September 30, 2020 Camp Rilea OR

It has been a long time since we have been on the road. Packing Scout seemed to be a little more difficult as we kept remembering things we forgot to pack and were running back in constantly. Eventually we got almost everything loaded, (except for wine glasses) and got on the road for the coast pretty early.

The trip over to the coast was uneventful, and we started by stopping into Camp Rilea to get a spot for the night. Camp Rilea is a small Oregon National Guard Post that allows retired military to camp in an area that is much like an aire in France. The only difference is it is next to the rifle range where soldiers do their annual qualification. Luckily for us no one is shooting today so it is nice and quiet.

Once we got checked in, we decided to head over to Reach Break Brewery which is one of our favorite breweries in Astoria. We got there just as they were opening, and like many places in Oregon they have closed off their inside dining room and are serving everyone in outdoor seating. We prefer outside seating, but today was one of the first cold days of the year. The marine layer had set in and refused to go away so it was pretty chilly and damp.

We tried a taster tray of 5 of their beers. They were doing a fresh hop sampler where they took three different hop varieties and applied each of them to the same beer. We could taste the fresh hops in the beer, but could not really taste any difference between the three different hops. We also shared a fish and chips.

Our next planned stop was Ft. George Brewery where we planned on having a pint. When we got there they had a sign saying that they were only seating people by reservation. The next reservation was in 30 minutes and since we only wanted a beer we decided to move on.

We went back to Reach Break and asked one of the brewers what place he would recommend that would be open. He recommended a brewery on the other side of the Columbia River in Washington called North Jetty Brewery. We had been there once before several years ago, so we were off.

The bridge over the Columbia River near Astoria.

Astoria is located near the mouth of the Columbia River, and the bridge across is an impressive structure. The river here is over three miles wide, and ocean going ships have to pass under the bridge so it is quite tall near Astoria. We always enjoy crossing it. The views from the top are spectacular when it is not fogged in.

When we arrived at North Jetty, they had indoor dining available that looked effectively distanced so we had another taster tray indoors. They were serious about mask wearing as Ton and I both stepped away from the table a couple of feet without our mask on and were admonished by the bartender.

We were hoping for a break in the marine layer, but we did not get it. So after our taster tray we decided to head back to Camp Rilea to settle in for the evening. We took a walk down to the ocean but the fog and the damp drove us back to Scout for the night.

February 2, 2020 Tucson AZ

I planned to have an easy day in Tucson before watching the superbowl.  But the game was pretty late so I looked for something to do early in the day.  

Since I was on an airbase it seemed appropriate.to visit the the Pima Air Museum which has the second largest collection of airplanes in the world.  On the way I drove by the boneyard.  Davis-Monthan Air Force Base where I am staying is where the US stores aircraft that are not currently being used but not ready to be scrapped.  Some are being held in reserve in case they are needed in the future.  Some are being stored for possible sale to other countries Air Forces, and some are being harvested for spare parts for similar aircraft.  There are thousands of aircraft stored here in the desert and it is quite a site.  The storage area is referred to as the boneyard.

Some of the thousands of aircraft in the “boneyard” next to the campground.

The Pima Museum was very impressive, I spent about three hours wandering thru the exhibitions looking at both military and commercial aircraft.  There were some interesting experimental planes, and some classics.  The WWII exhibits were especially impressive.  If you like planes or just like mechanical things I highly recommend the Pima Museum.

A cool strategic bomber from the late 1940’s at the Pima Air Museum.

My last adventure for the day was to try to find an ATM from my bank.  It took two tries  and about 10 miles of driving to find one.  Scout would not fit into the drive thru so I parked and was walking up to use it when a car sped around me and cut in to beat me to the machine.  Then they spent about five minutes getting ready to deposit checks while I cooled my heals in the sun standing behind them.  The guy did not even have the guts to make eye contact with me while I waited for them to complete there complicated transaction from the comfort of their car.

Today is my day for jerks, as my neighbor at the campground is apparently using his truck engine as his generator to power his RV, so every hour he runs his truck for 15 minutes right outside the door of my RV even when I am sitting outside watching the Super Bowl.  On top of that the team I was rooting for in the Super Bowl lost.  Tucson so far has been my least favorite stop on the trip.

January 28, 2020 Yuma AZ

Today turned into a shopping day.  I wanted to swing by a couple of military bases to pick up some food and stuff.  Yuma has both an Army testing area, and a Marine Corps Air Station.  

