Pioneer Potluck: More about our trip to the Lower 48

  • By Ann 'Grannie Annie' Berg
  • Tuesday, May 17, 2016 4:34pm
  • LifeFood

Washington, Idaho
and on to Montana


A recap of trip so far: I jammed the car door half shut at Dry Creek Camp Ground, outside Glennallen, on our first night sleeping in our van. Made it through Alaska to the Canadian Border, after Bob had worried for 500 miles and 4 months before, about being allowed to go through! Lots of mud and rain. Got behind a funeral procession with the coffin in the back of a pickup and stopped at Jakes Corner for breakfast. I had potato soup without milk. Good — hot. Stopped and soaked our weary bones at Laird Hot Springs. Everyone should do that! On to Toad River, through Fort Nelson and on to Hudson Hope. Ate at Shepard’s Inn and on through Fort McLeod. I tried to sleep on a “sorta-kinda” couch in Bear Lake. We seemed to be always on the hunt for a cup of hot coffee with not to much luck — ever! On through Prince George to Quesnel and the fresh fruit stands but did not find our friends Ted and Val. Then our trip through Hell’s Canyon (Frazer River Canyon) — nowhere on our map were we warned about that part of the world! We made it through the canyon on frazzled nerves to the Canadian Border where they took my lonely peach. We are on our way to Federal Way, Rochester and Lacey, September 10, 2000.


We thought nothing, absolutely NOTHING was worse than a harrowing trip through Hell’s Canyon! Oh yeah? Two Alaskan people in a van on the freeway in Washington! Neither one of us had driven in the busy world of the Lower 48, for a long time — like 50 years!

They took my peach at the border and waved us through to the United State of America, state of Washington from a two-lane highway right onto a 6- to 8-lane freeway! Bob had a death grip on the steering wheel, his eyes glued to the cars in front of him, beside him and in back of him. I was not saying a word, because he had to concentrate after he said softly, “Holy Cow — we made it through Hell’s Canyon and now we have THIS!” I whispered, “You can do it!”

What he did not see was my hands holding onto both sides of my seat and my teeth clamped shut! We were going pretty smoothly when he says “I am going to switch lanes” as he puts the left blinker on. I glance over and scream “NO! NO! There is a car beside YOU!” He looks in the rear view mirror at a very small little tiny car beside us, oblivious of his surroundings. We just stayed in the same lane all the way to Federal Way.

Bob lived in Federal Way at one time. He was familiar with part of it but now most of it was very strange as it had grown and changed drastically in the 50 years since he had lived there. I spotted a sign that said Travelers Lodge on the right. We swung in, it looked nice and clean. A foreign type person at the counter, barely said a word and what he did say was not something that we could understand without guessing. We did hear $105 a night. The room he rented us was clean. However, the bathroom faucet was hanging from the wall. The toilet was tippy and there was no curtain on the shower! Why? There was NO shower head!

I called and complained. What I got was “Sorry — all we got!” We had been on the road forever that day, thru Hell’s Gate and Washington Freeway and had already brought our bag up to the room. Bob had his boots off and was trying to find something on the TV. Bed was clean and comfortable. TV worked with American channels. There was a coffee pot with no coffee packets, but I was prepared for that. I had some in my bag. I drank a cup of coffee, Bob had a well-deserved beer. We washed up with clean wash clothes and we fell into bed, totally exhausted.

The morning was early for us — time zone changes. We wanted to get on the road after finding a place to have breakfast. Not too far from the Travel Lodge I had spotted a Village Inn type restaurant. We sat in a booth, got hot coffee and Bob’s usual eggs and ham. I had a great Denver omelet and more hot coffee. In the booth behind us was a group of four men talking about Alaska. Well, we perk our ears up and lesson! The one guy telling a tall tale about how great Alaska was. He had just returned and he was just full of beans! Bragging about things that we knew were not true and how he had conquered Alaska.

I wanted to say something, but I got “the look” from Bob. So I shut my mouth — That was hard to do! We left with full bellies and a smile on our face. Bob said to me as we got in the car “How dumb was that guy?” I said “I wanted to say something.” He said, “There was four of them, did you want to get beat up!”

I really thought they would have been friendly — but not Bob!

September 11, 2000: We called Cindy and Lasse’ and got directions to their house. We had a wonderful time gabbing and talking about old times! We recalled their all-night summer solstice parties in Alaska and all the people we knew and where those people were now. We topped the evening off with a steak fry and getting acquainted with their two children. We slept in a wonderful bed that their daughter, Lael gave up for the night and woke up refreshed and new! Had coffee and made plans to go see our other good friend and “used-to-be-neighbor, that lived in Alaska, Brett Irwin who lived in Lacy, with wife Debi. Spent the day there getting reacquainted and stayed the night. I tried to locate my camera to take pictures. My conclusion was that after Bob and Lasse’ took the van to a shop to get the car door fixed, someone stole my camera. I made plans to buy another cheepy somewhere.

We sadly said goodbye and left with directions on how to get out of the city and on the way to Spokane. We went over beautiful Snoqualmie Pass and across the vast dry lands of Washington through Moses Lake and gassed up in Spokane, headed for Sandpoint, Idaho to see Bobs Mom, Shirley and sister Donna.

We arrived in Sand Point and got directions to their place. It was remote, up on the Pack River. Donna and Mom had moved there from Kennewick, Washington. Pretty and secluded, hot and dry. The Upper Pack River was out back. The double-wide was big and comfortable and we had a good time jabber-jabbering. We settled in for a 5-day stay. I had never met either one. I so enjoyed the smiles on Mom-Shirley’s face when she talked about earlier times and “Bobby” growing up. She collected Franco Pottery that was made in Enid, Oklahoma. She was so proud if it and I learned something new. She gave me a piece of her coveted collection. We slept in a big comfortable bed, had nice hot showers and lots of coffee! I bought a camera in Sand Point and took a few pictures.

Next day was a potluck where we met lots of nice neighbors and ate great food. Then we got down to business. Bob rented a Kubota tractor to put dirt around the foundation of the double-wide and landscape the yard. I raked it in and smoothed it down with Bob’s big help. We moved tons of rock and at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, it was so hot, I bent over and stood back up. I was seeing stars. Not good! Bob told me to stop and go sit down in the shade. I drank a bunch of water. Sat in the small amount of shade and cooled down. This old Alaskan gal was not doing good in the 90-plus degree heat! I took some more pictures.

After the holes were filled and moving rock with the tractor, Bob called it a day. He was hot and tired. Donna said the neighbor Joe could finish with an ancient D-4. I made plans to can peaches the next day. Bob and I picked rocks and sticks out in the yard in the evening, after Bob had a tooth pulled in Sand Point by a wonderful dentist. He called later in the day to see if Bob was OK. Cost was $106! Compared to $500 in Alaska!

Next day I canned peaches after we located some in Bonners Ferry. Packed them in quart jars and stored them under the bed Bob had built in the van. What a nice area to store things! Thank you Bob!

We looked at some old photos and coins. Had a visit from Bob’s nephew Cody Keeley and his daughter, Miranda. Bill, Donna’s “lellow” cat had his nose out of joint — we were sleeping in HIS bed. Wolfer, a very nice doggie and Gizmo-dog, a sweetie. On the fifth day at Pack River, we said our goodbyes with big hugs and gave our nice bed back to Bill the cat.

We were on our way to Kalispell Montana to see my brother, John, wife Kathy and their family.

Next week: The rivers run backward! And the pretty places in Montana.

Remember, be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle — and they do not need to hear yours!


This column is written by Ann Berg, a longtime resident of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her mother, a self-taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day. Grannie Annie can be reached at

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