Lincoln, NE to Arrow Rock, MO 299 miles

I laughed when I looked at the blog this morning, seeing all the silly mistakes I made. Writing when worn out can be a bit strange. I shouldn’t be worn out tonight, but somehow I am. Last night was a quiet and early evening, with only a couple of short walks with Mattie before we settled in to read. Neither of us felt much like watching any tv and I still had the rest of the blog to finish.

It was 11:30 when I finally finished doing photos and writing. Someone mentioned in a previous comment or email that they were impressed with my ability to keep up with my writing while we were traveling. I really have no choice. The words are rolling around in my head and won’t let me sleep until they are written down. It is the same tonight. I would love to just go to sleep, even though it is only 6:30 Central Time, but if I did that, the day would slip away in another blur.

It was a really good day.

It began early, but not too early. Traveling through different time zones I become acutely aware of the difference location makes within a time zone in the rising and setting of the sun. It was after 7 when the skies were light enough for me to go wandering through the Camp-A-Way RV park to take some photos. Mo said no one will really care what it was like 15 years ago, but somehow I do. Things change everywhere, in cities I once knew, in neighborhoods and suburbs, and in the world in general. But the shifts in a place I haven’t seen or even thought about over the years can be a bit shocking.

This was our site in 2007 at Camp-A-Way RV park

Mo and I stayed in Camp-A-Way RV Park with the baby MoHo in 2007, when I was teaching Basic Soil Survey in Lincoln, Nebraska, where a National Soil Survey Center housed training classes for people throughout the country. Mo spent days exploring while I taught, and I returned home in the evening after classes. At that time the park was delightful, clean, and comfortable, with huge grassy slopes covered with deep, lush green grass. Sadly Mo discovered later that the lovely grass had a hidden enemy and it took her weeks to get rid of the chiggers that attacked her while sitting on that grass.

I barely recognized the park when we drove in, and this morning walking around in the early light, I could see why. The park has evolved into a fun place for kids and families to camp, and enjoy campfires and many kinds of water games, kids activities, and the swimming pool. In addition, more than 25 new big rig pull-through sites have been created on the big meadow where Mo relaxed with Abby so many years ago. It is a decent place to stay, with good services, and a great location for being close to Lincoln, but definitely is a bit too crowded for our taste. It reminds me of what I imagine a Jellystone Park will be. Sadly, we have reservations for one of those parks somewhere on the east coast where we couldn’t find anything else. As I said, great parks for kids and families.

As we motored south from Lincoln this morning, I was a bit sad that I was driving, because I couldn’t take pictures. People who don’t know Nebraska think of it as flat and featureless, but Eastern Nebraska near its boundary with Iowa and the Missouri River is anything but. I would have loved to have taken photos of the rolling, green landscape. It is so lush and clean, with well-kept farms spread about in the distance and crops growing thick and strong. Yes, corn, soybeans, and more corn and soybeans, but with the trees between the fields, the rolling hills, and small ponds and waterways dissecting the landscape, it is beautiful.

Lied Lodge, Nebraska City, Nebraska

I loved coming to Lincoln to teach as well as to learn. One year I participated in special training for the job I hoped to have someday. (Two years later I took that promotion). We were housed at a beautiful venue called Lied Lodge, an Arbor Day Farm, surrounded by a lush landscape and magnificent botanical forests with dozens of varieties of hardwood trees. As I drove quietly through the landscape this morning, I was filled with memories and with gratitude for all the amazing people I worked with, some of whom became lifelong friends. I would never choose to live in the Midwest, but if I had to make the choice, I would choose Lincoln. The university brings in great people, and the city is clean and eco-conscious, bisected by extensive bike trails.

That is me on the right teaching new soil scientists Basic Soil Survey skills near Lincoln, Nebraska in 2009

It would not be fun for me to be a vegetarian in Lincoln, with some of the best steak houses I have ever experienced. I so loved going out to eat with my co-workers when we were in Lincoln. Nothing quite as good as Nebraska beef. We drove by the Saturday Market this morning, with people setting up canopies in the Haymarket District. It was probably the best Farmer’s Market I ever enjoyed, putting Eugene and Portland to shame.

It always amazes me how quickly a landscape changes at political boundaries. I guess those boundaries do sometimes have physical reasons for being where they are. In the case of Nebraska and Iowa, it is the Missouri River. Once we crossed the river we immediately left behind the gently rolling landscape for a wide, very flat alluvial plain, almost featureless except for a few bluffs above the higher river terrace to the east. We weren’t in Iowa for long, however, within just a few miles traveling I-29 south, we crossed into Missouri. The featureless plain disappeared once we again crossed the Missouri River and traveled into the green rolling hills of Missouri farm country. The absolute heart of America. Lush with crops that were riper than what we saw in Nebraska, the huge fields with small signs naming the crops were interspersed with hardwood forests thick with so many varieties of trees we couldn’t name them all.

We stopped for a short snack lunch at Casey’s Truck Stop, switched drivers, and continued south. Our destination was east of Kansas City, and google girl tried to route us right through the city. I wasn’t interested in doing that and re-navigated for a different route that was only 12 minutes longer yet avoided the busy interstates. Highway 36 and Highway 41 were uncrowded roads with smooth pavement and very few people. Dotted with farms and an occasional tiny community, it was probably the easiest driving of our trip so far.

When we arrived at our location, Arrow Rock State Historic Site, we knew that we were about an hour too early to check in to the campground. Instead, we thought we might try to see the small town that has been so lovingly preserved by the Arrow Rock Historic Society. What we didn’t realize is that the extremely narrow streets had no room for parking a motorhome, even a small one, much less a motorhome towing a car. An attempt to drive up one street ended in a big problem when we discovered that even though the street wasn’t blocked, it was separated from Main Street by a very deep, rocky drainage ditch. Even a car might have a hard time getting across that ditch. We unhooked the Tracker, backed down the narrow road, and decided to try to find some other location to park the MoHo and visit the town with the baby car.

In our search, we happened on the driveway to the visitor center, 1/4 mile beyond where we had turned in for the town. The parking lot was huge, and with temps in the high 90s and humidity to match, we turned on the generator so that Mattie could wait safely in the rig while we attempted to learn more about this town we were trying to visit.

The heat was intense, as was the chill air-conditioned air of the Visitor Center. Speaking with the head person at the desk, she told us it shouldn’t be a problem for us to check in early at the campground. After checking on the guests from the previous night, she gave us the go-ahead to go to the park early and set up camp.

This worked out perfectly, and within minutes, another 1/4 mile down the road, we found our site, hooked up the rig, and turned on the air conditioner. Mattie could wait for us in a nice cool spot while we drove back in the car to explore the historic town.

From the Missouri State Parks brochure: “The town of Arrow Rock was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963. An integral part of this historic town is Arrow Rock State Historic Site, with a visitor center museum that tells about Arrow Rock and the historic “Boone’s Lick Country”. Once a thriving riverport, the town is dotted with architectural treasures from the past. Limestone gutters of carefully carved blocks line the main street, marking the toil of earlier generations. Wooden sidewalks and overhead canopies still line storefronts, recalling an aura of times long past.”

We enjoyed walking a bit of the town, despite the heat.

