Thursday, February 13, 2020

John Beck

Johnny Dale Beck, born May 23, 1941 in Ryderwood, passed away February 10, 2020. He was a life-long Winlock resident.

John attended school in Winlock then enlisted in the Army, serving from 1959-62 in Germany and Korea. He met his wife Sally during the Columbus Day storm, and they married in 1963.

He was a logger with Weyerhaeuser for 46 years. After retiring he continued to work at farming and logging. He was a hard worker and would do anything to help family and friends.

John was a private pilot and loved to fly. Many who knew him reflexively look up when they hear a small plane, to see if it’s him tilting his wings to say hello. He and Sally enjoyed going to grandkids’ sporting events and to the casino. He liked breakfast with the guys, reading, hunting and life on the farm. He was a Mason.

John is survived by his wife Sally; brother Raymond (Jo) Beck; children Kathy, Steve, Michelle and Annette; grandchildren Casara, Zabrinna, Trevor, Kasen and Brooklyn; and great-grandchildren Carter, Cayden and Dax. He was preceded in death by parents Leonard Beck and Ellen Zion, brother Tom Beck, newborn son Bobby, and stepfathers Stanley Perkins and Joe Zion.

A memorial gathering will be held at the Olequa Senior Center in Winlock on Saturday, February 22 at 1:00.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Home, Sweet Home (?)

Well, my two winters/springs of traveling have come to an end. It's been a great ride, but it's time to get back into a "normal" life and routine, specifically one with an income. Hopefully my days of wanderlust aren't truly over and I get a chance to set out again at some point.

I enjoyed keeping a crude little map of my cross-country travels in the motorhome. Here's a key to the line colors:
Green - Winter 2014 from Olympia to Key West
Red - Spring 2015 from Key West to Olympia
Blue - Winter 2015 from Olympia to Key West
Orange/Gold - Spring 2016 from Key West to Oly

So long, until the next trip!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Wow. Yellowstone.

Mammoth Hot Springs
I'd never been to Yellowstone and one thing on my mind was, "How will it stand up to Yosemite?" which I've only been to once, but was awestruck by its grandeur. I've come away deciding both are spectacular. Yosemite is the winner in my mind for the beauty of the natural features. But Yellowstone's array of hydrothermal features makes it the winner for amazement and curiosity. They're both spectacular in different ways, and I think both are "must go" places.

I'm headed slowly towards home now, but thought I'd share a little bit of Yellowstone.

Travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs
There were bison (buffalo) herds everywhere, but on the evening I drove through the Mammoth area,
there was a herd of them right in the middle of the cluster of buildings
And in the next median, there was a cluster of elk. The elk herds were plentiful in the park as well.
I took my time driving through the Lamar Valley between 5:30 and sunset, hoping to see a good variety of wildlife. I spotted this wolf coming down from a hilltop toward the road, so I stopped to watch it for awhile. It ended up coming down right behind my motorhome to cross the road. I hadn't thought its motives through at the time. After watching it awhile, I moved along, and stopped around a corner to watch the herd of bison in the valley. In that short time, the wolf had taken down a baby buffalo, and the herd was clustering in a panic.
Wildlife being wild here. 

I didn't bring bear spray on my trip, and I kept my trail walking confined to short trails from the road to specific features of interest. Though the park wasn't too busy this time of year, there were always some other people not far away. But I did get two grizzly bear and two black bear sightings from the roadside.
The only "prized wildlife sighting" that I really missed was moose.

Old Faithful doing its thing

Bubbling mud pot. Not very interesting in a still photo, but mesmerizing to watch and listen.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Black Hills

Rapid City, South Dakota was a nice surprise. They've taken good advantage of their status being the gateway to the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, and installed statues of each of the former presidents at the four corners of central downtown intersections. The first thing we did when we got into town, Charley and I walked the city to check out each of the statues. It was a nice break from all the driving.

Another nice feature of Rapid City was the Prairie Edge Trading Company and Galleries. It was interesting to "window shop" and watch some of the artists at their creative work. They also had a couple young gals singing and playing music, providing a pleasant atmosphere for browsing.

I checked out the historic hill town of Deadwood, found a single-deck blackjack table and played most of the evening. The Deadwood trolley system was great. For a dollar I was able to catch a trolley from the RV park into town, and then back home, running into the wee hours. I also enjoyed the Adams House and Museum the next day.

From there, I took a beautiful drive through the Black Hills National Forest. Mount Rushmore and the interpretive center were stunning and moving (although with the day's rain, it was a little disconcerting to see Washington with a runny nose).

I also went to the Crazy Horse Memorial. I had no idea how long this project has been underway (the first blast for the monument construction was in 1948), and how long it will take to complete. The project is not supported with federal or state government funding by design, and work is completed at its own pace.

