A Whale of a Tale

The title this time refers mostly to the sheer size of this post. It was a busy month, with most of the action crammed into a single week. But, I promise, whales will also make an appearance!

Our annual summer trek to Orcas Island took us again to West Beach Resort. We’ve been coming to WBR on and off (mostly on) since 1994. We just haven’t found anything else in the Pacific Northwest that compares for adult relaxation, kid fun, water access, rustic but comfortable accommodations, proximity to tons of things to do, and a great summer cool-off near the ocean. So, back we go year after year.

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Campfires, Family, and the best sunsets in the San Juans keep us coming back

In all our years of enjoying this magical spot, we have never (read: zero times) seen Orcas off the beach. But this year we were relaxing in the rustic Adirondack chairs along the beach and I noticed the Victoria Clipper coming around the point at the end of the bay. Odd, I think, since the usual route for this Seattle to Victoria BC boat is far to the west. But then I realize that they also claim you can whale watch on your transit, and at the same time I see a few other whale-watching boats following along. Where there are whale-watching boats, there must be whales. And there they were! It’s difficult to get a good photo from so far out. Even at our distance, it was pretty stunning. The cry of “Whales!” got everybody out of their cabins. What a great place.

Orca Sighting

Some details may be exaggerated to aid in illustration

Fast friends

One of the great things about West Beach is that it’s really hard to get a reservation. Why, you say, is this so great? When you rent a cabin for the week, you get an automatic first-right-of-refusal to reserve the same cabin for the same week next year. As a result, the same families come back year after year, sometimes (like us) for decades. We have friends from WBR that date back to the 90’s, and have watched their kids grow up, and even a few of their grandkids show up too. Our kids and grandkids have made friendships there that get renewed every summer, and last seemingly forever. This year was no different, and this motley crew can look forward to many future summers together. Great, right?

The Best Boat Ever

Anyone who has ever owned a boat will tell you, the best boat ever belongs to somebody else. We recently sold our boat to make room for a travel trailer, which we are using much more than we ever did the boat. But that left us with a hole in the water that was unfilled at the West Beach Resort dock. Not willing to sacrifice all the fun things a boat can deliver, we gladly accepted my sister’s offer of their newly acquired Parker outboard, Doogie (see the earlier blog How’s Your Doogie). It was perfect for our group, with plenty of room for our island hopping. This year we hopped to Jones Island (a nearly annual deal), and again to Suchia Island, which has Fox Bay, a totally cool spot at low tide, and the fossil cliffs, with real fossils. It also has some great beach glass hunting.

We usually travel to West Beach Resort in 2 “shifts”. Wendy and I take the earlier departure so we can pick up the boat and do some shopping for groceries, check into one of the cabins, and just generally get set for the arrival of the grandkids. This year, we felt the trip got off to a super start when we ended up in the front row of the ferry, on the bottom level, assuring us to be the first off the ferry. This might not sound too astounding to those of you who haven’t yet traveled a summer schedule San Juan Islands ferry, but not having to wait behind all of that ferry traffic on the 2 lane road on Orcas is pretty nice! Every ferry has a No. 1 end and a No. 2 end, and I was strangely relieved to see that we were NOT in No. 2!

A Fistful of Firsts

This year our trip included a first: grandson Dylan, from Los Angeles and just recently turned 9, came along. It was quite a treat for us; we’ve been trying for a couple of years to get him to come. Getting here was no easy feat. His Mom and Dad accompanied him up from his home in LA, combining the flight with a few days of family visit with family in Seattle. “Launch Day”, departure for the ferry that would take us to The Rock, as Orcas is known to the locals, was Saturday July 21. There is, at least, a majority of enthusiasm as the three youngest settle into the rear seat of Aunt Rachel’s SUV. And thank God we have a ton of space in the pickup. It takes a lot of toys and stuff to make the best of our week!

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This trip also included a fistful of firsts for Dylan. From these, the reader can also get a good idea of the variety of fun things to do we find for our week in the sun.

This was Dylan’s first week away from home and his parents, kind of like a giant sleep-away camp. His older brother, Brandon, has been going to sleep-away camp for years, but Dylan, 6 years younger, hasn’t yet started. So this was a good opportunity for him to develop some camp skills.

It was also his first time driving a boat, something he thoroughly enjoyed, and took to quite naturally. Not just the driving, but the handling at dockside, and the general activities of a good Deckhand.

