Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Washington Capitol and Olympia

We enjoyed exploring Olympia, the capitol of Washington state. We arrived on a Saturday and had a great chance to tour the Capitol building which is a very impressive structure. The Capitol was completed in 1928 and is in great condition.

This center light fixture (and indeed all the light fixtures) are by Tiffany and are priceless. Further, the dome structure is the fourth largest masonry dome in the world!

Orinda really enjoyed the reception room. This room and the entire capitol, were heavily damaged by an earthquake in 2001. Fortunately, they fully restored it and it is now pristine.

The grounds surrounding the Capitol are equally impressive and offer many monuments and garden areas paying homage to hgihlights in Washington history.

Olympia is located on the south side of Puget Sound and has a wonderful waterfront. Orinda and the wonder dog are at the start of a large boardwalk that surrounds much of the harbor.

We enjoyed walking along the harbor and Rick really liked looking at the many wonderful yachts. Still, he and Cody decided they liked our land yacht better!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fort Clatsop -- Lewis and Clark's Winter Fort

We entered Astoria and were once again amazed at the bridge that crosses the Columbia River. This is the longest continuous truss bridge in the United States and is 200' above the river! It is kind of eerie driving over this one.

TJust south of Astoria is Ft. Clatsop, which was the wonter fort built by Lewis and Clark. Named after the Clatsop Indians, this is a great restoration and shows exactly how they lived some 200 years ago.

The Visitor center has a series of great displays that cover the entire expedition which started in 1803. This sculpture shows Lewis, Clark, an Indian scout and ever faithful dog Seaman (Cody was really happy to learn that).

This recreation is actually the second fort that was built here. A few years ago, the initial recreation burned in a very tragic fire. Fortunately, volunteers began work right away and were able to re-build the fort as seen here.

Volunteers work to recreate the camp experience by wearing period clothes and showing how they lived day to day. Here, a volunteer shows how a flintlock rifle was fired -- look at that smoke!

Orinda shows how the Fort looked from an overview perspective. Lewis and Clark explored this entire area and in the spring of 1806, returned to St. Louis. The end of an incredible trip.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Mouth of the Columbia and Ilwaco, WA

We did some exploring today at the mouth of the Columbia River and checked out the South Jetty where the Columbia flows into the Pacific. The jetty was constructed in the late 1800's and has filled in with sand and added about 1 extra mile of coastline.

The Army Corps of Engineers has built an observation tower here so that you can see the ocean and the river join forces. Even on this calm day, the waves were quite large and pounded on the shore. I would not want to be in a boat on the bar here!

We crossed the large bridge (4.3 miles long!) over the Columbia to Washington and headed for Cape Disappointment. We enjoyed the beautiful ride and stopped at Ilwaco, WA which features a great harbor and a wonderful museum, which we happened upon.

This was another great, community museum and depicted the interesting history of the area. One real surprise was the display on the Sector, a row boat that was rowed across the Pacific Ocean and reached America at Ilwaco. Wow -- think about trying to ROW across the 6,300 miles of the Pacific! Click to learn more of Gerard d’Aboville who did this amazing (solo) transit.

The museum also featured the railroad roots of Ilwaco and featured this remarkable model rail road built by a local resident in the 30's and 40's. Everything on the layout is hand built -- the tracks, wheels, locomotives, etc. This amazing craftsmanship was a delight to look at.

Finally, it was lunch time. And, as luck would have it, Thursday was Oyster Day! You could get all kinds of different oysters at the special price! What a deal. We ended up with a nice variety of fried oysters that were simply great.The restaurant was located right on the harbor, so we ate oysters and watched the boats come in to port. Great!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Columbia Maritime Museum in Astoria, OR

Wow, we had an incredible day in Astoria, OR while visiting the Maritime Museum and surrounding areas. This is a must see if you are anywhere around here. The Columbia River is one of the largest rivers in the world and empties into the Pacific Ocean. As a result, this is one busy shipping/fishing area, but also features some of the most dangerous sea conditions around. Literally thousands of ships have been lost over the years to 50' (or larger) waves, currents and strong winds.

In addition to the shipping, fishing is big here. Salmon are the targeted fish and here, Rick is checking out the 60lb king salmon he would LIKE to catch.

Since this area is so important to shipping, yet so dangerous, the Coast Guard has a large presence. In fact, they average saving over 600 lives a YEAR here! This is also the location for the rigorous Coast Guard Lifeboat school -- as shown in the picture above, this is a real hands-on experience!

The museum has a special room in Coast Guard rescues (they are called out over 400 times a year here) and features this 43' rescue boat. This boat was rolled many times (and pitch-poled once) during its long career. It is self righting and one tough boat!

The Museum also offers a chance to tour the Columbia River lightship shown here. 17 crew would be on this boat anchored 5 miles off the mouth of the river for several weeks at a time. Waves well over 50' made even the most salty sailor sick. This duty is no performed by a solar powered bouy similar to the one seen above.

For living proof of a large shipwreck, all you need to do is go to the Ft. Stevens State Park and see the wreck of the Peter Iredale, which is the bow that I am standing next to above. This wreck occurred in 1906 and the 278' ship ran aground on the beach. This must be the most photographed wreck in the world.

Here is one of the many large ships we saw entering the Columbia. Passing under the Astoria Bridge, you can just see the pilot boat next to it. Crossing the bar into the river is so dangerous that ships must have a special Columbia River Bar Pilot on board to do it. This is such a specialized skill that there are only 15 pilots who are currently licensed. Amazing!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Today, we visited the Tillamook Air Museum which is a very unique and special place. The museum is housed in a 1,100' long hanger that was built in WWII to house several large Navy blimps for coastal defense against Japanese submarines. The amazing thing about the hanger is that it is built of WOOD! In fact, this is the LARGEST wooden structure in the world and stands 192' tall in the center with no center supports. Amazing.

