Saturday, December 8, 2012

Take a quick hike at Starvation Creek State Park

The nature trail at Starvation Creek
Starvation Creek State Park is a tiny park nestled alongside Interstate 84 between Portland and Hood River. It gives travelers a chance for a quick hike through nature.

Unless they have to use the restroom, most travelers speed by Starvation Creek State Park at Exit 54 on eastbound Interstate 84. The patk is better known for its restroom facilities than it is for its nature hikes. But there’s a short, handicapped accessible trail which starts at the restrooms.

Starvation Creek Has Short Nature Walk
The trail starts at the north end of the restroom building and makes a loop through a heavily wooded area. Starvation Creek runs through the middle, babbling and rushing its way to the Columbia River on the other side of the freeway. In some places the path is a little steep, but easily doable for travelers who take their time. There are picnic tables along the way to enjoy a snack. The forest blots out the sound of the freeway, adding to the serenity of the picture.

It takes about 10 minutes to walk the loop of this roadside nature trail. Travelers with more time can take longer hikes up the Mt. Defiance Trail to see several waterfalls. The park is at the trailhead of the Mt. Defiance Trail. Other hiking opportunities are nearby.

Park Part of Historic Columbia River Highway
Signs at the site denote this is part of the historic Columbia River highway system. A plaque at the site says construction of the highway started here in 1912.

The park’s name, Starvation Creek, dates back to 1884 when a train en route from The Dalles to Portland became snowbound when avalanches blocked it at both ends. According to the Oregon State Archives website, the Pacific Express, carrying 148 people, became stuck in the snow on December 18, 1884, during a particularly bad snow storm. Rescuers reached the train on Christmas Day, but it was not until a week later that the train was able to move. It went back to The Dalles, finally reaching Portland three weeks behind schedule. Passengers reportedly were more in danger of freezing from the winter cold, burning train seats to keep warm, than they were of starving. The archives notes a pig on the train did not survive the trip.

No Westbound Freeway Access to Starvation Creek Park
Starvation Creek State Park is open for day-use only, though the restrooms are open around the clock. The park is accessible only by eastbound travelers. Westbound travelers will need to continue down the freeway a few miles then cross to the eastbound lanes and double back to Exit 54. Another option is for westbund travelers to get off at Viento State Park, then walk the two miles to Starvation Creek.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bodie livens up Richland's The Parkway

It's always a delight to be walking along a city street and come across a piece of sculpture in the most unexpected places.

That's how I felt when I "discovered" this bronze statue of a labrador named Bodie in The Parkway, a short pedestrian mall in Richland, Washington.

According to the plaque, Bodie accompanied his owner, Cindy Irvin, to work at The Parkway for many years, becoming a fixture among the shop owners and customers. Bodie also was a certified therapy dog who visited patients at Kadlec Hospital, just a few blocks away.

The "Many Friends of Bodie" erected a plaque at the base of the statue to remind us that dogs are, indeed, man's best friend.

The sculpture of Bodie, resplendent in his kerchief, was made by Tom McClelland, a local artist. The statue was installed in 2010.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Washington apples

Washington State is justifiably famous for its apples. They're crisp, delicious and nutritious. They're one of the state's top agricultural exports.

Saturday we made our annual trip north to Tieton, a small community in the foothills of the central Cascades, where we spent the day making apple juice at my husband's cousin's farm where they have a small apple orchard, growing a variety of apples that all go into the juice.

This is an event we look forward to every year around Halloween. There is nothing better than drinking a glass of fresh-squeezed juice as it comes off the press. Most of us don't even wait until it's been through the strainer to remove little bits of peels and apple chunks that might be in it.

This year wasn't as much fun but only because of the weather. It is no fun picking apples, washing them in a huge iron tub, throwing them into the apple press when it's raining and then bottling it. We were human Popsicles by the time we were through.

Luckily, we didn't have to squeeze as many gallons as we usually do, somewhere between 200 and 300 gallons a year. That's because not as many people showed up due to the rain. The cousins have a rule: You can have as much juice as you want as long as you help make the juice for their freezers. Usually we spend the morning squeezing juice for all of us and the afternoon making their 70 gallons or so. This year, we'd started on their juice well before lunch time.

The jugs of juice freeze well, which means we can enjoy this treat throughout the year. Yea! for Washington apples!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chukar Cherries

One of the places we like to go on Sunday afternoon drives is Prosser, usually riding our motor scooters over the back roads. Once at Prosser, we head straight for Chukar Cherries.

