Category Archives: Guest Posts

Authors and others who I’ve asked to post on this blog

Travel Tips from Sue Frause

Sue celebrating her wedding anniversary on Lummi Island. Her husband is there taking the photo.

My friend Sue Frause, a Freelance Travel Writer and Photographer, who lives on Whidbey Island, shares some secrets she learned through her travels here. After traveling frequently both for her work and for personal pleasure, she’s gotten the process down to a science.

What works for you when packing for a trip?

Sue:  This is going to sound scary to many of you, but I don’t pack until about an hour before I leave. But I’ve sort of worked it out in my head as to what I’ll need, and then I simply put it all into my bag.  Plus I have my standard travel “uniforms” that I rely on, depending on the season.

What do you never leave home without?

Sue:  My passport, MacBook Air, Canon PowerShot G12, Droid, chargers, card reader for camera, notebook and pen.

How do you use your camera phone as a memory tool?

Sue:  I take a photo of my hotel room number. (If you travel a lot and stay in many different hotels, this can come in really handy.) I also photograph my license plate if I’m driving, so I can fill out the hotel’s guest registration correctly and if it’s a rental car, then I can find the right one in the parking lot.

Do you recommend using a credit card, debit card or cash when traveling?

Sue:  I generally use a credit or debit card, but depending on what country you’re in, cash may be a necessity.

What is the best way to approach airport security?

Sue:  Breathe deeply, wear shoes that slip off easily and enjoy it because soon you will be squished into an uncomfortable economy seat on the plane that seems to have shrunk since the last time you flew.

What would you like readers to know about Washington State?

Sue:  It has everything, from mountains and islands and beaches to wine and seafood and coffee. I could go to a different destination in my home state every week and never see it all. Your own backyard can be fun.

If you want to catch Sue’s new show, “Kitsch ‘n Bitch,” it’s one Wednesday night a month at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. It’s a “live” TVesque show about food, folks and fun. Complete with a house band! She’s the hostess and runs through June 2012.

3 Seattle Blocks, 3 Happy Hours

Today I’m happy to have a guest post from Haley Shapley who blogs at Girl About the World. Here’s what she has to say about happy hours in Seattle:

They say there’s a Starbucks on every block in Seattle, and, well, that’s pretty much true. But a jolt of java isn’t the only beverage you’ll find on every corner — if you’re looking for drinks of a stronger kind or just reasonably priced food (or both), downtown Seattle offers a veritable smorgasbord of happy hours.

The options just along 1st Avenue are boundless. An easy walk from the ferry and not far from the train station, these three picks in a three-block radius will hit the happy hour spot:

McCormick & Schmick's

McCormick & Schmick’s

1st and Spring

Renowned for their happy hour prices, this seafood-serving staple offers up ample selection. The menu rotates regularly; right now, you can get garlic bread or nachos for $1.95, the famed half-pound cheeseburger for just $2.95, smoke salmon and chili verde sliders for $3.95, and thin crust pizza and mussels for $4.95, among other choices. Drinks include a $3.95 Coors Light Pilsner, $5.95 red or white wine, and $6.95 fruity cocktails. The service here is consistently strong, and the price/quality ratio with the food can’t be beat.

Happy Hour food at Boka

Boka Kitchen + Bar

1st and Madison

Tucked into the sleek Hotel 1000, this equally fashionable dining venue wins raves for its truffle fries, which are, in a word, addictive. Equally compelling for the carnivores in the room is the $9 Boka Burger, stacked with Beecher’s cheddar cheese, house-made pickles, onion jam, and a side of those delicious fries. All the plates are $3, $6, or $9, and they have a large array of signature cocktails at a discount ($6 to $9). The Red Carpet, with Ciroc Red Berry, black currant puree, house grenadine, and a lime splash, is especially refreshing.

