit.  Bigger ones like the falls are kind of off-limits to anyone with the slightest bit of sense.

IMG_2316I only managed to get one decent picture of the falls (above), mostly because they spray up a water mist and my camera is afraid to get wet. ;)  There main trail crosses almost directly over the falls using a very stout footbridge (it would probably hold a decent sized truck easily).  This gives a great view right down the “throat” of the little box canyon than the falls have carved.  The amount of moss here (due to the spray) is ridiculous!  You could probably belly-flop on some of the rocks and be more comfortable than on some mattresses.

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Unfortunately, that pretty much finished our time IN Olympic National Park, but we also did a bit of exploring outside the park.  We’ll get into that on the next post!

Olympic National Park – Hurricane Hill

By , July 30, 2010 10:11 pm

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Our first real outing in the Olympic Peninsula area took us to the Hurricane Ridge entrance of Olympic National Park.  Hurricane Ridge has a number of scenic vistas and interesting areas, but the main point for those who don’t mind a bit of a hike is Hurricane Hill.IMG_3163

The hike to Hurricane Hill starts at the very last vehicle-accessible area from the entrance at Port Angeles.  The last section of road is extremely tight and windy.  A small class C RV might be able to make it, but I doubt event a 30-foot class A could manage it.  We parked at the bottom of the trail and proceeded to head upwards.

The trail climbs through fairly arid areas that can be a rather odd mix of snowfields, dry sandy soil, flowers, meadows and windswept trees.  To make it even more odd, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky (no shade) and it was quite hot.  We got pretty well baked on the trail.  Serves us right for not planning.  We didn’t think we’d do the hike, we kind of decided to attempt it at the last minute. :S

IMG_2124The hike is about 1.7 miles each direction and climbs about 700 feet.  The trail is dusty and rocky and was absolutely infested with bees for the entire trip.  A few signs at the entrance to the trail indicated that if we just kept moving when any of the flying critters investigated us, we’d be fine.  I guess they knew what they were talking about, as we didn’t have any issues with them.  Just be warned should you go in the summer.

IMG_3190Other than the sun, heat and bees, we really didn’t have any problems and it was well worth the effort.  The flowers were really surprising considering the terrain and weather conditions.  The views were spectacular and the hike wasn’t that hard until the very last section.  Note: If you are actually a real “hiker”, consider our description to be woefully tainted by the fact that we’re wimps and we don’t really hike.  A real hiker would probably consider this to be a gently sloping tourist trail. :S

At the top of Hurricane Hill, you can see down to Port Angeles and if it’s clear enough, you can see Victoria, BC across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It kind of feels like the top of the world!

IMG_2100The area is pretty much infested with chipmunks!  They’re not at all shy and they will pretty much be running around just about any rock you look at.  They were cute, but not very cooperative for the camera. 😉  Fortunately, that wasn’t the only thing we saw…

IMG_2130One of the things I’d been hoping to see on our trip to this area, but hadn’t really expected to see was a marmot.  We found one running around a meadow just below the peak!  They look like big groundhogs, just furrier. 🙂

We also went to Obstruction Peak, but it was a dusty unpaved road and the end wasn’t that impressive for us.  Half the trail was still covered in snow and we’d already done far more hiking than we’d planned, so we just took a look around and headed back home.

If you’re headed here, there’s a nice visitor center and some nice overlooks just off the main road.  But, if you’re really looking to see the area, expect to put forth some effort to do so.  It’s well worth it, but bring some water, a good hat and sunscreen or a long sleeved shirt. 😉

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It Floats and Barely There

By , July 30, 2010 10:18 am

After Seattle, we decided to make our way to Olympic National Park.  After doing a bit of research, we found that the ferry was probably the cheapest and fastest method of getting our collection of vehicles over.  We hopped on the ferry at Edmunds, after a number of issues.

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First, there were no signs to tell us that we had to disconnect the Jeep from the Dutch Star.  Second, there was no designated space to do so after getting through the entry booth.  We pulled over, blocked a lane for a bit and got everything unhooked.  IMG_2076Dasy took the Jeep and I drove the Star.  Dasy loaded up first, while I sat there for a bit and was then directed to take up two spots and straddle the lane to park.  Dasy unloaded first and ended up in front of me.  Unfortunately, she didn’t know where we were going and there was no where convenient to reconnect.  So, she drove for about a half an hour with occasional horn honks and lots of turn signal warnings from me behind her. 😉IMG_2069

The icing on the cake, however, was there were at least four other RVs on the ferry.  One was larger than us, directed to take a single lane and did not disconnect his toad.  There was another smaller class C, also with a toad that was connected (“toad” is the nickname given to a towed vehicle by RVers).  So, we ended up with a lot of confusion and a lot of extra hassle and work because the ferry system is inconsistent on what to do with RVers.  Ah well, it was still cheaper and faster than driving all the way around the sound (about $75 for both vehicles).