If you like your chocolate with a little fruit or some nuts, this is the place to go. Diets be damned!

Chukar Cherries started out by coating dried cherries in rich milk chocolate, and then expanded their line of gourmet goodies from there.

A recent article in the local newspaper expounded on the firm's success since it was founded in 1988. It also details the processes by which the different products are made.

Chukar Cherries makes a great stop when you're tired of freeway driving. Just take the Prosser exit 80 off I-82, then drive past the rest area until you get to Chukar Cherries,about a mile I'm guessing.

Prosser is also a great place to stop to sample Washington wines. Wineries are scattered throughout the Prosser area, but Wine Country Road has a nice concentration of them.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Connell's wildlife

Connell's whimsical sidewalk art
Connell, Washington, is a small town about 35 miles north of Pasco on Highway 395, which used to run through the town but now bypasses it.

I lived there for eight years in the 1980s when I published the town's weekly newspaper, the Franklin County Graphic. I make frequent trips to the town, which has doubled in size since a prison was built there, to see friends.

Wildlife has changed since I lived there. I remember one Saturday night the most exciting thing happening was that a snake crossed the town's main street, stopping traffic, and crawled up into the wheel hub of my car.

Connell's Columbia Avenue boasts a different type of wildlife now. In 2010, the town installed six bronze scupltures of various wildlife seated at concrete picnic tables, with room for people passers-by to join them.

The bronze and cast concrete sculptures were created by Ton Otterness in a project sponsored by the City of Connell and the Washington Arts Commission. The series is called, appropriately, Wild Life.

The whimsical characters include animals and veterans playing cards in front of the American Legion; farm families meeting with a banker to get a loan for a manure spreader, and a coyote ordering a mouse in the mail in front of the post office.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Pendleton Round-Up: Let 'er buck!

Statue at Round-Up arena entrance
Whenever I make a list of my favorite things, rodeos are always on the list. I love a good rodeo! Fortunately, I live in the West, where there are plenty of opportunities to indulge this passion.

I grew up going to rodeos. We almost always went to the St. Paul, Oregon, rodeo over the Fourth of July with its awesome fireworks after each night's performance. When we didn't spend July 4 at St. Paul, we spent it at the Mollala Buckaroo where organizers brought in stars from top television Westerns to entertain. I remember one year that I was close enough to touch Annie Oakley's horse as it walked by. Of course, Annie was really the actress Gail Davis, but it still was an awesome experience for a kid.

Yesterday, we attended the Pendleton Round-Up, one of the top rodeos in the West. In a couple of events, the animals bested the cowboys, though they didn't get points for doing this. Everyone laughed as one winning steer left the cowboy in the lurch then ambled off to nibble grass on the grassy oval in the middle of the arena as he wasn't in any hurry to go back to the pen. The round-up arena doubles as the high school football field.

It was a nice rodeo, but not that all exciting. For us, the highlight of the day was the Happy Canyon pageant, put on by Native American plateau tribes. More than 400 people participated in the pageant which began with explanations of Indian traditions and their way of life. It progressed with the coming of the white man to the West and how this movement changed their way of life. The finale was absolutely stunning, as a brave astride a magnificent paint horse rode to an upper stage holding the U.S. flag as the audience sang the national anthem. This was especially moving as just yesterday morning it was announced the ambassador to Libya had been killed when terrorists attacked the embassy there.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Country Mercantile

Country Mercantile, a few miles north of Pasco on Highway 395, is one of our favorite places to go. My husband is addicted to their sausage dogs and gourmet carmel corns. I like their fresh salsas and their $2 table.

Country Mercantile started out as a small one-room produce stand in the 1990s, but has expanded greatly over the years. Fresh fruits and veggies still star here, but homemade candies, ice cream and salsas share the stage along with other gourmet goodies and gift items.

Their salsas are the best for miles around. They come in a multitude of flavors - my favorite is the roasted garlic and olive, and they've got a suicide salsa for folks who like it fiery hot. Mangoes, peaches, pineapple, avocados and asparagus are some of the other flavors. Sometimes they have a cherry salsa that is almost sweet enough to use as a topping on ice cream.

