Traveling on Highway 97 in Oregon

Traveling on Highway 97 in Oregon
Traveling on Highway 97 in Oregon

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

06-30-2024 The Delights of Early Summer

Living in Grants Pass I have a few favorite months.  May has always been high on the list, but this year June was almost as spectacular as May, with clear sunny skies and no rain.  As is often the case, the month was filled with the usual "stuff" associated with living on almost an acre of ground filled with flowers, shrubs, lawns, and a touchy water system.  

Rather than going through all that again, as I often do at the beginning of a springtime blog post, I decided that I would wait till the end of the post to write about the everyday stuff and begin this time with the best part of the month, our trip to  Eastern Washington State.

This June trip wasn't planned many months in advance as is often the case.  Just a few weeks ago Mo's brothers let us know that they planned to get together on Brother Don's property for a family gathering.  

The view from Don's property near the Spokane River

Don's RV property isn't far from his house in Spokane, near historic Fort Spokane and the confluence of the Spokane River with Lake Roosevelt, the dammed portion of the Columbia River behind Grand Coulee Dam.  Don has created a lovely spot for family gatherings and getaways, with 30 amp hookups for 3 rigs, water, and an RV dump onsite.  

In addition to visiting with Mo's family, I was excited to make this trip because my daughter Deanna and her family live less than an hour south in the small community of Lincoln on a hill overlooking Lake Roosevelt.  The timing was great because we would be in that part of the country just in time for Deanna's birthday.  I was tickled.

Always pleasant to park at Dan and Chere's home 

We began our trip a day early, traveling north to Dan and Chere (Mo's brother and sister-in-law) at their home in Beavercreek, Oregon to spend the night before continuing north toward our destination.  Their place is a perfect in-between spot to break up the 600-mile drive north.  We arrived mid-afternoon, in time for a nice visit and a short drive down the hill to enjoy supper at the nearby Kissin Kates Restaurant.

The next morning, after a simple breakfast that Chere provided for us, the four of us were on the road before 9 AM.  Dan led the way through morning traffic in greater Portland as we traveled toward I-84, then along the Mighty Columbia River east toward the Washington State border.  It was easy following Dan and not having to make any decisions about routing or directions.

Eastern Washington State south of Tri-Cities is wide open, with Dan in the lead.

We arrived at the property in mid-afternoon, with plenty of time for me to put together a supper for everyone of tacos with all the fixin's and cooked-to-order corn or flour tortillas. Don's wife Wynn, Chere, and I agreed to do one night each for supper. This was my night.  The storm clouds were interesting and kept things quite cool and pleasant without any rain.

Left to Right:  Brother Don and his wife Wynn, Brother Dan and his wife Chere, and Mo

Level sites with electric hookups made for a pleasant visit

Don has a building to protect his tractor and motorhome from the weather

The next morning while the brothers worked on a few projects around the property, Mo and I took the kayaks down to the nearby launch on the Spokane River.

As you can see in the photo, the launch site was beautiful, with no current to worry about, a nice smooth launch area, and on this day, no wind.  We paddled upstream against the gentle current for about an hour before turning around to paddle back downstream.  Needless to say, it didn't take as long to get back downstream as it did for us to get upstream, but by the time we got out of the boats the winds were rising.

Mattie enjoyed being in the kayak and didn't get restless as she sometimes does after a couple of hours

The boat launch is to the left on the east side of the bridge across the Spokane River near the confluence with the Columbia River and Lake Roosevelt.

After lunch, Don and Dan launched Don's boat and took the six of us out on Lake Roosevelt.  It was a beautiful day and the lake was wonderful.  Being in a motorboat is considerably different than cruising along in a kayak.  

The wind kept us cool and Don took us all the way south toward Deanna and Keith's place in Lincoln where I called Deanna from the boat to see if she could see us from her big view windows overlooking the lake.

We couldn't actually see Deanna's house since it was up in the trees behind the white house.

That evening it was Chere's turn to do dinner and she made a yummy meal of pulled pork and cabbage over rice Hawaiian style.  After kayaking and boating, Mo and I slept well on that first night.

