England – Stratford on Avon and Warwick Castle

We took the short ride to Stratford on Avon (I think it took us back through Reading again), and arrived there in the afternoon just as all the food carts and such in the square were winding down.

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By the time we found our AirBnB (an unassuming black door in the midst of shops) and figured out how to get inside, and headed back out, everything was being packed away. We headed off in search of dinner, and ended up at a little pub, which seemed like a good idea, except they said they had a party coming in and the whole place was reserved, but they’d give us a table if we could eat fast and clear out! We had already wandered up and down the length of the street, and still without phone data to do any research, we went for it, and ate fast (though they were not all that fast getting the food to us, for being in such a hurry).

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We retired to the flat to recover from the busy day.

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Dave tried to sort out all the different forms of coins he had accumulated in his pocket, and figure out what they were worth.

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Look at these ancient looking beams running through the apartment! They look hand-hewn. Otherwise, everything inside was modern. It was a very nice place to stay, and very quiet even though it was on a busy street.

The next morning we bought an umbrella at Boots, since we were getting some of that legendary English weather, and headed for Warwick to see a castle.

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To do so, we hopped on a public bus. It was a nice ride, except the windows were fogging up. The countryside (that I could see) was lovely, and the little villages looked so cozy!


When we got to Warwick the bus driver pointed us in the general direction of the castle. Every town, it seems, has a spectacular church at its center.

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We took a loop around the church to peek at the ancient gravestones.


We found the castle! It was HUGE, you couldn’t miss it.


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Inside were displays of armor in the Great Hall, illustrating the castle’s medieval history.


The rooms around the Great Hall were decorated in Victorian style, and illustrated the lifestyle of the last owner, from the 1920s.


Dave even found a Lord Roberts, must have been an ancestor of his!


We went back out into the courtyard and went to explore the little castle on the hill – which I immediately decided was my favorite part.


Looking back at the main castle from the hill.


The beautiful countryside view from the top.

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After we had wandered around the castle in the rain enough for our satisfaction, we headed back into town, and this interesting building(s) caught our eye. It is Lord Leycester Hospital, a charity for ex-servicepeople.

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There has been a building there since 1126, but it says this group of buildings was built later, and you can see it says 1571 on the fireplace behind Dave. There is a little cafe there, and we slipped in for lunch. It was actually very nice, and the chef and his assistants were putting out some very nice lunches and fancy pastries.


The tea is growing on me. With a bit of sugar and cream, it’s downright tolerable.


We continued wandering around Warwick, marveling at the old homes, so different than the buildings we had seen in Bath. A person with OCD would never make it in this town, some of these houses didn’t have a straight line on them and leaned this way and that.

We took the bus back to Stratford on Avon, and after a bit of a rest, went out to a Thai place nearby that looked to be well reviewed. I honestly don’t remember much about it except we were seated at a micro-table right next to the cashier, which didn’t make for the most peaceful dinner.

The next morning we got everything cleaned up and checked out, and headed out to find a place for breakfast, duffel bags in hand again. We stopped at one of the few places that was open, hoping to get some hot food. We still were not getting used to the idea of a place to eat with no table service, but we seated ourselves, and looked over the menu, and Dave went up and ordered our food.

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We had ordered hot cocoa, and he came back with two mugs, and chocolate on a stick to swirl in the hot milk – it was like a hot cocoa kit! Weird! Then they brought the food, which was sub-par. Weirdest thing was Dave went to use the restroom, and he said it contained the biggest condom machine he had ever seen!

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We wandered around a bit more and landed back at a Starbucks near our flat. I used to think when I got to England, I would never go to a Starbucks, because they are everywhere here, but Starbucks started to feel like a welcome bit of home.

I was getting tired of dragging my duffel bag everywhere, and I didn’t want to carry it any further, but it would have been nice to do a little more exploring, so I looked up luggage online, and as soon as the department store across the street opened, we went over and picked up some new suitcases

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– with wheels!

Now that we were free to roll our burdens around, we headed up to take a peek at the church  where Shakespeare was buried. We could not go inside, but we admired the outside.

We sat by the river and watched carp fishermen setting up their gear, and people rowing up and down the river. There were lots of swans, and we watched the boatmen getting the tourist boats ready for the day ahead.

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I took this nice picture of the rowboats tied up at the dock. That will make a nice piece of art.

Then we headed over to the Royal Shakespeare Company theater.


We had tried to see a show there the day before, but were unable to. But this day we got to check our bags and take a little tour and see a bunch of costumes and set design displays.


