Congress – Arizona

Here’s a final list of numbers from Fritz’s trip meter.

  • 12,079 total miles driven
  • 329.21 total hours the motor was running
  • 37 mph – the average road speed
  • 18.3 mpg – Fritz’s average miles per gallon for the trip

To put that in perspective, twelve thousand miles is just short of half way around the world. It’s about a third more that the 9,000 on Fred’s itinerary, but he based his number on point to point distances. We made a lot of side trips. My original budget proposal was only 7,000, based on a Google Maps trip to Fairbanks and back.

Yesterday’s drive went just as I imagined it. We left Bakersfield at 7:30 and stopped in Tehachapi for gas and coffee. We hit the I-40 Bridge over the Colorado River at 12:15, and then stopped for lunch in Kingman at 1:00. That’s how I called it in my earlier post.

Lunch Break in Kingman
We got to Kingman at 1:00, just as I thought we would.

We had a leisurely afternoon drive down US-93 and were home by 4:00. I wanted to brag that we made the trip without hitting a moose (there are none to hit), and that I came home without a cracked windshield. I also wanted to say we drove half way around the world without incident, but I can’t, because as we say around here, I just made the newsletter.

When we pulled up in front of the house, our neighbors, John and Reenie greeted us with waves from their front porch. Then I started to back The Ritz into the drive and around the house and deck. That’s a big u-turn pushing the trailer backwards. I did it on the first try, but it wasn’t lined up perfect, so I pulled forward to straighten it out . . . and ran over the plastic stanchion that holds the water and electricity for one of our hook-ups. Instantly we had a nice little fountain in the back yard.

The Ritz at Home
All we wanted to do was to park the trailer in a place to unload easily. To get it there, we had to back it around the house in a U-turn.

John went across the street and retrieved a water-valve shut-off wrench and we turned off the main. Since the temperature was near the century mark, we unloaded all the wine into the cooling house. Then I unhooked the trailer and made a mad rush to the hardware store to get a cap and some PVC glue, so that we could at least turn the water back on.

Broken Stanchion
The stanchion holding the water line and electrical outlet, lays shattered on the ground.

I made it before they closed and after getting home, I cleaned up the broken pipe and glued the cap on. Satisfied that the repair was good, we then turned the water back on, only to find that I broke the PVC pipe under the concrete base. The whole thing needs torn up  and replaced. So we’re waiting for the plumber to come this morning.

In the mean time, we’re living with water buckets from the John’s spigot, and bottles of drinking water we had stored in the freezer. It’s a challenge for sure, but it’s good to be home.

On another note, you’re probably interested to find out about the rest of the gang. You may remember that Fed, Deb and Sally wanted to spend more time in Canada. About ten days after we did, they crossed the border (without inspections). Then they recreated Patton’s March down the east side of the Cascades and Nevada and got home a couple of hours ahead of us.

So I guess this means, this chapter in our lives has come to a close. I have a newsletter to write sometime this weekend. If you’re a subscriber, I apologize. I guess I’ll do a follow-up of the trip. But this will be the last post about our trip to Denali. I’ve had fun writing these for you, but I’ve run out of topic and I don’t know what else to talk about.

What do you think? Have you had enough of us, or is there another subject to cover? I’d like to hear from you.

jw

Bakersfield – California

One must atone for their sins, I guess. I suppose that’s what we’re doing in this RV park five miles east of Bakersfield. We piddled around at the beach as long as we could. We got up late, repacked Fritz, moved boxes around and even filled up a propane tank. After Anne said goodbye to the Pacific and got in the truck, we had to leave Morro Bay behind.

Since today’s segment was only 144 miles, we arrived at 1:30. The park has over 300 spaces and was essentially empty, but the check-in people put us next to the Clampetts. They sell the place as camping in an orange grove, but the trees are too young to give any shade, and that’s what we needed when we got here.

Bakersfield Campsite
With the hot sun beating down, the first part of set-up was getting the air conditioner running.

