Wednesday, April 23, 2008






It rained most of the night, and this morning it was wet, gray and cold (temp. of 39 degrees F). Ripley seems to have recovered from her limp and happily raced around on the beach in the rain. She came across the remains of a dead bird and joyfully rolled in it before I could stop her. So now we have Eau de Oiseau Mort as her new perfume!


Check out time at the park is 1:00 p.m., so I took advantage of this to have a leisurely morning before pressing on. Just down the road in Seal Rock, I came across a drive-in bakery (never heard of this before), so I just had to stop for a latte and a turnover. One thing I’ve noticed is the number of corner espresso drive-thrus in the state of Oregon (later on, I saw this also in Washington State).

There are so many beautiful little towns on the coast of Oregon. Newport, especially has a historic bayfront, and here is a photo of one of these houses.

The next stop was at the Lucky Gap Trail where the birds were singing their hearts out in this beautiful rainforest. Then, on to walk along Agate Beach where I saw three Whimbrels with their interesting long down-curved beak. According to the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds, this bird winters on the coast, especially in rocky areas but mostly south of the U.S. I suppose these were on their way back north to Alaska to spend the summer, so I am especially pleased to come across them. I didn’t see any agates, though

Glass blowing studios seem to be very popular along the coast, and it’s not surprising that artisans are attracted to the beautiful and remote scenery in Oregon.

One of the brochures that I picked up back at the Visitor Center a few days ago described Depoe Bay as a whale watching centre (“Small harbor…Big whales”), so I was looking forward to arriving there. However, the official Whale Watching Center was closed, as was the Visitor Center, but right beside the W.W. building was a spectacular view of the bay with the wild ocean spewing spray onto the pedestrian walkway.

Ripley and I took a walk along here and sat for awhile watching the wild grandeur of the waves as they rushed in (at least I was watching – Ripley was busy checking out the Eastern Grey Squirrels that were scurrying around).

These are an invasive species and have practically replaced the Western Grey Squirrel. During our walk along the boardwalk Ripley vomited thick yellowish bile, with some orange bits a couple of times, making me feel quite concerned. She obviously was feeling under the weather for a bit, and I think she may have eaten something while we were on the beach in Agate Bay (perhaps a dead crab?). I wondered whether or not she needed a vet’s attention, but after about a half hour, she appeared to be feeling better. And her attention to the squirrels indicated that she wasn’t too badly off.

The main street is a mecca for tourists, with many gift shops and seafood restaurants, but I resisted the temptations and headed to a booth beside “the smallest harbor in the world”.
Depoe Bay is also the home of several whale watching trips, but again I was disappointed to learn that the ocean was too rough for tours to go out today. Such is my luck.

I suppose I could have stayed another day, but decided to press on to Lincoln City (I paid $3.39/gallon here) and from there to head away from the coast inland along Highway 18, passing Salmon River, and ending up in Lafayette, at the Sleepy Hollow RV Park for the night where the fee was $12. Lafayette is close to Portland and Highway I-5, and in the middle of the wine district. It’s too bad that I am limited in the amount of wine that I can bring into Canada. I already have two large bottles of California wine, plus two smaller bottles, and that is over my limit.

I only traveled 168 kilmetres today, but it was tiring because of the twists and turns and the stops along the way. Sleepy Hollow was indeed sleepy, at least for me.


There are really tall bridges in Portland!! I always feel uneasy when I’m on these and am so glad to reach the other side. The Columbia River flows through the city and winds back and forth, making it necessary to have the bridges – but I wish they weren’t so tall.

Rest areas are a welcome sight when I get tired, and the Gee Creek Rest Area was especially nice, with a short circular nature trail that wound through tall trees. The trilliums were in bloom, and the holly had yellow flowers. I called Suzanne from there to let her know that I would be arriving tomorrow. She has obtained permission from the manager of her apartment complex for me to park my RV in the parking lot, and that will make it very handy. I have mentioned to Suzanne that I think it would be best if I slept in the RV because Ripley would probably consider her three ferrets as prey. I really don’t want to have an accident!

The northwest is very rainy and overcast most of the time, and the forecast is for showers for the next few days. Not surprising, but still not great. I don’t think that I could get used to living in an area where the sun seldom shines.

