Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Travel Tip Tuesday: America the Beautiful for only $10

DSCF1241Smokey the Bear, that icon of the U.S. Forest Service  has got one smokin’ deal for all you senior citizens out there.

Did you know that for $10 those of you who are 62 years of age and older can obtain a lifetime pass that gets you into more than 2,000 federal recreation sites?

Thanks for today’s Travel Tip goes to Larry in New Jersey and his son Aaron in Washington State, who tipped us off to this incredible deal.

Residents of the United States know that it costs to visit our national forests and federal recreation lands these days. 

The annual pass price: $80.
The senior citizen lifetime pass price: $10.

What does the senior pass do?

WARoadTrip2012 187Covers Entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

At places with a vehicle charge it covers the pass owner and passengers in the car.

Even better, it covers the pass owner and three additional adults in the car if it is a place that charges a per-person fee.

How to get the pass?

Passes can be obtained in person at a federal recreation site or through the mail using an application form that is provided on the National Park website (click the link).  For passes obtained by mail there is an additional $10 processing fee.

We recommend you check out the website listed above as it offers details about the Senior Pass and the amenities it provides as well as information on Free Annual Passes for U.S. Military members and their dependents; Free Access Passes for those with permanent disabilities and Free Volunteer Passes.

If this is your first visit to TravelnWrite please sign up to regularly receive posts in your inbox (see box on the right on our home page). We’d love to see your photo among our followers. Provence is our destination on Travel Photo Thursday – hope to see you back again then. 
And don’t forget to send tips for Travel Tip Tuesday to travelnwrite@msn.com.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

WAWeekend: Staying at Spokane’s ‘Living Legend’

Beginning today, our WAWednesday becomes WAWeekend. The focus will continue to be on short getaways and hidden treasurers not far from our Pacific Northwest home. 

WARoadTrip2012 039With our love of old places – the kind where the floors sometimes creak and the wood-frame windows still open - we chose The Spokane Club for our two night stay in Spokane, the second largest city in Washington State.

Like The Union Club of British Columbia, that we told you about last week, this is a private club – its origins dating back to the late 1800’s -- that has opened its guest rooms, The Inn, and athletic facility to the public.

WARoadTrip2012 064The clubhouse, designed by Kirtland Cutter, whose name would become synonymous with Spokane’s Age of Elegance, put us within two blocks of the theatre district, Spokane Falls and its gondola ride, the River Park Square, and the city’s more famous historic hotel, The Davenport.

WARoadTrip2012 072We paid $135 night which included various taxes, and it provided free parking at the Club’s nearby garage, in- room wireless and use of their modern-multi-storied athletic club. 

WARoadTrip2012 071We dined in the Club’s restaurant where we had some of the tastiest food of our entire road trip.  Restaurant ‘regulars’ recommended the Crab Louie – they didn’t steer us wrong.

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The Club’s common areas weren’t as inviting as were those at Victoria B.C.’s Union Club.  But the Spokane  folks were pretty proud of their recent room renovations which included new beds, so they had a bed on display in the middle of the lobby instead of seating.  And their stately old library with a man-sized fireplace was under renovation one day of our stay and reserved for a private party the next. (We did sneak a peek – and that’s Joel standing inside the fireplace.)

If you go: 

WARoadTrip2012 070The Spokane Club Inn, 1002 W. Riverside Avenue, Spokane, WA, 99201, 1-866-599-6674. Two restaurants on-site, one bar, 37 guest rooms, 10 suites.

A quick check of Expedia showed a summer Mon/Tues stay rate at  the Spokane Club to be $95 a night, about $50 a night less than the Davenport.

Tip:  You can book  travel on Expedia, by going through the Ebates.com site that provides rebates and cash back for booking through the site. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

TPThursday: Do you ‘Capture the Colours’ or Clichés?

We’ve sometimes overlooked the ‘colors of  travel’. So often, I am trying to capture the memory of a particular travel moment, that I don’t notice the colors that contributed to it.