We chose this park because . . . well, they had space for us. I also thought the heat wouldn’t be as bad in the San Joaquin Valley. The very first thing we did after parking the rig, was to plug into the power and fire up the trailer’s air conditioner. The weather page says it’s only 96°, but our little indoor/outdoor thermometer reads 104°.

After waking from a two-hour nap, I got up to take a shower. I must admit that the ones here are the absolute best we’ve seen for the last three months. There’s enough space that you can turn around in them and they have a generous size private dressing area. One thing that park owners need to learn is that there are never enough hooks in these facilities. Even in this one, there were only two, but the bench was large enough to make up for it.

We stopped here because I want to make the long trip across the desert in one day. Tomorrow we’ll get an early start. We’ll climb out of the San Joaquin over the 4000 ft Tehachapi Pass and out onto the Mohave. If all goes without incident, we should cross the Colorado River around noon. It’s at least another hour to Kingman, where we’ll stop for food. There’s a decent BBQ joint there called Rednecks. We discovered it when my parents lived there. I still can remember my dad trying to slurp down those ribs without his false teeth. I miss them.

Tehachapi Pass
The low part of the ridge between the south end of the Sierra Nevada’s on the left and the Tehachapi Mountains on the right is the 4000 ft pass that leads to the Mohave desert . . . and home.

After that, we’ll take US 93 down to Congress. We should lay eyes on the old homestead in time for cocktails on the front porch. With all the storms we’ve read about, I wonder if it’s still there. I’m looking forward to sleeping in my bed tomorrow night.

jw

Cambria – California

We indulged today. We rationalized that since this was our last real vacation day before heading for home, we’d make the best of it. I don’t know how the day could have been any better.

Today started out by trying to make reservations for tomorrow night, Friday . . . Labor Day Weekend. We tried every combination that we could think of, but all the places on our route were already booked for the weekend, except the KOA, and they wanted a minimum of a three-day stay. So we planned an alternative route.

Solvang
Solvang is a Danish community in the San Inez valley and is a big weekend tourist attraction.

We had planned on swinging by Solvang, a Danish tourist town north of Santa Barbara. It was purely for medicinal purposes I assure you. The only thing we needed were pastries called Danish Waffles. They look like a flattened hot dog bun. They’re two sweet phyllo pastries glued together with a creamy filling that has a touch of raspberry jam for a tart flavor. They’re addictive, and there’s only a few places in California to buy them. Two of them are in Solvang.

We left at 11 for the eighty mile trip down for lunch and we got to the bakery at 12:15. Anne and I split a sandwich (the bread was sourdough made fresh in-house this morning, yum!) and for dessert, we split one of the waffles. There is no graceful way you can eat one of these things without it exploding all over the table, the car, the bed . . . where ever. The crumbs are everywhere and they’re too good to leave, so you wind up sucking them up from the table-cloth. Oh, I must warn you that these things are about 1400 calories apiece.

Queen Anne Eats a Danish Waffle
There is no graceful way to eat a Danish waffle. The sugar phyllo dough explodes when ever you take a bite.

We ordered another half-dozen to go (Anne’s already tossed back a couple, they’ll never make it home) along with a bucket of Danish cookies. We had time to make it back to Paso Robles, hit a couple of wineries and still make our five o’clock dinner reservation in Cambria. We pulled it off even after driving down the old creek road.

One of the wineries we  always stop at is York Mountain. As readers of my newsletter already know, this place holds a lot of memories for me. It is the oldest vineyard in the area dating back to 1889. My original visit was with my first wife on our honeymoon in 1968. I was hooked then and have returned regularly.

York Mountain Rebuilt
The new owners of the York Mountain Estates have carefully crafted a new cellar using the original hand-made bricks and capturing the essence of the historical building.

The last time Anne and I were here, the original cellars were badly damaged in an earthquake and the state condemned the building. I was saddened that the owners had sold the property and that the historic building would be destroyed. When we stopped today, it surprised me to see a different but very familiar cellar being readied for the public. New owners have taken over the property and they didn’t want to lose the building either. They painstakingly disassembled the cellar, brick by brick, then numbered the bricks. They built a steel reinforced concrete structure and covered the new shell with the original bricks (in their original  sequence). The new cellar has some modern touches to it, but it brought tears to my eyes to see how lovingly they captured the feel of the original. As for the century old redwood tree, planted by the York brothers . . . it’s alive and well, looking more stately than ever next to the new building. Bravo!

