October 1st through 10th 2014, Travels to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Utah

Late awakening, flush out our tanks and onward to Canoga Park Elks Lodge near Los Angeles to visit family and find out what’s ailing Ribbit.

Poor Ribbit. First a new transmission in The Woodlands, tires wore out miles ahead of schedule in Roseburg, license plate incident in Portland, radiator sprung a leak in Pismo Beach that had to be replaced in Canoga Park and when we thought it was going to be smooth sailing through to Texas, the Remco pump that is keeping the transmission fluid circulating wouldn’t fully connect to LilyPad so we listen to an un-appreciated buzz for the five hour drive to Las Vegas. Ribbit’s first seven years was without incident until we forcibly yanked it from its spacious garage and drug it bouncing along behind LilyPad. The roads chronically pounding punishment is becoming noticeable on Ribbit and my body totally relates.

A pause at Peggy Sue’s, the 50’s burger joint in the middle of the desert. Great burgers, great fun to check out each room stuffed with old movie memorabilia for décor and wander through the 50’s souvenir gift shop after eating.

Peggy Sue's Diner

Of all the lands through which we have traveled, the desert is the hardest for me to find descriptives for its beauty. During the day, one would be hard pressed to find its redeeming qualities. It takes a concentrated effort to make something sandy, rocky, monotone, desiccated and scorched into appealing. And if it weren’t for the occasional rolling terrain and sporadic sprigs of sun dried green, even its shape would be non-descript. Guessing that the spring rains bring a spark of color to the dismal view.

The Desert

Our route traversed us through Utah, Arizona and Utah again, Arizona looking as monotone but mountainous.

Arizona

Death Valley, aptly named when you spend hours driving through rock, sand and dead stuff, has a spark of interest when the stream of glittering white salt flats flow across the sand.

Salt Flats

Entering The Mohave National Preserve, ornamented primarily with Joshua Trees and their eerily stretched black furry arms reaching towards the sun, their only sign of life being the dark green spiked pompoms at the end of each arm.

Joshua Trees

Arrived in Las Vegas and settled, with trepidation, into the North Las Vegas Elks Lodge RV graveled parking lot. An eight foot high cement wall surrounds our site, multi-colored tagging adorned the outside of the wall and snuck onto the back of an RV closest to the entrance. The Lodge is located in the highest crime area of Las Vegas. Not sure if these surroundings, reminiscent of an exercise yard for the incarcerated felons in old movies, were to keep us in, or them, whoever “them” is, out. In comparison to our stay of the last two years, the appropriate description for this stay is “scary prison”.

North Las Vegas Elks Lodge   Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort site

The area came complete with a palm tree out front tagged on two sides and our corner stop sign adorned with bullet holes.

Bullet holes

First of four Las Vegas days were spent chasing down parts for Ribbit and finding grocery stores. Our not-to-miss tourist stop, Las Vegas Distillery, began with Jason giving us a tour of the warehouse and explaining the in’s and out’s of refining moonshine. His humorous anecdotes about yeast eating the barley mash and pooping out alcohol, then dying on the farts, were greatly appreciated comic relief. After tasting their nine offerings, two being new, we were very relaxed and ready to squirrel away our box of Grandma’s Apple Pie Moonshine jars into Ribbit before returning to LilyPad.

Jason at Las Vegas Distillery

Next morning I made a point of suggesting we visit Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area as the Government had closed it down our last trip.  Complete with a marvelous welcome center, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area was well worth our returning to explore.

Red Rock Canyon Leave nothing but footprints

The Keystone Thrust Fault, a fracture in the earth’s crust where one rock plate is thrust horizontally over another, is noticeable even before leaving town. The plates slating upwards being the most significant geologic feature, the colors were what drew me to the Canyon. Grey limestone and red sandstone, millions of years old, shaped by ice and water, frozen in time with miles of hiking paths wandering beside, between and over their tops.

Hiking paths

The drive, 13 miles long, availed pull outs throughout the conservation area for parking. Hikers of all skills, paths of varied lengths and a children’s trail, doable for me, dotted with interesting Indian relics over the mile hike.  A small water flow resulted in the only touch of color blooming along the trail.

flowering desert

Heat hid the burro’s, fox, tortoise and rodents. The drive presented many wonderful vantage points for Kodak Moments of the fascinating crossed-bedded Aztec sandstone.

13 mile drive Morning view of the red sandstone

As evening approached, Vegas began to appear in the distance and the red, white and brown sandstone was framed with the glow of the sun’s rays.

Las Vegas valley Sunset in the Canyon

Morning arrived and we are finally set free from time served at North Las Vegas Elks Lodge RV. Now to continue our adventures traveling along red, white and brown canyon sandstones. Tonight we arrive at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab Utah.

September 24th through September 30th, 2014 Our Final Days at Lone Pine Group Campground and Journey Home

Perfectly relaxing, wine drinking cheese and salami munching sendoff for our neighbor hosts, Will and Ken at Rock Creek. Next begins the arduous task of stuffing our whole nine yards back into LilyPad and the commencement of our journey back to Texas.

The wedding party campers stayed one overnight, leaving early and skirting the rain that was due on their departing morning. With three campsites used out of eleven, our final tasks, on our last working morning of the Lone Pine Group Campground host volunteer position experience, were few. Rake fire pits, empty trash, sanitize vaults, mow both lawns, strip our golf cart bare, store tools, lock wood shed, swing shut and lock our huge heavy metal gate. Lone Pine is immaculately clean and tucked in for the winter.

A heavy misted fog crept along the tree tops as we pulled out of Lone Pine for the last time. The brilliant yellow leaves of our Big Leaf Maple had dropped from their branches even before turning full color but the tantalizing fragrance of the Pine and Sequoyah that dominate the peaceful Umpqua National Forest more than made up for the loss.

Hundreds of times we have traversed this winding road, passing less than two vehicles coming or going. This morning, three semi’s, six pick-em-ups and seven cars whizzed by, causing an avoidance of vehicles around nearly every turn. John and I had our travels over curvy Rock Creek’s one-plus-a-smidge logging road down to a science. The 20 minutes it takes to get from Lone Pine to its tee into Rt. 38 is driven with me at the lead, walkie-talkie in hand, far enough ahead to let John know something’s on its way. On my notice, he pulls over until it passes and I stop until I see him in my rear view mirror again. For our departure, we stopped nearly three times per mile so it took double the time.

A return visit to an overnight at Seven Feathers Resort RV Park in Canyonville, Oregon. One of the few true Resort RV Parks and a very enjoyable stay. In the morning we leave for Redding CA to visit an old friend from our youthfully wild days in Chico, CA.

Long road trips require exploring ways to keep us both entertained and new boredom killers are the job requirements of the one sitting in the passenger seat. Along with keeping an eye on the GPS directions, I take this task seriously. It is always a relief to find something of interest to discuss while rolling along. Passing “Jump Off Joe Creek” led to exploring how it got its name. Entering the town of Weed with its entrance sign stating “Weed like to welcome you!” produced a few chuckles.

The scenery was rocky and straw colored with puffs of dark green stuck into the ground with dark brown sticks. They speckled the barren pasture lands as we made our way to Redding and what I believe to be the hottest part of California. In the distance, Mount Shasta.

Mount Shasta

California has been in the news for several years affirming the drought that befell the land over the last few years. I was unprepared for the shocking loss of water in one of California’s largest reservoirs, Shasta Lake. The blue has receded from the Lakes fingers, replaced by barely moist mud. There are more absent water lines than there is water.

Fingers of Lake Shasta Shasta Lake

Our overnight was the Redding Elks Lodge RV Park and the friendliest Lodge in California. After settling, we threw back a few at the bar. Next to us sat a gentleman that graduated in 1953 from John’s alma mater, Chico State University. Meeting up with our friends in the Elks Lodge bar, the five of us chatted up old times before our dinner reservation.

Redding Elks Lodge

Jack’s Grill was our destination for dinner. Housed in the Morrison Building, its décor offers a peak into the off colored era that has long disappeared.

Built by Bill Morrison in 1935, the building was used as a mercantile with living quarters above until 1938. Leased to John “Jack” Young, a WWII fighter pilot that flew for the Lafayette Escadrille in France, he opened Jack’s Grill and a brothel upstairs. In 1941, Fat Woolf purchased Jack’s and maintained the “soiled doves”. Morrison, furious over the use of the 2nd floor, padlocked the upstairs in 1943. The Stanley’s, Morrison’s daughter and son-in-law, bought Jack’s and ran it until her death in 1991. Her husband, an accomplished pianist, played for the customers until his death in 1962. Bill Morrison Jr. managed Jack’s from 1960-1977. Don Conley became manager, purchasing the business and property in 1992.

Jack’s continues to be a link to the wild days of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and an historic site offering a window into the “heydays” of Redding, CA.

Void of flamboyance but still retaining original bathroom fixtures and lighting fixtures, foodie wise, steaks are their specialty. You enter into a dark, cramped, overflowing with humanity room, one side bordered by a vintage bar and friendly bar patrons politely crowding in with dinner guests. Without much stretch of the imagination, you could envision ladies-of-the-night strolling up to the bar.