I traveled down a number of Memory Lanes to find photos that express each of the world’s primary colors: blue, yellow, red, green, and white for today’s post. I did so after Cathy Sweeney of Traveling with Sweeney and Vi at Short Travel Tips  tapped me for participation in a contest being sponsored by TravelSupermarket.  (I never win contests, but this was a great exercise - you should try it.)

DSCF0617The contest judges don’t want photo clichés: a blue sky, a red sunset or a yellow flower (like the sunflower photo here that I took in Stehekin, WA. It’s a great memory but cliché).

They want color in photos that give a sense of place, perhaps even ‘a splash’ of color.  Something that ‘captures a place so well that even if I’ve been there before, I think to myself, ‘Wow, I have to go there', ” says one judge.
With that in mind, here’s the travel palette of colors I chose:


It was simply, a fairy tale. One of the most stunning road trips we’ve ever taken was high up into Spain’s Andalucian hillsides.  We lost track of the number of small hamlets – the famous White Towns – as we followed the winding road on that magical journey.



Sometimes the ambiance and charm are so intense that a place seems unreal, almost as if it were a movie set; one in which we are lucky enough to be among the cast members.  That was Gibraltar.  This pair of street musicians provided the movie’s soundtrack. Their melodies followed us for blocks in this little bit of England on the Iberian Peninsula.



Greek ferries. They come in every size, shape and color creating a rainbow in the harbor at Piraeus, the port city serving Athens. If I were recommending travel experiences you must have before you die; sailing a Greek ferry from this harbor is at the top of the list.



I called it the Emerald Empire in an earlier post; The Palouse, that agricultural land that makes up the Eastern part of Washington State.

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My take on blue is probably as cliché as it gets, but after years of dreaming about visiting Greece and then finally getting there, I couldn’t believe it was as picture perfect as we found it. And this time I did notice the colors because it made the travel moment unforgettable.


Have you been capturing the color or clichés?  On your next trip keep those primary colors in mind when you take aim with the camera – I will.

That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday. Hope you’ll head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos.

I’d also like to tap the following fellow bloggers to join in the Capture the Colour contest:
Dick’s Travel Tales from the Road
Keryn’s Walking on Travels
Heather’s Lost in Arles
Andi’s The Particular Traveler
Five American guys’  Travel Philosophy

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Travel Tip Tuesday: Ridin’ the Rails for Free!

washington wednesdays 005Mary and her husband, who live in south central Washington State, will be traveling round-trip to Chicago aboard Amtrak this fall – on free tickets – thanks to Amtrak’s Rewards Program and a Chase credit card offer she received.

That is a savings of $636.

The Amtrak card – which doesn’t have an annual fee -- works much like those cards that offer airline points.  Mary received 16,000 points from Amtrak for joining the rewards program and another 16,000 from Chase for signing up for the card. The Chase points were added to her Amtrak account as soon as she made a purchase using that card.  It took between a month and six weeks for the points to be posted.

Once they appeared in her account, she put in their travel dates and destination ‘hoping to get a few dollars off the cost of the tickets’. Instead, she found that the amount of points required for the trip was 32,000. Her points paid for the trip. She’s booked it!

“I already had booked a neat brownstone in the Lincoln Park area and will use the card to pay for it and hopefully accrue some more points by next May, when we plan to take Amtrak to Carmel,” she wrote.

Mary’s note came right before news of the latest round of price increases on airline tickets. If you’re tired of airports and want to give Amtrak a try, you might want to also check out the Amtrak credit card site. (Offers can change so you may not find the same deal that Mary got.)

If you missed last week’s money-saving Travel Tip,’ click here to read it.

If you’ve got a tip – place to stay, a good deal, a way to save travel dollars – send us an email to travelnwrite@msn.com Be sure to include details and we’ll use it in a future Travel Tip Tuesdays! 

And, if this is your first visit to TravelnWrite, welcome! Hope you’ll return soon or better yet, sign up to have TravelnWrite posts delivered to your inbox.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Our Room with a View in Victoria, B.C.