The Old Creek Road
On my first visit to Paso Robles and Cambria, the only road that crossed the mountains was Vineyard Road, and it was this old neglected tree-lined back-road. Along the drive, you cross the ridge and see the ocean twenty-two miles away.

Dinner was wonderful. Anne had her favorite rack of lamb and they even had my favorite; duck breast served in a cherry-port wine reduction. On top of that, we splurged on a bottle of Cabernet that we sampled yesterday. Somehow, I even managed to get through the dinner without spilling red wine on the white table-cloth.

We learned a new trick yesterday and after dinner we used it. After leaving the restaurant, we stopped at the town liquor store. There, we found most of the local wines we liked at a discounted price. We picked out a bunch of bottles that we liked at the tasting rooms and saved about 25%.

So we had a good day. We wined and  dined, laughed and enjoyed each others company. We deserved it . . . for tomorrow will be in Bakersfield. It’s not the armpit of California, but you can certainly smell it from there.

jw

Morro Bay – California

So I lied about today’s destination. This morning when we planned out our day, someone on this bus whined about staying at the beach. We checked our RV Park resource guide and the cost was less here than in Paso Robles. Besides, as we drove down the 101, the temperature there was over a hundred. It was thirty degrees cooler when we arrived at the beach.

I didn’t get to play Steve McQueen in downtown San Francisco, but I do think I launched the truck and trailer a couple of times today. To bypass bay area traffic, we took the I 680 along the east side of town. Boy, does that road need some repair. The truck traffic has crushed the pavement in the right lane, and in California, the law restricts trucks and cars pulling trailers to the slow lanes. We hit some bumps so bad that Anne woke up and asked if we were back in Alaska. It wasn’t till we made it past San José that the road improved.

We were in Salinas by lunchtime, so we stopped at the Costco for a hot dog lunch. While we were there I picked up another bag-o-socks so Queen Anne won’t have to do laundry till we get home. There’s enough of everything else in the closet to get us through to the weekend.

Morro Rock
Morro Rock is the icon that marks the southern terminus of the central California coast.

When I talked the other day about Mendocino being our favorite place north of San Francisco, this stretch of coast is my absolute favorite. Maybe that’s why I’ve returned so often over the past fifty years. I think this is where the Pacific Coast Highway is at it’s best, and I believe that William Randolph Hearst, Ansel Adams, and Edward Weston would agree with me (were they alive to do so). They all had homes here.

The Dunes at Morro Bay
Wind patterns in the Morro Bay Sand Dunes.

PCH turns west at San Louis Obispo and picks up the coast here at Morro Bay. It provides some of the most beautiful coastal scenery as it passes through, Cambria, San Simeon, Big Sur before it reaches Carmel. It’s 120 miles of breathtaking scenery without a stop light. You should experience the drive once in your life, and drive it in a convertible, not your fifty foot motor-home.

Mom Wants Yet Another Picture.
While out for a beach walk, a young mother tries to get her kids to pose in front of Morro Rock.

We’re going to avoid going home for a couple of days. We have a couple of nostalgic restaurants we want to visit again. I never grow tired of photographing this place and I never seem to do a good enough job at it. Then of course, there’s the central coast wineries that we love so much. We’re not in a rush and we’ll be home soon enough.

jw

Calistoga – California

We arrived at Calistoga, a town at the head of the Napa Valley, just after lunch. When we normally look for our RV park, it’s conveniently on the highway and usually there are ample signs directing us to it. Not this time, because it’s at the county fairgrounds and everybody knows where it is . . . except us. We had to use the GPS and our tablet to track it down.

We finally found it, but no one was in the office to check us in. We weren’t the only ones either. The sign on the door said the office was only open from 10 am to 4 pm, with a smaller clock thingy that said somebody would be back at noon. It was already 1:05. Fortunately, one of the other guests used her cell to get a responsible person knew about reservations. After passing the phone around, we got our assigned camping spot. It’s right next to the half-mile dirt track, outside turn four. They’re hosting non-winged sprint cars and modifieds running over Labor Day weekend. I asked Anne if we could stay, but she only communicates with eye-rolls lately.

