03-22-2022 Sharing a Favorite Spot with Friends

Some people I know have many friends they have known since childhood, and some still maintain contact with friends from grade school, high school, and college days. Maybe I moved around too much throughout my lifetime. Still, I managed to keep some treasured friends for a very long time. It is hard for me to believe that Phil and Joanne have been my friends since 1977. Is it possible that it has been 45 years since Phil and I started working together in soil survey?


Phil and I in 1984 in the St Joe NF

Phil was the first person to take me to the field in Bonner County, Idaho, where we dug pits together and tried to put together the puzzle of soil types in those holes and make a coherent map of how they occurred in the landscape. While mapping soils with Phil, I met and became friends with his wife, Joanne. They were around for so many milestones in my life. When they returned West in 2012 after many decades in the Midwest, I was thrilled to have a chance to again spend time with the two of them.


Here are Phil and Joanne with their firstborn son, at my wedding in 1980.  For blog followers who know daughter Melody and friend Maryruth, they are on the right side of the photo.

Phil and Jo have been campers, hikers, and backpackers for years but only recently made the jump and purchased a motorhome. When Joanne called me a couple of weeks ago and said they were possibly picking up their new rig on March 15, Mo and I were excited. First on the agenda would be overnight at Sunset House, where we could compare RVing notes, and they could enjoy their first night in the Unity. Joanne was excited and wanted to head for the coast after their night here.


Great idea, but as most RVr’s know, getting a last-minute reservation on the Oregon Coast is nearly impossible. I went to Harris Beach State Park campsite reservations on the web and wasn’t surprised to see that all sites were reserved for the next few weeks.


They planned to arrive on Saturday, and on Friday morning, I thought I would check one more time. Sure enough, not only 1 but two sites were available. Even though it was Spring Break, someone had canceled Site A10, front row overlooking the ocean, and Site A7, just across the road from A10. I had 15 minutes to confirm the reservation and took a chance that Phil and Jo would be on board with my choice.


Even though sites in every state park on the Oregon Coast are booked for months in advance, cancellations sometimes appear. It pays to be flexible and vigilant and never give up until the last minute.


Traveling south to Grants Pass from Eugene, our friends arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday. Mattie was thrilled to see Joanne again. When Mo and I traveled to Ireland in 2015, Joanne and Phil kept Mattie for three weeks, saving the trauma of boarding her in a kennel. Joanne and Mattie have a sweet bond. 


The four of us checked out their Unity 25-foot motorhome. We talked about the little details of RV traveling that we so often take for granted. Before supper, there was plenty of time to go uptown to the Weekend Brewing Company, a relatively new spot in Grants Pass. The beer was great, and the location was trendy on this sunny afternoon. Dogs sat indoors with their proud owners, food trucks provided sustenance, and kids and families played on the green lawns in the sunshine. I somehow never thought of a brewery as a place for kids.


Back home, I loaded up a large cod filet with spices and lemons, popped it on the grill, and made coleslaw and roasted veggies. We decided it was a great time to open the bottle of Bokish Verdejo that we purchased on our recent trip to the Lodi wineries.


WeatherUnderground predicted decent weather for Sunday and Monday. The days would be cloudy but with no rain. Sun would arrive in full on Tuesday, but that didn’t matter. Any day at the beach, even cloudy ones, is good. With the park just two hours west and check-in at 2 PM, we had a leisurely morning before leaving Grants Pass around 11:30. The drive was easy. Anyone who has driven Highway 199 knows it is narrow and winding. There are turnouts, but sometimes they are a bit short. I was in the lead and tried to ensure that any turnout I used could accommodate both rigs.


Pulling into the park just before 2, we settled into our respective sites quickly. Even with the cloudy skies, the ocean view was lovely from the A row. A short walk around the park before dinner allowed me to point out the various trails down to the beach and the Bluff Trail.

Here we are in A-7 with Phil and Jo across from us in A-10

Supper was easy, with pre-cooked veggie taco meat for Phil and Joanne and spicy beef taco meat for us. Homemade salsa and lots of condiments rounded out the meal. Before supper, Mo started a campfire, and by the time we finished eating, the coals were almost ready for marshmallows. Lucky for me, Joanne brought chocolate to stuff into the hot marshmallows to melt into gooey goodness.


Here is a photo of A10 one year when Mo and I took that site

Even with the park full of kids celebrating Spring Break, the park was surprisingly quiet all night. Monday morning, low tide was at 8:30, and Mo and I headed for the beach in time to see one of the lowest tide levels we have experienced at Harris Beach. At first, I lamented the lack of sea stars on the rocks, but I discovered many as we walked north along the water’s edge. The sea stars species are at risk, and it was a thrill to see so many of them tucked into the rocks.


Mattie loved her walk, as usual, tearing around in the sand and leaping over the little streams on the beach. She found rocks to climb and enjoyed the ability to run leash-free on the nearly empty beach.


We returned to the park in time to ask a ranger if there was an available site for that night. When we asked on Sunday, they told us to check again around 10 AM on the day we wanted to stay. We were lucky enough to get another canceled reservation site right next to our existing site.


Phil and Jo ran a few shopping errands with our little car before returning to the park to prepare for our afternoon excursion. We planned a walking trip to Chetco Park Trail, where Mo and I had taken Mattie on her first visit to Harris Beach in 2015. The trail isn’t long, paved near the entrance, and reasonably smooth and nearly level in most parts. 


The parking lot is a surprise unless one knows where to walk beyond the sewage facility. Near the trail’s beginning is a nice new dog park where Mattie could run. We saw many dogs on our walk, but there were none at the dog park when we arrived after our walk.