The ice cream shop was a favorite, owned by a young man and his wife who relocated from Northern California after losing their home to fire 4 years ago. He was friendly and talkative and I enjoyed hearing his story. It is always interesting to me why people choose to uproot their lives for such a big change. He told me they love the 4 seasons and enjoy not having to evacuate their home over and over again due to fire. They love the green. However, as I would, they miss the mountains and the ocean. Still, he seemed happy. When they first came to Arrow Rock the business was a pizza place, but COVID changed that and after being closed for some time, they re-opened as an ice cream shop with truly delicious homemade ice cream.

We explored a few more of the shops before getting back in the car to find some of the other historic sites in town.

The Big Spring was especially lovely.

We drove to the old ferry crossing but discovered that the walk to the Missouri River was over a mile and the bugs were thick in the air. I was completely worn out from the heat and my legs were refusing to work properly, so we gave up and headed home to the campground.

It is now 1 AM. The heat and humidity wore us out and after a quick supper, Mo and I were in bed and actually asleep by 7:30. The air conditioner was going full blast to keep the inside at 78 degrees or so, but the noise kept us from hearing the amazing night sounds that I am hearing now.

I woke at 12:30 and discovered that the night air was a blessed 76 degrees, warmer than the MoHo which was struggling to remain at a reasonable sleeping temperature. Opening the windows, turning on the Fantastic Fan overhead, and shutting down the air conditioner was wonderful. I stepped outside and saw stars and the Milky Way and was serenaded by the many sounds of crickets, frogs, and other night creatures in the darkness. Magical. I wish I could stay out there for a bit, but am not a fan of all those bugs that make those wonderful sounds.

Tomorrow we will cross Missouri, camping once again at a favorite park in Henderson, Kentucky, where we camped on our cross-country trip in 2014. I am expecting hot, humid weather all the way to Delaware. Hopefully, the nights may cool down even a little bit as we continue east.

08-26-2022 East to Nebraska

Tuesday, August 23 Lakeview to Elko 334 miles

The unscheduled extra night we spent on the road in Lakeview, Oregon, wasn’t all bad. As I wrote last, we had a beautiful day returning to a beloved Oregon location, at Hart Mountain. After a somewhat restless night of worrying, we had coffee and a minimal breakfast before driving a mile back down the road to Max’s Garage.

After dropping off the MoHo, with no idea how long the repair might take, we decided to find a coin-operated car wash and clean up the dusty Tracker. The many miles of dirt roads had left their mark. The coin wash turned out to be credit card only and we were shocked to see the minimum charge was $7. We were even more shocked to later see that the charge on the card was actually $10. For five minutes of a wash-it-yourself wand! For now, at least, the Tracker is shiny.

The check engine light decided that we didn’t have enough to worry about and came on after our return from Hart Mountain. After calling around a bit, I was pointed to Hall’s Auto, the local Ford Dealer. There a charming young woman brought out her trusty tester and in a few minutes had the problem identified and the ugly light turned off. We knew it should be something simple since Mo had only recently replaced the O2 unit. Sure enough, it was probably a gas cap improperly tightened. Such great service, and all completely free.

We drove back into town (not a very big town for sure) and found a local eatery where we had a truly delicious breakfast. We had no clue how long the repair might take. You can imagine our surprise when only an hour later we received the call. “Would you like to come and pick up your RV?”

Ray replaced the serpentine AC fan belt and the fan clutch, telling us that the belt was stretched and quite worn. The charge was for parts and $100 bucks labor for a bill less than $300. We were on the road by 11:30, once again driving up the Warner Peak highway, but this time we decided to not take any chances and unhooked the car and drove separately. Everything seemed to be doing just fine.

Not many miles east of the tiny community of Adel, there is a notorious long grade rising from the valley floor to the high desert plateaus of the Sheldon NWR. You can see that grade from a long way off, and it was an easy decision to once again unhook the Tracker and drive the grade separately. No problems, no overheating on the long ten percent grade.By afternoon, as we approached Winnemucca, the temperatures were rising to the triple digits, hovering between 100 and 101 F. Still no problems towing the car and the air conditioner was running as it should. Fueling up in Winnemucca for a mere $4.35 per gallon for regular gas, we continued east on Interstate 80 toward Elko.

Our first sign of trouble hit just east of town as we ascended the long, steep grade to the Golconda Summit, at 5118 feet elevation. The temperature gauge started climbing, and in terror I watched it go from normal to high and then very high and then redlining and check gauge lights coming on. There was nowhere to pull off the highway, and with my heart in my mouth, I prayed for relief. Thankfully, the gauge started dropping slowly at last, but it didn’t happen immediately. The outside temperature was between 100 and 103 and we were still pulling the car.

As we continued east, only slightly relieved, we were ready for the next long summit about 40 miles west of Elko. We unhooked the car and Mo drove the MoHo and I followed in the Tracker all the way to Elko. She said it only heated to about 3/4 to the maximum at one point. Mo made sure the AC was off, and the heater was on full blast to increase the flow of air to the engine. She opened all the windows. The temperature outside was steady at 100F until we reached Elko at 7PM.

We decided that we can probably manage the overheating problem with diligence. The MoHo has never been prone to overheating, even when towing the Tracker on steep grades. However, we have never driven the MoHo in triple-digit temperatures on any of our cross-country trips. We may also have more weight than usual, attempting to stock up on extra food, water, and clothing for the long trip. As we continue traveling through the rest of Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming we will be keeping a close eye on the temperature gauge. We also plan to travel as early in the day as possible and will unhook for steep uphill climbs. With a little luck and care, we should get through the mountainous states without any more mishaps.

Wednesday, August 24 Elko to Evanston 322 miles

Mo and I were both a bit stressed last night as we settled into our site at the Iron Horse RV Park in Elko. The stress of driving in the heat and watching the gauge every moment on every grade was taxing. Mo set up the rig and I took Mattie for a short walk. I thought we had camped at this park in the past and was surprised to realize that I was picturing the New Frontier Park in Elko. Finally, it made sense that nothing looked familiar.

The park was decent enough but very crowded. It might have been a bit nicer before they added so many park models to every available space. It was clear that this park was used by homesteaders, many with big trucks with construction company logos and solid outdoor furniture around their camping rigs. We settled in for the night, closing up all the blinds as darkness approached. Our fix for the evening was another visit with Carrie and the series Homeland. Nothing like a good episode of “Homeland” to take our mind off our troubles. Dinner was another reheated special that I cooked up in advance and we fell into bed exhausted.

This morning the skies were streaked with summer clouds, the kind you rarely see along the west coast. I could feel the effects of Continental air masses working their magic with monsoon moisture working its way north from the southwest. We were on the road by 8, with outside temps in the low 60s and at least 80 miles to go before any kind of grade to be reckoned with.

I discovered a great little website called,, “Flattest Route.com”. Plugging a beginning and ending point on a highway will yield some helpful graphs of elevation change along the route and maximum and minimum grade percentages. Pretty cool. It worked great, and a few miles east of Wells, Nevada, we knew to expect a moderately steep grade. It was hard to decide what to do, but with the cool temperatures, we decided to keep the Tracker connected. The grades were steep but not long and we had no problem with overheating. What a relief.