Hawkes Vinyards
Hawkes Vineyards in Anderson Valley was a pleasant discovery for us today.

As you would expect for wine country, Calistoga is a cool little town. I only associated the name with the mineral water bottled here, but this area is like a little Yellowstone. There are hot springs, mineral and mud baths and even a fake geyser . . . in fact, Geyserville is the next town up the road. The town was a tourists attraction well before Charles Krug planted his first grape-vine.

Duckhorn Vineyards Tasting Room
We picked up a nice bottle of Chardonnay at Duckhorn Vineyards.

We made a point to stop in Napa Valley because it’s the Mecca of California wines, but it’s not the only wine growing region north of San Francisco. Today, for example, we drove through Anderson Valley, Alexander Valley, but not Sonoma Valley which is behind us over the ridge. Even within Napa there are several wine districts, like St. Helena, Rutherford, Oak Knoll and Napa. They have slightly different soils and micro climates that affect the grape’s taste.

Silver Oak Wine Fridge
At that moment, Anne turned to me and said, “You have a table saw, you could make this..”

Now for the bad news. I think that Napa vineyards have become primadonnas. We’ve stopped at vineyards in Washington, Oregon and this morning, Anderson Valley. The day’s of free tasting are gone. Washington wineries will charge you a fee from 5 to 15 dollars to sample their wines. If you choose to buy a bottle, they waive the fee. Oregon’s sampling cost is more, but they still don’t charge if you buy something. Napa valley is absurd. Here the fees are 25 to 35 dollars for the tasting and that is independent of your purchase.

Beaulieu Vinyards Tasting Room
How could you possibly be allowed to park a dirty Porsche out side of a tasting room?

So are the wines that much better? Well, . . . they are that much more expensive. In Washington and Oregon, expensive reds were 40-50 dollars a bottle. Here, a bottle of reserve can easily cost over $100.00. That’s way out of our price range, and since we had to pay-to-taste, we didn’t feel guilty about not buying any.

Here comes the million dollar question; Don’t wines that cost more taste better? To my palate, the simple answer is no. The stop we made in Anderson Valley was a small vineyard and they don’t bottle enough to distribute in stores. I preferred their forty dollar bottle over one we tasted costing twice the price.

We’ve found that we like tasting in lesser known areas and growers. Sometimes you get swill, and then at least you know what you don’t like. Other times you find something that will make your socks roll up and down. and it’s a bargain. After all, that’s what you really want, value for your money.

Tomorrow, we’ll wait for morning rush to subside and head down to Paso Robles. That’s a place we’ve had great success in restocking our empty wine rack. Over dinner, I tried to convince Anne that we could take the 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge for a photo-op, then through downtown San Francisco and try to recreate scenes from the movie Bullet. Can you imagine the thrill of launching Fritz and The Ritz five feet into the air? She just rolled her eyes.

jw

Mendocino – California

Mendocino is probably our favorite town on the northern California Coast. I’m not sure why, because it doesn’t have fancy architecture we found in Eureka. Instead it’s loaded with white cottages and buildings with simple clapboard siding. It has more of a New England feel, which is why so many films and TV shows (Murder She Wrote) were shot here.

Mendocino From Across the Bay
Mendocino is probably the most New England town west of the Mississippi.

The town is on a coastal headlands above the Pacific. There isn’t a safe harbor so the local fishing fleet is in nearby Fort Bragg. There aren’t any wood mills or other heavy industry. The town seems more of an art  community. There are several galleries showing really nice local art, and the streets abound with posters for music and art gatherings.

Mendocino Volenteer Fire Department
What photographer in his right mind would pass up a red door on a white building?

Mendocino and the surrounding countryside offer plenty of inspiration. You can climb down the cliffs to the beaches on either side of the town and swim in the caves and grotto’s sculpted by the ocean. If you’re not into aquatics, you can just make space among the driftwood and listen to the waves breaking on the rocks while enjoying a bottle of Cabernet.