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It was his first time to the top of Mount Constitution, the highest point in the San Juan Islands. The view from there is literally breathtaking. A stone lookout “fortress” was built in the 1940’s as a way to put locals to work, and to preserve a piece of wonder for future generations. There is a small vendor in the parking lot, Sugar on Top, which dispenses Lopez Island Ice Cream, our favorite, out of a vintage Airstream trailer.

Fishing rod: $39; hot dog bait: $.04; trip to Orcas where the fishing pier is: $5,600; catching your first fish: Priceless!

Dylan immediately picked up the skills of setting and retrieving a crab pot. Although it was another first for him, he quickly assumed the job of Deck Boss, running a crew of younger enthusiasts in the “fetching of the pots” that would bring us a bunch of fresh crab for dinner.

In a stroke of great coincidence, the family in the cabin between our two hails from Los Angeles. Their son, Ethan, is 10, just about Dylan’s age. He plays the same sports, and lives just a short distance away. They immediately bonded, and it turns out they have continued their friendship at home. Ethan’s folks, Ira and Tamara, offered to chaperone Dylan up next year! What a great place.

Birdwatching up Close and Personal

We rent 2 beachfront cabins at WBR, and upon check in we discovered that a family of swallows had nested up above the front door of one, with 3 teeny chicks poking their heads up every time Mom or Dad came flying in with more food. Swallow chicks know not to “foul the nest”, so they hang their butts over the side of the mud nest to poop. This put the front door squarely on target, so we fashioned a redneck poop deflector out of a Jimmy Dean sausage carton. Resort management offered to replace it with something a little more architecturally pleasing.

We did a little research and discovered that once the chicks fledge (get their feathers), they are out of the nest in about 7 days. These chicks were covered with feathers when we arrived, and we believe that at least one of them, whom we nicknamed Bubba because of his prodigious size difference, had gone before we did.

Our first Wildlife Rescue

On the last day, with time for using the boat running out, a camp neighbor informs me that a Harbor Seal pup has taken up residence on the rear of the boat. This is pretty normal for mother seals to park a new pup somewhere safe while she goes fishing for a couple of hours. She will regularly return to nurse the pup, and either leave it there while going out to fish again, or relocate it somewhere else if it doesn’t look quiet and safe. We took a peek, and being unable to determine if the pup was sleeping or sick, we had the reception desk call a local wildlife rescue service, Sea Docs, to come and have a look. It’s not necessarily legal, or smart, or kind to just boot a baby seal off of your boat, but we needed to get the boat back to my brother in law, Jeff, who had loaned it to us, so the pup had to go somewhere. The rescue team arrived quickly, and produced quite a spectacle for the resort guests as the biologist and her aides tended to the pup, a 10 day old female which turned out to be just napping. She got a full inspection, had her measurements taken, was “tagged” with a small triangular block of wood with her number, B9, on it, used for reporting her whereabouts back to Sea Docs if she is seen. They then relocated her down the beach where it was much quieter, and her mom could easily find her. The rescue team were very nice, allowing the kids watching to come up a couple at a time to discuss the pup before she was taken away.

Speaking of firsts, Grandma Wendy and Dylan both stood up on a paddle board for their first solo! Dylan is shown here piloting one of the boards during the Great Paddle Board Water Wars on Cascade Lake. And Grandma Wendy made the big voyage “around the point” to Beach Haven up the coast.

Toward the end of the week, we have traditionally had a giant water balloon fight, and this trip was no exception. Hundreds of water grenades were deployed, completely filling a small inflatable pool.

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There is a family of Bald Eagles that nests just north of West Beach. The patriarch, Walter, made his usual early morning visit down to say hi as I sat in my morning Adirondack chair with my coffee, binoculars, and camera. While I was still in the shade, Walter was full-sun-on at the top of his tree just over my shoulder.

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Friends, Family, Fun, Firsts, where do we even start to describe it all. You have to see it to believe it.

And, of course, we never leave Tippy behind!

West Beach Resort

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How’s Your Doogie?

Okay, I understand. You don’t get it. The title, that is. It’s a poor play on the title of an old TV serial named after a genius prepubescent doctor, Doogie Howser (played by a very young Neil Patrick Harris). Some of you may remember Doogie, but if you don’t, Google does. Thanks to iMDB for the stock photo.

