01-14 and 15 2020 Sunny Days and King Tides

We had big plans for the next couple of days at the beach.  We were close to some truly gorgeous coastal views of big cliffs along the Cape Arago Highway.  We also knew that there were king tides making stormy wavy watching quite spectacular.

We woke to a gorgeous morning with not a speck of fog.  It was very wet though, and quite chilly, but the sun was incredible.  Not something we expected at the coast in winter. 

We have camped a few times nearby at Sunset Bay State Park, just a mile south of our current location at Bastendorff Beach.  There is a beautiful hiking trail that meanders along the rocky coastline from Sunset Bay toward Shore Acres State Park and ends at the Cape Arago State Park Viewpoint.  It is a lovely walk and when we camped there in 2014 (the story is here) I was trying to walk at least 5 miles each day.  That part of the coast was a perfect location for wonderful walks.

On this trip however, we decided that driving the Cape Arago Highway was the best choice since my days of walking 5 miles are behind me. We checked out Sunset Bay, which was lovely, but even on the sunny morning it was still almost completely shaded.  Traveling south toward Shore Acres we drove through the entry kiosk with notice of the required $5 per day to use the park.  The gardens and buildings associated with them were closed but it looked as though the gates weren’t locked and one could possibly walk through on the open pathways.

We have visited Shore Acres at different times of the year, both when things are in bloom in the summer and during the winter nights for their wonderful Christmas light show. Each time we have visited, with our state park camping receipt, we never had to pay that fee.  We decided to skip the fee and continue south toward Cape Arago.

Along the road there are several places to access the coastal trail and a truly spectacular overlook.  When we visited Harris Beach State Park near Brookings last month I was impressed with the newly refurbished information signs. 

It seems this is something that is being done all along the coast at the state parks.  The signs were beautifully redone, colorful and fun to read.

Even far out on the rocks we could see the seals, although from this vantage point it was a bit difficult to identify which of two types of seals and two types of sea lions that frequent the area were on the rocks.  I could also see sea birds, but only able to actually identify cormorants perched on the highest points of the rocks.

After enjoying the surf and the views we drove a bit further to the end of the road at Cape Arago. The skies were brilliant and the air was a bit chilly and breezy. 

We walked down to a point overlooking the rocky shoreline and watched some seals happily playing in the surf and sunning themselves on the rocks.  The waves were spectacular crashing wildly in all directions.  Being a cape, the view is a bit more than 180 degrees in both directions.

The picnic tables were sitting invitingly in the warm sunshine and lucky for me I had actually remembered to pack a picnic for our day.  We enjoyed our lunch and the beautiful views and sounds of the wild ocean for some time before walking back to the car to return to the MoHo.

Once back at camp, we decided it would be nice to check out the namesake beach of our park.  Bastendorff Beach was wide and long, and the sand was clean.  The waves were again huge, and the crashing surf accompanied our walk.  There were bits of kelp and old wood on the sand, and a few broken clamshells, but no sign of any rocks or agates in the area.

Mattie again got to run off leash a bit, with no problems from other people with off leash dogs on this sunny afternoon.  We were truly surprised to see just how many people were there and how full the several parking lots were. Coos Bay isn’t that big of a city and this part of Highway 101 isn’t usually that busy. 

Most of the people recreating on the beach seemed to be local, with Oregon plates, not the out of state tourists that frequent the beaches farther south near Brookings or Bandon, or farther north toward Florence, Newport, or Lincoln City. 

After returning to the MoHo for a bit of relaxation, we decided to take advantage of the very last day of inside dining in Coos County.  We have had a truly marvelous dining experience at the High Tide Cafe. When we heard they were remaining open for one last day before closing due to an increase in COVID numbers in the county we decided to try it.

After talking about it a bit, we thought better of the inside dining experience and made a call to order take out fish and chips.  Arriving around 4 we found a completely empty restaurant.  Our dinner was ready and packed to go but the empty table with a view looked so inviting.  I asked if we could eat in and the waitress said “Sure”, and brought us our meal and some real silverware.  Another nice part of this is that we could have a local beer with our food.

