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.

01-18-2016 Traveling South

Current Location: Desert Hot Springs California at 54 F and clear

Dang.  Open Live Writer refusing to publish tonight, so I am publishing this baby on WordPress.  For all you readers who don’t like this one compared to the blogger version, at least here you get photos….

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-13I can’t really claim the snowbird moniker, but somehow it seems that every year we manage to make our way south.  I think to be a snowbird, you might have to stay for the full winter season and only meander back north when the light and warmth return. Still, it is an incredible delight to slip away from all that cold stuff, the snow plowing, the crashing ice dams, the skating rink parking lot, and land gently back in the desert, with simply a light shirt on in the evening, and feet once again in sandals.  Ahhh.

We took our time this year, leaving later in January, and ambling southward slowly enough to spend some good time visiting friends. visiting friends-26 Mo and I met Laurie and Odel many years ago, when I was a brand new blogger and Laurie was one of the more well known bloggers in the newly minted rv bloggerland.  Later, long after Laurie stopped blogging and they sold their beloved rig Scoopy, we stopped in for a visit to their digs and they took Mo and I to Nevada City and introduced us to their good friends Nickie and Jimmy.  I love how these things work.  As I am writing this, I am remembering just how we all met, and I had almost completely forgotten the details. 

Visiting friends-37Sometimes these kinds of friendships come and go, but in this case, they are the kind that will last a lifetime.  When we get together, in fours or in sixes, it is always so much fun.  This time was no different.  Nickie and Jimmy invited Mo and I to dinner at their place in Nevada City.  The food was fabulous, what Nickie called “comfort food”, but oh my such deliciousness!

visiting friends-19Even better than the food, however, was the laughter.  Nickie has this wondrous inner child that comes out to play a lot, and makes me laugh till my sides hurt.  Mattie thought she was a kick as well, and the two of them slid around on the gorgeous hardwood floors until tiny Mattie knocked Nickie down, or at least that is what Nickie claimed.  So sorry, Nickie!!  I hope your bruises have healed.

visiting friends-27The “Big Plan” was for the six of us to meet the next day in Auburn for some yummy food, and then hike it all off with a great walk along the river and the waterfalls.  The only waterfalls were coming out of the skies, with big dark rain keeping us all inside.  Instead of hiking, the six of us sat together at a big round table at Awful Annie’s and ate and talked and ate some more.  It was great fun being together again.  We have hiked with Laurie and Odel, and with Jimmy and Nickie, but so far haven’t managed a hike with all of us.  That is on the agenda for sure.  What a fun bunch of people to know.  I feel so lucky. 

visiting friends-28Mattie made friends all around, but especially with Odel.  Did she ever love that guy!  I wish I had taken a photo of her looking at him with adoring eyes as he scratched her ears.  Mattie knows a good man when she sees one!

Our trip south this year was almost uneventful, with only a few tiny glitches.  Once again we had to get the rig over the passes, the only way to escape to the south requires driving those passes.  This time I was driving, so instead of documenting all the crazy stuff, I gripped the steering wheel as we rolled along on solid packed snow and glare ice with temps in the high 20’s and low 30’s.  Once again, getting over the Siskiyous was scary, getting past Mt Shasta was even scarier, and once again the ice didn’t clear until we reached the Pit River Bridge just north of Redding.  Sheesh~~ The only good thing is that at least this time it wasn’t actually snowing, but that ice was no fun at all. 

visiting friends-3Beale Air Force Base is just east of the I-5 corridor and Marysville, and only 34 miles west of Nevada City, the sweet little mountain town where Nickie and Jimmy live.  We decided to give the FamCamp a try and it isn’t a bad stop.  The campground is fairly isolated on the base, with long open views toward the east.  I was surprised at how full they were, and we were glad to have made a reservation.  $18.00 per night with full hookups isn’t bad, although the sites were muddy from all the recent El Nino rains.  Still, the gravel pad was level enough we didn’t have to put down the levelers, the power was adequate, and there was WiFi available, but I didn’t try it. My Verizon worked fine on the iPad, and I had no time or need to set up the computers or the MiFi.

visiting friends-7On the way to the campground, we saw an amazing airplane flying low and slow, circling above us.  I love that about staying at an air force base, lots of cool airplanes.  Found out later this was a U-2 plane, and that the woman pilot who flies them at Beale AFB is quite famous.