The views from the peninsula are beautiful, with pristine beaches below the rocks, wide-open ocean vistas to the West, and tiny wildflowers tucked among the windblown shrubs and grasses along the trail.


We ended the afternoon with an early supper at Super Fly Martini Bar, a trendy place Mo and I discovered in December when we visited the festival with Maryruth and Gerald. As before, the martinis were stellar, and the food was delicious. We had excellent service, good hot food, and an atmosphere that wasn’t noisy despite the holiday week.


After supper, Mo drove around town a bit, showing Phil and Jo some of the things we love about Brookings. Sadly I got no photos of our lovely walk through Azaela Park, where the rhodies were beginning to bloom. I showed Joanne the Azalea Light Festival pictures from our previous visits in December. Already plans are made for reserving sites for the four of us at Harris Beach during the festival next winter. 


Once again, we concluded our evening with a campfire and marshmallows. Phil and Joanne decided that the park was so wonderful that they wanted to extend their reservation for another night. The following day they walked the beach at low tide, but not before checking with the ranger for a site for the coming night. They were successful!


I learned that even though everything is fully booked, it is sometimes worth it to double-check with the park rangers for possible cancellations or open sites. As I told Phil, I would always have a backup plan if this didn’t work, especially in the summer. There is nothing worse than having no place to go and having to settle in somewhere unknown in the dark.


Mo and I enjoyed Tuesday morning with brilliant sunshine lighting up the skies. We took our time getting ready to leave the park. With check-out time at 1 PM, there was no hurry.

I took a bit of time to hike the short but steep trail up to Harris Bluff.  I went alone so I could test myself a bit but I did take the phone.  The view was worth every slow, careful step!

We watched Phil and Jo drive by to their new site before heading up the hill to wish them goodbye and happy travels.


One last note. Mo and I often hook up the Tracker outside the park at the parking area along the upper trail. We learned that it isn’t smart to expect that area to be empty, and I had to return to the parking lot adjacent to the dumpsite to have room to hook up. Neither of us is comfortable hooking up in the park roadways. 


Our trip home was uneventful, with some traffic and sunny skies. We were parked and unloaded within an hour of arriving at home. I talked with Joanne this morning. They were happy with their decision to stay another night, even though it meant that Joanne had to cancel some necessary appointments. Her last words to me were, “I can see why people want to do this all the time. I want to run away forever.”

02-16-2022 Sunshine and Friends

Most winters we make plans to travel south to the desert for some much needed sunshine.  Last year we stayed closer to home, traveling to the coast several times.  This year, with Covid still rearing its ugly head, we decided against driving 750 miles south to Desert Hot Springs as we have done almost every year since we got the MoHo.

I-5 between Yreka and Mt Shasta can get murky sometimes in winter

We didn’t feel much like dealing with all the complexities of dining, going to movies, hiking crowded trails, swimming in a crowded pool, and hanging out in a crowded spa.  After reading the comments from my last blog, where a few mentioned that I sounded melancholy, I realized that maybe the decision to stay home during foggy January wasn’t a great idea.

So many times when traveling south, we pass by side routes to friends, thinking maybe we can catch them next time. Or maybe we can catch them on the way home, forgetting that we are like horses to the barn after being on the road awhile.


Heading south and east over Highway 58 in 2020

We decided it was time to plan a different kind of trip.  This time, after heading south toward Redding as we usually do, instead of barreling down I-5 to get to the desert, we planned to take a few side routes.  We would visit friends living east of the interstate in the Sierra Foothills, friends in Davis, west of our main route, and take another side route to visit my sister in Vallejo.

We also decided that it was time to slow down and enjoy Lodi. In the past, whenever we parked overnight at Flag City RV Resort, we would read about the many wineries in the area that are especially known for their old vine zinfandels.  I reserved three days in Lodi, and Mo ordered the paper copy of the Lodi visitor brochure.  We read about the wineries, made some possible choices and added visits to a few wildlife reserves to fill out our three days with Lodi as our southernmost destination. 

Fun times with Jimmy and Nickie in Nevada City this year

I called our friends along the route, making sure they would be around, and planned accordingly.  The plans were probably the most detailed we have made so far.  It isn’t always possible to be completely spontaneous when including several other people in several locations!  Another minor glitch appeared as we attempted to make reservations near Auburn, California.  Every single RV Park within 50 miles was fully booked without even a waiting list available.  I tried pulling the ADA card as well, to no avail.  All those sites were filled up too. 

We had just signed up for Harvest Hosts to help with our cross country trip next August and I thought it might be worth seeing if there was anything available near Auburn.  Using the Harvest Host website was easy, and the reservation-notification process worked well.  We found two places near our friends where we could park overnight.  Harvest Host has a few minor requirements: one that you show up and two that you are considerate.  There are usually no hookups at these sites, but accommodations vary. The only other suggestion is that you buy $20.00 worth of merchandise from the hosts.  This way everyone benefits.

Somehow our plans all came together and worked perfectly.  The weather has cooperated as well, with brilliant sunshine, chilly nights and days in the high 60’s.  What could be better?!

Departing Grants Pass at 8 on Sunday morning, February 13th, we were delighted to travel on roads without ice or snow, something nearly unheard of in early February over the passes. A short stop in Yreka yielded a rare treat for us.  Not often are we interested in fast food, but those sausage McMuffins at McDonalds have been a travel treat for us for years when on the road.  Pretty sure we haven’t had one in at least two years. The adjacent parking lot was huge and the breakfast was a sinful delight.

