Thursday, June 21, 2012

I talked about my search for the ultimate fish taco in my travel blog.  Well I never found what I was looking for.  But it turns out the best fish taco is the one you make at home.

I prepared tilapia fillets by rolling them lightly in flour, then dipping them in an egg mixture and finally covering them generously with Panko bread crumbs.  I fried them in a light canola oil before adding to crisp corn taco shells on a bed of Romaine lettuce.  I added salsa and shredded cabbage.  I also made a spicy guacamole dip from scratch.  Of course a meal like this must include a yummy Jose Cuervo grapefruit tangerine Margarita!  The perfect meal.  My toughest critic, my daughter Emily gave it a two thumbs up. Also, I'd like to give credit to Emily for professionally salting the rim of my Margarita glass.

So perhaps I'm not quite done with my blog after all.  Whether it's travel, camping, hiking, cooking or whatever, I may just have more to say.  Until my next post...Happy Trails!   

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 7th was my final night of camping.  I had new campsite neighbors.  All in RVs and apparently speaking in foreign languages.  Not particularly friendly.  So once again a lonely night.

I kinda wish the snorer stayed another night as the critter activity was a bit too close to my tent again.  Damn I wish that hoot owl would hurry up and eat whatever that is that's nibbling near my front door.

Not much sleep again but at least the temperature was comfortable and it wasn't raining. 

Total miles driven so far:  6,150

On 6/8 I packed up my gear and headed south out of Yellowstone NP and almost immediately into the Grand Teton National Park.  This is a very small park with some pretty dramatic mountain scenery.  Along the way I crossed the Continental Divide (again).

I stopped at several locations in the Grand Teton park to check out the mountains.  What views!
I was still in bear country and still hoping to see some bears.  But this is all I saw.

So now the long drive home.  My route through WY put me on a dirt/gravel road for a while at elevations over 9,000 ft.  Slow going.
Then through the desert again with an overnight stay in Cheyenne.  On 6/9 I made it to St. Joseph, MO.  Along the way I drove through Iowa...for about 10 minutes.  Yep, just a piece of that state.  

Wish I had a little more time in St. Joseph.  There was a Stetson outlet store near my hotel.  After all, you can't come home from the Wild West without a cowboy (or cowgirl) hat.  Alas it was Sunday and the store was closed.

The drive home from St. Joseph was long and monotonous.  Thanks to construction, traffic and that locust plague in Illinois it took 12 hours!
The photo doesn't do it justice but the front of my car was covered with an assortment of dead bugs.

It's good to be home!  Total miles driven:  7,907   And totally worth it.

Hope you enjoyed my blog.  I'd love to hear your comments. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

In my last blog I began describing my trip to Yellowstone National Park.  My first night in the park was probably my most challenging.  My campsite was at 8000 ft. altitude and there was still a little snow on the ground.  Overnight it became very windy, temperatures dropped into the 20's and it started raining.  That rain soon turned into freezing rain and sleet.  That alone would have been enough to keep me up all night worrying if my tent would hold up let alone trying to stay warm.  But when something big bumped into my tent at 3 AM the weather was the least of my worries.  I wasn't about to go outside to see what it was or if it was coming back.  I sat perfectly still holding my "bear spray" at the ready.  I could hear things moving about nearby but nothing tried to get inside my tent.

It certainly wasn't any of my campsite neighbors.  They were all nicely tucked away in their big ass RVs.  I was the only one in a tent.  What a very long night.  By dawn the rain had stopped and I decided to look outside.  My tent's rain fly was a frozen shell that I cracked like an egg to get out.


What a miserable night.  But my tent kept me dry and the 4 layers of clothing plus two sleeping bags (one inside the other) kept me plenty warm.

The weather improved and the sun came out.  The night was just a vague memory.  It turned out to be a beautiful albeit chilly day.

I explored the southern and eastern sections of the park today (6/6).  The drive around Loop road takes you up to about 8100 ft altitude where you can get a panoramic view of Yellowstone Lake and the mountains beyond.  A number of us stopped to take pictures.

While we were all just standing around a black bear nonchalantly walked past us and then disappeared into the forest.  It happened so quickly and unexpectedly none of us got a picture.  But I finally saw a bear. 

I almost forgot to mention that I visited Old Faithful.  The geyser erupts every 92 minutes, I later learned.  I had meandered around the park before walking over to Old Faithful but apparently timed it perfectly.  A big crowd had gathered and had been waiting patiently.  I just walked up to the line of people pulled out my camera and camcorder and started filming just as the geyser erupted.  Good thing I had both cameras.  Turns out I left the lens cap on the camcorder.  Amateur mistake.

 Later that day I returned to my campsite and was greeted by our campgrounds caretaker.  He wanted us campers to be sure to lock up all food and food prep items because of bears in the area.  He then informed me that all sorts of critters pass through my campsite at night on their way to their food sources and water on the other side of the campgrounds.  He said bears are known to prowl all night long if they haven't found enough food during the day.  Great!  Just what I wanted to hear.

The good news was that I had a new neighbor.  A couple in a tent.  Finally someone to chat with.