Once we arrived at the campground, we started our regular routine to unhook the Tracker, only to discover that the battery had gone dead.  Mo is pretty careful about making sure the key is in the right position, but figured she must have turned it a notch too far.  We managed to unhook, turned the MoHo around and jump started the Tracker, leaving it running while we got ready to drive up the mountain to Nevada City.

Everything was fine, and after dinner when we left to go back down the hill, she started right up.  The next day she started up again, no problem, and we drove the back roads from Beale to Auburn and Awful Annie’s. There was no need to unhook the car.  After our wonderful time with friends and food, we headed down I-80 through Sacramento all the way to Lodi on the 5, a whopping 70 miles. 

Didn’t bother unhooking the Tracker because we settled in comfortably to our cozy pull through spot in row E at Flag City RV Resort.  It is a perfect one night stop, half price with the Passport America card, easy on and easy off, and cheap gas at the Love if we needed it.  The next morning, Mo tried to start the Tracker and sure enough, once again it was dead.  OK then.  Where is WalMart?!  As Judy probably knows from her extended stay here last year, it is right down the road about 4 miles.  Within an hour, we had a new battery, installed in the misty rain, and all was running well again.  No problems since.  I guess it was time for a new battery.

We have been really lucky so far on this trip with gas prices being so low.  I filled up in Grants Pass for $1.87. Mo filled at Beale for $2.21, and we filled yesterday at the Pilot on I-5 for just $1.99!  Looks as though things might be a bit more here in the Coachella Valley with the Pilot running $2.69, but hopefully our time in Arizona will make up for that.  I love GasBuddy!  My favorite App!

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-9Once the battery was replaced and we were traveling down the 5, everything seemed to settle into place.  I think it takes a few hundred miles before it reallly feels like we are on the road, and that great feeling hit yesterday somewhere along the hills on the western side of the San Jouquin Valley.  Evidence of the drought has lessened a bit, with recent rains turning everything green.  Big signs are dotted among the fruit and nut orchards: “If water is used to grow food, is it really wasted?”  I found myself wondering about this a lot.  California is having huge water issues, with too many people wanting too little water.  If that water is used to let people in the valley have drinking water, which many of them don’t right now, isn’t that better perhaps than it being used to grow nuts for export?  Who benefits from that besides the farmer, certainly not the people who actually need food or water in California.  Lots to think about as you roll down that lonely but crowded asphalt ribbon along the hills bordering the Great Valley that grows a huge percentage of our food.

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-7We spent the night last night at the Orange Grove RV Resort  just east of Bakersfield on Highway 58.  I think most every RV heading toward the desert must stay here at one time or another.  It was raining this morning when we got up, but the mist let up in time for us to get the MoHo washed at the free RV wash at the park.  Of course, there are the free for the picking oranges, sweetest ever, and this year the crop is especially sweet.  Add to that free coffee and free truly fresh and excellent donuts for the taking and staying there is a pretty good deal at $39.00 per night.  A good wash of our two rigs usually costs us at least $15.00 in quarters if we do it at a car wash.  And the oranges are priceless!  I just hope I have enough to last until we return by way of Orange Grove RV Park.  I need to stock up again before I get back to the land of grocery store oranges.  Ick!Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-2

The rain started in earnest by the time we were actually on the road and it poured all the way to the summit at Tehachapi.  On the down side, the rains let up, but the damage caused by the terrible flash floods that roared through Sand Canyon last fall was still visible.  By the time we reached the other side and the desert stretched out before us, the skies were opened up and the sunlight was gorgeous and brilliant.  Ahhh…..it is like the world opens up when the sun shines like this, and the desert vistas stretch out before me.  I really really don’t want to live in the desert, but I need it like I need light. I guess that is why I love RVing so much.  That inner need for varied landscapes, the desert, the ocean, the South,the Florida spring runs, the hardwood forests, the Red Rock Country, I wouldn’t want to have to choose to only be in any one of those places forever.  I couldn’t begin to choose which one to give up, which one mattered most.  No need!  I can have it all!

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-14We stopped for lunch somewhere along Highway 58 before Barstow, where Mattie got her first taste of desert air and we opened up the slide and let the sunshine pour in while we made a nice lunch and took a bit of a break.  Mo drove the rest of the route, one of our favorites, from Barstow, down Highway 247, winding through the mountains down toward Yucca Valley and then down the big grade to Desert Hot Springs.