Doogie Howser

But this blog ain’t about the doc. It’s about The Boat. Brother-in-law Jeff’s boat. He lives in San Diego part time, and on Orcas Island part time. He already has a small power boat, fondly referred to in our family as “The Stripper” for reasons we won’t discuss here, but he caught another case of Boat Fever and got a hankering for a larger boat more suitable to his needs. His shopping led to a Craigslist posting for a 25 foot Parker outboard located in Tacoma Washington, but he was in San Diego at the time. Being boat people (and in his mind therefore experts), we offered to pop down on our day off and take a look and some photos for him. That quick look turned into a flight up and back for him, another “pop on down” to Tacoma for me, a purchase, and The Adventure. All of which happened in the space of 2 weeks.

The boat is a real peach. Nice lines, very spacious with a 9 foot beam (width for all you landlubbers), a super sturdy shrimp pot puller, and a trolling motor with autopilot! We like it a lot, enough to offer up our services to transport it up to Orcas. We didn’t truly appreciate at the time that being 9 feet wide is a real big difference from being 8’6” wide, like our old boat. It’s a big difference to both the Washington Department of Transportation (highways) and the Washington State Ferry System.

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The 9′ beam planted an ear worm into my brain, “Fat Bottom Girls” by Queen

I’m going to interrupt and make a connection to that TV series, because it has an impact on the end of The Adventure. For reasons unknown, the first owner named the boat “Doogie”, after the good doctor. The next 2 owners sincerely wanted to change it, but they weren’t able to shake the moniker fast enough to ditch it. The name not only stuck to the boat, it immediately stuck to whoever owned it. Horrified by the potential of this happening to him, before Jeff even made plans to relocate the boat to Orcas, he was making plans to rename it. This wasn’t helped by me gleefully telling virtually everyone I know (including total strangers and this blog) about the name, hoping it would gain stickiness to the point where he couldn’t shed it. I’m that way.

Back to the adventure, aka The Plan, to relocate Doogie to the new home port, Orcas Island. The total transit covers 119 miles of highway from the Tacoma Narrows Marina to the boat launch at Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes. And 18 more miles by sea.

Transit Map

119 miles over land, 18 miles over sea, to The New Home Port in West Sound Marina

The Original Plan was to motor the boat up Puget Sound, past Seattle, through Deception Pass, and across Rosario Strait to the San Juans. This starts to become an all-day ride, and a big bill at the gas pump. And a return trip to fetch the trailer. So we scaled back to a towing option. That plan, initially pretty simple, evolved rapidly, influenced heavily by that 6” difference in beam. At 8’6” wide, this boat on a trailer would cost $350 for a ferry ride to Orcas. But at 9’0” wide, the fare doubles to $700 as an over-wide load. And it isn’t even legal to tow a 9’ wide trailer on Washington highways without an Oversize/Overweight Load Permit.

WA Oversize Permit

The New Plan took form, and was executed over the weekend of July 7-9. The trailer had a heavy duty hitch with electric brakes, all compatible with my truck. The purchase was complete, an Oversize permit was issued, a WIDE LOAD banner was acquired, all that was needed was a “grab and go”, involving a drive to Tacoma, a quick hitch, and the drive to Anacortes. We overcame the massive ferry cost by opting to launch the wide part of the load, Doogie, on the mainland at the Cap Sante Marina launch, and motoring the 18 miles over to the new slip in West Sound Marina.

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The Plan gains a multiple personality disorder when Doogie is separated from the trailer

That left the narrow part of the load, the trailer, back on the mainland, so we ginned up a plan to return in Mary’s red Jeep to retrieve the trailer and ferry it back to Orcas. This plan worked like a charm! Wendy and I took an afternoon ferry back from Orcas to Anacortes in the Jeep, swapped the trailer from the truck, and put the whole rig right back in line for the next ferry to Orcas. Jeff walked onto the next ferry from Orcas, and walked off it in Anacortes just in time to get in the driver’s seat of the Jeep and drive it back onto the ferry. A big bonus: the towed rig was now narrower and much shorter than the original load, so the ferry bill dropped to just a little over $200. Win Win Win! We saved an easy $500. Our plan worked so well, he was easily able to find it. You can too! It’s the red jeep in the picture.