The beer was good.  We ordered just one fish and chips dinner and one bowl of chowder to share, but realized that we also should have ordered just one beer.  Hard to drink that much beer I guess.  Sadly, the dinner was simply adequate, not the superb meal we enjoyed two different times at this restaurant.  It seems that they previous owners sold the business and the new owners took over just last month.  They are excited about their new project and planning to open up the patio with heaters and lights to accommodate more outside dining.

The fish and chips only cost $15 instead of the $22. that we paid with the previous owners, and the difference in price reflects the difference in the meal.  We like a light breading and while the fish was tasty, the breading was the typical somewhat soggy beer batter.  The fries were boring and there was no cole slaw or salad served with the meal.  Also, the chowder was good but not fabulous.  It is sad that the new owners didn’t realize that they should have kept the previous menu.  I wish them well, but I doubt we will rush to return for fish and chips here again.

The sun stayed with us the rest of the day until nightfall brought in a thick fog.  We settled in with another game of cards and a good night’s sleep. 

The weather forecast had mentioned rain for Thursday and when we woke that morning in addition to overnight rain, the fog was heavy and thick. It was more like what we had expected at the beach and we spent the entire day in the MoHo, relaxing, reading, knitting for me, a  bit of card playing and some short walks.  With such a quite indoor day it really made us appreciate the sunshine we enjoyed so much the day before.

12-15-2020 through 12-19-2020 Another December Escape

When winter comes, our best option for a short getaway is to head for the coast.  We had barely returned from our Thanksgiving trip when Mo said, “Can we make a plan to go somewhere again before Christmas?”  Ummm….took me an overnight minute but by the next morning I was ready to search Harris Beach for a reserved campsite.  Harris Beach is beautiful, and close.  Just a bit over 2 hours for us from Grants Pass.  I guess that is why you will see more photos and blogs about Harris Beach than just about any other location we have traveled.  So be it.  If you are bored…just move along.

With all the sites being full on our last trip, we didn’t want to take a chance.  Reservations are so easy, and for me personally it is much less stressful to know I have a place to land.  Especially when the weather is stormy I really don’t want to be wandering around hunting for somewhere to by dark.

The weather report for our four days at the ocean was grim.  Wind warnings, gale warnings, high seas and king tide warnings were many.  Still, we have camped at the coast enough to know that in between all these dramatic events the skies can clear unexpectedly and the sun will break through.  We planned accordingly.  I think I packed more outerwear and footwear than I have in a very long time.  Four days, four weeks, if it is cold and variable, I need all those alternatives to being wet.  Glad I did.

As we departed from home around 11, the skies were that gloomy gray dull that I like least of any, and the rain was spotty.  Just enough to be wet and boring, but the trip down the Smith River past the Jedediah Smith redwoods is a familiar one.  I usually like to drive home from the beach since the steep drop-off to the river is on the passenger side in the east bound lane.  Mo was happy driving to the beach that morning.  We switch off as needed, taking turns.  I function better earlier in the day so usually leave later trips to Mo.  We avoid night driving most of the time anyway and especially when traveling in the MoHo.  Lucky for me, Mo is still a great night time driver if need be.

Much of B Loop and part of C Loop are closed for the winter.  We are in A2

We arrived at our site in the A Loop and were delighted to see that most of the row was still empty.  I was relieved to see that unlike our last campsite at Harris Beach, the campfire ring was a decent height.  Mo had loaded up enough wood for four nights of campfires, in spite of the rainy forecast.  After settling in we put on our coats, including Mattie, and braved the inclement but still dry weather to go check out the beach.

It was just a little short walk to the overlook and we managed to walk down the path toward the big rocks before I had to give up.  Steep rocky stuff is out of my range now, especially when wet and slippery. 

Mattie did NOT want to turn around.

The view was great from that spot, and we could see that the beach was almost completely empty.  After walking back to the MoHo we picked up the car and drove down the steep road that leads to the main beach at the park. 

Mattie was in heaven, running wildly the minute there was space for Mo to let her off the leash.  The high tide had brought in some interesting tidbits that someone decided to arrange into a lovely still life that just begged to be photographed. 

Mattie ran and played and climbed rocks, her favorite thing to do other than running wildly in soft sand. 