Church Back
A local church from the alley.

I could easily live here . . . but I’d need to pick better Power Ball numbers. As you can imagine, living in paradise isn’t cheap. Land sells for a premium and most of the buildings have historical significance. If you were able to find a place in town, there is an extra problem. As you walk through town, you’ll notice these odd-shaped towers. In Alaska, they could be bear proof food storage, but here, they supply your water pressure. Even in paradise, you gotta flush.

Garden Bench
A thoughtful gardener has provided a place to stop and smell the flowers.

Tomorrow we move on to Calistoga, located at the head of Napa Valley. It’s only three hours from here, but we want to get an early start. There’s wine to taste, and this is serious business.

jw

Ferndale Tonight – California

Today, I shot enough gingerbread houses to make my teeth hurt. We spent time walking around Old Town Eureka, which has a good collection of buildings from that period. That wasn’t enough. Fifteen miles down the road is Ferndale, with even more Victorian style buildings. After a half day of ornate buildings, I had to drive out into the countryside to shoot an unpainted barn to balance my senses.

Carson Mansion
If you bought a piece of redwood lumber in the 19th Century, this man cut the timbers.

Today’s weather was cool and overcast, as it is often along the northern coast of California. It’s not cloudy in the normal sense, it’s more of a fog that’s a couple hundred feet in the air. If you drive up any substantial hill, you’ll be in the clouds, and then looking down on them soon after that. It’s all due to the Humboldt Current (which is too long of a story for this blog).

For those of you that are unaware, I confess to being a ‘foodie’. I like to try new foods (to an extent). Since I like to cook, I try to recreate tastes that I like in my kitchen. I’m not a trained chef, but I’m an avid Food Network watcher, and I’ve seen every Dinners Drive Inns and Dives (Triple D) a couple of times. With that in mind, it surprised me to learn that the host, Guy Fieri is from Ferndale and worked at a couple of local restaurants before flying off to Europe for training. I learned all of this by reading an article pasted in the local paper’s window. Wow.

Ferndale Meat Company
This is one of the restaurants that Guy Fieri apprenticed at before running off to Europe for culinary training.

On our trips, we try to look up good places to have dinner. In Eureka, it’s obvious that the younger generation are more adept at online reviewing. The local brew house was the number one choice, while the seafood restaurant we ate at last night was down on the list. I’m sorry to disagree, but burgers and wings in a loud atmosphere don’t trump linen and superior seafood and immaculate service.

Not A Victorian House
Aackl! I just needed to photographer something that wasn’t painted in six colors.

Tomorrow we’re on the move again, this time to Fort Bragg. Or as I like to call it, the poor man’s Mendocino. It’s not that far of a drive, but we’ll likely spend a lot of time in the giant redwoods we’ll be driving through. Only the Sequoia’s in the Sierra’s are larger. I really want to take some time to capture their grandeur for you.

jw

Eureka – California

What a  difference a day and one hundred sixty-four miles makes. Yesterday we were complaining about the heat in Oregon and this evening, I’m wearing a sweater. That’s because we’re on the northern California coast, where the low clouds have kept the temperature below 70° today. That is, as long as we stay along the shore, if you go a mile inland, the temperature soars.

The drive from Oregon was a bit more challenging than yesterday’s. We were on a twisty two lane road that had several construction zones, so we didn’t make very good time. I told Anne that the drive would be a lot more fun if we had Betty White; our other car.

Once we crossed the state line, we soon picked up US 101, a road that we’ll follow south along the coast until we head east sometime next week. The Redwood Highway is what they call this section of the 101, and for good reason. The road would skirt the beach for a while before having to turn inland to get around a mountain. As the road climbed into the clouds, we would be in dense redwood forests. The trees were beautiful, being both thick and tall. They were so thick, the automatic headlights would turn on.

Fritz in the Redwoods
A couple of times along this section of road, we entered the Redwoods National Park, where the trees were so dense, the lights would automatically come on.