We traveled the rest of I-80 to the Utah border without any mishaps, fueled at the Pilot in Wendover, and continued east toward Salt Lake City. As we crossed the salt flats around what is left of the shrinking Great Salt Lake, I was reminded of how incredible the landscapes out west are. Each with a deep creation story that takes years of study to understand.

I have traveled I-80 through Salt Lake enough times to know how horrendous the city traffic can be on the interstates that intersect through the area. I know that the part of I-80 east of Salt Lake City is a notorious steep climb. Mo and I have done it twice now, both in the old baby MoHo and back in 2012 in this rig on our way to Colorado. Neither of us remembers any problems with overheating, but it wasn’t terribly hot, and the rig was 10 years younger. We checked the maps and decided that taking an alternate route up the Wasatch Range on I-84 would be the smart thing to do.

Reviewing the maps showed that route north and east on 84 would only add 12 minutes to our trip. Small price to pay for a bit less stress. Still, with temps rising into the 80s and not knowing for sure what we were facing on the highway, we decided to be safe and unhook the MoHo. Piece of cake! Despite the terrible construction, the route wasn’t difficult and Mo said the rig temperature needle didn’t budge going up the moderately steep, short grades.

Near the Wyoming state line, we hooked up the Tracker just in time to go through the border check station, where ALL boats, including kayaks and canoes, were required to stop. Luck would have it that a huge black cloud decided to dump some heavy rain on us as we rolled into the check station. Even though we had no plans to kayak in Wyoming, we had to be checked. We were told that if we wanted to kayak in the state of Wyoming, there would be a $30. permit fee for each kayak.  I am curious is this will be the case throughout the country as we travel through each state.  We already paid our $28. permit fees for the state of Oregon.

A few miles later, in the town of Evanston, Wyoming, we drove into the Phillips RV Park.  I looked at all the photos of the park when I made the reservation, thinking at the time that it couldn’t really be as nice as the photos portrayed.  Nice thing about it, it was!  The park is lovely, with big old trees and nice spacing between the rigs, something you rarely see in private parks anymore. It was only 4PM our time, but with the time zone change to mountain time we shifted to 5 PM.  Time to feed Mattie!

Tomorrow is going to be a long day, with 10 to 11 hours of driving, so Mo and I dumped the tanks before we settled into the MoHo for an relaxing evening. I took Mattie for a nice walk on the soft, green grass. 

The showers are just across from our site number 1, and we both enjoyed a great shower. It felt great to stand under plenty of hot water for as long as I wanted. The  park has been family owned and operated since 1936. The Phillips family has owned, managed, and operated Phillips RV Park by themselves for the past 80+ years. The park has changed over the decades, but according to the history on the back of the park map, most of the RV park upgrades occurred in the last decade.  It is a truly lovely park and I would recommend it.

The pre-made spaghetti sauce has thawed and I made a great super of spaghetti and a fresh salad, accompanied by a nice bottle of our favorite everyday red.  Even though trains pass near the park, the sounds aren’t intrusive and we slept well.  We both both around 4:30 AM, knowing we wanted to get on the road early but also knowing that we want to enjoy a bit of quiet time before departing.  Rushing aorund in the morning isn’t something either of us enjoy.  Breakfast cookies that I made before leaving are still in good supply and the coffee is fresh and great.  I am writing, Mo is checking mail, the morning skies are still dark but the sun will rise soon.  It is going to be a good day.

Thursday August 25 Evanston to Ogalalla Nebraska 534 miles

We woke early, waiting for a bit of daylight to unhook the power and get on the road for a long day of driving.  Trying to write about this day on Friday morning is close to impossible.  It is somewhat of a blur.  I drove for 3 hours, Mo drove for a couple of hours, I drove again, and Mo finished the day at Lake Ogalalla State Recreation Area in the Nebraska panhandle. 

I gave up and moved to the bed for some much needed full body rest for an hour or so while Mo drove.  I-80 through Wyoming was in good shape, and even the extensive construction zones weren’t difficult.  Long stretches of the highway were reduced to one lane from a four lane freeway to a two lane road  with oncoming traffic separated by cones.  But the lanes weren’t narrow and the pavement wasn’t rough. We laughed a lot about “80 on the 80”, but in the construction zones the limit was 65 mph.  We are used to construction zones limited to 45 mph.  There was only one area where a slowdown occured on the steeper grades approaching Laramie.

From Evanston to Laramie the grades weren’t extremely long or steep, and with the outside temperature varying between 59F and 72F, the MoHo temperature gauge never budged. We rolled out of Laramie with a big sigh, until a long, steep grade east of town surprised us.  It was scary but the gauge never budged and we breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that we were at last beyond the western mountain ranges.

Fueling three times during the long day wasn’t difficult at Flying J stations close to the freeway where we could use our RV Adventure card for a nice discount.  In Utah and Wyoming the advertised prices for regular fuel are deceptive because these states have 85 octane regular.  Who uses 85 octane for anything?  Mid-grade fuel is considerably more expensive, but much less than we anticipated when we planned this trip.

Our last fuel stop in Big Springs, Nebraska was a delightful surprise, wtih regular fuel at 87 octane and $3.50 per gallon.  Yay.  Hopefully no more 85 octane fuel to worry about as we continue toward the east coast.

We arrived in Ogallala just before 6 PM, after a bit of a circular kerfuffle trying to follow the written directions I had saved from our reservation email.  The directions aren’t clear  and without an actual address, google attempted to send us to a visitor center for Lake McConaughy.  A phone call  was a bit confusing since the person answering really didn’t understand how to communicate to us about where to go from the freeway.  I finally asked for the exact address of the center and sure enough, google was sending us to the correct location.

The visitor center for Lake McConaughy is huge and gorgeous, with many interesting displays that we had no interest in viewing.  The outside temperature was in the high 90’s and we were reasonably exhausted.  After a lot of confusion, we discovered that Lake Ogalalla where I had a reservation is on the east side of the dam that creates the vast Lake McConaughy.  There are several campgrounds around the perimeter of the big lake but only two on lake Ogalalla. The East Campground, where we had a reservation, has 87 electric plus RV sites.  We still have not figured out what the “plus” means. There is no water at the site, no sewer or dump staion on site or anywhere nearby, and a very distant shower house. There is water available in the campground at a few spigots, but I somehow assumed we had water at the site.  Good thing Mo filled our water tank at the park in Evanston.

Another item from the website and the email that was misleading was the SRA entry fee.  It was listed at $8.00 for out of state vehicles and the ranger charged me $12.  When I asked why it was 12 instead of 8 she said it was because we were out of state.  Still haven’t figured this one out.  Also, she “did us a favor” by not making us pay  an addition $12.00 for the Tracker, insisting that we remain parked and not drive it around.

Ogallala Lake is a small quiet lagoon at 320 acres, with water cooled by the deep waters of Lake McConaughy on the other side of the dam.  It is well known for rainbow trout and for kayaking thanks to protection from the winds by the huge dam.  I originally planned this stop thinking we would arrive early in the day after camping east of Laramie the previous night.  I had hoped for a little bit of paddling to break up the long trip of driving, driving, driving.

After our long day, we had no interest in taking down the boats and attempting to launch in murky  water with slimy rocks.  I had no desire to do my normal kayak exit rolling into that icky looking water.

