Olympic National Park, Washington

August 12, 2008

I made it across the border to the states with no problems.  There were border police both sides, but they didn’t “swipe” my passport [in a computer] and just asked a few questions.  Ya!

While I was waiting for the ferry to come in to board, I was in my car reading about things to do in WA when a different border police guy came up and started asking me why I bought a Jetta and how do I like it.  We had an unusually long conversation about my car.  I couldn’t figure out if:
* he’s just “making time” with me
* he truly is trying to figure out if he wants to buy one or not
* he is asking me what appears to be innocent questions, but secretly is gauging my responses.

The ferry ride was 18 miles, which took 1.75 hours.

So…I was back to the land of cherry dip for my dairy queen ice cream cones [and $1 less expensive for a small].  Back to the land where when you pump gas, you can lock in the handle to fill your car up, instead of standing there holding it.  And as we all know…cheaper gas.

Olympic National Park is right here, so I thought I would check that out.  I decided to travel 2/3 of the loop around it, traveling going west route and ending up in Olympia.

First off, apparently Mt Olympia is here.  However, nowhere on my AAA map does it show Mt Olympia.  Nowhere in any of my info materials does it mention Mt Olympia.  As I drove the one road around the circumference of the Park, there are no signs stating “this way to Mt Olympia”.  So, I’m not sure what the deal is.

The ferry docks in Port Angeles, which is an ok little town.  I decided not to spend the nite, but to keep going and do some hiking.

First stop is Elwha.  I hiked to the pretty waterfall.  Deer were everywhere.  Huge trees with moss all over them with the light from the sun setting sprinkling in.  One can hear the various waterfalls and streams the entire way.  Came across a really cool dam, with the lake water a pretty blue color.

I started driving up a path that probably would have been a fantastic view, but it was rocks/stones and 1.5 cars wide, twisty with blind turns every 40’ – 50’ with a drop off over one side.  I realized I was NOT enjoying the drive, so decided to turn around.  However, how do I do that?  Sheesh.

It gets dark around 8.30!

They have an odometer check here!  Just when I mention it a couple weeks ago in Canada, I found one here.

I then went to Crescent Lake and hiked around and spent the nite.

In the morning I got a very early start to the day. I hiked to a waterfall near Crescent Lake, and kept seeing these ?? 6” olive green snail like things, but without the shell.  Crescent Lake is really pretty.

I had a much needed bfast at the Hungry Bear Café, near Forks.  I like the name.  I should have known the size of the bfast by the name…it was huge.  There was a sign/xerox in the place with the names of the kids from the area who are in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I went to the farmers market, and again, there was that sign.  The town of Forks is around 3,200.  They claim the “area” is 5,000 people.  They have 36 kids who are in Iraq and Afghanistan!  Unbelievable.  They said that “that’s where our young boys go when they leave here”.

I certainly don’t want to get into a war discussion with the locals here, but I did want to know what their view of the war was…since this affects the whole town so greatly [the main woman I was talking to – her son just got back home from his second tour].  I can understand reasons that they would be either for or against the war.  They were FOR the war: “we’d rather have us over there, than to have terrorists over here”.

They have coffee kiosks [in parking lots] here.  I got my Ice Rage…exceptionally tasty!

I then hiked thru a rainforest and the moss growing all over the VERY tall trees.  Went to Ruby Beach with the monoliths in the ocean and driftwood on the beach.  And as you know, checked out the huge cedar and spruce trees.

It was pretty much dark, rainy and 58’ along the coast.  NO ONE was on any beach that I stopped at [besides tourists for a few minutes] except one fisherman.

They have a bunch of signs stating the years when trees were planted and then harvested.  50 – 65 yrs between planting and harvesting…”next harvest 2036”…

Saw only 3 cyclists on the road.

Along this loop, there is really nothing besides nature.  Here and there are trailers/trailer parks and small run down houses.  Be sure to have all you need before you arrive here.  Also, and this is a MUST, have your accommodations booked in advance.

I didn’t know if I wanted to spend the nite in Aberdeen or Olympia.  I had thought Aberdeen – cuz I like the name, and besides as I mentioned the other day, I was expecting Olympia to be dumpy.  However, I went with Olympia and made the right choice.  Aberdeen is the dumpy town. I need to add it to my “small” town worst list.  It’s a real undesirable looking logging town, with 90% of the houses that look exactly alike [one story, square, front door in the middle and windows on each side, with an additional foyer ?? built to enclose the front door].

