It is Rhodie time on the Oregon Coast!

Current Location: Harris Beach State Park, Brookings, Oregon Sunny and 60 degrees F

Harris Beach_042If you try to plan a trip to the Oregon Coast to catch the rhodies in bloom, the season will almost always surprise you.  Either it will be too late or too early, with lots of buds and no flowers, or lots of dried up blooms.  With no plans for seeing the famous flowers, or even a thought of the magnificent rhododendrons on our minds, we decided it was time to get “home” again to our favorite Oregon Coast beach.

The four hour drive from home in Rocky Point, through Grants Pass, and west on the winding Highway 199 along the Smith River is magnificent any time of year.  This time, however, the closer we got to the coast, the more the steep hillsides were cloaked in gorgeous wildflowers.  We have traveled this route many times, but I don’t remember seeing quite the profusion of flowers that greeted us yesterday morning on our trip west.

Oregon boxwood shrubs were tipped in right red foliage that looked just like flowers, and the rocky cliffs were covered with blue penstemon and carpets of low yellow native iris. The closer we got to the Jedediah Smith redwoods, the more flowers we found.  Mo was driving, the camera was buried in its case and Jeremy was hugging my shoulder as he likes to do when the road is rough and curvy.  No photos of the brilliant clouds of pink flowers on wild rhododendrons that were sometimes more than 20 feet tall.

Harris Beach_018Neither of us could believe that it has been more than five months since we settled in to Harris Beach, with our last short trip back in early December before we left for the winter for warmer? southern climes.  The beaches were gorgeous in Texas and Florida, but as anyone who has seen it knows, the Oregon Coast is unmatched for wild rugged beauty, at least in the US.  For us, even the famous coast at Big Sur along Highway 1 in California isn’t as seductive, and definitely not as accessible as our beloved Oregon Coast.

We left Rocky Point in the rain, and were greeted with a mixture of hard rain, sleet, hail and snow as we drove over the pass toward Medford.  It was cloudy most of the way west, and with rain predicted for our few days at the beach, we were fully prepared to hole up in the MoHo and listen to the rain, play cards and do mostly nothing.  We purposely didn’t bring the bikes or the kayaks with plans for some real R and R, and a respite from house and yard work that has dominated the last month.

Harris Beach_041Surprise!  Not only are the rhodies blooming, but there hasn’t yet been a sign of a cloud in the sky.  The ocean is blue and gorgeous, the temperatures are in the low sixties during the day and high 40’s at night. 

With the view sites along the front row completely full, we settled into spot A30 and paid for four nights.  Didn’t seem too bad, although it was a fairly open site and the playground was right behind us.  We were also on a main walking route to the restrooms and the laundry and both last night and this morning were well entertained by the various kinds of people walking past.

Harris Beach_045For supper, the Chetco Seafood Company was our local fish and chips choice, and it didn’t disappoint.  In fact, I talked to the owner and snagged some fresh cod and California halibut filets which he vacuum sealed and flash froze for us to take home to Rocky Point.  Yum!

It was good to sleep in the MoHo again, after a month of lots of space and a big bedroom and a bath more than 10 feet away, it was fun to be in the cozy space with just two steps to the bath.  Funny. As we settled in for the evening, a very tall class A parked next to us, with a clear open view of our huge yard and the firepit.  Hmmmm.

Harris Beach_031This morning we went for a park walk, oohing and ahhing over the rhododendrons in the park and the surrounding neighborhoods, and found a nice space open along Row A, but toward the quiet back corner of the park.  It looked inviting enough that we talked to the camp host about moving, and in a matter of moments we were slide in, jacks up, awning in and moved to the new spot.  We can still see the ocean, just a tiny bit, but things here are much quieter and more private.

Interesting, as we were moving, a front row ocean view site came open and we declined.  In spite of the view that we have enjoyed many times, the front row now has a lot more exposure since the park has cleared brush around the sites, and there is traffic from both the park entrance road and the main road through the campground.

Harris Beach_050Mo spent a few days last week getting our new VuCube working at home, and even though we had cable here at the site, she thought it might be fun to practice setting it up.  Fun wasn’t the word, with all sorts of strange glitches that we still haven’t quite managed to figure out keeping the thing from working correctly. There were too many variables, and that became our statement for the day.  In the end, it almost worked, but then we realized that the signal was getting interference and that was probably the main issue.  Trees.  For now, it is packed away again and we will fiddle with it out in the desert somewhere to limit some of the variables.  It did keep us at home for the day, which was the original goal. 

