Friday, July 31, 2009


First, let me tell you about Dirty Biter. Then, let it be known that La Conner is underrated in my opinion.
Dirty Biter was one of La Conner's great characters who reminded everyone of simpler times. He was kind of a funny looking dog because of a broken jaw suffered when he was a puppy, but he was a great town dog who loved everyone. He never thought a thing about going home with anyone who thought they might need a dog for the night. He had his own bar stool and place on the dance floor at his favorite hangout, the 1890s tavern. He was a real good beggar and his favorite was the tavern's broasted chicken, but he never passed up a good steak or burger. Biter left us one night doing something else he loved, a good old fashioned dog fight. Now, with this memorial, Dirty Biter will live on in the newly named Dirty Biter Park. How fitting that it just happens to be next to the tavern.

What a delightful town to so honor one of their canine citizens with a placque, a park and a statue. Ya gotta love it.
We did. It sits astride the Swinomish Channel. The place is teeming with artists; the shops a paradise of juicy choices. Sculpture gardens accompanied many businesses on First St., which runs next to the water, plus you know the people here have a sense of humor and great heart.
It was overly warm for Washington but my partner agreed to accompany me on the Sculpture Walk, a wonderful idea whereby sculptures are exhibited and a map shows their location on the street. Some were for sale, others not. (Dirty Biter, by Bill Matheson, is a permanent part of the town collection.)
The pictures I've included in my link below include pieces from local businesses since we didn't see them all on the walk. It wasn't the only attraction here, but more on that tomorrow.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


In 1982, the town of Anacortes was looking for a project to make the downtown more appealing. Bill Mitchell, a paraplegic artist offered to paint murals. Thus began a fantastic project that has placed 125 murals on buildings in downtown Anacortes. He now attempts to do 6 per year, so any count will be wrong. If visiting the area, he welcomes folks to his studio to watch him work.
One of his murals is of Rudy Malland the Banjo King, father of Beverly Malland, a good friend of Jim's. We met Bev for lunch and got our mural map out to take pictures of the murals and the garbage cans along Commercial Street. Yes, garbage cans, because they have been cleverly painted to imitate salmon can labels when salmon was king in Anacortes. This is a town of very clever people. Flowers line the streets; fire hydrants are decorated. Everywhere you look is something of interest.
The trouble with this plan, to view all the murals, was the weather. It was soooooo beastly hot for Washington, (100 degrees), that we didn't get to see them all. I call Jim the Weather Wimp. He gets a bit nauseous in hot weather and I should be a bit more charitable. Anyway, I managed to get some photos, but not enough to put a dent in the wonderful displays around town. Below is Bev and Jim in the airconditioned cafe. Smiling.
To see about 20 of Bill Mitchell's famous murals click on the link:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


The W.T. Preston on dry ground.
I'm a Californian. We have rivers? I lived in upper Michigan on the lake. Many rivers flow to the lakes? I never heard of a snagboat.
The snagboat, W.T.Preston was put out of service in 1981 and has a long and colorful history of removing snags from the rivers that pour into Puget Sound. Snags? And, according to one captain, a local might have a cow stuck on a small bar at low tide. The snagboat would lift it off for him. Or, perhaps a tug would have a fish net, or a rope fouling his propeller. The snagboat would lift the tug up an allow the skipper to cut his propeller free. Just a little service to the locals. The crews were paid for 8 hour days, but were on call and worked whenever and wherever needed.
The W.T. Preston is one of only two snagboats left in the U.S. The interpretive center for this amazing boat was so well done, I could hardly wait to get on the boat and look around. I kind of wondered about snags, though.
The pictures below, (pictures of pictures) show the size of some of these snags. The interpretive center has a video showing the snagboat in action. It could pick up a 40 ton snag. The town of Anacortes competed to have the historical boat housed here and I'm so glad they did.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


My friend Paul always says that the only time National News notices people like us (from small towns) is when someone gets arrested for drunk driving his horse, or a guy swallows another guys gold nugget in his beer.
And museums, they are about the past, the people featured in them are, ummm, well dead, they are history, right?
This is the second museum in Washington that deals with living people as well as those who've gone before. Its the Anacortes Museum. What a delightful peak into the local community, such as Bill Wooding who provides limo service to vets on his tank. Or Bill Mitchell who paints 6 murals a year on buildings in Anacortes. (To date, he has 125 of them and going strong.)
I especially loved the story of a young Betty Lowman Carey. She found a boat and her father gave it to her for her 18th birthday when they couldn't find the owner. She decided to row it to Alaska from Anacortes and surprise her father who was in Alaska at the time, and would have forbidden her to try such a thing. She named her boat BiJaBoJi, the first two letters of her brother's names, Bill, Jack, Bob and Jim. Betty rowed 1300 miles up the inside passage to Alaska in 66 days. Her story is in the Museum along with her beloved boat. A book has been written about her feat.
I delighted in meeting May Louise Dopps who made hats. The rim of the hat she is wearing (above) is seven feet in circumfrence. She had a houseful of vintage clothes she collected and loaned to people in the community, once clothing a whole cast for a play.