The store has a huge parking lot, and it's needed, especially on summer weekends, to handle all the RVs that stop. A harvest festival in the fall draws thousands of people over several weeks to pick pumpkins and navigate a corn maze.

Friday, August 24, 2012

McNary National Wildlife Refuge

Pelican at the refuge visitor center.
If you like looking for birds, the place to do this is the McNary National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles the Snake and Columbia rivers in Washington and Oregon.

Whether you're driving Highway 12 south of Pasco, taking another highway west at Wallula Junction and driving to Umatilla, refuge signs abound. Usually you can see hundreds of water birds swimming in the lakes on both sides of Highway 12.

The refuge covers more than 15,000 acres as it meanders through the Columbia Basin. The birds you'll see depend in large part on the time of the year. Canada geese, mallards, wigeons and other ducks favor the refuge during the winter months. And don't forget bald and golden eagles, hawks and peregrine falcons.

Other times of the year you'll find owls, wrens, blue herons and pelicans, not to mention mule deer, badgers and muskrat.

Entrance to the visitor center at Burbank Heights.
The educational center at Burbank Heights, just off the Waitsburg Highway, has a wonderful display of the birds and animals you'll see throughout the refuge. When you visit the center, take time to walk the paved trail  to a bird blind where you can watch birds in the small lake. Signs also identify the different vegetation you'll find in the refuge.

We made our first visit to the center earlier this week after we made a last-minute decision to escape the heat by camping at Hood Park, a pretty park along the Snake River about a mile from where it empties into the Columbia. It was almost like camping in our backyard, as it was only about 10 miles from our house, We were surprised to see so many other residents there.

We had some free time one afternoon, so we hopped on our scooters to explore the area that we usually just drive through on our way to somewhere else. That's how we found the refuge's visitor center.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Maryhill: A Washington State Treasure

Maryhill Museum of Art, located in southcentral Washington, has always been my favorite museum, and the museum by which I judge other museums. This is only natural, perhaps, because it was the first museum I ever went to, back when I was about five years old.

Six decades later, I am still going back to Maryhill usually every year or so. Now that I am older, I can really appreciate its charms.

The museum is fantastic! It has the largest collection of Rodin work on the West Coast, a great collection of chess sets, marvelous baskets woven by Northwest Native Americans  and an historic collection of memorabilia contributed by Queen Marie of Romania, a granddaughter of Britain's Queen Victoria. These holdings include her throne, Faberge items, intricately gilded furniture and portraits of the royal family.

But Maryhill is more than a museum. It also includes Washington's Stonehenge, pictured above, which is a monument to Klickitat County soldiers who died in World War I. It is the first WWI monument built in the United States.

It also includes the first paved road in Washington State. Down the road from the museum is Maryhill Winery, which brings in big-name entertainers for summer concerts.

What really adds to Maryhilll's charms are the stunning vistas. Maryhill sits on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. On a clear day, you really feel you can see forever!

Because I'm so enthusiastic about Maryhill (we take all out-of-state guests there), I've written an ebook about it: Maryhill, A Washington State Treasure, which is now available on Amazon Kindle. This is a text-only version.

If you like pictures with your words, you'll probably like my podcast, Maryhill: Guarding the Columbia River Gorge, better. Do note that my ebook is a much-updated, expanded version of the podcast which is also available from Amazon or Visual Travel Tours. Use code cp20 if you order direct from VTT; you'll get a 10 percent discount.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Camping in the great Pacific Northwest

Karner Flat campground
When you live in the Pacific Northwest, with mountains covered with tall trees, the outdoors plays a major part in your life: hiking, canoeing, camping, wildlife watching.
I grew up camping in central Oregon and along the beautiful Oregon coast. Over the years I've camped in many states, including Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, as well as British Columbia.

For the last 10 years or so, a majority of my camping has been in Washington's central Cascades, namely the scenic Little Naches area, so named because this is where the Little Naches River bisects the Wenatchee National Forest.

The area has several developed campgrounds, but it's not unusual to come across campers in isolated spots.

We used to camp at Lost Meadow, which only had a vault toilet, but was just a two-minute mosquito-ridden walk away from elk-grazing pastures. Alas, the trees became diseased and died, leaving the site with no shade, but still lots of dirt kicked up by dirt-bike riders heading to or from the trails. The Little Naches district is one of the few areas in the state where trail riding is allowed.