To our surprise, our Waitress Extraordinaire was Denise, mother of Megan Rapinoe, US women’s national soccer team. She posed with Lew providing me with an excellent Kodak Moment.

Lew and Denise Rapinoe

While we slept, Charlotte had constructed a colossal web and hung around all night waiting for dinner.  In the morning, John moved her to the chain link fence where she stayed until we left Redding.

Overnight web

Next day’s adventure with friends Lew and Sue took us to Whiskeyville Lake with a lunch stop at Millhouse Deli, a delightfully eclectic diner serving a variety of home-made noon meal delights. Sun tea sat brewing in a jar on the rail as John and Lew waited for me to do my picture taking thing. We sat on the back enclosed porch and chatted long after our comfort food was consumed.

Millhouse Deli

Toured Whiskeyville Lake area and stopped to check out the host site for future reference. Winter might be a nice time for us to consider hosting at this peaceful lake RV park when we return in a few years but only if the water stays.

Whiskeytown Lake The birds on Whiskeyville Lake

On the way back to the Lodge we stopped to watch vintage cars with couples dressed in vintage clothing wander the area.

Whiskeyville Vintage in Whiskeyville

Leaving this a.m. for San Jose. Travels today were hot, hot, hot. How hot was it, you ask? It was so hot, the birds had to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground.

Arrived at San Jose Elks Lodge RV park, second drink free in the lounge, In-and-Out Burger for dinner, fussy 50 amp fuse box that thought 102 degree heat was to exhausting for it to oblige. After popping fuses and trying numerous ideas, the 2 a.m. solution was to plug into the outlet of the empty site behind us. Success!

Memory fades and negative over-the-road driving conditions are forgotten until you pass that way again. California highways are ill marked, notices of closed entrances are not reported to GPS programs resulting in our GPS claiming “off route!” repeatedly. Broiling sun, numerous dips in the roads, constant cracks and continual unleveled breaks in the road, a spine hammering ride that would make even the multi-million dollar Prevost yelp with frustration and exclaim OMG, what are California road taxes going towards? We couldn’t have jostled, bounced, rattled and shook more had we been in a covered wagon on dirt roads. Sorry home state of California but your roads SUCK!

Next morning, On the Road Again, Willies melodic Southern croon awakens us to greet another day of extensively high heat travel. A slight reprieve from the heat while passing through forests of Eucalyptus trees, uphill and down, with MPG oscillating between 3 uphill and 52 downhill for the next 100 miles.

Diesel stop, stuck behind a trucker with a Christian remark posted on his back door, blocking pump 22 at Pilot for over a half hour.

Christian Truck Driver

This guy is nowhere to be found and his rudeness at parking at the pump was an understatement. Still boiling outside, uncomfortable sitting and not feeling forgiving for the outrageously lengthy wait, I dialed the number on the back of the truck and let loose! Inconsiderate, un-Christian, explained that we were unable to back up without detaching our car, unhappy about the extremely long wait, I got my pain induced, heat exhausted frustration out of my system as I politely pounced on the young man that answered. He promised he would pass on the info to the Christian owner. Still waiting, the driver came out, opened up his truck hood and began pouring in additives! Grrrr! A giant Russian, 6 foot plus, I approached him and told him it was time for him to move as we had waited long enough. John reiterated. Grumbling, he moved. Kept our fingers crossed that he wasn’t part of the Russian Mafia and kept a watchful eye on our rear as we drove on down the road.

Salinas Valley and Gonzales, the area that borders the long stretch of El Camino Real Hwy 101, is in constant motion with tractors busting up dirt clods and causing dusty dirt devils to spin-out across open fields.  Intermittent fields are green and ready for harvest,  crews bent over crops behind machines that move their pickings into boxes, carrying fresh produce to be delivered to local stores so we can make a selection, pay, drive home and enjoy the fruits of their hard labor.

Machine harvest workers

When I was young, workers weren’t given water breaks, they lived in tents or cars and no facilities were provided. Conditions only slightly improved as the owners now provide shacks for their workers, give water breaks and have port-a-potties in the fields. The job of migrant farm worker is far down my list of employment druthers, miles further down than the distasteful task of cleaning vault toilets.

Field harvest workers

Pismo Beach Elks Lodge, one block from the beach, a re-visit from last year and our overnight. After checking in, Ribbit decided to pitch a fit about the heat and sprung a leak in the radiator. Water dripping, we drove with a full gallon of radiator fluid to our dinner destination.

Clouds behind the sun provided us with a spectacular good night Sunset on Oceano Beach. Cane and camera in hand, I marched over the sand to the water’s edge, took pictures and marched back. Long treks across sand are never a good decision with my ankle but an hour in my cryo-cuff and getting awesome pictures make it totally worthwhile.

Pismo Beach Sunset

Next morning Ribbit’s radiator level was only slightly down so we topped off the fluid, drove to a Laundromat to do the wash and paused at the monarch Butterfly Park on the way back. The expansive flocks of Monarch’s are not due back until November but a few sat lazily on the gigantic Eucalyptus trees.  Leaves and branches twitched with orange color while we relaxed on a bench inhaling the soothing vapors from the trees and watching butterflies float through the air.

Small bunch of Monarchs Monarchs on a twig

We awoke to the sound of small aircraft overhead and strolled outside for a breath of fresh sea air.  Parked at the Elks Lodge back entrance was the Sheriff Department’s Viper Cop Car.  Ceasing the Kodak Moment, I asked him to pose for my blog and he politely agreed.  Now I know where all that California road repair money is going!  Actually, it was a drug bust seizure and he was lucky enough to regularly have access to the car.

Sheriff's Viper Pismo Beach Elks Lodge

Football, Dinner, more football and the day was gone. Sunset picture of LilyPad in the Oceano Elks Lodge RV Park,

Elks RV Park, Oceano Beach

sunset picture of Oceano Beach,

Oceano Beach sunset

sundown picture of Pismo Beach from the docks and another day slipped into night.

Sundown Pismo Beach Dock

September 14th through 24th, 2014 Last trip to Portland and Brookings OR

Three free days in our future so a trip to Portland to visit family was immediately added to our Oregon Experience Itinerary. La Quinta, its pet friendly rooms, free breakfast and quiet location continues to be our favorite Portland overnight.

Timberline Lodge, the closest lodge to the top of Mount Hood, outdoor scenery filming for The Shining, was scheduled for our day trip destination.

The Shining

The classis 1980 British-American psychological horror film, produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Shelley Duvall and Jack Nicholson was filmed on the grounds of the historic Timberline Lodge. The original maze that was used in the film has long been removed but the Lodge, for itself alone, is worth the visit.

The Shining, in case the story’s plot has evaded your memory, is about frustrated writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) who takes a job as the winter caretaker at the ominous, mountain-locked Overlook Hotel so that he can write in peace. When he arrives there with his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son, they learn that the previous caretaker had gone mad. Slowly Jack becomes possessed by the evil, demonic presence in the hotel.

Mt. Hood from the Lodge

The Lodge was not used for the indoor scenes but the Lodge’s past is an amazing part of our countries history.

Completed in 1937 and dedicated September 28th by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Lodge was a project of the Works Progress Administration and completed by Oregonians, with Oregon lumber during the depression.

Timberline Lodge  Dedication Plaque

Our original plan was to overnight here and enjoy the trails, however, the sky high view also came with a sky high price. The least expensive room was $130.00 per night and consisted of one set of bunk beds, a window and an entrance door. Restrooms were down the hall. Nope, don’t think I would enjoy the experience. We settled for a docent Ranger led tour and lunch with a view.

Mount Hood

Our docent was an excellent speaker and knowledgeable about every little detail of this remarkable Lodge. Imparting information about the Oregonians who used anvils to hand forged the door hardware, gates and boot scrapes, all with amazing details,

Anvil and tools  Boot scrape Hand forged hardware

to the woodcarvers who hand fashioned detailed forest creatures out of solid tree trunks and amazing wood carvings on walls and doors,

hand carved newel post Side doorLower Lodge entrance

to stone cutters chiseling designs into the massive stones that make up the three story fireplace,

Main Lobby  Fireplace stone carving

to tails of the first skiers who took advantage of the chill averting roaring fires before climbing up the staircase to their rooms after a day on the slopes.

Lower lodge fireplace  Original room

From the casual first floor reserved for skiers, up side steps to the main lobby, we exited an open door to look out over the valley.

Side staircase  View from the Main Lobby Road to Mt. Hood

Re-entering, the docent pointed out the 1,100 pound door, so perfectly weighted that it swings open with a slight push from one finger. Exceptionally impressive wood and iron work.

Front Door

From start to finish, a perfectly enjoyable day with family.

Early morning rise, packed up to depart for Lone Pine, one last breakfast with family. Bags in hand, walked behind Ribbit and stopped short. Ribbit’s rear license plate was gone. Walked back into the office, called the police, got a grouchy officer that yelled every time I tried to ask questions, ended up cutting the conversation short, hanging up to call back after we filed a report with the hotel.

