08-03 through 08-06-2021 August Reunion at the Beach

I was suddenly awakened from my blogging slumber when I read Janna’s blog this afternoon, Restoration Cowboy Style.  Blogging has become a chore for her and she is no longer going to blog about their great ranch life in Montana and Arizona.  After so many years, Janna’s blog remains one of the few that I still read and I am sad to see it go. 

I know that with my commitment to very little more than a post or two for each month my own readership has waned.  At least I suspect that it has, although the counters on the blog dashboard pages insist there are thousands of folks reading every time I post some mundane thing about every day life.  Bots, I am sure…not real people.

Still, I am not ready to give it up, in spite of the fact that it can sometimes be a chore.  For me, it is only a chore when I am thinking about doing it, but after I begin, most of the time it becomes a sweet delight.  Sad to say, I enjoy my own writing!  Is that embarrassing or what?  I write as I think.  My grammar and syntax aren’t always by the rules.  Incomplete sentences.  Incorrect punctuation.  Too many or too few commas.  Mo tries to keep me in line, reviewing the blog and making suggestions.  I usually edit accordingly but not always.  Hence, you get what you get.  But the better story is that I get what I want.  I get stories that remind me of how it felt to be doing whatever we were doing at the time.  So it is, my faithful handful of readers, that you still get my stories, and I have something fun to print in a book and read again as the years pass by.

We are in the deepest of the “dog days of summer”, with August burning holes in my brain with heat and smoke.  I check the fire and smoke maps on a daily basis, hoping for a hint of some relief.  Once again, Grants Pass is thick with smoke from the many fires in California, in addition to the chain of fires ignited by lightning along the Cascade crest to our east.  Winds are predicted to come to help clear out the smoke, but they have yet to appear. 

Most of the time there is a nice view of mountains in the distance beyond the trees when the smoke clears.

I walk around the property, the ground beneath my feet cracked and hard as cement except for the small patches of green grass that we tend carefully.  I know about xeri-scaping, planting drought tolerant species instead of water hungry lawns. We don’t water half of our property in the summer. 

I also know that when it is 105 degrees or so for days on end, those small patches of green make stepping outside the front door almost tolerable, a bit of an oasis.

I spend the mornings checking the well and the cistern levels, and calculating our water budget for the day.  With extended days of triple digit temperatures, everything suffers.  I ease my frustrations by going to the computer and looking at the photos of summers past, and hunting for the images that reflect that a change is in the air.  Maybe by mid-September?  Most certainly by the first of October, although rain may not appear until November and hopefully by then the fires will be snuffed out completely.

Such is life in the heat of summer in Southern Oregon.  Such is life in summers that each year break records for the hottest temperatures and the highest number of acres burned in the fires.

The big gravel driveway on the side of the property is great for getting in and out with the Motorhome, and for hosting guests occasionally.  It does capture a LOT of debris from our ancient black oaks. It is too hot to rake, even in the early mornings.

Still, there is a silver lining, or maybe I should call it a silvery gray fog lining.  Just a short distance west, the Oregon Coast waits with cool temperatures, foggy days, and only rare hints of the smoke that lies to the east. 

The Oukrop Family gathering had been planned for several months.  Roger, Mo’s brother, passed away just four years ago, but his wife Nancy took it upon herself to make reservations for the extended family at South Beach State Park once again, a favorite of Roger’s. 

Family members came from Oregon, Washington, Illinois, and Colorado to gather at the beach.  We stayed in a mixture of motorhomes, trailers, yurts and local hotels.  A few members of the family couldn’t make it this time, including Mo’s sister Edna and her youngest brother Don and his extended family.  We missed them all.  I think we tried to count a few times and got up to 33 before losing count once again because it was hard to get everyone in the same place at the same time.

South Beach State Park is about 5 hours north from Grants Pass.  There are several options for crossing the coast range between I-5 and the beach, and this time we chose to travel north to Sutherlin and follow the Umpqua River Highway 138 toward Reedsport, turning north towards Newport on Highway 101. South Beach is just two miles or so south of the lovely coastal city of Newport, famous for the Newport Aquarium and one of the prettiest bridges on the Oregon Coast.

When we arrived Monday afternoon, the skies were surprisingly clear and surprisingly chilly at 59 degrees F.  A big difference from what we left behind at home!  I was surprised that even though I was craving cooler temperatures I had a bit of a time adjusting to the chill on that first evening.

Left to right: Rachel, Mike, Mo, Sue, Chere, Dan

Since much of the family was still in transit, Mo and I decided to go out to eat in Newport with brother Dan and wife Chere and their daughter Rachel and son-in-law Mike. Many of the restaurant choices in Newport were closed, with several reasons posted on websites.  Some said they couldn’t get employees, some said they couldn’t get enough food, some were closed completely due to the limitations of the past year of COVID.  We did finally find an open restaurant, The Taphouse Brewery at Nye Creek.  The wait to be seated was over an hour and with a chill wind blowing we were at a bit of a loss as to what to do during the wait.  The beach was just down the block, so we braved the wind and wandered down to watch the waves and the few people who were doing the same.

Our dinner was a mixed bag of not so good and absolutely delicious.  We were seated at a large table, with plenty of social distance between tables, but still had another hour or so wait for our food to arrive.  The ordered appetizers didn’t show up until after the main courses were delivered and seemed a bit redundant by then.  The sweet potato fries and french fries on some of the meals were literally cold.  Who knows my luck, but my sweet potato fries and fish tacos were hot and some of the best fish tacos with the most interesting condiments I have ever tasted!