Highway I-5 was surprisingly rough in the right hand lane, but maybe that’s because it’s the lane where the trucks have to drive and therefore gets more of a pounding. Unfortunately, it’s also the lane where I have to drive, so I was treated to a series of potholes as I drove on to Tacoma.

There are a number of Christian radio stations in this area. I’ve noticed that, during my travels particularly in the western states, that this type of music is quite popular, along with country. I must admit that Christian rock music is a genre that I haven’t paid any notice to, but it certainly would attract a younger generation.

I’ve been keeping my eye out for sales and coupons, in order to take advantage of bargains in various stores. The flyer for Rite-Aid (pharmacy) caught my eye back in Oregon, and I kept it until I came across one. As a result, I was able to get a 2 for 1 special on glucosamine chondroitin for Ripley and myself, paying $27 instead of $54 for the two bottles. I had to pat myself on the back for that one!


Eventually we made it to the Tacoma location of Flying J Truck Stop, for a free night in their parking lot. And right across the street is a business park with a nice grassy area where Ripley and I enjoyed a walk. The daffodils planted there were all in bloom and it really was great to see flowers at this time of year.

Behind the business park there was an undeveloped area with plenty of bushes and rodents for Ripley to explore. The Flying J was quite busy but I managed to find a relatively quiet spot in a corner away from most of the noisy diesel trucks.


First thing in the morning, I took Ripley back to the business park for a game of soccer ball. She always gets very excited when she sees the ball, smiling with her tongue out.

After that wake-up I decided to treat myself to breakfast in the Flying J restaurant of eggs, bacon, hash browns, warm biscuit and coffee for $8.39. One advantage of eating and filling up at the Flying J is that their loyalty card will entitle me to discounted gas next month.


Suzanne Chacon lives in the town of Edmonds just north of Seattle, in an attractive, quiet apartment complex of ten buildings, each of which are three stories tall. She suggested that I contact her when I was getting close and that she would take her lunch break and meet me.

We were both trying to remember when we first met and concluded that it was at one of the conferences of the American Association of Zoo Keepers, but we actually got to know each other when we met in Costa Rica. I will digress for a moment here to give a brief background. At the time, Suzanne was managing Zoo Ave, a privately run zoo in Alajuela, just outside the capital city. I contacted her when I was on one of my many visits to Cano Palma Biological Station located near Tortuguero on the northeast coast. Cano Palma is a pet project of mine that was founded by myself and my ex-husband in 1991. It is located in the tropical lowland rainforest and hosts students and researchers as a base for scientific research of the inhabitants and plants of the rainforest. It is a magical area, on the Cano Palma river and adjacent to the Caribbean Sea and I love to go there, although it has now been about four years since I last visited. In any event, on this particular visit in the early 1990’s, a villager brought us a baby spider monkey and said that he had found it by itself. I have no idea what happened to the mother, but it obviously needed help. We took turns carrying it around and feeding it, but I knew that it needed to be in a place better suited to rehabilitating it. Our staff was not experienced in raising wildlife, and so I contacted Suzanne. She readily agreed to accept the little guy. The difficulty was that Cano Palma is only accessible by boat or small plane. Fortunately, the pilots are not too fussy about what is allowed on board, and I carried the monkey, who clasped on to my shirt, for the half hour flight to San Jose. Suzanne met me at the airport and together we traveled to Zoo Ave where he joined several other orphan animals in the animal care area. Later on, when he was old enough, he joined other spider monkeys in a very large exhibit area, full of trees. It’s not quite the same as being in the wild, but his chances of making it back at in the rainforest of Cano Palma were slim.

So, that is how we met and we continued our friendship via email, even though Suzanne has wanderlust and has since worked in such exotic places as Guam, Bali and several places in the United States – and even in Canada on Saltspring Island, B.C. Her current job is rehabilitating native wildlife at PAWS in Edmonds, Washington. It was really great to see Suzanne again, as we hadn’t actually seen each other since she left Costa Rica. Even though it had been awhile, there was no awkwardness and we were immediately very comfortable with each other. However, as I mentioned earlier she has three adorable ferrets (Tolstoy, Scratchy and Stinky) and one grumpy old cat named Kitty, all of whom are rescue animals. She put them all into her bedroom and closed the door in order for Ripley to spend time with me, while Suzanne returned to work. It gave me a chance to catch up on my internet work, and when she came back in the evening, I took Ripley to the RV so that her animals could come out and play. The three ferrets immediately raced around the living room.