This year, however, we switched to a developed campground at Kaner Flat. The tall firs and pines are still vibrant, with paved roads throughout the campground. It's within walking distance of the Little Naches River, which you can hear gurgling by when there's no traffic. Kaner Flat is historic, as it was used as an overnight rest stop for immigrants crossing the Cascades to Western Washington.

One of the delightful parts of the trip is always passing through the small town of Naches, where fruit stands line the highway. The Yakima Valley is the state's fruit basket. We always buy whatever is in season, from just-picked cherries to peaches and apricots.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Red & Blue: a book review

Books written by people I know occupy a prominent place on my shelves. The latest to join my growing collection is Red & Blue: A Memoir of Two Alaskan Tour Guides, written by Judy Shuler aka "Red" and Hildegard Ratliff aka "Blue," who spent many years working together as private tour operators in Juneau, Alaska.

The majority of the book is written by Judy with colorful anecdotes by Hildegard sprinkled throughout the book's 258 pages.

While the book devotes space about everything from the red tape they had to go through to become licensed tour operators to their more memorable tourists, the book really shines when Judy writes about the wonders of her adopted state's environment. She was born and grew up in Wisconsin, moving to Alaska in the mid 1960s.  She spent the next 45 years of her life living in, first, Anchorage and then Juneau. She now lives in her husband's hometown in western New York.

Red & Blue reads very much like a farewell gift to the state she loves so much. Alaska will always be part of her as it is me. I lived in Alaska for eight years, mostly in Anchorage but almost a year in Juneau. In my heart, I still consider myself an Alaskan, though I moved to Washington in 1978. But Alaska never had the impact on me that it had on Judy, so I question now if I should still consider myself an Alaskan.

She quotes liberally from John Muir, a 19th century naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, who spent a substantial amount of time in Alaska himself. Her deep concern for the Alaskan environment, particularly that of Southeastern, is very evident. Red & Blue is clearly a book that environmentalists will love.

The book also paints vivid pictures of Juneau, the state's capitol, and how her residents cope with rain and fog almost every day. That, I can tell you, is not very easy for some people, me included, to do. I didn't mind so much not being able to see across the street because the fog downtown was so thick. What I minded was the airport being so fogged in that planes couldn't land for days at a time which meant no mail, no newspapers and definitely no new TV programming. In those days, shows were taped in Seattle and then flown in.

As long as the planes could fly, I was OK. I still remember a legislator who went to Anchorage, but then couldn't get back to Juueau. He made three trips between Anchorage and Seattle before he was finally able to land at Sitka and hop a ferry back to Juneau. Unfortunately, they didn't have frequent flyer plans in those days.

Whether you are an armchair traveler or planning a trip to Southeastern, you will want to read Red & Blue. Judy also wrote Alaska Travel Planning Guide: Help for the Independent Traveler, which is filled with knowledge she gained planning independent tours to Alaska for travelers.

Red & Blue: a Memoir of Two Alaskan Tour Guides sells for $14.95 paperback at Amazon.

The fine print: The Federal Trade Commission requires me to tell you that Judy sent me an autographed copy of her book. I also am listed under "acknowlgements" because I made suggestions in an early draft of the book.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Wildlife photography

Buffalo photo taken from the car with
a pocket digital amera.
The great Northwest abounds with wildlife: deer, elk, moose, antelope, bears, mountain goats and coyotes, to name a few animals. The area has many national parks (think Yellowstone) and forests where it is easy to see animals in the wild. It's also not uncommon to see deer and other animals grazing in farmers' fields as you drive through rural areas.

Sometimes the animals are as close as your yard. One time I was visiting my sister in northwestern Montana when I heard a strange sound outside the window in the middle of the night. I looked out to see two deer snacking on her shrubs. Another time a bear cub took up residence in a tree about 20 feet from her house. After a couple of days the mother came and "talked" it down.

Parks, forests, farms, and mountain roads all provide opportunities to get photographs of wildlife. Getting great photographs of wildlife in something else. When I was in Yellowstone last year, I met with Pam Talasco, an up-and-coming West Yellowstone wildlife photographer who has taken some pretty fantastic photos of Yellowstone wildlife. She offers two tips to get good wildlife photos:
  • Be patient. Study the animal until you can anticipate its next move, She sometimes watches an animal for an hour or so until it is in just the right setting.
  • Be mindful of your safety. Take photos from your car. If you do get out, keep your distance from wild animals. You never know when they'll come after you.
I can attest to the second tip. When I lived in Alaska, I was always looking for the perfect moose picture. While driving one evening, I saw a moose grazing in a pond about 100 feet off the highway. I stopped my car, grabbed my camera and got out. I watched the moose for awhile and when it didn't lift its head toward me, I yelled, "Hey! Moose!" which was not a very bright thing to do as it lifted its head and charged toward me. Luckily, I was not very far from my car and had left the door open so I reached my car before Mr. Moose did.