There was Mike Denopoulous, who became rich as a junk man, and later phillanthropic. He told his kids, live frugally, only one sip of brandy per day and one cigar per week. He also warned them that if they didn't study and work hard they'd end up as garbage men.
There are indepth scrapbooks with biographies of a host of town characters that makes this museum a real find. Berte Olson, the first woman skipper on the sound. A real Tugboat Annie. And scores of others.

I also learned how Anacortes got its name. Originally known as Ship Harbor, Amos Bowman, a businessman, decided it needed a better name and promoted Anne Curtis, after his daughter Anne and his wife's maiden name of Curtis. Eventually, through common useage it became Anacortes. Now you know as well.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Puget Sound, named for Peter Puget, one of Vancouver's Lieutenants, is a quiet place. The tides seep in and out, no powerful waves etch the senses. Shore birds call and the sound is alive but sheltered from its ocean source.
Islands by the hundreds decorate the sound, many with fresh water lakes. Salmon spawning rivers contributed to the natural beauty and sustainance of the many Indian tribes that settled here, and helped lead to American domination of the area in spite of the fact that Vancouver had claimed it for Great Britain. (Wikipedia has a great history of the sound).
Our scenic drive took us to Anacortes where we viewed the inland waterway from various points along the waterfront. We looked down from Cap Sante at the busy harbor of Anacortes. We then drove to Washington Park and Mt. Erie for views of the sound from Fidalgo Island. Fidalgo is unique in that it is an Island which contains a lake with an island in it. We ended the day at the bridge between Fidalgo and Whidby Island.
For a link to more pictures go to:

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Moving to a new location, getting oriented to where the laundry is, the trails, the lodge, and so on. We had pancake breakfast in the lodge, and a Luau dinner at night. Most Thousand Trails Parks have activities for families all summer long which makes them affordable vacation places for young people with kids. A surprising number of grandparents take their grandkids on vacation, as well.
At La Connor, the lodge is spacious, the park offers over 300 sites and the Saturday night entertainment was well done.
During the day, the kids get to make homemade ice cream, various crafts, use the water slide (when staffed), play pool, pickle ball, horseshoes, miniature golf, volley ball, tennis, hot tub, plus enjoy the sand, water and the typical playground with swings, slides and climbing equipment. What's not to like?
There is much to offer for singles, seniors and kids.
We will explore the area of La Connor, Anacortes, Mt. Vernon and Burlington in the coming days.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Just outside of La Connor, Wa. we moved to a resort on the Swinomish Indian Reservation. An early morning walk brought us to the beach on a portion of Puget Sound with this sentinel tree. The eagle stayed its flight for many minutes until we were close enough for a good photo. A lone fisherman tries his luck on the sound.
Here, a sign warns us: This Swinomish Tribal Beach is shared with Thousand Trails members for recreational use. The importance of this beach to traditional Indian food supply limits fishing, crabbing and shellfish gathering to Indian Community Members. Tribal law prohibits removing wood from the beach.
The beauty cannot be regulated, however, and we expect we'll have many beautiful days here.