With trepidation, I again called the police on the way to breakfast and got a nice officer who explained that I could do the whole procedure on line. Thankful that I didn’t have to deal with the grouch, we filed the paperwork while we ate.  Saying our good-byes to family, John took the front license plate and put it on the back and we began our journey home to Lone Pine. Two hours into the ride, we got a call from an officer who reminded us not to use our front license plate as it was now reported as a stolen plate. Quick stop to remove the license and continued driving with no license plates on either end.

On the way up and back to Portland, fires surrounded the freeway bringing thick choking smoke that blanketed the Eugene valley. Had to put on my Michael Jackson mask to breath and kept our air intake shut for several hours of the trip.

Smoke from the fires near Eugene

Back at Lone Pine we settled back into our routine and finished prepping for the next group.

Blue Grass Jam going on at IdleYld Lodge this early evening. Banjo, guitar, fiddle, base and mandolin jammed for two hours with special guest singers. In this land of multitudes of microbrewery beers, we drank Moose Drool while enjoying the tunes.

Blue Grass Jam

Foot stomping for Cotton Eyed Joe, clapping and foot tapping along with the Battle of New Orleans,

Cotten Eyed Joe

reverently joining in the chorus of a guest gospel singers original song written for his younger brother. Catchy tune now stuck in my head.

Gospel Singers

Returning while still daylight to check on our group campers and packing for our last family trip, visiting my dad in Brookings.  Soon we will leave our peace on earth for Kanab Utah.

A slow paced four hour drive to Brookings along the coast, we made our farewell stops at old familiar haunts and arrived at Otter Terrace Bed and Breakfast for the next two overnights. Spacious comfy room.  John could not help a cantankerous grimacing when asked to “smile”.

Our room

Awesome seal barking view of the ocean from the deck a few steps from our room.

View from the deck Barking seals from the deck

A herd of wild deer strolled around the neighborhood, unafraid of humans, stopping traffic and staring down anyone they happened upon.  Our hostess mentioned that no one in the neighborhood was able to plant anything editable without them finding and stripping the plants bare.

Our heard of deer

Delightful tranquil visit but duty called and propelled us through the newly arriving dense fog and cold rain, pausing only for three specialty stops while homeward bound.

We had noticed Kate’s on the way up and a wake-up call was beckoning after our early rise for the journey back.  If nothing else, our passages through tiny towns has availed us to invitingly friendly and unique characters, of which, for Oregon, this was momentous.

Tasty Kates Cafe

Definite hippie ambiance exploding with psychedelic colors on the outside, some seeping inside and spreading itself throughout the interior, mixing with aromas of fresh baked wonders and freshly brewed coffee before settling in the smiles of its patrons.

Entrance to Kates

Kate’s seating was one long banquet table snugly tucked into the solitary open space, with varied styles of chairs scooched in around its edges. Several couples had already arrived and seated, were chatting and enjoying their selections. When we sat, we were drawn into the conversation, a protest that was supposed to happen all across the US, the amazement being that these were not the hugely Democratic majority that populated the state of Oregon. Finding like-minded citizens and speaking freely about our opinions was a refreshing change of pace. Sometimes you find the most fascinating people in the most unexpected places.

Kate with her tasty treats

Harvest, best described as a hippy market, had a delightfully surprising interior.  Everything for the home gardener, winery and beer entrepreneur, fresh organic spices and herbs, an enormous bouquet of bottled scents, mysterious organic produce, heritage grains and a top to bottom wall covering refrigerated case with every brand of Oregon microbrewery offerings you could imagine. The bathroom had music festival posters from the last few decades plastered on every inch of the walls. Best part…huge purple perfectly ripe fresh-picked organic figs invitingly perched on the checkout counter. I didn’t hesitate in purchasing a handful, the first one gone immediately, the rest within the hour.

Harvest Inside Harvest

Just outside of Roseburg we came upon Spangler Winery.  It didn’t take much convincing for John to drive one block to the tasting room.

Spangler Winery Spangler tasting room

Inside we were greeted by three humongous Akita’s.  John got his petting “big dog” fix, we tasted a few reds but nothing came back to LilyPad.

Akita big dog fix

We arrived at Lone Pine and began our last responsibility as Hosts Extraordinaire, making ready for our last group campground guests of the season.

September 1st through September 13th, 2014 Meet up lunch with BLM Hosts, Last Wine Tastings, Final Waterfall Hikes

Breakfast at Idleyld Lodge on this lovely cool morning with our Susan Creek Campground Host friends. They are the first hosts to depart from our group of BLM campground hosts but we will meet up again in Corsicana, TX, their next workamp position, in the land of “best fruitcake in the country” baked by Collin Street Bakery.

The owners of Idleyld Lodge, Ron and his wife, are owner/operators of this blended bed and breakfast/café/bar and event venue. Ron is a friendly unconventional entertaining character, a real go getter. They purchased this Lodge last year just before we arrived for our hosting position at Mill Pond Campground and have nearly made it into the black, an amazing feat in this blink and you’ll miss it, almost a town, in Idleyld Park Oregon.

Idleyld Lodge

The four of us, and a friendly tag along camper couple from Susan Creek, dined together enduring the playful taunts from Ron at every possible verbal opportunity. He memorized every order, teased us by purposely mixing up each order as he repeated them back, then delivered to us all exactly what we ordered. After breakfast, he broke out his card tricks, amazing us and everyone else in the café. When asked about his “magic balls” (we were told to ask) he produced three red sponge balls and was able to transfer them back and forth between he and guests, through closed fists, with just a tap. A most pleasurable, engaging and delicious breakfast.

Owner Ron and card tricks

Back to the campground to prep for our incoming group. After chores, an email from Ray and Karen inviting us to a joint farewell host lunch at Elmer’s in Roseburg was accepted with just a confirming mention to John. Any social time is eagerly sought after and a chance to spend an enjoyable few more hours with Ray and Karen before we all head our separate ways was a priority event.

Soon our flock of cheerful campground hosts will end their volunteer stints and go forth, each in their own directions. Ray and Karen volunteered down from us at Eagle Rock last year and hosted the other group campground this year.  Ken and Will, hosts for Eagle Rock this year, and Dyana hosting at Tyee, were all gathered together by invitation from Ray for a farewell lunch at Elmer’s diner in Roseburg and the best of us showed up to chat and wish each other safe travels.

End of season Host Lunch

The journey to Roseburg, being 45 minutes away from our campground and the closest major town, gave us the opportunity to pick up supplies and check out the few remaining wineries left on the Roseburg Oregon Wine Tour Circuit.

After several people told us we must stop at Hill Crest Winery, the oldest Estate Winery in Oregon, we detoured from grocery shopping and drove to our 14th Oregon winery.

Hill Crest Vineyard

Not ever having ventured out during harvest time, we had no clue how they kept the birds from eating the grapes until we opened the car door and heard loud booming shots echoing from every direction about 20 seconds apart. Being a Texan at heart, logic told me gun shots meant hunting so I paused with the door open, told John “I hope someone isn’t shooting in our direction” and bolted into the tasting room. We all had a good laugh when the wine hostess told us about the air cannons used to scare the birds off the grapes. Impressive wine tasting room, friendly dogs, beautiful drive out. Wine likes and dislikes are very personal and neither of us enjoyed their offerings so nothing returned with us to LilyPad. That being said, Hill Crest Winery would not have lasted this long if it didn’t have a large following of wine connoisseurs, many entering while we tasted and were taking home cases.

Hill Crest Tasting room

Last, but certainly not least, was the very charming Melrose Winery, its friendly wine hostess and the pack of sweet lazy fur family members. Great blends of interesting reds, happily chatting hostess, warm inviting tasting room, we took home another impressive red and paused to pet pups before departing.

Melrose Winery

The winery overlooked a peaceful grassy lawn that served as an event area and tables were placed outside on the porch to enjoy a glass or a bottle of wine or microbrewery beer.

Melrose Event Area

John was in need of additional quantities of Kruse Farms awesomely delicious tomatoes. Picking direct from their fields, we haven’t tasted tomatoes this full of flavor and firm to the bite since our bicycling trips along Chico’s farming field roads back before we were married, over 42 years ago. Tomato sandwiches are on the menu for every one of our lunches next week.

Kruse Farms  Best tomatoes ever

Musical notes floated around the Market, accentuated with banjo pickers and strumming guitars while the shoppers carefully chose their produce. We have enjoyed purchasing the wonderful fresh and flavorful veggies and fruits from Kruse Farms Market, one of the best produce shopping experiences in Oregon.

Music and fresh produce

Back at Lone Pine, our campers are settled and the next few days are ours to enjoy, minus the few minutes a day it takes us to sanitize the vaults, replace toilet paper, smile hugely and repeat continually that we are at their service for whatever they may need to make their camping experience enjoyable.

This being our last month, we planned to visit the few remaining easy and moderate hikes left on our dwindling list of Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway waterfalls. An early start immediately after chores took us down an extended dusty dirt road that brought us to an easy footpath stroll to Warm Springs Falls, said to be remarkably consistent with its 60 foot flow fall. Ribbit was hidden under dust upon arrival.

Arrival at trail to Warm Springs Falls

The foot path leading to the falls was lined with gigantic wild Rhododendrons that bloom June and July.

Wild Rhododendron

The Warm Springs Creek thunders over a columnar basalt formation into a mossy arena below. Being a football field away did not deter the spray rising from the tumbling cascade and dampening us with a cooling mist.