Harris Beach_017After a great chicken stir fry supper, we are relaxing a bit before heading for the beach for a sunset stroll.  Unlike Florida beaches, getting to the beach here requires a bit of hiking down and then back up the steep paths that lead down to water level.  Last night we walked to the overlook and watched the beach walkers below.  Plenty of time to hike to the beach ahead in the next few days.  A trip to Loeb Azalea Gardens, and who knows what else will keep us occupied. 

Of course, I do hope that we manage more sitting, reading, and napping than we usually manage on a trip to the coast.  Maybe if it rains in the next few days it will encourage us to actually lie around and do nothing except watch the sky.Harris Beach_051


Raining in Brookings Oregon

surf at Harris Beach on a cloudy grayish dayOf course it is, it is doing something dramatic just about everywhere in the country right now and the southern Oregon coast is no exception, in spite of that “Banana Belt” description for our current location.  The National Weather Service is actually predicting the possibility of scattered snow showers down to sea level, and temperatures well below freezing tonight and tomorrow night “on the beaches”.  Whew!  Makes me happy for tank heaters and a nice little electric heater to keep things cozy inside.

After a couple of months hanging around home and Grants Pass, the second home, we decided to come to our third home, Harris Beach State Park.  We needed a change of scenery.  I suppose Mo needed a change of scenery, especially that daily view of fabric and sewing machine on the dining table.

home in site 23 at Harris BeachI am comfortably settled into the super comfy, super convenient new dinette with a view out the windows, watching the surf breaking over the black shadows of marine rock sea stacks below us on the beach.  It has rained all night, but the thick spruce above us makes the rain fall in spurts and fits as it sifts through the trees to the roof, random and not at the steady rhythm of raindrops in more open areas.

We have been entertaining ourselves with radio, tv, reading, computing, and for me, some knitting.  Resting, napping, and a few damp walks here and there have rounded out the schedule, or non schedule you might say.  Mo took Abby for a walk this morning but so far I am still in jammies…oops…it is no longer morning! 

Abby's favorite things, the beach and a ballWe arrived early on Saturday, a bit before the official 2pm check in time, and even a bit before the 1pm check out time.  As expected, the front row was full, the view row, all with cable hookups.  When we came over, we didn’t expect to get front row, but we were hoping for cable so Mo could at least watch her 49’rs game on Sunday.  Mo stopped at the dump to do a little pre-dump before we settled in and I drove the park looking for a spot.  Sure enough, a nice guy was hooking up his fiver in the front row and I asked if he was leaving

Yup, he was, and he said that by the time we got back with the MoHo three more folks had asked about the spot.  Lucky us!  A23 is probably our favorite site in this park, with ocean views, a bit of tree cover for protection, nice shrubs around to block public view of our table and firepit, and of course cable, water, and electric.  No sewer, but we can handle that for the four nights we plan to stay here.

a bird in the bushThat first day was gorgeous, and Mo unloaded the firewood for our planned campfire, but instead of cooking outdoors we wandered off to Harbor to the Chetco Café for our traditional fish and chips supper.  Love that place, so much that we didn’t even mind waiting another day to polish off the Thanksgiving leftovers.

Thanksgiving was as delightful as expected, with family gathered at Melody’s house to partake of the fabulous cooking of both daughters and a couple of Melody’s friends as well.  It was a good day and it was nice to go back home with a pack of leftover containers and no mess to clean up.

Thanksgiving_024Things around Melody’s house are up for some changes with Kevin heading south to Mountain View for his Google job this week and Melody in full Christmas mode at the jewelry store in the midst of rehearsals for her play.  Seems as though grandson Xavier is also trying out for “Grease” so things should just be hopping around there in the next couple of months.

Mo and I drove to Grants Pass and visited with Deb at the cottage overnight before pulling the MoHo out to enjoy the biggest reason for the Grants Pass property…just two hours to the beach.  The drive was beautiful and the change of scenery was divine.  Yes, we knew rain was coming, but that didn’t matter in the least.  Love coming to the ocean any time of year.

Abby play time at Harris BeachOn Sunday, even though it was cloudy, the rain held off long enough for us to get some good beach walking time and ball time with Abby.  Balls and beaches are her favorite thing, but it was a bit bittersweet as she seemed to be somewhat less energetic than before.  She loves it so much, but the years are catching up and she tires more easily.  Hard to watch our animals age.  I suppose it is hard for our kids to watch us age.  Better than the alternative, at least we are all still here.

