September 10 The Banana Belt Delivers

Brookings Day 2_48Clear skies, temperatures in the 80,s and new friends, it was a perfect day on the coast. Mo and I were laughing as I sat down to write this blog, trying to come up with a title.  Titles shouldn’t make a bit of difference, but I have found that they do.  Our blog post last spring titled “Vandalism” has received by far more hits than anything I have ever written.  I sometimes wonder if folks are actually searching that word when they find it.  Other titles, simple ones like “A beautiful day at the ocean” can slip by with not a soul paying any attention at all.  Makes me laugh. Not that post views are the only reason to blog, but of course I can’t help noticing.  I thought about the title, “Shocking!”, and then letting my first sentence be something like, “Shocking that it was 85 degrees at the coast today.”

the fog has lifted on the beach, time to go for a walkThe morning dawned brilliantly, with most of the summer fog lifting even before we were out of bed. We called the storage facility at 8:30 and “Mr. Wilson”, a charming and very accommodating gentleman, said, “If you are a Harris Beach I’ll meet you at the storage facility right now.” Seems as though he made the right purchases at the right time, with several storage facilities and home rentals scattered throughout town.  He drove up in his new Prius, and measured all the door openings to find one that was 12 feet high. We found a great space, with plenty of room to back in, and he was fine with us paying him now and having the rent begin on November 1st. 

Connie and tracy with hungerWith that major chore accomplished, we wandered around town a bit and did some shopping before ambling back home to our lovely sunny spot with a view of the ocean in the distance.  Lunch was simple and we relaxed and waited for Connie and Tracy to appear in mid-afternoon. 

Right on schedule, at 2PM, the two of them walked into our campsite with Hunter, the beautiful greyhound dog with fine manners and an incredibly sweet disposition. Hunter and Abby got along well, and Jeremy who was outside on the step, thought that this large new creature was incredibly interesting.

Abby and Hunter sharing playtimeAs is often the case with RVing friends, we launched right into comfortable conversation at the picnic table.  Comparing notes on coastal weather, campgrounds, RV destinations, rig configurations and all those interesting topics that make my townie, non RVing friends look a bit vague and simply yawn.  A walk down to the southern end of Harris Beach on the South Beach Trail with the dogs was on the agenda, and with a couple of camera toting shutterbugs and two happy dogs we took off walking.

ball time on the beach for AbbyThe time at the beach was great, and the dogs were perfect entertainment.  We laughed and talked some more and did the obligatory time-release camera shots on the beach, propping cameras on near-by rocks to take photos of the four of us together.  It was great fun.  Mo and I are solitary travelers, enjoying our own company and not big socializers, but now and then some companionable friends are a delight.  I know our paths will cross again, and next time we might actually have to get out the dominoes!

there it is Abby, over thereBack at camp, with some good Alaskan Amber and a few snackies, the conversations flowed on till early evening.  The two of them had a couple of hours to drive back to their camp at Cape Blanco and hopefully they made it home before dark.  Mo and I decided that all the excitement was just too much fun and we skipped the campfire for the evening and settled in to watch a delightful little movie called, “Love For Rent”. I think the R rating is for some of the four letter words in the beginning, the most of the movie isn’t R at all.  We both really enjoyed it.


Sep 8 A day at the beach

crocosmis in full bloomand fog drifting aboutMaybe we were a bit optimistic when we thought we could just amble off to the Oregon Coast without worrying about planning ahead. After all, September and October are the best months of the year on the coast, and all those folks who know about the summer fogs have been waiting for the warm sunny skies predicted for this week. 

the black berries weren't very sweet yetWhen we left Rocky Point and traveled to Grants Pass before turning west on Highway 199 the skies were filled with smoke from fires nearby and far away.  The temperature climbed as we dropped down into the valley, and as we passed the Valley of the Rogue State Park along I-5 the thermometer read a blistering 102 degrees.  I thought of the Gypsy G-Mas, Connie and Tracy, as we managed to stay cool with the windows closed and the air conditioner going full blast.  Last I heard, they were camping in this lovely park, although not quite so lovely on this incredibly hot September day.

time for a walkThe western route through the Illinois Valley is a familiar one to us.  The winding curves that follow the Smith River in California to Highway 101 don’t seem at all scary any more. As the miles passed, we watched the temperature gauge drop steadily.  Turning north toward Brookings, I could smell the ocean and the hot sun was gentled by a misty fog drifting from the ocean to the surrounding hills. 