Warm Springs Falls

This being my birthday, I chose to revisit my favorite waterfall, Clearwater Falls. The path was permeated with soft soil and thousands of intertwined roots stretch across the walkway and snake into the crystal clear waters that flow from the falls. The waterfall appears to be erupting from a wall of fallen tree trunks, steal gray rocks and green mossy roots.

Clear Water Falls

The waters that pool below are, in places, four feet deep but so clear your eyes believe it has no depth at all.

Clear Water Falls from trail  4 ft deep water

Home again, home again, to bid adieu to our outgoing group.  Enjoyable church gathering of families that departed leaving the campground as all should, taking nothing but pictures, leaving nothing but footprints. Sanitizing and cleaning out the fire pits was the only chore required and as they drove out, they handed John a personalized Thank You card for keeping the campground spotless and providing them with the friendliest of camping experiences. Times like these truly make hosting a worthwhile volunteer adventure.

Lone Pine Thank You Card

Nighttime draws near.  I am positioned near the edge of our driveway, rocking in my rocker lawn chair, gazing up at the rapidly darkening daylight sky’s, black little bat wings fluttering at sonic speeds narrowly missing my head, more still awakening and whizzing sporadically past to begin their nightly munching on the zillions of miniscule flying snacks speckling the air.

The stars begin their appearance, one piercing light after another until the sky is a sparkling mass of radiant twinkles. Slowly our group of deer step from the wooded area that surrounds us and strut boldly onto the expansive gravel parking lot. They pause, watching me for movement, their eyes luminous in the near dark, then continue on across, bounding over the wooden rails, to the ball field with its green blades of grass still growing from their nightly watering that will continue until the season ends. Not a man-made sound is heard until our air conditioner breaks the silence.  Peace and tranquility among natures forest creatures in the middle of the Umpqua National Forest.

August 23rd through 31st, 2014 Warrenton, Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Tillamook, OR

Gorgeous day for our next road trip, sunny but cool, fluffy white marshmallow clouds dropping shadows over the tree tops. This time we are taking LilyPad, Ribbit bringing up the rear. First overnight will be Portland, OR and Liz had several must-do plans.

Our only disappointing excursion this family time was the Portland Italian Festival. Mangiamo was not happening for these three Italians. All of us were somewhat dismayed by the passing off of pizza, spaghetti and gelato, totally unimaginative and cliché foods, as Italian festival fare. Our conclusion was that there isn’t much of an Italian population in Portland, at least not the verbally expressive sort that demand excellent food and make up “la famiglia mia”. Nothing else but food and music, the singer being just OK, we left within the hour.

Italian Festival Portland

Remembering last year’s visit, we were all looking forward to the Portland Saturday Market. Humongous, a neighborhood unto itself, original art, crafts, music, food and a dancing water’s fountain for the mini kids, a you-must-do-this stop when in Portland. The sound of Tam Tam’s followed us around the Market, intermittently interrupted by guitars, street singers and a few horn solo’s .

Portland Market Tam Tams Portland Market

Along the Market path we passed Portland’s VooDoo Doughnut Shop but the line stretched around the block and our former experience with aching teeth and tummies caused us to veer away and take in the rest of the expansive Market offerings before its closing.

VooDoo lines

So many choices for dinner but The Old Spaghetti Factory won out for its reasonable prices, gluten free choices and being nearby when the hunger bug bit. Back to LilyPad for our nights rest in anticipation of an early morning departure for our final family reunion destination, Lewis and Clark Golf and RV Park in Astoria.

Lewis and Clark RV Park, Astoria, OR

Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter of 1805-1806 at Fort Clatsop, a small log structure south and west of modern-day Astoria. It was abandoned after a long hard winter and the fort is now an historical park.

Astoria was named after investor John Jacob Astor. His American Fur Company founded Fort Astoria in 1811 as its primary fur-trading post and was the first permanent US settlement on the Pacific coast. Located on the south shore of the Columbia River, the city is served by the Port of Astoria and is a deep-water port capable of hosting cruise ships.

Astoria

A small town but full of fascinating history, the appealing quality for Liz was its movie making history. The Oregon Film Museum, on the National Register of Historic Places, opened in 2010 and is housed in the old Clatsop County Jail. The building was used in a famous scene in the Goonies movie and its opening coincided with the 25th anniversary of the film. The museum houses artifacts from the large assortment of movies filmed in Astoria including Short Circuit, The Black Stallion, Kindergarten Cop, Free Willy, Free Willy 2, The Adventure Home, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Benji the Hunted, The Ring Two, Into the Wild, The Guardian, Twilight and National Lampoon’s Animal House.

The Goonies, her favorite iconic cult classic, was filmed on location in Astoria in 1985. The Walsh family home still stands and the owners allow walk-ups and picture taking on the outside. Our families first stop on our togetherness outing was the Walsh House. As we chatted while taking Kodak Moments, the owner watered plants in the front yard seemingly oblivious to our existence.

The Walsh Family Home

The house was on Liz’s Bucket List and the group all joined in the visit, possibly because the span of ages were all familiar with the movie, possibly because it was a beautiful day and a walk outdoors was an ideal outing. Whatever the reason, it was well suited for a joint adventure of ages that spanned nearly 8 decades and allowed us to chat happily among ourselves Italian style.

Family Time, Goonies House

Our lunch break happened at a small restaurant, T Paul’s Urban Café, not usually able to cater to a group of 11 but they managed to seat us all together in the back area near a beautiful salt water tank and we all bubbled over with conversation while enjoying our meals.

T Pauls Urban Cafe

Most went back to the beach house, some went in search of seafood, our threesome scouted the town for coffee and activities that were open on this usually closed-on-Monday town. The Blue Scorcher Bakery Café was a unique find, scrumptious bakery goods, very Oregonian with gluten free and sugar free offerings, typical of what we have found in the small bakeries throughout Oregon. Greatly impressive was the intricate foam designs floating in our coffee.

Astoria, OR Blue Scorcher Bakery

Front door was closed but back door was wide open, so we stuck our heads inside to check out their artistic wares. Dozens of yarns, all in various stages of the dye process, being turned into intriguing works of art.

Yarn Art Store

My mother’s side of the family consists primarily of opinionated independent women, the characteristically Italian hand gesturing non-stop talking kind, sometimes articulating all at the same time, resulting in the men becoming verbally challenged by our sheer numbers and volume. Luckily the few we do have are all good natured and if they have an opinion, they wisely keep it to themselves when the female clan is in session. With only two of our Grandmother’s five children remaining, Auntie El and Aunt Susie, a gathering was long overdue. This was the first time all four of the female cousins had assembled since our beloved matriarch passed away a decade ago.

We met at my cousin’s beach front house and she rented the house next door so we could all meet up and celebrate joyously with much vino and an abundance of excellent Italian food.

John at Family Reunion

Our newest family member, four month old Emilio, named after our grandfather, was welcomed into our clan.

Emilio and Deborah

Two glorious days of family togetherness, so glad that Liz came to share in the family celebration. All those that had gone on before were remembered with wine glasses raised in toasts and so dearly missed. A foggy sunset after dinner from the back porch of the beach house, Family, Wine, Italian food…Life is Good.

Foggy Sunset at cousins beach house

Morning arrived, hugs, farewells to family and promises to gather again soon. With Liz’s vacation nearing an end, we planned visits to several points of interest along the journey back to Eugene Oregon, Liz’s last night with us before our return to Lone Pine.

Cannon Beach was a fun ocean side village with lots of shopping and a wonderful Farmers Market to explore.  Vintage structures, funny sayings on top of garbage cans and lots of dog water bowls outside the boutiques to show which were dog friendly.

Cannon Beach Entertainment Cannon Beach Farmers MarketCannon Beach Library Trash Can Rymes, Cannon Beach

A sad realization was reached when our drive along the foggy shoreline did not reveal any Puffins, my favorite bird.  The rocky shore along Seaside is a well known nesting site.

Seaside OR fog

Although there will be more coastal areas in which to search for Puffins in my future, I was excited about the prospect of sharing the experiencing with my daughter.   We settled for admiring a fine-looking six foot high solid wood Puffin carving.

Carved Wooden Puffin

Tillamook Cheese Factory is a must visit if in the area.  The factory is self guided but interesting with many displays of vintage cheese making equipment.  If you catch the workers in a friendly mood, they will wave back at you.

Tillamook Cheese plant Vintage cheese making Big blocks of cheese Liz and I at Tillamook Cheese Factory

The tour ends with you being offered several yummy samples of cheese.  Exiting, you must walk past the ice cream and few walk on without making a purchase.

With LilyPad packed up and ready to roll, we left for Eugene and began cramming as much into the last few hours of mother/daughter/dad togetherness as humanly possible.

Within a four block radius we found enough to satisfy Liz’s appetite for last minute vacation-nearing-an-end anxiety.

Eugene Wine Sellers offered wine tasting and samples of dark chocolate Limoncello infused fudge. Oh so delectable.

Eugene Wine Cellars

Across the street, The Wandering Goat, another coffee house catering to an attention-grabbing collection of human pin cushions with colorful tattooed skin, the employees closely resembling their patrons.