I don’t remember exactly where, but the road dropped into a small town in a glade, and there was one of those signs warning about elk. Only this time, they were there. Fritz tripped the ten-thousand mile mark yesterday and he’s taken us through seven states and four Canadian Provinces. Finally in the last state, in the last week of our travels before returning to Arizona, we got to see a big herd of wild animals along the road.

Elk Along The Highway
After three months on the road, we finally got to see a large herd of wild animals.

Shortly after leaving the elk, the road made its way back to the shore, and I stopped to take a shot of some off-shore rocks. We pulled in behind a parked truck. The woman in the passenger’s seat rolled down the window so that she could tell us about the dolphins. Anne got out of the truck and we watched for a while suspecting that we missed them. After scanning the water, I saw one break the surface for a breath then watched as its dorsal fin went out of sight.  I pointed in its direction and blurted, “There!” It took another minute before she saw one too. Then there were two, three and soon they were everywhere. In all, I think there was a school of a dozen or more working the small bay in front of us. They were too far out and only briefly broke the surface to get a good shot of them, so I didn’t try. We watched as long as we could before having to get back on the road.

Pacific Coast
We stopped to get a shot of the rocks off shore. As we watched, we spotted a school of dolphin swimming in the small bay.

We made Eureka by mid afternoon and set up camp. We needed to make a Costco run for provisions, which was on the other side of town. As we drove along the highway, we got a sneak peek at some Victorian homes, so that’s what’s on our agenda tomorrow. For now, I see the temperature has already dropped below 60°, so we have to put the comforter back on the bed to keep warm tonight.

jw

Yakima – Washington

It felt good to leave the Seattle noise and traffic behind today. The weather was sunny and dry with highs near 90, but the evenings cooled down enough to sleep with the windows open. If you like to have background noise while falling asleep, the Seattle freeways do a great job of providing that.

This morning we climbed over the Cascades to get to Yakima. This section of road kept confusing my senses. It never felt like we were going up a steep grade. Several times, I thought we were going downhill, but the big trucks were lumbering in the slow lane and my mileage gauge kept going down.

The west side has dense forest with lots of lakes and streams. The tall trees on either side of the highway acted like horse blinders hiding everything behind them. The only clue that we were in the mountains was what little we could see of them through the front window.

Finally we reached the pass at West Summit, and began descending into the Columbia Basin and the northern reaches of the Great Basin Desert. Instead of dark green conifer trees, tawny low sage brush the terrain cover the terrain, and the views open in all directions.

As we drove through one curve, a great snow-capped volcano crowning the Cascades appeared in front of us. “Is that Rainier?” “No it can’t be, because it should be to the east of us.” Then a second one came into view to the right, “Which is that one?” “Don’t know!” Just then we passed a sign with two arrows and mountain names. It was like they knew what we were talking about. Rainier was on the right and Mount Adams was in front of us.

We left Interstate 90 at Ellensburg and picked up 82 south. We crossed another range of low hills that would make any Nevadan or Arizonan feel at home. After reaching the top, the road dropped into the Columbia Basin and Yakima. I wondered how they could grow crops here until we crossed the Yakima River. Duh! Apple orchards, hop vines and row after row of grape vines lined each side of the road.

Yakima Barn
An old barn along the Yakima Highway

The agriculture corridor runs along the Yakima River for about sixty miles and there are maybe a hundred wineries we could try if we wanted to go blind. We got into camp early enough that we had time to stop at a couple of nearby tasting rooms. I’m pleasantly surprised at how nice their red wines taste. We picked up a couple of bottles and got some recommendations for tomorrow. It’s been our experience that stopping at each vineyard along the road isn’t productive, because our taste buds get confused.

Yakima BBQ
A historic downtown Yakima building is a place for local BBQ.

On the way back to camp, we drove through old town. As you know, I love to shoot historic old buildings and I suspected that I might find some here. I was right, and I may have to get out early to shoot more in the morning. Some of the buildings have trendy restaurants, so it looks like coming here was a good choice all around.

Commercial Saloon
I love finding old painted signs on brick buildings and I think they should be preserved.

jw

Everett – Washington

Shoot out at the border.