Finally we rolled by Shakespeare’s birthplace before heading back to the train station for the next leg of our journey. Luckily by now we had figured out the reservation system, so we had seats for the entire trip, and watched a couple episodes of The Crown on the iPad to pass the time.

Although we enjoyed Warwick, we found Stratford on Avon a bit over-rated and touristy for our taste. Next stop: York.


The whole trip:

England – Getting There

England – Bath

England – Stratford on Avon and Warwick Castle

England – York

England – York Part 2

England – London

England – London Part 2

England – London Part 3

England – Getting There

Portland to London to Bath

We have never been overseas before. Our only trips outside the country have been to Vancouver, BC, and that is basically just like home, but bigger. So we saved up my vacation time this year and planned a trip in the fall, after the crazy summer vacation season was over, to England.

We planned to follow the two week trip outlined in Rick Steve’s Best of England book, but modified a bit for our interests and how much time we had to spend. We didn’t have quite two weeks so we shortened it up a bit. We aimed to include some local theater as we went. We spent lots of time pouring over maps and reading travel journals, and ended up deciding to fly to London and go directly to Bath, as Rick recommends, then on to Stratford on Avon to see Shakespeare’s hometown, and Warwick Castle (can’t go to England and NOT see a castle), then on to York, to see some of the countryside from my beloved James Herriot books, then back to London to finally experience the big city. Dave organized trains to get us from one place to another.

We arrived at the Portland Airport all ready for our adventure. Dave insisted we take the required airport carpet shot.


And our chariot awaits!

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We had a LONG flight ahead of us  – 9 hours, 4500 miles, or thereabouts. I was a bit nervous about it, because I have never been in a tube hurtling over the ocean in the middle of the night before.

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This made it all more bearable. Particularly since once we crossed over into Canada we couldn’t see anything out the window because of the clouds.

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The next morning we landed in London, got through customs pretty quickly, and were off on our adventure! As soon as we could get out of the airport. To do that we would use our train tickets, and get our train discount pass, which we couldn’t get sent to us in the US, but websites had indicated all we had to do was pick it up once we arrived. But we soon found out you couldn’t pick it up in Heathrow, and in fact the people there didn’t think we could get one at all. ‘Oh no,’ they said, ‘you have to mail away for that, you can’t just go get one!’ But someone suggested we take the train out of the airport and get off at our first stop and talk to the train office there, and hopefully if anyone asked us for our pass before that they would be merciful. So we did just that. And sure enough at the first stop there was a train office, and we asked the guy if we could get a pass and he handed us a long piece of paper to fill out. Dave said ‘can we get it today?’ and the guy was like ‘sure, I’ll make it right up for you’! Whew! First Problem, solved!

Soon we were back on the train, and a short ride later we were in Reading on a layover, waiting for our train to Bath. Reading was not on our itinerary, but we had a bit of time to walk around, and so it was the first place in England we really saw. We didn’t even really get a glimpse of London as we zipped away on the train. We were amazed by the cool old buildings mixed in with new ones in Reading.

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We stopped for some hot cocoa to pass the time at a Starbucks while Dave tried to get our phone working with the UK Simm card. That would soon become Problem Number 2. It turned out our unlocked Samsung was a US -only model, and apparently could not talk to the UK network. We found this out after spending much of our Reading layover hanging out in a ‘3’ store while they tried to help us get it working. Their final conclusion was that that phone was not going to work for us, and since our other phones were still locked to AT&T, we would have to buy another phone that would work, or go without.

We grabbed some lunch in the train station (a real pastie!) and headed on to Bath. We had a bit of trouble because we had reserved seats, but people were sitting in them. We weren’t even sure we were in the right cars. Loading on the train happened fast! We found places to sit, but it was kind of awkward. Luckily it was a short trip. Soon we were in beautiful Bath.

We had to walk about a mile to our AirBnB, hauling our duffle bags over our shoulders. It was feeling like a bit of a marathon at that point. There was so much to see! But we bee-lined it to our new home for the next few days. Bath is full of Georgian townhomes, many of them in long lines all right together. Ours was in one of these (I took this photo a couple days later, it was pretty gloomy the day we arrived) Count up 6 chimneys, and it was the green door. We were up on the very very top floor.

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It was very cute inside, all modern, and it had a lovely view of the hills.

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Dave found this on the nightstand, which was cool because he had just finished doing a play of Baskerville.


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So, here we were, in a new town, halfway (well, a third of the way maybe) around the planet, in a different time zone, wide awake while our friends at home were still in bed. Crazy! I think we had an early dinner somewhere, then went to bed and crashed, because although it was barely evening here, our bodies thought it was something like 4AM. There would be plenty of time to explore tomorrow!


