When life gives you lemons, go ride Lemonade!

North and West

(YT) means a YouTube is available. Click on it.

We have turned the corner and are working our way back towards Washington State. But we are taking the scenic long way there.

We are heading to the only diamond mine in the world where you can go dig for your own diamonds. It is in Arkansas at the Crater of Diamonds State Park.

This is a large field where, for a $10/day fee you can go dig as much as you want. And take it all home with you.

 

In the early 1900’s a farmer found a diamond laying on the ground. That started it. Several companies tried to mine them but each went broke. In 1972 the state bought the site and figured out how to make a profit. Mine the people’s pockets, not the dirt. A daily fee, tool rentals, campground, cafe, souvenirs etc. makes for a profitable business. The field is plowed into furrows so that people can shovel the soil into buckets and take it into the shed (back right) to wash and hopefully find a diamond. Kathy had fun but did not find any. Our second day there another person found a diamond over two carats. These are more “industrial grade” than “gem grade”.

After a few days there we packed up and hit the road towards the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. These are not “mountains” as in the Rocky Mountains or the Alps. These are more what I would call “hills”. They are rounded on top with farms and towns nestled here and there. We camped on the shore of the Buffalo River and took several rides in the surrounding “mountains”.

 

 

When we left we turned more westerly and headed for the Strataca Salt Mine in Kansas. We arrived late in the afternoon and they let us stay in their parking lot with our motorhome.

The next morning we went 650 feet (200 m.) below the flat prairie to a thick layer of salt which formed 275 million years ago.The mine is like the inside of a closed waffle iron. Except the pillars are 40-50 feet square. (YT) and (YT2). The second video talks about a roof collapse.

The salt is mostly used for winter roads as well as animal feed. The place is huge! The tunnels add up to over 150 miles. The mining has been going on since the 1930’s when a farmer drilling a well found salt in his water. The current mining is far away from the museum and tour area.

Leaving Kansas we continued northwest and entered southwestern South Dakota. We were looking for a campsite when we found that we could camp overnight in the parking lot of The Mammoth Center. We didn’t even know what it was. It turns out to be a site where a pond filled a sinkhole in the ground. The mammoths would come to drink and step off the edge and slide into the steep-sided pond. They would then be unable to get out and would drown.

 

 

 

 

A person is working the lower center of the pit. The whole thing is only about 100 (30 m.) feet across but has dozens of mammoth remains.

 

The Black Hills of South Dakota are a famous area for motorcyclists mainly because of the Sturgis Rally held nearby. That with nice curvy and hilly roads makes this an attractive destination. We have been to the rally and seen it several years ago. Now we are back for some rides without all the crowds that arrive for the rally.

We also have a YouTube (YT) to view. It includes an encounter with Mountain Goats blocking a tunnel entrance.

 

 

We spent several days here. Much of it hiding out from the weather. It is late May but we were getting snow showers. None of it was sticking but it still made it uncomfortable to ride.

We continued west to Wyoming and the Big Horn Mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

These are NOT your “Ozark” type mountains. These are real. We planned to do some riding up and down the front range of these mountains. But the continuing poor weather changed our minds.

 

After that disappointment we just put on the miles until we got to northeastern Washington State. Because of the poor weather we are ahead of schedule to our next reservation. We kill a couple of days and then head for the border into British Columbia, Canada. We are going to the Horizon’s Unlimited Canada West Rally. This is a loose group of international motorcyclists that we have belonged to for about 20 years. If a rider wants information of traveling to, through, or out of a country, they can probably find out on the discussion board from someone who has “been there-done that”. These rallies are held all over the world under the Horizon’s Unlimited leadership.

But first we have to cross the border. We have crossed many times into Canada over the last 45 years, and crossed many borders into and out of many other countries too. This one is probably the worst experience anywhere. We didn’t expect it because the previous crossing of the Canadian border have pleasant and easy.

I’m driving the motorhome and towing the motorcycle on a trailer. Kathy is driving the car and following me. We are a a very small crossing south of Rossland, BC called Paterson. I pull into the truck parking area and Kathy follows me. We gather our papers and walk to the booth. The border agent immediately lays into us about parking in the truck area. I explain that I did it because I’m the same size as a truck and Kathy because she is with me. But that didn’t matter. He asks all the usual questions and to the one about liquor I answer that we have “...and 6 or 8 bottles of beer”. He replies “Is it 6 or 8? If you say 6 and it is 8 I can take your rig!” I then ask if he wants me to go count them and he ignores the question. He then walked over and entered the motorhome and returned. He grumped some more and then gave us our passports back and turned away. We walked back to the vehicles and drove on. Before this our worst border crossings were with our own US agents. (The Greeks have been by far the best of any agents. We have crossed into and out of Greece several times, in various directions, and they are always polite, kind and helpful.)

Now, back to the story. We are in Nakusp, BC for the rally. There are numerous informational and instructional sessions that are mostly presented by various riders about their trips. Where they went, what they saw, what happened both good and bad and what was learned, both good and bad.

 

 

 

There are outdoor sessions too. This is a rider skills improvement class. As you can see it is almost all adventure and dual-sport type motorcycles. We are one of the few GoldWings ever seen at these rallies. We have been to several of these in several countries.

 

 

 

The last picture is of the scooter a guy was riding who just happened on the meeting here. They talked him into doing a session talk. This is an electric scooter and he is headed from Colorado to Alaska where he will turn round and and head for Antarctica. (I just checked his web page and he is heading south along the coast of Washington State as I type.) He used campground electrical plugs or solar panels he carries with him to recharge and makes up to about 65 miles (100 km.) a day.