Patience is a virtue also extolled by Judy Shuler, author of the Alaska Travel Planning Guide, which contains a chapter on wildlife photography. She advises photographers to move slowly or just sit and blend into nature; after awhile, the animals will ignore you. IN her book, she also gives tips on how to tell when an animal has sensed your presence and doesn't like it. These signs  include the animal looking directly at you with ears alert on hair raised.

Buffalo from a distance, photo taken with
a pocket digital camera with telephoto lense.
Camera equipment
Pam Talasco uses 35mm digital cameras with high-powered telephoto lenses to capture her animals. If you want pictures you can enlarge to poster size that's what you'll need.

However, you can get acceptable photographs with pocket digital cameras, as long as you realize their limitations. Their built-in telephone lenses don't have a very far reach, so you won't be able to get decent photographs of animals that are far away.

I am a big fan of pocket digital cameras. I held out a long time before getting one as I didn't want to give up my 35mm cameras and telephoto lenses that I'd invested thousands of dollars in. However, I never used some of the lenses that much because I didn't like hauling everything, including a tripod, around. I was forced into digital when print film became nearly impossible to find or have developed. I got a small digital camera as an experiment, and four pocket digitals later, I would never go back to print or the 35mm digitals and auxiliary lenses.

You can get good wildlife photos with a pocket digital, many of which will enlarge quite nicely. I've had enlargements made from a 5.1 mp camera big as 10" x 13" inches, and the detail is incredible. You can see every fine silken hair on a butterfly's wings. Of course, it helped that I was about nine inches away from the butterfly when I snapped the picture. But I've also gotten some pretty good photos of buffalo at Yellowstone and deer at Wallowa Lake in northeastern Oregon.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Show 'n shine under the sun

This tail light says it all about classic cars.
The summer car show season is underway in Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon, as well as elsewhere around the country.

We went to our first show of the season today, an annual event on the Parkade in downtown Kennewick. We go to a lot of shows throughout the region every season, like most Saturdays between late April and September. Sometimes it seems we see the same cars over and over. Today was different, as there were a lot of cars we'd never seen before.

My favorite car today was a white Mercury, probably from the late 1940s. I loved the tail lights: big dollar signs. That says it all. Restoring old cars is expensive, even if owners do most of the work themselves. Restored classic cars sell for many times the original price. One beautiful car carried a price tag of $32,000; it probably cost under a thousand dollars when the first owner drove it off the lot.

The big car show in this area is Cool Desert Nights, which attracts hundreds of cars to Richland the last weekend in June every year.  My favorite car show is the one in Joseph, Oregon, which we just happened upon since I had to be in the nearby town of Enterprise for a work assignment, and wanted to drive over to Wallowa Lake for lunch.

We never made it to Wallowa Lake because of the car show. Joseph is a small Western-themed town that has the most amazing outdoor sculpture museum that I've ever seen. Bronze statues of horses, cowboys, cougars and Indians line both sides of the town's main street.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Wagons, ho!

A diorama at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.
We've spent the last couple of weeks watching Wagon Train, a popular Western that aired for 276 episodes starting in 1957, on DVD. When I was growing up, it was must-see TV for me.

Even in grade school, I had an interest in the pioneers who crossed the United States to find a new life in Oregon, California and Washington.

I can still remember a couple of great-aunts talking about their grandfather (my great-great-grandfather) who left France to build a new life in the American West, crossing first the Atlantic Ocean by boat and then this country by wagon train. My aunts used to talk about how his wagon train was attacked by Indians on the trip, but didn't find it ironic that when he arrived in Washington Territory he married a woman who was the daughter of a French-Canadian fur trapper and a Chinook Indian woman. No one seems to know when he crossed the country, only that he was married in Astoria, Oregon, in the spring of 1863.

