We found the cheese and the sunshine

ambience of the Oregon Cheese FestivalThe Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon, has been making cheese since the early days of the Depression.  At that time, “artisan” wasn’t a common word associated with food, but the Vella family decided the only way to keep their business viable was to create a new image.  That commitment to creating artisan cheeses changed everything, and the Rogue Creamery has become world renown, with award winning blue cheese, among others.

Oregon-Cheese-FestI read about the creamery in Sunset magazine, read about it again in some food magazines, and then again in a newspaper article touting this amazing cheese resource right under our noses. They host the annual cheese festival, and it seems that this little corner of Central Point is home to several artisan food makers that participate.

Often, Mo and I would drive through Central Point near Medford on our way to somewhere else and see the big banner “Oregon Cheese Festival” and say to each other, “Gee, we have to do that sometime”.  Isn’t is amazing how often something so close to home can be overlooked while we wander the country searching for new adventures?

yummy stick from the Rogue Creamery.  The yellow band on my wrist allows ten wine tastingsYesterday, the adventure was all about cheese, and wine, and chocolate, and more wine, and more cheese, and some great breads, and oh yes…pesto….and salsa….and lavender jam….and habanero chili lime cilantro sauce…..and …..and….more wine.

Just an hour from home, with a dusting of snow on the pass, we found the big white tent with hundreds of cars parked on all the side streets and friendly bike cops patrolling the crosswalks.  There were a LOT of people there, and a LOT of people sharing their passion for artisan everything.

it is spring across the mountain in Central PointWe really had no idea what to expect, thinking perhaps there would be a small gathering of folks, a few booths maybe.  Instead, the huge tent was filled to the brim and it seems that there was a lot more wine than cheese!  For five bucks we got a bracelet with ten spots to check off for wine tasting.

Now, as you know, a tasting isn’t really all that much, but after ten of them, I was as giddy and bubbly as a kid out  of school.  And I couldn’t figure out how I could be so FULL from eating all those little bites of wonderful tasty things.  After all, they were just little bites, and little sips, right?

pib_750mlMy favorite thing of all was the Clear Creek artisan distillery using beautiful Oregon pears to make pear brandy and pear liqueur.  That was truly amazing stuff, and they even have bottles with a perfect pear INSIDE floating in the crystalline 80 proof tasty brandy.  The liqueur was to die for.  Maybe that was why all the cheese tasted so good and I felt so giddy.

We topped off the afternoon with a trip to Chico’s for me  (ahhh yes…have I mentioned I am a Chico’s addict?) and a Costco run for the best chicken breasts around, cashews that are bigger and fatter than any others, and pecans at half the price of the grocery store.  No toilet paper.  How many Costco baskets can you count leaving the store that don’t have huge packs of toilet paper in them?  Not many!

water coming off the steep mountains all along highway 199 and the Smith RiverWe woke again this morning to a dusting of snow, and once again loaded up the Tracker with dog, cat, food, (including of course, our artisan purchases of cheese, salsa, hot pepper jam, and other goodies), clothes, cameras, computers and ourselves, for the four hour trip to Brookings where the MoHo safely awaits our return.  This time the pass had a lot more than a simple dusting of snow, with the plows running heavy and a near blizzard at the top. Once again I was grateful that we weren’t driving the MoHo over that pass to get out of the basin!

Once in Medford, things settled down, but we again had snow on Highway 199 along the Smith River.  I have never seen the Smith running so high and frothy, and all along the canyon, water cascaded down the rocks at every turn.  We stopped for one of the biggest ones, along with several other cars taking advantage of the deluge.

Here we are again, in an even better space.  Look at THAT view!Once we reached the “Banana Belt of Oregon”, however, the sun was shining and the skies were clear and gorgeous.  Not a speck of fog or rain, but huge white cumulus clouds in the sky made the blue seem even brighter.  Harris Beach yielded up the prettiest site we have had so far, and we have had some nice ones.  A24, down toward the far end of the front row, has a wide view of the ocean, with just enough trees to keep us a bit hidden from incoming cars on the road below.  Lots of empty spaces on the front row this afternoon, and we took the very best\

keepsake poster from our trip north last monthJust a couple more little things to share that I keep forgetting about.  Geez.  We finally made it onto the HitchItch.com website.  Of course, we are still in the process of being accepted or not, but hopefully they won’t dump us in the near future.  Al was right, people seem to really use that site a lot to find out where the RV bloggers are. 

good thing we have ten foot walls for all the keepsakesThen, I just wanted to share the really gorgeous poster that we bought from our last trip up to the northern part of the coast.  The whole Lewis and Clark history was so wonderful, and the poster so gorgeous, we couldn’t resist.  It is a good thing Mo’s ceilings are ten footers and that there is still room in the office up high for one more wall thingy. (You know, of course, that you can click on these photos if you care to see them bigger)

cheese fest 3-17-2012 10-41-43 AMActually, speaking of wall thingy’s.  I just have to share this incredible gift from my daughter Deanna.  When she visited last month, she said her whole reason was to bring something to me that she just didn’t want to ship in the mail.  Needlepoint is something Deanna has done for some time now, and she whiles away her non-driving time with needle in hand.  I am the lucky recipient of this amazing stitchery, framed perfectly, and ready to hang.  I think of her every time I pass the low wall in the kitchen where it now hangs.  Just tickles me no end.