Back home we settled in with some TV shows cast from the phone and a nice little steak on the BarB as the rain held off a few more hours.  By dark, the rain was coming steadily.  The rain drumming on the roof was as soothing as ever and we slept in much longer than usual the next morning.

We knew that Wednesday, the 16th, was to be the most intense day of the storm and we planned accordingly.  Snuggling in with hot coffee, some news on the TV and cozy sweats we enjoyed the indoor day completely.  I had come fully prepared with all my handmade Christmas cards ready to address and mail.  It was much more fun writing little notes and stuffing the envelopes in the MoHo than it would have been back at home. 

I started making Christmas cards back in the early days of COVID in the late spring.  The most fun is deciding which cards go to which friends.  The worst part of this is that if I make a similar card in the coming years I might not remember who got which ones the last time around.  I guess I need to keep better notes!

It rained all night but the next morning on Thursday the skies had cleared somewhat.  I decided to see if the Brookings Post Office was open and was delighted to find not a single person in the line and a friendly postmaster who checked each of my cards for weight and thickness. 

The skies were clear and beautiful as we piled into the Tracker for the short trip south to Crescent City and our favorite fish and chips restaurant, the Chart RoomWe stood in line with Nickie and Jimmy last September for our outside dining only fish and chips.

It was still outside dining only but the big difference was the weather and the lack of the long line of people waiting to order.  Although the sun was just as brilliant, the air was chilly and we wore coats.  Very few people in line and we had no trouble snagging a nice picnic table with a view.

We decided to check out the beach that we had attempted to visit last September.  At the time, it was too crowded and there was no place to park.  This time there was plenty of parking, but with the high tide coming in quite close there wasn’t much walking room.  We weren’t impressed with this particular beach, actually called Crescent Beach.  The sand is more like dark brown silt and while the surfers are fun to watch, the homeless tents and garbage strewn around was less enjoyable.

After lunch we drove north of town along the coastline to the remote headland trails at Point St. George.  I have written about the amazing historical lighthouse that is just barely visible from this point in a previous story here. There were a few people parked but only a few hikers walking along the beach.  The beach was gorgeous, wide open and clean with big breakers roaring from the high tide to keep us company.

Home again to a lovely evening with the rain holding out long enough that Mo built us a great campfire to enjoy before retreating to the cozy MoHo. As usual, Mattie had to have her own camp chair and blanket for fire time.

Most of the next day was sunny and beautiful with enough time to walk the beaches once again.  We were surprised at how the temperatures moderated after the rain and the winds were almost non existent.  It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed every minute of it.


Mattie found many mini mountains to climb

For our last night in camp Mo once again built a beautiful campfire and we opened a bottle of champagne to enjoy by the fire and to drink with our truly delicious fish and chips.  It is great when a good dinner is enough to last for two great meals.  I am pretty sure that the Chart Room fish and chips at 14.95 each is one of the tastiest and best deals ever.























Saturday morning dawned gray and foggy once again and we took our time getting ready to leave. Even though we have an RV dump station at home, it is a bit easier to dump right there at Harris Beach.  It is a good dump with a perfect angle for a complete clean dump.  RVr’s will know exactly what I mean.  It is also easy to get to and rarely busy.  It’s the little things that matter when out traveling!

The trip home was uneventful, except for one minor detail.  In Kerby, about 25 miles west of Grants Pass, there is a fair style food booth with hot dogs, hamburgers, curly fries and yes, corn dogs!  Best corn dog I ever ate was at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival in 2019.  Mo said, “Hey, want a corn dog ?”  I didn’t exactly slam on the brakes in the middle of the highway, but I did find a way to turn around and get back there.  Yup…Albuquerque quality corn dog.  Once every year or so isn’t that bad for some truly delicious junk food.  Then again, I might have to be sure to remember that place is there on our next trip to the beach!