The ride was fine, but the view wasn’t great from my perspective. IMG_2073 I did get out a couple times and take a look around, but it was kinda gray and there wasn’t a whole lot of decent pictures to get on the trip.  But, it did get us over to the Olympic peninsula pretty quickly and easily, so it’s all good.

Now for the other part of our headline for this article… “Barely There”.

We’re currently just outside of Mount Rainier National Park.  It’s pleasant and will give us the opportunity to see Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens, but we have no wifi.  We also have no cellular data connection.  That means we’re essentially without any kind of connectivity for a few days.  The nearest coffee shop with Internet is about 15 miles from us (which is where we are right now). So, we’ll not be regularly replying to emails, text messages, comments on the blog or anything else for about four days.  The bright side is that I can work on the blog posts for Olympic National Park offline, then upload them when I get to town.  So, you might be seeing three or four posts roll in on one day (but probably not today).

That covers us for now… we’re off to see Mt. Rainier, then we’ll start batching up blog posts on Olympic tonight. 

Seattle Meanderings

By , July 28, 2010 8:55 am

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In total, we spent about a week in Seattle.  The weather was just about perfect and we found lots to do (hence the lack of updates).

IMG_1884We went back into the city a couple of times and somehow managed to end up at Piroshky Piroshky again. Winking smile  Dasy had a smoked salmon piroshky, which was shaped like a fish (and still quite tasty).  Speaking of fish, we also went to the Seattle aquarium.  The aquarium had some nice exhibits and a cool “touching pool”, where you could touch starfish, urchins and anemones.  It was pretty neat, but I didn’t get many decent pictures.  Shooting through glass and moving reflective water doesn’t work so well without some filters that I don’t have right now. 

We also went to the Space Needle, the science center and the sci-fi museum.  All of this was paid for with a City Pass.  City Pass is a collection of tickets to various shows and attractions, all at one price for a “book”, which is good for nine days.  Most of the tickets are good for one entry to the attraction, but some are good for multiple…  The Space Needle allowed for two visits in 24 hours, so you could see the view during day and night (we only did night). IMG_1828 The City Pass isn’t a bad value if you plan on hitting multiple attractions.

Another area we visited a couple of times was the International District.  Imagine a “Chinatown”, but instead of being just Chinese shops, it’s a little bit of everything.  Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Mongolian, etc.  We even found a Cambodian noodle shop!  Unfortunately, it was closed on Monday, which is when we were there. Sad smile We ended up having noodles somewhere else (I think it was a kind of Asian fusion place… a little mishmash of everything).

IMG_3145Seattle is kind of a big melting pot.  There are a lot of nationalities represented by both the inhabitants and the visitors.  We spent a fair amount of time with a group of Cambodian friends from one of the congregations in the area.  We had a lot of fun, met a bunch of new friends and it gave Dasy a bit of an insight into how easy (or hard) it would be for her to relearn Cambodian (she speaks just fine, but would need to learn reading and writing again).  Mostly, we just had fun hanging out with them. Winking smile

I’m not going to take a lot of time going into each of the museums and what there is, but I’ll give you a few general opinions that I think Dasy and I agree on.IMG_3110

First, we’re probably spoiled by living in Washington, DC for so long.  All of the museums and attractions we went to were “nice”, but none were great and we probably would have been a little miffed at all of them if we’d paid the regular admission prices.  The aquarium was small and overcrowded, the science center was almost completely geared towards children, etc.  Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t hate any of them and we’re glad we went to each of them. But, we’re used to the Smithsonians in DC.  Those are museums!  We should spend more time in them when we go back to DC.

There were a couple of exceptions though…  One of the items in the City Pass is for Argosy Cruises, which offer a number of sightseeing tours around the sound.  It was very interesting to see Seattle from the water and the announcer did a good job of explaining everything.  It was just a pleasant cruise and a good break after walking around the city all day.

IMG_2035The other one that we really liked was the Science Fiction museum.  It’s a little on the small side and there’s nothing “interactive”, but if you’re a sci-fi buff and in the area, you need to go.  They have a ton of cool stuff on display and most of it is pretty well known, even by those who aren’t really into sci-fi movies and books.  They have about four full outfits from Blade Runner, a bunch of stuff from all the Star Wars and Star Treks (including the original captain’s chair), a Terminator robot, Buck Rodgers robots… I could go on and on!  They have some cool “classic” stuff too…  Like Logan’s Run and even Metropolis!  Ok, I’ll stop now. Winking smile 

Oh, if you plan to take pictures at the Sci-Fi museum, bring a compact tripod, a fast lens and a circular polarizing filter.  Everything is behind glass, poorly lit for photography and no flashes are allowed!  I managed to get a few decent pics, but I wish I’d known the conditions earlier.