I started at the Army base as they have a RV camp and I needed to dump and get some water.  While I was in there I asked about availability and they said they had only one spot available so I moved on to the Marines.  

After a run thru their stores it was early afternoon and I had to decide what to do.  I had a couple of options there is a National Wildlife Refuge in the area so I headed over to their headquarters to look at the option.  The nearest place I could camp was about 90 minutes away.  I checked the next option which was to head on to Organ Pipe National Monument and that was over 2 hours away.  I decided to call the Army to see if they still had that spot and they did so I headed over there for the night.

The base does ordnance testing, is the sight of the armed forces High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) parachuting school, which is done by special operations, and interestingly the place where they test bridging equipment despite the fact that it is in the middle of the Sonora Desert.  

A WWII Sherman tank on display at Yuma Proving Grounds.

At the base entrance they have an interesting display of old armor and artillery that I stopped in to take a look at.  This place was a major training area during WWII with three infantry divisions going thru here before heading to Europe.  I wandered thru the old equipment for a while.  Included in the display was an example of the howitzer that I worked on during my first two years in the Marines.

The M101 105mm howitzer that I operated during my first two years in the Marines.

By the campground they had an interesting display of a land train concept that was trialed at this base during the early 1960’s.  The concept was to have a train that did not run on rails and was capable of going across country off of roads.  The thinking was that this would allow for flexible logistics.  The train consisted of a command unit, two power units, and 10 wagons.  The entire thing was over 500 feet long.  They tested it here for 3 years before abandoning the concept.

The command unit of the land train.  The back includes quarters for 6 people.  The wheels are over 10 feet tall.

November 5, 2019 Vicenza IT

Today was a maintenance day.  Our campsite is less than 100 yards from the main shipping channel for Venice port so we began the day watching the morning parade of different types of commercial ships go by including Container Ships, Car Carriers, long distance Ferries, and tankers.  They passed close enough in front of us that we could see the faces of the crew walking the ships, it was a fun start to the day.  

Police boat near Venice.

After that we drove less than an hour to a US Army base in Vicenza.  François needed a good cleaning, and we decided to take advantage of the big American washing machines there.  So the day consisted of washing all of our sheets and blankets, while Ton was working on that I gave François a bath in the rain which worked out since I did not need to rinse.

After that we did some food shopping and relaxed for the rest of the day.  

October 13, 2019 Giardini-Naxos IT

Today was a maintenance day mostly.  We woke early as we wanted to drive to the US Navy base at Sigonella to take care of laundry and shopping.  We covered about 150km’s to the base, and the traffic was Sunday light.  Large sections of the freeway we traveled on were under construction or heavy maintenance, and we got a little turned around for awhile, but recovered without too much trouble.

Arriving at the Navy Base we were not sure what the procedure would be to gain access.  In Spain it was pretty complicated, in Germany it was as easy as the US, and here it was easy also.  In Germany and Spain there were limits on what facilities we could use, but here in Italy we could use everything.  All of the chores were taken care of mid-afternoon.  Our original plan was to stay somewhere close to the Navy base, but the pickings were slim.

As we were driving down the coast we realized Mount Etna, was having a minor eruption.  It turns out it has been putting out ash clouds now for a few days, and it was strong enough on Wednesday that they had to close the main airport for Sicily.

Mt. Etna is having a small eruption, it is venting in two places.

Our plan for tomorrow is to visit a town called Taormina, so as it was early I decided we would head there.  It was a short hop up the coast on the freeway, which for the last 20km’s turned into a tollway.  I was a little distracted as we came to our exit and blew right by it, so we had to go up one extra exit.  At the exit as we pulled into the toll booth I noticed everyone was paying with cash.  We panicked as our smallest bill was a €20.  The machine coughed up €18 in change with no problems.

Greta Garmin sent us up a national road, but it turned into a driving test as the road was a beautiful seaside road but quite twisty, and with cars parked fairly randomly in one or sometimes both lanes it was a tight squeeze at a couple of points.  The good news though was we realized that the Sosta (Italian for Aire) we are using tonight is located quite close to the ocean.  If we had taken the right exit we would never have known that.

This is the road you end up on when you miss your exit on the freeway.

After an early dinner Ton proposed we walk on into the town.  Giardini-Naxos is a postcard beautiful Mediterranean fishing port town, with incredible views.  There was a cruise ship in port, and as the sun set the harvest full moon was rising over the ocean.  The walk around the port was pretty romantic.  It was a fantastic end to a day that we had low expectations for, and all because I missed an exit on the freeway.