08-09-2014 Last Days of the Reunion

Current Location: Home in Rocky Point with clear skies and 79F and low humidity day ahead

On the Friday when I was wandering around my old haunts in Northern Idaho, a large contingent of the rest of the family met at some unearthly hour for a tee time at a Post Falls golf course.  A good number of the Oukrops are avid golfers and most of the rest of them do it for fun.  I heard the stories later, but not being a golfer, I was much happier hanging out with old friends.

walking Riverside SP (2 of 12)Mo opted out of this activity as well, choosing instead to hang around the park with Abby, let her play and swim and relax for a bit.  I have a sneaky suspicion that Abby wasn’t the only one of this pair that needed some down time.

dinner at Don and Wynns (19 of 25) By the time I got back from my part of Idaho, the golf group was returning as well, and it was time to head to the west side of the South Hill for a wonderful hosted dinner of lasagna, salad, and bread.  Can you imagine making dinner for 33 people and not having a single potluck contribution? 

Wynn said that she spent an entire day cooking up these gorgeous pans of tasty lasagna. 

dinner at Don and Wynns (1 of 25) It was fun seeing how many people could fit on Don and Wynn’s deck without it collapsing.  Well built deck, I would say.  Before and after dinner we were entertained by the little ones playing around on the grass and listening to all the conversations on the deck as we watched the almost full super moon rise over Hangman Creek to the east.  The view from the deck was gorgeous.  dinner at Don and Wynns (13 of 25)We even managed the “complete” family photo with everyone attending the reunion gathering on Don’s lawn.  I have a sequence of about 12 different shots, all with varying degrees of success at getting everyone to look forward and smile at the same time.  The joys of photographing a group are not to be understated.dinner at Don and Wynns (15 of 25)

Saturday morning dawned sunny and warm, and was a perfect day for the family float on the Little Spokane River.  Don is an avid kayaker, and knows the area paddles well.  He picked this one the last time we were in his area, and it was a great choice.  Everyone opted for the 3 hour float rather than the shorter paddle.Family Float (3 of 12)We had a large number of rubber boats to compliment the few kayaks, and the best part of the morning was the gathering of people as we stood around while Don tried to explain the logistics of the car shuttles, organizing the designated drivers, and trying to figure out who would be where when.  I won’t post a bunch more photos of this day because in the first reunion post I chose to share my favorite shots of everyone participating.Family Float (7 of 12)

The Little Spokane is a meandering river, with just enough current to make it fun, and enough that I was glad we were only paddling downstream.  Much of the shoreline is in a natural wildlife area, and we didn’t discover until the end of the trip at the takeout that no dogs are allowed on the river!  UhOh.  Glad we didn’t read the sign because Abby had a great time.

Oukrop Reunion Float (20 of 41) Golf and Silverwood required a weekday, so the float got the weekend day by default, and Saturday wasn’t the best day to be on this lovely river.  It is an extremely popular place, especially on a hot sunny weekend, and we were accompanied by a large number of fellow rafters.  I think our group might have been the biggest, however, and maybe all those other rafters were wishing they had picked a different day as well.  Something a bit disconcerting to be on a gorgeous river and come around a curve to the smell of cigarette/marijuana (legal in Washington) smoke and the sound of loud rock and roll on someone’s radio.

Oukrop Reunion Float (39 of 41) We all had a great time, and the kayakers in the group thought the trip length was perfect.  A few of the floaters thought it was just over the limit of comfortable, especially the ones who had to keep blowing up their boats.  I wish I could remember Susan’s youngest son David’s exact words, something to the effect  of “If we don’t stop right now I am going to die”  Susan, if you read this, please post that comment in the comments.  I would love to get it word for word!

IMG_0616Oukrops on the Deschutes River 2010

I think the float trip is my favorite part of these Oukrop reunions, and remember fondly our float trip on the Deschutes when Roger and Nancy’s family was in charge of the festivities.

dinner at Ginny and Gabes (2 of 34) After a long day we arrived back in camp just in time to change and clean up a bit to drive in a different direction to the home of Ginny and Gabe for their fabulous fully hosted dinner.  Once again, no potluck allowed, and Ginny and Gabe put on the best pulled pork BBQ ever!

dinner at Ginny and Gabes (18 of 34) Ginny is a professional portrait photographer, and incredibly artistic.  She had the yard all decorated with Martha Stewartesque jars of baby’s breath and wooden table runners, all coordinated.  There was even a lovely basket with an assortment of beautiful quilts for spreading on the grass. Her appetizers and casserole accompaniments to the dinner were fabulous. Not to mention the infused waters and banana split dessert!