One more stop at the Red Bluff rest area to change drivers, and let Mattie get a little walk about was all we needed on the six hour drive. Another stop at the Costco in Chico, where we filled the MoHo with fuel at $4.08 per gallon, saved us from paying the much higher prices we saw along our route on I-5. It only took us 8 hours to arrive at Nickie and Jimmy’s driveway in Nevada City.  We chose to unhook the Tracker at the local market rather than driving up their windy, narrow road.  With just a tiny bit of adjustment, we were parked and level in their driveway.

Nicki and Jimmy have been to visit us, but with a bit of searching memory banks, we realized that we hadn’t been to their home in almost 6 years!  I visited overnight in 2019, but Mo wasn’t with me on that trip.  Nickie fed us snacks and goodies before feeding us a great supper of chicken enchiladas and home grown blackberry cobbler for dessert. The Super Bowl was on in the background, but none of us paid much attention to it except when something exciting happened.  Visiting and talking and laughing definitely took priority. 

Mattie as usual was happy as can be to have two new people to pay attention to her.  So far, almost everyone enjoys Mattie and she reigns queen of the household most everywhere we go.  Nickie and Jimmy were no exception, spoiling her terribly with treats and hugs.

The next morning Nickie fed us another delightful breakfast with fresh fruit, yummy bacon, and homemade scones.  We had a couple of hours To enjoy the late winter plants in the yard, and enjoy our friends before we unhooked the MoHo and headed back down the road toward town.

Our next visit for the day was with a long time friend of Mo’s.  Mo and Jan both taught PE for more than 30 years at Terra Nova High School in Pacifica, California.  Mo had a great photo of Jan, with Mo and another good friend who taught at Terra Nova.  Jan got a kick out of the photo.

Sadly, Jan’s husband had fallen just a few days prior to our visit, so was in rehab and unable to join us.  Jan picked us up down at the local market where we left the MoHo and Tracker.  This time we let Mattie wait for us safely in the MoHo so she wouldn’t have to wait in the car while we had lunch at Jan’s clubhouse.  Jan showed us her home and then took us for a tour of Lake of the Pines, an upscale housing development built 29 years ago in the foothills north of Auburn.

Named for the local lake, the development has an 18 hole golf course, tennis courts, a swimming pool, many smaller parks and beaches around the lake, and pickle ball courts.  An avid pickle ball player, Jan’s husband fell playing pickle ball, hence his time in rehab. 

We enjoyed a delightful lunch in the Sports Club restaurant, with a great view of the lake.  Behind us on the wall is a photo where Jan is playing tennis.  It seems in the 29 years that she has lived there, she has been president of the tennis club a few times, in addition to president of the golf club.  She even taught swimming aerobics.  I guess if you have been a PE teacher for many years, folks know you will be good at everything physical and want to tap your talents.

It was after 3 when we left Lake of the Pines and traveled to our very first Harvest Host destination.  It was an easy drive from Auburn, just a few miles south of town near Newcastle. Our choice for the night was Martha’s Gardens, a small family farm that specializes in cut flowers, eggs, and produce.  What makes the place a delight are the several acres of gardens created by the owners. 

The garden has a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Fresh Picked Flower program.  Flowers are selected from what is blooming that week on the farm.  I had heard of CSA’s for veggies, but hadn’t heard of fresh picked flowers showing up weekly.  Love that idea. 

When we arrived after 3 yesterday afternoon, both of us were worn out.  Not sure why, except that we have been isolated so much in the last two years that we are out of practice. Then driving the short distance from Nevada City to Auburn and then on south to the farm was a reminder of just how busy it can be on California highways.

We settled in for the evening with no need for any kind of supper thanks to our afternoon luncheon with Jan.  I decided to walk the gardens a bit, and after talking with Tom learned that Mattie was welcome, and after a bit of exploration I decided I needed to return for Mo so she and Mattie could enjoy the walk with me.  It was a very relaxing evening for all of us.

The next morning we had brunch planned at Awful Annie’s in Auburn with not only Jimmy and Nickie, but our long time friends, Laurie and Odel.  Long time readers already know that these two couples are friends that we discovered more than a decade ago through our mutual admiration of each other’s blogs.  I learned about blogging through Laurie, and the web page blogger version of my blog (not the simplified phone view) is a direct result of Laurie’s tutelage.  All of us were aghast to realize that it had been six years since we last shared breakfast and laughter together at Awful Annie’s. 

Breakfast was wonderful and after a bit of shuffling, we enjoyed the very same big table by the window where we ate together in 2016.  Have we all changed much?  Just me I think, with all that white hair.

Nickie and Jimmy and Laurie and Odel get together more often, with hiking a main activity that they share.  Since they often hike several miles on steep Sierra trails, when Nickie mentioned a hike after breakfast I said to please pick something short and flat.

Laurie did a bit of searching about and found a lovely trail for all of us to share that was easy enough for me and yet not entirely boring for them.  Laurie chose the BLM Dave Moore Nature Area just 16 miles or so from Auburn along the South Fork of the American River.  We caravanned in our three cars down the American River Canyon on Highway 49 and I was once again reminded of what it was like living in the Mother Lode, the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Highway 49 has almost every road in the United States beat for intense curves.  It is a great ride for motorcycles, and sports cars.

The one mile loop trail “goes from the parking lot trailhead to the South Fork American River and back again, passing through several habitat types. Nestled in the heart of Gold Rush Country, the trail is lined with remnants from nearly 150 years ago when Chinese laborers channeled creek water by hand with pick and shovel for gold mining. Tailing piles from the Gold Rush period blanket the area which lend to the characteristic landscape that makes this area so unique.”

The trail was designed especially for people who are physically challenged with the portion going to the river being wheelchair accessible. After hiking down to the river, we chose to take the non-accessible portion of the trail back to the cars.  Easy and especially lovely as it meandered through a mature old blue oak/live oak forest that was just ready to burst with wildflowers.