We spent three nights in Vancouver at a very nice RV Park, but when we got ready to leave yesterday morning, I found out that it was only a couple of miles from the border crossing. “Great,” I told Anne, “We’ll get a late start, I’ll buy gas with the remaining Canadian money, and still be in Seattle by noon.” Since it was early on Wednesday morning, we really didn’t expect much traffic, there was little reason to go eleven miles out of our way to the smaller port of entry on BC15.

Peace Arch
While you’re in line to cross the border at Interstate 5, you get to enjoy this lovely park. Just don’t get out of your car.

As it turns out, BC99 is Interstate 5 after crossing the border, and very few customs stations handle more traffic than this one. It was ten lanes wide with traffic backed up for a quarter of a mile. We were committed now, so I picked a slow lane. It really didn’t matter, because which ever lane we would have chosen, would wind up the slow lane.

After about a half hour, we finally made it to the customs agent (or are they TSA? maybe border patrol . . . whatever), who turned out to be Edwina (Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona). She rattled off the standard questions; Where do you live?, How long were you in Canada, Why did you go to Canada, did you buy anything in Canada, are you carrying any meat or produce with you . . .

“Well, we have some bacon, but we bought that in Montana, and some steaks, which we bought at the Anchorage Costco. We don’t have and citrus.” (I knew that citrus is a very bad thing to have.) “We just have a tomato, a couple of potatoes and an onion.”

Hearing that, Ed’s eyes narrowed and her lips pursed and she filled out an orange slip and slapped it on the windshield. “Follow the yellow arrows to the building over there, then take the form inside along with your passports for further inspection.” We obediently followed the yellow arrows and went inside.

Inside, there was a very long line, which as it turned out, was for the bathrooms. Relieved (in a different kind of way), we entered the main hall and saw a much bigger line snaking its way to a very large counter. Forget what you know about TSA lines, this was worse. There actually were two lines, one said Nexus, Agriculture, Meat. That line was empty, so it couldn’t possibly be the right one. The other line was for everybody else and everybody else was already in that line.

We stood for a moment trying to figure out which line we belonged in, when a sweet young customs woman walked up and asked if she could answer our questions. We explained what Ed had told us and we were just trying to figure out which was the correct line.

“Oh, this is for produce, you’re here to see me, come up to the counter over there.” That was a first, but who was I to argue. We met her at the counter and handed our passports and orange form to her and explained about where we lived, why we went to Canada, how long we were there, where we left the States and did we own the truck and trailer. She slipped a declaration slip across the counter for us to fill out and sign.

“We’ll need to inspect the produce, may I have the keys please?”

“Sure, I show you,” I offered.

“No, you and your wife take a seat on the window sill over there and we’ll call you when we’re ready. Is this the trailer key?”

I explained that it wasn’t and told her where the trailer keys could be found in Fritz. Then we took our place on the window sill, with all the other smugglers.

After what seemed like an hour, but was probably only half that long, she came back in and summoned us to the counter. She showed us a bag of evidence: the remaining beautiful beefsteak tomato and five small Yukon Gold potatoes we bought from Michael in Clinton. “I’ll have to confiscate this produce.”

Anne actually blurted out, “Can I at least have a bite of the tomato?” That didn’t go over very well, and she moved the bag out of reach then bid us a safe trip and handed back our passport and signed orange slip. As we left, she said something curious, “Be sure to check the trailer and lock it.” So, once outside, we did.

It was now noon-thirty; two and a half hours later. We got into Fritz and headed out the exit with our orange get out of jail free card. The gate guard examined it and lifted the barrier. Once again, we were free US Citizens.

We stopped for lunch and then headed for our new camp site. After checking in and parking the trailer, we opened the door. Aah! It looked like two pigs had a cat fight in there. The doors and drawers were all left opened and all of their contents spilled out on the floor. Neither one of us knew how to react. I felt so . . . violated.

We’re spending a couple of days in the Seattle area to restock, regroup and to visit some dear friends living here. After that we’ll be traveling over the Cascades to Yakima, the center of Washington wine country. We could use a bottle or two.

jw