On a last note….I have changed some plans for our three month travels.  Jeremy will be coming along after all.  My heart just can’t deal with abandoning my sweet cat after 17 years of loyalty, even if it is at my daughter’s home.  He is so needy and attached to us, and to Abby, and to our life together.  We decided we will just deal with whatever his age requires for the trip.  Jeremy is heading for Florida!  I know one person down there who will probably enjoy meeting him.  Karen and Al are serious cat people who have been through the “old cat thing”, and I hope that I can introduce them to Jeremy.

final days_006

Later:  The rain stopped, and cold notwithstanding, Mo got a great fire going tonight.

50 years gone, let’s celebrate at the coast

Currently in Rocky Point, Oregon mostly cloudy, breezy, and 57 degrees F, with a chance of thunderstorms with snow? predicted for tonight.

Sue and Maryruth at the waterfall along 199 So very glad that this forecast wasn’t around last week when we were on the Oregon coast, enjoying gorgeous sunny skies and nary a bit of fog.  When we planned this trip last spring, our comment to our California friends was all about how gorgeous, warm, and fog free the coast usually is in early fall.  We had no clue that a huge storm would blow through just a few days before our arrival, or that the predictions for continued rain and wind would be all wrong.

Long time blog readers have heard me mention Maryruth often, my lifetime friend.  This month we are celebrating 50 years of friendship.  It isn’t often that friends can stay close, much less even in touch with each other after so many years.  Especially since we didn’t grow up together, or go to school together.  Maryruth and I met over the neighborhood fence in 1963, both of us young mothers with babies.  Even though life circumstances took us thousands of miles apart many times, we never lost each other.  The friendship cemented in those early days has stood the test of time.

Congratulations to US! 

Maryruth and Gerald Maryruth and her husband Gerald don’t have an RV, and haven’t been tent camping in some time either, so a yurt at an Oregon State Park was the perfect solution.  Especially the great yurt at space C2 in Harris Beach State Park.  The site is huge and just a step back from the front ocean view sites, but also boasts a very long, paved RV pad with electricity, water, and cable TV.  The yurt also has electric, with a nice heater that came in handy on the cool coastal evenings. Good thing we had reservations, since the fall is high season for yurt camping on the Oregon coast.

Our friends drove from California to spend the night with us in Rocky Point before we caravanned over to the coast on a cool, cloudy afternoon.  Of course, we had to stop on the way in at the Chetco Seafood Company for the best fish and chips ever.  (Just proves that you can’t always tell  how good something might be by the reviews).

C2 at Harris Beach State Park Since they were driving their car and we didn’t have ours, we thought it might be a good idea to stop for supper with the MoHo so that Abby could wait ‘patiently’ while we ate rather than leaving her in the park.  The restaurant has a big parking lot adjacent to the harbor where she can bark away and won’t bother anyone.  Not such a great idea in a campground. 

By the time we settled into our comfy site the clouds were lifting and the skies promised good weather for the next few days instead of the gloomy forecast on weatherunderground.  Of course, as anyone knows, forecasting the weather on the Oregon coast is not an easy thing to do. 

time to relax at Harris Beach State Park On our second day at the park, we decided to just lay low and enjoy the beach walks, the trails, and sitting in the campsite reading and visiting.  We had a campfire every single night thanks to Mo packing up firewood in big bins that just barely fit inside the MoHo, but it was enough.  Tuesday evening we finally made it to O’Holleran’s Steak House, an old Brookings institution.  We had heard good things about their food and thought as many times as we have been to Brookings, we should at least say we had tried it out.

Dinner was ‘nice’, with the $31. price of the New York Steak special quite high for the ambience of the place.  One of the nicest amenities was a note on the menu that said if you want to share a meal, there would be an extra $3.50 charge, which would include an extra plate, an extra potato, and bread, and vegetable.  There was still only one salad for this price, but Mo and I shared our dinner and had more than enough salad, and since we can never eat a full restaurant meal, the sharing option was really nice.  Maryruth and Gerald shared their New York Steak with Blue Cheese special as well.  What a great idea.

The food was decent, the steak was good, but the restaurant itself doesn’t have the atmosphere that I associate with that kind of price.  Although I must say that the service was impeccable.  Glad we did it, won’t have to do it again.

Gerald at Harris Beach State Park That morning, as we walked around the park, I passed a great big 40 footer parked up on the front row.  Something looked very familiar to me, and I told Mo that I was sure I must know whoever was in that rig.  I kept looking and then thought…hmmmm….it is an Endeavor, now who do I know with an Endeavor?!  But wait….I thought Nina and Paul were off to the east side of the Sierras on 395 already?  Nope…I checked their website and lo and behold they were in Brookings.