dinner at Ginny and Gabes (21 of 34) Gabe had a regulation volley ball court all set up with a 20 foot high barrier to keep the ball from ending up in the neighbors yard.  Did I mention this is a very athletic family?  The barrier wasn’t high enough, and Gabe spent a good amount of time going over the fence after the ball. 

dinner at Ginny and Gabes (34 of 34) It was so much fun watching Ginny and Gabe’s dog wandering around trying to play volleyball, and watching all the little ones running around underfoot. 

08-09-2014 Oukrop Dinner at Ginny and Gabes We went home to the campground by the light of the almost super moon, one more night before it would be full.  The next morning, folks began dispersing, some to the airport, rigs loaded up and ready to roll toward home, and Mo and I spent some quiet hours all alone at the park enjoying the river and the trails.

walking Riverside SP (1 of 12) Our evening destination was only a few short miles north toward Bonners Ferry where we planned to overnight before our border crossing early Monday morning into Canada. No need to rush.  A wonderful end to a wonderful reunion with plenty of time to decompress and relax before the next leg of our journey.walking Riverside SP (6 of 12)

Next: Fabulous Kootenay Lake in British Columbia

 

02-06-2014 Cold Rainy Day in Destin

Current temperature 36 F  Partly clear and the high to day up to a balmy 53!

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (6)I guess 53F is a lot better than 43F which was the high temperature here yesterday.  With rain.  No sun, not a speck of sunshine.  We are leaving today and heading east toward St Joe Peninsula State Park….I think we need to follow the rain.  Weatherunderground says that by Sunday the rainy weather will have passed this part of the Emerald Coast with sunshine predicted in Destin and clouds and rain for points farther east.

I guess this is the most frustrating part of traveling with reservations, we just don’t have a lot of flexibility to follow the weather.  The whole plan would fall like a stack of dominoes if we decided to try to go somewhere warm and sunny right now.  The other problem, of course, is that there isn’t much warm and sunny in this half of the country and we would have to go a couple of thousand miles west.  And by the time we got there, Winter Storm Orion might be doing some damage as well even out west.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (12)Right now, Oregon is experiencing some severe winter weather on the west side of the mountains, and I am quite happy to be down here, relatively warm, not shoveling snow and slipping on icy roads.  I will not complain one bit more about the cold weather here in Florida.  I also know that if I could just get a little bit father south the predictions are for highs in the 80’s at Marathon Key.  I need a Star Trek transporter to get us there before some weird weather thing turns it all cold again.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (4)With Florida beaches off limits to dogs, we took Abby to the Four Paws doggy day care for our day on the beach.  I would say that was a fairly loosely run business, but we saw where Abby was to spend the day, and it seemed clean enough.  There was no outdoor space, but the owner said he walked the dogs every two hours or so.  The hours are a bit limited and we had to return by 4PM to pick her up. 

On a side note, I would highly recommend reading ALL the reviews for boarding facilities.  A kennel recommended by the desk staff at the campground had some rather scary reviews.  The kennel owner is threatening to sue the reviewers for slander, but a local vet confirmed that a small dog died from injuries sustained at the facility by a larger dog.  If there are terrible reviews and then a bunch of glowing reviews with a later date, pay attention, those later reviews are probably fake. 

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (19)We started our dog free morning with pastries and coffee at “The Donut Hole”, recommended by several bloggers and a recent commenter on our blog.  Thanks, that was a good choice.  The coffee was strong, the pastries superb, and the restaurant gave us a place to prepare for venturing out into the cold rain.

I wanted most of all to see Grayton Beach State Park, and had no problem paying the $5. entry fee to explore the campground, check out the dune lakes, and the famous white sands of the beach.  Even with the gloomy skies, the pastel turquoise colors of the water and the pure white sands were wonderful.

