Check Out The Great Northern & Cascade Railway In Skykomish

skykomish station

While driving on US 2, west of Stevens Pass, I got lucky and found a nice little attraction in the little town of Skykomish.

Skykomish is the last community you pass by when you travel eastbound over Stevens Pass. Or, I guess, it could be the first community on the west side that you reach when heading over Stevens Pass from Eastern Washington. Regardless, it’s a cute little town and definitely worth a quick pull off from the highway.

Skykomish has some nice ties to the railroad and logging industries, and though I’d stopped there before, what caught my attention this time was some small signs along the highway promoting “Free Train Rides”.

Having kids in the car with me on this trip, I decided this was worth some investigation. Truth be told, we were about due for a snack anyway. As we crossed the Skykomish River, we saw that the signs led to the small historic train depot in the center of town. We pulled into the parking lot just in time to see the train leave the station. The train in question that day was a miniature narrow gauge train run by an engineer and ferrying children, some “disguised” as adults, around on a fairly good sized track. We’d just found the Great Northern & Cascade Railway.

miniature train

The train passes over a bridge, goes through a tunnel, and passes by several full size rail cars and railroad equipment. Needless to say, the kids had an excellent time.

The town’s historic depot, dating back to 1898, contains some interesting things to see too. Restoring the depot and bringing the railroad history to visitors and locals is a big project and you can support that project by purchasing some of the shirts, books, and other souvenirs found inside. There are also other things to see there including a historic train bell waiting for you to ring it, replica train cars and engines done to scale, and more.

replica train

The Great Northern & Cascade Railway is located at 101 North 5th Street in Skykomish, Washington. The facility is open Saturday and Sunday from the end of May to the end of October. It’s great for a quick stop, especially if you are traveling with kids or have an interest in history. Plus, you can’t pass up the feeling you get supporting small community projects like this.

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GNCRailway

Oregon’s Astoria-Megler Bridge

Astoria-Megler Bridge

If you’re like me, one of the hits of going on a road trip is driving across, or seeing, interesting bridges.

I’ve always thought bridges were cool for a couple of reasons. First, I like the idea of the people who built these bridges making a manmade object that spans across a river or chasm. This is sometimes a pretty impressive feat of engineering. Second, I like the feeling of driving across the bridge, high above what lies below, knowing that if the bridge were not there, my travels would be a lot different. Third, I appreciate many bridges for their architecural values. I like the lines of some bridges, the way the incorporate interesting angle, and the way they vanish to a horizon point off in the distance. Bridges, to me, are one of the best subjects for taking pictures while out enjoying a road trip.

One of the coolest bridges we get to drive across here in the Pacific Northwest is the Astoria-Megler Bridge that connects Oregon to Washington at the mouth of the Columbia River. The city of Astoria sits at the south end of the bridge and is a great host to your Northern Oregon Coast activities. The trip across the bridge though is the highlight for me.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge is about 28 feet wide and runs for a distance of 4.1 miles. At its highest point, it is 196 miles above the water of the Columbia River. Much of the bridge though rides much lower and provides a very nice view of either state, depending on your direction of travel, and of course of the river and the ocean it is meeting as well.

I’ll be honest here, I cannot remember the last time I came to the Astoria-Megler Bridge and drove across it one time. I usually drive across it once, turn and retreat back to where I came from, driving across it a second time in the process, and then drive across it a third time as I go on my way. This is especially true if I’m spending the night in Astoria.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge was completed in 1966 and all these years later it is still a very special treat for anyone road tripping in the Northwest.

Lincoln City’s Siletz Bay Lodge

Lincoln City has been like a magnet to me since I was a little kid. I have so many great memories of heading to this part of the Oregon Coast with my mom, brother, and sister. Without fail, I cannot let more than a couple years go by now without returning their even these days.

My last trip through this always changing and always welcoming little oceanside slice of paradise saw me staying at the Siletz Bay Lodge. Siletz Bay has a unique look about it when compared to the rest of Lincoln City that sits out on the ocean beach. You can still easily get to the oceanfront beach, it’s just a short walk, but staying on this little bay can give you a feeling of being tucked away in a cozy nook while still being right in the middle of it all.