It is Paul and Nina!! at Harris Beach State ParkiAfter a few years adjusting to this blogging thing, I have learned that it isn’t exactly cool to just bop up to someone’s rig and bang on the door, so I sent Nina a note inviting her over to our fire.  Within minutes she showed up with sweet Polly and we chatted up a storm.  Of course, Nina and I couldn’t stay off blogging and traveling subjects and Maryruth and Gerald thought the conversation wasn’t all that exciting!  Ha!  Guess it is like the old days when I would have soil scientist friends to dinner and the spouses would roll their eyes at all the work talk. 

Nina wanted to know about all the exciting things to do in Brookings since we come here so often.  I looked at Mo, and couldn’t think of a thing.  Geez.  We love it here, but most of the time that is because we can do nothing.  I wasn’t much good at local recommendations.  When Nina asked what to do I said, “Go to Bandon?”  Harris Beach is fabulous for just hanging in the campsite, relaxing, walking the beach and the trails and enjoying down time until the sunset shows up.Harris Beach State Park

I followed my own advice and on Wednesday Maryruth and Gerald and I took their car up to Bandon to explore all the wonders of that sweet little town that, unlike Brookings, actually DOES have a cute downtown old town area.  Mo thought it was nice to stay home with Abby since she has been to Bandon many times.

Gerald and Maryruth at Port Orford It was a perfect day for coastal driving, with gorgeous sunny skies and warm temperatures.  Mo suggested that we stop in Port Orford and check out the boat lift, thinking Gerald might get a kick out of it.  As many times as we have driven that part of the coast, I had never stopped at the lovely Visitor Center or been down to the docks to see the famous lift, one of only six in the world and only two in the US. 

the boat hoist at Port Orford As luck would have it, there was a fishing boat coming into the dock while we were there, and we got to see the famous lift in action. We watched in fascination as the fishing boat was lifted up by a hook and just four ropes and dropped down easily on a big old wooden trailer. 

coast trip with Maryruth-096

There is much more to do in tiny Port Orford than I realized and I added the Lifeboat Station Museum to the list of future todo’s, in addition to going to the Cape Blanco Lighthouse, but on this day Bandon was waiting.  

lunch at Tony's Crab Shack Our first stop in Bandon was Tony’s Crab Shack where I had fresh grilled halibut with cilantro lime, Maryruth had fresh steamed clams, and Gerald had a rock cod sandwich.  So fresh, so good!  YUM. 

Back another block from the waterfront we found the Coastal Mist chocolate shop.  As we walked through the door the rich, warm aroma of really good chocolate welcomed us into this beautiful little store full of the most amazing chocolate ever. Trained in Belgium, the owners are chocolate makers par excellence!  I had never tasted “sipping chocolate”, and believe you me, it is nothing whatsoever like your everyday cup of hot chocolate.  It was beyond incredible, and so rich and so decadent.  Of course I came away with a little bag of solid gold/er chocolate truffles and a big chunk of pure Belgian chocolate.

sipping chocolate at Coastal Mist After browsing a gorgeous gallery that almost tempted Maryruth to spend a half year’s salary on a clock, we ambled off to the new Face Rock Creamery, built to replace the old Bandon Creamery that had such a great Bandon history.  Sold to the Tillamook Cheese company, the owners lost their rights to the Bandon Cheese name.  Bandon Cheese is now made under contract by Tillamook Cheese somewhere in Wisconsin.  Check out this website.  Sheesh.  We still like Bandon Cheese that we can buy at Fred Meyer, but it isn’t really Bandon Cheese.

Face Rock Cheese FactoryFace Rock Cheese is wonderful, and the owner is the original Bandon cheesemaker’s son.  I asked if there was any cheese that tasted like the old Bandon cheddar and the cashier laughed and said, “No, not yet, We haven’t been open long enough!  Just leave it in the fridge for a few months and you’ll have it”.

Hoping for an ice cream dessert so touted by so many visitors, we decided instead that the money was better spent on cheese goodies.  The ice cream is great, but it isn’t made by Face Rock, and we can get Umpqua ice cream any time.

Art along the Rogue-002Home after a great day, we cooked up a good supper of spaghetti and salad, eating one more time at the big picnic table with another roaring campfire.  I think it was a perfect way to celebrate our “anniversary”.