Contour

 

Contour

1st and Marion/Columbia

A dance club by night, happy hour hot spot by early evening, Contour has one of the widest selections of happy hour choices in the downtown area, with more than 20 dishes to decide among. Indulge in tomato honey basil soup for $2, Mediterranean chicken skewers for $3, Northwest oyster stew for $4, or Gruyere macaroni and cheese for $5. But what really sets Contour apart is its hours — happy hour runs until 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 9 p.m. on Fridays, so you can enjoy the discounted dishes much longer than elsewhere.

Experience Natural Attractions in Colorado Bend State Park

I’m excited to offer you a glimpse of a wonderful park in Texas, written by one of my travel writer friends there. Colorado Bend State Park is a two-hour drive from Austin.  –Heather

By Beverly Burmeier

www.beverlyburmeier.com

www.goingonadventures.com

www.stripedpot.com

http://tinyurl/bevtrvl

Photo by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Towering rock canyons, more than 350 caves, and two spring-fed creeks make Colorado Bend State Park an absolutely fabulous place to explore.  With 16 miles of hiking trails and 14 miles suitable for mountain biking, there are plenty of opportunities for visitors to enjoy nature at its best, including beautiful scenery along river trails and at Gorman Falls. I was surprised by the various recreational opportunities available at this central Texas park for birding, fishing, hiking, picnicking, camping, and photography.

Located along six miles of Colorado River frontage, Colorado Bend is a large state park, covering 5,328 acres.  Partly because of its size, the intent is to keep it natural and easy to care for, says Park Superintendent Cory Evans.  At present it is one of the lesser developed state parks, although future plans may change that. Primitive tent camping is allowed in 38 numbered sites, and there are two backpack areas where guests can pitch tents.  No electricity is available, which makes it a great getaway from the workaday world.

Photo by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Native pecans, ferns, and cacti are abundant in the park, and beautiful wildflowers sprout up in the spring.  Wildlife includes coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions—although most visitors aren’t likely to encounter these species.  White-tail deer, armadillos, and squirrels are more common. You might also see wild turkeys, endangered golden-cheeked warblers (if you’re lucky), black-capped vireos, red-tailed hawks, and eagles (they nest on the canyon walls).

Several geological features in the park are unique to this region. Spicewood Springs is a popular hiking trail with numerous creek crossings that leads to a refreshing creek where families often picnic and swim.  Adding to the beauty of this spot are the painted rocks, formations colored by minerals seeping through. 

On weekends, staff will take visitors on a two-hour guided tour to spectacular Gorman Falls on the western bank of the Colorado River, approximately 10 miles above Lake Buchanan.  This impressive 90-foot-high waterfall, tumbles over a cliff and mists ferns and other lush vegetation as it descends. Comprised of travertine, the top layers of calcium deposits are extremely fragile, so the area is protected. A deck allows amazing views of the falls and the meandering Colorado River directly behind the viewer.

Photo by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Also available are guided cave tours.  Gorman Cave is the 40th largest cave in the state, and you can explore with staff on weekends or belly-crawl 800 feet into the cave on a self-guided tour. Other than the falls and cave, visitors are free to explore and enjoy the park—on its own primitive terms.

March is the busiest month—with April next–because that’s prime time for white bass fishing and birding (214 species of birds have been identified in the park).  Also flowers are beginning to bloom, and the weather is generally agreeable for camping or hiking. 

Originally an old Indian camp, the site near Gorman Falls is protected for archeological study.  During the 1950s-1970s that area was a fishing camp and RV park.  The state bought the land in 1984, adding more land from the former Lemons Ranch in 1987.  These areas were combined and opened to the public as Colorado Bend State Park in 1988.  Still, only 40,000 visitors per year journey the 18 miles from San Saba, through the tiny town of Bend, and over gravel roads to reach the park. But, it’s definitely worthwhile to discover the natural attractions of this Hill Country jewel.

A Cowgirl Remembers…

Book Giveaway

Win a copy of "A Cowgirl Remembers When..."