Many years ago, I drove sections of the Oregon Trail through Wyoming and marveled how it only took me 15 minutes to drive as far as the pioneers did in one day. I remember stopping at Guernsey, Wyoming, where, more than 100 years later, deep wagon wheel ruts still existed.

Closer to home, the wagon trail is still visible at the Whitman Mission in Walla Walla, Washington,  and the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center at Baker City, Oregon. If you're ever driving Interstate 84 through eastern Oregon, definitely make time for a stop at the interpretive center. The center sits on Flagstaff Hill about five miles off the freeway. Paved trails lead downhill to the ruts, although you can also see ruts a short distance from the road at the bottom of the hill.

Wagon wheel ruts in Oregon
The center has excellent dioramas that are so realistic you'd swear you were on the trail with the pioneers, who were dirty and dusty from the trail. Not at all like the pioneers on Wagon Train who frequently wore suits and ties or, if they were women, snowy white blouses. The wagons on the television show were large and roomy, but the wagons on display at the center are narrow and difficult to move around upright for adults inside.

The center also puts on interpretive programs on various facets of life along the trail. These, too, are well worth attending if one is taking place during your visit. One program that I attended featured one woman portraying four women in different stages of their lives and journeys over the Oregon Trail. The actress was so realistic in her portrayals she had the audience in tears by the end of the hour.

Monday, April 30, 2012

"Yellowstone on a motor scooter:" another great review

Chalk up another great review for my latest Cheryl's Guide, Yellowstone on a motor scooter.

Featured on Review Harbor, this review noted my "Yellowstone guide is so comprehensive and has bits of valuable information for a fellow scooter rider that you won’t find anywhere else."

It added, "Probst guides you through everything, from the beginning to the end of your trip of your trip."

The author, who uses the pen name Snurre, also rides a motor scooter.

You can read the full review at Review Harbor.

Earlier, Ron Arnold,  the Detroit motor scooter Examiner, gave my book a great review, calling it "excellent and wonderfully detailed."

Yellowstone on a motor scooter is available in text-only from Amazon Kindle or with full-color photographs and illustrations from GuideGecko.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A soldier salutes

Statue of General Jonathan Wainwright
My husband receives much of his medical care through the Veterans Administration. Usually he goes to the Richland outpatient clinic, but sometimes he has to go to the Jonathan Wainwright Medical Center in Walla Walla when he needs to see a specialist.

I usually go with him when he goes to Walla Walla as it provides a great excuse to get out of the house and away from the computer for a few hours.

The last time he went, it was a beautiful spring day out, so I decided to wander around the grounds instead of sitting inside a stuffy waiting room. The medical center goes back more than 100 years, with some of the original buildings still in use.  It was a great day for a leisurely stroll.

Buildings are located around a huge rectangular field that is punctuated with a large statue of Army General Wainwright in front of a flagpole with the U.S. and MIA flags that happened to be blowing in the breeze that day.

General Wainwright was born in Walla Walla in 1883, and was a career Army officer. After graduating from West Point in 1906, he joined the cavalry, and was later stationed in the Philippines. He served in France during World War I. He returned to the Philippines in 1940 and became a prisoner of the Japanese when he surrendered at Corregidor. A four-star general, he received the Medal of Honor. He retired from the Army in 1947 and died in Texas in 1953.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Great review on "Yellowstone on a motor scooter"

Ron Arnold, Detroit motor scooter examiner, gave my latest book, Yellowstone on a motor scooter, a thumb's up review in his column.

Here's a little bit about what he had to say:

Guides like Cheryl's are a great resource for knowing a lot about the place that you are going, and can really make a big difference in how effectively you spend your time at your destination without worrying about what to do or where to go once you're there.

You can read the full review in Ron's column.

Yellowstone on a motor scooter is available from the Amazon Kindle Store in text only format, and from GuideGecko in PDF format with photographs. The PDF book also works on Kindles, but the photos won't be in color unless you have a color reader.

The price is $3.99. Says Ron, "It's a cheap way to make sure that you have a great time on your scooter in Yellowstone! "

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tips on visiting Yellowstone

Fantastic views at Yellowstone
I can't remember how many times I've been to Yellowstone National Park, but it's a lot of times, maybe six to eight, beginning when I was eight years old.

I've pretty much always gone in the summer, because that was when school was out or it was the only time I could get away from work. This last time we went in early September. The weather was cooperative and the park not as crowded as it would have been in July.