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During all of this, the discussion continued on about shedding the name Doogie for something better (sorry Neil). Mary and Jeff had a large group scheduled to visit their compound on the Island, so they decided a contest was in order. The list of about 30 folks received an email detailing the rules: the contest would run until August 6; only one entry per contestant; each entry must be accompanied by the logic or story behind the suggested name; the fabulous prize would be announced along with the winner after the conclusion of the contest; duplicate entry winners would be decided by a Mudd wrestling contest (with the choice of which Mudd would wrestle the contestants to be decided by the Contest Committee, which, in the interest being unbiased and totally transparent, will remain Confidential).

I’m going to enter, of course. And I’m going to let you all in on my entry, which is really a dual entry. Remember Jeff’s old boat, The Stripper? It doesn’t yet have a formal name. To remedy this, I’m going to reach back to other early days of TV for my suggestion. Some of you must remember Gilligan’s Island. If you don’t, Google does. This TV sitcom cleverly projected a simple, powerful message across too many episodes to count: Be Rich. No matter the circumstances, no matter the dilemma, the Millionaire (played by Jim Backus) always came out on top. This message found its way into my young, pliable mind, and remains to this day.

Gilligan's Island

There were two young costars, the naïve girl-next-door Mary Ann (played by Dawn Wells), and the movie starlet Ginger (Tina Louise). They lent just enough sexiness to the show to spawn a now decades old debate that rages to this day: Which do you prefer, Ginger or Mary Ann?

Ginger or MaryAnn

Dawn Wells as Mary Ann (left), and Tina Louise as Ginger. Hubba hubba.

Well, Jeff no longer has to choose. He can have both! I propose to re-christen the new boat Mary Anne, and the other Ginger. I added the final “e” because his wife, my sister, is aptly named Mary Anne, and it seems like a good opportunity to gain a bonus point or two. Also to the point: he claims to have purchased the boat for her birthday. But I say, Phooey! Let’s put it right out front. Which do you prefer?

As always, Tippy chimes in:

Ginger Guy

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The Forest in the City

As boaters, and even before as frequent Orcas Island visitors, we have been in and around the city of Anacortes countless times. Best known (to us at least) as the ferry launch-off point to the San Juan Islands, it was much less known (to us at least) as a superb spot to view those same San Juan’s from above. Right smack dab in the middle of this cool little town are 2800 acres that contain 2 mountains surrounded by beautiful forests full of lakes, meadows, wetlands, 50 miles of multi-use trails, and serenity. This oasis, the Anacortes Community Forest Lands, was originally acquired by the city of Anacortes as part of the purchase of The Washington Power, Light and Water Company in 1919. The city logged the land for about 65 years until it was no longer productive, and it was converted to protected recreational land in the early 1990’s. It is now nicely monitored and maintained by the Skagit Land Trust.

This gem caught our attention way past the time that we would be able to grab a State Park camping site reservation, so we opted to stay at the privately held Pioneer Trails RV Park, just south of Anacortes. What a great park! We found it clean, spacious, and stuffed to the gills with Canadians, most of whom have a very long weekend because of their Independence Day, celebrated this year on Monday July 2. Our site had a beautiful garden in it.

Forested CampgroundVery well maintained

We wondered why we see so many of our neighbors from the north in our local campgrounds, especially since the US Dollar to Canadian exchange rate isn’t very favorable to them. Their answer: there really aren’t any campgrounds around Vancouver, which has grown right up to the Cascades, forcing most campers to cross the mountains to find decent camping. So they head south! Faster and easier, and with the shorter commute and price of Canadian camping, cheaper. Plus, they get to make a Canadian tax-free Costco run on the way home.

Pioneer Trails sports many amenities, and we highly recommend it for families. There is a small Nature Trail, just right for wee ones, a Playground, horseshoes, basketball, nice clean bath houses, and what’s camping without a cheery fire in the evening?

We came specifically to hike up Sugarloaf Mountain. Although Mt. Erie, its neighbor, is higher by over 200’, all the trail blogs I read said the view from atop Sugarloaf was far better. While Erie’s summit is drivable, Sugarloaf requires hiking a little over a mile up a pretty steep incline, rising a little over 500 ft. in that distance. Think walking a mile up a staircase and you get the picture. In the picture below, a horizontal line from my viewfinder would hit Wendy right in the waist. It’s hard to appreciate from the photo.

Steep trail

We think the view is worth the trip. We did make the drive to the top of Erie, but all the view areas were looking through trees at the landscape. And it was crowded, and parking lots, and cars, and motorcycles. Sugarloaf is more work, but with a bigger reward.