South Beach TrailWhen we arrived at Harris Beach State Park, we were met by  a sign stating that all electric sites were taken and the only available sites were for tents or rigs less than 20 feet.  The attendant was a bit concerned, but she decided to let us try to slide into one of those sites.  The MoHo fit just fine, with the Tracker parked sideways with ALL FOUR WHEELS ON THE PAVEMENT! Yes, those are the rules.  The other rule is that no generators are allowed in the park, ever. 

The beach! The beach!It was after 7 by the time we settled in, but supper wasn’t a problem because we had grilled chicken and cucumbers in vinaigrette while we drove down the road. Setting up the rig without hookups is an easy thing as well, and after a nice long walk through the campground we settled in for a cool moonlit night of reading and early to sleep.

she got her ball before the wave got herThe attendant was concerned that we were officially too long for the spot and told us to come in at 10 the next morning to see if there was anything available.  Seems as though the park is almost completely filled every night this week.  Waking to fog this morning wasn’t a surprise, and after tea we drove into town to get a few groceries, check out the potential storage place, and take a short drive up the Chetco River.  There is another state park about 7 miles east away from the ocean and the sun was out.  We both were in a beach mood however, and decided that if there wasn’t anything at Harris Beach we would go down to the Beachfront RV Park, right along the ocean, rigs lined up in a row on pavement, with a bit of dry grass, but full hookups.

go Abby!After ten, back at Harris Beach, the new attendant at the window was skeptical about anything available for the next 3 days, but then as an afterthought decided to give us a site that is usually saved for last minute overflow.  We got a site with electric, water, and great cable TV all the way through the weekend.  Once again, everything worked out just fine.

settled in to A8 near the entrance of the parkThe move across the park was a snap, and within minutes we were set up comfortably, and enjoying our space.  I even opened up the awning and put up the chili pepper lights that I haven’t had a chance to use for a very long time! After lunch we took Abby for a long walk down the South Beach Trail to the ocean. 

the fog slipped back out to sea in the very late afternoonThe fog was still drifting about, lifting a bit now and then, but never completely going away.  In spite of the fog it was quite warm, and we could have worn shorts and skipped the jackets.  It was surprising how much warmer it was down on the beach than is it a couple of hundred feet above the cliffs in the park. We had a great time with Abby, and for the first time she decided that going for her ball in the ocean waves wasn’t as scary as she thought.  We found some brackish backwater for her to practice, and then Mo started throwing the ball toward the surf and Abby went right after it.  Before our walk was finished, Abby was going right into the waves after her ball, and only once did a wave catch her and throw her around a little bit.  It was great fun.

walking about 200 yards from the campsite yields a great viewTomorrow is wide open for relaxation, walks and one more special treat.  Tracy and Connie are just north of us at Cape Blanco and plan to come down tomorrow afternoon for a meet and a visit.  I’m tickled that we again have a chance to meet some fellow bloggers.  Tracy and Connie have a great story, deciding to go full time and live a life outside the box.  I have followed them for some time now and am looking forward to hearing some of their stories in person.

As early evening settles over the park, the skies are clearing and the sun is shining brilliantly.  Tonight the moon is nearly full. Mo has a great big campfire going with wood we bought here at the campground. Crossing from Oregon to California with firewood is frowned upon so we paid the pricey 5 bucks a bundle to follow the rules and use local wood.  I am so happy to be at the beach again.

A few more photos of our day at Harris Beach are linked here.

Traveling from Fort Bragg to the Russian River

Fort Bragg to Forestville (5) When we left Fort Bragg yesterday, it was raining hard.  Our route followed Highway 1 along the coast for several miles before we turned inland at the Navarre River on Highway 128. Gasoline was just 2.99 a gallon on the south end of Fort Bragg, so we put another 75 in the MoHo and hooked up the baby car right there in the gas station.  We are both amazed at how quickly we can hook up that car.  The Stow Master hitch works great if we hit it every now and then with a bit of silicone.  I can just slide it onto the ball without any effort at all. 

I checked our route on Google Maps, on the iPhone, and with Garmin Girl, all set for the fastest, not the shortest route.  I didn’t say anything about avoiding highways.  All three of them sent us over 128, but not a single one gave us a clue what we were in for.  The first part of the road was narrow, following the Navarre River through huge old redwood forests, damp and dark in the misty rain.  After a few miles we emerged into the Anderson Valley, and official wine country.  Picturesque small towns dotted the landscape every few miles and even in the rain the vineyards were beautiful in their fall colors. 