We walked as long as we could manage in the cold.  Even with a yellow flag out, for moderate conditions,  the breezes made the 43 degree temperatures bone chilling.  Still, I had to put my feet in that crystalline water.  The Gulf was doing that gentle Gulf thing that I love, with soft, little waves…can I even call them waves?….lapping the shore and the dark clouds reflecting in the still water.  I kept imagining how incredible it would feel to have my kayak out there on the wilderness of silky turquoise water and gray sky in all directions.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (17)From Grayton Beach, there are some tall Florida condominiums visible in the distance, but nothing invasive.  The State Park itself is definitely a place to camp for us, with several sites with paths leading directly to the dune lake and plenty of privacy.  The newer part of the campground has 50 amp hookups and larger sites, but they are unprotected and open.  We liked the older part better, nice thing about having a 30 amp, 26 foot rig.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (28)After freezing at the beach, we jumped back in the Tracker turning the heat on full blast to try to dry out my jeans.  Even with the cuffs rolled up I managed to get all wet. Continuing east on 30A, we traveled the short mile and a half from the park to the little storybook town of Seaside, Florida.  Years ago, watching the movie “The Truman Show”, I fell in love with this town, as did many other people.  Looking it up, I learned it was a planned community, one of the first that used the new Urban Design concept of creating a living space that was pedestrian friendly, with common areas, concentrated housing of varying sizes and types, and the ability to work and play and live all without having to use a car.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (32)I don’t think many people who work in Seaside actually live there, since many of the houses now go for millions.  It was still very cold, and by the time we got to Seaside it was also raining.  The lovely town square was in the midst of major reconstruction and not quite lovely at this time.  One of the local food wagon vendors told us they had trouble with drainage and the square was being redesigned to handle runoff more efficiently. He said it would be gorgeous again by March.

I had Mo take the obligatory photo of me at the tiny post office and then we walked the square a bit.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (35)02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (37) A store with proclaimed cottage style was rather elegant.  I kept picturing all that fancy elegant cottage stuff in our real cottage back in Oregon.  Maybe not, but it was luscious to look at, with linen woven slipcovers, big bowls of coffee beans on distressed wood tables, and beautiful linen napkins at $20. a piece.  Let’s see…dinner for six and $120. for napkins?  I love luxury and good quality, but this was even more than I would do.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (39)The famous Modica Market was a nice stop, with tall shelves of everything imaginable that required library style ladders to stock. Again, even with a small bin of organic produce, this wasn’t exactly your weekly grocery shopping spot.  The Seaside Transit Authority tent was worth a double take, however, with bicycles instead of busses as the city transportation system. 

Still raining, I convinced Mo to walk at least a couple of blocks through the residential areas, with their white picket fences and porches bigger than my house.  Just a short way down the block, we found a public pathway, a truly amazing little treat, that led between back yards, much like an alley, but not for cars.  The path led to the main road where we got back in the car, grateful again for warmth.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (40)It seems that March is the beginning of “the season” in Seaside, and many of the charming little boutiques on the beach side of the town square were still closed.  Lucky for me, Pickles was open, and I managed an order of fried pickles…something I never tried before but sounded like fun.  They were.  I can see that Seaside could be a great place to visit on a warm sunny day on a bicycle.  With a great bike trail between the town and the state park to the west, the perfect combination of quiet kayaking, beautiful beach, and cute busy town accessible by bike is pretty darn inviting.  But not today in the cold rain.

Traveling back 20 miles or so to Destin, we found a WalMart…a tiny version of most WalMarts, hoping for some shelf liner, some propane, and some TUMS.  Eating out so much isn’t that good for my tummy.  I needed to be armed for the last dog free adventure of the day, hot Irish coffee at McGuire’s Irish Pub back in Destin.  I have seen photos of this place on so many blogs recently, and read about how great it is for so long that I decided it was worth a try.

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (50)We weren’t disappointed, and Mo finally got fish and chips the way she has been wanting it for a month now.  None of that greasy, thick doughy breading, but a nice light crispy coating on flaky light fish.  I tried the rueben egg roll appetizers and they were great!  McGuire’s is also a small craft brewery, and when I asked if any of their beer was bottled, the head brewmaster came over to our table to have a long conversation about crafted beer.  I gave the rest of my Irish coffee to Mo and ordered a Millennial.  Excellent beer, not too hoppy, but rich and creamy.  In Florida, they do sell growlers of tap beer, but a growler is a gallon!  Hard to fit that in a motorhome fridge, so I passed.  It would take me a long time to drink a gallon of beer!