Overnight the temperatures dropped into the lower 20s but at least it wasn't windy or raining.  I thought I might be bothered by critters mulling about outside my tent but I think the very loud snoring from my tent neighbor scared everything away.  Believe it or not that snoring provided me an opportunity to have a very restful night.  Didn't even mind the cold.  Too bad they were only staying one night.

The next day I explored the northeast and northern portions of the park.  There are a lot of meadow areas inhabited by deer, elk and of course bison.  The bison reminded me of the very funny YouTube clip of the honey badger.  Just like the honey badger...bison don't care.  They do whatever they want.  Including jumping out in front of cars and blocking the roadways.

If you're a bison with an itchy head you find a nice sturdy park sign to use as a scratching post.  Bison don't care!



Saturday, June 9, 2012


On 5/31 I made my way to the Seattle area where I checked into a hotel and immediately jumped in the shower.  As you recall I quickly packed up my camping gear in the rain at Mt. Rainier and had gone without a shower for a few days.  But I guess that's what makes it CAMPING!  So after I cleaned up I retrieved my tent from its muddy sack and attempted to shake off the debris and dry it out in my hotel room.  My gear was hopelessly soggy and my apologies to hotel staff that had to clean up pine needles and mud I left behind.

The reason for my stop in Seattle was primarily to visit my nephew Chad and his wife Renae who live in the vicinity.  So great to see them.  We went to dinner at a local upscale trendy restaurant called Pomegranate.  I ordered the fish tacos as I am still in search of the ultimate fish taco.

Sure looked good.  But the chef did something horrible to the fish.  It was heavily marinated with way too much salt and mesquite.  This is not how you prepare the fish in a fish taco.  The fish should be prepared with batter and mild seasonings.  Then you spice up the toppings.  I also think it should be in a soft & slightly warm flour tortilla or a crunchy taco shell.  This taco was inedible but at least the shoestring french fries were delicious. Fortunately Chad and Renae had decent entrees.

On 6/1 I made my way to Vancouver, BC.  It's a relatively short drive from Seattle and of course you must stop at the border where you are greeted by Canadian immigration.


My immigration officer asked an awful lot of questions about firearms and ammunition of which I had none.  Then decided my vehicle needed to be searched.  So I was waved off to the "search area" and was asked to wait inside the building.  If you recall my car is packed with camping gear.  I did leave behind a few items with Chad and Renae hoping to avoid any problems at the border.  Oh well.  But apparently I passed the inspection.  Of course the inspectors did not put things back the way they were so I had to repack my car when I arrived at my Vancouver hotel.

My hotel was in the Asian area of Vancouver but not in a particularly nice area.  I only ventured out in my vehicle as it did not feel safe to walk around the neighborhood. I drove around downtown on a Friday afternoon during rush hour.  Probably not a good time since it took forever to get just a few blocks.  The downtown area is very hip with lots of high rise housing and plenty of shopping including grocery stores.  No doubt this is why it makes sense to live downtown.

I took a drive through Stanley Park which is like a little island in the downtown area.  It is surrounded by the harbor, some beaches and plenty of yachts.  

 In Stanley Park there is a colorful Totem Pole Display.

I was completely surprised to see palm trees in Vancouver.  I'm pretty sure they're real but I don't know how they survive the winter. 
I stopped at the Expo Center downtown where there is a giant Costco Store.  I stocked up on water and bought some fresh fruit.  This turned out not to be a good idea.  The next day when I returned to the US I was once again searched.  I did declare the fresh fruit I bought at Costco but apparently forgot to mention a lone orange floating around the bottom of my cooler.  The US agriculture inspector informed me that I was subject to a $300 fine for each undeclared produce item.  Fortunately for me she was in a generous mood and decided to give me just a warning.  My fresh fruit was confiscated of course.  So weird because the fresh fruit were "products of the US" according to their labels.  Oh well...lesson learned.

On 6/2 I made my way to Spokane, WA for the night.  The drive through central and eastern WA is desert like with high plains of rye grass.  Eventually you get to farming areas where there are endless fields of alfalfa, beans, peas, corn and potatoes.  But no apple orchards.  Where are those famous Washington apples grown?

The next day I drove to the west entrance of Glacier National Park in northwestern MT.  I fully intended to cut through the park to get to my campsite at St. Mary's lake on the east side of the park.  The ranger informed me that the road is still closed due to snow.  Hmmm.  That snow thing again.  So I drove 80 miles around the southern border of the park to get to my campsite.  Along the way I drove on Rt. 49 that is on the southeast side of the park.  This road is a single lane partially paved uneven winding road up the side of a  mountain.  There are steep drop offs and people frequently stop on narrow "turn outs" to take pictures.  The problem?  The speed limit is 70 mph!!!!!   But the views are spectacular.
I anticipated that this campsite would be my most challenging and potentially dangerous.  Glacier NP has the highest US population of grizzly bears.  There are also plenty of black bears and mountain lions of course.  The ranger informed me that bears were nearby and I saw signs of recent bear activity in close proximity to my campgrounds.  But again the views from my campsite were spectacular and worth the risk.
 Miles driven so far:  5,488.

