Just a note .... We are putting this entire trip up in a journal type fashion with highlighted text that you the reader can just click on to go to the info, web sites, or photos on that part of the trip ... be sure to book mark this page first so you can get back to it if your back button might be disabled by some of the sites we might send you too .... If you don't have at least DSL ... you should prolly wait till you get it or just start a down load and go get a cup of coffee, etc.
Since we always have to have a definite schedule ... for this vacation we did no planning ... no reservations ever ... I just marked 10 days out of our calender and shut the entire office down May 14 - 23rd. In fact, we probably wouldn't have even gone if my buddy had gotten the welder over Friday as we planned .... I had about a quarter of mile of new track to lay for our new phase 2 expansion to our own private steam B.A.D. Great Northern Railroad
So ... This trip we thought we would highlight all the cool places we went and all the Grand Scale to full size trains and train rides we just happened to come across along the way for other train nuts to stop and hopefully have more time to enjoy them too!
We started our vacation on Friday May 14th on an open test day at Thunderhill Race Track in Willows where Becky my Pit Crew tested my vintage ultralight Porsche "Bad Boy" ... We met our old friend Joe Wong who was hosting a couple of Ferrari USA instructors who are also professional racers, one of which was a young lady named Melanie Paterson .. She took 2nd place in Portland at the American Lemans Series. She was also a Gold or Silver Medalist Olympic Downhill Ski racer for Canada. Please contact her if your company can profit from sponsoring her for advertising purposes. I managed to hold my own quite well today here when we had the 2 older Porsches going together.
2nd day ... May 15th ... We left home Saturday at 3pm and headed North up Interstate 5 traveling by our 1st note worthy train stop ... The Shasta Dinner and Steam Train in Mt. Shasta CA, and 2nd ... The The Blue Goose Train Ride in Yreka CA a few more miles North ... both in our own back yard and only an hour or so from home.
We spent our first night in Ashland Oregon ... the home of the Shakespeare Festival and Oregon State College ... a really quaint little town worth visiting.
We had a great meal at Omar's ... a small place all the regulars go to ... great steaks ... must get there early! ... Is always packed!
We stayed in a very nice 2 room suite at the new La Quinta Inn ... It is very very nice!
We left Ashland very early on Sunday the 16th and stopped in Grants Pass at an Elmer's for a great breakfast. We then doubled back on a road parallel to the freeway to look at a few large play houses built by Merle Ming. We placed an order that day for our granddaughter's play house .... It is placed along side our railroad at home.
Lunch time found us in Oakland Oregon ... a very old historic town. We ate at Tolly's and checked out the stores.
We then headed on to Portland ... Took the bypass road to the old Columbia Gorge and checked out all the wonderful water falls We crossed over into Washington on the "Bridge of the Gods" at Cascade Locks Oregon. This bridge really shows off the Warren Truss design like the 68' steel Warren Truss train trestle that I am currently building.
The first town on the other side heading East we came to was Stevenson right on the banks of the Columbia. A beautiful commercial paddle boat was just leaving the dock as we stopped in at the Stevenson "Riverside Lodge" where we decided to stay that night. They are a group of beautiful individual cabins ... With their own porches, hot tubs, gas fireplaces, kitchens, large green lawns. After we paid, the owner, Angus said to be sure to use the ear plugs on the night stand ... the trains come by 150' from our bedroom ... being a train nut ... I figured no problem ... the only thing was the Lodge is situated at an intersection and the trains blew their whistles both ways, coming and going ... Mighty Loud .. Mighty Loud! ... We might suggest a cabin not quite so close as ours was to the track ... But it is still one of the most beautiful places we stayed ... call Angus the owner toll free 866.427.5650
On Monday the 17th we headed North East on to the Mary Hill Museum and Sam Hill's exact full sized replica of Englands "Stone Hinge" Sam Hill was one of Americas most powerful, wealthy and influential men. He put in all the railroads and paved all the roads, that did get paved, in the entire Pacific North West. Orville Harp, a friend of ours had told Becky about this place and said to be sure to see it! The Museum or Mansion is built on a cliff overlooking the Columbia Gorge with a view of Mt Hood, as does Stonehinge. They are located on hwy 14, two miles West of US 97.