CashmereVictoriaBC 180Psssttt!  We stayed on Victoria’s Inner Harbor in a ‘room with a view’ at a delightful place you’ve probably never noticed.   And that’s because it sits in the shadow of the more well-known Empress Hotel, an icon of the city and its busy harbor.

CashmereVictoriaBC 121We stayed at its lovely next door neighbor, the equally elegant and elderly Union Club of British Columbia.  (That’s our room right under the flag pole as a matter of fact.)

The Club, eh? Doesn’t that mean ‘private’ with membership?  Not necessarily. . .read on:

The Union Club has been in this landmark building for 99 years although the gentlemen’s club was in existence long before that time.  (Ladies have been welcomed as members since the 1990’s). 

CashmereVictoriaBC 125We discovered the Union Club some half dozen years ago and following a delightful stay there, became non-resident members. (I think it was the view - in the photo to the right - to the Inner Harbor from this outside patio that won us over.)

CashmereVictoriaBC 168These days you don’t need be a member to experience the private club life because a portion of the 22-guest rooms that make up the upper two levels of the club are available to the public. (This was our king room without all the fancy doo-dad pillows on the bed.)

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And this was our view. I did a quick check this morning on Expedia.com and Booking.com and the price for a harbor view room at the Empress Hotel was $414 a night, as compared to this room which was $357 for two nights (Victoria’s hefty tax of 14 percent wasn’t added to either of those rates.)

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It is still a private club at heart though so it may not appeal to everyone.  A dress code applies to all who stay (as in ‘no jeans or shorts’ in common areas) and cell phones are kindly requested to be quieted as well in the common areas, which include an elegant reading room and a cozy library.  (We’ve been known to spend hours in that reading room enjoying any of a number of English, Canadian and American newspapers and some two dozen magazines.)

CashmereVictoriaBC 235There’s no pool or spa, but there is a bar and restaurant . . .some of the best food in Victoria is found in the Union Club restaurant.

A card room and a billiards room harken to the days of old, and still attract a good number of guests. 

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It is a place  where Ladies Nights and Men’s Nights occur with special buffet dinners once each week and on those nights members of the opposite sex are not to be seen in the restaurant or bar, but can dine and socialize on the patio or reading rooms.

CashmereVictoriaBC 233The old carpeted floors creak and oh the stories those rich wood-paneled walls could tell.  Nestling into the green leather chairs with your feet up on the matching ottoman is the perfect cure for weary travel feet.

If you want an out-of-the-ordinary travel experience, The Inn at the Union Club, 805 Gordon St., Victoria, B.C. is our recommendation for the place to stay.

For information or reservations:  reservations@innattheunionclub.com, www.innattheunionclub.com, 1-800-808-2218, 250-384-1151, or www.booking.com

Thursday, July 19, 2012

TPThursday: Go North “Young” Woman

We’d decided to do something different for my birthday: stay home.

And we stuck to that plan until 1 p.m. when we did something so spontaneous that we both were still shaking our heads as we stepped ashore in Victoria, British Columbia a few hours later.

Victoria2012 017
We often describe our travels as going ‘where the winds blow us’ but this one struck with gale force. I’d been working on a blog post and mentioned Victoria . . . an hour later we were packed and in line on the Seattle waterfront ready to board the day's last sailing of the Victoria Clipper, a high speed catamaran that would whisk us off to what has been a three night stay in the “City of Gardens.”

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Victoria, B.C. is at the southern tip of Canada’s Vancouver Island. Cradled between Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, it is 71 miles from Seattle, just under three hours away on The Clipper (which blasts along at 30 knots, or 35 miles an hour).

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Incorporated in 1862 and also celebrating a birthday – its 150th – this year, the city is decked out in its usual summer finery. . .including its trademark hanging baskets. The flower baskets have been a tradition since 1937. There are 1,500 baskets adorning the old-fashioned light posts. (And if you want to replicate those baskets at home, the city’s web site, www.victoria.ca offers a brochure with instructions.)

