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Off to renew our Driver’s Licenses in SD

June 23rd, 2023

Crossing the border back into the US today, through the NEXUS, line took about 10 minutes at 11:15 am and we were on our way.  That NEXUS card has sure paid off – there were two regular lines here with about 100 cars waiting in total.

This part of our journey in the US is to get to our “residence” state of South Dakota to renew our drivers’ licenses which we must do every five years.  Again, we must stay only one night to prove residency (in a hotel or campground), show the receipt and we’re good.  We have appointments for June 28th.    We also have appointments to see our GP to get our prescriptions renewed.

Gas Prices: While in Canada, the prices in Vancouver were around $2 CDN per litre ($1.52 USD per litre or $5.76 a gallon); on the island it was around $1.90 but we actually found a $1.80 ($1.37 USD per litre or $5.19) in Nanaimo!  While in WA state they were in the high range of $4.39 to 5.09 depending on where you were; once we got into Idaho it was down around $4 a gallon and just inside Montana we found $3.70.  It got even cheaper further east and under $3.20 in Wyoming.  Once we headed west again from South Dakota, it began to rise again. 

Our destination today was Mt. Baker – here’s a pic from Google:

Mt Baker stands at 10,781’ and the fifth largest peak in the North Cascade range.  While known to indigenous peoples for centuries, it was first seen by explores in 1790 when the Spanish Navy set sail from Vancouver Island with orders to explore the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

It is considered an active glacier covered volcano.  It is the youngest volcano in this area last erupting in 1843.  It is known as one of the snowiest places on earth.  In 1999, the ski area here reported a record 29m / 95’ of snow in a single season!

In all the years we’ve lived in the west, we’ve seen Mt Baker from afar but never explored the area around it.  Upon arriving at the Visitor’s Centre in Maple Falls, we were told the best views were behind us but there were a few things to check out along the Mt Baker Highway.

Here are the views we got as we drove towards the border earlier today:

Our first stop on the Mt Baker Highway was Nooksack Falls which was very pretty:

Now this drive is what you call through a forest:

moss, moss and more moss

The weather was quite overcast but it seemed like the sun wanted to come out.

Then it was onto the Mt Baker ski area to see Picture Lake with Mt Shuksan in the background with its glaciers – worth the drive:

Along this road we saw a rock formation that looked like basalt columns:

Picture Lake: (feature photo above was taken there as well)

Fun Facts: this area of the lower 48 has the most glaciers in the country; even Glacier National Park has less!  Sometimes the North Cascade Mountains are referred to as the “American Alps”. 

The weather began to get cloudier on our drive back west to Bellingham where we gassed up at Costco, had a hot dog and drink for lunch (still only 1.50!), picked up a couple of items before heading to a hotel for the night.

Neither of us slept well and we were on the road early to visit our 59th US national park.  (There are 63 actual national parks in the US and seeing as we probably won’t get to visit the three really remote ones in Alaska (but we won’t say never), there is only one left for us after this one, however, it’s in American Samoa so that’s a ways down the road.)

North Cascades National Park is in the state of Washington. At more than 500,000 acres (200,000 ha), it is the largest of the three National Park Service units that comprise the North Cascades National Park Complex. North Cascades National Park consists of a northern and southern section, bisected by the Skagit River that flows through the reservoirs of Ross Lake National Recreation Area.  North Cascades National Park features the rugged mountain peaks of the North Cascades Range, the most expansive glacial system in the contiguous United States, the headwaters of numerous waterways, and vast forests with the highest degree of flora biodiversity of any American national park.

Heavy snows and a high risk of avalanches due to the steep terrain, especially on the western slopes, severely limit visitation in the winter. Most access to the park is from State Route 20, which follows the Skagit River, though even this road is closed for months at a time in the winter. Most of the plant and animal species native to the park region are still found there, though climate change and pollutants from industrialized regions to the west pose risks to the environment. The park has one of the earliest and longest lasting research programs dedicated to studying climate change, primarily through examining the effects of glacial retreat.

North Cascades National Park is almost entirely protected as wilderness, and so the park has few structures, roads or other improvements.

We have never driven the State Route 20 in WA and were very pleased we did; there was very little traffic so it wasn’t a problem that it was only a two lane highway.

We arrived at North Cascades National Park Visitors Centre shortly after it opened at 9 am.  The sky was getting greyer and the views were obscured so it wasn’t worth doing any of the hikes around there.  We pushed on and first stopped at Gorge Creek Falls where we took a short walk along the paved path:

The path ended with views at the dam:

Upon returning to the parking area, we went on the bridge (the road beyond it was closed) and saw the main falls with the narrow gorge below us:

And then it was on to Lake Diablo and stopped across the bridge for some shots on the ground before heading to the overlook:

And then a little further up the park road, we stopped at the overlook which was fantastic:

We had planned to do the hike at Rainy Lake but there was NO parking left and the sky was looking even worse towards the lake and as the trails were already muddy from last night’s rain we passed.  It was a good decision as the rain started about ten minutes later.