 

This part of BC is riddled with hot springs. Some highly developed and some primitive. The one we chose is primitive. And about a 300 foot (90 m.) descent from the parking lot in the forest. At least there are steps.

 

But when we got there it was worth it. There were descending pools of various temperatures to soak in. The worst part was the access road. 11 miles (18 km.) of badly pot-holed rock, dirt and gravel surface.

 

Leaving and heading west required us to take a ferry across one of the many finger lakes that beautify the valleys in this area. Thank goodness that the ferry was free. At the size of our motorhome and trailer (50 feet, 15.5 m.) it can get expensive to ride a ferry.

 

 

The rally is over and we travel over pleasant 2-lane roads westward to the town of Kalowna where we visit with GoldWing friends before crossing back into the US. We are going to the little border town of Oroville, WA. Where we will spend 2 weeks resting and riding local roads. (YT) Fifty years ago I worked in this area as a forester for a private timber company. I traveled many of the same roads as this time. Outside of the major towns, not much has changed. Satellite antennas are the most visible change.

We usually have a destination in mind when going for a ride, usually lunch. This is the Chesaw tavern in Chesaw, WA. An old mining and ranching town with good food.

The roads through these hills interconnect so all the rides are loops without returning over the same road. But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t ride it the other direction on the next ride. Things do look different from the other direction.

 

 

 

On the Canadian side of the border there are many wineries. We have been here before and enjoyed driving from winery to winery, buying a bottle here and a bottle there. But with Covid we found out that they have gone to reservation only, no drop-Ins.

Then we came across this brand new wine tasting center. It is circular around a shaded patio with local wineries renting the small tasting rooms surrounding the patio. There are ponds and waterfalls and food from the one brewery.

 

To get to our next stop we have to cross the Cascade Mountains. These mountains run north and south through the states of Washington and Oregon merging with the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. The North Cascade Highway is beautiful and should be done on the motorcycle. But we have to take our house with us so no riding this trip.

 

We are staying in Mt. Vernon, Washington for a month before our last run down to our final stop this summer in SW Washington. It is very near to the beautiful road that leads up to Mt. Baker, (YT) a volcano in the northern portion of the Cascade Mountains. This road winds and twists through the trees and streams until coming out above the timberline. Then the sun and snow made a great sight.

Coming down, not far from the top, we saw this man walking down the side of the road. He has a backpack, two cloth shopping bags, and a senior citizen walker. He is carrying the walker, not using it. There is no vehicle near him and there is no camping or rooms anywhere nearby. Now the really strange thing is that 4 days later and 80 miles (130 km.) away I saw him again. He is dressed the same, same bags and walker and is heading south on a road that parallels the I-5 freeway. He must have quite the story. He reminded me of the guy with the electric scooter that was headed to Alaska and Antarctica. The perseverance of the human spirit will not be stopped.

 

Besides riding we went to Vancouver Island in BC for a few days. The purpose was to visit Butchart Gardens and Victoria.

Victoria is a British feeling city that advertises itself as one. We wandered the waterfront and the Parliament Building, visited some parks and had lunch at a brew pub.

And did nothing special.

 

Then we went to Butchart Gardens.

 

Butchart Gardens is an old rock pit. The Butchart family in the late 1800’s set up a cement plant and dug the cement out of here. The wife started turning the older parts into a garden with lots of flowers and trees. The husband provided company employees to haul in topsoil and plants to be placed at her direction. Needless to say, they were wealthy. Today the site is a full flowering garden year round with seasonal changes. The best time is during the summer, of course.

There are paved trails that wind through the rock pit and climb the hillocks and sides. Trails are marked for handicap access routes to avoid stairs.

 

 

 

 

We discovered that near our campground was a Butterfly Sanctuary. It wasn’t very big but had a lot going on in it. This is the pond with Koi and a live Flamingo. There were also parrots, various birds, turtles and an Iguana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above video is inside the sanctuary itself but, just past the ticket booth was a room with displays of various bugs, all live and doing their thing.

 

We filled out the rest of the month with more rides to eat (RTE), a weekend wine festival and sampling local restaurants.

 

The last move to a new town involved heading straight south on I-5 with an overnight stop near Tacoma to visit a car museum and a glass art museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Le May car collection is housed on four sloped floors that go down ramps from the entrance.

 

Some of the cars were even “older” than most, and one very futuristic. The Flint Mobile was actually used in the movie.

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly is the Tacoma Museum of Glass.

On the left by the artist Chihuly. Right are paperweights.

There is live glass blowing too.

Attached to the building is a bridge over the highway that runs beside the museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bridge has two displays. One a ceiling of blown glass objects.

 

 

 

 

 

The second a wall of display cases. Some of them 6 foot (2 m.) high.

 

 

 

 

Finally we are home. But in a new RV park from last year.

Watching the Sternwheeler Paddleboat through the windshield. With a small part of Kathy’s collection of stuffed animals from all over the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Well it is now sunset so I guess I’ll hang up the keyboard and get some dinner.

We’ll be riding again with our friends from our GWRRA Washington Chapter X but I’ll not bore you with them. I told you about many of the roads around here over the years. (YT)

 

We are here until October first and then we head south to Tucson again. It will take us a month to get there with the rock hounding that Kathy wants to do in Oregon, Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

The next update will probably be in November some time. Hopefully I won’t procrastinate as long as I did this time.

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