Lincoln City Siletz Bay Lodge

The lodge itself is awesome. It is very modern and very clean. Our room not only featured the basic necessities for a night away from home, but also had free wi-fi, plenty of computer ports, a coffee maker, and both a microwave and a refrigerator. Outside the room, the rest of the lodge featured a gift shop, laundry area, comfortable sitting area, and a hot tub that we had to make use of. The continental breakfast was also very nice, offering something for everyone.

Lincoln City is famous for its seven and a half miles of walkable beaches. Accessing them from the Siletz Bay Lodge was extremely easy too. Other nearby attractions included the Tanger Outlet Mall, D’River Wayside, Desert Storm War Memorial, Devils Lake, and more. Plus, just hanging out and watching the action that takes place on the small bay is fun too. To experience Lincoln City fully, I thought this pleasant little lodge was perfectly placed.

The Siletz Bay Lodge played a big role in us having yet another fun memory making trip to the Lincoln City area.

The River’s Edge Lodge in Leavenworth

The Wenatchee River flows from Lake Wenatchee to the Columbia River, and along the way passes some of the most incredible scenery, attractions, and locales in Washington. One of those locales is Leavenworth. This little Bavarian themed city has been one of the more popular tourist attractions in Washington for years… and there are a lot of reasons for that.

Leavenworth is home to a year round festive atmosphere, some incredible food, top notch scenery, and friendly locals who just wait to welcome you in. The shopping opportunities there are legendary too. Whether going for an afternoon, a weekend, or a longer stay, you can easily have a great time in Leavenworth.

My last visit to Leavenworth saw me staying at the River’s Edge Lodge, which is east of town. I bring this up because it ties in both of the above subjects. During my stay, I ate some of the best bratwursts ever, picked up a couple of very cool gifts, and I even danced a polka in public (yeah, you read that right). What I also got to do though was stay right on the banks of the Wenatchee River.

RiversEdgeLodge1

It was very cool, as the sun went down, to sit outside and hear the water rush by and watch it do what it has been doing for centuries. The River’s Edge Lodge was very clean, very comfortable, and worked perfectly for my weekend in Leavenworth.

I’ve got to take some polka lessons though before I head back to Leavenworth.

Montana’s $50000 Silver Dollar Bar

50000SilverDollarBar

Experienced road trippers know that there are some exceptional things worth seeing out there. You always want to stop and check out a famous historical site and see first hand where something important really happened. You also can’t help but stop off and view, and even take photos of, some of the more beautiful pieces of scenery that are out there. There are also famous towns, campgrounds, factories, stores, parks, restaurants, and other things worth seeing too.

All that stuff is really important, but if you are like me at all, you also need to stop and check out the odd, eye catching, unusual, and interesting places too. In that category comes a favorite stop not too long ago, just off Interstate 90. One of the first possible places to stop when you’re entering Montana on I-90 is the $50000 Silver Dollar Bar. This unique attraction is much more than just a bar.

There really are $50000 in silver dollars on display at this bar. Some are mounted on the walls and some are embedded in the top of the bar. They turn up everywhere you want to look. This bar started as a silver dollar collection back in the early 1950s and has grown to include a restaurant, motel, RV parking, gas station, convenience store, casino, and gift shop. Occassionally, you may even find a live concert going on in the meadow behind it… occasionally.

This roadside attraction can’t be missed either, not just because of all the signage at the site, but because of the many billboards announcing how many miles ahead of you it is as you’re driving that way.

Whether stopping just to take your photo out front or going inside to enjoy the gambling, food, drinks, or other action, the $50000 Silver Dollar Bar should not be missed.

Stay in Coeur d’Alene’s Resort City Inn

One getaway spot in the Pacific Northwest that impresses everyone is the city of Coeur d’Alene. This small lakeside city in the Idaho Panhandle is absolutely gorgeous. But if you go there just to look at it, you’re going to miss so much.

