The Last Two Trails…For Awhile

Before we ended up here in Astoria for a while, we were just really starting to get back on the bikes and look for longer trails to ride. We planned to try Fort Stevens State Park where they have a good trail system. Then we planned to hit Astoria for a couple of nights to ride their riverfront trail, have dinner out and be on our way.

Well, that didn’t happen. Now that we have been here almost a month already with some weeks yet to go, I am finally getting around to chronicling those last rides.

Fort Stevens is a very busy state park and the largest campground in Oregon. Of course, it was early August, kids still out of school, dogs and kids, bikes and skateboards. We stayed two nights but had to move the second night. That was no big deal.

The first day we rode out to the mouth of the Columbia River and the South Jetty. We got in a good 25 miles the first day, and 25 the next. The second day, before we moved on to Astoria, a wildfire apparently burned 27 acres right where we had ridden that day. It was tranquil and peaceful while we were there.
There was a shipwreck, a fort, of course, and wetlands to explore.

We moved on to Astoria on August 4, a date that now lives in infamy. We got out on the bikes and explored the riverfront and port. The rest of the story is here
DSC_5284 DSC_5282
The trolley track was right next to the bike trail with warning signs and directional arrows. I got ditched by railroad tracks early in my biking life and have studiously used the 90 degree approach ever since. I rode the eastern section of the trail after Jim had his mishap and believe me, I was super vigilant with the tracks, the trail, the crossings, the plank bridges, all of it. I was like an old lady on a bike. Oh wait, I was an old lady on a bike. Gah!

The Columbia River is very impressive, to say the least. We haven’t been across the bridge yet, but I went over the one at Longview, Washington. Big ships come through the mouth of the Columbia River after loading up on lumber.
DSC_5273_tonemapped DSC_5277_tonemapped DSC_5286_tonemapped DSC_5289_tonemapped
After Jim’s arm got stabilized and we saw the doctor to set up the surgery, we moved the bus to the Klaskanine River Park in Olney. At least we had a place to get through the surgery and a couple of recovery days before we had to move again. We liked it there but needed to be closer to Astoria, rental cars, stores, all of that good stuff. They had lovely flower gardens, large trees and it was very quiet. Our only concern was unleashed dogs with the kitties out on walks.
Our neighbors, Dan and Rainy were very thoughtful about Jim’s wrist and recovery. She showed me the scars on her back where she had a plate and six screws. Everybody’s doing it. We just found out that another good friend broke her right wrist too! It’s an epidemic!
DSC_5331 DSC_5338   DSC_5307 DSC_5312
And there was Charley.

The patient is recovering. He is being a really good patient too and Carmella is always right by his side. For such an active, busy and handy guy like him, to be laid up and not be able to do much has to be the worst part of all. Plus not being able to play the ukulele. He has been icing the wrist and sleeping a lot to promote healing. He has had almost no pain since right after the surgery, thank God. When he came out of the recovery room, the nurse was saying things like, “Oh honey, bone pain is the worst!” I was shushing her, Ha! didn’t want to put ideas in his head. Fortunately he was still out of it and she was great throughout both days it took to get it done.

Hopefully his cast comes off this week and we get an evaluation for physical therapy. We are renting a car this week too, so we can get around and see some of the area. I haven’t gotten my bike out yet but I can easily ride to town from here. We have been walking the golf course and I’m getting some yoga in. I will get my bike out. Next few days are doctor, haircut, dinner out. You know, important stuff.

The weather is nice with sunshine and light breezes; we are right on Youngs Bay where the Youngs River meets the Columbia River. The air is getting a little crisp but it is extremely pleasant here. We had some smoke from the wildfires in Washington a few days ago but the wind off the ocean keeps things pretty clear. Inland, not so much.

By the end of the week the real recovery will commence. He will be highly motivated to get back to the uke. Playing should be good therapy, right?

Like the song says, Every day in every way It’s getting better and better…  We are still BIG BIG Lucky.

header 03-02-15.

More photos on Flickr.

Ooo eee Are We Gonna Fly Down In The Easy Chair

I promiss to tell the hole, stooped, sorded trooth about it…

Today is Wendy’s birthday. I always try to make it a special day for her because she so deserves it. This year its going to be a little different.

Astoria, Oregon was just supposed to be a quick stopover on our way up the pacific coast. Its  a picturesque town set at the mouth of the Columbia and Youngs River on the Pacific coast of Oregon. With a beautiful waterfront, trolley cars, bike trail, restaurants and a maritime museum that I wanted to tour. We’d spent a couple of nights at the Ft. Stevens State Park out on the coast and didn’t really have a place to stay in Astoria because calls we made to an RV park in town were not returned. Maybe it would have been better to just move on down the road, but that’s iffy history and not what happened anyway.

So we stopped by the Pier 38 RV Park to inquire about space for a couple of nights. For convenience, you can’t do better  than this as it is on the waterfront immediately next to the bike trail and trolley tracks. We could hear the sea lions barking at each other from the wharf! If this were a movie, an ominous soundtrack would accompany Chad, the proprietor, as he exits his trailer where we inquire about accommodations for the next two nights. Chad had a glazed look and heavy bandages around his right hand and had not returned our calls because he was recovering from surgery on his hand. Apparently, he’d had a late-night encounter with the door to his trailer and surgical reduction was required. Ohh, the irony! He had room for us so we committed to stay. This park is a little pricy, especially considering the look of the place and the long terms that have obviously been here awhile… Still, we’re flexible and it fit our needs for the moment.

It was a level spot and no levelers were required, so while Wendy got stuff set up inside I pulled out the bikes and we got ready to explore the town. We have been loving the fresh seafood available along the coast so we had a plan to find some fresh fish to grill while we discovered Astoria. Unleashed dogs were evident, so we postponed walking the cats for later and took off west down the bike trail.