The other two couples have tandem inflatable kayaks

The next morning Don had scoped out a kayaking location not far from the compound.  Within minutes we arrived at the boat launch at Hawk's Creek.  When we first left the property, the winds were howling, and we weren't sure if we could get out on the water in the kayaks.  But once down in the Hawk's Creek Canyon there was less wind and we didn't have any trouble.  But as we continued downstream toward the lake the strong winds picked up. After an hour or so the group decided it was time to return.

Hawk's Creek was beautiful, with steep basalt cliffs rising on each side of the waterway.  We saw several red-tailed hawks soaring over the cliffs.  In the photo, Mo is looking up at the huge eagle perched high in a ponderosa pine above the water.  My phone camera wasn't good enough to get a decent photo of him against the dark tree.  It reminded me of why I shouldn't get lazy about packing my Lumix camera to get better wildlife images.

Dan and Chere's dog Sophie (in the back kayak) is a great kayak dog.  She was making sure that they went in the right direction.

We got home before lunch, just in time to get a phone call from my grandson Steven, who lived about an hour north of Fort Spokane in Gifford.  My great-grandson Matthew is again living with Steven, and working as a pharmaceutical technician in Colville, about 45 minutes from Steven's home.  Steven also had my other great-grandson Theron with him for part of the summer.  Steven called and said he would be glad to come down to Fort Spokane to meet us for lunch.  

Check out the boy's fancy shirts and ties.  Matthew (on the right) was responsible for making sure Theron was properly dressed to see his great-grandma.

It was great seeing all of them, and the burgers were superb.  Steven said people come from miles around to have burgers at that restaurant.  The brothers and wives went there for lunch earlier but waited until Steven and the boys showed up so they could meet my grandson and great-grandsons.  Everyone enjoyed their meals.

With full tummies from our late lunch, no one was particularly interested in supper so we all decided to skip the planned venture south to Davenport to try out the Mexican restaurant.  Davenport is the closest town with any amenities other than the little cafes along the lake here and there.

As we spent some time visiting, Mattie and Sophie sat together enjoying each other's company.  Sophie is so good with Mattie and Mattie adores her.  Mattie loves big dogs that aren't afraid of her rough-and-tumble play style.  Mo and I then said goodbye to the Oukrops and packed up to travel south to Deanna's place, just about 45 minutes away.

Left to right:  Wynn, Dan, Mo, Don, Chere

It was now time for the next phase of our travels to Eastern Washington.  Buttoning down the MoHo and hooking up the Tracker for the short trip, we headed south along the lake to Keith and Deanna's home.  The winds had dissipated from the previous day and the weather was gorgeous.

We parked the MoHo in their driveway, hooked it up to 20 amp power, and settled in.  With temperatures rising it was clear that we would need the air going in the MoHo, but the house power wasn't up to the task so we opened up all the windows to take advantage of the afternoon breeze before joining the family at the house.

The view of Lake Roosevelt in the distance from Deanna and Keith's deck is lovely.

We were tickled to discover that Deanna's grandson (my great-grandson) Orion would be joining us for Deanna's birthday weekend.  He lives with his mom, brother Theron (seen in a previous photo), and sister Tearany, in Wenatchee, about a 2 hour drive from Lincoln.  Keith made the short trip south toward Davenport to connect with Orion's other grandparents who were taking him back to Wenatchee after a visit with them, and arranged to meet Keith so Orion could spend the weekend with his grandparents and with us.

I still have a hard time thinking of my daughter as "Grandma" and when Orion says "Grandma...?" I invariably answer.

That evening Keith fired up the BBQ on their lovely deck and we had a great supper of steaks from a local rancher, baked potatoes with all the fixins, and yummy broccoli and cheese.  The company was great and the view was spectacular.  We were lucky that first evening because, by the time the next supper rolled around the next day, it was too hot to eat on the deck.

Great way to spend a summer evening with family

The next day, Saturday, we were in for a treat.  Keith loaded up the boat and we traveled the quarter mile down the road to the boat launch on the lake for a day on the water.

At that time of day, the launch wasn't too crowded, but notice all the parked vehicles.  Also, notice the two engines on the boat.  One is a big Merc 150 horsepower engine and the one on the right is a small 9 horsepower engine that they use for trolling or when they need to go slowly in shallow waters.