Laurie downloaded the pdf brochure for the area and at special points in the walk she read to us.  We learned about the huge ring madrone where she took my photo.  She read about the mushroom rock created from weathered granite affected by erosion from the river.  She read to us about the beautifully crafted rock walls built by Chinese workmen more than 150 years ago.  The sun was shining, the walk was beautiful, and it was so much fun to share it all with our friends.  Mattie, of course, especially loved the walk when we reached the river and the sandy beach.

Nickie had a great time finding all the tiny dinosaurs and lizards hidden in various nooks and crannies along the trail.  They are not to be removed, but can be relocated to other hiding places.  Of course, Nickie was thinking of her sweet granddaughter and how she would have loved the dinosaurs. It was a bit sad when the hike was over and we returned to our cars.  Hugs all around and goodbyes for everyone, we all said that there was no way we were going to let six more years go by before we got together again.

Mo and I returned to Martha’s Gardens at 3 on the dot, and with no hookups to consider, were on the road by 3:20.  Our next stop was Bee Z Bees Farms, just past the town of Lincoln north of Sacramento.  It was a short drive, less than half an hour, with the only excitement being a bit of a kerfuffle with the Tracker.  After 15 years hauling a towed, we thought the Tracker was rolling.  The crazy noise on the curves alerted us otherwise.  Just goes to show that in spite of all our experience, it is still possible to make a momentary mistake.

We looked at the website for Bee Z Bees Farms before choosing to stay there, but didn’t bother reading the reviews.  There weren’t that many choices in the vicinity of where we wanted to be that night.  Mo and I were picturing a large family owned operation with large warehouses, plenty of space, and some kind of a nice little gift shop that showcased the cute stuff that they had for sale on their website.

We were a bit taken aback when we arrived at a somewhat rural looking place, with no house or shop, and an RV under a shelter.  The home was surrounded by kids toys, and there was a lot of “stuff” lying around.  The owners were not home when we arrived and the directions over the phone told us to pull in, make sure we weren’t in the middle of the road, and park toward the blue UTV.  I didn’t know what a UTV was but figured out it was the blue thing in front of us, between the RV, the chickens and goats and the very large barking German shepherd.  He was fenced, but we knew Mattie might get a bit disturbed by his barking.

So far, so good.  A bit later the husband showed up, was very nice, and gave us a few instructions about keeping the dog on a leash.  He told us they didn’t have a showroom and his wife would bring out the candles and honey a bit later.  We settled in, and after a bit she came outside with her candles in a box.  They were quite lovely, and I bought a small one for $20.  I have no idea if that was a reasonable price, but it didn’t matter because we fulfilled our obligation and were free for the rest of the night.

The place turned out to be fine for an overnight, and we learned to not have any expectations regarding what a Harvest Host location might be like.  Later, when I took the time to look at the reviews, the only complaints I found were about the dog barking all night.  He did quite a bit after midnight, but the MoHo is fairly sound proof and it didn’t bother us.  It was really a decent place to be, with no night light and no noise from the adjacent farm road.  Dark, quiet places are NOT easy to come by.

The next morning we took our time leaving.  Davis, California, is just an hour down the road from Lincoln and we had one more visit to look forward to.  Sue Southard is a work colleague from my days in California soil survey, and her husband Randy is a retired soils prof from UC Davis. 

They invited us to their beautiful home, one I had only seen in shared photos.  It was gorgeous, and filled with love and flowers.  The sun was shining brilliantly, and we wandered around the back yard in bare feet enjoying all the yard projects that have kept Sue and Randy busy since they retired.  Sue served some fresh local oranges and tasty cinnamon cake as we shared stories of families and travels.  Sue and I marveled that this time our conversation wasn’t dominated completely by soils talk.

We told them we were planning to stay in Lodi for a few nights, and they told us of some great places to visit.  One special treat in Lodi we might have missed if not for their great advice.  We left this part of our journey with good memories of good times with friends, and looking forward to what was to come next.


06-30-2021 Better Write About June Before it Disappears

Hot.  It is Hot.  A simple three letter word that at the moment seems like it should be a 4 letter word.  We do sometimes get hot spells in June, but not this long and not this hot.  As everyone out there not living under a cool rock already knows, we in the Pacific Northwest have been experiencing an “unprecedented” wave of record breaking heat caused by a phenomena called a Heat Dome.  Hot air is mounding over several states and most of British Columbia, held in place by high pressure and winds coming from the east instead of our usual cooling flow from the Pacific. 

We are laying low, with a few short hours outside in the early mornings.  Our hottest temperature was 116F degrees on Sunday afternoon, June 27.  On the hottest day the temperature never went below 70F and by 8am it was 84F. We aren’t used to that out west, with our nights cooling to something more comfortable even on the hottest days.  Word has it that the heat dome is made worse because it has come so close to the summer solstice, with long days adding many hours of heat buildup.

It seems like a very long time ago that Mo and I celebrated the Memorial Day weekend at home in Grants Pass.  Things were somewhat normal back then.  Our lovely city once again celebrated a 62 year tradition with the annual BoatNik festivities, including a parade, a carnival in the park, hydroplane races, and fireworks.  Everything was cancelled last year due to COVID, and with vaccination levels increasing in Oregon and cases going down, the rules lifted. Just two weeks prior to the celebration, permits were granted and it was a “go”.  Everyone involved received high praise for putting on such a great combination of events with such short notice.

On Memorial Day weekend we packed up a chair and my handy dandy walker chair and drove downtown for the parade.  We parked just a block away from the very center of town, and had no problem locating a nice spot in the shade.  If I remember right, it was even a bit cool.  Although remembering “cool” at the moment is somewhat difficult.