Fort Bragg to Forestville (21) Once we began ascending the mountains of the coast range however, the road got more and more narrow, and more winding even than Highway 1 was a few days ago.  The last five miles before we reached 101 were probably the most harrowing so far on this trip.  Mo handled it with aplomb, I wore my wristbands, and Jeremy only got sick once.

If we had known the route was this bad, we would have taken the more direct route straight south on Highway 1 along the coastline all the way to Jenner.  Ah well, neither of us had been on this route before, so it was ok.  Of course, Garmin Girl was still programmed for “shortest route”, so she took us along the even rougher “Westside Road” to get us into Forestville rather than going farther south on 101 and taking a major road back west.  By the time we got to the campground in the dark pouring rain, Mo’s opinion of Garmin Girl was diminishing.

Fort Bragg to Forestville (4) This trip was an opportunity for us to check out as many Camp Club USA parks as possible, and we only came this far south to try out this park.  The web site looks great, but if you look at Street View on Google, it’s another story entirely.  When we arrived at the River Bend RV Resort, the office was closed (it was barely 2 in the afternoon) and there were some very vague instructions about “finding a site”. We had a reservation, and had no clue where to go because the park is very tight, convoluted, and completely full of old trailers, rv’s, campers, all surrounded by old cars and trucks. 

River Bend RV Park (6) While I stood around looking helpless, the owner showed up saying, “Oh, I was just making a map for you”.  He charged me the half price fee of 24 bucks a day, and then said, “Wi-Fi is free for one hour a day, otherwise there is a 6.00 charge” . What?? It didn’t say THAT on the internet.  He proceeded to give me a huge spiel about the high cost of real estate in Sonoma County and how he didn’t let anyone else stay in his park for a measly 24.00, and didn’t I realize that there were 150 wineries within a fifteen minute drive and he wasn’t about to pay for free Wi-Fi for people who just abused it by downloading movies.  Hmmm. It was also interesting reading the “rules”.  My favorite was the one warning about going in the river intoxicated, and another one referred to no loud partying after 10PM.  Interesting clientele, I think.

Our site was right on the river, a bit away from all the permanent residents, so that was a relief. I think we are the only people in the park who aren’t permanent.  I decided to do some laundry, going back and forth in the rain, dealing with the dryers that quit when the power went out from all the rain, but of course the timers didn’t quit and I lost 4 bucks.  Froggi Donna, another blogger, asked recently what we love and what we hate about RV’ing and last night I through that what I dislike most is the dang laundry thing. 

River Bend RV Park (3)I decided to read the “101 Things to Do Sonoma” for some ideas about the area.  Unlike the Mendocino publication which was full of great information, this one had page after page of wineries and restaurants.  I guess if you are in Sonoma, you are supposed to go wine tasting and then eat.  Ha.  Mo and I both love wine, but the wine tasting thing sometimes just seems way too expensive and pretentious for either of us.  I’d rather go kayaking and buy my wine at Trader Joe’s or Costco.  Maybe a nice wine tour would be a fun thing to do another time, but not this time.

We settled in after supper and listened to the hard rain, drowning out most of the heavy traffic noise from the highway nearby.

Lake Talawa and the coast at Crescent City

Lake Tawala-1 Today was the day!  We did a bit of internet searching last night to check local tides and possible put-in sites for a trip on an inland lake north of Crescent City.  On Google Maps, the two lakes looked accessible but sometimes it’s hard to find a launch site where there is a lot of private land surrounding the lake or where there are wildlife refuges.  Lake Talawa and Lake Earl have both. 

I found an old website for a kayaking group that is no longer active, but they decided to keep the site up so people could use the information.  I’m sure glad they did!  We drove north around Earl Lake wandering off towards the west until we came to an extensive area of old roads that weren’t maintained any longer.  According to the web site, there was a subdivision planned here that never made it.  The roads were cracked and full of potholes, and as we approached the lake it was apparent that we were the only people around for miles. 

Lake Tawala-4 Another possible deterrent could be that the lake was too low and too muddy to launch there.  Instead, we found tules and sedges, with ground underfoot that was firm enough to support not only us, but the Tracker.  We parked just feet from the water and launched effortlessly.

With a new boat it is always a bit thrilling to try it for the first time.  This boat is so stable and comfortable there wasn’t a moment of wobble or concern. It felt great.  Surprisingly, the cockpit is really quite big and the boat is about as wide as my old boat.  The keel seems smoother, but Mo didn’t think they tracked any better than our old less expensive boats.  However, lifting them to the racks is the deciding factor here, not speed or agility.  We aren’t racers at all, and just want to get around easily, have a boat that tracks well, and is roomy and comfortable, and we can lift overhead without groaning.  Check on all counts!