Wandering Goat Coffee

In search of a nearby local brewery, we happened upon Ninkasi Brewing Company, sampling what read as interesting. Dark, thick, heavy stout with a chocolate essence was my tasting choice. Not the dark chocolate flavor I expected so I passed on a glass. John abstained, Liz chose an IPA. We relaxed on the porch until all was consumed.

Ninkasi Brewery

Cattycorner was Natural Grocery, a small health food store. I would have loved more time to peruse its shelves but the growling in our tummies could not be silenced.

Natural Grocery

Across the street the Pizza Research Institute caught our attention. Quirky, eclectic, wood fired original pizza creations complimented the jumbled collection of vintage plates. It was very warm inside, the fans not creating enough breeze to encourage the flies to move on. What we ordered was not what arrived but the salad was colorful and included unusual veggies, the dressing was amazing and with our pizza, both filled us. Liz and I tried dry soda, a low sugar fruit infused bubbly water which will be added to my fridge whenever I come across it in stores.

Pizza Research Institute Restaurant Pizza Research Institute

On the way back to Ribbit, Liz and I were beyond delighted when we turned the corner past the brewery and came upon Blairalley Vintage Arcade. Immediately upon pulling open the door, high pitched squeals of glee interrupted the dark quiet room and when our eyes adjusted to the dark, they were met with twinkling pin ball lights dancing across every inch of the walls. Only a quarter per play, even John was drawn into the games but Liz and I raced each other through most of the quarters and John didn’t grab fast enough to spend his share.

Blairalley Vintage Arcade

Santa Cruz California’s arcade and I were intimate partners in the fast pace solo entertainment of pin ball skill for most of my teen years and continued on long after John and I were married. Their amusement worth has kept me fascinated for most of my life and, strangely, was passed on in DNA to my children. Slightly strange thing to pass on to ones offspring.

Liz’s vacation was at an end and when she was settled into the waiting room at the airport awaiting departure, we continued on to Lone Pine to ready the campground for a new group. Unpack, plug in and relax into a peaceful nights sleep.

Lone Pine Campground evening

My Verilux “happy light” usually wakes me each morning but this morning our welcome back a.m. was full of noise and excitement! Tree limb trimmers converged on our parking lot bringing in huge equipment to take down and chip multiple limbs intruding into electrical wire space along our logging road. The crew stayed to chat for a while before continuing on down the road.

Trimming Crew

Loud whap-whap-whap nose coming from above our heads and the sheriff’s department helicopter dropped down from the sky and landed in our field. Small with no doors, the helicopter flies around the area in pot patrol expeditions. Minus heaters and doors makes for 50 degree working conditions so they drop down and land to warm up and join with their fuel truck.

Sheriff's helicopter

They drew crowds from both campgrounds and were allowing a special treat, parents were able to photo their kids seated at the controls.

Pot Patrol

An hour later they were up, up and away.

Lift off

Soap, Scrub, Power Spray vault toilets, Scrub, Wipe, Power Blow pavilion and tables before our next group arrives for their enjoyable camping experience presented by yours truly, Lone Pine Group Campground Hosts Extraordinaire.

August 9th through August 22nd, 2014 Daughter visits Lone Pine, Road trip to Brookings, OR

A small blip in our same old, same old was collecting the mail, always a welcome diversion.

Just received a book from a friend and former work associate of John’s. It is a book of short interconnecting stories, the main theme being “perspective” but family and small town living followed in close pursuit. After our whirlwind former week’s events, a good read from an actual printed-on-paper book, grasped firmly in hand, with real tangible pages to turn, is a rare treat. With so little space, most of our reading material is either on, or scanned onto, the computer.

I pause on the subject of perception as it differs between the two humans living in the box on wheels. Throughout the last two years of our journey, we have had little contact with family or friends. If we workamped near family, we were so busy with our duties, we didn’t visit as often as if we had vacationed nearby for a week and simply spent the time relaxing together. John thinking we had visited many relatives while my thoughts leaned towards not enough time spent visiting.  Our living responsibilities, which includes care of our furry family member, grocery shopping, laundry, continual motorhome repairs, car repairs, workamping duties, the same things that happen in everyone’s lives, interrupted social time. Constantly existing, that nagging cue stubbornly wedged in my brain, is that this is our way of life, never a relaxing vacation.

Although John enjoys living like a hermit, I enjoy life as part of a social group, something instilled deep into my being since childhood. Forcing a social gathering onto folks that have chosen living “hermit style” is not comfortable for them or me so camp host meet-ups are rare. Perception is directly related to ones own nature. I am certain that we will end the “continual movement” stage of our retirement days and settle somewhere. The “where” or “when” is still to be determined.

Robin Williams died today. My all-time favorite comedian and movie star. Sad that someone so vibrant and talented was so troubled…I cried.

Last night Oregon showed us a bit of its temper. Inside a 10 minute period, hardly time enough to store light fly-away things lying around the outside of LilyPad, a storm blew through. Strong winds blew limbs, pine-cones and debris, smacking them up against the side of our motorhome. The top of our motorhome garage was bombarded with huge splats of rain sounding like a baseball hitter practicing. Fire starting thunder lit up the sky, our temperature plummeted from 100 to 70 and the power went off. Somewhat daunting but with immediate action being needed, not enough time to fret. Dashed around securing our things, unplugged cords and started the generator, checked on the conditions of the campground and made sure our group was safe. They took it in stride, gathering under the pavilion with flashlights, socializing and enjoying the cool evening. A multitude of large and small old dead branches fell. Clean up is going to be a female dog.

John checked our fluids in Ribbit and found an unexpected “it’s always something” surprise. He thought it was debris from the storm until he removed the green moss and found nibbled wires. Our upcoming road trip with daughter Liz to visit family would have suffered greatly had it not been found. My hero handyman fixed it and we are good to go.

Nesting Strange food source

The lack of fine dining in the area has encouraged us to explore hole-in-the-wall diners. One such place is The Narrows Tavern. More of a bar that serves food than a restaurant. John looked it up on our favorite food review sites and talked me into stopping for a menu. Sitting on the ground near the front door with his back holding up the side of the building, was a young fellow with a handmade cigarette, smoke floating lazily out his mouth, smiling ear to ear while continually making an effort to stay sitting upright. He looked at Ribbit and threw his head back laughing, his mouth stretched open wide. By the time John exited the bar with the menu, he was joyously singing “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog” and energetically waving both his arms in a cheerful good-by.

Picked up  Liz at the quaintly petite Eugene airport passing hay fields, their wares boxed  and stacked in the fields like gigantic straw walls erratically placed in the distance awaiting delivery to local farms.  Must be this years fashion is square, as last years hay bales were rolled.

Roseburg hay fields

We dined at Cornucopia, an eclectic little diner that specializes in gluten free and locally grown choices with an enormous array of microbrewery offerings. Our overnight was spent at our go-to, first year water damage repair living quarters, La Quinta Inn. After dinner, our just rewards was a bucket list cross off for Liz. The VooDoo Doughnut “Old Dirty Bastard”. Glazed doughnut topped with chocolate, dipped in crushed Oreos and drizzled with peanut butter. Splitting three ways didn’t eliminate the knots in our tummies or the sugar toothaches.

Drove around the downtown area site-seeing before we each stretched out in our own queen pillow top bed heaven for the rest of the night.

Early rise for the five hour drive to my dad’s home in Brookings.  Showing off our favorite haunts, Coos Bay for Market Day delights with some foot stompin’ banjo music was first on our coastal tour.

Coos Bay Farmers Market fruit  Coos Bay Farmers Market Face Rock Squeeky Garlic Cheese

Next, a stop at our favorite cranberry sweets store in Bandon after passing several Ocean Spray cranberry bogs and a repeat stop at Misty Meadows outside Bandon for locally grown and packed berry butter/jam/jelly so Liz can give a bit of Oregon as souvenirs.

Ocean Spray Cranberry bog Blueberries and bouys in Bandon

Lunch at the Fish Market Cafe, a smidgen of exercise walking through the Bandon Farmers Market but completely erased the positive by having samples of smoked salmon cheese cake and gluten free coconut fudge. Music, fresh sea air and back in the car for the next leg of our Oregon coastal tour.  The view along the coast is amazing no matter how many times we make the drive.

Brookings bound

Arrived at Dad’s and spent a relaxing night with family, one more trip next morning to the mountain hideaway Brandy Peak Distillery for tastings and stashing more yummy Blackberry Liqueur in the car followed by a long walk until sunset on my favorite Brookings beach, Harris State Beach.

Harris Beach, Brookings, OR   Harris Beach

Harris Beach Sunset

Next morning, hugs and farewells before the long trek home to Lone Pine for our overnight.  Lumber mills, Oregon’s main industry, are casually scattered along the water inlets.

Coquille Lumber Mill

This being fishing season, one tiny vintage fishing village had an enticing Kodak Moment prepared for a mother/daughter photo, along with a convenient parking space.

Fishing Village

As we neared the home stretch, Roseburg area having 32 wineries, we happened upon Girardet Winery, one we had not yet visited.  Nothing special in the tastings but their fields were full of picture perfect plump dark purple grapes.