Keith piloted the boat in the beginning.  Keith and Deanna were both impressed with how well-behaved Mattie was in the boat.  She likes the kayak, and after visiting Jeanne and Alan in 2022 and going out on Lake Champlain in their boat she is a little bit less worried about boating.  It is a lot different than the kayak, which she is used to.

Sue and Mo and Mattie with Alan on Lake Champlain in 2022

After a short time, Keith asked Orion if he wanted to drive.  Keith was so patient with him, instructing him to pilot the boat properly.  It is great that a 16-year-old kid can have opportunities like this.

With the hot sun and the wind, Keith decided to keep the top and side awnings closed which protected us from the sun and water spray.  We never got wet. You can see how easily Mattie settled in with Mo, napping until it was time to disembark.

Keith asked if we preferred to go east and north toward Kettle Falls or west and south toward Grand Coulee Dam, and we chose the southern route, thinking it would be fun to see the dam from the water.  On the way they took us to some of their favorite spots along the lake, especially the "cracked rock"  which I am sure I haven't named properly.

Deanna likes to fish and has all sorts of fancy rigging for her poles to catch the big ones, in addition to fancy motorized weights that take the bait and hooks down to the bottom at more than 300 feet in some areas.

We enjoyed the beautiful waterfall cutting into the steep cliff before continuing south toward the dam. Lake Roosevelt is a National Recreation Area, and there are bathrooms on floating platforms that Deanna said were closed the last time she was out on the lake.  We saw one that looked open and decided to take advantage.

Keith took over driving and Deanna got ready to come alongside the dock to tie us off.  It wasn't hard even for me to get out of the boat and onto the platform.  I must say, I haven't seen cleaner bathrooms anywhere in our travels.  It was a delight with plenty of toilet paper, a place for hand-washing, no smell, and clean as a whistle.  We passed a couple other toilets on the lake as we traveled toward the dam.  It was nice that the lake was full, since being on a dam-created reservoir the lake level changes often throughout the season.

We motored all the way to the dam, but it wasn't very impressive from the waterside view. The other side of the huge dam is incredible, and visiting the information center is imperative if you are in the area.  The history of how it was built in the 30's is a great American success story.

A screen shot of the river and our route from Lincoln toward the Keller Ferry Marina

Keith was a little bit nervous about going so far, and he really didn't know why, although his intuition was right on as we found out a bit later.

After reaching the dam and meandering around a bit, we motored back towards the Keller Ferry and Keith asked if we wanted to see the Sanpoil River Arm north of the ferry.  It was quiet and beautiful, and Keith slowed the big motor down so that Deanna could take photos of the eagles in the trees on the banks of the river.  

It was gorgeous and the water was clear and clean.  The river is surrounded on both sides by the Colville Reservation, and development is minimal except for a very few small ranches and in-holdings.

As we turned to travel back toward the mouth of the river, suddenly the big motor gave a cough and after a few tries she simply died.  Now Keith knew why he had that gut feeling that we shouldn't go too far away.  We were grateful that they had a small motor on the boat to get us back home, but Keith said that would take hours and hours so instead he decided to go in toward Keller's Ferry Marina.

The water was so silky smooth on the Sanpoil River

In the meantime, Deanna called their neighbors and they had just launched their boat but said it was no problem returning to shore.  Deanna told them where the key was to the house, where her purse was with the keys to Keith's truck, and where they needed to meet us with the truck to pick up the boat.  It was about 45 minutes to drive from Lincoln to the marina and they insisted it wasn't a bit of a problem.  Good neighbors I would say!

In the meantime, Mo and I enjoyed the lazy slow trip back to Keller's Ferry with the little engine that could get us there.  Keith kept apologizing and said he felt bad about it, but Mo and I weren't the least bit worried.  For us, it was easy and simple and all we had to do was sit back and ride.