This picture shows the original purpose of the hanger as it houses 8 blimps. Remarkably, there were two of these hangers at this site, however, one burned down in 1982.

Inside is a great museum of aircraft and related artifacts, including this huge engine, a Pratt and Whitney 4360 3,500 hp engine as used in the B-36. Wow, this has 28 cylinders -- imagine having to change the 56 spark plugs on this! It is neat to get up close and personal to these exhibits.

Orinda is not about to let Rick take the lead in investigating the exhibits. Here, she tries on an A-4 cockpit on for size.

The museum offers classic and recent aircraft such as this F-14.

This Grumman Duck was the last biplane used in the Navy and is the last one of these that is flyable in the world, This is a common theme running through this museum is that many of their aircraft are flyable (and they fly often) and are the last flying model that is left. Very cool.

Here is a very rare Bellanca Air Cruiser, again, the last flying example there is. Dating from the early 30's, this classic craft is in great shape and still takes to the skies. Tillamook Air Museum is a great stop to make and well worth a few hours to see history IN history (the wonderful hanger).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

We took a ride on the 3 Capes Scenic drive out of Tillamook today in the hopes of seeing part of this rugged and beautiful coastline. However, there was a very thick mist and fog that made for reduced viewing, so the coastline was not visible. Still, Rick and Cody were not deterred and can be seen here at the entry area to the Cape Meares Lighthouse. The fog was really thick and we could not see more than about 50'.

Driving south, all of a sudden the skies cleared and it was beautiful. This pattern seems common here on the coast with dense fog in one area and clear 1 mile away. We found ourselves in a large dunes area and Cody wanted to check it out.

Cody is out looking for pheasants, but could not find any around here. We did see several ATV riders, though.

Well, back to the drive. We did find a fun surprise in the Whiskey Creek Fish Hatchery, which is run by a dedicated group of volunteers. They grow trout and salmon at this small, but pretty hatchery.

Cody was delighted with the drive to date and is eager to keep going.

Finally, we came around a corner and saw the coast -- clear and open. It is fun to see the coast without condos and other structures around. You can really understand how the beach looked to the first settlers in the area.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

D River -- the Shortest River in the World!

We moved up the coast to Lincoln City, Or. and stayed at the Logan Run RV park. Nice park, but the sites were not too level, but our automatic leveling system made short work of that. We did a bit of exploring in the area and ran across the D River, which Orinda is standing right next to, here.

Oregon must have a thing on the minimum for some natural attractions. First we were at Depoe Bay -- the Wold's Smallest Harbor. Well, Lincoln City is not to be outdone and has the D River -- the shortest river in the world. You can see the ENTIRE river above, all 120' of it! This river empties Devils Lake into the ocean. In fact, if you look closely, you can see a boat just past the bridge.

Rick and Cody were not about to be left out of this. Rick found a great string of muscle shells and as you can see, Cody is very interested in them.

Cody was REALLY interested in all of these seagulls, but we did not let him give chase (that would be all we would need -- a sandy dog in the ocean!). Anyway, D River (yes, that is it's real name), was an interesting stop!

Friday, July 17, 2009

While in Newport, Oregon, we stayed at the Pacific Shores Motorcoach Resort which is a beautiful resort right on the ocean. This resort accepts only motorhomes and was very well maintained. As you can see by our site, above, the RV sites are large and very complete. We even got a free newspaper every morning.

There were some beautiful motorcoaches in the park, as you might expect, but there were all types of motorhomes to peruse. The park is an ownership resort meaning that lots were available for sale, but your could simply rent as well.

We enjoyed walking with Cody each evening around the park and especially, near this nice water feature. Notice Orinda in her Pacific Shores jacket (purchased on sale for $10!) -- it was very cool next to the cold Pacific each day and the jacket felt great.

This is the main entry area, office and store for the park. You can see the mist that often moved in from the ocean. Made for great sleeping!

They also get some powerful winds in the area -- over 100 mph in the winter! This tree is typical of many of the trees in the area -- notice that there are NO branches on the ocean side and that the branches that do grow are airfoil shaped. The wind was not a problem when we were there, but the trees offered powerful testimony to the power of the winds on other times.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An Interesting Lighthouse

While in Crescent City, we had the opportunity to visit the Battery Lighthouse. Actually, we were just tooling around when we saw a sign leading us to it and with the caption "Open at Low Tide Only". This sounded interesting and when we got to the lighthouse, we understood what it meant as you can see.

We had no problem crossing over on dry land and the lighthouse was worth the trip. What a view! This is one of the first lighthouses in Oregon and was opened in the early 1870 period.

You can certainly see what a lighthouse was needed. These huge rocks are all around the entrance to the harbor -- imagine how you would feel trying to enter the harbor at night, in the rain, with large waves breaking around. Not for the faint of heart.

This tree, next to the lighthouse, shows how the winds blow. Apparently, winds regularly hit over 100 mph in the winter! It is interesting to see the trees growing away from the wind and hunkering down.

About this time, a sign in the lighthouse window changed and said CLOSED! We thought that was a shame as we were hoping for a tour. Then we thought for a second and realized the TIDE IS COMING IN!

This is the same area that was high and dry 30 minutes ago, but fortunately there was a slightly raised area that we could use to cross. A few more minutes and we would be wading in some very cold water. Clearly, it was time to go!