I’ve read that Kurt Cobain was from Aberdeen, and couldn’t wait to leave town. I now understand why.

For some reason, Aberdeen makes USA Today’s weather map.  Wonder why.  East of Aberdeen is really pretty.  Farmland with 2 nuke plants.

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Victoria, British Columbia

August 11, 2008

Last nite I explored some areas not near the harbor, which I think is too touristy except for the Parliament Building [with pretty white lights on the edges], the marina, and the block long, ivy covered, fancy Empress Hotel [lit up with changing colored lights at nite].

Victoria has grown on me.  I really like the totem poles they have here.

Today I’m going to check out the Legislative Building, Butchart Gardens, and if I can pass US Customs/Border Patrol…will be on a ferry later today to Port Angeles, which is on a San Juan Island off Washington [and next to Olympic National Park].

MUST do’s re Vancouver Island:
* must drive to Long Beach/Tofino
* must book your accommodations [camping/room] in advance [in August].  Do NOT wing it…it is either impossible, or nearly impossible to get a room/camping spot…anywhere.

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Port Arthur, Texas

May 30, 2008


I am leaving Houston and will be making my way to Baltimore.  I plan on exploring Louisiana and Mississippi on the way.  My only constraint is that I need to be in Baltimore by June 11th, so I can fly out of BWI on June 12th to go to my niece’s wedding celebration.


I started off later than expected yesterday, and planned on spending the nite in Port Arthur, home of Janis Joplin.  With apologies to anyone with family and friends in Port Arthur, but ahhh, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  You know how there is a section of town that you don’t want to stop in?  Well, the whole town seemed like that.  


Pretty much, the downtown area is abandoned, except for gov’t buildings, which seemed new or newly refurbished.  It was 5.30 and not a car in sight. I could have stopped in the middle of the street and left my car to look around.


They have received money somehow since there seems to be a new performing arts center, a new multi purpose building, and as I mentioned above, the gov’t/city buildings look new.


I needed directions and decided on a certain gas station to ask.  Inside there was an older woman, younger woman and an older man scratching off Lotto tickets.  I asked how to get to 82 and there was a conference amongst them and the younger woman started rattling off directions a mile a minute…talking so fast and with an accent, I couldn’t understand a word she said except Valero this and Valero that.  And then there was more discussion between them cuz they decided that I would get lost that way.  I did manage to understand and they actually got me where I needed to go.  I am going along hiway 82 which hugs the coast/Gulf of Mexico.


Port Arthur goes on my worst cities list, right next to Manchester, NH.


So….being in the oil and gas business, especially production offshore [Gulf of Mexico], I have heard for years of various places where the gas/oil hit the beach.  So, I drove along this 2 lane road near the coast and went by places like Johnson’s Bayou, Sabine Pass, Holly Beach… and saw all these plants, compressor stations…that I have heard of for years.  I had a nerdy blast!


It seemed the only people on this road was myself and guys in big white trucks [going to/from work].  There are just 2 lanes coming up out of the bayou/water.  There is NOTHING along this highway.  Nothing, besides oil/gas infrastructure.  No gas stations, no bait and tackle, no 7/11’s, no grocery stores…nothing.  Now and again there would be housing, which means it was either trailers/trailer park or these really expensive, huge houses built up on 15’+ stilts.  Johnson’s Bayou had a school, and a health clinic.  That’s it.  Nothing was at Holly Beach.  I was so glad that I stopped to get gas before Port Arthur, cuz without a doubt, I would have run out of gas.  I drove for 2 hours in this area, which they call Cameron.  I would have kept thinking there has got to be a gas station sooner or later.  Yes…in Lake Charles!  I didn’t see anyone on any of the beaches, no one anywhere [except the white trucks].  Pretty much deserted.


The area smelled like how a new shower curtain smells.


In the middle of all these plants/refineries….is a pelican sanctuary.


At times I thought it was raining, but it was really just bugs splatting on my windshield.  


I saw a sign that mentioned “ferry”, I turned the bend…and the road stops.  So, the ferry took me over to Cameron.  The ferry lady told me…duh…that hurricane Rita took out everything.  That is why there are no stores/businesses.  She said it was pretty dumpy before Rita, so it was nice that Rita came and wiped everything out, but now they are rebuilding with expensive homes…which is quite the opposite of what was there before…so the whole feel of the place is slowly changing.


I then headed to Lake Charles to spend the nite. It was much later than I had planned…I checked into a hotel and it was 9.30 and I hadn’t eaten dinner yet.

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