Lake Tawala-8I it was still quite foggy, with only filtered sun coming through so the landscape all around us looked surreal.  I knew the lake shape from the phone  and could see where we were on the lake, but the distances and the changes in water levels made for some interesting moments.  Accompanying our paddle was the incredible sound of huge crashing surf just beyond the dunes.  With the fog it was hard to discern just where we were, and thinking we were at the dunes I checked on the iPhone to find we were still in the middle of the lake with some islands that didn’t show up on Google Earth. 

Lake Tawala-15 We paddled on to the ever increasing crash of the surf, and I wondered if the lake was perhaps breaching the dunes as it sometimes does when the water is high.  Suddenly we were surrounded by white floating sea foam that looked for all the world like small icebergs.  As we approached the beach we could see really huge waves that were breaking over the dunes and felt the surges of the incoming water.  The tide was supposed to be receding and this definitely wasn’t feeling like receding at all!  I read something on the weather page last night about a huge ocean swell that was coming this direction, with high surf warnings and waves to 25 feet.  Sure made me nervous to see that water cresting over the dunes toward me!  I turned and ran and Mo laughed at me, but we felt the swell again and didn’t have to paddle much at all to go back inland fairly quickly.

On the way back to our launch site we saw some otters playing, and a huge flock of snow geese flew overhead.  We saw a lot of blue and white herons along the marshy shores.  In the fog, everything looked much bigger and yet farther away than it actually was.  There was no way to get a feel for where we were at all.  I was really glad for the IPhone GPS and map, believe me!

BigSwell-1 Once back to the car, we loaded up effortlessly, excited about how easy our maiden voyage was.  We decided to go back toward Crescent City and explore the other side of the lakes toward the ocean along Pebble Beach Road.  Once we got there, we could see a lot of viewing activity along the headlands, with cars parked and people hiking out to high places and watching the surf.  Once we did the same we discovered why.  The waves were HUGE.  It is impossible to take any kind of photos that actually show the scale of these waves coming into the shore.  There are headlands and sea stacks in this vicinity that are at least 100 feet high and the waves were breaking completely over them.  The waves were at least 30 feet tall, and breaking very far out from shore.  There were all kinds of warnings out about staying away from the breakwater and not turning your back on the ocean, se we paid attention to all that and stayed up high. 

It was truly exciting. The power of the ocean is so huge, and sometimes with just normal waves it is easy to forget how she can be in a storm.  The part that was even more amazing is that there was no storm going on here at all, in fact there wasn’t even any wind.  What an exciting thing to see.  Mo lived on the ocean near Half Moon Bay for more than 30 years and I spent a considerable amount of time at the ocean as well.  Neither of us have ever seen waves like those we saw today.

As always, there are many more photos on my Picasa website for this day linked here.


Cruising to Alaska Day 1 and 2

Click here for more photos:

July5_atSea (44)This cruise wasn’t really planned much in advance.  After all, we did just do a wonderful two week trip through the Panama Canal back in January.  But one day, Mo just said, “How would you like to do the Alaska Inside Passage” and before long we had our cruise tickets and our air miles took care of the transportation to Seattle for another great vacation week. 

Mo has been to Alaska but I haven’t.  She drove the highway many years ago and camped in her Scout among the mosquitoes. We still plan to make a MoHo trip there before long, but in the mean time a cruise is my perfect introduction to the state.  Cruising can be addictive.  As the days passed and the time to leave got closer, I found myself fantasizing about the slow slide of the sea, and the way a cruise slows my own internal pace.  I watched the weather, seeing temperatures in the high 50’s and rain for most of the trip, and I didn’t care.  I was going to Alaska, and I was going to relax, and watch the sea and the sky and the mountains, and get waited on for a whole week.  Ahhhh.

We left early Sunday morning from Medford, and found to our delight that Alaska Airlines still serves complimentary wine on their flights to Seattle.  So what if it was only 6 in the morning, we mixed it with orange juice and thought it was a great start to a fourth of July day. I couldn’t see passing up that sweet little freebie, especially when we had to pay surcharges for all sorts of things, including our July4_Seattle (5)luggage.  By the time we reached Seattle, the dark northwest clouds had descended, but it really didn’t feel too terribly cold.  We had a light breakfast in the airport while we tried to entertain ourselves until the ship shuttles were functioning.  By 11 we were on a bus to the Magnolia District and by noon we were actually on the ship.  It was the slickest, quickest, cleanest embarkation we have experienced on any cruise so far.  Impressive!  Especially so after our last experience with Celebrity, such a great cruise line, and yet they didn’t even come close to the efficiency we experienced with the Princess staff.