The Cascade Mountain Range divides Washington almost in half north to south. In Eastern Washington, on the east side of the mountains, the temperatures traditionally run warmer than over here on the west side of the range. Many differences exist between the two sides of the state. One of the most interesting to me is the number of ranches and the cowboys and cowgirls that run those ranches.

Through social networking, I met Dawn Nelson, one of those cowgirls, who is also an award-winning author. I’m giving away one of her books, “A Cowgirl Remembers When…” tomorrow. To be eligible to win, please follow the instructions at the end of this blog post. Now let’s hear from Dawn.

Where have you lived in Washington State?

Dawn:  I grew up in the small town of Danville, Washington with a population of well under 100. Now I live in Creston with 200 other people. It’s about an hour from Spokane. I love small towns!

What was your first experience with writing?

Dawn:  I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and started writing letters to my daughter when she was born in 2005. I was worried that she would never get to know who her mother was. So I sat down and wrote the short stories of my life, which turned out to be my first book, “A Cowgirl Remembers When.” After writing that book, I realized that writing was something I could do while I was healing from my surgeries, so I kept on writing. After several years of surgeries, I’m almost back to normal.

Not only did Dawn write this book, she's also the cover model.

How many published books do you have to your credit now?

Dawn:  Since 2009, I’ve had five books published. I have a sixth at my editor’s now and thirty-six more at home in different stages of completion.

Do you have a western theme in your books because that’s what you know the best?

Dawn:  Besides being what I know the best, it is also what I enjoy the most. I am trying to branch out into other genres, but western-themed books are my comfort zone.

What is life on your ranch like?

Dawn:  It is full of adventure and inspiration for me. As I answer these questions, a cow is giving birth about 15 feet behind me in a calving pen. This time of year is when I can get most of my writing done. Calving season gives me lots of hours sitting here in the vet room waiting on a first calf heifer to calve. The rest of the year, I have to make time to write.

To win “A Cowgirl Remembers When,” which received the Academy of Western Artists’ 2010 Buck Ramsey Book of the Year award; please make a comment on this blog post by midnight, Friday, March 11, 2011. Be sure to include your e-mail address in the comments so that I can get in touch with you.   Thank you.

 

Val Mallinson, Author of Dog Lover’s Companion Books

Cooper and Isis told Val Mallinson what to put in her books

Today we welcome the premier Northwest dog writer, Val Mallinson, to the blog. If it’s in Washington, Oregon or parts of British Columbia and you can take your dog there, she knows about it. Her books are very handy guides for discovering new and different places to take your furry friends.

How many dogs do you have, what are their names and breeds?

Val:  I have two smooth coat, miniature dachshunds, Cooper and Isis. Both are rescues and collectively known as “The Wonder Wieners.” But, I like to tell people I wrote the book from the perspective of a large, sloppy chocolate Lab, which I’m convinced I was in a former life.

How many Dog Lover Companion books have you written?

Val:  There are three: The Dog Lover’s Companion to the Pacific Northwest, which covers Washington and Oregon from the mountains to the coast and a little bit of British Columbia; The Dog Lover’s Companion to Seattle, which extends from Everett to Olympia and the islands to Issaquah; and The Dog Lover’s Companion to Oregon, which covers, um, Oregon.

The books are so thorough. How long does it take you to write one?

Val:  The first book took two years, full time and then some, from contract to cover. The latest edition, updated in 2009, took about nine months, like a birth – sometimes as uncomfortable as a pregnancy, almost as rewarding.

Do you actually visit all the places you talk about in the book?

Val:  Yes, M’am. Our collective 10 legs, six eyes, and three bodies (sometimes four bodies, if the husband came) have visited every single spot we wrote about.

In Washington State, what are your favorite places to take dogs?