The parade was a good one, with many displays celebrating the troops, the country, the police, all the good parts of what makes a community run well.  Sadly, there was only one marching band, the bagpipes at the very beginning of the parade.  We knew that for more than a year, school bands weren’t able to practice and I missed what I consider to be the best part of a parade. 

However, toward the end of the parade, we were treated to quite a spectacle with 12 huge tow trucks stacked up end to end behind one big tow truck.  No clue how they did that, but it was impressive.  Daughter Deanna said that those tow trucks that can move semis get 10 to 12 thousand  bucks per tow and with I-5 so close to us, I guess Caveman towing gets lots of calls to pay for all these fancy trucks that cost about 500K each.

After the parade we drove to Riverside Park and found an easy spot in the parking lot reserved for people with the proper blue hang tag. I am not happy dealing with this leg thing, but that hang tag does have some perks now and then.  We were within feet of the busy carnival with rows and rows of “fair food”.  The smells reminded me of my childhood at the fair.  We bought a hot dog for Mo and a corn dog for me, my evil “notgoodforyou” favorite.  The sounds of screaming kids on the big rides and happy people were actually fun.  After months of not being around people it felt good to be in a crowd, especially when we didn’t have to wait in line for anything and could leave whenever we felt like it.  For us, that was about an hour at most just wandering a bit.

We skipped the boat races, hearing the roar of motors rising from the river all the way up the hill to our home.  We also skipped the fireworks, although I did watch a live video of them that night after Mo went to sleep.  They weren’t all that great, but with just two weeks notice and not a lot of money I was impressed that the show promoters even managed to do that.

On Monday, I set an alarm so I wouldn’t miss the F-15’s from Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls flying over the city.  We took our drinks, set up our chairs in the yard and I had the camera ready.  Lots of noise and not a plane in sight?  Geez!!  I guess I later heard that they flew very low close to the river and then west toward Brookings.  After a few minutes, without warning, they suddenly appeared flying back toward the east high enough to see them, but of course I didn’t have the camera ready. 

I stole this photo from someone who was down by the park during the flyover and sent me the photo after I commented that we missed it.

Love those planes in spite of everything.  Yes, I know, lots of money, lots of fuel, but they thrill me.  I miss the sight and sound of their weekly training flights low over my home in Klamath Falls. Mo’s brother Don was an F-16 pilot in the Air Force, so that adds some special interest in the fighter jets.

We decided to give ourselves a small treat mid week, driving half an hour south into the Applegate Valley to visit the Red Lily Vineyard. There are so many lovely wineries in the Applegate Valley in addition to a many more throughout the Rogue Valley near Jacksonville, Medford,  Ashland, and Central Point.  It will take us many years to visit them all. Especially when we tend to return to old favorites like Red Lily and Schmidt which are so close to home.

We took a picnic, homemade quiche and cucumber salad, bought several bottles of wine to take home, and ordered a bottle to drink at our picnic table.  The tasting room was closed for tasting due to COVID, but we were still allowed to go inside to order our wine and make sure that we could sit by the river for our picnic.  The people at Red Lily are so welcoming, opening our bottle and offering glasses and an ice bucket.  We had brought our own but it was a nice gesture.  We enjoyed sitting by the river in the cooling shade.

During the next week I spent time preparing for guests, making sure things were spiffy and that there was plenty of food to share.  Wes and Gayle James, our friends and neighbors from the old days in Rocky Point were traveling south from Portland and we invited them to stay with us.  We greeted them with some homemade snacks and a pitcher of bloody Mary’s.

It was a lovely time sharing memories and stories, and enjoying a lovely dinner of fajitas made with tender New York steaks.   We thought we might play a game or two, but somehow eating, visiting, and relaxing together didn’t lend itself to games. 

The next morning we had an eggs benedict casserole, with a favorite family recipe from daughter Deborah.  I didn’t find out till later that Gayle didn’t often eat eggs, but she liked it enough that she asked for the recipe.  Last week she said she was making it for company.  I love those types of recipes that can be made ahead for a group.

The day after Wes and Gayle departed, Mo’s brother Dan came south from BeaverCreek to pick up a piece of equipment that Mo wanted to give him.  Mo and Dan spent most of the afternoon fiddling with some lights on the MoHo before Dan offered to take us to dinner.  We went down to the Taprock Grill, right on the river.  This time we opted for inside seating at a table by the window since outside deck seating was at a premium.  Eating in a restaurant seems so very unique after so many months.  I find that I enjoy being around other people in a way I never imagined.  I don’t know them, but the ambience of happy people, conversation going on around me, and excellent food that I don’t cook is more fun than I ever remember it in the past.

The sweetest thing that happened mid month was a beautiful cool soaking rain that lasted for 2 days and nights.  With everything so terribly dry from the extended drought it was so very sweet to see the plants and grasses respond to the gift of moisture.  All the watering in the world can’t do the same good that a full soaking rain can do.  Now, two weeks later, that rain is a distant memory.  We probably won’t get another one until fall.  In this climate, we have winter rains, and long periods of no rain during July, August, and September.  The nice thing about that soaking rain was that it didn’t have thunder and lightning, the evil precursor to fires.  I loved the sound of it and kept the windows open all night to soak up the sound and the softness of the rain.

Mo spent a considerable amount of time during the month creating some lovely stepping stones using concrete cement and more of her antique Batchelder tiles.  It was a slow process, but by the time she had made a dozen stones she had the process perfected.  I love the colorful tiles used around the property in ways that limit walking on the gravel.