The campsite was spacious, the view was lovely and the park was uncrowded.  There was a nasty smell, created by an aeration site near the dam to disperse the deeper waters of the lake to the surface.  The smell was tolerable, and overnight seemed to dissipate.

We had another simple spaghetti supper, finished the last half of the bottle of red wine, and watched anpother episode o Homeland via the phone mirrored to the TV.  The verizon signal was great, and I uploaded photos without a hitch, and we both are using our laptops this morning with the hot spot without incident.

We slept well, and with a reasonably short day of only 277 miles ahead of us, plan to visit the center on our way out this morning.  More to come.

Later:  We enjoyed our leisurely morning knowing that when we arrived in Lincoln it would be hot and no doubt humid.  It was better to spend the extra time of our day camped by a quiet, peaceful lake than in a crowded city campground on a hot afternoon. Leaving around ten gave us plenty of time to stop in at the Visitor Center for more information about the area where we chose to spend a few hours of our travel time.

Both of us realized that some of our frustration yesterday evening was simply because we were so very tired.  Especially after our visit to the center, and a conversation with the ranger, we realized that our frustrations were also because we were completely new to the area.  In retrospect, as we were once on the road heading east, we were happy that we had spent the time at the lake and at the visitor center learning about one of the wonders of the State of Nebraska.

The Lake McConaughy Visitor Center was spectacular, with interesting, interactive displays, gorgeous murals, and lovely views toward the huge lake. 

Once on the road, traveling was as simple as it could possibly be.  The MoHo ran perfectly, with outside temperatures staying in the 80’s to mid 90’s and no hills to climb.  Nebraska is mostly flat, and the only grades we encountered were crossing the overpasses. Traffic was light until we approached Lincoln and even then wasn’t particularly difficult.  The winds were noticible but not unmanageable. 

When Mo took over driving, I searched for a Pilot or Flying J and found one right on the highway at milepost 300.  That was a bit soon for us, so I continued looking on the Pilot website and found another one at milepost 312 on the turnoff for Grand Island.  Funny part was that the station was nowhere to be found on the Gas Buddy app. Seems as though the Bosselman companies have merged with Pilot/Flying J and our rewards card works there as well.  Confusing.  Then Mo realized that the only fuel available wasn’t  regular 87 octane fuel, but what is called 88 15, which has 15 percent ethanol instead of the maxium ten percent allowed in California and Oregon.  I had to research the fuel because Mo was worried about all that ethanol in the MoHo, but we had no choice.  Maybe because Nebraska grows all that corn and wants a lot of ethanol in their gasoline?  The only thing I could find out is that it tends to accumulate moisture in cold weather if left sitting too long.  Traveling as we are, I don’t think that will be much of a problem.

We are settled in at the Camp-A Way RV Park in Lincoln.  I have some thoughts about this place that will have to wait until the next blog post.  I am too worn to write another sentence. Instead, I will insert one last photo of the many I took at the visitor center  Magical imaginations of the magnificent wildlife on the Nebraska prairies and waterways.

08-22-2022 A Slow Start

It is hard to stay calm. I am sitting in the morning sunshine pouring in through the front window of the MoHo. I am doing everything possible to keep the stress of the coming day from taking over and ruining small delights like the morning sun. We have an appointment for a MoHo repair at 10 am I guess it is time to backtrack and start from the beginning.

Mo and I did so much to prepare for this trip. We were both totally aware that planning a cross-country adventure during this time of year would be challenging. We just didn’t know quite how challenging. As I mentioned in my last post, we have been dealing with issues with our water system. Our hopes for a completely repaired and functioning RO (Reverse Osmosis) unit before we left did not happen. We are lucky this year. The well is producing a bit more water than it did last year, and when I use water directly from the untreated cistern it fills up more quickly than usual. I have been watering the entire property with untreated water, avoiding the plants most sensitive to the salt in that water.

Our water system guy installed the new RO motor but discovered another fault: the solenoid was faulty and the system wouldn’t run. John bypassed the solenoid, so we can manually “make treated water” when needed instead of the system running automatically as it has for the last 6 years. Mo and I can handle this, but with our departure occurring before the new solenoid arrives we had to find an alternative.

I spent Saturday morning showing our house sitters how to run the system, check for faults, make water, and where to do the hand watering. Had to show them how to turn on all the timers once the system is repaired, hopefully in the next few days. It is a lot to ask of a friend, and we are so lucky that Maryruth and Gerald live close by and are willing to watch the property during the day when daughter Deb is at work. We are even luckier that my eldest daughter Deborah has stepped up to the plate, agreeing to stay at Sunset House and commute to work in Medford every day after she handles the daily watering, returning at night to be sure all is well and spending the night so that the house is safe. She lives an hour away and is basically giving up her home life to do this for us.

When Mo and I reserved this Adventure Caravan Rally in New York City three years ago, we had no idea of the complexity of leaving our home during the heat of summer. We should have. We talked often about canceling the trip, but knowing that our days of driving cross country in the MoHo might be coming to an end, we decided to do the trip.

On Sunday morning, our scheduled day of departure, Mo and I were more than ready to go. I had so many lists with items marked off. The freezer was full of food, and all meds and dog needs were covered. We laughed often during this preparation time about how we seemed to think we were heading into Antarctica and wouldn’t have a store available for two months. We planned to leave at 10 am so that we wouldn’t arrive at our planned boondocking site in the high desert too early in the afternoon. We knew it would be hot. We were ready. Mo closed the gate behind the MoHo at 10:00 AM, exactly as planned. Everything felt good.

Our first indication of any sign of trouble was tiny. Highway 140 east toward Klamath Falls has some steep grades going up the west slope of the Cascades. The air was on and as usual, when climbing a steep grade, I turned it off. Then when we were on the level, I turned it back on again. The fan was acting funny. The air was cold, but the fan would switch between the upper vents and the vents near our feet. Not normal for the air conditioning system in the MoHo. We started to get a bit concerned about crossing the country for the next 8 days in August with a faulty air conditioning system, knowing from experience that getting any kind of appointment for RV repair often takes days, even weeks. Little bits of stress crept into our optimism.

Continuing along Highway 140 through Klamath Falls, we enjoyed seeing familiar territory where we once lived. At the southern end of Klamath Lake, we finally saw hundreds of pelicans grouped along a low island just beyond Howard Bay. It was a good sign. At least the birds had found somewhere to be. With water in the refuges of the Klamath Basin at historic lows, the birds using this corridor of the Pacific Flyway have to be creative to manage their journey.

We enjoyed our first stop at a tiny park a bit east of Klamath Falls. The grass was green, but the air was hot. The air conditioner was still acting funny, but the MoHo felt cool. We ate our lunch inside rather than at the lovely picnic tables. Once again on the road, with Mo driving, we turned off the air conditioner whenever there was any kind of incline. Didn’t seem to help much but we continued onward.

Fueling in 95-degree weather in Lakeview, we continued east on 140. Our destination for the night was a wide place on the road between Denio and Winnemucca, where we planned to boondock. Heading up the first steep grade toward Warner Pass, the temperature gauge on the MoHo went all the way to the top. Mo found a place to pull over, a bit sketchy but we managed to get the car unhooked to make the grade easier to pull. Pulling back out onto the highway, with me following in the car, I was shocked to see Mo pull over almost immediately. Another somewhat sketchy spot to get into, but she managed. The engine heat was off the chart.