The whole trip:

England – Getting There

England – Bath

England – Stratford on Avon and Warwick Castle

England – York

England – York Part 2

England – London

England – London Part 2

England – London Part 3

A ‘Me’ Party!

The Photo Club assignment for this month was to make a composite photograph, so I composited the heck out of that challenge! I set the camera up on a tripod and raced around changing clothes and setting myself in different scenes around the room, then merged them all together with a little photoshop magic, to produce a party of ‘Me’s hanging around the house with the dogs.


Ashes Lake

We went out in search of bass at Ashes Lake. Ashes is down Hwy 14 almost to Stevenson. It is one of those lakes on the north side of Hwy 14, separated from the mighty Columbia by a berm with a little tunnel between them. I was told it had plentiful small and largemouth bass, as well as pikeminnows, and would be a great place to break my losing streak.

The road down to the lake, visible on Google Earth else I would never have believe it was a road, was an overgrown path between blackberry bushes that was not quite a Flex wide. So unfortunately I culd hear it scraping along the side of the car all the way down to the tiny parking area which only had room for three cars. Luckily there was only one car there when we arrived.

We parked and unpacked the kayak and walked it down the hill to the water. The road was very rough and I wasn’t sure I wanted to make the Flex try to climb back up that hill on loose gravel . Pretty soon we were paddling our way out into the lake.


It’s a big lake, and it was really pretty, and a perfect tempurature, blue sky day. But like it often is in the Columbia River Gorge, it was also windy. So paddling was a challenge, and unless we were both paddling, it felt like we weren’t making any headway during gusts.

Finally we made our way to the sheltered west end of the lake, and it was very nice. There was a family of canadian geese floating around, we saw fish jumping, and every tree overhanging the lake seemed to make a shady spot for fish to hang out in the rocks.


I got several nibbles in this area, including one that grabbed my bait and took off, dragging the float behind him! But I was unable to hook up. I certainly had fun trying anyway!

We still don’t have an anchor on the kayak, so we tried drifting up against a log where I could cast towards he shore. The log seemed to be popular with tiny blue damselflies who were hanging around, landing on our paddles. Big dragonflies also zoomed overhead, with clear wings with black spots on them. Strangely enough, the majority of birds we saw were seagulls, and they seemed to be flying around high up in the fir trees around the lake in big flocks the whole time we were there. They looked spectacular, flashing white against the blue sky! We also saw a bald eagle at one point.


We came around a corner and found a secluded little beach, and went ashore. The kayak’s seats are made to come out and be used as beach chairs, so that’s just what we did.


We kicked back on our own private beach and had a snack and watched the world go by for a bit.


Since it was such a nice beach, I waded in and did a little fishing with a bobber and worm. Still no luck, even though I saw some big fish jumping not far off shore. They were not interested in what I was offering.

Finally we decided to head back. While out there we had seen a couple other kayaks and small boats join us, and when we got to the launch the 3 parking spots were full, plus one more truck which they had parked right in the middle of the beach where everyone was launching from, so everyone else had to walk around them! There was a guy there who had come in the truck, but it wasn’t his truck so he couldn’t move it, and there was some younger guy with him who looked completely wasted. So we just packed our stuff back up the hill, walking around them as they made no effort to move out of the way.

All around though, it was a great day, and I could have stayed out on the little beach all afternoon except we needed to get home to the doggies. No fish were caught, but I had some exciting close calls, learned some stuff, saw some things, and spent some great time alone with Dave to catch up on our week. Perfect.




A grease-flingin’ good time

When we went to Trout Lake in May, I got the trailer parked and looked at the wheel and realized it had an interesting pattern of dirt, where it looked like something had spun out from the middle. I felt it when we got there (as I always do) and it was not running hot, so I figured the bearing was ok. I asked a friend to take a look and he suggested my grease cap may have come loose, allowing the grease to spin out.

I finally got around to checking it out since we were back home. His diagnosis appeared to be correct, as the little rubber grease cap on the end of my Dexter EZ Lube was deformed, and the inside of the hubcap was full of grease that had flown out of it. Not that much grease, really, just enough to make a mess.


Luckily a pack of those little rubber guys is like $6 on Amazon, so I bought some, just got them in today, and it fit perfectly. The plus side of this is I ended up watching some videos on the EZ Lube axle maintenance and I’m pretty sure I can do it myself next time. I usually take it up to my tire guys in Battle Ground, but it looks pretty easy.