Val:  Our favorite place is always the most recent one we’ve visited! One thing I like about the books is that there’s a “Pick of the Litter” at the beginning of each chapter, giving you the highlights of each region. If forced to choose, I’d have to start with water: Whidbey Island. The dog parks and beaches are great (Double Bluff Beach!!!), the people are so friendly, the picnic food is superb, and it’s so close to Seattle, yet seems a world apart. Second on the list would be mountains: Bellingham/Mt. Baker. Cooper loves a good hike in the woods or around Lake Whatcom on the Hertz Trail. Old Fairhaven has charm, delicious food and great shops and you can take well-behaved pets into most of the boutiques along the four blocks. Finally, Lake Chelan has really captured our interest lately, for the water, mountains, sunny blue skies and (slurp) up-and-coming wine scene. Page 357 of The Dog Lover’s Companion to the Pacific Northwest (TDLCPN) lists seven fabulous wineries where pets are welcome to hang out with you on patios while you wine and dine.

Which lodging facilities in Washington are the most accommodating to dogs?

Val:  Some wonderful spots go out of their way to be as friendly as a Golden Retriever. To name a few, Willows Lodge in Woodinville is the tops; they even have a dog greeter in the lobby. In Seattle, the W Hotel puts the “W” in tail-wagging; they often host Mutt Mixer parties along with CityDog Magazine, and they have a pet package at check-in.

For upscale hotels, try Starwood Hotels . I tell you what, on the cheap, you can’t beat Motel 6—they are reliably dog-friendly, conveniently located, and their website lists all the locations that have recently been updated and overhauled to look quite nice.

What is Washington’s best-kept dog-secret?

Val:  If I told you, I’d have to ki—no wait, different job. Okay, if I’m a dog, I’m going to recommend the ends of the earth at Cape Disappointment State Park on Long Beach Peninsula. The beaches are endless, the hikes are wooded, you often have the place to yourself, and the food and lodging are constantly improving. Hint: Try the Inn at Discovery Coast. Or Guemes Island, page 48 in TDLCPN, but you really have to want to get away from it all.

Best Easy Day Hikes Tacoma by Allen Cox

I’m not much of a hiker, although I aspire to be. It’s the joint pain that kind of dampens the whole endeavor. But not to fear, I recently met another writer who has written hiking books and this one on Tacoma looks great. Most of them look like something I could do.

Allen Cox frequently writes about outdoor activities in Washington State

 

I’ll let Allen Cox tell you a little about the book and his writing.

How long have you been writing?

Allen:  I’ve been writing as a freelancer for nonfiction markets for about four years. Before that, I did a lot of business writing in a former marketing career, and I’ve written two novels, both still unpublished.

What prompted you to start writing?

Allen:  Travel prompted me to start writing, first in my fiction and now in travel, food and wine writing. There are so many aspects to travel that it offers nearly an infinite palette of topics and angles for a writer.

With a title, “Best Easy Day Hikes,” what was your criterion for “easy?”  How did you decide on “best?”

Allen:  Since the book is part of a series, the publisher came up with the title, and my editor set the criterion for easy: “No death marches.” That meant short to moderate distances and no extreme elevation gain. Choosing the best hikes was entirely up to me; I was born and raised in Tacoma, so I already had a list of favorites.

Have you experienced all the hikes you wrote about in this book?

Allen:  Yes, I did every hike in the book with a GPS device, a notepad and pen.

Which one of the hikes is your favorite?

Allen:  That’s a tough choice. I guess my personal favorite is the “Glacier View Wilderness Area: Puyallup Trail #248 to Goat Lake (near Mt. Rainier).” Mountain wilderness hikes are rarely classified as easy, but this one covers some dazzling sub-alpine terrain; most of the elevation gain is in the car on the drive to the trailhead.

You’ve listed “canine compatibility” for each hike. Do you hike with a dog?

Allen:  No, I’m a cat person and they hate hiking. But many hikers do take their dogs along on the trail. I wanted this book to inform them which trails are officially dog friendly.

