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.


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.

Motorhome SOT

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.


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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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).


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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 (, 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.


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.


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.


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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Charlie Town

Make that Charleston, South Carolina. Only known as “Charlie” by the locals, and some students and alumni.

We took advantage of geography while visiting Savannah Georgia to take a short road trip up the coast to Charleston, another beautiful antebellum southern city. Charleston is older than Savannah, and quite different having grown “organically” to the needs of the growing population rather than being well planned out from the beginning like James Oglethorpe did in Savannah. Charleston saw a lot of action in the Civil War, and suffered lots of damage because of it, so it has an eclectic mix of old, “replacement”, and new architecture.

We started our tour off with brunch at The Park Café, an out-of-the-way small joint that came recommended to us, and the recommendation included “arrive early”. It’s a very popular, neighborhood place, but we got lucky with a parking spot right up front, and only a 10 minute wait. As we usually do, we ordered the house specialties: AEbelskiver (a Danish popover) and Avocado Toast. DEEEElish! I also chowed down on the house special Corned Beef Hash. It was also obvious where the name derived from, with the walls looking just like a park! The empty plate below is where the AEbelskiver USED to be. Yum!

The Park

Amazingly, The Park Cafe looks just lie a park!

Charleston seems much more popular than Savannah; it was much more crowded, and the Free Walking Tours were booked solid for all the time slots. We compensated by swiping the tour itinerary off the website, and pinning it into Google Maps. Then we conducted our own tour, on our own schedule! We picked up the pace a bit, blowing by the other tours, who spent way too much time explaining what a French Huguenot was. We didn’t really care all that much, and still don’t really know who or what they were, except that they have a church in Charleston (the pink one below) and we couldn’t have won the Revolutionary War without them. Thank you, Huguenots! I’m assuming that, being French, they liked doughnuts, and so I feel an affinity for them. I think that about a lot of cultures and doughnuts. Of course, the French weren’t the only ones with a church or two in town. There were a lot of Irish in Charleston too, and they must have attended St. Patrick’s Church (on the right below).

The old historic district of Charleston is dominated by the Charleston City Market, which is exactly what it sounds like, 3 blocks of tourist shopping. It used to be the heart and soul of colonial Charleston, and much of the surrounding coastline, but retains very little of the flavor of that age. Surrounding the market are countless sights, which on our custom-hacked walking tour was just a little over 1.5 miles, very compact. The day was warm at 82°F and 100% humidity, so we made our way to Battery Park, the site of the old fort built there to protect the city. The fort is gone now, but some nice monuments and a few remnants remain. I couldn’t imagine my boat getting hit by one of the cannonballs shot from a shore-side mortar. Those are some big balls!

One of our favorite things is to find a really, really old cemetery and read the tombstones. Charleston didn’t disappoint. This burial ground was found surrounding the Circle Church, belonging to yet another Protestant sect, and still in use. Many of the graves dated to the 1700’s.


Colonial optimism obviously didn’t pay out

No, this isn’t what it looks like. As in the other 2 cities on this visit, I noticed a pretty high density of cigar butts in the gutters. I realized that South Carolina is also Shade Tobacco country, and lots of cigars are still rolled about these parts. If only folks would learn to put them where they belong, I wouldn’t have constantly been all “Look OUT!”, only to then realize someone had just failed to curb their cigar properly.

Gutter Butt

Winding back along the water front, we wound up at the Pineapple Fountain. The Pineapple is the state symbol of South Carolina, although we never for sure found out if they grow them there. They sure grew a lot of cotton and rice! Also on the waterfront is a pier with three covered verandas that have large swings in them so a tired tourist (or two) can take a break and enjoy the expansive water views, just imagining the old days when this harbor was full of sailing warships and fishing boats.

Wendy was excited to find Queen Street, while we were standing on King Avenue. That put us in the French Quarter, which looked a whole bunch like New Orleans. Those French sure liked a specific kind of architecture, along with their doughnuts. There might also have been some teensy French people there, because we found this old-world Tiny House on the outskirts of the French Quarter, dwarfed by some of the “replacement architecture” that sprang up after the neighbor’s homes were either burned or fell into ruins. The Three Little Pigs were right, or at least one of them was: brick houses rule!