Anyway, that’s just the sort of little maintenance things that crop up when you have an old trailer. While I was fiddling with it I added a water hammer arrestor to the main waterline to see if I can correct some of the water hammer I seem to have caused by replacing some of the old copper pipe with slightly larger diameter PEX. Someday I would like to do the whole thing in PEX, but I don’t think I will be pulling out perfectly good copper pipe just for fun anytime soon!




Fly fishing from the kayak

Ignore my blindingly white pacific-northwesterner legs, so you can see how much fun I am having casting with my fly rod in the kayak this weekend.

We took the kayak out and I prepared my fly rod with some sinking line and picked up a few streamers so we could try just trolling around the lake. I thought I got one nibble, but otherwise no fun. I did get to practice casting from the kayak, which went really well. I think the high seating position works pretty well. Im also getting the hang of my new PFD/tackle vest. Fly fishing feels kind of minimalist compared to spin fishing. I like the simplicity of it.

Dave paddled us around while I fished. This was the first time the water was low enough to get our big kayak under the bridge and into the neighboring lake! So we had fun trolling around there as well.

As always, catching fish would be nice, but just hanging out together on the water is a great way to spend part of the weekend.

Backyard remodel

Last year we did the front yard, taking out the overgrown bushes that the previous owner had put up to create a buffer between our house and the crack-house across the street, and putting in a nice lawn. That went very well, and it is still looking beautiful. This year the project is the back yard.

When we moved in the backyard was a formal garden, with pathways and sitting areas, a big dahlia garden, a vegetable garden, and a flower garden. The previous owner had been retired, and he obviously spent a LOT of time working on it. It was a maintenance nightmare for a couple working folks like us. So we had slowly cut back on the formal stuff anyway, but this year the lawnmower wouldn’t start in the spring, and by the time I got a new carb for it and got it running again, things were extra out of control.

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So we rented a walk-behind string trimmer, and I worked my butt off mowing it all down. I was kind of sad to see it go, because it reminded me of our pasture in spring, and I loved watching the grasses wave in the breeze.

With everything back under control, I figured it was time to begin the backyard remodel I had been planning. There were a few problems. As previously mentioned, Navi is a digger, so any gardening needed to be fenced away from her. Also, there is a plum tree in the corner of the yard, and the dogs enjoy eating the plums and chewing up the pits, which are toxic, so I had it temporarily fenced off with a dog x-pen, but it was not a permanent solution. I have this plan:

backyard plan

Which I have deviated from slightly as my desire to have a garden got stronger. When we lived on the farm, I had a huge garden, and I worked really hard to get better and better at it every year, and I hated to give it up when we left. This year I finally got my act together enough to put in a tiny container garden with a few tomatoes and peppers and herbs. But I would like to grow our own lettuce and greens as well. So I took the corner marked Bushes on my plan, and fenced it off to make a garden, and keep the dogs away from the plums.


We had a lovely mild day, not too hot, not too sunny. Mowing and weed-wacking commences…


Then we went to Lowes and found a no-dig fence style we liked. They have stakes that you pound into the ground, and then slide the fence panels onto them. Tall enough to keep out the dogs, and they look nice.


The corner already has a brick outline, but it was curved, and the fence could not curve as much as the bricks, so we made the fence line fairly straight and left the curved areas outside it for planting some bushes to soften the area up. We also got a nice no-dig gate that fit perfectly in the little entrance-way.


Completed. Now the dogs are unable to get to the plum tree, or any planting beds I want to put in there.

We continued mowing and trimming around the rest of the yard.



Much better! Still needs clean up, but it will get there. This is where I want a stone patio eventually.


Dave gets a well-deserved rest and smooches from Barclay ❤


Day 2


The garden area has these two brick circles, one on either end. This one had a greek statue on it, and it shifted and she fell over a couple winters ago, so now she is up on the patio. I am not fond of these brick circles, they look sloppy, and appear to be full of debris – broken bricks, old tile, etc. I want to take one down and reuse the bricks to outline a garden bed.

So I started tearing the other one apart, and discovered 1) it gave shelter to the biggest spiders I’ve ever seen and 2) it was hiding a stump! I picked through the bricks one by one, brushing off spiders and tossing them into the fenced area, then arranged them into a curvy garden bed.


Leaving behind the stump, which is much less obtrusive than the brick circle had been.



Meanwhile Navi dug holes big enough to stick her whole head in! That’s the next area to work on.


But that’s enough work for one afternoon. I stickballed Barclay until he was worn out and jumped in the tub to cool off, and called it a day.


Bonus – tomatoes growing in my container garden – yay!