Lucky for us, there was shade. We wondered if it was possible to limp our way to Winnemucca and maybe find some kind of help. We looked at each other and actually laughed at our stupidity. Lakeview was only 11 miles behind us. We decided to boondock right where we were. After a bit of jockeying, we managed to get level enough for the night but didn’t open the slide. Dinner was easy, a big salad with pre-cooked chicken I had ready.

The night was dark and beautiful, with barely any traffic after ten or so. The stars were brilliant. We were lucky enough to have a slight signal, enough to get information about the two possible repair shops in Lakeview. Our plan was to leave at daylight and be parked in place when Lakeview Auto Repair opened at 8 AM. Somehow we had enough signal to watch a show on Hulu on the phone to take our minds off our problem, if only for an hour.

The next morning we backtracked down the hill to Lakeview, hoping against hope that we could be seen by someone who could help us. Lakeview opened, and a really nice guy was very kind when he said, NO absolutely NOT, he is NOT allowed to touch motorhomes, not even to look for a minute. He pointed us to Max’s Farm and Truck Repair just a mile or two north on the highway. Pulling into the shop, I was encouraged to see lots of trucks around but not a big line of motorhomes waiting for service.

The owner said, sure, he could check us out. After a bit of fiddling around, he decided that the problem was with the AC fan belt. The part was available, and he told us to return the next day (today) at ten.

Wildgoose Meadows RV Park is just a bit north of the shop. Pulling in early in the morning wasn’t a problem because they had an after-hours box with clear instructions and a map of available sites. Within minutes we were settled into a full hookup site with nice shade and a spot so level we didn’t have to drop the jacks to level the rig.

With an empty day of waiting ahead of us, Mo said, “Was there any kind of map or information on the board about local things to do?” I said, “Yeah, but Hart Mountain is just 40 miles away”. It was a no-brainer. Hart Mountain is one of our favorite places in Oregon. A day trip to see the view from the overlook, look for pronghorn antelope, and maybe drop my legs into the healing spring was the perfect way to take a bit of a mental break from the worries about the overheating MoHo.

As always, the first views of the magnificent low profile of Hart Mountain opened my heart in ways I have never been able to explain.

Passing the Hart Mountain campground, where we have stayed a few times, we continued up the steep gravel road to the Warner Wetlands Overlook trail. Mattie seemed to remember the trail and let the way. She is a great trail dog, rarely straying off the trail when we are hiking.

Sadly, the Warner Wetlands were completely dry. Dryer than we have ever seen them in the years we have visited Hart Mountain. The short hike was great, though hot and when we returned to the Tracker, we were grateful that at least the air conditioning was working in our tow car.

Continuing to the main park road, we reminisced about all the side roads we have explored in this area. We saw more antelope than we saw back in the spring of 2020. Perhaps because the moms were no longer giving birth as they were back at that time. This lone buck was completely unafraid, standing on the side of the road, munching away, completely ignoring our car as I took photos through the window.

We traveled the gravel road toward the Hot Springs Campground, taking a side road down to the hot spring. We walked to the main meadow spring and I was thrilled to see it in perfect shape. Water was bubbling through the sand in the center and when I sat on the edge to soak my legs I could feel the heat and minerals soaking my skin. What a delight.

By the time we walked back to check out the main developed spring, there was no one there. We only saw one camper in the Hot Springs Campground and found an empty table along the creek for a light lunch. The trip back to our RV park seemed long in the late afternoon, and we were worn out but still at least somewhat refreshed by our visit to a favorite spot.

It is now 9 AM. Photos are processed, the blog is written, and it is time to cut the power and pack up the MoHo for her trip to the garage. The good news is we are at the moment only one day behind on our trip. If all goes well, tonight we will be in Elko, Nevada, where the Iron Horse RV Park was happy to move my reservation to tonight instead of last night.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story. I don’t yet know the ending. Calling out to all the powers that be that the repair goes smoothly, everything works, and when we head up Warner Pass again there will be no trouble.

(A bit of a preview, now that I am finishing this blog post on Tuesday night, in Elko Nevada. Everything isn’t perfect, but things are looking up.)

07-10-2022 Hot August Days

The following is a photo-dense post of my overheated brain ramblings on a hot summer day. Nothing exciting here, except I wanted to remember just how I felt and how I was filling up my time.

I do remember “Hot August Night” and the days when Neil Diamond was so popular.  I loved his songs back then.  Now “Hot August Nights” is something that friends do when they drive to Reno this time of year.  We aren’t doing either, listening to Neil Diamond or driving to Reno.

August here is about cutting, trimming, more cutting and trimming, and then some more.  It is about making an attempt to keep everything at bay, to deadhead all the flowers and cut back the overgrown shrubs and grasses trying to take over the more polite blooming things.

I am cutting back the beautiful daylilies which are no longer beautiful.  After all that gorgeous bloom I am left with stiff brown sticks and floppy, strappy dull green leaves that get in the way of the lawnmower as I try to keep the lawn trimmed, a weekly chore.

Tucked away in our beautiful Japanese maple is an old birdhouse that my friend Bel made back in the mid-90’s.  Some of her creations have weathered well, for almost 3 decades now, others have been left to memory only.  My kids remember Bel, and she lives on in moments of laughter when we remember some of her antics and talk about “Crazy Bel”.  It is always with affection, and this little birdhouse is just one of many little leftovers of Bel that are lying around here at Sunset House.

In addition to the mowing and trimming, there are the moles.  We have tried most everything.  Last year the solar sonic stakes seemed to help, but this year I am afraid the dang critters have decided that the awful beeping whining noise won’t kill them and they dig holes right next to the loudest ones.  Almost always in the greenest part of the lawn, where the soil is damp from night sprinklers.  I carefully dig the piles, move the dirt, rinse off the grass and sometimes try to flood them out.  I finally resorted to the poisonous gummy worms, and stuffed them down the holes at least 12 inches to keep any animals from finding them.  Maybe they have slowed down a bit, but this morning, there was another gross, ugly, huge, muddy mound of red dirt in the middle of the lawn.

Then there are the weeds in the pasture.  Weeds on the Oregon state noxious weed list that I am technically required to manage although our neighbors have all of them including yellow starthistle which I do NOT have here.  False dandelion and the obnoxious  and very invasive redstem filaree that I have been fighting since last year.  Ugh.  I am no longer an organic gardener, tiptoing through the weedy fields, hand digging them out by the roots.  The evil spray stands at the ready. I despise those plants which take out every bit of drought tolerant grass in their shadow.

At this time of year, the roses are tattered, and the summer blooming phlox have big heads that are screaming to be trimmed. 

The dahlia that was so gorgeous a month ago seems to have some kind of browning thing on the leaves, I have no clue what, but it is ugly.  Even some of the marigolds look a bit weird.  Who can kill marigolds? 

I walked to the lower end of the pasture to try to get an image that might show how the non-irrigated pasture is much more of the property than the tiny green lawns.  As I say every time I write, I love those green lawns.  They are cool, and soft, and welcoming when it is hot and smoky outside.  At the far corner is an old English walnut tree, one of the hundreds that were planted in this area in 1906. 

