wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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In Another Time

In another time, pioneering farmers lived in these houses and kept them cozy and inviting.

Hard times and the elements have changed the sheltering homesteads to cold windswept shells. In some cases, after the original farmers eventually died, their children, having seen their parents’ hard work, opted for an easier life away from this lonely prairie.

On a previous trip to Montana, the Captain and I saw many old homesteads.

“Let’s skedaddle,” the pheasants cluck. “I think these might be hunters. The locals welcome them, but I find them downright annoying, if not dangerous.”

“Did I hear you say the ‘H’ word?” the white-tailed deer asks. Then he shakes his head and goes back to his browsing. “It’s birds they’re after. I don’t think they’re here for me …  are they? Hmm, maybe I’d better run too.”

“You’d do better to be careful, Whitey,” the Harris sparrow warbles. “And by the way, watch your step.”

“The prickly pear isn’t named for its smooth skin. Those spines can really hurt.”

“Oh, what a fuss,” the robin sings. “I was enjoying the last days of autumn sunshine in this Russian olive tree. Why did they have to talk about hunters? They don’t bother me! Mrs. Hunter just wanders around with her camera. I show her my best side, and she goes home happy.”


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Trees

After showing you so many burnt trees in a recent post, I thought I should show the positive side of things too.

Driving past these trees, a blur of yellow and a smattering of snow in the firs reminded me that autumn was nearly finished. It was just a matter of days before the poplar (?) leaves came down.

In the higher elevations, wind, weather, and possibly some road work crew meant the dormancy or death of some trees.

Trees [5]

Trees [1]

Some of the white-barked trees were clinging to the last leaves. Birch, poplars, aspen? I’m not sure, but these are all trees with whitish bark.

Trees [4]

Back in Montana, this stand of trees reminded me of when I’ve spilled the pack of lettuce seeds and a whole clump of them grew in a bunch, crowding each other so none can do well. It also looks like a football team in a huddle.

Trees [6]

The horses don’t mind it. The thick stand of trees probably acts as a good windbreak.

Trees [7]

In southern BC, along the Hope-Princeton Highway, a tree has taken the shape of a bear – a grizzly by the look of his dished skull and the hump on his back. I believe the park was closed when we drove by (in October), but it would be a wonderful place to hike (if you aren’t afraid of bears … which I am).

Manning Park

 


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Keremeos

My apologies for a whole series of posts with photos taken as we whizzed past in the truck and trailer, but in this post, I hope to convey a feeling more than to show any particular fantastic photo.

Going through the little town of Keremeos in the South Okanagan, in spite of the chilly fall air, we are always warmed by the festive attitude of the residents. It’s harvest time, and rather than have scarecrows, they have straw people all through the downtown area. I wish I could have done them justice with less blurry shots, but you’ll get the idea of the fun on the streets of this fruit growing town.

Can you find the straw people? Two in this photo.

 

One here.

Two here.

Two here.

One here.

All seem to be pointing to the fruit markets that line the road farther along.

Did you know that pumpkins are a tasty vegetable when prepared as you would any other squash?

This is pumpkin time, as well as onions, garlic, and winter apple time.

Squashes and cauliflowers, melons and tomatoes.

And if you don’t feel like shopping but just want to stop for a bit and let the kids play in the park, the local quail welcomes you. He’s like the quail version of “Big Bird.” Can you see him there to the left of the big tree with the yellow leaves?

Here is a close up of him – although very blurry – to help you find him.

The Okanagan is full of quail, quite tiny wild chicken-like birds that have so many cute habits it’s a shame to kill them for food (although I must admit, they are SO tasty).

I love quail, dead (on my plate) or alive (in my backyard), but mostly alive.

This “Big Bird” put a long-lasting smile on my face as we drove through Keremeos.

 


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Trouble Comes in Threes

A few days earlier in Great Falls, Montana in -17 C (1 F) temperatures that felt several degrees colder than that, the trailer’s holding tank (at least the outlet) was frozen and could not be emptied. What a thing to talk (write) about!

A couple of days of bumpy roads and warmer temperature fixed that problem for us, as we found out at the sani dump in Omak’s stampede grounds.

While the Captain dealt with this task, I was looking mindlessly at our muddy, tired-looking trailer.

“Do you think that tire looks a bit low?” I asked.

I got the usual (expected) answer. “Naw, it’s just the way it’s sitting.”

Silence…. Then, “Get me that pressure gauge out of the console, will ya?”

Moments later, “Holy sh–!” (Apparently, he still had the holding tank problem [trouble #1] on his mind.) “It’s only 15 pounds!”

(I knew it should be somewhere around 30.)

Several times over the next hour or so, the Captain said, “Whoah, sure lucky you noticed that tire.”  He said later, he  thought we must have picked up a tack on the rodeo grounds.

At the first available gas station we put air in the tire. Then we hurried to nearby Home Depot lot next to Wal-Mart and found a quiet corner to change the tire, which was already hissing out air.

When the Captain got the spare tire off the back of the trailer (first time it had been touched since we bought the trailer), the pressure gauge told us this was something that we had overlooked. It had only 12 pounds of air pressure.

How lucky was it that we had brought this mini compressor along? It plugs into the cigarette lighter and can pump up a tire.

 

In minutes the spare was up to full pressure,

and the tire was changed.

So that was trouble #2 taken care of.

We had noticed more than six trailers and motorhomes in the Wal-Mart parking lot next to the Home Depot lot where we were, so we felt safe enough and thought we would have a quiet night’s sleep.