We dined at the Charleston Crab House, which we managed to get into just before the skies opened up on us. The building is historic, which becomes obvious as you walk the wooden floors and climb the original wooden staircase. The food and service are excellent. We wolfed down the fried blue crabs, which are eaten whole shell and all since they are harvested while molting and still soft-shelled. Yummy, and not too pricey. End of the day’s road trip, back to Savannah!

Tippy liked Charleston too, and discovered an alternative to the outrageous parking fees!

Charleston Park Cafe

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For Memorial Day this year we took the flying RV, Alaska Airlines, to The Low Country on the eastern seaboard. We made Savannah Georgia our home base, booking 4 nights at The River Street Inn, right in the heart of the original colonial settlement, and literally on top of the original cobblestones that paved the walks and paths of the waterfront. The River Street Inn is built around the foundations of the original cotton processing warehouse on the riverfront.

One of Many

A fun fact: the cobblestones in the streets and sidewalks, which are large, clunky chunks of granite and other rock types, were used as ballast to stabilize the freight in the holds of sailing ships of colonial times. Once their wares were delivered to the new lands, the load-stabilizing ballast wasn’t needed any more, and was dumped ashore to make roads and paths. Mind you, they aren’t too terribly easy to walk on, but are really effective at keeping the speed of cars down below 2 mph.

We discovered Free Walking Tours, a company that does business in most large cities. You pay $2 to reserve a spot, and then take the tour, deciding at the end of it what tip the docent deserves for the job they have done (typical is between $10 and $20). Our tour guide was a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), majoring in Architecture and History, and she was excellent. Very entertaining, chock full of historical tidbits, and also very up to date on the best places to get a cheap bite to eat, some rockin’ night life, or great ice cream (my favorite). Our tour included a downpour (see photo below) and a stop at the Merritt Webster House, which was the real life home of Jim Williams (played by Kevin Spacey) in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. A ton of movies were filmed, wholly are in part, in Savannah, including the famous bench-sitting scene in Forrest Gump. The actual bench is right there in Jefferson Square, but there was a line to take a photo, so we skipped it. There were plenty of other benches that looked exactly the same, but by the time we noticed, the thrill was gone, and we moved on.

During the downpour

We were entranced by the historical tale of James Oglethorpe, who founded Savannah, and how he managed to talk 114 Debtor’s Prison candidates into coming to the New World with him in exchange for freedom from their debts and some land. But he found out how fast that 114 could shrink to about 50, losing most to drunken fights or disease: about 1 year. So he set down some rules: 1. No hard liquor, which he reasoned would help to hold down the fights; 2. No lawyers, same reasoning; 3. No Catholics and 4. No Jews, his colonists were almost all Protestant Christians, so let’s try to avoid the religious in-fighting, 5. No slaves, Oglethorpe was an abolitionist, and remained so his entire life. The rules didn’t hold though, and began to fall apart when the only doctor left to return to England, and his replacement was a Jew. This Jew must have also been very prolific because today Savannah has a fairly large Jewish population. The local synagogue, Mickve Israel, throws a big community food fest every October in Forsyth Park called “Shalom Y’All!” You can even buy a t-shirt!

Shalom YAll

SCAD, the Savannah College of Art & Design, has a huge presence in town, and all over the coastal southern states. While we were visiting, their women’s golf team won the National Collegiate Golf Tourney, and one of the team members won the individual National Title. I’m not sure SCAD has any other athletic teams or endeavors.

Our trip was as much about the food as it was about the history. We absolutely loved 2 Cracked Eggs, a breakfast and lunch place right on the riverfront. Christine, the owner, previously owned The Cobblestone Restaurant up the road, but lost her lease when they converted the building for other use. The grits are fantastic, and everything is served in a cast iron skillet, of all differing sizes. The first morning Wendy opted to lace her grits with the house mixed berry jam. I had the house specialty, White Trash Hash. The biscuits were the best I’ve ever had, and one could easily feed 3 people. Everybody gets one for themselves, of course, so I felt obligated to finish mine.

Barracuda Bobs on the river front was good seafood, and we opted to share the Southern Seafood Boil, with shrimp, mussels, crab, corn, and potatoes. Very yummy! We opened that act with a bowl of their Seafood Stew, a sort of bouillabaisse, and another of Clam Chowder, also very yummy.