02-06-2014 Destin Day 2 (41)It is very nearly impossible to get a photo of the interior of McGuire’s, since the place is mainly lit with dim red lights.  The walls and ceiling are covered with dollar bills, all signed and named by folks who have visited.  They call it the million dollar ceiling.  I remember a ceiling like this along Interstate 90 west of Missoula, Montana somewhere near St Regis, but for the life of me can’t remember the name of the place.  Then there was the great little trailer coffee shop on the dirt road track the the Denali Highway in Alaska…covered in dollar bills with pies that were $36 each.  That dollar bill ceiling thing isn’t all that uncommon.

When we picked up Abby, she seemed happy and unstressed, so I assume her day was OK.  Ours was OK as well, in spite of the rain and cold, and as I fell asleep last night I kept remembering the color of the water, not how cold my hands and feet were while walking on the beach.

01-30-2014 Day 5 Roatan

Currently we are camped at NAS/JRB, Belle Chasse, LA Temperature: 47 F, and foggy

This is fifth in a series of posts about our NCL cruise on the Norwegian Jewel to the Western Mediterranean. Read about our first day at sea here,  about an evening onboard  here, Cozumel here, and Belize here. Also, keep in mind that the link to the left for my photos on google will take you to many more images of our cruise and the ports we visited

083Thursday morning the sunrise was somewhat muted by the rainclouds and fog hanging low in the sky around the island of Roatan.  Until recently, I had never heard of Roatan, and when we booked this cruise I had to look it up.  I read a bit about the island, the port, and then was delighted when friend Jeanne sent a quick email with pictures of, you guessed it, Roatan. 

Jeanne and her sweetie Alan decided to escape the Vermont winter cold for a week on the north side of the island at a lovely boutique hotel.  Photos were attached, and emails exchanged. 

Jeanne told us which beaches to avoid and gave us the name of their driver, Alex.  A few more emails were exchanged, and by the time we docked in Coxen Hole, on the south side of the island, arrangements had been finalized with Alex.  If anyone is reading this blog and wants information about a personal driver for time in Roatan, drop an email to me and I’ll send his email address and phone number. Alex was a sweetheart and I highly recommend his services.

Once again, the timing was near perfect.  With a rainy day ahead of us, we were really happy that we hadn’t booked any kind of excursion, trapped in a crowded bus with weather too rough for any kind of snorkeling. 

cruise day 6_003As we approached the port along the southern side of Roatan, I was surprised to see jungle covered hills rising above the port. The approach was quite lovely.My first impression of the port at Coxen Hole was much better than the previous day in Belize.  (See that post here). There was plenty of room for busses and taxi’s and the exit area was open and spacious. 

007As we emerged from the only open gate, Alex was waiting for us with a big sign with my name on it.  His car is a nice newer model Toyota SUV with comfy seats and we were his only passengers.  We originally negotiated for a simple ride out to the beach and then a later afternoon pick-up, but with the rainy day, we discussed shifting to a mini tour of the island.  Alec is quite popular it seems, and his English was more than adequate for our day. For $50 US for both of us, Alex took us to a few sights on the south side of the island, before dropping us off at Sandy Beach on the north side.

003Negotiating the narrow, winding roads, Alex drove slowly enough that we could enjoy the views and conversation.  We stopped at a few historical sites, but in the rain everything seemed less than spectacular.  Once at the top of highest hill on the island, the view opened up and through the light rain that was starting we could see the ship in the harbor below. The road only opens when ships are in port.  At this view site are several covered stalls where local people were selling their wares.  We took some photos, and explored the items for sale, finding some very well priced goodies to purchase. (Can’t believe I never got a photo of Alex!)

011Even in the rain, the jungles were lush and beautiful and the ride to the next site was enjoyable.  At the butterfly/flower garden we spent $10. each to enjoy a walking tour of the grounds by Joshua, a 13 year old boy who was very knowledgeable and well spoken. It was a bit of a touristy trappy kind of place, but Joshua made it fun and interesting.