Most of the trail is wide and paved, but it abuts the shore and is parallel to a set of old railroad tracks. So you have to cross the tracks to get off the bike trail. Fortunately, the Riverfront Trolley that runs on that track is slow and Astoria has done a fairly decent job of safe egress to/from the trail. However, in some spots the bike trail and tracks run contiguously across the wooden wharf and there are deep channels that run along the tracks – just fine for trapping a wayward bike wheel. Warning signs are frequent. I really didn’t give it much thought, but it gave Wendy pause so she walked her bike around some of these.

We have seen the result of logging all along the coast mainly in the clear cuts and the logging trucks. In Astoria, we found the destination for most of this timber. A huge, sprawling processing facility that was unloading the trucks, skinning off the bark and piling the logs onto ships. There were piles of logs awaiting loading hundreds of feet tall. I don’t know where that timber was bound, but very likely to China and Japan. We also found some ships ‘on the hard’ and took a few pictures. Most did not appear to have moved in decades and I can’t imagine any of them ever under way again. We found a fresh seafood shop at the western end of the trail, but no halibut so we made a plan to return the next day. On the way back to the bus we stopped in at Josephson’s Chowder House and picked up some freshly smoked salmon. We had a great ride although short and looked forward to touring the maritime museum tomorrow.

Back at the bus we got cleaned up and took the kitties our for a walk. I played the uke for a while and then we decided to head back into town for dinner. Woulda, shoulda, coulda done it all differently. Yelp had a few recommendations so we jumped back on the bikes for a short ride to The Urban Café. Dinner was a delightful and delicious seafood selection with a couple glasses of wine. We headed back towards the bus just as the sun began to set.

We were on a wide, paved section of the trail just east of the museum and I noticed a stern-wheeler on a trailer parked right next to the Peacock – a restored pilot boat on display in the parking lot. It hadn’t been there earlier in the day and I was thinking about getting a picture of it.  A brief momentary loss of focus is all it took and I sideswiped a low curb that sent me flying off the right side of my bike onto the railroad tracks. Instinctively I reached out and took most of the force on my right hand and felt or heard something give. Wendy rode up just as I was standing up and I told her I had just broken my wrist. She thought maybe it was just dislocated, but one glance told me it was worse than that. The shock of that moment is still with me as I replay the fall in my head over and over. That image accompanies my own internal dialog, but I can’t print those words here. I also knew instantly that all our plans had changed.

A very kind gentlemen stopped to see if I was alright so I asked him about an ER nearby. Apparently we were just a couple of blocks from Columbia Memorial Hospital ER so we walked our bikes over to it. The next few hours are a blur while we tried to make sense out of what had just happened and what we were going to do about it. I was definitely in shock and not thinking clearly, but Wendy just stepped right up and took charge. She’s been rock steady through this whole thing: supportive, encouraging, positive – a warrior! I always knew I was lucky to have her and I told her that on a regular basis, but this has me singing her praises like never before. It could have been worse and we decided that night in the ER we were going to be OK. Move forward, think positively, trust the loving universe.

The Aftermath.

X-rays told the tale and Daniel the ER nurse filled in the details. Fracture of the distal radius of my right arm probably the ulna too. The ER could only splint the injury. I would need an orthopedic surgeon to fix it. An open reduction or surgical repair most likely requiring a metal plate and screws. That to be followed by physical therapy. That was hard to hear. There was just no way to be ready for that news. The ER splinted my wrist hiding my hand entirely and arranged a taxi, medications and the names of some orthopaeds in the area and sent us back out into the world. It was early Wednesday morning by then. We went back to the bus and I tried to get some sleep. I don’t know what time Wendy finally came to bed.

Later, I woke up and started making phone calls. We had several problems: Pier 38 was kicking us out. Fishing season had just begun and he had reservations to honor. We needed a place to park and I needed to get into see a surgeon. We needed a car. There was an ortho group in Longview, Washington but they wouldn’t see me for at least 5 – 7 days due to swelling. That was 30 miles away too. Naturally, I wanted it fixed NOW! The local orthopaedic surgeon called back that afternoon and got me in on Thursday. Maybe it was going to be OK.

Parking was a big problem. Every RV park for miles around was filled to bursting due to end of summer and fishing season that runs through September. The only thing we found was a 20 Amp site near town, but no sewer and water connection. Another park 30 miles away had space, but no phone or internet service and outside of Enterprise Rental Car pick up zone. Of course we didn’t know how long we were going to be in the area, but no phone, no internet and no car would never work. There was an Elks lodge in Longview, but I really did not want to wait a week just for an office visit – then an appointment for surgery? A week or two weeks later? Throughout all of it, there’s Wendy feeding me, encouraging me, supporting me making calls and searching the net – WOW what a woman she is.

Chad at Pier 38 relents and lets us stay another night. That’s when I find out the Doc that worked on his hand is the same guy I was scheduled to see on Thursday! Ominous music crescendo here.

Dr. Bales inspires confidence at my Thursday appointment and he wants to do surgery on Monday! We’re so glad we decided to stay here in Astoria rather than head to Longview. I figured it was a crap shoot either way, I might as well not start completely over again. Wendy finds us a place to park for a week which will get us through the surgery and a couple of days for recovery. On Friday, we move the bus to The Klaskanine River RV Park. No phone service, very weak internet, but our neighbors are friendly and I convince Enterprise to bring us a car even though we’re outside their 10 mile zone.

We really needed some downtime, but we both knew we couldn’t relax until we had the parking situation managed. So on Saturday instead of relaxing we got in the car to go find a place to park for at least a month. Dr. Bales confirmed the most likely schedule and PT would not start for at least two weeks after surgery. As soon as we got back into town we started making calls to parks up and down the coast. The story was the same at all of them – Booked full through September. Don’t come to the Oregon coast in August without a reservation! Finally, we took our long shot – the 20 amp site w/o hookups I mentioned above. It was still available. YES! It was 50 amp not 20. YES! It was three miles from town and we had excellent phone and internet service! That was huge! We had a good place to stay, near town, the hospital, PT, grocery and Enterprise – Finally.

Sunday we finally got that downtime we needed. Prep for surgery on Monday involved a surgical scrub shower Sunday night, another on Monday am and no food or drink after midnight. Clean sheets, clean towels and clean clothes and we were at the hospital by noon. Hurry up and wait until they came to take me into surgery around 4 pm.