Our last night there we partook of The Crab Shack on Tybee Island, about 30 minutes east of Savannah, and right on the Atlantic coast. This place looks like an old moonshiners camp, found by driving down a road, which turns to gravel, then turns to dirt, then just dead ends in a swamp with cars parked all over the place under trees. A bunch of wooden shacks have sprung up over the years, and they have a huge deck right on the slough, with round tables that sport a central hole with a trash can underneath. Pretty handy for seafood, just crack, eat, and chuck the shells! We gorged on shrimp, corn, crab, scallops, crayfish, slaw, and chowder. We also paid the pet alligator pen a visit on the way out. I got the feeling that’s where you get tossed if you don’t pay the bill. Highly recommended, The Crab Shack, for both food and ambiance, and very reasonably priced!

Tippy even does Savannah tips!

Savannah Elevators

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Deception Pass Redux



We planned, many months ago, a weekend of camping to honor the Mothers in our family. We snagged a very nice site at Deception Pass State Park in the Forest Loop, a section of the park that has electricity and running water in each site, with many sites able to accommodate larger RVs. A word of advice: make plans to camp in ANY Washington State Park very early in the year, and get online to get your reservations. The exception to this rule is for mid-week camping, not including any weekend nights.

We waited out the weather all spring, a little concerned since our previous 3 trips had all involved packing up the trailer in the rain. But Mr. Weatherman delivered, and how! We arrived Saturday May 12 and got set up under brilliant and clear blue skies, with temps in the upper 60’s to low 70’s, perfectly ideal for 5 adults and 2 grandkids. We even found 2 trees exactly 10 feet apart that accommodated setting up our new hammock, and boy did we appreciate that.


We took a very nice, easy hike down to West Beach, a little over ½ mile, and enjoyed some sand toy fun and kicking back. We walked back at dinner time, made a cheery fire, barbecued some sliders, and got the kids bundled up to take in the sunset, which didn’t disappoint with a spectacular show over Lopez Island. A perfect opportunity for Greg to get some silhouette photos for the annual Marks Family calendar. Simon got into the act, snapping what seemed like hundreds of shots with Dad’s old Canon SLR. His Dad uses a technique to “bracket” shots with 3 exposures, having a better chance at getting the right one. And Simon picked up on that, snapping 3 shots for every try, although they aren’t brackets, more like duplicates. But what a pro! He takes some amazing shots for an almost-five-year-old!

Sunday, actual Mother’s Day, arrived to a whole group of really well rested family, which we were glad to see because it was the first time camping with a full load, especially 2 small ones. But it all worked as planned, and we made a giant breakfast with pancakes, sausage, eggs, Canadian bacon, OJ, Bailey’s in the coffee, and leftover flan brownies (thanks Andrea!).

We took advantage of the beautiful day and drove up to Pass Island, that little rock between the 2 bridges over Deception Pass. Watching the rising and ebbing tide push all that ocean through the narrow gorge never fails to fascinate me, and bunches of boats were fighting their way through, from small outboards to the Victoria Clipper. Very cool.

After lunch, Grandma helped the little ones make some special dinosaur cookies for Simon’s impending birthday party at Science School. He turned 5 on Monday, and treated all his schoolmates at the Pacific Science Center day school to some of Grandma’s finest, frosted, Dino Fossil Cookies.

Post-cookie-making, we took a ride out to West Beach and set up camp on the small beach area at the far west end of Cranberry Lake while Greg and Rachel inflated and launched the paddle boards. With the warm sun, and the flat water, it was a perfect day to commune with nature and take a tour of the lake. Simon and Samara took turns swimming in the shallow beach and hitching rides on the boards with Mom and Dad. And Grandpa kicked back in his beach chair to take it all in, very very relaxing. There were at least 2 goose families with newly hatched broods in flotilla formation cruising the same end of the lake as the beach.

Deception Pass SP is a great place to camp, whether you have a hard-sided rig, or a tent. There are 2 separate loops, with the Forest Loop more oriented toward RVs while the Lower Forest Loop is a mix of tent and RV sites. All of the RV sites have power (50 Amp) and water, while the tent only sites have access to water nearby. Online reservations can be made, and should be made very early in the year; the reservation system has photos of each site to help you decide which is just right for you. With recent raises to rates, state parks are becoming similarly priced to private campgrounds, but only a state park can offer a better wilderness experience!