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We saw one hiker with a wee passenger being treated to a piggyback.

Tiny rider

One advantage to a hike in a forest which just happens to also be in downtown, ice cream for lunch! And it was even our favorite, Lopez Island! And, to boot, the rare Strawberry flavor! All in all, a pretty good trip! I couldn’t resist parking next to another Dodge pickup that was easily 60 years senior to mine.

Tippy, of course, has his own opinion.

Right Under your Nose

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DIY – Roll Out Cargo Trays

Every time we set up the trailer at a camp site, I realize that I haven’t yet installed roll-out trays in the storage area. I’m reminded when everything I seem to need is behind everything else in the pass-through storage compartment. It’s a roomy space, but much deeper than it is wide.

Bare Pass Through Storage

Not my rig, but a very similar pass through storage

If we owned a high-dollar motor home, the kind with a “basement” like the luggage storage on a Greyhound Bus, we would already have roll-out cargo trays, because they all come with them.

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Roll Out Cargo Tray in a motor home Basement (still not my rig, yet)

I priced out some ready-made options; there are plenty available online. None of them really fit my need, most being either too wide, too narrow, or too shallow, and all very expensive. I’m pretty handy with cabinetry, and I have the tools, so I made the decision to fabricate my own kit, a 2 sided option (one tray on each side port and starboard), rather than a full depth slider that can slide out either side. The hardware for the full slider was pretty expensive, or something I would have to create myself, so I went for a more “off the shelf” approach and selected some deep 36” full extension rails from Hettich Manufacturing and available on Amazon. They have a 500 lb. capacity, which is a little steep for my needs, but the next lower choice was 150 lbs, which I thought too lightweight.

I designed the trays to be as full width as possible, 24”, and 4” tall to keep the lumber at nominal sizes. I opted for a melamine covered particle board panel as the bottom of the tray, giving it a finished look without having to paint. I used Home Depot hemlock 1X4’s for the framework of the trays, and also the racks designed to hold the trays. Building a rack to hold the trays gave me the option of installing the kits as a unit, and not having to crawl into the space to fabricate up a bunch of support.

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The trays are 44” deep, extending deeper than the slider hardware, but with the extra 8” easily reached when the tray was fully extended. I dadoed the bottoms into the side frames, and mitered the corners of the side frames to give it a finished look. I decided not to paint, just leave the woodwork natural. It was all glued together, with 1 ¼” staples in all the joints, which were then clamped until the glue had fully set. The fab and assembly was pretty straightforward, with the most care taken to make sure everything was square and tight.

Once the trays and the mounting racks were assembled, I calculated where the hardware would mount on both the tray and the rack to make sure the sliders and trays would clear the hatch opening when extended. I laid it out directly on the rack using the dimensions of the slider hardware provided by Hettich, and everything worked smooth as butter.

Mounting of the racks into the storage area was via ¼”x1 ½” lag screws through the cross members on the bottom of the racks directly into the plywood floor of the storage, with a little touch of glue on the threads to help convince them to say put. Large fender washers under the lag screws ensure they won’t pull through. The slider hardware, being heavy duty and intended for metal tool cabinets, doesn’t come apart like a standard kitchen cabinet drawer slider, so the mounting cross-members and holes had to be planned out so that they tray could be fully extended, the rack held in position, and Wendy could slither into the space from the other side to crank in the lag screws. Thank God she’s still thin and sexy! For the second side, we actually had to hoist her into the first installed tray to get the job done.

The result is excellent! All the stuff I used to have to unload how just slides out of the way to get at anything. A project that would have run nearly $1400 with purchased kits was done for about $350. We had a chance to test it last weekend, and it was well worth the effort.

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An ODD TRIP

We are planners. List makers. Double checkers. I have a 3 ring binder to keep track of all the camping trip details. Be Prepared is our motto (we may have borrowed it). But every once in a while we have an ODD TRIP. One where the trip starts out OK, we’re prepared, we pack well, the trailer is all supplied, we leave on time, everything good-to-go.

Your first clue that it’s going to be an ODD TRIP is when some bizarre thing happens out of the blue. This trip started well enough; our grandson Brandon came up from LA for a rare visit, and we had decided to treat him to a camp-out in the new trailer. We made reservations near Ocean City, on the southwest coast of Washington, because Brandon is a big fan of seafood, and they have plenty of it there. We also felt like a little beach camping (map inset courtesy of Google Maps).