Timing your vacation is probably the most important thing you can do when you''re planning to visit America's most-loved park. But there are other things you can do to enhance your trip there, and I've written about them in an article for Travelhoppers, an online travel magazine that I frequently write for.

En route to Yellowstone, we overnighted at Big Timber, which had the only RV campground between Livingston and Billings. We stayed at the Spring Creek Campground that I thought was a bit expensive for what it offered, though some people will tell you you can't put a price on peace and quiet. The site was very peaceful and clean; you can read more about it in this article. On the way home, we stayed at a campground outside of Missoula that was just off the freeway and train tracks and was so noisy, we barely got any sleep. It really made me appreciate Spring Creek that much more.

Yellowstone on a Motor Scooter

More people are riding their motor scooters in Yellowstone. If you think you'd like to be one of them, then you need to read my latest book, Yellowstone on a Motor Scooter. It's filled with tips on how to make the most out of your riding, like when to get gas (whenever you see a gas station as scooters gulp gas going up the steep hills).

The book is available through the Amazon Kindle store in text-only. If you like pictures and maps with your books, surf on over to Guidegecko for a PDF version. I'm told PDF books also work on Kindle, through the pictures aren't in color.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Riding through Yellowstone on a motor scooter

When we went to Yellowstone National Park last September, we hauled our motor scooters along and rode them in America's best-loved park. People ride motorcycles in the park, so why not scooters.

I'd been to Yellowstone many times before, but this was a first on a scooter.  It won't be the last time, however. Riding through the park was an incredible experience and provided me with a whole different perspective on Yellowstone. It feels like you are so much closer to nature, and, indeed, you are. You are especially much closer to the animals, such as buffalo. While the park service requires you to be 75 to 300 feet away from animals, depending on the type, even in cars, this isn't always possible, especially where buffalo are concerned. Bison rule the roads!

I was nervous whenever I road around buffalo on the road. After all, I didn't have a car to protect me, though I am not sure how much good that would have done me if a big shaggy beast decided he didn't like my car. At visitor centers, you can see videos of buffalo tossing people around like throw pillows and elk attacking cars. My scooter is a Yamaha 125, capable of speeds of 60 miles an hour, so I was confident I could outrun a buffalo if I didn't panic and the road was flat. Luckily, I didn't have to do this.

The park is divided into two loops, and we took a day to ride each one. What I call the north loop was the hardest because there are so many hills to climb, which I usually went up between 20 and 30 miles per hour. The maximum speed limit in the park is 45 mph, and I had no trouble doing that when it was flat. Still, on the hills, the only vehicles I passed were bicyclists, and, boy, was I glad I was on a scooter!

We took a few days off between riding the loops, and did shorter runs on the other days, returning to places we wanted to spend more time at or had skipped on the long ride because they were on the last leg and we were pretty tired.

Touring the park this way was such an incredible experience, I wrote a short book about it, Yellowstone on a motor scooter. The book is available through the Amazon Kindle store in text-only. If you like pictures and maps with your books, surf on over to Guidegecko for a PDF version. I'm told PDF books also work on Kindle, through the pictures aren't in color.

If you have a scooter or motorcycle, where's your favorite place to ride?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

NOT a winter wonderland!

This much snow fell in 12 hours yesterday. It
took me 15 minutes to clean off my car.
Washington, where I live, is covered in snow. It's not a winter wonderland, though some areas may look like a scene straight off a Christmas card. It's freezing, nasty, treacherous stuff that is causing a lot of problems.

My! How my opinion of snow has changed since I was a kid. Lo those many decades ago, as soon as the first flakes fell, we started figuring out how much snow had to fall before they'd let school out early or cancel it the next day. Because most of the students rode buses and the town was surrounded by high hills, we deduced that six inches of snow were needed on Bald Peak Road before we could shelve the books and make snowmen.

Then I moved to Anchorage, Alaska, where snow from mid-October to April, sometimes May, was just too darned much snow. Winters are so long there that many people get severe cabin fever. Spring is known as "suicide season" because some people don't feel they hold out any longer and kill themselves in March. After eight winters there, this concept began to make sense to me, so I left.

But my winters there left me with a profound hatred of the white stuff, and I now suffer from seasonal dysfunctional syndrome, sometimes so severely I have to be sedated when the snow starts to fall.  One of these days, my husband and I will become snowbirds so we can bask in warmth in January.