On the Road Again

Top 10 Things I learned at the Monroe Reunion:

10. Of all the generations, to the best of our figuring, there is not a single lawyer among us. Take that as you may.

9. The Monroe’s are so frugal, when Jean sent out her questionnaire, everyone in Building 16 opted out of the “hot water upcharge.” I wish I’d known about that.

8. D Monroe one-upped us all by using his rental car as a hotel room. Well played, D.

7. The only two places left that Ron and Anne Dahl have not visited are Detroit and outer space. Since they must choose between the two, they have completed flight simulation exercises and will graduate to zero-gravity training shortly.

6. Due to the use of coupons, “buy 1 get 1 free” promotions, and group discounts, the City of Port Townsend has actually lost money on our reunion.

5. According to Jean’s instructions on “How am I related,” I seem to be an HWB0C12. If I recollect my high school chemistry, I am highly reactive to caffeine, sugar, and fermented hops. I have two isotopes, both of which carry negative charges. I assume they are named “Bob” and Doug.”

4. Upon check-out, Mark Monroe’s Toyota Corolla rental car had 8 miles on it and was considered to be in “Excellent” condition. Upon its return, the car had numerous scratches, four dents, the upholstery in the back seat was missing, as was the car’s manifold and left rear door. The car’s odometer read, “Error.” Mark’s response: “Damned Japanese cars.”

3. Gretchen Higbee walks 10,000 footsteps every day! This is particularly impressive considering the fact that she is living in an RV while doing so. After living in Earl’s RV for 10 days, I’m averaging 241 ½ footsteps per day. Where did the ½ step come from, you ask? The commode in the RV has a foot-activated lever. It turns out you shouldn’t have asked.

2. Anne Dahl’s DVD rendered the entire Monroe clan speechless. The publishers at Guinness have been notified.

And the number one thing that I learned during the Monroe 2008 Reunion:

1. At some point in the last couple of weeks, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had twins. I think I’ll go back to the RV now.

It was wonderful to see everyone, and unfortunate that we couldn’t see EVERYONE. It turns out that the REM’s, under the leadership of Barbara, will take on the task of coordinating the next reunion. We were so excited talking about it last night (in Woodland, WA, just south of Mt St Helens) that we actually started making tentative plans.

Today we made a brief stop in Salem, OR where we took a spin around the state capitol, and Earl caught out of the corner of his eye the Oregon State Office Building where he worked for the Selective Service. In his words, “the best way to make sure I didn’t go to war was to be proficient at determining who did go to war.” We made an illegal stop, snapped a photo, and proceeded west two blocks to the boarding house where he stayed while working in Salem. The adorable bungalow at 1410 Court Street was beautifully maintained, much to Earl’s satisfaction.

We are now passing through Eugene on our way to Crater Lake. Since we are now straddling the eastern edge of the so-called “Ring of Fire,” tomorrow we’ll muse about one of my favorite topics in geology: volcanoes.

Port Townsend, ho!!!!!!!!!!

I know a thing or two about farmland. For example, the Mountainside house had a vegetable garden. In ’91 I took a bus from Richmond, VA to Colorado Springs and saw a whole lot of farmland. I’ve spent time in Illinois, Wisconsin, even the Central Valley of California. The point here is that I’ve seen farmland before. It’s usually uniform in color, depending on the crop of choice, devoid of trees, with curious mechanized monsters plodding around grinding, processing, fertilizing, or spraying things. Sometimes it’s flat, and sometimes it’s wavy. Remember Katharine Lee Bates’ immortal phrase, “Amber waves of grain?” A hike up Pike’s Peak inspired those words. Well, if Bates were in the Blue Mountains in southeastern Washington rather than central Colorado, her verse might have been something like, “Amber waves of HOLY HELL, THESE WAVES ARE HUUUUGE!”

This is not your Uncle Clem’s farmland. The “amber waves” of eastern Washington are actually tsunamis—somewhat literally (I’ll explain in a minute). South of Spokane the farmland is impressively wavy. So much so, I asked Barbara to take a picture (I was driving). This marks the first time I’ve ever requested a photograph of grain. The landscape is enchanting to say the least. Young wheat is an iridescent green. Adult wheat is a robust green. Mature wheat has a golden hue so bright that it out-shines the cloudless sky above it. However, the farther we headed south, hilly terrain transformed into cavernous swells (much to the frustration of the Monroetorhome’s cruise control. The Rocky Mountains had little effect on our V8 engine. Driving through this terrain, I was questioning if I was close to overheating the engine.) Once we pulled into Dayton, WA, I was sad to see the roller coaster ride end. However, the high winds, twisty turns, and ever-changing grade was exhausting from the perspective of the driver.