With all the rain predicted for our trip south, it’s hard not to want to just sit here overlooking the amazing ocean, but the road calls, new sights await.  Besides, if we sat here it would probably just rain anyway.to brookings 3-18-2012 2-01-45 PM


The long trek home, and breakfast with Donna and Russ

February 24, 25, and 26 Friday, Saturday and Sunday

the beautiful Astoria BridgeOnce on the road again, we enjoyed the beautiful drive across the Astoria Bridge, once criticized the beautiful Astoria Bridgeas “the bridge to nowhere”. We crossed the Columbia River for the last time as we traveled its southern shore toward Portland.  All routes pointing south encouraged us to cross the bridge at Longview and continue south through Portland on I-5, but we had other plans.  As mentioned previously, Mo grew up in Columbia City, and it’s always fun to retrace old steps and check out how the old homesteads are doing. 

The drive along the river was beautiful, even on a cloudy day, and traffic was light.  Mo’s school still stood, and big old house that Mo grew up in didn’t look much different than she remembered. She laughed as we crossed the steep street that used to serve as a sledding hill when the occasional snow storm would hit. We drove on to the nearby St Helens to see the two houses that her grandfather built.  They looked a bit worse for wear, but were still in use.  As we drove around she told me stories of her aunts and uncles, grandma, and grandpa, and what it was like growing up in a small town in Oregon.

Mo sharing where she went to schoolWe kept our NUVI Garmin tucked away for the entire trip, relying on the phone to get us around, but for navigating freeways in big cities, Garmin Girl can’t be beat.  Even in a city we know well, it was nice to have the image pop up when it came time to remember which lane we needed to get from the 30 to the 405 to the 5 going south.  Traffic wasn’t a problem and Mo maneuvered through the city with ease.

there it is, the family neighborhoodBy the time we got to Eugene, the threatening storm clouds turned to heavy rain, and we settled in to our free parking spot just in time.  Our choice for the evening was the Valley River Mall in Eugene, reviewed both here by Laurie and Odel and here by Nina of Wheelin’It.  I read both those reviews and easily decided we wanted to make use of this delightful free space for our night in Eugene.

settled in at the Eugene Valley River MallJust across the parking lot was one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, El Torito.  We had soup thawed, but it was time for a Marguerita and with our luck it was still Happy Hour at the bar.  We had drinks for $3 each and a tremendous plate of fabulous nachos to share that made dinner completely unnecessary. The place was jumping busy and our cute little bartender asked us if we intended to “party like rock stars”.  Hmmm.  Not so sure I remember what that even means any more!

Russ and Donna from Travels in TherapyThe next morning we were up just in time to button up the rig and see Russ and Donna drive up to our door.  Their plan was to take us to their second favorite restaurant for breakfast since it was right on our route.  We met the two of them once before in Eugene, and knew that a visit would be full of fun and laughter.  Russ and Donna are really so much fun to be around.  Russ is always doing something silly, cracking jokes and one liners, and Donna knows just how to bring out the best in everyone.  We all laughed and played a bit in the remnants of snow on a parked truck.  No, that snow wasn’t on our road, thank goodness!

snow on the hills but not on the roadBack on the road again, we traveled through all sorts of dramatic weather, including snow, sleet, rain, sun, and wind on the way west to Florence.  Once there, the sky was gorgeous and we found blooming camellias lining the road next to the Joy of Quilting, where I decided another stop was in order.

north coast 2 025In no time we were back at Harris Beach State Park, where once again our A10 site was the only one available on the front row with a view and cable.  With the gorgeous sunshine and hardly any wind, we were thrilled to take another walk on Harris Beach as the afternoon turned toward evening.  Finally, after carrying that firewood I bought originally the first night we were here, and carried the entire trip in the baby car, Mo built a big campfire.  We sat outside enjoying the clear but chilly evening with our supper.

return trip map 450 milesWe have an ending routine that works pretty well for us.  On our last night in Brookings, I do laundry at the park, where the machines cost just a buck and a buck quarter to dry.  Mo gets everything cleaned and stashed for the night and we usually sleep without sheets since I want them clean for the next trip.  In the morning we dump the tanks, add the smell prevention stuff to the gray tank, and head for town unhooked.  We fill the MoHo, assuming that gasoline will be more expensive when we return for the next trip, and drive across the street for a McDonald’s breakfast before heading for the car wash to clean off the salt spray from the rig before slipping her back into the storage shed.  This time our little routine was thwarted with the car wash all closed up, and it’s the only one in town. Since we are planning on coming back in three weeks, hopefully that salt residue won’t hurt anything till then.

Then with everything piled into the baby car, dog, cat, ice chest of fresh food still remaining, clothes I can’t bear to not have in both places, and other assorted flotsam, we make the 4 hour drive back over the coast range to Grants Pass and over the Lake of the Woods pass to home.  Last year our routine was a bit different, traveling south to get the MoHo in Redding.  We both have decided we like this routine much better.  In fact, Brookings and Harris Beach are so darn nice we could just unpack the MoHo from storage and stay there without traveling anywhere.  But not next time.  Next time we will again travel south to California, hoping to find some warmth and some blooming wildflowers.  I do love love love that RV life.