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Every street corner is decked out with a garden. This Orca whale topiary sits across the street from the visitor’s center at the Inner Harbor.
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While its Butchart Gardens is the most famous of its gardens there are so many parks (78 in Greater Victoria) that we usually don’t have time to visit Butchart, as was the case again this trip. Our first day was spent strolling through Victoria’s many gardens and parks that are within an easy walk of the Inner Harbor where we were staying.
One such place is  the beautiful lawn of  the iconic  Empress Hotel, pictured above.  We  had a special treat: watching a bride and groom starting a new life together at the lawn’s rose trellis.

Victoria2012 003

Only a couple blocks from the Inner Harbor, we strolled through the grounds of St. Ann’s Academy National Historic Site (835 Humboldt St., www.stannsacademy.com ). Just beyond it is the 25 hectare, or 62-acre Beacon Hill Park which led us to the seafront promenade that stretches for miles along Dallas Road

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We walked nine miles as we explored but a corner of this magnificent city of some 80,000 people but in full disclosure, our long walk was in part to ease the guilt of  the amount of food we had consumed the night before at our favorite restaurant, The Tapa Bar, (620 Trounce Alley, 250-383-0013, www.tapabar.ca)  and although we turned down the offer for dessert, the waitress decided my big day shouldn’t go past without. . . .

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That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday, so head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos.  I’ll tell you more about the gem of a place - often overlooked by travelers - that we stayed at here in my next post.

For more information on Victoria, B.C.: www.tourismvictoria.ca or the city’s blog  www.goinglocal.tourismvictoria.ca  For information on the Victoria Clipper, www.clippervacations.com .

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Travel Tip Tuesday: The Big, Fat Check’s in the Mail

We are skeptical of things ‘too good to be true’. So with skepticism at an all-time high, we tried out an on-line shopping site that had washington wednesdays 005been recommended by a trusted friend, although it really did sound too good to be true. 

But you know what? 

In this case it was true! 

We’ve since received nearly $200 in rebates from that site simply by logging into it and then heading to our favorite on-line retailers, especially travel sites.

We don’t book any travel related item – airlines, cars, or hotels – without first checking to see if they are listed on Ebates.  And most are found there – the site has some 1,500 participating on-line stores now. 

Just a few examples: 
Hotels: Expedia, Hotwire, Hotels.com, Courtyard, Days Inn, Fairmont, Intercontinental;
Cars: Budget and Enterprise
Air:  CheapoAir, Air France, American, Alaska Air.

France Vegas Mike G. 2009 010We’ve also purchased travel clothes like my Chico’s Zenergy, (that’s what I am wearing in the photo) and Land’s End outdoor clothing, our Clark’s walking shoes and my Baggallini purses and totes (pictured above) through Ebates.

While checking the site this morning I see that Amazon is now among its vast inventory of stores, so our travel books and novels will be ordered via Ebates as well.

With a nod to our Canadian readers, the site offers many of your stores as well.

Ebates  does as it claims: “Big Fat Checks” as they call them arrive quarterly.  We’ve recommended the program to so many family and friends that we decided to let you in on this ‘deal finder’ as well.  We’ve added it as a recommendation on  Joel’s Deal Finder page as well.

Ebates was founded in 1998 by two Deputy District Attorneys in the Silicon Valley, California. They used to prosecute on-line fraud and identity theft before starting this venture.

Click on any of the highlighted Ebates words in this post to go directly to that site and check it out!

Note: As with all our tips, this is intended to show you how we save travel dollars.  We’ve not been paid to promote Ebates.  (In full disclosure, if you click a link on this post and then buy from a business listed there, we will get credit for the referral and you get a bonus as well. All  Ebates customers can  participate in the referral program  - and you’ll probably want to do so after you see how it works!)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

TravelnWrite: What a Trip!

France Vegas Mike G. 2009 019I took a European hike then a bike ride through a scenic part of Canada and wrapped up my travels sipping a chilled rose during a shopping tour in Provence.

What a trip! 