They parked me on my gurney outside the OR and I waited some more. Finally, Dr. Bales came out, leaned over the cart and said “We have had to reschedule your surgery to 11:30 am Tuesday.”

“You’re kidding me right?”

Not kidding. It seems that there was a problem with the hardware set (those various plates and screws) they needed for my surgery and it wasn’t a complete set or not sterilized properly or whatever. It was a big disappointment! I asked the obvious – don’t you check these things ahead of time? Nevertheless, that was it and they rolled me back to the outpatient room. I could hear one of the nurses talking to someone on the phone and it sounded difficult. I knew instantly who she was talking to – Wendy! They had called her to come back to the hospital and then told her why. She was giving them all a good ‘what for’ believe me. What a warrior and in my corner too! Their apologies were profuse, but in the end there was nothing we could do but accept it.

Later we find out the set comes from the manufacturer, sealed and sterilized, but there was a hole in the packaging and it needed to be re-sterilized. We got a few meal vouchers, so we had dinner and went home.

On Tuesday we are back at the hospital by 9:15 am and this time it goes according to plan. I don’t remember anything after  leaving the room for the OR. When I wake up, its over. A metal plate, ten screws and I am ‘fixed’. We are moving forward again. I’m being a good patient. I am highly motivated. I really want to get back to playing the uke, rolling down the road and eventually ride my bike again. On the positive side, since I’ve been unable to help with the ‘boy bus stuff’ Wendy’s been picking up all the outside stuff that I usually do: making the electrical connections, starting the compressor, dumping the black tank, putting the awnings out, leveling the bus, doing all the driving and parking, adding fresh water, checking the oil! Amazing.

I’ve decided that I’m going to have to take a more conscious approach to being careful and paying attention. I’m not going to be able to depend on my ‘luck’ or ‘balance’ or ‘experience’ so much as I have. The cost of a mistake is just too high.

watercolor tree shed

And Then This Happened…

Our next stop on the way up the Oregon coast was Newport. The Elks Lodge there is right on the hill above the bay with a view of the 101 bridge. We rode our bikes around the bay front and into town and Nye Beach for a look at the whole area. Newport is nice but a good sized part of the waterfront is taken up with a giant fish processing plant. There is no bay view, just trucks and loading and lots of fish death.

Further down there is a seal gathering spot. I could watch these guys all day long.

DSC_5198 DSC_5199
DSC_5218_tonemapped DSC_5206_tonemapped DSC_5205_tonemapped DSC_5225_tonemapped
Yaquina Head Lighthouse is there too. It was only used for three years, from 1871-1874. Never lit again.
We continue to eat our way up the coast. It started in Florence with oysters, mussels, clams and salmon. And smoked salmon. In Newport we had to scope out the food, of course. For dinner we chose Ocean Local Seafood. I had bacon-wrapped tuna mignon and Jim had Fishwives Stew. Both were sublime. Paired with wine, of course.
DSC_5193 DSC_5192

We also had clam chowder and a smoked fish platter for lunch at Ocean Bleu. With wine. Highly recommended.  Bought some smoked salmon and smoked black cod, our new favorite. And fresh halibut.

Newport was a great stop, even though we did spend several more hours there than we had planned. Ahem..

We headed out of town on the way to Tillamook and another Elks Lodge. With lots to see on the way. But first we went to the dump at the Chamber of Commerce. We came up on it suddenly and passed it; kind of a tight turn anyway. So we found a parking lot to turn around in just down the street. Except as we entered the turn, it turned out to be a lot steeper uphill than we thought and we high-sided and scraped the trailer hitch on the street. When I got out to assess things after a back end noise, the trailer hitch was effectively buried in the asphalt of the street. And the bus wouldn’t move. Great.

We tried moving both forward and backward, no progress. Now we are resourceful sorts and have gotten ourselves out of plenty of stuck situations in various vehicles from wood trucks to pickup trucks to lawn mowers. A bus is a little different though.

Naturally a small crown gathered and some were off to find cones, boards and blocks so we could try to get the drive axle on something for traction. Maybe we could back it up then. We raised the bus up on the back levelers as much as we could and put the leveler pads and various lumber under the wheels. We dug the asphalt out from around the trailer hitch. No go.
Here lies the problem. The drive (front) axle is off the ground.
We do have a roadside service, Coachnet, and we called them after our attempts failed to free the bus. Thankfully, it wasn’t on a very busy street and traffic easily rerouted around us. The Coachnet customer service person, Heather, was great. She said, “I know you’re in a fix but you called the right place and we’ll get you going.”

Because of the nature of the tow, the closest big-enough truck was in Corvallis and would be a couple of hours out. Oh well, nothing to do but wait. But here’s one aspect of modern towing technology that we never used to have. When I talked with the tow guy, Derik, on the phone to describe our situation, he asked me to send pictures of the bus and how it was stuck, from all four corners, and email them to him. I got out my trusty iPad and within minutes he had the photos and was on his way. Pretty cool.

I managed to get some work done while we waited.Tikita rested comfortably through the entire incident.
Help arrives in the form of Bob’s Towing out of Corvallis. Derik assessed the situation carefully and when he said, “I don’t do anything in a hurry” I knew we would be fine. I wasn’t sure if he would have to lift the whole back end of the bus, but he just lifted the drive axle and put really big blocks under it.
The other side was actually on the ground/boards so he didn’t have to do anything there.
And here it comes! One smooth shot at backing it up and we were out!
The aftermath… We picked up all the boards and cones and tried to repair the asphalt as much as as possible.
Coachnet was great and Derik of Bob’s Towing in Corvallis gets a big shout out from us. He was a cool headed professional who had us out in about fifteen minutes. He had seen much worse, of course, including a bus stuck in mud up to its axles!
IMG_7997 IMG_8006
We headed up the coast to Lincoln CIty and we had a delicious dinner of grilled fish, mashed potatoes and avocado salad with olives and pico de gallo at our site, a great ending to the day.
Now we are near Lincoln CIty where we have been staying for a few days at a very nice Elks Park in a quiet meadow with big trees in the countryside near the ocean. We have been eating dinners of smoked fish and salad. Jim has been playing his ukulele every day and the kitties are hanging around outside pretty much all day.An iPad drawing of the view from our spot.
watercolor tree shed
We feel fortunate that this was just a blip on the radar in the big bus scheme of things. No harm done to us, the bus or the kitties. A small delay. No cost except for what we tipped Derik. Especially considered in the recent light of a close family members’ not-good health news…

Problems? We got none. We know we are BIG BIG LUCKY!
header 03-02-15.