Girardet Winery Grapes

Arrived at LilyPad in time to show off Lone Pine Campground to Liz, its slightly cool evening serenity with Rock Creek gently flowing past mossy giant trees bending over the flow and shading the pathways.  Our little slice of heaven.

July 25th through August 8th, 2014 Life Continues at Lone Pine Group Campground, Oregon

After breakfast John suggested we give Rock Creek Road another chance to show us the stunning scenic top-o-the-mountain view, this time minus the fog. So far, so good. Clear and cool.

A pause along the way to check out the piles of rocks and logs on the side of the road. The salmon spawning habitat is coming along nicely; the only area currently completed being used by groups of campers as a cooling float pool.

supplies for salmon spawning habitat Rock Creek new spawning habitat

Halfway to the top of the mountain, we stopped to watch the creek tumbling over a 10 foot drop. An un-named but noteworthy waterfall.

Waterfall on upper Rock Creek

When we reached the top, a thick cloud of mist was moving over the mountain tops and descending on us from all directions. Another attempt to view the expansive valley foiled by incoming fog.

Up Rock Creek road

This afternoon we got the expected but dreaded phone call, John’s mother passed away in her sleep at 102 years old. John and I were truly blessed to have her with us on this earth for so long. We had two days to find a kennel for KatieBug, pack our bags and clean the group campground. Early rise for the two hour drive to Eugene, 15 hour travel time on three different planes to reach Florida, pick up our rental car before driving to John’s brothers house to sleep. Up early for the memorial service, lunch afterwards and some family time. One full day of visiting with family. Again with the crack of dawn rising, 18 hour travel time on three different planes for the return to Eugene then another two hour drive back to Lone Pine just in time to clean the campground after a large family reunion group departed. Two hours later our large wedding group arrived. Getting too old for this kind of exhaustion. Sleep came the minute our heads hit our pillows.

Our campground group in progress allowed me to use a phrase I have been keeping on the sidelines for a “just in case” opportunity, this being Oregon and all. Deadhead bohemianism mixed with Mayberry traditionalism…polite 60’s hippie-ish in dress and appearance except for the numerous dreadlock tresses, ears sporting large lobe buttons, imaginative body wrapping tattoos and an assortment of facial piercings. Typical of the folks we see in Eugene and Portland.

This group is a wedding party, all tent campers, reserving our group campground and Mill Pond’s pavilion for three days. Arrived last night, we awoke to the sounds of tam-tam’s, familiar to us from our travels to Mount Royal Park in Montreal Canada where connoisseurs and suitors gather to enjoy the pulsing percussion craft.

The bride had not a drop of “bridezilla”, apparent by her calm response to us informing her that the flush toilets, the reason Mill Pond pavilion had been rented, were not working and water would be off most of the day. One flush toilet was gratefully available during the wedding and we directed those needing potties to our minimal vault toilets, a.k.a. porcelain thrones sitting atop huge smelly pits.

Her hubby-to-be was a sociable composed red-headed ZZ-Top and they made an impressively “together” couple. Music floated throughout the campground as nearly every site had musical instruments lovingly being played by their owners. They erected the honeymoon suite, an impressive handmade teepee, in my favorite campsite.

Honeymoon Suite  Handmade Teepee

Pleasant 80’s during the day, low 50’s at night with that coolness continuing on until early morning. I am ready to leave the solitude and physically demanding work but wishing I could take the weather with us.

A stress-free day was our number one goal for today. After chores, we drove to the one Roseburg Bureau of Land Management campground we had not yet visited, Cavett Creek. Typical back roads highway, winding uphill and down, two skinny lanes that drop off sharply along the edges to the creek below. Cavett Creek Campground is hilly, considerably more private than most of Roseburg BLM campgrounds and rests alongside Cavett Creek. We drove in, stopped to chat with the hosts, hiked to the day use area that overlooked the swimming hole below before climbing down to the sandy beach. Truly impressive campground.

Cavett Creek day use  Swimming hole at Cavett Creek

Homebound, we drove through Cavett Creek Covered Bridge. Because of the easily accessible timber, in the 1930’s there were over 300 covered bridges in Oregon. Covering the bridges extended the life of the bridge and they required very little maintenance. Cavett Creek Covered Bridge was built in 1943, is 70 feet long and spans Little River. Douglas County has 53 covered bridges still standing and soon, our day off will be devoted to visiting those close to our campground.

Cavett Creek Covered Bridge

July 15th through July 24th, 2014 Escape to Coos Bay, OR

Good things come to those who wait…and those who clean vault toilets and mow lawns and clean off picnic tables and power wash pavilion floors and clean off huge greasy grills. John took my emphatically spoken verbal hint and we fled the heat before our campground began the occupation of campers for near 30 consecutive days. The temperature was climbing to the high 90’s as soon as the weekend passed but the coast had a cool front moving in and I needed coolness, if even for two days.

A once over of our campground, securing all locks, checking on my Indian Pipe now in partial bloom, ready, set, off we go!

Indian Pipe partial bloom

Coos Bay was our most direct line to the ocean so we gathered up KatieBug, locked LilyPad and drove out early Tuesday morning. Leaving behind 98 degree heat in Roseburg, we arrived in Coos Bay slipping under a fog covered 55 degrees of divine coolness. It is a picturesque town, streets lined with huge baskets of multicolor blooms and surrounded by smaller towns that dot themselves along the bay. There has been a permanent settlement on Coos Bay since 1853.

Beautiful floral baskets

Along with reprieve from the heat, after weeks of exile from human contact, I was in serious need of ears to bend in conversation. Liberation was delivered to me in an assortment of the most exuberant fascinating characters with which to chat, the ultimate being found in Cape Arago and Remote, OR.

Our room at pet friendly Red Lion Inn was not ready so we strolled along Coos Bay Boardwalk. Small, but with lots of local color, we read about the Bay’s history posted along the bayside view. Small  sea planes were waiting for their next paying guest on the dock below.

Coos Bay Boardwalk  Sea Plane Rides

The Coos Bay Watershed is fed by the Coos River. The Native Indians who lived in this area were given the name Cook-Koo-Oose by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Others to follow gave them derivatives ranging from Koo-as, Kowes, Koos, Coose and finally Coos. The mill towns grew up around the convenience of the waterways that surged 15 miles inland, filling the waterways, before receding back out to the Pacific Ocean.

The Koos 2 Tug Boat was built in 1924 for Knutson Tugboat Company.

Koos No. 2

There are many functioning, albeit tattered, tugs in the bay.  The Titan, a Koss Brothers Tug, was moored near the boardwalk.

Titan, Koss Bros tug

A relaxing wander down to the Fisherman’s Seafood Market below the main boardwalk brought us to the pier area where we chitchatted with sailboat owners and watched the cook cut up fresh fish just out his back door and then brought inside for the fryer, throwing anything uneatable into the bay.

Fisherman's Seafood Market Freshest fried fish around

Back to check-in, our next stop, a peaceful view of the bay in front of Mill Casino and to take in some local casino action. Early enough to miss the smoking crowd, John played Black Jack while I happily plunked pennies, in the form of dollar bills, into The Wizard of Oz and Willie Wonka penny slots. We collectively brought home $25.00 of the casino’s money and skedaddled before being lured into a loss.

Mill Casino Deck view

It was KatieBug’s turn for an adventure so we paused long enough at Bastendorff Beach to walk the long sandy stretch and let her run free off leash. Brisk movement kept John and I warm while our bug dashed around exploring the area and visiting with the other dogs walking their owners.

Bastendorff beach stroll, OR Our happy puggly dog

Up to the breakwater, back down the beach, across the sandy fire pits, shook off, brushed off and dined locally for lunch, replenishing with Moose Drool beer and fish taco’s. Across the street, the Charlytown Marketplace, an antique conglomerate gift shop to peruse before our next exploration.

Moose Drool Beer Charleytown Marketplace

Charlie the Tuna sits at the head of the bridge and is surrounded by mounds of empty oyster shells from the local oyster canning businesses.

Charlie the Tuna

Not wanting to waste daylight, we consulted the map and followed the winding coastal roads to Cape Arago. In 1579 Sir Francis Drake is purported to have sought shelter for his ship, the Golden Hinde, around Cape Arago.

In search of Cape Arago Lighthouse, the misty fog steered me to my first excellent ear bending session. A right turn towards the ocean, entering a road we quickly learned was a dead end, we came upon a tall sturdy gentleman standing in his driveway. Not wanting to U-Turn on private property, I began to back up until he came to our window and asked if we needed help. His face broke into an enormous smile at our dilemma and he generously invited me over to his back yard deck that towered over the ocean and beach below to see if the Lighthouse was visible. We began to chat about what brought us both to the area. He was from Holland and his wife Veronica’s family had purchased many of the houses on the street, this beautiful rental cottage being one.

The lighthouse was not to be seen this day, but we continued our friendly chat until John came in search of my whereabouts. Finding me on the deck, he joined the conversation. When Peter discovered John’s birthplace, he began the interesting story of the term “Yankee’s”, John being one. The Dutch given names, Jan (John) and Kees (Cornelius) were, and still are, common and the two sometimes are combined in a single name. The word Yankees is a variation that was used as a nickname for a Dutch-speaking American in Colonial times.