The walnuts are ripening, and will no doubt be gone by the time we return in October.  The crows love them.  The apples on the antique Gravenstien tree are almost ripe, and we are counting the days, hoping for a pot of applesauce ready for jars before we leave.

We have a mama catalpa tree between the house and the RV shed that was here when we bought the cottage.  She has grown a few feet since then, but probably won’t become incredibly huge in our lifetime.  She also makes babies, and this little one seeded in a flower bed and last spring Mo and I decided to plant it in the pasture. 

It has grown almost 2 feet since then.  It is fun to watch a tree that started from seed grow to a strong tree.

My son’s memorial tree is doing great, too.  The leaves are thick and shiny, and much more filled in this year.  I know that when we return from our “big trip” the tree will have started to turn.  Sweet gums turn early here, and this one is an especially colorful variety.

Speaking of the big trip; Mo is working on finalizing all the MoHo check-ups to prepare us for 8,000 miles or so on the road.  With just over a week to our departure, it seems that we have everything on track until I suddenly remember one more thing to do.  Big job today was writing up a formal caretakers list for the people who will be watching our home and well while we are away.  Of course we are happy to have the house occupied and protected, but the bigger issue is making sure the water systems are all functioning properly as the hot summer comes to a dry, hot fall.  I am making lists, taking photos, writing down phone numbers and contacts for everyone who will be here. 

Walking around the house to check on the annual beds is part of the morning routine.  Today it was especially important, because, sure enough, at 2 AM, I discovered we had no water.  By the waning low orangey light of an almost full moon in the southern sky, I wandered around with a flashlight trying to figure out what went wrong.  Checking all the outlets for broken hose ends, or blown out drippers.  When I finally opened the well cistern that contains 1700 gallons of “bad water”, I discovered that that cistern was completely full.  Inside the pump house I could see that the pressure tank from that cistern was at full pressure, but the Reverse Osmosis unit was on red, indicating a fault somewhere.  Sure enough, the 1700 gallon tank of “good water” was completely empty.  The RO unit was caput.  Lucky for us, our water guy encouraged us to buy a backup motor for that unit last year, “just in case”.  He couldn’t get here until 2, and by then it was too late to contact Florida for some random connections he needed to understand before he could complete the installation. 

Ah yes…no water for another day, and all the little flowers are looking up at me with reproachful faces…where is our water???  Once the RO is repaired the good water cistern will have to be filled.  That takes all 1700 gallons of the bad water to make about half as much good water.  So it will be two more days before the cistern is again full and we are on track with all the timed watering that keeps everything in such a fine balance.  Are you worn out yet reading about this?  Me too!!  I am actually ready for a break, for a vacation!  I am no longer dreading being away in the hot summer, I am actually looking forward to thinking about something besides the well and the water and how much stuff is growing and what I need to cut back and trim!  I am just grateful that this big water kerfuffle happened while we were still here at home and not a few thousand miles away.

(Update: still no water, thanks to another kerfuffle with the motor our guy ordered for us last year.  However, we discovered that the water trucks going by every day on our road are just fine with delivering 2000 gallons of fresh city water to our cistern for a very reasonable $120.  Should hold us until the RO gets repaired, maybe not until Monday)

Mo and I decided that we needed a little bit of a break from everyday stuff.  It was time to get out the bikes and take an early morning ride along the Rogue River.  The Rogue River Parkway has nice parking and a paved bike trail that meanders along the river from the town of Rogue River to the Valley of the Rogue State Park a few miles south and east.  Mo filled the bike tires and then said to me, “You might want to be sure that you can still do this.”  To make a long story very short, I couldn’t.  Leg strength is too far gone to manage getting on and off the bike, much less peddling, and my balance is shot as well. 

Broke my heart.  I love my bike, even though it is 24 years old. With it I have biked Utah slickrock,  Priest Lake rocky trails, Florida Snake Valley paths around the alligators, around my lovely little Hauser Lake where I lived when I bought the bike, and so many untold rides with Mo on trails around lakes, up mountains, and exploring random rv parks.  I now have to let go of this one.  Folks mentioned an e-bike, but that wouldn’t get me off without a possible bad fall.  My legs aren’t just weak, but they can collapse at any time without warning.  So I am letting go.  My beloved bike will go to my daughter Deborah, who said she would love to have it. That makes me happy inside.  I told Mo I would donate it before I would think of selling it, so I am glad it will stay in the family.

(Another update since I finished writing yesterday:  Many suggestions have come to me, e-bike, recumbent bike, tricycle, etc.  And yes, all might be possibililties, but for one reason or another they are not options I choose to follow.  I can still kayak and walk and hike, and biking is a secondary passtime that we can only do easily when we are traveling.  There aren’t many good biking opportunities near our home here in hilly Grants Pass.  I don’t want to try to lift and haul some heavy thing in the Tracker.  So, thank you to those who saw the facebook post and offered condolences and ideas.  I am just fine with what I CAN do.  So for now no expensive heavy things are on my list of priorities!)

07-31-2022 July High Summer

July marks the beginning of full-on all the way High Summer. Not quite the dog days just yet, as our lovely summer temperatures in the high 80s have held up until this very week.

High summer means much time spent monitoring the drip irrigation system, checking the well cisterns to be sure everything is working correctly, watering dry spots, and watching some plants that are determined to wilt even when the ground seems to be wet enough.

At the beginning of the month, we broke away from all the home chores to escape for a morning kayak. Applegate Lake (actually a reservoir) has had low water for a long time due to the prolonged drought in the west. With all our spring rains, the bathtub ring around the lake was barely visible for the first time in years, with water levels at 97 percent. The skies were blue, and the temperatures were perfect when we loaded up the kayaks and traveled an hour and a half south to Applegate Lake.

We launched at the no-fee Copper boat launch. There is plenty of parking and a long, gentle, sloped cement launch with a nice, easy water spot on the edges perfect for the kayaks.

We knew from our last trip to this lake that under the bridge is access to a lovely side paddle up an unnamed creek. It was much less crowded with our early launch this time, but by the time we returned to the lake, the kayakers were launching in significant numbers. A few first-time kayakers were hogging the ramp, trying to figure out how to launch and get in their boats., and then sitting on the ramp fishing. We waited our turn because neither of us wanted to be observed getting out of our boats. Lucky for me, there were some willows right next to the launch, and instead of rolling into the water, I just pulled myself up and out, holding on to the trees.
It was a lovely paddle, not tricky and not windy. Couldn’t ask for better. Wildlife was limited to a few ducks and one lone bald eagle perched on a branch on the east side of the lake.

Phone shots are only a way to record that we saw him since my telephoto on the phone simply goes fuzzy.

It was a lovely way to begin the month of July.

Cool evenings on the porch deck are delightful when the sun goes down.

It has been more than ten years since we had such a temperate summer. Until recently, our highest daytime temperatures were in the 80s and a rare low 90s. There have been no fires and no smoke, although a few days ago, there was a small fire about ten miles to the west. After a lovely afternoon, I stepped outside, smelled the all too familiar acrid smell of a forest burning, and saw the giant plume rising. It was terrifying to see it so close to Grants Pass, the Applegate Valley, and a good friend’s home within spitting distance.