Mo and I had a week of time on our own between Dan’s visit and a scheduled trip to Portland. Once again I had to go to Oregon Health Sciences University for more tests.  Once again Dan and Chere opened their home to us to make the long drive easier.  We drove up on Wednesday, arriving in the afternoon in time for drinks on the front porch before I cooked the main dish for our supper and Chere made a salad.  A recipe for Tuscan Chicken with sun dried tomatoes and basil and cream served over angel hair pasta is always a hit and this was no exception.  It was the least we could do to say thanks for letting us stay once again.

I wasn’t concerned about the EMG scheduled for the next morning since I had one last fall which wasn’t terribly difficult. Little did I know.  This time Dr Chahin, who is head of neuromuscular medicine at OHSU conducted the test and he made sure he hit every nerve he could find.  After 11 needles in my legs and groin with electric shocks to test the nerve I was a crumbling mess.  I will NOT do that test again, no matter what.  Never.  I am still waiting for his evaluation of the results.  Still a diagnosis of IBM, but still wanting to know “more”.  Do I really need more?  No drugs work, no treatments work, there is no cure, why do I need to know more?  Ugh. Mo drove back home and I couldn’t stop crying for no reason whatsoever.  I felt weak and stupid.  As I said, won’t be doing that one again.

We were back home by Thursday afternoon, and Friday morning I had more excitement in store.  Phil and Joanne Hartwig were at last coming to Sunset House after a few aborted attempts over the last three years.  They live in Eugene and we have visited them there, but the two other times they planned to visit something came up with family and they had to cancel, and of course last year COVID intervened.

Just a bit of history: Phil was the first soil scientist to train me in 1977 on the finer details of digging soil pits, describing soils, and making soil maps in Northern Idaho when I was a brand new soil scientist.  We worked together for a few years, camping for weeks at a time at Priest Lake coming home on the weekends to our families.  We built a solid friendship, and in the process I became friends with his wife Joanne as well.  Through Joanne I got to know a large group of women in Northern Idaho that became my main support group during that time of my life.  Phil and Joanne remember my husband Lance with love, and my kids when they were young.  I knew them when their children were born and shared so much of life with them.  Joanne and I talked about how incredibly wonderful it is to have ‘old’ friends with a shared history.  Such a treasure.

This time they made it, pulling into the driveway with their rented RV early in the afternoon.  Joanne was adamant that she wanted to arrive in time to go to Schmidt Family Winery for wood fired pizza, wine, and live music.  She has seen my photos of our outings there and it was top on her list of things to do.  We had a lovely time, once again enjoying the space full of happy people and good wine.

The next day we had a late breakfast before heading downtown to check out Grants Pass.  Joanne kept exclaiming that she loved our town.  Her friends in Eugene call it Gramps Pass and she had no idea it had so many great eateries, cute shops, and a lovely historic downtown great for walking.  Once again we were treated to dinner by our guests, this time at the Twisted Cork, another favorite of ours.  With several tables under umbrellas in front of the restaurant, we opted instead for the quiet air conditioned comfort of an inside table.  Arriving at 4 pm for an early supper was smart since by 5 the line of waiting people was quite long. Lately that has been my favorite.  Late breakfast, early supper. 

On Sunday morning we had a leisurely breakfast and bid goodbye to our guests as they departed for a few days camping near Jedediah Smith Redwoods.  The heat was building here in Grants Pass, and our friends were enveloped in a thick marine layer of fog that kept their temperatures below 60 degrees for most of their 3 day coastal visit!

We had just a couple of hours to regroup before another pair of friends were due to arrive.  Merikay and Craig are in another category of friendships.  Not “old” friends, but friends we made through our blog.  We have enjoyed having them visit us in Rocky Point where we went kayaking.  They stopped by Sunset House 3 years ago as they were traveling through, and I set out a decent salmon supper and we played some games before they returned to their camp at Valley of the Rogue State Park.  This time they wanted to treat us to dinner, and Merikay rescheduled their original plans to leave this area earlier and added two extra nights to their stay in town at a local RV park so they could visit with us.  Yes, once again we were treated to dinner out.  Once again we decided to go to the Taprock Grill, hoping for a nice outside table on the deck overlooking the river.

We arrived within minutes of each other at the restaurant, taking the time while we waited for a table to wander the lovely parklike grounds along the river.  It was hot, very hot, but Merikay was still thinking it might be wise to eat outdoors rather than indoors.  By the time our table was ready about 45 minutes later, as we walked into the cool restaurant, Merikay changed her mind.  We didn’t have to wait another minute and they seated us at a nice 4 top in the air conditioned space.  We could still see the river and it was a welcome respite from the heat that was continuing to build in the Northwest. Thank you two for a lovely dinner and taking the time to meet us and treat us!

Mo and I ended the month with a visit to the English Lavender Farm celebrating the annual Lavender Trail Festival that was cancelled last year due to COVID.  There was no charge for visiting, but we were required to make online reservations in order to keep the number of people within the current COVID restrictions.  I made the reservations a month ago, not knowing the the Heat Dome was arriving on the very Saturday that we planned to visit the farm.

That morning I got a notice that restrictions were lifted and reservations were no longer required.  We wanted to go on this day specifically because a vocalist /pianist that we enjoy very much, Sarah Dion Brooks, was scheduled for the afternoon entertainment. By the time we arrived at the farm, there were a few people walking in the brilliant sunshine, cutting small bundles of lavender. I didn’t need to buy lavender since I have plenty ripening right here at home. But the smell of the fields in the hot sun was delightful and we wandered up the pathways between the blooming lavender to the only piece of shade in the fields. 