You will have to verify this since we don’t have a geology text on board. My knowledge is limited to a foggy recollection of a book (“Cataclysms on the Columbia”) that Barbara (I can call her Mom when referring to a birthday present she once gave me) found while on one of her Mostly Monroe trips to this area. Barbara suggested that these massive “waves of grain” are actually deposits from an ancient flood caused when the Missoula Dam broke. The Missoula Dam no longer exists, and the Army Corps of Engineers had nothing to do with it. Toward the end of the last ice age, as glaciers scoured this region, one of them came to an end near the present-day town of Missoula. Surface water melted to form a lake, while the glacier’s terminus remained, forming an ice dam. The ice dam broke periodically, releasing an unimaginable (not even Michael Bay’s best disaster film could capture this kind of deluge) amount of water, thousands of feet high. The resulting ebb and flow (imagine sand in the bottom of a sloshing bathtub) created these criss-crossing ripples in Washington’s landscape, forming the now coined “amber tsunamis of grain.”

The bouncy terrain did finally subside as we approached Walla Walla, the town where Earl spent some of his formative years, and to which he returned with the Army Air Corps. Earl found that little remains of the Walla Walla of his youth, however, we did manage to locate his school, and the park in which he used to play. (Even one of the canons placed there to commemorate WWI was still there.)

The drive from Walla Walla to Mt Rainier NP was a breeze, relative to the “farmland” of eastern WA. We crossed the Snake River, and bid adieu to the Columbia for a week or so, then came upon two massive snow-capped peaks on the horizon: to the left (south), Mt. Adams at over 12,000 ft. Straight ahead, Mt. Rainier at 14+. And that was the best glimpse we would get of her. As we approached, clouds and drizzle came in from the coast, and as we climbed to the Paradise Visitor Center, visibility diminished (to about 100ft). Alas, our photo album of this trip will not include picturesque vistas of Rainier, but I did get one of Barbara looking out into the clouds! We stayed the night at Mountain Haven Campground, one of the most idyllic spots I think I might have ever seen. It’s like Narnia, only without the struggle between good and evil. We hated to leave it, but that goes to show how fond we are of you all. We cannot wait to get to Port Townsend.

By the time you’ve read this you’ve probably returned home from the reunion, so it was nice to see you all, and I hope we can all forget the embarrassing episode regarding “you know who.” Wouldn’t it be great if this cryptic, prognosticative reference might actually apply to someone??? Can’t wait to find out!! Well, we’re about thirty minutes from Port Townsend, so I’m going to sign off until Monday.

Don’t forget to check back in on the Monroetorhome 2008 blog after the reunion!! Coming up:
· A day in the life on the Monroetorhome (with a chance to win prizes!)
· Find out at what point we all blow up at each other.
· Figure out how many days Ted can tolerate eating Fig Newtons as a snack (going on 10).
Stay tuned!

A Good Day for Earl

What a day we had in Chewelah! The drive through western Idaho and into Washington was scenic, but it’s kind of like leaving the MOMA and heading to “Crazy Eddie’s Wicked Good Museum of Art.” Your basis of comparison is all out of whack. As we left Idaho and entered Washington through the town of Newport, we were still talking about the towns of Ponderay and Sandpoint, ID. Nonetheless, the journey was pleasing to the eye and it was wonderful hearing Earl’s remembrances of the region, whether it be from childhood or from a field trip he took while completing his graduate degree at MSU.

It seems that once we cleared the Cabinet Mountains the terrain took on a different aspect. The pine trees thinned out and dust clouds kicked up where the land was not being irrigated. We crossed the Kanisku National Forest on a picturesque road that led us around the shoulder of Chewelah Mtn., el. 5775 ft. On the way down the mountain into the valley we passed the Pioneer Cemetery, and Barbara asked, “Do you suppose Harold and Vin are buried there?”

The town of Chewelah, where DD Monroe set up shop in 1912 and served as mayor for one year, now boasts a population of just under 1800. A very pleasant park which sits on land donated by Coronel Jenkins (the man from whom DDM rented the home in which Earl was born) covers several city blocks and straddles Chewelah Creek, whose charming but swift current has become a popular attraction with Chewelah’s children. Our first stop was the Chewelah Library, where the town history shows no record of a DD Monroe as either a doctor or mayor. However, the librarian was able to furnish Earl with a recent map of the town. We broke for lunch, consulted the map, and discussed other possible sources of information on this nebulous time in Monroe lore (it was Saturday, and the Chamber of Commerce and City Hall were both closed).