Suzanne and Stinky

She has a plexi gate that separates the living room from the rest of the apartment, but one of them (I think it was Tolstoy) managed to get out and go for a walk into the bedroom. Meanwhile, Kitty came and went. She seemed to want to be in the living room, but hates the ferrets, especially Tolstoy who takes her on. It’s a good thing that Kitty is declawed. It made for an interesting time for me to watch all this interaction and I enjoyed having the opportunity to hold a ferret again. I lost my Fiona on June 21, 2007 (see Travels with Fiona).

Tolstoy and Kitty
After an enjoyable evening, which included supper at a Greek restaurant, I took myself off to Philippa to sleep, but I had insomnia until 4:00 a.m. – a problem that happens from time to time.



Today is Suzanne’s day off (she works four ten-hour days and has three days off), and one of the things that I wanted to do while in the Seattle area was to visit Woodland Park Zoo where Amanda now lives. Amanda was one of the gorillas whom I looked after for twelve years while she was at the Toronto Zoo. She refused to breed with our male Charles there, and it was gratifying for me to know that she had had three offspring when she was moved to Woodland Park. She had given birth just months ago to Uzumma, a little girl and I was anxious to see whether or not Amanda would recognize me. I had called to see if I could contact one of the keepers and talked to Stephanie, who said she would be happy to discuss Amanda. Ripley came with us, but of course could not enter the zoo itself. As it was only about 44 degrees F, Ripley was fine in the car while we were inside.

After showing my AAZK membership card, we were admitted free of charge and asked the receptionist to contact Stephanie to let her know that we were on the grounds. We arranged to meet in half an hour in front of the gorilla exhibit and slowly made our way over there. Suzanne had been a keeper at the Denver Zoo and had thought about applying for a position at Woodland Park, but is more comfortable in rehabilitation work. She is also a qualified vet technician.

When we got to the gorilla exhibit, we watched the two groups until Judy Seivert came out. I had run into Judy at AAZK conferences, but we both really couldn’t remember any details. Meanwhile Amanda had remained in a corner where visitors couldn’t see her. Judy took us into the holding area and offered us a lovely lunch of baked potato with cheese and an orange, while we chatted with her and Stephanie.

After lunch, it was treat time for the gorillas and we accompanied Judy up on to the roof, where I got my first glimpse of Amanda and Uzumma. I called her name and she looked up at me a few times, but I really don’t know whether or not she recognized me, as she was intent on grabbing as many of the pieces of fruit that she could. Suzanne thought that she had recognized me because she did keep looking up. Amanda is now 38 years old, and Judy said this would probably be her last baby. It is all decided by the Species Survival Plan committee for gorillas. Her second offspring Ndozi was recently taken to Toronto by Judy and when I return home I will probably go and see her.

After thanking Judy and Stephanie, and getting a quick glimpse at a new lion in a nearby off-exhibit area, we went back to the visitors’ area where Amanda now sat with her back to the window. The docent invited me to go up to the glass (which had been roped off) and I took a few shots, but I couldn’t get Amanda to turn around and look at me. Her baby Uzumma is adorable!

When we made our way back to the car, Suzanne took us to a nearby park so that Ripley could have a walk. As usual, she had to be on a leash but it was still pleasant to walk the hilly trail between the nearby trees.

On the way back we stopped at Central Market for fresh cod and salad. I was quite surprised at how expensive seafood is, considering that Seattle is beside the ocean. We had a lovely supper, complete with the bottle of wine that I had contributed. She did the cooking (she prefers to work alone in her small kitchen) while I played with the ferrets. Kitty seems to be warming up to me and kept coming over to me.