The shelter was red, very red, as were the plastic Adirondack chairs.  We managed to snag a couple and enjoyed baking in the heat under the red shade and watching the people and their kids as they explored the fields.  Finally completely overcooked, we headed back down to the main shop area where there was lavender sorbet, lavender lemonade and thankfully, some misters under the porch.

We enjoyed the music but the heat finally cut our visit short and we decided to leave.  The temperature then was only 106F.  This was the Saturday before the 114F degree day that we had last Sunday. 

It was a nice way to end the month of June, something to remember besides the relentless heat. At home we are babysitting the well, the cisterns, and the drip irrigation systems, juggling water supply with water needs that are higher than they have ever been this early in the year.  Using a sprinkler only rarely for missed hot spots. So far, so good.  The rhododendrons show signs of leaf burn, the oakleaf hydrangeas wilt in the afternoon, and the hot tub refuses to stay at the 97F degrees I have set, returning to 99 or 100 after the heat of the day.

I do hope that this is just a bit of an anomaly and not a precursor to a record breaking summer.  It has only just begun.



09-06-2020 Great Times with Great Friends

When I last wrote, it was Tuesday morning and I was reeling from the overnight devastation that blew up in Oregon with very little warning.  I had no idea then just how extensive the damage would be, and wrote about our winds and our trees and our friends who had only disappeared the day before into the beautiful Cascades for a camping trip along the Rogue River.  It was a few days before we heard from Jimmy and Nickie (Out and About with Nickie and Jimmy) and if you would like to hear their version of this wild and wooly week, be sure to check in on Nickie’s blog.

However, on Saturday when they arrived at our home here in Grants Pass, the skies were gorgeous and if memory serves me right, there were no big fires burning anywhere near us. 

It was great to see them pull into the driveway and we were happy to share our home and fresh air with the refugees from fire and smoke in California.  Little did we know.

With much to catch up on since our last in person visit, we settled into the house for conversation and some relaxation before supper.  Even though our skies were clear, it was much too hot for al fresco dining on the deck, so I only stepped outside long enough to grill the marinated chicken for some tasty fajitas.

On a bit of a silly side note here:  I have to note how my word choices may have changed over the years.  I say “al fresco” much more often to describe outdoor dining since knowing Erin who now writes on FindPengiuns, and of course “tasty” was a favorite word of Awesome George the keeper of almost daily blog posts and many great “tasty” recipes.

But back to the weekend. Saturday was hot, but the air conditioning worked beautifully and dinner was enjoyable indoors.  After watching the weather predictions for record heat coming on Sunday we thought it might be nice to spend the day at the coast. It is just a 2 hour drive, much of it along the beautiful Smith River.  Highway 199 passes Jedediah Smith State and National Park on the way to our destination in Crescent City.  The entire idea seemed just perfect until the smoke began to thicken as we headed west.  What??  Smoky at the beach?  Unheard of! 

We watched the thermometer drop from 95 degrees at 10 AM in Grants Pass to just under 85 degrees in the shade of the huge redwoods in the forest at the park.  Even the smoke cleared a bit under the trees as they pumped oxygen into the surprisingly warm air.

Driving into the park, we had planned to travel the back route along the Howland Hill Road but were told that road was temporarily closed at the end closest to Crescent City.  Instead we drove to the day use area, and as fate would have it, found one of the few open spots for parking right under a favorite giant redwood along the narrow one lane road.

In Nickie’s blog she mentions light traffic on 199, but as regular travelers of that road Mo and I kept remarking to ourselves that we had never seen so many cars heading toward the beach as there were on this day. Admittedly, we rarely go to the coast in summer, for this very reason, usually much too crowded this time of year.  On a day of record heat in the Rogue Valley, it wasn’t surprising that everyone was headed for the coast.

We enjoyed the trees in the park, laughing and trying to figure out how to get panoramas that would depict the incredible height of this magnificent tree.   Nickie wandered off, (something she does often), and came back exclaiming that she had found a trail along a river down the hill through the brush.  We followed her through the thick vegetation till we came upon a lovely flat trail surrounded by huge trees, ferns and thick vegetation.

The walk was superb until I realized we were in the midst of legendary poison oak, with some of the evil vines extending 20 feet up in the trees.  Time to turn around! Walking through poison oak isn’t too difficult if you don’t have a happy little dog along that wants to explore every single thing.

Yes, the red stuff on that tree is poison oak

We returned to the car and continued toward Crescent City and our major destination, The Chart Room.  It isn’t a fancy place, and dining is often accompanied by the loud barking of the resident sea lions that take over the pier.  Today they were out on the floating docks nearby, and the pier was thick with parked cars and many people lined up waiting for the same legendary fish and chips that brought us here.  The last time Mo and I were at this restaurant as we drove south last February it was a Monday and was closed.

We were really looking forward to the fish and chips, the predicted 69 degree coolness of the coast, and the fresh air.  Sadly, the temps were in the 90’s, feeling much hotter as we stood in the hot sun for 50 minutes waiting to place our order.  We then waited another half hour to receive the order.

Then it was a matter of deciding where to eat our glorious meal.  The beach was thick with people and hot with blazing sun.  No tables, nothing to sit on, no shade.  Instead we decided to drive south toward Crescent Beach looking for a parking spot.  Every single wide place in the road was filled with parked cars and people, people everywhere! 

Driving farther south on a side road to the west of Highway 101 toward Endert’s Beach we were thrilled to not only find a space to park, but perfectly level rocks in lovely shade for tables and a distant view of the ocean below us.  I wasn’t sure if the fish and chips were as good as they seemed or if they were enhanced by what it took to get them and the fact that we were really hungry since it was after 2PM.