More pics on Flickr.

Oregon’s Row River Trail

After getting the bus serviced and having the solar checked out, along with a weeklong stay at a lovely Sandpiper-style resort in the deep woods west of Springfield, it was time to ride! We scoped out the Row River Trail between Cottage Grove and Dorena, Oregon and made a plan.

The trail is built on 16 miles of the abandoned Oregon Pacific & Eastern rail line, which was owned and operated by the Bohemia Mining Company and used to haul logs, supplies, ore, and passengers between Disston and Cottage Grove. The Eugene District of the Bureau of Land Management acquired 14 miles of the abandoned rail way in 1993. The BLM officially opened the multi-use paved trail from the Mosby Creek Covered Bridge to Culp Creek. In 1994, the city of Cottage Grove acquired the remaining three mile segment of the rail line that extended from Mosby Creek into the historic downtown district.

The Row River Trail connects the City of Cottage Grove to Dorena Lake, Culp Creek and the nearby Umpqua National Forest. The trail winds through a variety of landscapes that include urban lands; pasture and farm land with some very large and beautiful trees, timber lands, Dorena Lake shoreline, and the Row River.

We got settled into the Elks Lodge, which is right near both the trali and downtown. Another added bonus, blackberries for the picking along the Coast Fork of the Willamette River.

Naturally, we had to check out the car show in Cottage Grove before we got going.DSC_5149 DSC_5136  DSC_5140 DSC_5142
The Row River Trail is a smooth, asphalt trail with several historic covered bridges along the way. Lane County has more covered bridges than any county west of the Mississippi. When we set out, it was cloudy and almost threatening rain but it cleared up as the day went on. The weather here in Oregon has been terrific, cool and sunny with gorgeous skies.

This is the Centennial Bridge, built in 1887. It is right in the historic downtown of Cottage Grove. The Currin Bridge was built in 1927 and is no longer in use. It crosses the Row River.
DSC_5159_tonemapped DSC_5161_tonemapped DSC_5163
And Mosby Creek Bridge, built in 1920. It is just adjacent to the trail on the Row River Road.
DSC_5155 DSC_5157
Around Dorena Lake the sky started getting dramatic. We felt a few raindrops but nothing serious.
Along the way…
DSC_5171_tonemapped  DSC_5177 DSC_5179
Lunch break about 15 miles in.
On the way back, the sky cleared up a little.
We rode a total of about 35 miles and both agreed it was great to get back on the bikes for a longer ride. The trails just keep getting better!

Next we are heading back to the coast and north into Washington. Gotta eat some more seafood and many more oysters. Newport here we come!


Oh! Oregon!

After we headed out of California, we were on to Oregon and the coast. As we pulled out of Eureka, we saw this T@b right by the King Salmon sign! Hi Okies!

We were bound for Cape Blanco State Park where we were assured we could get a campsite without a reservation in place. It was the weekend again and we were a little skeptical but we went anyway.

The drive along the coast was really something. Big Morro-style rocks pop up out of the water at regular intervals and the surf crashes ashore. We like just seeing the landscape and watching it change, whether on the bikes or in the bus. We figure we better see as much as we can around here before the Cascadia Fault springs into action.

We got to Cape Blanco and it was pretty late in the day. On a Friday. We drove through the whole campground and it was full. Stopped at the Camp Host and he said they were full every day. So much for our no reservation lifestyle. We continued on and found a small county park at Floras Lake, a small freshwater lake right next to the ocean. They had a spot for one night so we took it. The lake is popular with windsurfers and kite boarders and we watched them do their thing. What a great way to burn calories! We met Beth, who was zipping back and forth across the lake. And I bet if they had those kite boards when Jim was a kid, his whole water-skiing family would have been all over that.
DSC_5071 DSC_5073
We decided to move on to Florence where we found a great spot at the Elks Lodge. The whole town had marked bike lanes on all the streets so I took a ride and checked out the town, which is on a protected inlet. The famous Oregon Dunes are here, along with lots of beautiful gardens in full bloom. What a treat!
IMG_7921 IMG_7910 DSC_5077
I found my way to the waterfront which isn’t far from the Elks. At the local antique shop, I found a housekeeping solution for the bus. We call it the Mudroom. I had just recently measured the space and knew what would fit.

BEFORE: Shoes, Frisbees, slippers and yoga mats everywhere!
AFTER: Yoga mats are bungeed into place and shoes, frisbees and slippers organized in a box behind the driver’s seat that fits whether the slide is in or out. I also picked up a narrow wooden dishrack from the Elks Thrift Store. The universe will provide.
Checked out several of the seafood restaurants and we returned to dine al fresco at the Bridgewater the next day. We had a couple glasses of wine and a delightful meal of oysters, mussels, clam, salad and salmon. The mussels are the best we’ve had since we traveled in Nova Scotia on the motorcycle many years ago. And the oysters!
DSC_5083 DSC_5088
Great people watching too!
The only excitement we had while at the Florence Elks was due to Astrid. Of course. While the other kitties have been going out on walks, properly harnessed up and on their leashes, Astrid hates the leash and refuses to come out if she has it on. We had the bus door propped open and were watching the other two while Jim played his ukulele. The next thing I knew, the crows in the trees right behind the bus were screeching up a storm! I had a feeling it was cat-related and I went back there to check it out. At first I didn’t see anything but then I saw a wild haired black kitty poke her face up out of the tall grass. The crows were alerting us to the fact that Astrid had escaped! That darn cat!