Map

Brandon arrived at the airport as planned, we had a nice dinner with a bunch of other family, as planned, and we all got a good night’s sleep, as planned. The next morning we even got the trailer ready to go in record time, as planned, and got on the road right on schedule. After an uneventful drive of a couple of hours, we made a pit stop for gas. Wendy and Brandon decided it would be a great opportunity to pop into the trailer to get us a snack. We were only 5 miles from the campground, but low on gas and not wanting to take a chance.

ODD Thing #1: I pulled the rig into a gas pump lane at the Gull Gas ‘N Market outside Hoquiam and hopped out to fill ‘er up. I’m in the habit of pulling the keys out of the ignition so the ding-ding-ding doesn’t drive me crazy and tossing them onto the center console. I did so this time, but also closed the driver’s door, not as usual. ODD (bear with me). At the same time, Wendy and Brandon jumped out the right side of the truck to jump in the trailer for a second, also slamming their doors. Clunk, the truck locks itself. For no reason. ODD.

Inside the cab of the truck are the keys, Wendy’s purse, and both of our cell phones. The truck and trailer are completely blocking the center gas lane. Ooops.

We realize all of this a few seconds later when Wendy and Brandon can’t get back in, and she asks me to “pop the door, please”. Only there isn’t going to be any “popping the door”, not from me anyway. My keys are in the center console, clearly visible through the rolled-up window, mocking my inability to reach the 15 inches it would take to get them. We can’t figure out how or why the truck has locked itself, but we do catch a bit of luck when I realize I at least have my wallet in my pocket with our AAA card in it, and Brandon, being a typical teenager, has his cell phone semi-permanently attached to his texting/gaming fingers. While I’m finishing gassing up the truck, and explaining to the nice Chinese lady (English is clearly not her first language) inside the store what has happened, Wendy gets in touch with AAA who cheerfully explains that they have “red flagged” the service call because we are blocking traffic, and it will be “no more than 60 minutes” for the tow truck to arrive, and “probably much, much sooner”.

We’re in the middle of nowhere, AAA-wise, and a little skeptical of her forecast, so we make the best of it and fully deploy the slides on the trailer, make lunch, and I even catch a quick 30 minute nap on the sofa. We get a few visits from the locals offering us suggestions on how to get back in the truck. One guy even offers his “break in” toolkit in the trunk of his car. Why it’s there, I can’t possibly know. If it was so he could break into his own car after locking himself out, wouldn’t he then have to break into his own trunk first? I didn’t have to ask because just then the tow truck arrived, and in 2 minutes the door is open. Odd, but not a calamity. Just ODD. As an aside, I decided to buy one of those “break in” kits (thanks Amazon!), and it’s going to stay in the bed of my truck, accessible and ready if I ever do this again. I wasn’t too terribly thrilled to find out from Mr. Tow Truck Man that my Ram Pickup was one of the easiest trucks to break into. The alarm didn’t even go off when the door opened. Phooey on my last Ram pickup.

Phooey Ram

ODD Thing #2: Buoyed by our victory over stupidity and oddity, we happily continued on our way, with my phone plugged into the truck’s USB port and WAZE giving us the needed GPS guidance. Because my phone is plugged directly into the entertainment system, which is off, WAZE isn’t talking, only showing our route. So a few minutes later, of course, I miss the turn into the nice, wide street that takes us right to the campground, and I also miss, for a few minutes, WAZE’s frantic attempts to get us to turn around. I finally glance down and notice that WAZE, not realizing we are about 60’ long and towing something, is directing me to turn into someone’s very narrow driveway. ODD. I mistakenly assume that WAZE thinks this is the direction to the campground, but intuitively know that it can’t be right. So a lively discussion breaks out on why our navigation has mis-directed us (not knowing that it hasn’t), and a long drive in the wrong direction takes us to a spot where we can finally turn around. All this time we haven’t had any cell phone service, so we have been flying in the dark with respect to where we are and where we need to go. Heading back south, finally, gets us back into cell service, and that finally connects us to good navigation, which directs us to our campground, something we passed way more than 40 minutes ago. Odd, not a calamity. Just ODD. Another aside: I am going to send a tip to WAZE, Google Maps, and Apple about their navigation systems. They will let me select whether I am in a car, on foot, using public transit, even riding Uber for my navigation instructions. So how about letting me indicate that I’m dragging an 8,000 pound, 30 foot long trailer? So maybe I won’t get routed down tight alleys and into small streets and driveways for u-turns? Back to the great ODD journey.