Friday, July 24, 2009


This Escapee Crossing sign was erected next to the on-ramp closest to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, CA---for about 35 minutes. Just long enough for the jail's commanding officer to have it hastily removed. A bit of humor perpetrated by no-one-knows-who. The sign now hangs in the Alameda County Sheriff's Archives. This deed was done in the 1970's when the old jail facility was bursting at the seams and the department experienced 11 escapes in one month.
This well developed mannequin stands as a signpost to a motorcycle shop in Murphys, CA. Some folks claimed it was offensive and wanted it removed. The human body's natural form is not offensive, claimed cooler heads, and the sign remains.
Rogue Agents Will Cause A Nuclear War In 2012. Call 1-571-288-3633. That is the message on the side of this car in a lot near Dismal Nitch, near Ilwaco, WA. which led me to ponder??? We waited, and watched for awhile, but the driver never did show up. I never called the number. If YOU do, let me know.
Being on the road tends to put you in touch with an unusual number of independent books stores. This one in Marysville, WA was not as cluttered and disorganized as some we've seen, but there was something kind of homey about the place even if you couldn't find anything you were looking for. The surprise here is that you find likeable books you never would have encountered in a well organized book store. (Besides, the owner had a nice cat.)
Be it ever so humble, there is no place like...this church? Its been there for many years, hasn't grown, has a working phone number. Its called The Vitality Christian Church. Maybe it only has two members? Maybe its a tax dodge? Dunno? Its located in Gold Bar, WA.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Goodbye Monroe after 17 days. Bronco repairs delayed us 3 days, but the RV lifestyle accommodates delay. A slower pace, a lovely river, gave me permission to tackle Gary Jennings thousand page, (small print) book, The Journeyer which is historical fiction based on Marco Polo's discoveries, cultures along the silk road; the conquered territories of Genghis Kahn; Tibet, China, India, Persia, Arab cultures and Europe are all accounted for. He delves into the sexual practices of different cultures and tribes; their dress, weapons, transportation, religions, traditions, buildings, animal husbandry, food, medical practices, slavery and cruelty. Man's inhumanity to man never fails to astound me. Jennings goes into detail about torture practices among the various peoples Marco Polo encounters. (Shudder) Its a worthy read despite my revulsion. We then watched Goya's Ghost, which deals with the Inquisition. Again, man's inhumanity to man. The movie is also a compelling historical statement. Whenever we complain about government, it pays to bring to mind how much worse life was in ancient times. (The photo below is from Goya's Ghost.)
On the personal side, I was able to swim freely since my shoulder surgery/therapy, and took advantage of the pool. I so wanted to get on that lazy river, but didn't trust my strength to the current. I even got Jim in the pool.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


From Monroe, Seattle is just 41 miles west. People from the city come to the cascades and the Stevens Pass Ski area for their weekend getaways. But, there is much to see along the way. River rafting, fishing, swimming, camping, hunting and interesting little towns. Above is a photo of the old rusting train bridge west of Index. The Highway is a designated Scenic Drive.

Traveling up Highway 2 toward Stevens Pass, and from the Old Cascade Highway, if you look for them, there are several beautiful falls visible from the roadside. Wallace Falls is a state park with signage pointing the way. It has wonderful hiking trails and beautiful terrain out of Startup. Others, East of Index, including Deception Falls, which is also well marked, are near the road. I suspect that Deception Falls is so named because it falls in layers from way up high, and then another, and another, and another fall adding to its length making it deceptively long. Its a beauty, with good parking.
At Index, a big town grown small, the historical society has an interesting museum run by volunteer docents. Some great pictures and artifacts. In the center of town at a little park stands a huge granite saw blade and we see signs of quarrying in many places. Granite, quarried from Index, can be seen in the steps at the State Capitol in Olympia, the sign claims.

At Skykomish, we spotted this old pick-up with wooden spoke wheels and another oldie last licensed in 1960, according to the plates. We had lunch at the Arcadia Inn. Homemade pies and good food reasonably priced. What a great day trek.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I'm an admitted movie snob and Harry And The Hendersons was reeeely low on my list of movies I might want to see. Jim, however, told me about Harry and pals...excitedly. It seems that near the town of Barrington, which we passed on the way to Stevens Pass, stand these statuesque reminders of the movie location. It was shot in the deep woodsy, riparian area of Washinton just off Highway 2 and we HAD to stop. (I personally think they are quite schlocky.) And, the building used in the movie sits here as Dr. whats-his-name's place, like a mini quonset hut. (Yeah, schlocky.) Guess ya had to see the movie.
That night, Jim insisted we watch the movie on a DVD he conveniently "found" in his storage box.
Now, I'm not going to say it was wonderful, but it was cute, and had some funny moments, and the kids will definitely love it. The kid in the movie, Ernie was his name, was cute and believeable. I at least liked the kid instantly. And, I recalled, while the filming of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, the tv series filmed in Murphys and sourrounding communities, the real star of the show for we locals was the recognizeable background scenes in the series. Soooo I had to cut Jim some slack. I recognize the burble of identification that takes place for who knows what psycological reason..."this is right where they returned Harry to the wild...this is the building where Dr. Wright carried on his research into sasquatch..."
And, well, now I can say I'VE BEEN THERE.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Gold Bar, Sultan, Startup, Index, Skykomish, and Barrington are small towns between Monroe and Stevens Pass over the Cascades on Highway 2. Its a scenic drive with rivers, waterfalls and glades of alders, maples, ferns, and giant evergreens. Our goal was to check out the Iron Goat Trail which guides visitors to the remains of great black walls that once held up the timbered roof of the longest train tunnel in the world, then, at 7.8 miles long, in the 1850s.
The rebuilt tunnel is 581 feet shorter and is the longest tunnel in the U.S. part of Burlington-Northern- Santa Fe.
A more southerly train route through the cascades, with multiple switchbacks, followed the river and brought goods to Washington in the 1800s. A Great Northern Engineer by the name of Stevens decided a more direct route to Seattle would be competitive and timely. He decided he could conquer the winter snow that covered the Cascades by building a tunnel over the worst part of the mountains. An amazing engineering feat for its time, the tunnel clung to the sides of the steep mountain pass. Once in use, new problems had to be solved. The tunnel would accumulate fumes and steam from the engine and foul the air so badly that great fans were installed to clear the fumes. Once a car jumped the track and was dragged through the tunnel where it scraped away electrical wiring and necessary appendages. The portal doors froze shut and the train crashed through the portal on another occasion. But the worst accident happened when the train was holding inside the tunnel for a storm to pass and an avalanche wiped out a section of the tunnel carrying the train down with it into the Tye River. 96 people were killed, still the most deadly avalanche disaster in the U.S.
After that tragedy, a lower tunnel was built that still carries freight by rail today.
Remains of the wall, with wonderful hiking trails to various sections of the old tunnel, (1300 feet in one section), and part of the West Portal are visible from the Iron Goat Trail Interpretive center east of the town of Skykomish.
The picture below shows trees that have grown on the edge of the wall and flopped over, giving a perspective of the height of these walls. This massive concrete wall was four feet thick in one section that we could see.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