After lunch we continued down to the end of Endert’s Beach Road to the beach trailhead.  The parking lot was filled to the brim, but one of the little compensations of a crummy disease is that little blue card I can hang in the windshield that gives me premium parking when it is needed most.  We parked in the handicap site right by the bathroom at the head of the trail.

The sign said it was only .6 of a mile to the beach.  Piece of cake!  I hiked Boundary Springs, and National Creek Falls, and through the redwoods.  I could do a mile standing on my head.

I discovered that a mile isn’t always just a mile.  The trail started out smooth and level but then descended rapidly over the coastal cliffs and ended at steep rocks that were a barrier that I couldn’t manage to navigate. 

Even Mattie couldn’t go down and run on the beach because of the many other dogs off leash with the same idea and they were a lot bigger than she was.  Still, in spite of the struggle for me and the disappointment for Mattie, I was glad we did the hike.  It was hot and a bit smoky, but the little beach tucked away at the bottom of the cliffs was delightful.

Back in the car we decided to try to find a spot of sand for Mattie to run free a bit, her favorite thing.  Mo parked across from Crescent Beach and took Mattie out to the sand.  She ran wild for about 20 seconds and then stopped cold and tried to run back to the car.  Either it was just too darn hot for her, or she was exhausted from all the previous hiking.  Our little girl is getting older, I guess, just like me.

We piled into the car and I think as Mo drove home along the winding Smith River, all three of us and the dog slept at least a little bit. 

Even though the smoke had been present at the beach, as we approached Grants Pass we were greeted with extreme heat and hot temps.  Dinner wasn’t needed after our late afternoon meal and we settled in to visit a bit before bedtime.  It was then that we heard reports of a wind advisory for the following night.

When we woke on Monday, skies were clear and except for the wind advisory, everything seemed to be just fine.  After more visiting, and waffles and farmer’s market peaches for breakfast, Jimmy and Nickie packed up their rig and headed east toward the Cascades for their camping trip along the Rogue.

Not one of us had a clue what the coming week would bring.  But that is the rest of the story.

09-07-2020 September Times

Such a great weekend we just spent with our California friends, Nickie and Jimmy Wilkinson. However,as I write this morning, I am watching wild winds blowing all sorts of debris across the property, depositing much of it on what just a few days ago was a nice litter free lawn and drive.  Change comes fast this time of year.

The workshop isn’t really crooked, just a phone photo that wouldn’t adjust properly

I am also looking at fire maps, smoke maps, photos from friends and family in other parts of our state that are undergoing a firestorm of huge proportions.  Smoke is thick and dark all the way from Eugene to Portland.

Iconic landscapes that define the Oregon Cascades and their foothills are burning or evacuated.  MacKenzie Bridge along the MacKenzie River, the Mt Jefferson Wilderness, the gorgeous Santiam Canyon, and even our precious Silver Falls State Park are evacuated and in the line of fire.

We were awakened at 1 by 40 mph winds and smoke so thick it infiltrated the house with doors opened for just a moment to check the property. Back to sleep at 4:30 AM, restless, still with power researching as much as I could find out.  A new fire at Collier State Park heading for Chiloquin, that this morning I see has managed to turn just enough west to run into Klamath Lake and miss the town of Chiloquin, but not the many homes scattered in the Oregon Shores developments of Agency Lake.

Power out here for just long enough to make us nervous, but it came back on in time for morning coffee.  Talking to my frightened daughter Melody on the phone, whose home in Brownsville is located between the two huge fires, one to the north and one to the south, and so far her town isn’t in danger. Incredibly, her power outage didn’t last long either.

Melodys house on 09-08-2020

Melody’s home in Brownsville this morning

Our friends left yesterday around noon for their planned camping trip to Farewell Bend, with clear skies and fairly hot temperatures.  They had seen the predictions for a “major wind and fire event” to come.  Their home in California is thick with smoke, and they needed to breathe.  When they left, the smoke maps showed clear skies at their destination, but in the middle of the night when I woke up and checked the map, I can see they were surrounded by thick smoke and being battered by ridiculously high winds.  “Unprecedented”, using Nickie’s current least favorite word.

I worry, of course.  Farewell Bend is high enough in the mountains to have no cell phone coverage, much less internet coverage.  I am reasonably certain that if there were anything to fear, the forest service people would close the park and tell them to go.  So far I have heard nothing, so must assume they made it through the night without any trees falling on their rig, any fires starting in their area, and hopefully the ability to breathe.

I planned to sit and write about our truly delightful visit with them, but couldn’t even begin to do the happy la-la-la story that was completely overwhelmed by the events of the last 12 hours.  It happens so very quickly.

Speaking with daughter Deanna in Lincoln, Washington, I discovered that the fires in that area are even more devastating than they are here in Oregon.  The Whitman County town of Malden, population about 200 people,was largely destroyed by a fast moving fire.  Interstate 90, Highway 395, Highway 2 all closed.  Much of Washington under threat from even higher winds than we have here in Oregon.

The workshop isn’t really crooked, just a phone photo that wouldn’t adjust properly

The sun is shining here, the smoke has thinned considerably, and the erratic winds come and go.  I may even get outside to water in time, but for the moment I will wait for the craziness to ebb a bit.  Those winds kick up with no warning whatsoever.

In the meantime, I will wish the best for my friends camping in the Oregon mountains, for my daughter and her many friends in the Willamette Valley and the beautiful canyons on the west slope of the Cascades, for so many people in so many places that are dealing with what is turning out to be another devastating, unprecedented season of wildfire.

When I am ready, I will slip back into the pleasant recent memories of our time with Nickie and Jimmy, both here at home and on our day trip to the Oregon Coast.