Navi is my digger

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Navi is 7 years old, but she is still a digger. She dug a HUGE hole in the backyard chasing down a mole, which she finally caught after several days of expanding her hole! Luckily she hoses off and dries clean. Of course in this pic she had just come in to visit me in the office after working on her project – dirty dog!


First Flyfishing Outing

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This weekend I went on my first outing with the Clark-Skamania Flyfishers group. I had a great time, learned a lot, and caught a couple fish, so overall it was a success, and I can’t wait to go again.

I only have one picture from the trip because my phone camera has been working intermittently since I dropped it in the lake getting out of the kayak a couple weeks ago. But that picture is of the Kalama River, and it was beautiful. It was basically exactly the kind of river you want to be flyfishing on. I joined a couple ladies from the group, and we went to Beginner’s Hole, while other folks drove farther up river, or went up to The Big Red Barn and put in there to float back down to the bridge. I would like to do that with my kayak someday.

I had bought waders, wading boots, a flyrod, flies, and a new PFD with pockets for fishing (that will be useful in the kayak too), so I was all decked out. But I missed a crucial piece –  a walking stick. So I Tried to use an old paint-pole, which was about the right height, and sturdy, but I failed to properly secure it to my person. We waded upriver a hundred feet to get above the riffles near the parking area, and after I was in it about knee deep and fishing, I turned around to grab my stick and saw it floating downriver! Which is when I realized the value of a good walking stick!

After losing my stick I located an actual stick I thought would do the trick, and more securely tied it to my person, but shortly after that it broke in half, leaving me with half a stick, which was working in a pinch. Until I learned about why we should also have cleats on our boots, and I slipped on a rock and went down hard. I continued fishing, cautiously, but I knew a real walking stick would be first thing on my list when I got home.

I learned to cast at the class/casting clinic with the fly club a couple months ago, and I practiced in the backyard, and then realized that doing it in a stream was a completely different deal. The stream drags your fly downstream, and the wind pushes your line around in the air. It took a lot of casts to get the hang of pulling the line off the water and sending it where I wanted it to go! At one point while standing there resting between casts two big trout appeared right in front of me, did a taunting little dance, and swam away. Smug bastards!

But eventually we moved down to the beach and I had had enough wobbly wading for the day, so I got out of the wading get-up and just enjoyed fishing from the shore. There were butterflies everywhere! I was casting out to a rock in the river when something grabbed my fly but let it go, so I kept casting above that rock so it could drift over it, and sure enough, I finally caught a little 6 inch rainbow. I let him go of course, and shortly after caught a slightly smaller brook trout, and sent him on his way. So I was very happy to have caught anything considering it was my first time out.

After I pooped out I went up to join the club at a member’s cabin to have some BBQ and review our take for the day. Only one guy had got a steelhead at the put-in, and everyone else got skunked except for those tiny trout, which were plentiful. I hadn’t been expecting to catch a steelhead, so I was happy with my little catch. I had a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to go back out. That was a great way to start on a new hobby!




Trout Lake 2018

Over Memorial Weekend we took our annual trip with our Airstream friends to Trout Lake, to our usual campground snuggled under shade trees with a gorgeous view of Mt Adams. This year the weather was windy, but otherwise fine. I was a little worried about reports of ticks being bad this year, but we tried to stay out of the grass.


We set up the X pens in front of the trailer door to make a little yard for the dogs, and the door was pretty much open all weekend, so they could hang out inside or out, and watch all the goings-on around the site. Of course there were also lots of walks, including walking into town to get lunch at the hamburger/milkshake/gas station/coffeeshop (it’s a small town!)


Sunday morning I woke up at 5am and realized the trailer was lit up pink, so I pulled on clothes and grabbed my camera and went out to see what was going on.


Just a beautiful mountain sunrise. I was enjoying photographing it when I thought, what this picture needs is an elk.


Why, thank you very much! I was so excited to see the elk, I was almost shaking! How cool is that?!


The river behind our campsite was high, and I would have loved to fish it, but it was not open until a week later.


Everyday there was gorgeous. I just can’t believe we get to hang out someplace with this amazing mountain right there on the horizon, it is in the background of everything we do.



We had a tinfoil hat contest (Dave and I just watched):



Everyone was so creative!

And every night it was music and sing-along beside the fire.




Full-moon night-shot.


I brought a book to read on my kindle. Dave played a game of cornhole and got into a card game. Navi snapped at our friend Gary when he wouldn’t quit petting her. Barclay was chill as usual.




The trailer functioned perfectly – not bad for a 50 year old trailer. Basically a good time was had by all. In no time another fun long weekend was over, and we all went our separate ways, until next year.