This sturdy brick church on Lewis St., the old part of Monroe, resembles a mission and piqued my curiosity. In fact, within two blocks are 4 churches on Lewis St. and none of them have a placard or information about them.
The Monroe Historical So. has the following information about this church built in 1924:

Methodist-Episcopal Church

The Methodist-Episcopal Church
Monroe Historical Society photo #301

Monroe's United Methodist Church, then called the Methodist-Episcopal Church, was the first church in Monroe. Members began by meeting in Austins' barn until 1896 when they completed this handsome, white church and parsonage on South Lewis Street, which was replaced by the present imposing brick church in 1924. At first members were led in worship by circuit riding ministers, who served a number of parishes. For a number of years the ME Church was the only one in Monroe, and it periodically hosted services in Swedish for the Swedish settlers.

The church (above) has old stained glass windows that are quite beautiful. No information on it. The photo that follows appears to be a house made over into a place of worship. While I couldn't find out anything about them, I really like the atmosphere of this town and this particular block seems friendly and somewhat quaint. The number of churches in the area was difficult to determine because several different websites gave different numbers, and there seems to be more interest in multiple listings and Taco Bells than churches.
Many old settlements were strong on drink but here, the ratio of taverns to churches favored the churches. That does say something about the community.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Its hard to convey just how cute these little burrowing owls are. Approximately six inches tall and under, they cavort freely while we admirers watch them. The champ who flew to the top of the post looks as stately as an eagle in the photo, but in reality is just a little guy.
This owl habitat is typical of the Davis area of California, hot, dry, they congregate near crop fields and live on mice and bugs. When a housing project and golf course went in and disrupted them, the developer was required to restore a percentage of their habitat. A walking trail beside the green belt provides a trail side view of the restoration. The pipes, laid under mounds, protect them from hawks where they can quickly scoot to shelter.
It is pleasing to know that society is much more aware of sharing our planet with our feathered and furred companions rather than plowing everything out of existence when we build.
We visited the owl habitat just before heading back to Washington and I'm reminded how dry and hot it is in California and how cool and green it is here. Besides the Skykomish River as our daily back drop, this nearby lush glade soothes the soul. Living in an RV is new to me, and escaping the heat for cooler Washington is one of its pleasures.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


About two miles east of Monroe is a Serpentarium. They have an albino alligator, several albino snakes, beautiful iguanas, lizards, a skink or two, chameleons, and many signs DO NOT TOUCH, I BITE. So many signs about biting drive the message that most reptiles DO bite. The facility houses the 10 most deadly snakes in the world with the black mamba being the deadliest. They have all been devenomized.
This reptile zoo has little of the restlessness typical of mammal zoos. These critters, according to the signs, are less refined. They are quiet, sleep a lot, they are well fed and don't "pace" or seem restless. I actually question that asumption, though. My kids always liked snakes and lizards and over the years we've housed a number of them. They all wanted to escape. I watched the lizard above with the prominent claws and he was definitely trying to get out.
Even so, it is an educational place and worth a visit. Upon request, the help will allow you to handle the snakes.
I liked that the facility is clean as referenced in the picture above with the bucket of detergent. A worker was in the cage cleaning as I went by.
In acquariums, the fins of various big water mammals get soft from misuse. I once saw a giant phython in the wilds of Africa. In fact we ran over it with our range rover and the giant simply flinched as 6000 pounds bounced over it. I did notice that the phythons curled in their cages have very flaccid muscles.
Their coloring is beautiful and if you are afraid of them in the wild, this is an excellent place to appreciate nature's paintbrush.
For a slideshow of 40 photos, click on the link below.