One of my favorite things about the Black Hills was my drive through Custer State Park. I had read that to see the best wildlife along the drive, you really need to travel early in the morning or at dusk. So I went to bed early and got on the road before sunrise. I was well rewarded by seeing bison (or buffalo), deer, wild turkeys (and vultures) before I even left the campground!

The drive also rewarded me with pronghorns (or antelope) and marmot sightings.

Watching baby buffalo frolicking around in the morning would make anyone smile!
Buffalo in the mist

I took the Iron Mountain Road, which offered stunning views of the landscape and peek-a-boo views of Mount Rushmore seen through the tunnel openings. What a smart strategy of road building!

Goin' in. I reminded myself of the RV's dimensions before planning my route.
There was just one tunnel in the area that I wouldn't be able to drive through.

I went through this 8'4" wide tunnel very slowly and carefully!
I'm in!

Looking back
The "Eye of the Needle" formation

I went in a cave! I'm not into confined spaces, and frankly, the idea of being in an underground opening with the potential of falling rocks creeps me out. But there are so many caves people say are fascinating that I've always felt I've been missing out by never going to one. So I took advantage of being in an area without a ton of violent seismic activity and went to Jewel Cave.

At least it was well lit!
Just at one point they turned the lights out so our
group of five could see how dark it really was (completely).

I just kept putting thoughts about being underground out of my head and really enjoyed the hour-and-a-half Scenic Tour they offered.

Lots of rocks just wedged and hovering overhead.
At least the guide said they'd been in the same location since the cave was discovered.

Hard to get good photos using a cell phone in a cave, but this was one example of the "jewel" formations.
Now I'm in Cody, Wyoming, getting ready to hit the road for Yellowstone National Park. I took the time in Cody to go to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum, full of history and interpretive displays about the Cody and Yellowstone areas, Buffalo Bill Cody, the Plains Indians, and Western art and firearms galleries. Looking forward to seeing more of the natural beauty of the area in Yellowstone.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Stop and See the Country

The Maker's Mark distillery features a beautiful 36' x 6' Chihuly glass ceiling in a hallway leading from the tasting rooms to the gift shop. Each of the tasting rooms has a different art motif.

A week centered in Bardstown, Kentucky, using a rental car to explore Bourbon Country from Lexington to Louisville, was wonderful. I had initially figured I wouldn't bother with the well-publicized Kentucky Bourbon Trail passport, since the nine distilleries were spaced so far apart, and really, how much different can the tours be? But I found each of the tours and tasting experiences was different, most were really interesting and loaded with history of the craft, and the lure of driving the countryside taking in the springtime lush rolling hills, gorgeous looking stables and fragrant rickhouses was too much to pass up. Not only did I complete my passport, but I stopped at a few other locations that had also been recommended when I was learning about the area.

Don't worry - the distilleries are regulated to only serve an ounce per tasting, so when they sample 2-3 labels, it truly is just a taste (a newly-passed law has increased this to 1-3/4 ounce, effective later this year). And most of the distilleries are separated by a pretty good distance, so a comfortable day of tasting includes just two or three sites. A week in the area allowed for a leisurely, relaxed and responsible pace.

After Kentucky, I used the city bus system to explore St. Louis from a centrally-located urban RV park. Though I try to avoid bad weather when I can, getting through the mid-west in the spring makes that pretty difficult. Luckily the worst storm I was in didn't produce damaging wind or hail, but the skies above St. Louis were impressively troubled as it rolled in. My photos don't do it justice - the sky darkened dramatically and actually turned a weird shade of green. I came out of a Soulard-area restaurant on my way downtown to this sky, and when I got downtown I ducked inside a lounge for the worst of it. Charley was very happy to see me when I got back - poor doggie!

The next day I went up to the top of the Gateway Arch in their tram that seems to work much like a ski lift. It was a spectacular view from the top. If I'd had my glasses on, I probably could have seen the score of the Cardinals game.

I explored quite a bit of St. Louis and was conscious of the city's crime statistics, which seemed to be constantly on the local news. But in my walking around to use the bus system, for the most part if I was alone in a quiet area and met someone walking the opposite direction, the other person would simply say, "How-ya doin'?" in a quick passing, non-threatening way. The city had quite a bit to offer and I just had a small taste.

I had to stop in Sioux Falls to see the waterfalls right in the city. Reminds me of Tumwater.

I broke up my drive west into small chunks and eventually made my way to South Dakota. My friend Laurie had suggested a stop at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. I had no idea what this was, but Mitchell was right along my drive along I-90, so of course I stopped. Reminiscent of grange produce displays at the fair, the entire building was decorated (inside and out) with a mosaic of corn and other locally-grown grains and grasses. As corny as it was (see what I did?), it was also kind of amazing. They redecorate the building annually with different designs and motifs. I really messed up, though, by not swinging by to see it lit up at night when I first got to town.