Peter invited us back another time to view the Lighthouse whenever the fog lifted and we parted ways, John handing him our calling card to keep in contact. If you ever find yourself wanting an amazing seaside beach house rental with a private beach in the Coos Bay Oregon area, we will put you in touch with Peter.

Peter

Onward to Cape Arago State Park. The overlook was veiled in fog so the view of the coastline wasn’t vast but it was awesome. The water was clear, the shaggy rocky coastline echoed sea life barking in the unseen distance. The 134 acres of property was given to the state by Louis and Lela Simpson in 1934. A nice picnic pavilion with parking sits next to the real flush toilet restrooms, flush being the operative word as it is something I appreciate over the vault toilets that are usually found in state parks. We enjoyed the fresh air and the short walk to the overlook. It’s a beautiful park with lots of hiking nearby.

Cape Arago State Park

One last beach stop, Sunset Bay Beach, in an attempt to let KatieBug run once more before she turned in for the night and we left in search of dinner. The enormous signs, duplicates at every beach, lead you to believe that enjoying the sand and ocean comes with way more drama than would reasonably be expected.

Sunset Bay South warnings

The wildlife sunning on the sand obviously had first consideration and had taken over the area, yellow plastic streamers barricading and surrounding nearly the entire beach.

Sunbathing seal at Sunset Bay South

Back to the Inn, KatieBug tucked away in bed with Animal Planet for company, John and I are off to eat Prime Rib at the Saw Blade Buffet at the Mill Casino.

After dinner we turned in early. A 3 block long zone in the downtown area, side by side canopy’s hovering over a multitude of epicurean delights known as the Coos Bay Farmers Market, which we planned to visit before leaving.

Restful night, up early, breakfast and the Farmers Market is calling our name. Veggies, flowers, crafts, soaps, jewelry, more veggies, more fruit, some young entrepreneurs selling handmade crafts.

Farmers Market Young entrepreneurs at the Farmers Market

The sweet smell of strawberries so luscious our noses commanded our bodies to plant themselves at the end of the lengthy line. They were so worth the wait! Three heaping baskets we devoured by the end of the following day.

amazing strawberries Best Strawberries Ever

Sustainable seafood was added to our shopping basket after tasting the sample

SeaFare Pacific

Entertainment provided by several solo street musicians.

Easy Listening guitar

One more Coos Bay stop, the Myrtlewood Factory Tour, to see how this stunning multihued hardwood is transformed into works of art. Although I had previously purchased two pieces for LilyPad , I could not refuse treating myself to a glimpse of how the pieces were made.

The House of Myrtlewood

Cutting, sorting, hand finishing each piece, all was explained in the movie before we walked through the self-guided tour.

Most of the craftsmen were out to lunch but the tools and saws were in view as was a sample of a putter in various stages. John picked up a Myrtlewood putter and gave it a swing.

The making of a putter Myrtlewood putter

A bowl blank and some patterns were available to touch.

Myrtlewood roughed out blank Bowl patterns

One person had returned and we watched him sand a piece of Myrtlewood. The saws that cut the huge trees were in another area but a sample blade was on the wall.

Saw blade Hand Sanding room

The gift shop had hundreds of bowls in a variety of sizes. I was tempted to take home one of the exquisitely crafted cutting boards but I wasn’t ready to give up something already aboard LilyPad…yet.  Until we leave Oregon, any item that falls out of favor may find itself in the donation box, to be replaced by a fabulous cutting board.

Myrtlewood cutting boards

Food snuggly on ice in our cooler, we mapped our leisurely route back to Idleyld Park and our campground.

Half way home, we discovered our 12th winery, adding to our continuing tour of Oregon wineries. Old Bridge Winery in the town of Remote was also the home of my second favorite ear bending character.

Old Bridge Winery

George Clarno has been married to Angie for 60 years. He’s been making wine, amid his other ventures, for 50 of them. The myriad of career choice directions spanned from owning a logging company, offering his services as a hunting guide, a taxidermy business, a saw shop business and even leading hunting expeditions in British Columbia before opening a winery. He also managed to squeeze in bagging elephants in Africa which he proudly displays on his tasting table.

George, owner of Old Bridge Winery

The winery is across from the Sandy Creek Bridge historic landmark which was a pleasant stop for us last year while traveling through the area. It sits on Highway 42 and until the 1950’s, the covered bridge was a part of the main road.

George still has a commercial pilot’s license allowing he and his wife to make day trips to places of interest along the Pacific Northwest. An interesting conversationalist living life to the fullest.  We brought home a bottle of his locally famous Sweet Berry Wine.

My craving for chilly temperatures and diverse conversation fulfilled, we arrived at Lone Pine under skies marbled with hues of pink. Tomorrow brings preparations for another large group of campers, a wedding at our pavilion, laundry day and the same old, same old begins all over again. My “to do list” includes another escape in the near future. Looking forward to sleeping in our own bed tonight.

Our welcome home skies

With the morning came cooler weather and temperature drop makes my cleaning tasks bearable. The smell from the vaults tickles my gag reflex when the heat rises. Thankfully it stays below tepid most of the season.

Our wedding group did not leave the campground in the same condition in which it was found. Our day was spent cleaning up dozens of partially melted jelly beans, pulling gooey half toasted marshmallows out of the forest bushes, cleaning several fire rings stuffed with unburnable trash and cigarette butts, cleaning off numerous alcohol and sticky punch spills from the pavilion floor, removing candle wax drippings from the picnic tables and lugging 6 full trash cans to the dumpsters. Pictures were sent to the BLM office to validate withholding partial deposit monies.

The winds blew in dampness and the mist kept us inside watching movies and relaxing for the day.  Morning brought another trip to town for supplies and by 5pm our new group moved into the campground. The next few days will be rinse and repeat.

July 1st through 14th, 2014 Wild Rose Winery, Wildlife Safari Animal Sanctuary, OR

Hooray!  A full day away from the campground. Took KatieBug to a doggy day care so we could spend the day visiting the Wildlife Safari Animal Sanctuary in Winston, have lunch and visit a winery. We took our kids to an open concept wildlife park in TX when they were very young and I have always wanted to return.  This was an adventure I was looking forward to enjoying.

The two hour drive through experience had excellent photo opportunities. Yes, it is like a zoo and not nearly as thrilling as our wild things meet-ups in Canada but I can’t seem to pass up close encounters with four legged furry creatures or two legged feathered creatures. Some of the animals are endangered, some are lifelong residents due to injuries and a few are in breeding programs for zoos. The San Diego Zoo had recently picked up a baby boy cheetah born to one of the safari’s females in the breeding program. The ambassador cheetah we saw at Henry’s Winery Crawfish Boil was from Wildlife Safari.

Wildlife Safari

There were docents at several enclosures where the animals were not able to roam freely, either being a danger to other animals or others being a danger to them. Elephants, lions, tigers, bears and gibbons all had their own space. Bears and tigers had what appeared to be prison guard towers at their cattle guard entrances. The elephants were behind a huge bar and resting in the shade, lions and tigers were behind chain link and sitting in shade so getting a good shot was impossible.  All others were inside chain link along with us.

The hippo’s refused to pose.

Hippo

The bears were cooling off in their pond but came out to investigate the passerby’s. The electrical wiring set up was similar to what we saw in Lake Louise Canada to discourage them from entering the soft side tent campground.

Grizzly up close Grizzly Cooling off

The endangered White Handed White Cheeked Gibbons swung lazily around their huge exercise area, their loud hooting conversations echoing throughout the sanctuary.

Whitecheek Gibbon  Gibbon

A large lively Bison heard provided us with many entertaining moments. Along with wallowing in the dust to deter biting flies and remove tufts of molted fur and stubbornly blocking the cars from passing by on the roadway, they would teasingly fake charge at other curious smaller animals keeping them at bay from feeders until they had their fill.

Dust Bathing Traffic Jam

The giraffe stood in the road for a while before curiosity brought him over to peer at us through our open sun roof. Big brown eyes and a long tongue advancing towards our open roof a bit too fast for comfort, we closed up, he walked off to greet the car behind us.

Giraffe munching Peeping through our sun roof

Lots of exotic species, deer and antelope from India and Africa, some recognizable, some unknown to us. The color detailed animal brochure was extra so we used the newspaper guide and drive through map, looking up on the internet those that weren’t in the “free” guides.

Indian Axis and White Fallow Deer,

Indian Axis Male Indian Axis

White Fallow Deer

Several species of Oryx,

Oryx Oryx checking us out

Scimitar horned oryx Gemsbok Oryx

Damara Zebra and Watusi Cattle,

Damara Zebra Watusi Cattle

Muntjac and a South American Guanaco,

Muntjac South American Guanaco

Our windows being rolled down seem to invite them close enough to hear their breathing…and to get a whiff of their pungent wildness.

A lazy endangered Southern White Rhino (square lipped rhinoceros) had nestled himself into a shaded mud puddle on the hill and had no intention of leaving his cool spot to investigate the cars. I was a bit surprised that he was unrestrained, having heard that they were aggressive. After reading about them, they are actually the most social of the species.