The harbor of Giardini-Naxos with Mt. Etna in the background.
This view is the reward for missing the exit and squeezing thru town.
Ton loves fishing ports, because the views are pretty, and the food is great.

May 17, 2019 Garmisch GE

Yesterday when we went into the Army facility near us the guards told us we should have our identification cards registered with US Forces Europe as it would make it easier  to get on other bases.  So we started the day by walking over to the Military Police Office, the process was quick and efficient.  The lady was very nice and told us we could use the facilities.  This base is a recreation and conference center so they actually sponsor a lot of tours.  After looking at their options we opted to sign up for a couple of tours, so we will be spending several days in the area.  

The first tour we signed up for was of the Greisbrau Brewery.  It was located about 40 minutes away, and the brewery is from the 1970’s, though the building is a few hundred years old, but was previously a cattle barn.  Wolfgang our host walked us thru the brewing process.  

Wolfgang enlightening us on the fine art of making beer.

We learned about the German Beer Purity laws which limit Beer to only three ingredients, Water, Hops, and Malt.  The talk was interesting and we were all paying extra attention as we had to take a test at the end to earn our Beer Drinkers Certificate.  Ton and I passed and we are now an official Bavarian Beer Connoisseur.

Wolfgang giving out samples of the beer to our group of future Bavarian Beer Brewers.
My certificate as an official Beer Connoisseur.

We ended the tour with a nice Bavarian meal.  It was a late night out so todays post is a little short.

Ton’s meal a meat and potato lovers delight.

May 16, 2019 Garmisch- Partenkirchen GE

The day began with indecision.  Thomas’ offer to attend his brewery event on Saturday was very tempting, so we began the day by looking at options to do around Reichenau until Saturday.  The other issue is the weather.  Today and tomorrow are the only two good days forecast in the next 12 days.  After today and tomorrow the Weather Channel App shows 10 consecutive days of miserable weather for Southern Germany, actually for most of Germany.  Ton even researched weather in other parts of Europe to escape the cold and rain.  Right now Oslo has the best weather, but it is a bit far away.  The interesting thing is that the temperatures are going to be warmer in the North of Germany than in the South, also the forecast showed slightly less rain in the North.

St. George Church, our last stop on Reichenau Island.

We still really wanted to take Thomas up on his offer so we talked about options including Switzerland (really expensive), just settling in Reichenau but we needed supplies mostly LP gas.  With the cold weather every night we are using a tank of LP every 4 or 5 days ( for comparison we used two tanks in 6 weeks on our trip to Spain).  After looking at options around the region we finally decided we needed to get going North towards the less lousy weather, so today we are in the Alps near the Austrian border.

Mountain valleys with many small farms, and villages.  The population is much denser in Germany than in Spain or France.

When we punched Garmisch into Greta Garmin she told us it was about 3 hours to drive the 250km’s, we add 30 minutes to all of her estimates as we are usually under the speed limit.  It still sounded like a pretty reasonable day.  The first problem is around Freidrichshaven we ran into really heavy traffic, so the first 100 kilometers of the trip took 2 hours, after we broke out of Freidrichshaven traffic thinned out, and then we found ourselves on the autobahn so all looked good.  With about 80km’s to go I noticed a sign that said we had just entered Austria, did not know that was going to happen, after a few minutes I remembered that Austria requires a vignette to drive on their roads.  A vignette is a sticker you buy in place of paying tolls, many countries require these ( one of the reasons we did not go to Switzerland is that they require an annual one that costs 40 Swiss francs).  So now we were outlaws as not expecting to enter Austria I did not research how to get a vignette or how much it would cost.  I decided to press on as our final destination is in Germany as I figured we must just be cutting thru a corner of Austria.

The dandelions were out in force as we drove thru Austria.

All was looking good as we had spent the last hour in Austria driving thru magnificent mountains and gorgeous valleys carpeted with flowers.  We passed back into Germany without getting fined, when we were 8km’s from the campsite for the night we came to a barrier across the road.  This was in a narrow mountain pass, so there was no local by pass.  Much cursing because when we turned down this road about 30 minutes earlier there was no indication that it was closed.

Typical of the roads in Austria, the mountains were spectacular.