From there, I made my way through the Badlands National Park for an incredible sunset drive. The dry earth formations look like a moonscape, but the place was alive at sunset. In the grassy patches and the cliff edges I saw a mountain lion (first time I've seen one in the wild), two bison, herds of bighorn sheep, watched and listened to prairie dogs for awhile, and of course, deer and coyotes.

Wall Drug, here I come....

Sunday, April 24, 2016

On To Bourbon Country

The races in Bristol were fun. Both races were good, but the Saturday race was really entertaining, with two drivers, one I like and one I don't, vying back and forth for the win, with Kyle Larson (I like) showing the upper hand. At the very end, a driver from the race series, Erik Jones, pulled ahead of both and took the win. I always like seeing drivers from the race series win. He was one of the competitors for an additional $100,000 if he won, plus a chance for a million if he wins other key races during the season, so it was a very good day for him.

Camping at a racetrack for a week is exhausting. Between the sounds of the generators and the partying, it's tough to sleep well. On the other hand, it seems like campers at a race build a little community in a different way than people do at a regular campground. I seem to get some attention as an anomaly: a woman camping at a racetrack alone, walking a little dog around all the time (there isn't that much to do during the week so we walk around even more than usual), and there are plenty of offers to join little groups to socialize. The campground (just a field) beside the track at Bristol puts on some good entertainment over the weekend, with concerts and vendors, and that was fun. And how many concerts do you go to where you can BYOB? There was a great deal of police and security detail present, and they were totally on anything that looked like it might get out of hand, but they also seemed to have the attitude that it was supposed to be just a big party, and very few people would try to get behind a wheel that night. In the end, though, it was time to find a more relaxed environment for awhile.

Mayberry (Mount Airy, North Carolina)

After backtracking to Greensboro, NC to get a new slideout motor installed on my RV, I was ready to head towards Kentucky. There were several options for how to cross over the mountains, roughly the same distance, so I took the route that allowed me to see the most territory I hadn't seen before. It only took a short side trip to visit the town that Andy Griffith came from, which inspired his TV stories about the people of the small town of Mayberry.

Mount Airy has made an effort to sustain some of the elements that America grew fond of on TV. It's a friendly place, a real mix of old and new.

Stunning West Virginia

My route took me though West Virginia, and my original plan was to just drive the interstates and go straight through to Kentucky. The Appalachian areas are full of arts centers, which feature local handiwork and artistry, leaning heavily towards woodworking, musical instruments and textile arts. I stopped at a couple of these centers in the mountain states, including one that had been advertised along the freeway for 50 miles. Nearby, another West Virginia highlight well represented in the tourism ads is the New River Gorge Bridge, the steel arch bridge that appears on the quarter coin representing the state of West Virginia. What the heck, I decided to get off the interstate and go drive out there to take a look.

I'm so glad I went to see the bridge. Not only was the walk down to the lookout point a nice break from being in the driver's seat, but on the scenic drive back towards the freeway I saw the hilliest, prettiest countryside along Laurel Creek and the New River. Up, down and around hillsides, down into gullies, alongside beautiful waterfalls, and viewing homes, cabins and barns that have been around for many generations, I got to appreciate the beauty of West Virginia instead of just passing it by.

Kentucky Bourbon Country

I was enchanted by the fact that my campsite outside of Frankfort featured its own rope swing.
Too bad it wasn't warmer!

The sunset was as enchanting as the rope swing. Wouldn't want to be here during torrential rainstorms, though!
I stopped at two distilleries in the Frankfort area for tours and tastings. I've never been a big Bourbon drinker, but I have had some that I liked, and thought it would be interesting to learn more. It really is an intriguing industry, full of history and culture, and multi-dimensional with great aromas and flavors. My first stop was at the Buffalo Trace distillery.

The bottling process of Blanton's at Buffalo Trace is done by hand,
and the assembly workers seemed to enjoy conversation as part of their day's work.
(So far, this has been my favorite Bourbon.)

I also visited the Woodford Reserve distillery.

No use for mechanical conveyance systems when simple gravity will do just fine

The rickhouses smell divine!
I was surprised to learn how much the seasons and temperature variances contribute to the aging process. While some manufacturers have climate-control equipment, some simply use windows and nature.
This is one of the rickhouses at Woodford Reserve - been around awhile.

As interesting as the tours are, you always look forward to the tasting at the end!
I've loved the old buildings at these historic sites, the culture preserved in the manufacturing processes, the beautiful countryside, and I'm looking forward to experiencing more during my week in Bourbon Country.