Speaking of pictures, I have way too many to stuff into one blog post.  So, I made a short slide show of the highlights.  It’s probably about 30 pictures or so, but if you’ve been following us so far, you’ll probably enjoy it. Winking smile  Just click here for the slideshow whenever you’re ready and it should open in it’s own window (hit the little play button if you don’t want to click them manually).

Note: We’re currently in Shelton, WA and will be heading to Mount Rainier tomorrow.  We’re about a week behind on the blog and will be filling in some posts about Port Angeles and Olympic National Park over the next few days.

Pike Place Market

By , July 20, 2010 3:40 pm

One of the places we’d been told to see by pretty much everyone was Pike Place Market.

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IMG_3091We drove into Seattle and got parking on a very steep street, as we haven’t quite figured out public transport yet.  It seems that they have a very nice light rail system here, but it doesn’t do us much good if we can’t park at a station.  I’m sure there’s something we’re missing, but I haven’t been able to figure out what.

The market was crowded and it’s hard to move.IMG_1754  I don’t like being around crowds of people and my leg was bothering me (I fell off the slackline the other day and landed badly).  In spite of that, it was interesting and the great food made up for the crowds!  We sampled a few items as we walked around, like cherries and strawberries from the fruit stand.  Generally, the fruit and food was excellent, but more costly than we’re used to in a grocery store.  I normally don’t mind paying a bit extra for freshness, but we don’t have room to store much and it’s hot enough in the RV in the afternoon to make fruit spoil pretty quickly.

Dasy had some clam strips from a little Korean store.  They were pretty good and didn’t cost that much either.  IMG_1760We saw the original Starbucks store, but declined fighting the lines of people.  Starbucks always tastes burnt or “oily” to me anyway, so I didn’t mind. Smile  We then went up to Piroshky Piroshky and ordered a cheese piroshky…  And a beef and cheese piroshky… and a sauerkraut and cabbage (with fennel seed)… and a blueberry cream.  They were awesome!  Smile

Note: Now that I’ve just thought about that, I want to go back… NOW! Confused smile

We went to a park across the street to eat our piles of piroshky and relax for a bit before heading back.  It gave us a nice view of the sound and the city. 

We were planning on wandering around and seeing a bit more of Seattle, but we settled for full bellies and a little bit of driving instead. Winking smile

 

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Seattle

By , July 19, 2010 10:30 pm

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Hello everyone…  Just wanted to post a real quick update to let you all know that we’re currently in Seattle, WA.  We’ll be here for a few more days, then we’re headed south again.  We’ll post up a full entry of our exploits tomorrow!

Slackers? Maybe…

By , July 15, 2010 12:12 pm

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We’ve been in with my sister, Wendy, and her family in Shelton, WA for quite a while.  She has a small farm with a number of critters…  horses, llamas, alpacas, geese, dogs, cats, etc.  I’ve been helping out a bit with some farm work (like loading hay bales) and Dasy has been doing some of the cooking.  We’ve also been watching the niece and nephews when needed.

While hanging out with the family one night, Jim and Wendy showed us some videos of people on a slackline.  Jim showed me a clip of how someone set up carabineers to make a primitive block and tackle and we started talking about how much equipment it would take to set up a slackline.  I mentioned that it wasn’t really necessary, as I already had just about everything needed, since that’s pretty much the same stuff I use to pull stuck vehicles out when off-roading.  One thing lead to another and we soon had an impromptu slackline in the front yard. Winking smile

For those who don’t want to go read the link above, slacklines are like tightropes, but generally are made out of web straps (kind of like a seatbelt) and are supposed to be a bit loose (“slack”) so that they flex when weight is on them.  This allows some people to do some really interesting tricks on them.  It’s kind of fun and turns out to be pretty good exercise too.  We might do this periodically, depending on where we camp and what the room is like.  I probably need something a little less “beefy” than my tow strap though… it has almost NO stretch.  Right now, that’s a good thing.  We set it up very tight, as that’s easier for newbie “slackers”. Smile

From here, we’re off to Seattle for a week or so.  After that, we’re kind of undecided.  We want to see Mount Rainier National Park and we may come back and visit Olympic National Park as well.  We’ll work it out on the way.

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Still Here!

By , June 30, 2010 9:21 am

Just wanted to do a quick post to let everyone know I’m still here!

IMG_1613 “Here” is currently Shelton, WA.  I’m spending some time visiting my sister and her family while Dasy is in Virginia.  I haven’t had much time to see the sites, so there’s not much going on here other than just spending time with family, catching up on a backlog of work, and trying to get some mechanical gremlins out of my little Yamaha TW-200 (the valves don’t seem to want to adjust correctly).  I’m catching up on getting mail and packages caught up to me while I’m parked for a bit. 

Hopefully I’ll make it out to Mount Rainier and/or Olympic National Parks in the next week or two.

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