Once on board, even though staterooms aren’t usually ready so early on the day of embarkation, ours was ready and waiting.  We unloaded our carry-on’s and headed up one deck up to the Lido for the welcome buffet.  This is the first time we have taken a room on an upper deck, and ours is in the middle, right at the central elevators. It’s also our first time with a balcony room, and I love it!  Even if it’s too cold to just sit out there all the time, the view is open and wonderful, and we can leave the door open at night for fresh air.

I think comparisons are inevitable since we cruised so recently.  Our last cruise before the Panama Canal was with Juy4_5_seadays (3) Princess as well, and I found myself trying to remember just how different the Crown Princess was from our current ship, the Sapphire Princess. I also find myself continually comparing this ship with the Celebrity Constellation.  It is really surprising to me that two ships in basically the same class (Crown Princess and Sapphire Princess) can be as different as they are. Last night and today, we have been exploring.  Much like the Crown Princess, and very much unlike the Constellation, there are many areas on this ship are disconnected to other areas.  There are three sets of elevators, but they all don’t go to the same floors, and sometimes you have to change floors to continue to the aft or forward portion of a deck.  It makes for a lot of walking and climbing, a good thing for us, but not necessarily for everyone.

July5_atSea (19)This trip, for the first time, we chose second seating dinner at 8.  Last night we went to the early show at 7 and then to dinner at the International Dining room.  The theater was large, but not especially lovely and the show was just ok, with a few dance numbers and an OK comedian. Thinking this schedule would work for the rest of the cruise, we were a bit daunted to find out that this ship doesn’t have an early show and the only way we can go to both dinner and a show is to do the late show at 10:15 pm.  Maybe not!  I am a morning person, my kids all know this about me, and know that trying to call me after 8pm at night will result in a pretty stupid conversation.  I also know that if I call them at 5am when I am all bright-eyed, they might not be so chipper either.  Except for Melody of course, who is chipper on the radio at an ungodly hour.  But I digress.

Our dinner was adequate but certainly not memorable, and the dining room a bit boring.  However, we did have our table for two ready for us without a hitch.  The fabulous two story dining room with the incredible elegant food that we enjoyed on the Constellation came with a price.  We had to fight for our table for two after some glitches, and when we did finally get one, it was right next to the work station.  Entertaining, but definitely noisy.  I guess there are trade-offs, no matter what.  I do miss those wonderful dinners with all the flatware and elegance.  Here, we both decided that we could miss dinner in the dining room without feeling as though we were missing something, and plan to do so tomorrow night so we can see the show without staying up till midnight!

Our only goal for this first sea day was to refuse to rush around anywhere, and to do everything in a leisurely way.  My goal was to find the fine line between leisurely and lazy. 

July5_01_morning (7)The morning began with a brisk walk on the top deck jogging track, small enough that it takes ten laps to get in a mile, but certainly nice enough.  The skies were clear and blue and it was windy!  Then down to breakfast, which by the time we got there, was very crowded.  We found a table outside the main part of the cafe, and especially enjoyed the really good watermelon.  ‘People-watching’ has been fascinating on this trip as well.  The crowd is completely different from any cruise I have experienced, with lots of cultural diversity, an even mix of age groups, many young people, and lots of families.  The pools and ping pong tables seem to be kept pretty busy with this bunch.  Midmorning we explored the ship some more, found the Alaska cruise companion book with maps, and settled into the cafe area on the fifth deck for cappuccinos.  A late lunch in the Savoy Dining room was delightful, with a traditional English Pub offering of fish and chips and Bass beer.  An afternoon of cards in our room punctuated by whale sightings, and somehow it was time to prepare for the formal night dinner. 

July5_atSea (36)Dressing up is always fun, but this time it was also incredibly entertaining to see everyone else in their finery.  Japanese women, young and old, were wearing special traditional lovely silk embroidered gowns.  Indian men wore colorful pashminas over their tuxedos, and some women were in saris.  It was fascinating. The captain greeted everyone and introduced his crew, and champagne flowed freely.  Dinner was filet mignon, and again, adequate but forgettable. 

It is 10:30 now, Mo is sleeping while I write, and the sun has finally dipped below the horizon. Tomorrow we will see Ketchikan, arriving early in the morning and returning to the ship by 3:30.  Alaska at last,  traditional Alaska with totems and Creek Street.  As I watch the shadows of the wild coastal mountains coming closer  in the twilight, I am filled with excitement about what is waiting ahead.