Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cousins & Craters

We left Astoria on Saturday morning and drove the beautiful Hwy 30 east following the Columbia River to the Lewis & Clark bridge into Washington. CIMG5268 Longview is named for Robert Long of Kansas City, Mo.  We have visited many times the Summer Home of the Long's in Lees Summit. Long made his money in the Washington Lumber business, and lived in Missouri.CIMG5264
We had passed over this bridge before never realizing that Tom’s cousin Bob’s middle son, John, and his family lived in Longview. Boy! did we hear from John after he read our photo emails that we had been so near but had not stopped. This time we would not miss the chance to renew family ties with John, his wife, Nancy, and the kids, Joseph and Olivia. Oldest son Jonathan was working this weekend and we look forward to our next visit to add Jonathan’s picture to the family. We drove to the top of the hill and parked in front of John’s house. DSC02914 CIMG5270
We had an incredible weekend of eating, talking, talking, eating and did I mention eating. Although John's profession is in the medical field, he is an anesthesiologist, when partnered with Nancy in their brand new kitchen we think he missed his calling as a chef. DSC02918
Nancy can chop, season, grill, mix fresh food that rivals the most expensive restaurants we had eaten in. Their house sits on the highest hill in Longview with a 180 degree view of the Columbia.  John and Nancy insisted on fixing dinner when we arrived. Starting with fresh watermelon juice, marinated shrimp, chicken & steak bar-b-qued, fresh corn, grilled giant onions, asparagus, homemade tortilla, and Nancy’s rice and beans (fabulous). CIMG5272    
Just when we did not think we could eat one more thing, Nancy breaks out the lime popsicles, a jigger of tequila, and sea salt – instant Margaritas!  What an evening; we retired to our RV in front of the house for a good nights’ sleep.CIMG5275
The next morning it was breakfast with the Westerfield’s, chorizo, eggs, home made guacamole, salsa, tortillas and lots more visiting. We were joined by John & Nancy’s friends returning Olivia from her sleepover and we went out to the patio to  relax and enjoy the view. As we were getting ready to go up to Castle Rock to visit Mt Saint Helens John was fixing fresh halibut tacos with halibut caught and delivered by a friend earlier in the day. A weekend with family we haven’t seen in a very long time just doesn’t get any better than that! Thanks John & Nancy, Joe & Olivia, too.
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Thirty years ago May 18th Mt Saint Helens blew her top off. The devastation is still seen all around the 70 mile radius of the mountain. We visited on the 17th to avoid the crowds and also because the weather report predicted rain and cloud cover. We found a brand new RV park north of Castle Rock and parked near the main line of the railroad. We slept so soundly we never even heard the trains go by all night long.  DSC02920 
We had a great drive up the mountain to the Johnston Ridge Observatory and Visitor Center opposite the side of the mountain where the blast occurred. 
When we got to the top the view of Mt. Saint Helen’s missing top was again a moving sight. 57 people lost their lives when this happened. It could have been so much worse had it not been a Sunday when the loggers were not working the mountain. People had been evacuated for over a month and the first convoy of residents were taken back to their homes to remove valuables on May 17th. The plan was to bring them back in on the 18th, but the eruption occurred suddenly at 8:32 a.m. before their trip back up the mountain. The stories of rescues, lost lives, and restoring the mountain was movingly told at the information centers we visited yesterday and today.
On the way down from the top of the mountain we found 5 caches. The last cache was at the Washington State MSH Center. We met a very nice ranger who would not give us a hint where the cache was, but he said he would look for us today to see if we found it. We did find it and had to give him the details. He said his parents live in Orangevale, CA, and had just retired so we had to give him a short course of geocaching.  We left in the rain, drove to Tacoma to the very beautiful Tacoma Elks where we are parked for $15 a night. We checked out Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives website and found Southern Kitchen, a local restaurant featured on Guy Fieri’s TV show.  Boy was it good. Baked chicken, cornbread dressing, collard greens, red beans and corn was what Tom chose. I had catfish fillet, mac and cheese, corn, and the most delicious sweet potatoes. This was preceded by a cornbread pancake with butter and honey. We washed it down with sweet tea. Whew!!!!! It is a wonder I have enough energy to stay awake long enough to do this blog.
Tomorrow we plan on seeing my cousin, Rob, and his wife Gwen who live on Whidbey Island. Rob is the Seafood Manager for Payless Food Store on the island and he is planning a seafood dinner. The question is… can we cache enough to work off the fabulous dinner? Stay tuned.
On the Road Again, Caching Places That We’ve Never Been…  Thanks for joining us.

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