It was started by humans, possibly a homeless camp up a creek drainage. The good thing about it is that there were no other fires, no lightning strikes high in the unreachable mountains. They were on it instantly, with a tanker drop, several helicopters dropping water from buckets pulled from a local pond and the river, and five 20-man crews. By the next day, they contained it at less than 30 acres, and everyone was safe.

Finally the riding mower was repaired and Mo and I got up early in the mornings to work on the rest of the gravel project.  With temperature rising to the century mark by early afternoon, we could only do hot work like this for a few hours each morning.  In a few days, we had all the gravel down and raked.  It felt good to check off on more project completed.

The delicate balance of a low producing well and gardening almost an acre requires some creativity.  We have beautiful tiny lawns for a soft green place to walk and gravel cover to reduce water useabe, and non irrigated areas that go completely dormant in summer.

After trying for a few years, we have managed to create a wooly thyme pathway. I have wanted a path like this since I first started studying the English Garden style in the early 80s. Somehow in the various climates I have lived in since then, I have never been successful. Until now. The lush pathway tends to cover the paving stones and still gets a few weeds in the thin parts.

I have to weed it and trim the thyme with scissors around the stones. It is an early morning job on my knees that I absolutely love. The smell of the thyme and its extraordinary lush growth amazes me after so many years of trying to get this to work. Some things on our property grow so well that it is hard to keep it all under control. Especially surprising since we have only been gardening this property for less than five years.

Our string of breakdowns from June continued well into July. A bi-yearly check-up with the dermatologist yielded requirements for a biopsy. No big deal, only on my arm, not my face, and it won’t be difficult if it has to get cut out rather than burned. As usual, she found precancerous spots to hit with nitrogen. I sometimes wonder if she does that every time to ensure I am diligent about check-ups.

The next day Mo’s computer decided to act up. The weakest link in a laptop computer seems to be the input for the power cord. Sure enough, that little input was wiggled and loose and refused to take a charge. We managed to run it on emergency power long enough to ensure all necessary files were completely backed up.

Mo found a lovely little laptop with everything she needed, and the following day we picked it up at Best Buy in Medford. I spent the next two days setting it up and decided that it was time to put my ten-year-old Dell desktop to bed. I have a laptop I bought almost three years ago waiting in the wings. Moving everything from the desktop to the laptop wasn’t difficult, but getting all the photos moved and imported into Lightroom took the most time. The laptop is super fast and has 2 terabytes of storage. I have used it when traveling but had no idea how much quicker it was than my desktop until I started using it as my main computer. Geez, why didn’t I do this a lot sooner?!

Toward the end of the month, we began the first real heat wave of the year. Finally, the pasture grass is mostly brown, and I have to watch dry spots in the lawn and hand water early in the morning after the well cistern has filled completely. It is a delicate dance between watering several timed stations that we have set up and how long it takes to replenish the water used for each station.

I barely had the computers up and running when the freezer portion of our LG fridge decided to go on the fritz. Everything was melted, and the ice maker no longer worked. I panicked and called Maryruth, who has a small garage freezer. I emptied everything and stored what I could in our garage fridge freezer, and took the rest to Mayruth’s house before I settled in for the expected long phone call to LG.

The photo is a panorama hence the crazy bend, but it shows how tightly the fridge fits in her space.  Would be hard to find another one with that exact fit.  After a few hours of back and forth, it was determined that I needed a repairman. The associate informed me that there was no authorized LG technician in my area. I would need to find a local service and make an appointment. Then the local company would have to fill out forms and send them to LG to get authorization to fix the fridge. The fridge was purchased five and a half years ago, and my extended warranty expired after five years. I had visions of an expensive repair at the least and maybe another 3000k fridge. Remember when a refrigerator lasted 30 years?

I have no idea what happened, but the next day the freezer was again freezing, and the ice maker was working. Possibly I had piled too much food against the air intakes. Who knows, but for now, all seems OK. Dodged a bullet there.

Three days later, the winding spring for the hour on Mo’s beautiful pendulum clock broke. After some searching, we found a local clock repairman and took the clock to his home. He had an interesting workroom with lots of old clocks and clock parts. Initially, he said it would be at least two months before he could complete the repair. Still, when we said he would have to keep the clock until October, he grumbled and said he didn’t want it in his space, so he would have it ready for us before our late August departure. $450 bucks! Clock repair definitely isn’t cheap.

Mo bought the clock in 1962 for $125 bucks in Porterville, California, so at 60 years old, it qualifies as an antique.
I miss the gentle chime on the quarter hours.  It has become background music that I sleep through without any effort, but we do turn of the clock when guests are here at night. I will be happy when she is back home.

So far, that seems to be the last of our repair needs. Our fingers are crossed. Although we did have another bit of a kerfuffle when we set up the MoHo at our campsite in Brookings. But that story will be continued later in this post.

The monthly book club meeting was held on a very hot evening at a member’s lovely patio.  We had a lively discussion about future book choices.  Many of us were not particularly enamored with the current month’s choice, a book by Kristin Hannah.  Her previous book that we read last year, “The Four Winds”, was wonderful, but this one read like a very predictable family drama with a predictable ending and cliche characters. 

Mid-month, I had a chance to do something I have always wanted to try. Paint and Sip events seem to be quite popular with friends here and there. When an entertaining painting was featured at a local farm, I reached out to see if anyone wanted to go with me.

This is definitely not something that interests Mo in the least. My book club friend Lisa has been looking for one to do on a day she was free, and this one fit the bill. Asked Daughter Deborah if she wanted to go, and she was excited to join us.

It was a lovely but hot day and a great experience. All three of us were a bit stressed. (Isn’t this supposed to be a relaxing activity?) For our entry fee, we each received a complimentary glass of wine, a lovely lunch with wood-fired pizza, fresh garden salad, and fresh crusty bread. The only problem was that we were trying to get our paintings completed before the end of the three-hour session and had little time to eat our lunch.

The teacher kept telling us what to do and demonstrating, but it took a lot longer than it would have if we had been a little more experienced. When it was over, she told us, “Well, this was really a more advanced painting and not necessarily a good one to choose for your first time.” Ummm…now why wouldn’t you put that in the ad? We all had fun, and it was interesting to see the difference in our individual abilities to accept imperfection. Lisa was great, fully embracing her painting. I was less so, feeling I needed to do much more work. Deborah was the least accepting, insisting that she would throw her painting in the trash. Kinda fits our personalities, I think, with my precious daughter being the most likely to be a perfectionist and the least accepting of what she perceives as a failure. I didn’t expect this to be a life lesson, but it was. The good thing is that Deborah finally accepted that her painting was perfectly adequate, especially for a first-time painter!

Mo may not be interested in a girly event like painting a picture while drinking and eating with friends, but working with wood is something she has excelled at for years. When she lived in Rocky Point, she saw an example of a huge water wheel in Coarsegold, California. She took photos and then spent a long time building that water wheel on a smaller scale. It was installed out by the small pond and the windmill on the Rocky Point lawn. Neighbors loved it. We loved hearing the falling water and groan of the wheel as we worked outdoors. But we couldn’t see it from the house.

Mo brought the water wheel here to Sunset House when we moved in late 2017, and it languished along the back side of the MoHo shed until this summer. Finally, the time had come when all the pressing repair jobs were finished for the moment, and she could begin the giant water wheel project.