I scolded, “Astrid!” and she made a beeline for the bus. The couple next to us were outside and Astrid had to run past them to get to the bus. I wasn’t sure what she would do. Fortunately, she scampered into the bus and hasn’t been out since. She is always leashed up now though. Fool me once…

After that died down, a guy just appeared in the parking lot, carrying a gas can and obviously homeless. Matthew was polite and talkative and checked out the bus paint job extensively. He related to us because he considered himself a “traveler” like us, except he travels in his 1990 Dodge van, when he has gas, that is. He even offered us some 4:20; we graciously demurred. He didn’t ask us for money but I gave him $5 toward his gas fund, which he tried to refuse but I insisted. I almost always give a dollar or so to folks with a sign or on the street. The only time I haven’t lately was when we were exiting a grocery store. I saw the guy and his sign and started to get out my cash. Then I saw he had a tattoo. ON HIS FACE! Sorry bud. I am not against tattoos at all, but on your face? Come on!
Matthew had no visible ink. We wish him well on his journey.
Jim had heard many good things about AM Solar in Springfield, Oregon and we were close so we got an appointment and headed that way. He wanted to have the solar panels checked out as he suspected they weren’t doing much. Even though AM Solar couldn’t work on the bus until fall, Jim figured if he got an evaluation and parts list, he could do the work himself over the winter. We parked in their lovely lot by the river and settled in for the night. Another couple was there and the gentleman was walking his kitty, Umi, on a leash! Umi liked people but not other animals. She let me pet her but the next day when Carmella was out too, Umi was not happy to meet another kitty. She got scooped up, never to be seen again.
We had a lovely spot on a scenic bend of the Willamette river.
After getting the evaluation completed and the estimate ($5000!) we headed for Eugene, where they have an extensive system of bike trails. We got a spot at the Elks and it was literally right next to the trail. Our view from the bus. I did an iPad painting too.
Preset Style = Natural Format = 4" (Small) Format Margin = None Format Border = Straight Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Medium Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Darker Paint Intensity = Normal Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Average Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Narrow Paper = Watercolor Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light Options Faces = Enhance Faces
We spent the next day getting in a 20 mile riding fix through the wetlands and in the town. Which has bike lanes on every street! And a whole system of separate paths.
DSC_5099 DSC_5094 DSC_5095 DSC_5098_tonemapped
Eugene is a college town, University of Oregon is there and the neighborhoods are filled with gardens and interesting stuff.
DSC_5105 DSC_5106 DSC_5109 DSC_5114
This woman had an incredible garden.

And this cool 1968 VW van. Owner has had it for 12 years. Thinks about selling once in a while. Told him he would be sorry. He had a big friendly fluffy kitty too.
DSC_5117 DSC_5119
We only got in one day of riding in Eugene as we headed to Roseburg to get the oil changed and the brakes adjusted. We stayed at the fairgrounds the night before our very early appointment.

We got backed into the garage and the oil change went fine. Then Jim found out that the guy who was supposed to adjust the brakes was broken down in Montana. A no-show. So Jim said “I’m just going to adjust them myself.”
And he did. It always makes me a little nervous when “experts” work on the bus. Or house. Or car. “Is everything back together? Tightened up?” I know it seems ridiculous but we’ve heard the horror stories and I trust Jim more than anybody to do it right. He has mad skillz.

After a heads-up from a friend, we are taking a break for a few days just west of where we got the solar done at a secluded park deep in the Oregon woods. From here we will investigate the Row River Trail along the beautiful Row River between Cottage Grove and Dorena. There are several covered bridges on the trail and Lane County has more covered bridges than anywhere west of the Mississippi.

After that we are not sure if we will go back to the Oregon coast and travel north or go inland. I’m not sure I have eaten my share of oysters yet.

Ideas? Places to see?

More pictures on Flickr.


Eureka! We Made It!

We decided to go to Eureka, California to see more big trees, redwoods this time. And the ocean. And all the cool Victorian houses. And ride the many miles of bike trails they have there. After a lovely drive through the Napa Valley and an overnight at the Elks in Ukiah, we headed out.

My turn to drive again. The slow, ponderous uphills and curvy downhills were a little nerve-wracking but we persevered. Traffic was all snarled up in Willits, where the highway was closed and all traffic was routed through town. It was so bad that I was able to take this picture from the driver’s seat. Not normally recommended…
Once we got back on the 101, the ups and downs began. The bus performs great, it is just a little slow which makes me a little anxious with cars whipping all around to pass us. Thank God for passing lanes and pullouts.  By the time we switched drivers, it smoothed out and all was downhill from there. We made it in fine shape and got settled down at the Elks Lodge in Eureka, which is just about a mile away from the waterfront bike trail heading into town. I was ready for my cocktail!
The first day we rode into Eureka was the fourth of July, so we gathered with the crowds enjoying music and food (and wine!) and biked around town. We had an awesome local sampling of food and wine at the Humboldt County Tourism Bureau. They also had oysters!

Situated on Humboldt Bay, Eureka is a gem of a town. Lots of Victorian houses in all states of repair, from the grandest of grand to the humble fixer-upper. As my friend, Louise Butler says, they all have a story to tell.

DSC_4796  DSC_4817_tonemapped DSC_4789 DSC_4812_tonemapped
We rode a couple of 30 mile days, one of them over the bridge to the Samoa Peninsula where we ate our meal of the day at the Samoa Cookhouse. The bridge had a bike lane but the traffic was fast and furious. We had a great family style meal at the Cookhouse, thanks to the advice of R. J. Long. Consisting of soup, salad, bread, green beans, potatoes, baked beans, roast pork, gravy and dessert; we were glad we could work it off on the bikes. We biked around the residential area to the beach, then back over the bridge to Eureka.
DSC_4806 DSC_4808 DSC_4811 DSC_4809_tonemapped
We had driven the bus on the Redwood Highway through Humboldt Bay State Park and decided to rent a car to go back and do the Avenue of the Giants. The groves of these ancient trees are enough to make a non-believer drop to their knees in awe of the majesty. Walking through the forest, among trees that are over 2000 years old is humbling. These silent sentinels of the forest introduce you to the quiet; the fern ground cover and the fallen debris all add to the hushed magnificence. The ferns and clover are also very large. And Sasquatch lives there!
Of course, the early settlers were intent on cutting them all down and the area was heavily logged. As early as 1918, groups formed to buy land and groves of trees and saved what is left. One of the groups was smart enough to invite John D. Rockefeller for a tour and picnic in the groves. He got involved and donated two million dollars to buy up a couple of large parcels. Some of the groves had never been logged and you can get the sense of the ancient old growth forest.

