Monday, July 20, 2009

Forks, WA to Port Angeles, WA

The sun came out.  Boy, how I love blue sky and sunshine.  Coming in to the Forks from the south on 101, you will see a Thriftway store on the left. 

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It is a combination Grocery Store/Outfitter/and Ace Hardware.  It’s like the old fashioned country store… and has the widest selection of stuff you can imagine.  I got a big deli sandwich that I can make into two meals.


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They also have a Transit Center and Restop by the Olympic National Park & Forest Information Center.  There is ample parking in the back and no signs posted about limits.  On the other end of town is a Railroad Park… and last year I spend a night there and was only disturbed by some rowdy teens who eventually went away.

Last night I parked at that Thriftway store and used the Wi-Fi from the Dew Drop Inn across the street.  I could still not get Verizon Air Card to work.  When I was ready to turn in for the night, I drove around town a little and decided to park across the street from the Post Office.  This is off the main drag about one block and was very quiet.  Day time parking is limited to 1 hour between 8am and 6pm… so figured no one would bother with me until 9am.    I returned to use the Dew Drop Inn Wi-Fi before heading on northward on Rt. 101.

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I had never driven into Port Angeles on this road and was delightfully surprised by Lake Crescent.  Strikingly beautiful.  Wonderfully fragrant, flowers, new mowed grass??? I don’t know what it was, but it was a divine smell.  I saw people laying around on one of the boat docks, just talking. I drove by Lake Crescent Lodge where I noted there were kayaks along the shore.  This area of Washington is amazingly quiet and peaceful and I can’t get over the fresh air.  The photos say it all… so I’ll just post them.  I’ve got to come back here again.

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Kayaks for rent at Lake Crescent Lodge

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Lake Crescent Lodge

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I drove on into Port Angeles, and found Gary’s house.  We did some errands and got tickets for the ferry ride to Victoria tomorrow.  This tree trunk with masks mounted on it was outside the Victoria Ferry Office.  Very interesting.

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I believe my air card has died so I’m borrowing Gary’s to post my blog.  I’ll have to get a replacement on the way to Bremerton when I leave here.  Now it’s time to rest, clean VanHouse, straighten things up, and did I say rest?  Gary is off “playing” landlord.

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Gary’s van, kayak (with bed on top) and bike/trike.  Says, “it’s furnished.” Our vans now look like kissin’ cousins.  His is the window van.

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VanGearloose meets VanSwankieWheels. 

Enjoy the photos.  Won’t be posting again for a couple days.

Oh, unless you are into Vampires and Twilight Zone fads… the best thing I found in the Forks was the Thriftway Store complex.  IMHO.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

The last five years… for Bob Wells


Bob, use what you like.  Ask me questions.  None of this seems very remarkable to me, except for the fact that 10 years ago, I could barely walk and was shopping for a wheelchair.

You wrote I had kayaked 8 states so far in the last article.

They were:


In 2010, I kayak 21 more states.  They were:

WY, SD, ND, MN, WI, MI, NY, NH, ME, VT, MA, CT, RI, NJ, DE, MD/DC, VA, NC, SC, GA, and FL.  I can give you dates if you want them.

Winter of 2010 I spent at my sister’s in Florida.  She had done a round of chemo… and we had years of catching up to do.  I also scanned a bunch of family photos that she had.

In the Spring of 2011, I went to GA, and David Hair did some work on my bike hitch.  I hung around to visit with other vandwellers there.  Lots of smokers, a few dogs, a cat, too much time inside watching t.v., good meals, lots of laughs but the exposure to allergens made me sick for the first time since I hit the road, and I ended up in the hospital.  Only time since 2008 that I have been sick.  Living outside is not a choice for me, it is absolute necessity.

After getting well, I resumed  kayaking and did 11 more states.  They were:

TN, WV, PN, OH, KY, IN, IL, IO, NE, CO, NM.  Dates available.

Returned to Quartzsite in the Fall of 2011 and joined the Gem and Mineral Club becoming a rock sawyer, learning to do lapidary and becoming a Foreman in the Lapidary shop and cutting and polishing many of my own stones. I interviewed in the big tent for a job with BLM and was hired to host a campground near Rifle, CO.  