After setting up my tent I met some of my camping neighbors.  It turns out that there were 5 women traveling in RVs across country together.  They belong to an organization just for women who RV:  They communicate via the Internet to plan meeting up at various campsites around the country and beyond.  Each had their own RV of course.  Happily for me they did not shun me for "tenting".  They welcomed me into their clan and we had a lovely evening sitting around a campfire.

Meet the ladies & their dogs:  Tina from OH with her dogs Stuart Little, Herschel & Remi; Mitch from TN with her dog Abby; Nan from FL with her dogs Bear & Spring; Nancy (Birdie) from TX; and Liz from FL (not pictured). 

I hope I got every one's name right and their dogs right.

What a great bunch of people.  Sadly they were leaving the next day.  They had already been in the park for several days and were now heading to Alaska.  

On 6/4 I drove out to the Many Glacier area of the park in search of wildlife.  I spotted a snowshoe rabbit but couldn't get a photo.  Too quick.  Then I spotted a moose with her calf playing in the lake.  They disappeared quickly into the forest.  So this was my only clear shot of them.  Still very cool.

I saw plenty of signs of recent bear activity but alas didn't see any bears.

I then went into town and had lunch at The Park Cafe.  I ordered the fish tacos, of course.

Now we're getting closer to my ideal fish taco.  The fish was salmon!  It was lightly battered and set around the outside of the corn tortilla.  The tortilla was a little soggy from sitting in the salsa but the seasoning was mild and tasty.  Best one yet but I'm still searching for the ultimate.

While I was having lunch two men entered the restaurant apparently looking for someone.  At first I thought they were part of a western singing group because they were wearing identical clothing.  Plaid shirts tucked into black pants with suspenders.  They had matching cowboy hats.  Then I heard them talk.  They had the distinctive accent I've heard from our Ohio Amish people.  I believe I just saw the Montana version of Amish folk.

After lunch I drove on Going to the Sun road.  It was only open as far as Jackson Point because of snow.  This is the most famous drive through the park.  The scenery is amazing.

That night it rained and once again I packed up a soggy tent. Darn, my tent had finally dried out from the last rain.  And no bears visited me in the middle of the night.  I haven't seen one yet.

I headed for Yellowstone National Park on 6/5.  The drive takes you through central MT to the northwestern border of WY.  Along the way you crisscross portions of the Lewis and Clark Trail.  There's plenty of landmarks and statutes along the way including the image of Sacajawea holding an infant.

I entered Yellowstone through the north entrance. 
 No sooner do you enter the park than you see animals just hanging out along the roadway. 

I thought, wow this should be easy.  The animals come to you so you don't have to go out on the trails looking for them.  Not sure why they all seem to face right.  Perhaps that's their good side.

I drove from the north entrance along the park loop on the western side of the park past Mammoth Hot Springs where people have to walk on a boardwalk to keep from stepping into boiling mud.  Some people apparently fall or walk into the boiling stuff every year because it seemed like a good idea at the time. 

I made my way past several areas of hot springs, boiling mud and the strong odor of sulfur in the air.  Finally arrived at my campsite at Canyon Village.  Altitude 8000 ft.  It's the highest altitude at which I've camped so far.  The air is so crisp and clean; the sky is the bluest at higher altitudes.  Picture perfect.

Whew!  I'm exhausted from typing.  I'm going to take a break here.  Don't worry, I promise I'll finish my story.  Check back in a day or two for the rest of my Yellowstone adventure and beyond. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

After a quiet and very lonely night at my campsite I headed back into Mt. Rainier NP to explore and see what I could see....Oh did I mention that my campsite was primitive?  No flush toilets, running water or showers.  Good thing I'm only here two nights.

Anyway, back at the park I encountered a very lovely doe grazing in a lower meadow.
And finally I found the very creature I sought.  The giant banana slug.  Actually I found several.  None were the lovely yellow color I had anticipated but all were equally slimy.  I did not fear the giant slug for I knew I could outrun the beast.

Ya just can't get enough of these adorable critters!

And here's my shameless plug for a Columbus area outdoor sporting goods store.

I drove out toward the Ohanapecosh area of the park.  Back up the mountain again but this time there was even more snow than on Paradise Rd.

WANTED:  Serious hikers for ridiculously difficult hiking adventure.  With a little luck we might find you sometime later this summer when the snow melts.

Back in town I stopped at the Wildberry Restaurant where I dined on "Sherpa" fare.  I tried the Kukhura Ko Masu.  It had lentil soup, curry chicken, toasted bread and some very spicy pickle-like vegetables (lower right).  The meal was tasty but very over priced.
My perfect weather streak came to an end sometime during my last night of camping at Mt. Rainier.  By dawn it was a steady rain and a large puddle was forming just outside my "front" door.  I quickly packed up my very wet and now muddy gear and headed to Seattle.  No time for breakfast this morning.  All I wanted to do was get to my hotel and take a long, hot shower.

Mileage since leaving Columbus:  4400.

Next up:  Seattle and Vancouver, BC.