Why do we always destroy everything that we don’t understand? Oh yeah, money. Because we can… And in those days, Manifest Destiny. Bah.
IMG_7836 DSC_4919 IMG_7868  IMG_7835
One of the groves on the Avenue of the Giants Auto Tour, F. K. Lane, has the largest amount of biomass, living and dead, in the world! When these trees fall, they take up a lot of space!
Since we had the car, we drove to the westernmost point in the continental United States. It was a foggy and curvy drive that we were glad we didn’t try in the bus. Also not recommended for motorhomes.

DSC_5011 DSC_5012
The fog was so thick that you couldn’t see an approaching car until they were upon you. I made some horse friends in Capetown, after we descended from the foggy hills.
DSC_5026_tonemapped DSC_5033

The westernmost continental coast was well worth the trip. Surf up and wind blowing. The black sand was silky smooth.
DSC_5036_tonemapped DSC_5060_tonemapped  DSC_5048_tonemapped
The fog had lifted some on the way back through Ferndale, where they have lots more Victorian houses and architecture.

IMG_7893 DSC_4967
DSC_4996 DSC_4974  DSC_5003
And beautiful gardens surrounding them! This red hot poker plant was the biggest I have ever seen!
And the hydrangeas range from robin egg blue to magenta to deep purple.
Back to Eureka where they also have all kinds of art murals throughout the town. The front of the performing arts center:
And the back.
More cool stuff around town:

kitty collage DSC_4830 DSC_4842 DSC_4814 DSC_4815
And on a final note; everybody knows (or should know) how bad the drought is in California Fire danger is high and all burning suspended. As in our past travel history, we were able to bring rain! It rained a couple of days while we had the car. I know we are on the coast and all but pretty amazing. I guess we need to go back to the Central Valley, but we are on to Oregon!

More pics on Flickr.


Elks Care. Elks Share.

We joined the Elks in Kansas a couple of years before we took off full-time in the bus. When Jim’s dad found out that we joined, he said cryptically, “Those people like to have fun.” This is the same guy who, when we told his folks on the phone (25 years ago) that we were getting married said, after a very long pause, “Well, Jim. That’s a big step.”

We had friends who traveled full time and found out about the Elks Lodge RV parking options from them. We have stayed in several lodges on previous trips and since we got going this year, we have made the most of the options, particularly in California. We stayed at one lodge in Scottsdale, Arizona that had some full timers living there with lots of (all good) stuff all around. That was the only one we have encountered like that. Who knows? Maybe he was the Grand Exalted Ruler. That is seriously the actual title.

So far in California we have stayed at several lodges and we are only partway through the state.

Hesperia, before heading into LA. They had a large lot that was completely empty except for us. Carmella loved that, but it was so hot that she barely wanted to go outside.

Santa Maria, after leaving LA. Very large lodge with its own small RV park. Carmella went out here but there were a few dogs.

Atascadero, on the way to Fresno. Large lot with just a few other campers.

Fresno, waiting for refrigerator parts. Nice site facing a lake (that wasn’t empty!)

Hollister, to cool off. Right next to a small airport where we got to see sailplanes being towed and biplanes taking off.

And Lodi, where it is very hot again. Nice lodge with a golf course view from our site and close to restaurants and shops.

We are heading to Ukiah next, then Eureka in the redwood country where we may stay as long as a couple of weeks.

The parking is great, quiet and safe. Many of the lodges offer your first or second drink free. Most have water and electric and a dump onsite. It is normally not free, a donation or much cheaper (and better) than an RV park. No kids, very few dogs, no loud music or fires.

We got to watch this sunset unfold in Hollister…

DSC_4760 DSC_4772DSC_4770  DSC_4771DSC_4766

We are happy to be Elks and highly recommend membership to other travelers.


The Furnace of Fresno

We headed to Fresno for several reasons. It is fairly close to Sequoia National Park and King’s Canyon and we figured we could rent a car to see the trees. Our friends and old next door neighbors, Mike and Rita Sanders, were there visiting their youngest son and his family. And we knew there was an Elks Lodge there since the refrigerator was acting cranky. That is not good in 110 degree heat! So we knew we would want to be plugged in while we waited for parts. And to stay cool.

It was great to see Mike and Rita. They fall into the category of friends when even if you don’t see or talk to them for a while, you fall right back into your friendship. We had a great lunch and visit with them.

The next day we got a car and headed to Sequoia. The “groves” of giant sequoias are really impressive.
DSC_4703 IMG_7835 IMG_7836 IMG_7843 DSC_4720
And the biggest tree on the planet: The General Sherman. It is not the tallest but in sheer volume, it is the biggest. All the other trees bow down to it, although they are marvels in their own right.
DSC_4735_tonemapped IMG_7844
Hiking through the groves of giant sequoias is memorable. The quiet, heady smell, and sheer size of the forest envelops you as you strain to see the tops of the trees. And SO MANY BIG TREES! A singular experience. Highly recommended.

The next evening we got to visit with an old bus nut friend that we last saw in Blytheville, Arkansas for that town’s bus rally to dedicate their newly restored Greyhound station. RJ Long has a great store of bus knowledge and he lives in Fresno and was very helpful with attractions and what we should do there. It was great to catch up.

On to Hollister! It will be cooler there, much better than 110 degrees in Fresno. Seriously cooking!