Our campground, Screamin’ Eagle RV Park in Ocean City, which we have never visited, is a winner! The spot we reserved, RV Site 43, is a pull-thru site and turned out awesome, so we deployed ourselves to enjoy a sunny afternoon.

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We took a nice walk to the beach, and later drove the 5 miles south on that same beach to access the beach ramp up to Ocean Shores, where we ended up at Mike’s, one of our favorite seafood spots. We chowed down on their Clam Chowder (excellent!), fried Razor Clams (also excellent), and two of the house specialties, Pepper Pear Prawns, and Prawns Puntanesca (super muy bueno!). We highly recommend Mike’s.

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OMG, Brandon is getting so tall!

We set up our evening campfire and discovered something new that apparently the Internet has known for a long time: an old washing machine tub works very nicely as a fire pit. We initially thought the campground owner was a genius, only to find that Etsy and Pinterest have thousands of examples of how to dress up an old washer tub to make some kind of fancy pants fire pit, with welded on legs and heat-resistant paint. I think it worked just fine set right on the dirt, and we enjoyed a great evening fire with some S’mores. I noticed in the morning that our firewood had almost completely burned up, leaving very little mess. Sweet!

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I’m not sure if the ODD TRIP thing follows the Rule Of Three (3 disasters, 3 celebrity deaths, 3 plane crashes, etc.), but if it does, the Rule still owes us one.

Tippy has an ODD Tip:

Sharp Hatchet

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Lake Ki Overnight Adventure

We took advantage of an opportunity to corral a couple of grandkids, Simon and Samara, while Mom and Dad attended a wedding in New York. It was a great opportunity, indeed, since Andrea, their Au Pair, AND her friend Monica were both interested in going with us. 4 adults on 2 toddlers seemed like good odds to us, so we bundled up into the trailer and launched off for an overnight to Lake Ki, the site of our inaugural trip in the rig just 3 months earlier.

Saturday, June 2, was an absolutely beautiful late spring day. I think we speak for the ladies (they are from Colombia) when we say tuvimos un día muy agradable con los bambinos y las senoritas. In English, a good time was had by all. The sun was shining, the RV park was clean and relatively quiet, the lake was warm and clear, and we had virtually no mosquitos! Our camp site was next to a large grassy area that also had the swings and play area, and only a few steps away from the beach and fishing dock.

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Lake Ki is a serene little lake, perfect for lazing around on a warm day, paddleboarding, and even a little fishing. We saw a bunch of people fishing, but nobody catching anything. We wanted to fish some off the dock, but there were way too many kids playing around it. So we kicked back and enjoyed the afternoon. A late afternoon campfire gave us the coals we needed for S’Mores after dinner. Yum!

Camping only works if there is also grilling! Burgers and hot dogs are the fuel that makes for a great campout, and ours didn’t disappoint.

Breakfast the next morning was a grand affair, and very little was left to toss or take home. Again, the 2 queen beds and dinette lived up to our expectations, with plenty of room for all 6 of us. The grandkids were out in 10 minutes, which totally out-performs their usual bedtime at home. It’s to be expected when Grandma spent almost an hour racing them all over the grassy area just before dinner.

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Sunday was meant to be another lazy day, with some fishing, but the rain didn’t hold off as forecast, so we packed it up early and headed home. Even so, a good time was had by all!

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Beautiful Beaufort

Beaufort South Carolina

Welcome to the Low Country!

Beaufort from the Air

We drove past Beaufort twice, it being half way between Savannah and Charleston, but saved a whole day to tour it. Beaufort came highly recommended to us as an example of a small antebellum town that survived being burned in the Civil War. We were in a quandary about the pronunciation of the name: is it BOW-fort, or BEW-fort? We heard it both ways. We discovered the truth, and the story behind it. I’ll tell you now, because you will constantly be flummoxed by it as you read your way through the rest of this blog. There is also a Beaufort in North Carolina, named after a Civil War era general whose last name was Beaufort (BOW-fort). In South Carolina, Beaufort was named after a Colonial era businessman who was also the British Earl of Beaufort (BEW-fort). So, although both were named after a person, only one took the name of the person. The other, South Carolina’s, was named after a royal title.