Summer of 2012, I worked for California Land Management for two campgrounds in the White River National Forest out of Rifle, CO, Meadow Ridge Campground and Meadow Lake Campground.  I was terminated before the end of the camping season due to a forest fire shutting down my forest.  I kayaked a number of times at Meadow Lake (used to be called Meadow Creek Lake).  And then…

I returned to kayaking the last 8 of the lower 48 states.  They were:


Winter of 2012-13 I visited the Big Tent and Quartzsite and learned about a CDL training program for jobs as driver/guides in Alaska.  Since that’s the next state I plan to kayak, I thought I could save money/earn money to help with the trip, if I got that job.  Applied, Spent two months in training and realized my eyes really weren’t up to the task… and I withdrew from the program.

Short term plans call for relaxing… slowly working my way to the northwest, hugging my two little grandbabies, and getting on up to Alaska.

Only states left are:  Alaska which I will kayak in 2013.  And finally, I will kayak Hawaii on my 70th birthday, May 16, 2014.  My 50th state to kayak.  Some family and friends are going to Hawaii for the celebration.  Everyone is invited (Dutch treat of course).

Me in 2009.                                       Me in 2012.

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Long term goals… I don’t have any, but I have a bucket list at

All I know for sure, is that I’m living life to the fullest, I’m happy, and healthier than I have ever been.

My motto is:  “It doesn’t get any better than this… until tomorrow.”

My new Facebook header is:


I painted the eagle.  Just added text to it for Facebook.


Only other change in my life is that I began sketching portraits of people and pets and recently of people with their rigs.  So far, I’m not making a lot of money at it, but have plans to make a set of note cards that I will sell in packets.  The first set will be of southwest wildlife.


Cargo rack, platform, solar system, batteries, 1200 watt inverter, microwave, 12v stove, all working well.  No changes made, nothing broke.


Added shelves inside my trailer to keep things better organized.

Added a ladder rack to outside of trailer to stow my cumbersome 10’ ladder.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

1st, 2nd, and 3rd States: California, Arizona and Nevada (July 2009)

Prior to kayaking Nevada, I had kayaked in CA (learned in the Monterey Bay, Monterey, CA) and Arizona.  They were my 1st and 2nd states.  Nevada was my third.  I'll try to fill in the older details.

In July 2009, I had dental surgery in Truckee, CA with a follow-up in two weeks. Having to wait around that long, I decided to circumnavigate Lake Tahoe and explore and hopefully paddle. So, I headed out, taking my time to stop around North Tahoe... where I could. Not too many places that have "Public" access. I think there is something really wrong when "rich" people possess most of the Lake Tahoe shoreline... and where the public is allowed, they have to pay to park, pay to launch a boat, pay to pee. Must be my 1/32nd Indian blood boiling up inside me. It was a stormy rainy day... and as I approached Carson City, rainbows.
North shore of Lake Tahoe.
Needed a new tire for the trailer, the new one I bought in Monterey, blew out three days later as I approached Sacramento... my first day after leaving Monterey. Really messed things up. I was riding on the rim... and never even felt anything... and also dragging the rear right corner of the trailer. Air temp was 92 F (who knows what the pavement temp was)... and no one NO ONE stopped to help an ol' silver-headed woman. Took me 2 hrs to change that danged tire... and came close to heat stroke... nausea, headache, etc. Made it to Donner Pass where I slept for the night.

My new tire???? Never felt a thing???

Was so rung out, all I could do was sit in the van for a hour before I could drive again. Made it to Donner Pass where I slept for the night.
Next, got to my friends' home in Tahoma and had a good long rest. Their place is a small slice of heaven... and the dog... what a dog he is... Hoss Dog.
After the dental work, I headed out to drive around Lake Tahoe... first to Carson City, NV to find a tire(s). Gas in Tahoe was $3.19 and it was 50 cents less in Carson City. Rainbow as I approached Carson City, NV.
Arriving in Carson City, it had a wonderful rainbow over it. Neat.
Carson City. Boy, do I like that town, in spite of the fact that the first 3 nights I was sick and sticking close to Wal-Mart. Then I decided to get to the Forest Service office and get maps. Then i went up Kings Canyon.... and after traversing 5 or 6 very deep ditches (trailer not in tow)... I made it to a lovely level area under large pine trees. No noise. No traffic. No one all night but me. Just me. Just me and SwankieWheels. I got out, walked around, returned to the van, found something to eat and slept.