That will be a nice change.


Morro Bay, PCH & Hearst Castle

We figured we better make a reservation since we were landing in Morro Bay on the Pacific Coast Highway on the weekend. Jim found a campground and we settled into our spot before heading out on the bikes to explore the town and Morro Rock. Bikes are the best way to get around this beach town, especially on a weekend when traffic is at a crawl. We enjoyed riding on the dedicated bike paths and on the beach. The last  time we got to ride on the beach was at Padre Island and that was months ago. Time for beach riding! And seafood!
The first day it was cloudy and foggy and we could barely see Morro Rock. The next few days we got a better look at it. It is impressive. They used to mine its volcanic granite-hard rock but that stopped in 1960 and now it is off limits. We saw a few surfers and snorkelers. All wearing wetsuits; it was chilly.
The gulls and ground squirrels were fat and tame and the sea otters lolled in the bay with the stand-up paddle boarders.
It’s a little hard to make out in this picture, but they float on their backs, feet and flippers up. We ate at the highly rated Galley Sunday evening, snagging the last Father’s Day reservation. It is right on the water with views of Morro Rock and the harbor. And really delicious food. We shared Oysters Rockefeller. I chose ahi tuna and Jim had sea bass. Got my Absolut martini fix in. Seriously five star.

On our second day of beach riding, we rode from Morro Strand back to the rock. As we slogged our bikes through the deeper sand, an angel appeared in the form of Patrick Sparks. He walked toward us with bowls of homemade pea soup and handed them to us. How did he know we were hungry? He and his friend, Michael set up on the beach and made soup for folks like us. How lucky are we?
DSC_4546 DSC_4545
Thanks Patrick!
IMG_3928 DSC_4520_tonemapped
We wanted to drive as much of the Pacific Coast Highway as we could because at some point, they discourage big rigs like ours. Mike Izzo’s neighbor in LA told us about the elephant seals near San Simeon so we went to see them on the way to Hearst Castle. William Randolph Hearst donated the land for the state park and it is a much finer legacy than the Castle, in my opinion.
The seals spend 10 solitary months of the year at sea, eating and diving and return to the beach for rest, socialization and mating. They eat and drink nothing during the time they spend on the beach and they are fairly social, juveniles sparring, females giving birth and mating. I could have watched these guys all day! We had reserved a tour of the Castle, however, so after an hour or so in the blustery wind, we headed for La Cuesta Encantada.

Hearst Castle. Meh.

The site is lovely, on the hills above the coast and the clouds, a truly fabulous setting. Our take on the experience was that the tour was too short, too expensive for what we got and tour goers were hounded by a proctor-type guy who acted like a former prison guard. He was berating people for things they hadn’t even done; not pleasant. When we toured Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, we got to see much more for our twenty five bucks. At Hearst Castle, our “Grand Rooms” tour included like four rooms and a lot of talking by the guide. This is for a residence with 115 rooms, 38 bedrooms and various guest cottages on the grounds. Four rooms! The indoor pool, hydrangeas and theater lights were the best parts. The famous outdoor pool was empty and under repair, the building surrounded by scaffolding. And they asked us for more money on the bus trip back down. I think we’re done with the grand houses.
DSC_4640_tonemapped copy  DSC_4609  IMG_3976 IMG_4003 IMG_7802 IMG_7801

Next up: Fresno where we planned another stay at an Elks Lodge. We started having some cooling problems with the refrigerator and the propane ignitor died, so no boondocking till fixed. Jim ordered another PC board, had it shipped to Fresno and plans to install it during our stay. We know we need to be plugged in because it is HOT! Like 110 degrees hot.We seldom run our air conditioning but there are times that we are glad to have it.

More pics on Flickr.


Comin’ Into Los Angeles… Olds #3

Bringin’ in a coupla keys… Not really!

Mike and Char Izzo are the final piece in the triumvirate of Oldsmobile Friends we have visited in the last month or so. We first met Mike at the 2009 NAOC National Meet in Prescott, Arizona where we drove our Falcon convertible, pretending to be an Oldsmobile. We got Honorable Olds status and had a great time at the meet.

Mike is not only an Olds guy; he is a bus guy too. In fact, on one of the garage tours at the meet that year, he and Jim started looking hard at a bus in one of the collectors’ garages. Jim had been ruminating about the full time RV living idea and during the tour he got a chance to talk to Mike about buses vs. RVs. Mike had recently bought a bus of his own, a 1979 MCI 5C and he emphatically said “Get a bus, not an RV” and the advice stuck. After we visited the RV salvage yard later that year in Carthage, Missouri, Jim’s mind was pretty much made up. We needed a bus, not just an RV. So the seed was sown.

Since we got the bus in 2010, Mike has been very helpful with all kinds of bus issues. We met up at the 2011 meet in Oglebay, West Virginia and Mike got to see the progress we had made so far. We still had a long ways to go but the guys spent quite a bit of time going over things and as a bonus, Mike’s cousin Paul, a diesel mechanic., was with him. Jim put Paul’s number in his phone right away.

Fast forward to 2015. Before we even moved out of our house, Mike had mentioned in an email that if we made it to LA in the bus, he had a place for us to park right in front of his house and offered his services as a seasoned Los Angeles tour guide. Knowing about Los Angeles and the crazy traffic there, we tucked his offer into our heads and put them on our list of Places to Visit.

Before we left Rocket Ranch, Mike had some very specific helpful advice on entering and exiting the narrow gate at Jim Schultz’s since he had been there in his bus. His thoughtful take on the subject was much appreciated and we got out the gate with just inches to spare. The next step: he sent very explicit instructions how to get to and park at his place in LA and said he would park a few cars in the street to hold our spot. Car guys have plenty of cars.

As it turned out, we came into LA from Hesperia on a Friday afternoon. Good timing… I had started out driving and we figured we would switch so Jim could drive the final leg into the city to Mike and Char’s place. Once we got close, there was absolutely no place to pull off and switch drivers so I just kept going. Jim was more familiar with the directions anyway and what else could we do? The drive went smoothly and we pulled into Mike’s place in the mid afternoon, ready to get reacquainted in person.