Once we landed at the marina it was getting really hot, and Mo and I walked up toward the shade at the marina park to wait.  An hour later the neighbors showed up with the truck, Keith and Deanna loaded the boat and we were off toward the little town of Wilbur where Keith gets the boat regularly serviced.  The place was closed, but Keith called and reached the owner who said it was fine to simply drop off the boat and pick it up after it was repaired.  Later we found out it was exactly what Keith had surmised, the alternator. I am sure it wasn't fun for Keith and Deanna worrying about the boat, but Mo and I had a great time.

Once back home it was time to celebrate Deanna's birthday.  I had planned to make a taco supper for everyone and had all the ingredients ready to go.  Sadly, my personal battery power was completely wiped out and I delegated most of the dinner tasks to the rest of the family.  It all worked out just fine and everyone pitched in for a great supper.  There was birthday cake and ice cream but I had no candles and Deanna brought out her little candle that sings Happy Birthday.  

The next morning Mo and I left early to drive back north in order to visit Grandson Steven and his wife  Stormy at their homestead north near Gifford.  Their place is beautiful, and Steven is committed to a permaculture lifestyle which he pursues with gusto.  It was nice to see the young boys again as well and see how much fun they have together.  As we were leaving, Matthew was packing books, a couple of hammocks and snacks and hiking up to the spring with little Theron for a day of reading and relaxing together.  No phones or tablets in sight.

Back home at Deanna's we relaxed a bit before packing up for our trip back home.  Here is a photo of the two of us at the dining table.  Mo said I should delete the photo, but it makes me laugh out loud to see just how exhausted I was after the week of visiting and traveling.  No one can say I can't laugh at myself!  

To be fair, I was hamming it up a bit, but Mo looks great.

As we prepared to leave, the local herd of bighorn sheep that live on the cliffs behind Deanna and Keith's home decided to visit their property.  They are almost as bad as deer for getting into stuff and eating fruit off the trees, but they are so fun to watch.

We left early in the afternoon, with enough time to drive south toward Richland and then Tri-Cities, across the Columbia River into Oregon and then east on I-84 toward Biggs Junction.  It is a trip I have made many times throughout the years I lived in Northern Idaho and traveled to visit in California.  The strong winds that had shut down much of the interstate between the Dalles and Portland had dissipated a bit as we approached our intended boondock site along the river just below the John Day Dam.

We have passed this area many times, talked about how nice it looked for an overnight, but this was the first time we have stayed.  There is no fee, and a 7 day limit for overnight parking, but it is a very popular place for windsurfers.  If you look closely in the photo below you can see a kite surfer rising above the river.

Reviews suggested the nearby interstate and train tracks could be noisy, but we slept well with very little noise to bother us.  For a moment, sometime after midnight, some crazy person in a car tried to drive up the rocky embankment right in front of the motorhome but he didn't do any damage and was gone in a flash.

A full moon rising illuminates the interstate and railroad tracks behind us.

The next morning dawned quiet and clear, with very little wind.  We took our familiar route south from Biggs on Highway 97, avoiding the busy city of Portland and I-5.  It is a lovely drive with very little traffic except for the stretch between Redmond and Bend.  We stopped at the Mountain Identifier along the roadside just south of the almost ghost town of Shaniko and for once had a view of all the mountains south, west, and north of us.

Did I mention at the beginning of this blog that I would talk about the month prior to our trip at the end?  Ah well, the blog is long enough so you will have to imagine the rest of the story.  

Maybe a few keywords will suffice:  mowing, trimming, watering, cortisone shots for both of us in various parts, skin doctor for me, twice this time with a "procedure",  weeding, cleaning the MoHo, catching up laundry, and on and on.  

One last thing to share:

The view from the Hummingbird Winery terrace is spectacular

The final day of the month was gorgeous and we celebrated with a trip to a winery on the eastern edge of the Rogue Valley.  As a member at Hummingbird Vineyard and Winery, Deb is allowed 4 free wine flights per visit.  We love the view from the tasting room terrace overlooking the valley.  

Deb always ensures that Maryruth and Gerald are invited as well and the five of us enjoy the yummy "snacks" and wine as we relax and listen to pleasant music.  