And the best part was I completed it before I finished my morning coffee in Kirkland. I’d armchair-traveled through the “blogosphere”.

We had no idea of the travel adventures to be found in that techno-world until we began publishing TravelnWrite three years ago this month.

We began TravelnWrite to keep a handful of family and friends updated on our travels. . .well, that was the idea anyway.  Back then we didn’t really understand what a blog was – some sort of a bulk email thing or such. (I just learned that one in six people in the world write blogs of some sort. Statistics show most fall by the wayside in the first couple of years . . . but here we are: still traveling ‘n’ writing.)

What a trip! 
And now, three years and 450 posts later, our blog readership has far surpassed our wildest expectations.  Okay, so in truth, we didn’t have ‘blog growth projections’ when we started it. 

ClustrMaps (that map on the right column of our home page) shows that we’ve had more than 13,700 visits from more than 120 countries. And our page views have topped 63,000 meaning someone out there – other than that original handful of family and friends - is reading TravelnWrite

So a toast of thanks to you all! We are glad you’ve stopped by and hope our tips and tales will keep you coming back often.

Carnival Cruise 2012 043What a trip!  
As we’ve learned the last few years, ‘the blog’ -- once considered a hobbyist activity -- has evolved to be a valid on line tool not just an electronic diary; the source of sound advice and information on an infinite number of topics, including our favorite, travel.

We’ve discovered other travel enthusiasts in the blogosphere, people who are specialists in particular travel techniques and/or destinations. That trip I described above was taken by reading the blogs listed below. These are some of our favorites and I’ve included links to them.

Go ahead. Click a link. Expand your blogosphere armchair travels. . . there’s a whole new world out there waiting to be explored! 

* Hike Bike Travel  for outdoor and adventure travel inspiration written by avid traveler, Leigh McAdams, in Canada.

* Inside Journeys for an insiders guide to Jamaica (and other places as well) written by Marcia Mayne , who lives there.

* Paris Movie Walks and Easy Hiker Michael Schuermann He and his wife, Marlys, discovered hiking in their 40’s and are sharing some of their favorite European finds with readers in the Easy Hiker blog and Paris Movie Walks, as the name implies points out sites in Paris that you've seen in movies filmed there (he has a guide book of the same title which you can find on our Amazon carousel.)

* Lost in Arles by Heather Robinson an American who lives in Arles, France will take you on magical journeys through Provence.

* Budget Travelers Sandbox  is the creator of Travel Photo Thursday – a blogosphere event we wouldn’t miss each week. It’s written by Nancie McKinnon, a Canadian who teaches in Daejon, Korea and travels the world five months a year.

How about you?  Have any travel blogs you'd like to recommend? If so, please send an email or leave a comment below.

Hope you’ll come back later this week when we’ll have some money-saving travel tips on Travel Tip Tuesday, a new Washington State destination on Wednesday and a photo essay on Travel Photo Thursday.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

TPThursday: Jewels of the “Emerald Empire"

Our recent road trip took us through an area of Washington State that guide books call “The Palouse” (pah-loose) or sometimes, the Inland Empire.

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A more appropriate title – at least this time of the year – is The Emerald Empire because for as far as one can see, its gently rolling hillsides are carpeted in emerald green.

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The Palouse, my Emerald Empire, is one of America’s largest agricultural areas growing wheat, barley, dry peas and lentil crops.

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We followed a road less travel through the Emerald Empire; an almost empty-now winding two-lane road - the old State Route 195 – that led us to and past some of the state’s best, but little known, travel jewels.

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Jewels like Steptoe Butte and its surrounding 150-acre State Park. Once called Pyramid Peak this 3,612-foot butte was named after Lt. Col. Edward Steptoe, who along with 156 men of the Regular Army suffered a major defeat against a contingent of Nez Perce, Cour d’ Alene and Spokane Indians here.

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In Uniontown, population 345, the church spires tower over the town. This church, St. Boniface, was founded by Father Anton Joehren – it is the first consecrated Roman Catholic Church in the state.