As always, H E R E ‘ S   T I P P Y!

Pine Cones for Campfire

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We’ve been RVing up a storm since taking delivery of the new rig. We will, eventually, devise a nifty name for our camper, but for now the muse has not struck (stricken?, straked? Grammarians this is your chance!). This is our third campout in as many weeks, and it should just about be enough to get all the bugs and kinks worked out.

We camped this time in Bay View State Park, on Padilla Bay in the North Salish Sea, with a stunning view of the Tesoro Oil Refinery. Actually, it isn’t too bad, there are lots of great vistas to all sides of it, and a very pleasant body of water between us to enjoy. There was a nice, but rocky, beach attached to the park that afforded us with a nice morning walk, and some Sea Glass hunting.


There is a really nice covered picnic area also, with benches and tables where we found an old Canadian gentleman who was making his breakfast on a camp stove, and just enjoying the day, eh?

Historical Note: Last November, flying back from San Francisco after a family Thanksgiving, we met a very pleasant guy named Daren. He had recently moved to Lummi (rhymes with yummy) Island, which is near Bellingham, and was in the process of taming a 5 acre parcel of mountainside so that he could build a Tiny House to live in.

Wendy kept in touch with him via Facebook, and since Bay View is reasonably close to Bellingham (at least a lot closer than our home), we decided that Sunday would be a good time to take advantage of his offer to “come on up and visit if you’re in the neighborhood”. We had only seen Lummi Island from the water side, having circumnavigated it many years ago during one of our summer trips to Orcas Island. So off we went to see the INSIDE of the island. And Wendy will pretty much go anywhere to see a Tiny House. A 40 minute drive to Bellingham, 10 minutes down a 2 lane road across the Indian reservation, and we arrived at Gooseberry, where the small car ferry waited to take us on a 6 minute crossing.

Ferry cropped

Lummi has about 800 full time residents. The only tourist activities are biking, hiking, and kayaking. Unless your idea of tourism is fancy dining, in which case you can make a reservation at The Willows, the most expensive restaurant in the Northwest; average price per person for dinner is around $400.

The Willows

There are plenty of very wealthy folks on Lummi, but Daren assures us none of them will pay Piracy Rates to eat at The Willows.

On arrival, Daren met us at The Islander, the very small, and only, market on the island, quite close to the ferry landing. Proximity to the ferry landing is a good thing, because there aren’t any public restrooms at The Islander, one in need must walk across the street to the loo at the ferry landing. After a great tour of the island, which didn’t take very long, Daren took us up to see his property, and his almost finished Tiny House. You can see Vancouver downtown, skyscrapers and all, from his front yard.

Daren has been clearing this property for a year, and has barely made a dent. There are berry bushes everywhere, but also found in abundance is Stinging Nettle. Daren turned us onto the fact that he regularly makes soup out of it, and it’s delish! Wendy couldn’t resist, so we loaded up a grocery bag with tender tops to take with. Important Note: always – ALWAYS – wear gloves when handling this stuff! We found a recipe on Google, and made some for dinner Monday night. It’s very, very good, kind of like a spinach-leek soup with a side benefit of having all kinds of medicinal benefits for indigestion, arthritis, and migraines.

Nettle Soup 1

We ate lunch at Sause Burger, next door to The Islander. Same deal with the restroom, a short hike across the street. Sause Burger is owned by Herb, and we were fortunate that it was open when we were visiting. Sometimes it’s open for a few hours 3 days a week. Sometimes not. And it’s closed most of the winter. But it’s worth a try if you get to Lummi, the food is excellent and the host is charming. Bring your appetite! Daren and I each had a house specialty, the Solomon Burger. It is the brainchild of some Islander named, go figure, Solomon. And I can only think that Solomon must spend a great deal of his day thinking about food. The burger, made with ½ pound of Wagyu beef (and seemingly everything else in the kitchen) was, no kidding, 6” tall when served. It took 40 minutes to eat. Wow! It is served on a Breadfarm bun, and if you have never been to The Breadfarm in Edison, make a date and go. You can have a nice brunch just down the street at Tweets Café, another fabulous foodie spot. We, of course, not only took Daren a house warming gift of a ½ loaf of Stone Ground Wheat (after all it IS a tiny house), but took the other ½ of that and a Ciabatta loaf home ourselves. Yumm!