Less than an hour from Savannah, the drive to Beaufort takes you through some gorgeous “Low Country” landscapes. The drive constantly crosses water, reminding us that much of the surrounding land was rice farming during the last half of the 19th century. Not much has overtaken the land; the small towns are still small, even if there are a whole lot more appliances on the front porches and junk cars. There is a pretty generous speed limit of 70 mph on the mostly 2 lane highway, but it seems nobody pays much attention to it. We clocked 80 much of the time, and routinely had cars blow by us. We never saw a wreck, but WAZE frequently warned us “Caution, a disabled car is on the shoulder ahead”. That was true for Georgia as well. It makes me wonder if folks in the south are just well off enough to walk away from a disabled car and get a new one? Likely not.

We arrived a little early and found yet another swing next to the Marina, which was our Tour meet-up spot. Swings just seem so natural in the South.

Marina Swings

We couldn’t find a Free Walking Tour for Beaufort; the town is too small to support it. But we did find Janet Mattock’s Walking History Tour (www.janetswalkinghistory.com), a for-hire, smaller-group sized deal at $25 each. Janet is a transplanted retiree who really exemplifies the laid back southern life style and “Southern Belle” mannerisms. In short, she’s a hoot. On this particular day, Memorial Day, 6 of her neighbors (who had never been on her tour), joined us and 2 other tourists (also from Seattle!) for a stroll through history, and Beaufort.

Backwater

When the Union army captured Beaufort, it was a very sudden assault and victory. The locals were a smallish group of wealthy land owners who had built their mansions as summer retreats to escape the heat of their deep-south plantations by getting closer to the ocean for a few months of the year. They were pretty much all in residence when the alarm was sounded that the Union soldiers were making their way to the waterfront docks after defeating Fort Sumter at the mouth of the river, just a few miles downstream. Fearing for their lives, they grabbed whatever they could, and abandoned their mansions, belongings, and slaves in what is called “The Great Skeeeedaddle” (you have to say it like that, with the emphasis). So, the Union forces found an undefended town full of poor folk and slaves that were feasting and drinking heartily on the contents of the mansions, Party City! It occurred to the Union folk that many of the super large mansions in town would make excellent hospitals, and converted 8 of them into just that. This act spared the town from destruction. That, and the fact that Beaufort hasn’t seen the big city sprawl that other southern towns have seen, has preserved not only some of the finest antebellum architecture to be seen, but also the small town feel. We walked right down the middle of the street in many areas of town. Pretty sleepy.

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Janet, being a local, has access to the insides of some of the historic buildings. We toured a local B&B that was once a stately home, and her church, which used to be a Union hospital. She also gave us a colorful tour through the church’s graveyard, which contains some notable spirits, both Confederate and Union, and even Revolutionary. It was perfect for a Memorial Day to be surrounded by all those courageous figures. One banker, F.W. Scheper, so thought he could “take it with him” that he adorned his mausoleum with dollar signs. That pretentious, if funny, display didn’t even partly overshadow the greatness of many of the tombstones. The Hamilton stones below, ARE related to the Hamilton you all know from Broadway.

Bankers Tomb

Like Savannah, Beaufort has had its share of movie filming over the years. More of Forest Gump was filmed here, as was The Prince of Tides, and one of my favorites, The Big Chill. We eyeballed the BC house, which is under renovation for some big celebrity who, we were told, will only be using in 3 weeks out of the year for a retreat. We’re available for the other 49.

Big Chill House 2

So many astoundingly beautiful historic artifacts and stories, and even a little humor snuck into the day. In addition to a visit with Sinatra the cat (beautiful blue eyes), we almost missed this Historic Marker.

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We were pleased to see that Harriet Tubman is going to be more prominently remembered in the land that spawned the Underground Railway, and loved the story of Robert Smalls, the slave that figured out how, amidst all the turmoil of the Civil War, to escape slavery by stealing a fully loaded Confederate supply ship, turning it over the Union Army, and then using the reward (and freedom) that they granted him to buy his master’s house for the back taxes. The ultimate turn around. We were inspired enought to buy the book, Be Free or Die, by Cate Lineberry (Amazon, $17.18).

We loved Janet, and the tour. She really brought the history of Beaufort to life. In lieu of a tip, we took her out for ice cream at the end of her walk, and then skedaddled back to Savannah.

Tippy doesn’t wear shoes, but…

Beaufort Shoes

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