Alex then took us to a more commercial area that was some sort of “official” tourist souvenir site, and we wandered around looking at lovely items for sale, with prices up to three times as much as similar items seen at the stalls on the hilltop.  I was really glad that Alex took us to the hilltop first! After perusing the shop, we settled in for an espresso and hot chocolate while we waited for the rain to abate a bit.  The sudden runoff was thick and brown and flowing in torrents down the rough roads.

050Among the most interesting items made on the mainland in Honduras were carved chests, doors and tables, all worked by hand in Honduran mahogany.  Raw mahogany is no longer exported from the country, but crafted items made from the tropical wood are allowed.  According to our guide, people plant mahogany trees to attempt to replace the old growth mahogany from the rain forests. 

Before lunchtime, we made our way to Sandy Beach and the Blue Bahia Grill, where the open air restaurant was nearly empty.  With an agreement to pick us up at 2, Alex left us to have lunch, wander the beach, and possibly go for a snorkel.  By then the rain was coming down in torrents, so we were especially happy to have a nice place to relax  and enjoy the view through the plastic curtains that kept us dry.

059Jeanne had warned us that West Bay and many of the larger beaches are thick with cruisers, and Alec agreed that we might enjoy the little Sandy Bay area.  There were no shops, but there was our restaurant, and the attached hotel that was evidently a popular diver’s hotel, with a dive company in the courtyard. 

Lunch was fantastic, where I tried the smoked beef brisket sandwich Jeanne recommended and Mo had a BLT that was huge and delicious.  The rain let up a bit and we decided to walk the beach, sadly carrying along our useless snorkel gear.  The water was just too rough to attempt any kind of swimming or snorkeling, even if it stopped raining.  Not a snorkel day. 

086Just down the beach from the restaurant was the hotel where Jeanne and Alan were staying a few days prior.  We walked up from the beach to check it out, and there wasn’t a soul in sight. 

The owners were nowhere to be found, but all the doors were wide open, with the front desk computer open and running, jewelry sitting on a side table for sale, the restaurant closed but cash registers all exposed, and unoccupied rooms open for viewing. 

The small infinity pool was gorgeous, and we sat in the lobby enjoying the view for awhile before we found a brochure to read about the hotel.  Prices were notably absent, but the descriptions of the amenities were glowing, and from what we could see, were not the least bit exaggerated.  Might be more than we would ever spend, but it surely would be a great place for a luxury vacation on Roatan.

057Wandering back to the beach, the rain started in earnest and we asked our waitress at the Grill if we could wait inside for our driver.  She said, “Sure!” and we settled into a table to watch the rain, share some conversation with her, and wait for Alec.  Showing up just 15 minutes late, Alec was all apologies for a delayed flight for his previous passengers, and trundled us back to the ship in plenty of time for us to relax a bit before sailing.

The cruise port area is pleasant enough, but there was nothing for sale there to compare with our perfect previous purchases, so within a few minutes we went back to the ship and our waiting comfy stateroom with a view of the island.  The port side was a good choice for this particular cruise, where we had good views of both Cozumel, Roatan, and Costa Maya, morning sunrises for most of the cruise, and sunset on our last day returning northward.

cruise day 6_006A light supper salad sustained us for our evening meal since we knew that the late evening entertainment included a Chocolate Buffet.  We ambled up to the Garden Café a few minutes early and were surprised to find a huge line of folks waiting for the doors to open.  It was a perfect example of why people often say they can’t imagine going on a cruise.  There were soooo many people!!!  And all jammed up and lots of noise and all that chocolate.cruise day 6_021

The buffet was just OK, with a few ice sculptures, a little bit of chocolate carving here and there, and did I mention the people?  I tried a couple of desserts, but they were also just ok, and Mo settled for a cup of good coffee while we watched all the activity around us. 

cruise day 6_025There was more entertainment throughout the evening, but we passed on all of it and went back to the quiet and peace of our stateroom.  Even with my ability to temporarily ignore crowd phobia, I was ready to get back home and away from all the raucous stuff.cruise day 6_009