Earl hit the jackpot at the Chewelah Museum, an outfit run by one lady whose love for Chewelah history made for hours of good conversation. Mom found in the records a book of minutes from the Stevens County Medical Society. One note of the November 6, 1912 meeting reads, “Communication of Dr DD Monroe of Chewelah relative to membership read and filed.” Although not yet a member, he was herewith officially “on the books.” About six months later, said application was accepted. In the years that followed the minutes reflect that DDM was very active in the Society, serving as its president “for year 1915.” The final entry to mention his name is dated May 7, 1917, at which he “gave an interesting discourse on Ear Ache.” Earl sat in a chair for about an hour, reading these accounts, and noting pages in which his name was mentioned.

While he and Barbara were engrossed at the museum, I took a walk through the park, and noticed a house with very interesting beveled masonry. Earl had shown me the picture of his birthplace, and although it was a different color, and the façade look different, I walked around it to investigate. Apparently I was looking at the back of the home (which faced the street), because when I walked around to the front, I immediately noticed the curved walls on the second floor. The owners of what is now the Nordlig Motel were in the front yard gardening. I asked them if this house was owned by Cor. Jenkins, to which they replied affirmatively. I asked if it was rented by a DD Monroe, to which the man responded, “He was a doctor of some sort.” EUREKA!! We chatted for a bit. They were more than happy to chat with Earl if he wanted to pass by after his stint at the museum.

When I returned to the museum, Earl and the museum “curator” were making copies of the documents that they had found, as well as an index of all headlines from the local newspaper archive (several of the children are mentioned in various articles). Earl practically jogged over to the Nordlig Motel, where they invited us in to see the home, and share what history they know. Incredibly, Clarence’s drawing of the home (including the spiral staircase and water fountain that adorned the foyer) were a spot on match for the real thing. Earl walked upstairs and wondered in which room was he born. He didn’t want to overstay his welcome (there was no chance of that happening—they were thrilled, and their daughter is a history buff who just this year completed a history project on Col. Jenkins.), so we stayed about 10 minutes, showered the family with thanks, then headed off, amazed at the amount of information we had come across in just a few short hours.

(By the way, that swift creek mentioned above is, indeed, the creek in which little Vin Monroe drowned in 1916. No one but our family seems to have any record of the incident. Both the curator and the motel proprietors were grateful to learn that bit of history. The road improvements have rerouted the creek, and the island that Vin was trying to reach no longer exists.)

The final stop for the day was to that Pioneer Cemetery on the hill east of Chewelah. The blueprint index was poorly drawn, so Barbara and I spent a good 45 minutes scrambling up and down dry, dusty hills (read cliffs) trying to find the Monroe plot. Barbara triangulated the location by locating multiple obvious markers, and eventually we found the plot. Harold (stillborn, 1915) and Vin (drowned age 3, 1916) are memorialized with beautiful red marble headstones. The markers, as well as the larger Monroe marker, have weathered a bit these 90 some years, and lichen have gained purchase on the smooth, polished face, but otherwise they in very nice condition.

The Chewelah RV site did not have internet, so we are closing on the end of the next day, the 20th. We are outside of Spokane, at what appears to be the RV owner’s version of a timeshare. For that reason, the Ponderosa RV Resort has less of the “mom and pop” appeal that the previous venues had; however, their accommodations still rank third to the KOA’s in Bozeman and Glacier.

Tomorrow we drive about a mile to the RV service location where we will resolve the issue with the leveling jack. Wish us luck that we’re out of there by lunch time!! Then it’s off to Walla Walla, which should be a 4+ hour trip.

“Mr. Monroe, it’s Murphy on line 1”

Well, as we were about to depart for our second day of frolicking in Glacier, we discovered a malfunction with the right, rear leveling jack. Two problems: how do we get this fixed, and how do we stop that horrible beeping coming from the dashboard. With the help from Earl’s “executive tool kit,” the second problem was easy to resolve…we disabled the damn thing. The first problem led us to leave West Glacier one day early and make our way to Spokane, where, thanks to persistence in calling different RV dealerships, we found a service rep that could get us a replacement jack by Monday. So, rather than zipping through Chewelah and Walla Walla, WA, we will take it at a slightly more relaxed pace.

I came on board this exercise with only one condition: that we stop at all state lines, when safe and legally arguable, to get my picture taken at each state line. It’s what I do instead of collecting snowglobes. So, at the Idaho/Montana line, we stopped in the parking lot of State Line Bar and Casino, and all three of us got in a picture before the Montana state line, three generations of Monroes commemorating their visit to the town where Barbara grew up, Earl spent some of the happiest years of his life, and Ted plans to move to once he can convince Julie to do so.

The repair detour has led us to an unexpected stay in Sandpoint, ID. This reminds me. Julie, if you don’t want to move to northern Montana, how about northern Idaho? (Marriage is all about compromise.) However, our spirits are still high. Although repairs are neither convenient nor fun, particularly for the one paying the repair bill, little seems affected in regard to our itinerary.