The final stop through the park was the Washington Pass overlook with a short hike to some viewpoints with amazing vistas:

At this point we were over 1737m / 5700’ in altitude; the highest we’d get today.

We were out of the park shortly after noon and instead of spending the night in Omak as we planned (we thought we’d be later in the day by this point due to hiking), we pushed on to Davenport just west of Spokane.

The landscape varied greatly on the drive today.  The park was full of forest and mountains:

then the low hills became much more barren:

we passed by hundreds of apple orchards growing along the Columbia River:

lots of farmland:

and then desert conditions as we approached the Chief Joseph Dam and the Grand Coulee Dam (we didn’t stop as we’d been years before with the kids).

Doug had booked us an AirBNB at a Victorian mansion in Davenport – hotels this weekend are astronomically priced – and it was much cheaper and turned out to be quite cute.  By the time we got here temps were in the upper 20’s / low 80s and the clouds were gone.

We arrived around 3, got settled in our queen sized room with shared bathroom and chatted with the kind owner, Nancy.  She has coffee/tea, snacks and treats out all day long.  We enjoyed a cold beer outside in the gazebo area at four and made dinner in the kitchen (just a light one) before hitting the hay by 9:30 as we were both beat after a bad sleep the night before.

We don’t usually go through many tunnels in North America, but there were actually two along our route today.

After Doug’s run on Sunday, we left Davenport in the sunshine and warmth only to get higher and higher and with no more warm weather.  We drove through rain a few times after passing through northern Idaho and after we got settled in the hotel in Butte, Montana, we had heavy rain for a while before dark (we are now on Mountain time instead of Pacific).

Monday morning we awoke to sunshine and continued down the I90 eastward.

Here’s why they call the state of Montana “big sky country”

We crossed the state line south of Billings and made it to Sheridan, Wyoming by early afternoon where we called it quits. We’ve been to through this state many times but never have we seen it so green!  Here we stayed in another hotel just off the I90 with an indoor hot tub which we took advantage of.  We both went out and got our steps and then stayed cool in the hotel as it was warming up outside once again.

After exercise on Tuesday, we left Sheridan to make our way to our destination: Rapid City, South Dakota.  We made a stop for gas at $3.39 a gallon where we filled up not only the tank but the two five gallon jerry cans we carry in the back.  This part of the I90 had less traffic but still a few roadwork zones to get through.  We stopped off at the medical clinic we will be going to tomorrow to see our doctor to drop off test results from the last two years in other countries; stopped by our mailbox service to get the mail and then stopped by Great Clips for haircuts.  After checking into our hotel, we learned it had a guest laundry so Fran got that done; we got our walking in and Fran also treated herself to a pedicure at a place across the road.

While in the salon it began to rain quite hard and it actually hailed some for a few minutes but luckily, when Fran had to walk back the sun was trying to come back out.  It’s rather muggy here – in the mid 20’s C / upper 70’s F.  It’s only going to get warmer as return west again tomorrow.

South Dakota looks an awful lot like Wyoming but with trees:

Our first appointments on Wednesday were with the DMV to renew our drivers’ licenses and in the late morning we each had an appointment with our doctor at the Rapid City Medical Clinic.    We showed up early to both sets of appointments and managed to get in early at both.  Fran’s doctor suggested she consider going on a low dose statin and after discussing this, she will do this (we can get our meds cheap in the US using Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drug company – Fran got her new statins and regular BP meds for 90 days for a total of $18.50 including shipping!). Got our drivers’ licenses on the spot too!   Done and done.

By 11:15 am we were on the road again crossing back into Wyoming once again.  About 75 miles before Casper we hit a thunder storm complete with lightning and hail! It had been 80F before the storm, 61 during and then back up to 83 afterwards.

We made it to Evansville, Wyoming (outside Casper) where we actually found gas at $3.19!

We filled up next morning after spending another night at yet another hotel.  We have to say, we are getting quite tired of living out of suitcases!  It will be nice to be at “home” in our trailer next week.

We left our hotel by 8ish and made one more fuel stop in Wyoming at Rock Springs to fill up before reaching the pricier state of Utah.

Views of Wyoming as we approached the state line:

miles and miles of snow fence
they called this Table Rock

We arrived in Salt Lake City by 2:30, got checked in to a Marriott as we’d decided to treat ourselves.  We walked and relaxed.  Doug had dinner plans with his former HNTB boss, John, and a colleague, Cliff so Fran had some take out dinner at the hotel.  We then enjoyed the Marriott’s outdoor hot tub before some TV time and bed. It’s much warmer here in Salt Lake – mostly because we are no longer up above 6500’ as we were in Wyoming.

Wasatch Mountain views near our hotel

Today we did pass through one tunnel.