Kings Canyon camping area.
The next morning I cleaned up maybe 100 lbs. or more of glass, metal cans, nails, bullet casings and other junk. A Ranger hauled out my first bag and gave me a new heavy duty bag. I spent about four hours filling the bag 1/2 up... and then couldn't lift it off the ground... so left it for the Rangers to collect. I was told this is a favorite party place for teens... and they leave all this junk. Someone should teach them better.
Back to Carson City the next day.... and after three days of eating very little, was having a protein fit... so hit KFC... and wolfed down 3 drumsticks. Then toured the town some more, found the Aquatic Center, found things I'd like to return to explore in depth (museums and such)... took care of errands. The next morning I headed to the Aquatic Center and swam 1/4 mile, first swim in about six months. Felt great. Wonderful locker rooms with privacy stalls and all.

After my swim, I shopped for tires... and got run around to 3 different Les Schabb stores before I got everything I wanted. Decided on Radials instead of the thin little tires the guy in Monterey sold me. Requested LTs instead of STs but they didn't have any. Was told I could use the old wheel (the one I drove on for... who knows how far, see pix above)... but for $44 I felt it worth the peace of mind to know the tire would be well-seated on the rim.


Leaving Carson Valley, horses, cattle, haying operations. My kind of stuff.
So, hauled my two new tires (wrapped tightly in plastic bags) and new wheel back to Tahoe... over the old Kingsbury Grade road (an historic marker notes the spot). While earlier called the Georgetown Trail and Dagget Pass Trail, it became known as Kingsbury Grade in honor of one of the builders of an 1860 wagon road that crossed the Sierra range here. A mile farther is modern-day Kingsbury Grade. Once I got to Lake Tahoe, I headed north looking for a place to camp, and things where full up or too expensive, so I went on to Cave Rock on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe for another paddle... in Nevada, my 3rd state. Had to pay $12 to park and launch my kayak.

Cave Rock, NV

Water was very choppy... and even speed boats were getting out. It's a lot of work to unload and load my kayak... so when I do, I want to have a long leisurely paddle... and this was anything but that. All I could think was.... "It's a good thing I learned to kayak in the Ocean!" I said that to a guy I watched dive off a speed boat, swim to shore to go get their boat trailer and back it down to the ramp. He replied, "You got that right."

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe
Drove on around the southern end of Lake Tahoe, past Emerald Bay and on to my friends' place in Tahoma. Next day had two different dentist appointments, one with my friend Elle's boss... to fill a back tooth, repair the edge of my bridge, and fix a cracked tooth. Right after that appointment, drove back to Truckee to see my surgeon and he said things looked really good. Both these dentist told me... I might still need to have root canals of two of those teeth. Will it ever end?
Spent the rest of the day getting my two new tires on... changed them myself, and now after three tire changes in as many weeks, I think I could do it in 15 minutes, blindfolded. Also had to repair the lights/wiring of the fixtures on the wheel cover and replace the right running light. And also had to pound the corner back in place... and pull the wheel cover straighter.
Had a last supper with my friends that night and headed out the next morning.
Elle's daughter and her Hoss-Dog seeing me off from Tahoma, CA.

Smoke from Fire, taken from AFB FAMCAMP.

The plan is to stay at Beale Air Force Base the FAMCAMP for a week or even two, just shaking it down some more, and settling in to my new home-on-wheels. I just haven't been able to do that with a "home base." I must say, the FAMCAMP is really nice. Last night as I was biking to the Lounge and the Laundry room, there was a large plume of smoke on the horizon to the north. Turned out it was... a fire north of Dobbins, CA.

Now, just relaxing and realizing... I'm home... here or anywhere. All I own is right here. Strange. Today, fixed my bed and am repacking my bed area. Tomorrow I'll do some sewing.. making nets for the doors and adjusting my bed bug net. It was 100 F inside the tent this afternoon and 90 F inside the van. The heat finally made me feel very tired and I took the computer and retreated to the air conditioned Lounge... ate lunch and am about to make my dinner in here. Watching t.v.
Looking forward to the next leg of my journey... heading north.

Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.