We dined in the Ranchette this evening on a two-course meal: cheese fondue as an entree and a York Peppermint Patty for dessert. Our lust for luxury knows no bounds. Continuing the geology video series will serve as the evening’s entertainment.

Tomorrow its off to Chewelah, WA, birthplace of Robert Earl Monroe.

Keen on Keens

I will preface by saying that I am in no way affiliated with the company that manufactures Keens. However, if a representative of said company is reading this, I do accept endorsement deals of any sort.

(The “Pic of the Day” associated with this post, as with all other POD’s, and additional pics of the trip, are featured down and to the right in the slideshow. Watch the glacially rotating thumbnail images, or do yourself a favor, and click on the picture.)

Keens are AWESOME!! They are a hybrid hiking boot and river sandal. Julie and I spent last week hiking, kayaking, and lounging in Michigan, both clad in Keens (shout out to the Northwestern Univ. crew who are all “krazy” for Keens!), but I was dubious as to whether or not they could handle snow. My hike today took me from Logan Pass on the Continental Divide in Glacier NP, over a saddle, around a ridge, and down to Hidden Lake. The rangers cancelled the ranger hikes for the week due to “trail conditions.” Snow still covered a good portion of the trail, and hikers were advised to hike “at their own risk.” When I saw that World War II veterans and children under the age of 5 were braving the hike, I decided that I could not be dissuaded. So, I plodded the three (very slow) miles through snow/slush/ice to the most delightful lake tucked between Reynolds and Clements Mountains. Half of the lake was still iced over, but the other half is cobalt blue, and iridescent when the sun is shining. Along the way I befriended a family of mountain goats, a mama and baby marmot, and a number of other critters. The goats and marmots on this hike are not at all shy, and in some cases, play with passers by.

Earl, Barbara, and I climbed the Going to the Sun Road together on the free park shuttle, which goes as far as Logan Pass (6000+ ft. in elev.) Barbara and I cased out the Visitor Center, cancelled our National Park Passports (one of the many geeky exercises that you will hear about) and posed for some pictures. The ride itself is about 1.5 hours in duration, with construction adding a variable, so Earl and Barbara soon headed back down to Apgar Village to rest, snack, people-watch, and await my return.

Glacier is obviously well-known for her many glaciers, which at one time numbered in the hundreds. Now, however fewer than 20 exist, and they are all in a state of retreat. In fact, Barbara made as one of her few requests that we stop in Glacier, in her words, “while there are any glaciers left.” Perhaps some day soon they will have to change the name to Glaciated National Park, lest they be accused of false advertising. Glaciers or not, the terrain is something to behold: cirques, arêtes, U shaped valleys, moraines of several sorts, hanging valleys, and so many other glacial features. In fact, on our way up the road, I noticed a hanging valley that seems to have been carved not once, but twice by two glacial events! If someone wanted to take pictures for an illustrated textbook on glaciers, you could do a lot worse than Glacier NP.

My ride down was interrupted by road debris, halting no one but my shuttle bus driver, prompting me to hop off my shuttle, and hitchhike back to the parking lot. It only took two cars before a nice family from Flathead Lake, MT picked me up. We had a wonderful conversation on the way down about airplanes (the man was a pilot), Montana (the man was from Montana), motorcycles (the man has owned A LOT of motorcycles), and my job and hometown (the man asks a lot of questions). They dropped me off at the RV doorstep, where I told Earl and Barbara of my adventures, and we whipped up some delicious andouille sausage (thanks, Molly!) with peppers, onions, and zucchini.

Tomorrow, more hiking, some paddling on Lake McDonald, and perhaps a ranger –led boat tour.

Thanks to Jean Cerar for solving the “Enabling Act” mystery (read comment below). Now for the next brain teaser: On my hike today, as I crossed the saddle between Reynolds and Clements Mountains, my cell phone asked me if I wanted to convert my calendar for the new time zone. It then asked me the same question as I crossed back to Logan Pass. I assumed that the Continental Divide also serves as the border between Mountain and Pacific Time. However, when I got home, and told Earl and Barbara of this occurrence, they furrowed their brows, and objected. “The Continental Divide does not straddle a time zone!” they cried. They sprung into action, grabbing the first map/atlas/gazetteer that they could find (there are only about 30 in the motorhome), and confirmed that lo, the time zone changes at the Montana/Idaho border (witness geeky exercise #2). So, I put it to you Monroe clan, et al. If the Mountain and Pacific time zones straddle the Montana/Idaho border, why did my cell phone believe otherwise??

Make it snappy. We’re only here for two more nights.