The book is small and light. Was it designed that way on purpose?

Allen:  It was designed to be easy to stuff into a pack, pocket or glove compartment. The publisher determined the book’s maximum number of pages for that reason.

How long did it take you to write this book?

Allen:  Including my research on the trail, about three months.

Which hike would you recommend for a real beginner?

Allen:  Actually, any hike in the book would be perfect for a beginner. Each hike offers different points of interest with relatively little physical exertion. I’d suggest an urban hike, perhaps the first one listed – the Ruston Way Waterfront in Tacoma.

Some of hikes listed aren’t really in Tacoma. How were those chosen?

Allen:  If a hike is not in Tacoma, the trailhead is within roughly 1.5 hours from the center of the city. That way, if you live in Tacoma, each hike is easily accessible without putting a lot of mileage on the car.

To read more about Allen’s work and his books, visit www.allencox.org.

Meet David Williams: He Has Visited Every City in Washington

David had his photo taken in front of the post office at every city in Washington he visited.

Although Washington’s scenery is splendid and our attractions can be awe-inspiring, when you get right down to what makes our state special, it’s the people who make our region spectacular. I recently heard about a gentleman who realized his goal of visiting every city in Washington State in a little over four years and wanted to hear more about how he accomplished this. David Williams, marketing analyst by day and Washington State explorer by night and on week-ends, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

 How did you strategize your travels in order to achieve your goal of visiting all 493 cities in four years?

David:  In order not to miss any cities, I spent several weeks studying road maps, zip code boundaries and Washington State’s incorporated cities table. In the end I decided that the best method would be to visit the cities county by county. I would pick a county, invite my friends or family members who were interested in going with me, make sure we had a place to spend the night, and then hit the road.

 What knowledge did you gain about Washington by visiting every city?

David:  Being a Washington State history buff, I have read many books on the subject and figured nothing would surprise me. Driving the highways and byways of Washington State gave me first-hand experience into the state’s natural regions. Understanding that Washington State is broken into five natural regions, it wasn’t until I physically immersed myself in them that I truly appreciated the beauty of Washington State.

 I also met people I wouldn’t have otherwise. In the small town of Starbuck (nothing to do with the coffee), in Columbia County, I met the Mayor. When I purchased some snacks from her at the general store, and asked a few questions she told me she was the Mayor. She also pointed out the highlights of the 143-resident town. You never know who you are going to meet when you take the time to talk to people.

 What city or town surprised you the most?

David:  Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. Before I started this project I’d never set foot on San Juan Island. Because Roche Harbor has a post office, I knew I had to visit that town. Roche Harbor is unlike any other place in Washington. Once a company town for the Tacoma and Roche Harbor Lime Company, which was run by John McMillin, Roche Harbor now has a mausoleum where the entire McMillin family is buried. After asking a few questions about the community, I decided I should spend the night and check things out. With a nineteen-acre art walk park, marina, general store, the Hotel de Haro, and a great seafood restaurant, I was quite surprised by how much I fell in love with Roche Harbor. I know it sounds like it, but I do not work for the Roche Harbor Tourism office.

 What town has the strangest name?

David:  Humptulips in Grays Harbor County. Even though it is a Native-American term meaning “chilly region,” it sounds strange when you say it.

How much time did you devote to this goal of visiting every city?

I gave myself five years (January 2001 to December 2005) to visit all of the cities on my list, but managed to complete the project in four years, eight months. At the end of the project, to say thank you to everyone that traveled with me, I had a lunch party and awards ceremony at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. Along with a video presentation, I gave personalized awards to all of my friends and family members who supported me on the project. At the lunch party I announced my decision to continue my project by creating a Phase Two (completed in June 2008) and a Phase Three; which I am currently involved with now. I have already decided to add a Phase Four which will start sometime in 2015.

To read more about David’s other projects, visit www.visiteverycityinwashingtonstate.com