The same day after the Mary Hill and Stone Hinge ... We traveled NE on US hwy 97 and stopped for lunch around 1pm at Ellensburg WA. We arrived about 3pm at the quaint Bavarian style town of Leavenworth Wa. Where I spotted a 24" narrow gauge train which I fanagled a ride on later. Down town at a train store I bought a 6' tall Signal Crossing for our railroad
Then I made my way over to the really nice 24" Gauge gasoline motorized train they have there at the "Icicle Junction Family Fun Center" Buddie Williams is the assistant manager. They have games, a movie theater, bumper boats, food, and of course a nice train ride over bridges and around a nice lake. Buddy gave me a ride while Becky went on shopping ... :>)
We left Leavenworth that evening heading to Spokane. We take 97 East .... Stopping at the wheat farming town of Waterville for dinner. We drove for miles and see nothing but rolling hills of wheat ... Wide Open Spaces still exist! ... With the pedal to the metal we arrive in Spokane about 9pm and find a Quality Inn on the West side of town with a nice King Sized bed ...and no trains rumbling thru it with their whistles blowing ...
The next morning, (Tuesday the 18th), the motel had sausage and eggs in their breakfast room and we set out early for Coer d' alene and Sandpoint Idaho. Coer d' alene is too commercial ... But we fell in love with the Sandpoint area! .... There is also a big lake right at the base of Schweitzer Mtn. Ski Resort just out of Sandpoint .... We drove up to the ski area to check it out too ... Sandpoint is a really neat town ... It is also the home of Cold Creek Catalog Stores. They also have a lot of antique stores, etc. ...
We continued North .... stopped in Bonner's Ferry and looked around ... We then stopped in Troy Montana where we visited a really great antique store ..... I bought 2 oil cans for our train and Becky bought a Tinkerbell Fairy for Sandy our dental assistant. In Troy we ate at a little place called Odie's .. Baked chicken and salad. Becky drove from Troy to Kallispell Montana .. and I drove from Kallispell to Columbia Falls and then into the West Glacier National Park entrance ..... We started at McDonald Lake and drove as far as we could to where the road was closed at Logan Pass at the top ... That added another 150 miles to our trip because we had to go back out and drive all the way around. But since we never had any reservations this was just another part of our adventure and actually caused us to find one of the neatest train things on our entire trip ... It was getting late in the afternoon
We exited the park and headed South hoping to find a place to stay the night without having to go back to Kallispell ... (Kallispell in about the only flat and non-scenic spot in Montana) ... We pulled into a small grocery with small cabins behind .... they had only a single small double bed left .. we wanted a least a queen ... asked them if there wasn't anything to the South East of us .. and the one guy laughed and yeah ... If you want to sleep in a railroad Caboose for a lot of bucks! ... It was 26 miles and trains here we come!!! .... Turns out this place was Esex Montana .... we pulled in about 7pm ... It was the famed Izaak Walton Inn which is the old Inn that the railroad used for the past 70 years ... Becky's Grandfather was a conductor on the Great Northern and ran from Spokane to Harve and Great Falls Montana about 3 hrs East of the Izaak Walton and back for over 30 years and had to have stayed at this Inn many times!
Becky and I had never heard of this Inn before ... We stayed in room #2 ... a great room on the front side with it's own bath and 2 beds. The entire Inn is a museum to and about the Great Northern ...and there are still 40 trains a day that go by. There is always at least 2 Helper diesels on stand by with their engines always running to help each train up and over the Continental Divide!
They also have 3 or 4 Cabooses you can stay in too, but it's a 3 day minimum but worth it if you have the time. We have photos included of those.
They have a very nice restaurant at the Inn .... the trout is the best .... leave the beef steaks alone ... they are the small thin frozen grizzly ones ... but everything else on the menu looked fine.
We left late in the morning ... it was just so much fun to walk over the pedestrian bridge and watch the trains come and go ... look at all the train memorabilia and the train stuff for sale, etc.
We left Esex (Wed. the 19th) and continued aroung the border of Glacier National Park ... We stopped to view the Mountain Goats at the lookout overlooking the river where the natural salt seeps thru the cliff .... We then traveled up North East thru the Little Black Foot Indian Reservation. There were lots of wild horses and dwarf Aspen Trees and a lot of great scenery.
We exited the reservation at the Alberta Canadian Border Station We had a great view of all the peaks and mountains in Glacier National Park as traveled around it ... We also drove into the East entrance and drove back into the park for some distance too ... We would suggest the middle of July to travel here as the road thru Logan Pass will be open for the rest of the summer after that just like it is in Lassen Park near our home.