It is always a treat, and it is hard to believe that Deb has been a member of this winery for two years now and Mo and I and Maryruth and Gerald have so loved our pleasant afternoons with Deb overlooking the valley.  Their wines are excellent, but I still love Red Lily more and Deb and I decided that a Red Lily membership would be smarter since the wine is better and the snacks more tasty.  Red Lily is a bit closer to us, just down the Applegate Valley highway south of home. Still, it doesn't have that gorgeous valley view.  What to do what to do?? Next month in the blog I would bet there will be a visit to Red Lily to share in the blog.

The weather was very nearly perfect and it was a wonderful way to end a beautiful month.  We know that there is an intense heat wave predicted to build over our part of the West within a few days and with heat comes fires and smoke.  The anticipation of a hot and smoky summer made this last day of June all the more sweet.



  1. And u went right thru Redmond? If ever again would love to finally meet you both!! Looks like a fun June!!

    1. Yes, and I thought about you every single minute before and after and kept saying why are we too tired to visit an old friend???  we were so burned out from all the visiting and we just needed to get home.  I know,.  Horrid horrid horrid of us.  But at least I thought of you.  Then I saw your facebook post and thought maybe you were already at the beach??

  2. What a great month of fun--birthday celebrations, boats, goats, beautiful views, kayaking, wine drinking! Loved all your photos and that one of you and Mo (the batteries drained) one is priceless!

    1. Glad you liked that photo, Janna. I laugh out loud whenever I see it and the fact that you liked it made it more fun that I put it up and I showed Mo that you liked it too.

  3. Great recap of your month. Full of family, fun, and activity! Your photos tell the story, too -- nice that you guys could get away to the north before high temps ruled, but it's a furnace everywhere in the west right now, including for us. We are only just home ourselves and faced with loads of yard work, but it's too hot to tackle much, so it'll have to wait. My garden is fried. Summertime is grin-and-bear-it-time. Thanks for sharing your month with us! (jealous of all that kayaking!) Love, Nickie

    1. Yes, Nickie, summer is now something to get through instead of something to fully enjoy, although I do still love the very early hours on these warm summer days. The rest of the day it is all about indoors. We had plans to go kayaking but that isn't happening when it is over 100 degrees either. Too hot to be out on the water. I am just grateful we had decent weather for our trip north. And this month we will be going north to the Oregon Coast again so it should be nice there for a heat break as well.

  4. A lovely month with visits to family. Couldn't ask for better.

    1. Tickled that you managed to take some time to read and comment in the midst of your attempts to get caught up on your recent travels. I am still working on getting caught up on them as well.

  5. Wow that is some set up Don has for friends and family. In the picture at the table you named the two couples and Mo but not Mattie. She’s right there. I hope she doesn’t feel slighted. ;-) Very envious of you paddling on a river that you can paddle up and fairly much float down. Looks wonderful. Grown grandsons and great grandsons for you sound impossible to me. No wonder you have trouble thinking of your daughter as grandma. You have a really big family. Those three boys are mighty good looking. And what a beautiful picture of your daughter. I have never seen a floating toilet. How do they pump it out I wonder? I hope it isn’t just a hole into the lake. The picture of the Sanpoil River is fantastic. So beautiful. I’m so sorry Keith had alternator problems too. I was down that road not long ago but in my “land boat”. Looks like a lovely birthday and I don’t blame you for being bone tired. I love that picture So true. Also love having backyard big horn sheep. Your list of the other things you did makes me tired just reading it.

    1. I laughed when you said that about Mattie because Mo and I joked about that when we were proofing the blog. RE the floating toilet. It is all self contained, and a floating boat with a pumper on it comes around to clean and empty them on a regular basis. The river really was so gorgeous and we were lucky that it wasn't yet horrible hot when we were out there. I am enjoying all the comments about the silly picture. Mo really didn't want me to keep it, but if we can't laugh at ourselves, we are in big trouble.

  6. Frm Gaelyn: Wow! That was some busy month loaded with awesome family and friend visits. Love the kayaking and boat ride, even if there was a problem that wasn't the end of the world. All such gorgeous country. I can certainly understand why you were exhausted. One day in town does that to me, but I haven't put down many miles this summer. Guess I should put out a blog post. Be well you two. Big HUGS!


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