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-17Every time we come here, I am reminded of the wild, craggy, rocky, mountainous land that makes up this part of Southern California.  It is so incredibly rugged, twisted and tortured by all the tectonic activity, all the faults that folded and uplifted and shattered the landscape.  The desert here is anything but flat and boring, it is a wild world and so beautiful.IMG_5570

With only four days here this year, we won’t be doing as much hiking as usual, but I will treasure every moment of my hot pool time before we continue east.

A Wild Ride to California

Current Location: Back on Old Fort Road in Klamath Falls  and it is snowing

Last fall, when lifetime friend Maryruth asked Mo and I if we would come to Maryruth’s mother’s birthday party, I felt a bit of hesitation.  The party was scheduled for the 19th of December, way too close to Christmas.  But it was Elsie’s 90th birthday, and the celebration was drawing friends and relatives from far and wide.  I really couldn’t miss it.

IMG_5437_thumb3Traveling south on I-5 toward Ashland

Of course, at this time of year, in this part of Oregon, there is no telling what kind of weather we might encounter, so we took our chances and decided to skip making reservations at the Feather Falls Casino KOA.  We like the campground, just minutes from Maryruth’s home, with all the amenities we could want.  Somehow I wasn’t too worried about the park being filled up on the weekend before Christmas.

We now are living in Klamath Falls, 45 minutes east of our former home in Rocky Point, adding that time and mileage to the trip over the mountain to Grants Pass to the west.  The MoHo was waiting all cozy in her big shed, the baby Tracker is already over there, so we just needed to fit everything required for a couple of days in Rocky Point as we travel west, a couple of days in Grants Pass, to load up, do a few small chores, and get ready to go, and a couple of days in California.

I can’t begin to explain how crazy making it is for me to try to think of food for each stop on the way, for clothes appropriate for the various weather conditions we will be encountering, and deciding just what I want to wear to the big Saturday night party.  The truck was filled to the brim with sweats, jeans, some slinky dress up’s, way too many shoes, working clothes, snow boots and coats, lots of hats and gloves, and of course all the gear for the dog.

Mattie is a bit like having a kid.  We have her crate and bedding, her round bed for non sleeping comfort, another blankie since she gets cold so easily, and a bag of “doggie stuff”, which includes her shampoo, her favorite toys, treats, leash, a sweater, and a raincoat.  As I read this, I am beginning to think we are really eccentric parents.  That is a lot of stuff for a very small dog!

Snow-at-Rocky-Point-7-of-17_thumb2When we arrived in Rocky Point, all was well.  When I found out that the power was off for many hours, I was really glad that Mo and I had returned home to the apartments for a couple of days in between trips.  This time the power was on and all was well. 

The next morning we headed for Grants Pass, driving over High Lakes Pass in some snowy conditions, but nothing unmanageable.  The weather predictions were not encouraging, however.  Winter weather warnings were going off every hour for extreme weather impacting most of Southern Oregon and especially the passes, including the route south on I-5 over the Siskiyous.

IMG_5436_thumb2Leaving Grants Pass south on I-5

We waited till Friday morning to make the actual decision, waking up to heavy pouring rain, and reports of temperatures above freezing at Siskiyou Summit.  We hoped we could get over the mountain before the snow levels dropped.  Neither of us have any desire to chain up the MoHo.

IMG_5440_thumb1Siskiyou Summit south on I-5

Sure enough, the snow at the first summit was just flurries and the temps were above freezing, so no black ice.  Whew.  A nice long stretch to Weed and then once again the snow started blowing.  As we passed the turnoff to Mt Shasta City and McCloud, we breathed a sigh of relief. 

IMG_5457_thumb1Slush and snow coming at us near Mt Shasta City

That sigh was a bit premature I guess.  It snowed all the way to the Pit River Bridge just north of Redding and much below the 3,000 foot elevation snow prediction.  It was wet slushy snow, but not so much that it made driving impossible, and no chains were required.  Thank goodness.

Once past Redding, the snow turned to hard pourning rain, not much easier than snow for driving, and there wasn’t a bit of letup till we got to Oroville. 

