Canada 27, 7th August 2006

At 6 am there was a banging on my door. Duh! I wake up at 6 every morning. Then go back to sleep. Today when I actually wanted to wake up at 6 I didn't...............

This is Greg's balloon, he sewed it himself last winter, in his garage. Balloon winters are long here, there's only July and August that you can go flying, just about all the other days it's raining. So I guess sewing balloons gives you something to do in the evenings. 150 hours total he said. Looks nice.

Greg has been involved in balloons rather a long time. His first memory of balloons dates back to 1962 when his Dad was making balloons and he was only 4 years old. Earlier this year he picked up some world records flying his tiny homebuilt Roziere balloon. 922 km.

That's Greg on the right. Centre is Drew - he's also a balloon pilot - who was visiting from Florida, and due to catch a return flight back there in the next few hours. So he jumped in the basket with Greg for a 30 minute hop before heading for the airport. Fellow on the left is just the one taking the photo, I should have cut him out.

I joined Greg for the next part of the flight, about an hour and a half. We had good views of Mount Rainier.

No one else had turned up for the balloon meeting, for homebuilts, so Greg walked off with all the trophies. Prettiest balloon, best made, furthest distance travelled to come to the meet etc. etc. Of course he wouldn't have won the last one if it hadn't been specified you should bring a balloon. The other two balloons in the photo above were local, with ordinary bought balloons, honorary participants in the meet.

Since there was no one else, and since he was seriously involved in negotiating for another house he decided not to fly on Sunday so I headed off north in the general direction of Vancouver. I decided to divert via Seattle which was a mistake.

I had heard on the radio there was some sort of display going on over the water so I crossed the I-90 bridge to see what was happening. There were hundreds and hundreds of small boats in the water, I have never seen so many together. I decided to cut back to my original route north, which was another mistake, since the I-5 which I was on, (see above picture), and my original route, joined together a few miles north.

On the way I bumped a kerb and blew out one of the back tyres. It cost $125 to get it replaced which was more than the $80 I had paid for the two (good used) tyres only 2 days ago. And yes, it was one of those new (to me) tyres that I blew out. It's bad enough when something breaks on it's own, but when you know it's 100% your own fault it's more than a touch more annoying.............

I took a minor diversion east towards the Cascade mountains and stopped in a quiet spot next to a river.

Next morning I spent a frustrating hour or so trying to make a series of phone calls. Mostly they didn't work for one reason another. The only one that did was to Eleanor who didn't want to talk to me for more than a few seconds because she was in Italy and call diversion from France to Italy costs a fortune on her cellphone. Well, yes, it certainly does, and there are questions in the European Parliament about reducing those rates. But maybe it's time to remind her that she is holidaying in my van, using my camping gear, and that until she finishes university in a couple of years, with, hopefully a good degree in law, her sole source of income is the allowance I send her, plus the extra I sent last month for holidays, so maybe she should talk to her Dad from time to time for a touch more than a few moments!

I called at the ranger office, they told me there was nothing special to see on the route I was planning. They didn't mention this, the convergence of two rivers just above Darrington and a few miles north of their station. I've been down the Amazon from Manaus and seen the famous convergence of another important river (I've forgotten it's name) with the Amazon. It was not as clearly marked as this. Bigger, though.

The white river is recent glacier runoff, and includes minute rock particles the glacier has scraped off on it's way down. It's these same particles that cause the amazing green blue of the lake in a later photo.

Now they used to say in the UK, if you want to know the way, ask a policeman. Here in the strangely named town of Concrete you just go to the police station and look on the outside wall. No need to ask.

It's not very clear on the photo. I'll give you an enlargement of the town, just under the word Concrete.

Here is the main street with the police station map barely discernible in the distance.

I'm in the Cascade mountains.

I got lots of information from the North Cascades Visitors Centre. I asked about free camping. It's not allowed in the park they said. But here I said, just outside the park, National Forest land? You'll have to drive miles they said, the road is almost vertical down one side, and up the other.

So here I am, parked for the night, about 2 miles outside the park, in a trailhead parking. Hopefully I'll stay here the night.

Best regards

David Barker
On the road in the USA

Continue to Canada 28

Return to start page