After much sanding, caulking, and painting, it was ready for installation. With no pond here, Mo decided on the rustic country look of a galvanized steel tank to provide water for the pump. Placed up against the west side of the MoHo shed, the sound of falling water and the groaning wheel is a delight to hear and watch as we sit on the deck. Her water wheel was a LOT better than my painting.

Around mid-month, Mo suggested we try to go to the coast for our monthly getaway. I had no expectations that I would find an open reservation anywhere. With so many people RVing, most state parks and campgrounds along the coast are booked months ahead for the summer. Lo and behold, I checked with the Harris Beach State Park website and found two and only two nights open for a full hookup site. It was in Loop D, where we have never camped. We usually go in the off-season, and loop D isn’t even open then. I didn’t hesitate and immediately booked the site for the two nights during the last week of July.

As luck would have it, our trip to Harris Beach was timed perfectly. The cool, fresh summer finally exploded into record heat just a few days before our scheduled departure. I think everyone in the surrounding area was heading for the coast to escape the heat. When we arrived at our campground, it was more packed than we had ever seen, with lots of kids, dogs, and people everywhere we looked.

The park guy at the entrance gate was stunned when I told him I had only found this reservation two weeks ago. He said the park has been booked solid for weeks. Just goes to show that it pays to keep checking back for cancellations, and being willing to be flexible with dates is another plus.

With temperatures in the hundreds from California to Portland in the inland parts of Oregon, the coast was protected by the typical summer marine layer, and the temps never got to 60F during our entire visit. We arrived in a chilly fog and began setting up camp. The site wasn’t very level, so we spent a bit of time juggling the rig around to find the best possible spot. Now for what I hope is the last kerfuffle of the season. While Mo hooked up the utilities, I started opening the slide. About 5 inches from full extension, I heard a deafening and terrifying bang/pop/noise. UhOh. What broke?? The springs that open the slide? Something holding it up? Now what?? The slide refused to extend. We could bring it in without any weird noises, but it still seemed odd. Mo hunted on the floor and tried to see what was wrong. We went inside and out checking and found nothing to give us any idea what was wrong.

What made this especially scary was knowing that with only 3 weeks until our planned departure for a long trip, we would have trouble finding an opening for a repair. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Well, if we have to travel cross country with the slide closed, so be it.” A few minutes later, after Mo fiddled with the space between the slide, the wall, and the floor, I saw a small piece of white plastic. We both recognized the piece as part of the tv antenna handle assembly that had broken on our last trip. Sure enough, the entire piece of plastic had fallen on the top of the slide, and the horrible bang was the heavy white plastic exploding as it was crushed by the slide. After finding the culprit, the slide extended and retracted smoothly with no more scary noises.

We settled in for the afternoon. Even with the chilly fog, it was essential to get down to the beach to let Mattie get a run and walk on the sand, listening to the surf. Summer surf is much calmer than winter surf, and even high tide was much lower than the King Tides we experienced last winter. The walk was lovely, and seeing the shifts and changes in the beach landscape over time was fascinating. There was a lake where a stream used to be, and the stream was far removed from where we remembered it to be. We were surprised at the number of people sitting in chairs in a row along the water’s edge, wondering if they were waiting for the sunset that was most certainly not going to happen in the fog.

Back home for a beautiful cool evening and a chilly night, using the small electric space heater to keep the rig from getting too chilly. Remember that only two hours away, the temperatures never cooled below 70, even during the night!

The next day brought a visit from our friends, Maryruth and Gerald. They decided a break from the heat was in order and drove the short trip to the coast to escape. We met them outside the park just in time for an early lunch at Catalyst Seafood. Mo and I ate there often in our early days visiting Harris Beach. At that time, it was a small, slightly funky place with three-dollar glasses of wine and fabulous fish and chips for 9.95. How times have changed. It has been remodeled and updated, with a nice bar and outdoor seating. Wine is 8 bucks a glass, and the fish and chips are now 14 bucks, with only fries and no cole slaw. Still, it was a good lunch and excellent fish.

After lunch, the four of us sat by the beach. The picnic table where Judy (the bird lady) used to set up her telescope when she made presentations for the public about Bird/Goat Island was empty and waiting. I saw no volunteers doing anything like what Judy did for the summer she was at Harris Beach. Still, the views were excellent, and we enjoyed sharing one of our favorite beaches with Maryruth and Gerald.

We drove back up to the campground and settled into the long picnic table for a game of dominoes. Our friends left late afternoon to get home to Grants Pass before dark. Mo and I settled in for a quiet evening with leftovers from lunch and some good internet tv, mirrored to our TV from the phone. This is an excellent option if there is a good enough signal from the phones. No data is used to watch movies on the phone for us, and casting it to the TV doesn’t cost a thing. The only time this seems to be a problem is when we are in a crowded RV park with lots of rigs close by attempting to do the same thing. Then the phone sees too many TVs and gets confused. Otherwise, this method works almost everywhere when we have decent reception.

We didn’t have to check out until 1pm the next day, and with temps at 108 in Grants Pass, we stayed until the very last minute. The long morning gave us another chance to walk the beach with Mattie, this time in full, gorgeous sunshine. There was no jacket required at a sunny 60 degrees and no wind.

We only had a few days in ridiculously hot weather ahead of us when we returned home. Dealing with 114F degrees isn’t easy, but it isn’t a terrible hardship for us. We garden outside from 7 am until it gets unbearable around 11 or 12 and then escape to the perfect coolness of our air-conditioned home. So far, so good, with no power outages. I struggle to imagine how impossible it would be to deal with that kind of heat without air conditioning. I see homeless people around town with dogs on their shoulders to protect their feet. My heart breaks for them. There are only a few cooling centers where these folks can escape. It is a scary situation, even worse than the cold of winter. I am so incredibly grateful for the safety, comfort, and protection that we have that so many people do not.

We had just one more happy event to enjoy on July 30th. Mo has some friends who are much like an extended family living in Ohio. The three daughters of these friends, Stephanie, Amy, and Susan, have wonderful memories of Mo from their childhood when they lived closer and visited often. We plan to revisit them as we pass through Ohio in late September. However, Amy, Susan, and their husbands were celebrating their 25th anniversary with a trip to Portland, Oregon. The husbands wanted to see the Columbia Gorge and play frisbee golf and do some other guy things. Amy and Susan asked if we could meet in the middle Between Portland and Grants Pass.

Mo and I chose the halfway point near Creswell, Oregon, just south of Eugene, for a meeting spot. I had read about the Creswell Bakery in the past. I was reminded again when we went to the big Cheese Festival last spring that it was a destination we had yet to explore. The bakery is on a lot of “foodie” maps of places not to miss if you are traveling through Oregon.

Lunch was great, but the laughter and conversation between us was stupendous. Lots of stories of their memories of Mo when they were younger. More stories of their current lives in Ohio, their kids, and their dad, who lost his precious wife Millie a bit over a year ago. The girls were incredibly close to their mom, who was one of Mo’s dearest friends. Their dad Don is a beloved friend as well. We all had great memories of Millie, and the girls told us about Don’s adjustment to life without his wife. It is wonderful that all three girls and their kids are close by, and they spend a lot of time with Don, cooking with him at his home at least three nights a week. Some families have an incredible closeness that is such a treasure.