Suzanne has another job, working the graveyard shift on Thursdays at a vet lab, so she needed to have a nap. She graciously invited Ripley and me to work on my computer in the living room while she slept. She has also offered to let me use her car tomorrow so that I can do some business.

FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2008

The day started off sunny and warm – a nice change. I didn’t disturb Suzanne, who needed to sleep after working all night, and headed off to the IRS office in the town of Everett, about 30 miles north of Edmonds, to get some advice regarding some forms required in order to complete the work necessary in setting up my company in the U.S.
However, after waiting in line, the representative told me that nothing could be done until I had a letter from a bank stating that I had a need to open a bank account.

Back to Edmonds, where I went to three different banks before I could find one willing to provide such a letter. Tom Day, the manager at the Wells Fargo branch in West Lynnwood, greeted me as I walked in and was extremely courteous. He had no problem in providing the letter for me, and invited me to open a bank account. After we had completed our business, he passed me on to Dawn Collins to do the paperwork to open the account. It was such a pleasure to do business with both Tom and Dawn and such a contrast from the disinterested people at the other two banks I approached. Now all I have to do is to complete the paperwork necessary to file with the IRS. I’ll probably wait until I get to Calgary to do that.

All of this took much longer than I had anticipated and it wasn’t until 3:00 p.m. that I returned to Suzanne’s apartment. It was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature was around 70 degrees F – too nice to stay in, so Suzanne drove Ripley and us down to the beach in Edmonds. The harbour there has lots of boardwalks, marinas and restaurants and at one end a beach for dogs. Suzanne hadn’t known about this particular beach, but it was obvious that many dog owners did. There were many different breeds of dogs, big and small, some of them off leash and some of them who approached Ripley. She may be small, but big dogs don’t intimidate her and she warned off each one when they became too friendly. The tide was out and the area where we walked was a bit slippery and wet, but the view was lovely. The beach is in an inlet and therefore is not an ocean view. There are other land areas across the bay.

On the way back we stopped briefly at a marsh, but there were no birds there at the time.

Suzanne had told me about her boyfriend Dan. He used to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but left in order to pursue a more lucrative career and is now an electrician. Unlike the rest of the country, Seattle has a housing boom and Dan has his pick of jobs. He is currently training to climb Mt. Denali in Alaska in May and works out every night, but joined us for supper in Suzanne’s apartment. Dan is a good-looking interesting person who loves to chat, whereas Suzanne is very quiet, so they make quite a contrast to each other.

Suzanne is a good cook, but does not eat red meat. It’s always nice to see what other people eat and I got some good ideas to try for myself. She makes wonderful salads, as well as cipolin (a seafood soup) and pasta with chicken.

After supper I took Ripley for another walk around the neighbourhood and then headed to the RV.


My bike rack is still not working right. The metal bar that holds the bike on to the base is bent once again, so I moved the bike to the back and tied a chain and rope around it, in the hope that it will stay on!


Dan went to get coffee and then offered to take us down to the famous Pike Market – a very colourful place with lots of interesting booths. Some years ago I had seen a motivational video about the Pike Fish Market. It features the various staff members working as a team. When one of them gets an order, he or she yells out “One pound of salmon”. The rest of the staff yell back “One pound of salmon”. Then the first person throws the fish to one of the staff behind the counter, who wraps it up with a flourish. It was fun to see them in action, and of course there was a large crowd around the booth snapping photos and taking video. One person stands out in front and offers to answer questions. It’s all a great show. But the prices were really expensive.

We stopped for lunch in the market at a restaurant overlooking Puget Sound. I had shrimp and chips; Suzanne had a salmon salad and Dan had a tuna melt sandwich.

Further on down the market, there are several booths selling bouquets of gorgeous flowers – just for $10 or $15; there are artisans selling their jewelry, paintings, carvings, etc. And I have never seen giant artichokes like these! The fruit all looked wonderfully fresh.

Dan is very generous and bought me some local honey and a t-shirt with a native design on it. He enjoys spending his money on Suzanne, but I felt rather embarrassed when he bought things for me. Suzanne assured me later that she long ago accepted his generosity, that he made good money as an electrician, and that it was part of his Christian ideology.