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And that building to the right of the church is The Churchyard Inn Bed and Breakfast and Social House. (click the link to see interior shots).

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On State Route 195 just north of Uniontown we passed the Wagon Wheel Fence. My photo shows just a section of the fence that is made out of more than 1,000 antique wagon and tractor wheels.

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The fence borders the 1935 Dahmen Barn which has undergone an extensive renovation and now houses artist studios and galleries.  (click the link for more information on hours/artists).

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Our favorite jewels were the small towns themselves. One of the last we were to visit before entering Oregon was the unincorporated township of Anatone, where the welcome sign said it all.

Note:  We traveled but a portion of what is called the Palouse Scenic Byway, a 208-mile route over roads that follow long ago Indian and wagon trails and railroads. It is an area with a number of recreational sites and the place to go for biking, hiking, camping and fishing. For more information visit the website, Palouse Scenic Byway, or give them a call at the Chamber of Commerce, 415 N. Grand Ave., Pullman, 509-334-3565, 800-365-6948 (U.S. country code is 001).

If you missed last week's look at some of the other small towns we visited, click here. Next week I’ll show you some of our Oregon favorites, but now, it is Travel Photo Thursday so head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

WAWednesday: Where you told us to go

WARoadTrip2012 004Taking a road trip through Washington State is like putting one of those 1,000- piece puzzles together. Little bits of scenery joining together to create a big picture.

Our car-journey took us east from Puget Sound across barren, scrub-covered hills, through lush agricultural acreage, along small and mighty waterways to Spokane, the state’s second largest city. We then headed to northeastern Oregon and back through Walla Walla, hub of Washington’s original wine country.

Our routing sparked memories among many of you.  We heard from several and your recommendations were so good that we wanted to share them with others. 

Where you told us to go. . .
Mark in Florida: suggested driving Scenic Route, SR 30 a major east-west route that runs from Astoria to the Idaho border along the southern shore of the Columbia River. Although large portions of it have been replaced with Interstate 84, it diverges along the way. Mark says they particularly enjoyed the views from its scenic overlooks.

WARoadTrip2012 006Speaking of the Columbia River, Sue in Kirkland reminded us of  the 15 life-sized horse sculptures galloping along the hillside after crossing the river at Vantage. (Click the blue link above to read a Seattle Times article about them.)

Sue also recommended a stop in Heppner, Oregon, (Irish country with a 20-foot shamrock in the heart of town) and a slogan, ‘Where Rural is for Real”.  This place, right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, was settled in 1887. It’s the county seat of Morrow County and “the gateway to the Blue Mountains”.

Karen in Yakima and Mark mentioned Palouse Falls, a striking waterfall with a drop of 198-feet in the midst of a 105-acre campground, about 23 miles from the town of Washtucna in Franklin County. (The link takes you to the Falls website).

WARoadTrip2012 059Mary in Pasco sent a couple of suggestions for us to explore while in Spokane:

 Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle Diner (802 W. Garland Ave., 509-325-1772) a funky eatery with a distinctive milk bottle façade.  It had just reopened in May following completion of repairs to repair damages sustained in a fall fire.

WARoadTrip2012 068We took Mary’s suggestion so seriously about Happy Hour in the Peacock Room of Spokane’s stately Davenport Hotel (10 South Post, 509-455-8888) that we went there both evenings we were in town.

Our Washington road trip tales continue tomorrow on TPThursday when we’ll show you some of the “Emerald Empire’s” Jewels. 

Travel tip:  I make notes about each of our journeys in my own custom travel journal (the bound, paper kind) and I record each suggestion there, who made it and when.  Not only is it a good source of information for future trips, but we also then know who to contact for more tips about a certain place.

Note: If you have more road trip suggestions, please add them to the comments below or shoot us an email and we will add them.

Photos, in order:  Wind machines between Ellensburg and Vantage; the bridge over the Columbia River at Vantage, the freeway in the pouring rain during our Spokane stop, wall paper and sconce in the stately Peacock Room.


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