Lake Coeur d’Alene is a deep blue play land of cold, fresh mountain water. Getting out on or in the water is one of the top ways to enjoy the lake. To do this though, you need somewhere to stay.

CoeurdAlene-ResortCityInn

Coeur d’Alene has a lot of hotel options. Many of them are along Interstate 90 that bisects it and some are close to the water. The motel that jumped out at me was the Resort City Inn. This little motel has a great atmosphere and, almost more importantly, is located right downtown. I loved the fact that I could go for a walk in the immediate area and see all kinds of great restaurants, bars, and shops. McEuen Park is just two short blocks away. I was also within walking distance of the marina and boardwalk. It really was right in the heart of Coeur d’Alene.

I just can’t talk enough about the atmosphere of the Resort City Inn. It’s very clean and modern, but at the same time it has a very nostalgic feel to it. The continental breakfast was awesome and the free high speed internet is a nice touch. One very cool part of it all is the rooftop patio and barbecue grill. It’s a completely unique place that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

I love Coeur d’Alene, but who doesn’t, really? I’d definitely say that my choice to stay in the Resort City Inn made my last trip there so much better.

5 Fun Facts: Washington – Whidbey Island

Whidbey Island is a true island getaway and at the same time is easily accessible from and very near to Seattle and the surrounding urban area. When you go there, you are sure to find a long list of things you love about it. Here is a look at five fun facts about this great destination.

1. Whidbey Island is 55 miles long and 12 miles across at its widest point. It is one and a half miles wide at its narrowest point. This makes it the 40th largest island in the United States. It is the largest island in the State of Washington.

2. Fort Ebey is located on Whidbey Island and is named for Colonel Isaac N. Ebey, the first permanent European settler on Whidbey Island.

3. Located on the north end of the island, Deception Pass State Park is the most visited park in the Washington State Parks system.

4. Coupeville is located on Whidbey Island and serves as the county seat of Island County. It is the second oldest town in the State of Washington, having been founded in 1852.

5. Getting to the south end of Whidbey Island is done by making use of the Washington State Ferry that runs from Mukilteo on the main land to the town of Clinton on the island. The entire distance traveled on this ferry run is 2.3 miles.

Olympic Game Farm – Sequim

I have to tell you, I was blown away by Olympic Game Farm!

Olympic Game Farm is located in Sequim, Washington. This fun little coastal town sits right on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and is a very nice place to visit. The Dungeness Spit is a big draw and something special. The Olympic Game Farm though topped that.

This special place has a special history that dates back to a time when many of the animals housed there were used in several Hollywood movies, including some made by the Walt Disney Company. All that is very cool information to learn, but the fun is in the drive through the park. We entered, fully armed with about five loaves of bread, and immediately headed up the hill to the first animals waiting for us. All of the animals entertained everyone in the car and were so eager to come and eat the bread, be petted and scratched, and put on a show.

Along the way, wandering freely around our vehicle, we encountered elk, zebra, prairie dogs, llama, yaks, bison, deer, and more. There were also bears, including some that would wave at you in the hopes that you would throw them some of your bread. The bears were safely behind fences though. I’m not sure how people would react to bears, even ones this friendly, walking up to their car.

OGF-Waving-Bear

Tigers, mountain lions, lynx, and lions were on display as well, but in pens located a bit of a distance from the vehicle. We happened by the tiger enclosure shortly after some fresh meat had been handed out there and that was quite a show.

One of the hits had to be entering the bison area though. Shortly after going through the gate, our car was surrounded by these huge and gentle (we hoped) beasts. It became extremely difficult to move the car and as we inched through the herd, big black tongues would slither in through the windows hoping to get a tasty treat.

After driving through the park we went and viewed remnants of old leftover movie props and equipment, a small petting zoo, and of course the gift shop.

Without a doubt, a stop at the Olympic Game Farm is a necessity when you are in the Sequim area. I think we’ll be heading back for another road trip on the peninsula soon.