Suzanne and Dan

After an hour or so, we all had had enough of crowds, and we waited for Dan to retrieve the car from several blocks away. I had mentioned that I would like to find a used book store to re-stock my reading material and we made our way to Joe’s, where I got nine books for $9.

It was a tiring day but a lot of fun. When we returned to the apartment, I decided that I really needed to get down to doing my taxes. My brother Carl had mailed all the material to Suzanne’s address and the return is due by the end of April, so I forced myself to install the software and work on that. It ruined my day as the news was not good. Because I had cashed in my mutual funds in order to buy my RV, I went into a higher tax bracket than what my taxes had been deducted for, and as a result I owe a substantial amount of money. I’m trying to be philosophical about it all. At least, I got to play with the ferrets while I did this work on my computer!

Supper was another delicious meal made by Suzanne while Dan and I chatted. He really is very kind, and we talked about all sorts of different things. We had pasta with smoked salmon, another pasta with homemade sauce and salad with corn/beans/chestnuts, romaine lettuce and a homemade dressing. I really will have to try spicing up my own salads! All of this was accompanied by wine.

SUNDAY, APRIL 13, 2008

One of the topics that we had discussed yesterday was the trend towards skimpy costumes being worn by the women who make the coffee in the various corner espresso kiosks that are so prevalent here in Washington State. It seems that Starbucks is losing out to these various places. There is one such kiosk (it’s like a tiny cottage on the corner where people either walk or drive up to a window and order coffee) just around the corner from Suzanne’s apartment, and I walked Ripley over there in the morning. I asked the young woman (who was wearing very short, tight shorts and a halter top) whether or not the tips had increased since she started wearing this outfit, and she confirmed that instead of getting around $10 per day, she was making around $50. I guess that sex sells even coffee!!

Dan came by my RV briefly to say goodbye on his way to church. It was such a pleasure to meet him, and I hope to see him and Suzanne again in the future. They are talking about buying a house together, if they can agree on the location. Suzanne likes Edmonds very much, but it is a long way from where Dan works, and the houses are very expensive in that area.

Suzanne is back to work today at 11:00, so I had a brief play session with the ferrets and Kitty before leaving to visit the PAWS organization. Suzanne took me on a tour, where I met John who had worked in a zoo previously, and who had worked on an opossum that morning. The mother had a shattered mandible and was euthanized, but John rescued the nine babies in her pouch and placed them in an incubator. He had had a bad accident on Saturday while volunteering to help construct a new chimpanzee sanctuary. A steel shelf came down on his fingers, damaging two of them quite badly. He mentioned that the chimps going to this new facility are from a lab where various experiments have been conducted on them.

I watched while Suzanne tube-fed the nine hungry, hairless baby opossums. She is very skilled at this sort of work and enjoys it a great deal. It is just a shame that it pays so very poorly. Later, I watched her feed an Eastern Grey Squirrel baby and a baby raccoon. She took me on a tour of the facility which can handle anything from seals to deer. I thought that it was very well set up and the procedures that she has set in place are very thorough.

Baby Opossum being tube-fed
It was time to say goodbye, yet again, to another friend. That’s the hardest part, but hopefully we will meet again.

On my way back to Highway I-5, I got lost and it took awhile for me to find my way to the correct road. I had to resort to stopping and asking for directions once I realized that I was not on the right road. It wasn’t Suzanne’s fault but she had said to follow a road that would take me to I-5. The only trouble was that the exit there only led to I-5 South, not North. Eventually, I did get on the right road and was able to dump at a station in a rest area.

I passed a farm with a sign offering free alpacas to approved owners. I guess they have too many and are desperate!


Further on I stopped for gas in Blaine, near Canada’s border, and paid $3.65 a gallon for gas. We overnighted at Lighthouse RV Resort near Blaine, on the ocean. It was very clean and newly renovated for $16. Ripley and I enjoyed walking down to the beach and watching the various seagulls as they dropped clams on the rocks to smash them open. There were two people also out in the low tide digging for clams, and even though the sky was cold and overcast, it was still a lovely evening.

I must admit that I’m kind of excited about returning to Canada tomorrow, but also a little nervous about going through Customs after having been away since September. I hope they don’t give me much trouble.

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