IMG_5460_thumb1Feather Falls Casino KOA Site 38

Finally settled into our campsite at the only KOA we have ever really liked, we relaxed, knowing that we didn’t really have to think about the drive home for a couple of days.  We could just relax and enjoy the party.

01-party-preparations-6-of-14_thumb1Decorating the winery for the party

Maryruth and her sisters held the party at a lovely small local winery in Oroville, Purple LIne Winery.  The owners are good friends of another of Elsie’s daughters and were happy to share their lovely venue with the 100 or so guests who arrived on Saturday afternoon to celebrate.

02-Elsies-party-7-of-29_thumb1Elsie and Maryruth

I have known Maryruth for 53 years, and of course have known her mother for that long as well.  Elsie was a part of my extended family and I am so glad that Mo and I were able to be there to honor her.  She was genuninely happy with all the attention, something that Maryruth had been a bit worried about.  Today when I talked to Maryruth, she said the party was wonderful for her mom, that it elevated her mood and lifted the bit of depression she had been dealing with because of ongoing tiresome health issues.  Elsie is a trooper, has always been a strong and incredible woman, and some of the issues of aging are extremely frustrating for her, as they would be for anyone.01-party-preparations-7-of-14_thumb1

Gerald built the big block numbers for all the photos

Mo and I managed to get a bit of time to enjoy the casino, which is really quite nice.  I even won enough money to pay for breakfast the next morning and our wine at the party.  We don’t play the slots all the often, but it seems lately that I have been pretty lucky when we do.  Lucky as in tens of dollars, not thousands of dollars.  LOL  I never play big enough to win that big.

After the casino Sunday Brunch with Maryruth and Gerald, we once again tackled the long drive home over the passes.  By the time we left, the rains had started up once again and after getting gas in Chico for 2.15 per gallon at Costco, we drove 99 to the interstate and watched the road cams, the weather warning signs, and listened to 1610 AM radio for chain updates.

IMG_1344_thumb1Radar image for our route to Grants Pass and then home to Klamath Falls.

The predictions were rather scary, and chains were required earlier in the day over the Siskiyous.  We pressed on, hoping that the warm temperatures and rising elevation of the snows would stay with us till we reached Grants Pass. 

IMG_1352_thumb1Again, the snow was wet and slushy, the chain requirement for the Siskiyou Summit was lifted just before we reached that point and by the time we landed in Grants Pass it was just raining.

Neither one of us was really concerned about the drive from Grants Pass back home to Klamath Falls via Rocky Point.  We have driven High Lakes Pass for dozens of years, and the Dakota has 4 wheel drive.  We packed all our stuff back into the pickup once again, put the MoHo to bed, and headed back up the mountain.

UhOh!  That drive took us both by surprise!  There was a LOT of snow on the side of the road from the previous storms, and yet yesterday the temperatures were rising.  We had deep slush and ice on packed snow at the top of the pass, and neither of us could remember a transit as hairy as this one for a long time. 

anitas-van-in-our-road_thumb1Easy Street doesn’t look so easy with Mo’s plow in Klamath Falls

In Rocky Point, the road that Mo usually plows, was unplowed.  The neighbors who live farther up the road than we do don’t have a plow and evidently couldn’t get anyone out there.  We drove up as far as we could and then walked through the deep snow to get to the house.  Don’t laugh.  I have three houses and two vacuum cleaners.  I refuse to buy a third vacuum, and I had taken the main vacuum from Old Fort Road to Rocky Point.  I needed that vacuum.  I refuse to live through Christmas at home without a vacuum!  Ha! 

Back on the road to Klamath Falls, the snows were deeper than we have seen in years.  And that snow just keeps coming.  Sometimes it gets a bit warmer and rains on the snow, and then it dumps some more of the white stuff.  Mo has a lot less to plow here at the apartments, but this thick wet stuff is keeping her busy.

Daytime-Christmas-on-Old-Fort-Road-2Snug and cozy in the apartment on Old Fort Road.

I am glad to be home, glad to have a few days at least to make cookies and fudge, get ready for Christmas dinner with the family members that are close, and play in my craft apartment making cards.  Christmas will come so quickly, and it seems that we didn’t have a lot of time to do some of the small town Christmas things that I like to do, but with the really yukky weather, I really have no desire to brave the storms to try to go look at Christmas lights.  I think I’ll just enjoy my own.

The Solstice has come, the days are getting longer, Christmas is here!!