We stopped in the first little town of Noonon where Bedky had lunch at a chinese restaurant ... I wasn't hungry yet so didn't eat (very unusual) ... The next little town was Nanton, AB .. I went around the block for Beck to check out an antique shop .. and happened to pass a very large G Scale Train store and setup ... It was the "Big Sky Garden Railroad" ... The only thing you have to watch for here is a killer little Yorkshire Terrior that will bite hell out of you if Tony or Joan Scheiwiller let it escape from it's penned up area ... hey I'm not kidding .... Enjoy the photos .... and .. Email Garden Scale Magizine ... They Have overlooked this place ... It NEEDS TO BE WRITTEN UP ..... enjoy the many photos of their layout we took .. and it was late spring and they have done a lot more since these photos ...
We pushed on through Calgary on our way to Banff ... what a traffic jam!!! The Calgary Flames wereplaying the San Jose Sharks there ... winner goes to the Stanely Cup Final ... from 100 miles out there were cars rushing toward Calgary with red flags everywhere ... When we got into grid lock traffic everyone could see our CA license plates ... and thought we were there to cheer for the sharks ... I yelled back the only Sharks we knew in Ca were Lawyers! ... That broke the Ice ... Grin
We drove into Banff around 7pm .... and as per our modus operendi ... no reservations ... We drove right up to the Banff Springs Hotel ... the parking valet said there were only 5 rooms left and they were small closet like tiny rooms with only 2 single beds ... we would not like it .. and tried to refer us elsewhere in town ... I got out and went inside and we got a wonderful room ... was only one of only 3 nice rooms left though ... Had 2 king sized beds ... We had a wonderul in room dinner ... room service ... I had lamb chops, Becky had the wild Salmon ... Becky had awlays wanted to stay at this famous historic hotel. It is a huge castle and it took us 2 hrs to walk through it!
We left early on (Thursday the 20th) for Lake Louise after Breakfast in the room. It was not raining when we left Banff ... but we got into the rain as we neared Lake Louise. The parking lot was full of tour buses ... I took the photos and we split ... Now heading home ... cutting through the Banff Glacier National Park and exiting out of the town of Golden and heading south on Hwy 95.
Becky was driving and spotted some full size railroad tracks .... and we came upon a place called Fort Steele. It is a restored ghost town ... We met the most wonderful Young lady who is the certified steam engineer and a young man as the certified fireman .. in training for his steam engineer license too. It was getting late in the day and a huge pure black cloud was closing in .. I showed them the pictures of our own private steam train at our home and they took me into the train shed .. They have 3 full sized steam locomotives and are restoring them .... They have over 5 miles of track! I got to check them out and got photos of them with a couple of the engines. I have lost her card with their names ... will email them to get them again .... visit the Fort Steele Web Site For Info and to learn more about their different steam engines. You can email them from here too.
There is also a very fine train museum 12 miles down the road in Cranbrook ... where the railroad came thru back in the 1800's instead of Fort Steele that caused the whole population of Fort Steele to up and move to Cranbrook ... leaving all the 3 year old building and town of Fort Steele behind.
We pulled into Cranbrook just as the museum was closing ... the battery was dead in my camera and I couldn't get any photos ... I lost the museum card too ... but it is easy to find .. right on main street.
We regained our lost hour with the time change in the USA .. and we pushed on to Sandpoint Idaho and stayed there for the night. As you can see we covered much ground and did a lot along the way ...
We left Sandpont on (Friday the 21st) on our way home we passed the Silverwood Theme Park , ... Becky's keen eye saw the steam engine parked on the side of the building .... we missed it on the way up .. I talked with Rich Morgan .. the Rides Maintenance Manager .. he let me inside the train maintenance barn ... I got a couple of photos of him with one of the steam engines. This is a 36" gauge and has 3 miles of track I think ..... you can check their website out at www.silverwoodthemepark.com
We continued on thru Spokane ... had to stop the rain and hail was so bad ... saw on the news they had a tornado within a mile of where and when we were!!! We stopped for the night in Wilsonville So. of Portland .. Room 121 .. a nice Best Western ... We stayed there when we went up to buy our 1933 Packard Dual Cowl Sport Phaeton some years ago ....
Our last day ... Saturday the 22nd ... we stopped at Elmers for their veggie omlete ... We stopped in Coburg and looked the new Provosts over .... Later passed a pretty Iris farm ... .... The last place on our adventure that we stopped was at Wildlife Safari, Winston, Oregon. .. our first time there .... You drive your car among the animals ... Is like being on the savanah! ... They even have the train that used to be in Redding at Park Marina Drive 36 years ago! ... Then we headed for the barn and back home .. is always great to get home a day early to recoop!
We hope a few of you will enjoy the photos and maybe try our same route .. and allow a little exta time for the train rides we have to drive past like the Mt. Hood Railroad