Southern White Rhino

A Yak wandered by the Rhino, neither paying attention to one another.

Tibetan Yak

The feeding zoo was amusing both for John doing the feeding, and me snapping pictures. Deer pushed their wet noses up against the windows until we rolled them down, then came at us from all directions to munch on the dried veggie nuggets that were included in the Groupon deal.

U feed Animal Sanctuary OR John feeding the deer

Up came the windows as soon as we saw the Ostrich running towards us. He looked to be on a mission and I know they can be determined to find something to peck if they think you have food.  Further on, a gathering of turkey’s and an Egyptian Duck.

Ostrich Turkeys Egyptian Goose

Splendid looking African Crown Crane wandering around the lion enclosure outside the cages along with a funny fat black with white speckles chicken looking bird that waddled towards us to check us out.

East African Crown Crane Funny Fat Bird

Our last Safari stop was a walk through the Village. Petting zoo, camel rides, train ride, picnic area, children’s jungle gym play area, arachnid display, flamingo’s, a rescued tortoise, a sweet abandoned deer that had so many physical disabilities it could not be released, an albino peacock, a restaurant and a nice clean restroom.

Petting Zoo Tortoise FlamingosSnow Ball Albino Peacock

Armed with a Groupon to Noah’s Ark, we stopped for lunch at the gigantic ark shaped structure across the entrance from the Wildlife Safari.

Noah's Ark

Upon entering, volumes of religious books greeted us; animal paintings covered the walls, some with lifelike heads protruding into the room. On the left, a small comfy room with sofa’s and Noah wall art, a fake mechanical Santa dressed as Noah telling the story of Noah and the Ark and displays of religious timelines. Inside the rest of the building is a religious trail, not exactly sure what it represented but we did not want to pay to discover.

The owner and operator, a friendly elder lady and the only employee, waited on us, cooked the burgers, took our money and cleared the tables. She was also the sales person for the religious wares and the ark tour tickets. She was older than John and I, neither of us imagining we could keep up with this spunky slight built entrepreneur. After lunch we went in search of the celebrated fermented grape.

Noah's Galley Grill

Our 11th winery stop this season, Wild Rose, was up another winding gravel road and down into a valley that ran along a creek. The tasting room, a large metal building, was banked by their grape vines and stretched out along the valley floor.

Wild Rose Vineyards

Tasting was gratis and we brought home another nice smooth red. The daughter of the original owners told us the story of the free salt shakers.

Wild Rose tasting room

After her parents passed on, each of the children took what they wanted from the estate. The son thought it would be a nice gesture to give each visitor a set of salt shakers from their mother’s enormous collection and all agreed. Set by set the shakers became part of each family who enjoyed Wild Rose wine.

Overcast morning arrives, perfect weather for the start of clean up from our 150 Christian campers that occupied our campground for the last 5 days.

This group was our first taste of an unwelcome situation at our campground. Not from our campers but from drunk vagrants sleeping on unimproved BLM property.

I happened upon them while taking a walk with KatieBug on the upper trail. John was repairing a bridge rail about 500 yards back and I walked on enjoying the cool forest. I spotted a tent pitched off the trail and a drunk stumbled onto the trail asking where he could get spare food for he and his friend. After answering, I turned to walk back to the bridge and heard the deep throated barks of large dogs coming from the forest. I quickly walked back towards the bridge, met up with John and we both headed to LilyPad to call the Sheriff. Along with being publicly drunk and having loose dogs, they had made a campfire on the ground during our fire ban, a big no-no during dry season in this part of the country.

One of our camper dads marched across the street wearing a scowl and looking for action when he banged on our door. We had already called the Sheriff’s office and were waiting for them to arrive. The camper dad told us the men had come down looking for food and used foul language to frighten the kids away from the pavilion. Not accepting our apology or our answer of “Sheriff’s on his way”, he stomped down the road to Mill Pond and demanded Toby go and confront the men. We are here to inform, not to enforce, was Toby’s reply…same answer he got from us.

The Sheriff and 3 BLM Rangers arrived and moved the men and their wares into town 45 minutes away. Thinking all was settled, we took the cart back up the trail before dusk and low and behold, another drunken vagrant had set up camp in the same spot. Another trek up the mountain for the sheriff, he gave our newest arrival instructions to stay away from the campground and next morning be gone before noon. To our surprise and relief, he obliged and our nighttime returned to a peaceful quiet.

The bulbs I planted are beginning to bloom adding a nice touch of color to our entrance drive. My herbs are filling out nicely and we use them to perk up flavors on many of our meals.

First bloom herb garden

Plans were arranged for a post 4th of July Ice cream social at our pad with a few BLM hosts tonight after chores. Sort of a “Host Warming Gift” to our neighbors who, after a week of boon docking, were finally able to move into Mill Pond after Toby moved out. A few more hours of cleaning at Lone Pine and we will be ready for our next group of campers.

Another week of same old, same old…long haul to town for supplies, deserted as a ghost town between groups, clean up after the groups leave then hang around until it is time to do it all again. As the weeks pass, “tiny” living and being completely isolated is slowly making me lose the ability to control a full blown, hysterical state of uncontrollably shrieking “what was I thinking!?”   Danger Will Robinson, impending explosion.

June 20th through June 30th Host Bar B Q, Life as a BLM Host, OR

Our group campground is again occupied, this time with a small group of adults, a few teens and 8 very well-mannered dogs. I am truly relieved. The Department of Fish and Wildlife have been building fish habitats along our Rock Creek area and are bringing in a total of 1,600 gigantic rocks to place in the creek. Half done, they traverse back and forth over our logging road depositing them above Rock Creek Campground on the creek side of the road.

Rocks for salmon spawning

Their presents make for more traffic per day than we normally see in a week. With the swimming hole and flush toilets across the street from the group campground, I am not happy with the thought of those heavily laden trucks taking advantage of the flat stretch of our road to catch up on time lost around the curves. Thankfully, one call to the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the truckers stopped to assure me they would slow down.

Our Tree Swallow babies have hatched, demanding bedside service from their exhausted parents who start providing a wide variety of bugs in the wee hours of the morning and continue on until after dusk.

two of the babies mama with fat grub

One baby continually squawks and thrusts its head out the bird house hole when meals are incoming.

Mama Tree Swallow and hungry baby

As July nears, we have less and less time to escape from Lone Pine. Soon our camp reservations will be back to back and our day off will consist of a quick trip for groceries in town, picking up the mail and hurrying back home.

Scrub day at the campground and watching The World Cup. That’s the plan for the day, plain and simple. Go U.S.A.

Our replacement neighbors for Mill Pond, Sandy and Dale, arrived June 30th to replace Toby. They will remain dry camping next to us for a week until Toby, wife and family vacate the spot on July 7th. Hope they remain for the balance of the season. Mill Pond workampers seem to frighten easily and wear out fast. Along with their arrival comes another social gathering to be held at Susan Creek Campground and hosted by our fearless leader Ariel. Signing our stipend forms will be combined with a Host Bar B Q and social gathering. Love me some social time!

John found a boomerang and decided to try out his skill.  Getting closer!

John and his boomerang

Trip to town in the pouring rain for a non-emergency vet visit and account set up, bath and mani/pedi for KatieBug, and a movie for us, our first time in a theater this year. John and I agreed…Jersey Boys show in Vegas, “Like Wow”. Jersey Boys at the movies, beyond “Fab”. Eastwood did an excellent job and even with the “R” rated words, enjoyable entertainment for those who “remember when”.

This morning we will surely get a soaking while cleaning the campground.  Rain refuses to let up.  Our warm up/dry off afterwards comes with a bit of World Cup action. Disappointing loss, only one chance left. That far from home, you would think the U.S.A. would be seriously charged up by the constant chanting of “U.S.A.” from the stands.

Very energetic boys in this weekend’s group. Flying through the campground on their bikes and scooters, kick ball game after camp set up, off to rifle shooting practice early morning, hiking Sawmill Trail and swimming afterwards. The chaperons will enjoy their quiet time tonight around the campfire. The church group was a dad/child campout, one being a son and dad from Fort Worth now relocated to Roseburg. We have been very lucky, four out of four groups so far have been respectful and left the camp in the condition we requested.

Hey, hey, up early today, get that mop and clean! Going to be a scorcher today…projected 95 degrees. Somehow I knew being in Oregon would cause unseasonably hot temperatures. It followed me to Alaska and now Oregon…I’m doomed to be the cause of extreme heat where ever we land. Scrub that floor, blow those leaves, wash that sink, stop for a breath and listen. No 21st century noise. The only sound in the campground is the wind swishing leaves high above me and the tapping sound of pine needles somersaulting down and bouncing off picnic table tops.

Weird Indian Pipe sprouting up from the decaying stumps of pines. The plant depends on both the dead trees and fungus for survival. A parasite of both the fungus and the stump but not giving anything back to either, it does offer a food source for bumble bees. If picked, it turns black very quickly and can stain your hands like a dye.

Indian Pipe

Red Banded Polypore pop out of tree stumps throughout our campground.

Red Banded Polypore

Our fearless leader Ariel just announced that she will be leaving soon for a well-deserved year’s sabbatical. She will be missed!