Mike is a former Greyhound charter driver and his inner tour guide really kicked in while we were there for almost a week; another extended stay. The first night we all went out to the original Bob’s Big Boy Burger for a SoCal cruise night. We saw lots of very nice cars, including a couple of Oldsmobiles and some Falcons too. I met a couple of the Falcon folks, always nice to put a face with a name. A cruise night in Los Angeles, Burbank actually, is an exercise in close parking and skillful maneuvering! We got a table outside and it was nice and cool after the desert heat.

Just an aside about Char. She and Mike are two of the world’s nicest people, hands down. Mike is a gentle and kind soul, a saint, actually. And Char is the best example of absolute grace and positive energy under very challenging conditions. Without going into details, she deals daily with way more than we average folks can imagine. You think you got problems? You got nothing. She is tough, strong and resilient. She is always smiling her light-up-the-room smile and trying to turn attention away from herself while doing everything she can for others. She brought us a fragrant gardenia bouquet from their beautiful yard which made the bus smell divine.

She grows oranges, lemons, Bird of Paradise, Lily of the Nile and many other flowers in their personal paradise of a back yard. She baked us some delicious cookies. She is smart, strong, sweet and awesome. We love her. We love Mike too.

Mike also has a roomy man cave/garage.

Mike had done his homework, for the past 40 years since he moved to LA from Pittsburgh. He had several lists; places to visit, to eat and to consider. We took off the first day to see an amazing mural designed and executed by Judith Francisca Baca, a local artist whose legacy is this fine work. It chronicles the history of California in many colorful panels along a tributary of the LA River. We spent quite a bit of time there and we got to meet her! She had been giving a tour and just appeared to see if we had any questions. What a treat!

The mural is remarkable in that it doesn’t always show the pretty picture of California/American life. It chronicles the exploitation of the Chinese to build the railroad, the Japanese internment camps in WWII and many other sensitive times in history. Many more pictures on Flickr.

Next Mike took us to Forest Lawn Cemetery which is in a beautiful setting and very lush.
DSC_4378 DSC_4375
From there it was on to the Griffith Observatory, made extra famous by the chase scenes in Rebel Without a Cause. There is even a bust of James Dean on the site and you can see the famous HOLLYWOOD sign from there.
DSC_4404 DSC_4391
You can kinda see the Hollywood sign behind us.
DSC_4393 DSC_4402
Once back at the ranch, we set about some serious eating. Mike grilled lamb steaks, asparagus, zucchini and Char made a delicious salad. I contributed some garlic mashed potatoes.
That evening, Jim convinced Mike to dust off one of his several electric guitars. They plugged in and jammed a little. Pretty good for a guy who hasn’t played guitar in years (Mike) and one who is a beginner on ukulele (Jim). Char and I really enjoyed listening. Hear them hereIMG_7697

Mike took us to see his bus. It turns out he bought it about a year before we bought ours. His 1979 MCI 5C is very nice. Very light and airy. And beautifully maintained. Former bus driver, remember?
Mike said in the eighties, when he was a charter driver, normally his name appeared. After a few days getting to know the folks on the tour, he would replace it with this:

We also went to the Vasquez Rocks on the way back from seeing his bus. This otherwordly landscape has been used in countless science fiction and “alien planet” movies. Recognize it?
DSC_4438_tonemapped  DSC_4425_tonemapped DSC_4428_tonemapped DSC_4435_tonemapped
And on the way back, another famous site.  
One day he loaned us his truck, a 1964 Chevy pickup and we braved LA traffic to drive the bikes to Santa Monica and ride along the beach. That was an adventure! The bike paths are extensive and the people watching is excellent. We rode to the end of Route 66 at the Santa Monica pier, around Marina Del Rey and through Vernice Beach. Our ride for the day to haul the bikes was perfect:
DSC_4454 DSC_4472
Jim did a great job driving on the 405 and we beat the worst traffic while being entertained by the surroundings. When we got back to Char and Mike’s, we had dinner at a Japanese restaurant they frequent. It was delicious. So nice to be with the locals. We also had excellent Italian at a local place. Mike is Italian, so you know this place was good. The best thing about each meal was the company. And all the food was really good.

The next day we biked on the extensive bike trails in their neighborhood, thanks again to Charter Mike for his maps and directions. We got lunch at a Greek Market and inhaled the fragrant plantings along about 16 miles of the bike path. Honeysuckle, magnolia and bouganvilla line the way. And some razor wire.
We visited the Japanese Garden on the way back, upon Mike’s recommendation, and it was well worth a stop. Perfectly manicured, quiet, with many water features. Ironic for California right now. It is a project of the LA Water Department and the state and EPA.
DSC_4492_tonemapped  DSC_4482 DSC_4491_tonemapped
We shared a final evening outing with our hosts to Wood Ranch. So much eating! So delicious! We are so thankful to Char and Mike for their friendship and gracious extension of sincere hospitality. We truly are fortunate to have frinds like these guys. I don’t know how many times I heard Mike say, “But you’re our guests!”

Our nice quiet spot;
in front of their house. The house may look small, but it is not.

The next morning we prepared to hit the road. While Jim was doing his outdoor check, he discovered the outside drive tire pressure was down to 23 pounds. Wut? Mike said we either picked up a nail or the valve stem was leaking. Great. They checked the valve stem and no problem there. We jacked up the bus with a little additional leverage and rotated the tires to look and feel for nails. None. Whew! Jim used our onboard compressor to bring the tire up to pressure and it held all day.
IMG_7724 IMG_7721
By this time we were even later hitting the road than we usually are. We aren’t in a hurry and we were happy to have Mike’s expertise at hand on the tire issue. As we got ready to leave, we started to say our goodbyes again. In her usual gracious style, Char’s first thought was to do something for us.

She said, “Lunch?”

That pretty much sums up their generous and thoughtful attitude. Once again, we are so thankful, so blessed to have folks like Char and Mike in our lives!

More pictures on Flickr.