At about 11 p.m. a small car (trouble #3) came into the lot and parked right up against the back of our trailer. I peeked out through the blinds and the car backed up and pulled out.

My relief that he was leaving did not last long, as he pulled in right in front of us. NOW we were worried. He had the whole huge empty Home Depot lot to park in, yet he cozied up to us. The driver got out and crouched down by his left front tire, hiding behind his open car door.

I suggested that we take off and go park by the motorhome in the lot next to us. The Captain sneaked into the truck and drove, while the dogs and I stayed in the trailer until we were safely parked by the other campers and watched to see what the strange car would do. After a while he left and we could relax.

There is a lot to be said for parking in an RV park, but this time our flat tire had left us searching for a quick place to park and we ended up boondocking in a parking lot. I wonder if the lost sleep is worth it.

Just a day’s drive from home, we had one more calamity to deal with. Next time.


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Giving Up – Part 5

There comes a point when, no matter how badly you want something, you know that it’s wiser to give it up. Going ahead with our trip to eastern Montana, after negotiating three snowy weather systems in two short weeks, would have been pushing our luck.

So with high winds and snow still coming down on the way forward, and snow settling on the road behind us, we reluctantly turned homeward.

The tires had sat frozen and immobile for two bitter cold nights, so we eased ahead a few feet and held our breath. So far, so good. We could have cried, turning back, but it was a relief not to drive into more snow blowing sideways.

I could have cropped this photo so the antenna wouldn’t show, but the icy snow on the forward side of the antenna says something about the chilly air.

Here is one of the many views of the Clark Fork (one of my favourite rivers). It is visible flowing beside or under the highway off and on for many miles.

On our drive eastward, little snow covered these lower elevations. Now it made for scenic winter postcard material. In some areas, the water was warmer than the air, resulting in fog along the river.

You can tell where the river goes.

Snow had covered these hills that were bare when we had driven through a few days earlier.

Some snow was still on the roads. As the day warmed up, big transport trucks lost clumps of ice that had collected on them. In the stretch of road below, the eastbound lane is closed and the westbound lane is taking two-way traffic. You don’t want to catch an edge or a clump of ice. The one in the photo below is one of hundreds of clumps we had to avoid.

I wondered what these cattle were “grazing” on. Not much grass poking out from the snow. Winter is hard on many animals.

As we neared the upcoming MacDonald Pass, my knuckles gave the snow some competition for whiteness. I knew I had a good driver beside me, but with so much construction and lanes restricted by cones and ice (and I don’t mean ice cream cones), I was nervous all the way to the top of the pass.

 

And relieved to be going down to a lower elevation right afterwards. Only two passes left to negotiate before we got home.

 

 


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A Cool Trip – Part 4

The snow kept coming sideways and we talked about cutting our day’s drive short. We had planned to go as far as Fort Benton where a friendly RV park always awaited us, but Fort Benton was down a big hill along the banks of the Missouri, and we had seen pictures of how the town had fared in the September snowfall a week earlier. Did we want to be trapped in this valley town with snow covering the steep roads in and out of town? For that matter, could we even make it that far if we wanted to?

We had to get off the road or end up in a lonely prairie ditch. But where to go in Great Falls?

I remembered a Wal-Mart across from the town’s famous smelter and refinery, and that’s where we pulled in.

Wal-Mart Customer Service told us we were welcome to stay for three days. They had all the groceries we might need, a water supply, and a relatively safe place for us to stay. Three other rigs were already parked there and would remain there until after we left.

Wal-Mart even had Wi-Fi but it didn’t reach out to the parking lot.

Generally I prefer to be in an RV park or a place like Exit 16’s park, since public parking lots can be a bit risky if you’re camping overnight alone, but we had no choice by this time and were thankful for the relatively safe haven as the snow began to cover us up.

It would have been foolish to continue traveling, as the many accidents that day proved.

However, we were quite frozen in this place with -17degrees Celcius, feels like -23 (1 degree Fahrenheit, feels like -9F). In the morning, the windows had about a quarter of an inch of frost on them (on the INSIDE!), and the holding tank was frozen at the outlet, as we found out when we tried the next sani-dump we came to. We also tried to add water to our potable water tank – to no avail. The pipes leading to the tank were frozen.

We had a furnace, but running it all night might run our battery down and as luck would have it, the trailer battery was very low in the morning. The Captain ran the Honda generator and brought it back up. Everything was a struggle, and we were getting worn down.

The second night, some drug-crazed kids did a kick boxing display near our rig on the parking lot (yes, in that very cold temperature)! The driver even kicked the lid of his own car’s trunk. (The Captain said, IF it’s even their own car.) Then they tore out of the parking lot at 90 miles an hour.

After two nights there, if we continued north and then east as we had planned, we would be driving into more blizzard and heavy fog in extremely cold temperatures. We were only one long day’s drive from our destination, but there didn’t seem to be any point in going on, even if we could have done that safely. But could we safely go back?

 


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A Cool Trip – Part 1

We left Vancouver Island on our way to eastern Montana. Having waited out the unexpected September 30th blizzard, we hoped to find that the worst was over after a few days of traveling.

In the southern interior of British Columbia is the Similkameen Valley, probably best known for being a wine growing region of the South Okanagan.

For us, it was a good place to stop for a quick coffee and sandwich while the dogs stretched their legs.

Then we continued on with our truck and trailer to the U.S. border into Washington and Coulee City.

The Coulee City Community Park provides RV parking and a lovely setting on the south end of Banks Lake, a reservoir created in 1942 after the completion of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River.

Our stay at Coulee City was perfect, but the worst was yet to come. Stay tuned.