As Doug had a CT scan of his heart scheduled for later in the morning here in SLC, we had a more leisurely morning and after a buffet hot breakfast at the Marriott, we left the hotel to go to the west side of the side to the Taylorsville Hospital for his appointment.   This will help determine if his statins prescription can be reduced and taking a baby aspirin can be stopped.  Fingers crossed.  We arrived early and while Doug waited to get in Fran did her steps in the city part next door with lots of cool sculptures:

We gassed up again before hitting the I80 westward back into Nevada today.  We only went as far as Elko to break up the long drive back to Reno to Serena and Kurt’s. It’s getting hotter now as we continue west – in the upper 20’sC today / mid 80’s F.

Views along the I80 west from Salt Lake to the Nevada border:

They call this the Tree of Life

The Bonneville Salt Flats

We received some mail via email from France again today; another speeding ticket, this time in Austria.  We’ll take care of paying it online once we get to Serena’s.

We left on Saturday (Happy Canada Day!) for our last big driving day.  We stopped in Winnemucca for gas and breakfast.

After we left we heard the Johnny Cash (Hank Snow) song “I’ve been everywhere on the radio which seemed apropos to us:  here are the words and we’ve unbolded the places we’ve not been to:

I was totin’ my pack along the dusty Winnemucca road
When along came a semi with a high and canvas covered load
“If you’re going to Winnemucca, Mack with me, you can ride”
So I climbed into the cab, and then I settled down inside
He asked me if I’d seen a road with so much dust and sand
And I said, “Listen, Bud, I’ve traveled every road in this here land”

I’ve been everywhere, man
I’ve been everywhere, man
‘Cross the deserts bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel, I’ve had my share, man
I’ve been everywhere

Been to Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota
Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota
Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma
Tampa, Panama, Mattawa
, La Paloma
Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo
Tocopilla, Barranquilla
, and Padilla, I’m a killer

I’ve been everywhere, man
I’ve been everywhere, man
‘Cross the deserts bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel, I’ve had my share, man
I’ve been everywhere

Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana
Washington, Houston, Kingston, Texarkana
Ferriday, Santa Fe, Tallapoosa
Glen Rock,
Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa
Tennessee, Hennessey, Chicopee, Spirit Lake
Grand Lake, Devil’s Lake, Crater Lake, for Pete’s sake

I’ve been everywhere, man
I’ve been everywhere, man
‘Cross the deserts bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel, I’ve had my share, man
I’ve been everywhere

Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Ombabika
Jacksonville, Waterville, Costa Rica
, Springfield, Bakersfield, Shreveport
Hackensack, Cadillac,
Fond Du Lac, Davenport
Jellicoe, Argentina, Diamontina
Pasadena, Catalina, see what I mean, sir

I’ve been everywhere, man
I’ve been everywhere, man
‘Cross the deserts bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel, I’ve had my share, man
I’ve been everywhere

Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, Gravellburg, Colorado
Ellensburg, Rexburg, Vicksburg
, Eldorado
Larrimore, Atmore, Haverstraw, Chattanika
Chaska, Nebraska, Alaska, Opelika
Baraboo, Waterloo, Kalamazoo, Kansas City
Sioux City, Cedar City, Dodge City,
what a pity

I’ve been everywhere, man
I’ve been everywhere, man
‘Cross the deserts bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel, I’ve had my share, man

“I’ve been everywhere”

So it would seem we’ve NOT been everywhere yet; Only 47 out of 65!

Scenes as we drive west through Nevada on the I80:

Sidebar:  What do you think is the most mountainous state in the U.S.? Colorado? Utah? Arizona? California? It’s actually the state in between them. Nevada is the most mountainous state in the country. There are over three hundred named ranges, along with over one hundred anonymous mountain ranges that are scattered throughout the desert. The tallest mountain is Boundary Peak, with it being 4007m / 13,147’ tall.

In terms of skiing, there are six ski areas to choose from. While it doesn’t reach the marks of other Western states, they’re still great skiing to be had at places like Lee Canyon and Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe. Plus, if you live around Reno or Carson City, you are really close to the Lake Tahoe ski resorts. 

We arrived at Serena and Kurt’s place before 1 pm and unloaded the truck.  It’s now about 35C / 95F and it’s quite hot in the sun; there’s a breeze in the backyard so we sit out there to relax some after getting in our steps.

This road trip from North Vancouver to Reno (June 23rd to July 1st) via Rapid City was 4168 km / 2589 mi in total.

Serena’s days off have changed and she now has the same days off as Kurt so their weekend is Thursday and Friday; Kurt arrived home from his morning shift midafternoon and Serena was back by 5:30.

We went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner to do an early celebration for Fran’s birthday.  It was a small place and it was quite good.  The waitress figured out it was Fran’s birthday and brought over a free dessert of ice cream for her.  We’d already decided to skip dessert and go to a different ice cream place so she had a lot of ice cream for her birthday! We went over to Black Rock Dessert for that.

One tunnel today.

So Sunday, we chilled with NO driving, did laundry and caught up online.