On Thursday we had a leisurely departure from the park, driving through the brilliant light and dark shadows along the Smith River, past Jedediah Smith State Park, and home to the cottage in Grants Pass.  The celebration wasn’t yet over.  Maryruth and Gerald decided to stay in town for a couple of days to check out the area, see the cottage, visit with Deb (who is almost like a niece to Maryruth) and share some more great meals with us before they went back to California.Art along the Rogue-033

Grants Pass has a great downtown area, with historic buildings, some nice art installations, and several annual festivals.  Saturday and Sunday was the annual “Art Along the Rogue” festival, a celebration of street art.  I guess that street artists are a genre of their own, and I only saw them some time ago when visiting downtown Pasadena.  I loved having such a cosmopolitan event right there in our second adopted home town.  Both main streets were shut down to traffic so the artists could create these amazing images with chalk on asphalt.  Ephemeral, beautiful, like a sand castle, they are created, we enjoy them, and they then disappear.  I actually do wonder just how long they last after the traffic opens again.

Maryruth and Gerald left for home, and Deb, Mo and I wandered the town, discovering the fabulous Saturday market where I bought more goodies than I really wanted to carry.  We then met up with our neighbors, Wes and Gayle who were also at the market, and wanted to come and see the cottage before they leave for their winter home in Arizona this week. We then ran into a bunch of folks from Rocky Point who were visiting the festival as well.  So much social stuff!  Geez, for someone who isn’t very social, this was a LOT of interaction.10-05-2013 Art on the Rogue

When we got back to Rocky Point on Sunday afternoon, I was so very very glad to be home where I didn’t have to talk any more.  Except for one little surprise.  My sister Sal, who was a medical transcriptionist, lost her job to changing technology, and instead of sitting around moaning, decided to go to truck driving school and become a truck driver.  I hadn’t seen her since Easter, and she was in Klamath Falls for just a quick turn around before getting back out on the road.

Sally and Sam and the truck-001Sally and Sam and the truck-012 My baby sister, at 63 years young, is now a big rig driver!  Sheesh!  the girl has guts, always has.  She is trying to get her tractor fixed up a bit with some girly stuff, and asked me to make a quilt for her that had LOTS OF COLOR!.  So I did.  I was glad to have the top finished at least to show her when I drove into town for our quickie visit.

So now, finally, it is Tuesday, and I really don’t have to talk any more.  Once I hit the PUBLISH button for this blog, I don’t even have to write any more.  I don’t have to do a dang thing!  At least not today.  Tomorrow it might be time to pull out the Halloween decorations, trim back the summer foliage for winter, wander around taking photos of the fall colors, and maybe catch up on the Homeland DVD’s that showed up in the mail yesterday.


Sometimes going to the coast isn’t about the ocean

Harris Beach State Park, Brookings, Oregon. 52 degrees F and clear

Of course, it is always there, in the background, low rumble below the cliffs. On a chilly, sunny, breezy day, however, it might be about the coastal forest. It is our lazy, do nothing but enjoy day, and after a slow morning, we decided to walk some of the trails around the park.

The light was beautiful, that brilliant contrasts stuff that makes all photographers crazy. Backlit moss that looks very nearly fluorescent against the dark, wet spruce bark. Shamrocks every shade of green on the forest floor. I left the Nikon behind this time, telling Mo, “Just how many photos can I take at Harris Beach, anyway?”. “What in the world can I possibly write about or blog about that I haven’t already done a dozen times?”

Yet here I am, with only the iPad, trying one more time to capture that backlit brilliance. Sometimes in that place between sleep and dreaming I let my mind wander to moments of light in my life, simple moments that have this brilliance. It is better than counting sheep.

We will go down to the beach this afternoon, but for the moment Mo is outside reading, and I am here writing. Supper will be easy and we will eat by the fire. Today we won’t wait until chilly dark for the camp fire, we will start it early.

I filled out my morning talking with friends and daughters on the phone, leisurely phone calls that were heart warming. Or maybe that was yesterday. I am on ocean time, even if it isn’t about the ocean.

Of course you recognize where we are

Brookings, Oregon. High today 50F Sunny and breezy. Low tonight 28F

Once again in our favorite front row with hookups, a great Verizon signal and cable tv for a buck extra. The difference is that space A10 at Harris Beach State Park has been cleared and we can see 180 degrees of ocean from our bedroom window. We have been here so many times and posted so many photos that it might look familiar if you have read my blog in the past.

After three productive days raking, burning, cleaning and projecting at the Grants Pass cottage, we headed for the beach. The short two hour drive on Highway 199 was beautiful as always. Nothing to do here but relax, walk when we are motivated and watch the sea. We didn’t even tow the baby car this time. It’s a true quickie vacation.