Back “home” at Bay View, we camped in Site 28 in The Meadows, one of 2 areas with utilities that can accommodate RVs. The other RV area is “up front” in the park, with views of the bay. There are also a couple of areas just for smaller vehicles and tent camping. It is all very well taken care of, and even looks to be under some expansion and upgrading. All the RV sites have 50 and 30 amp power, water hookups, a fire pit, and a picnic table. This time, I figured out how to use our new Progressive power surge protector to sniff out the power and tell me if it was good or not before I hooked up the rig.

Progressive SSP-50XL Surge Protector

I’m obviously liking some of the technology improvements that have become popular since we last owned an RV, especially my new Hitch Camera! Backing and hitching suddenly got much easier.

In the Meadow, all the sites are cut back into the forest around a large central grass area. Most of them, #28 included, aren’t very deep and it made for a challenge to get the rig backed in near to the utilities without driving too far out into the swamped grass area. Thank God for 4 wheel drive.


As we always do, we scouted all the other sites, and next time we’ll shoot for #24, which was nice and deep, on a corner with a great approach for backing in, and a campfire area that is tucked away from the road for a little evening privacy.


As always, H E R E “ S   T I P P Y!

Water Thief

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A note to our subscribers: We have upgraded to our own blog domain and can now be found at No more ads! You were automatically re-registered as a follower, so keep on keepin’ on!

You will notice the nice jazzy new banner picture. This was taken Easter Day at Deception Pass State Park in Washington. We are here for a 3 day stay, and hoping that the weather, if not warm, will at least stay dry. Like they say, it’s Spring in Washington. If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes.

We camped this time in the Forest Loop, above Cranberry Lake, which sits on the southern border of the park. Like almost all State Parks, Deception Pass is a wonderful woodland setting, with some large old growth trees and lots and lots of foliage. The sites are cut into the forest to give a good amount of privacy, and in the Forest Loop each has 30 and 50 Amp electric and water hookups, although our 50 amp power source had one pole dead. (For those not familiar with a 50 amp service, it is “two-sided” with parallel 120 volt poles, as opposed to a single 120 volt pole for 30 amp service). With one pole dead, we only got shore power on about ½ of our interior devices; unfortunately the fireplace/heater was one of them! We switched our plugin over to the 30 amp source, and all was fine.

The weather, while dry, was very windy, blowing 20-30 knots and gusting higher. It made for some pretty spectacular shoreline viewing, if you could stand the sand-blasting.

Blustery Sound

Our tryouts of all the goodies continued, and we quickly came to the conclusion that the TV that came with the rig, a 39” Furrion, was inadequate for the mission. It will be replaced by a Vizio 39” smart TV we found on eBay for $199. When we finally get the Camp Pro Wi-Fi Booster installed (stay tuned), they will be an excellent combo for us to stay in touch with all our evening favorites. The existing Furrion DVD/Stereo has Bluetooth, so we can stream all our music off our phones.

Camp Pro 2

One drawback to Deception Pass is the close proximity of NAS Whidbey, the Navy air station where the Pacific Fleet of F-18 “Growlers” is based. These are the electronic warfare birds, and a lot of flight training and testing goes on. Sunday’s are usually OK, and Monday only had a pilot doing touch-and-go landings in a C17, the largest jet in the sky. Tuesday morning was a different story, and brought a 2 hour long blast of supersonic birds blasting over the campground about 1000 feet up, full afterburner. It’s thrilling, but one soon tires of it.

There are several trails within the campground and surrounding park, all connecting the south bridge to both campgrounds and North and West beaches. We easily got a 3 mile walk in every day and saw something new each time.

Bridge Close

We even took a ride into Oak Harbor, 8 miles south, to scope out the local hardware store, a favorite of ours. This time was Country Hardware, right on State Route 20. We hit the small window of time where they had ducklings and chicks of many varieties for sale. Being city folk, we get a kick out of all the gear and goodies for sale for the farm. And they even had both pink and black BB guns for sale, for boys AND girls. Very progressive!

Ducklings 1BB Guns

There aren’t too many bad spots in the park, and we really liked #34. We are coming back for Mother’s Day with kids and grandkids, and will stay in site 71, which is even more private and very deep. We’ll let you know how that goes!

Site 71-1

50A Power Problems

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