So I told Greta to find us another route to Garmisch, her alternative was 80 km’s!  Lots of cursing now, as we are literally 10 minutes from our destination, and the detour is going to take nearly 2 hours.  So back up the road illegally into Austria again.  The next detour routed us thru a national park with narrow steep roads with views of  glaciers and glacier fed lakes, not a fast route but really gorgeous and nearly worth the trouble. 

The large glacier fed lake in Brentanwag National Park on the road we took on our detour caused by construction.
Another view from our unexpected detour.  

After 6 hours of hard mountain driving we arrived in Garmisch, and just before the turn into our campground we saw signs for a US Military compound.  After settling in we took a walk down there to see what they had.  It turns out it is a recreation center complete with hotel, 3 restaurants, and big American washing machines.  We had a beer and nachos while watching American sports. We are planning to return tomorrow with a load of washing.   A nice end to a hectic day.

Another view of the mountains around us tonight.

October 16, 2018 Rota SP

Last night we had to do some soul searching about what direction to go next.  When we arrived 6 weeks seemed like a long time, but as we have progressed thru the trip we find we have to keep making hard decisions about next steps.  After some discussion we decided to head back almost to Seville to hit some of the coast line and to visit Gibraltar.  We picked a place called Rota to pick up the coast because Ron knew of it from the US Navy base located there.

We woke up to a pretty steady rain, but by the time we got organized to leave the rain had let up.  The freeway system in Spain is quite good, and unlike France largely free.  It was mostly developed in the 90’s and 00’s.  As a consequence the old national roads which are two lanes and generally of good quality are almost empty except for local traffic.  The gps for reasons unclear decided to route us most of the day on one of the national roads instead of the Autovia (freeway).  We actually enjoyed it as we were able to see more of the countryside, and some of the White Pueblos of Andalusia.

One of the white pueblos of Andalusia with the Cathedral in the center, and an Arab fort in the mist on the right side.  We are going to be tempted to double back into this area.
Cotton fields as we approached Rota.

We arrived in Rota and swung by the Naval Base to do some shopping.  After that we headed to an aire located 100 yards from the beach.  Ton whipped up a late lunch early supper.  After we were done Ton declared siesta time for a couple of hours.

In the evening we walked down the beach towards town.  It was a nice beach, and in addition to the ocean we could see the port of Cadiz in the distance with a cruise ship and a large ferry entering.  The most interesting thing were several large man made  rock walls that went into the ocean.  They were obviously quite old, Ron guessed they were used for fishing and he was right.  They are the fish corrals of Rota, and are a National Monument in Spain.  They date back to the Roman times and were used until the 1950’s.  They are designed so that they trap fish at low tide making it easier to catch them.

Part of the fish corral of Rota.
Our first Atlantic sunset in over 30 years.

February 9, 2018 Camp Pendleton CA

Today was a travel day.  We got up early and tried to clean some of the sand from Scout.  Parking directly on the beach is really great, but it comes with a ton of sand which managed to get everywhere.  Ton did a great job chasing most of it out, but will probably take another shot at it this afternoon.

The downside of being on the beach is sand everywhere inside.  Not much of a downside.

We were up early and had another visit from the local Marines.  This time a company of Marines were using the beach in front of us for physical training.  All of the women in the campground were fascinated to watch the women Marines in the unit doing the training alongside their male counterparts, and I think the mother in all of them came out a little bit.  I know the women Marines would not want to be treated any other way.

Physical Training on the beach, just like their recruiter promised.

We reluctantly departed our ocean front property, and headed out into southern California traffic.  Ron was a bit under the weather so we were focused on getting down the road.  

One of the weird things about driving around in the Mojave is that fairly frequently you come across these large airports with hundreds of mothballed airplanes parked there.  This one was near Adelanto.

Airliners stored in the desert.

February 8, 2018 Camp Pendleton CA

We had a slow start to the day.  One of the things about staying on a military base is that sometimes you share your campground with Marines training.  This morning a platoon of amtracks (a floating armored personnel carrier) went thru the camp.  

Going thru the campground.
They then took off down the beach.

We headed over to Oceanside for the afternoon we shared a fish and chips lunch at a nice restaurant.  We then had a nice walk thru town and down to the pier.  A lot of California coastal towns have piers, and Oceanside’s is nice, and not quite as commercial as some of the others.

The Oceanside pier.

We watched the surfers for a while from the pier.  Ton pointed out one older gentlemen mixed in with all of the younger surfers.  After a while though it was clear the old guy was by far the best surfer.  

Old guys rule!