“Semolina crusted NW Pacific cod, Taphouse slaw, chipotle aioli, pomegranate chili molasses syrup, avocado, lime, smoky tomato salsa and house made tortilla chips.”

I was in heaven.  In fairness, the server found some hot fries for the rest of the people at our table and took the cost of the appetizers off the final bill.  The entire evening was just a taste of what small towns are experiencing during this time of COVID shortages with food and personnel. Sad.

We settled in quietly that first evening, and slept well with the distant sound of waves and the foghorn on the jetty just north of the beach.  Tuesday morning dawned surprisingly clear.  I had somehow expected fog.  I offered to take Mattie for her morning walk and ended up following the path to the beach.  We were camped in the A loop, a choice I learned to love because the beach walk was just 1/4 mile from our site.  When we have camped in the loops to the north the walks to the beach aren’t paved all the way and are 1/3 and 1/2 mile respectively from the campsites to the beach.

That first morning was gorgeous.  I wasn’t up to slogging down the sandy slope that morning and with an empty beach it was easy to let Mattie off-leash to run in the sand.  If you have read this blog much in the past, you know that running in soft beach sand it Mattie’s favorite thing.

Look closely (click on the photo above to enlarge) and you can see Mattie running freely on the empty beach and my shadow at the top of the dune taking her photo

By the time I returned and Mo and I had coffee and a bit of breakfast, family members were gathering at Dan and Chere’s campsite with discussions of what might happen during the day.  Our choice was to walk back to the beach once again with one group while another group chose to visit Newport. 

Left to right:  Rachel, Susan, Danny, Marci, and her husband Jon, with Dan and his dog Sophie on the low far right in the distance.

Jon, Sue, Mo, Sophie, and Brother Dan

The wind was blowing and the temps were quite chilly, but the dogs and kids didn’t mind in the least.  I discovered that it was much warmer sitting in the sand and I realized that I could actually enjoy sitting at the beach rather than walking along the shore for miles and miles.  Learning to sit and enjoy and be quiet rather than having to be on the move all the time is quite a lesson for me.  I had to have help getting up, but it was worth it to just relax and enjoy with Mo’s nieces, Susan, Rachel, and Marci, and watching the younger kids play.

Rachel, Susan, and Marci

The afternoon slid by with a bit of reading and napping for Mo and I before we walked across the campground road from our place to Dan’s place.  Most of the family gathered for a meal with some folks bringing their own food in addition to the spaghetti that Chere provided. 

Mo’s niece Juli and her husband Hallie on the right, with another niece Angi in the blue hat.  Angie’s daughter Ashli and her beau Evan facing the camera.

We enjoyed watching Dan and Jon teach Mo’s great-nephews, Danny and David, how to chop wood and build a fire.  We didn’t last long that evening thanks to the chill but the fire was nice.

Mo with her great nephew, Susan’s youngest son, David

The next morning again dawned bright and sunny with no fog in sight.  That is rather unusual for the Oregon Coast in summer where a chilly marine layer often hangs over the beaches. The plan for the day featured some kayak time on Beaver Creek, a wildlife area where we have kayaked in the past when visiting South Beach.

We offered our kayaks to Susan and Danny , and Dan took the younger David on his inflatable kayak.  The group only had about 90 minutes on the water because it was important for them to get back to camp in time for the next exciting activity. 

Mo’s nieces Juli and Susan trying to get David into his wetsuit.  Right: David, Kalli, and Danny

Kalli,  (Mo’s great-niece), had arranged to rent skip boards and wet suits for ocean play.  The best entertainment of the day was watching the kids try to get the wet suits on and the biggest laugh of the trip was the moment when Danny suddenly realized that his wetsuit had a space for boobs.  He and Kalli had somehow managed to put on each other’s suits.

We all walked to the beach once again to watch the kids play.  This time however, I chose to remain high on the dunes and watch from a distance.  My rubber IBM legs were complaining a bit with all the walking I had been doing and deep, soft sand isn’t easy even when everything is working properly.

After a wonderful afternoon watching the kids play in the waves we meandered back home to relax a bit before supper.  Several of us thought it would be nice to get everyone together, so made a plan to meet at 5 at Dan and Chere’s place.  With different folks arriving at different times we did finally manage to have some time with the entire family together for a meal and a campfire.  Dan brought out an antique corn popper that Mo had given him years ago and the boys were delighted to try some real campfire popcorn, not something out of a microwave.

Different groups managed to enjoy some of the other sights along the coast, with side trips made by some to the Newport Aquarium, the Tillamook Cheese Factory, Depot Bay, and portside shopping in Newport.  Mo and I skipped the excursions since we have spent lots of time seeing the Oregon Coast.

Our last full day at the beach dawned foggy and cool. Once again the plan was to spend time on Beaver Creek with the kayaks. We left camp around 11, with the tides turning around noon.  It is helpful to go with the tides in the coastal waterways so that you aren’t fighting the tide coming out in addition to the natural current.

Dan took Kalli in his kayak and the four of us paddled about 3.5 miles up Beaver Creek toward the end of the wildlife area.  Even with the overcast, it was a beautiful morning with very little wind to trouble us on the trip back down the river toward the ocean.  We saw two eagles in the same area where yesterday’s group had seen them in the firs near the creek.  We also saw otters, and many ducks.

Once again I had an opportunity to exit my kayak without much difficulty in knee deep water at an easy launch without any current to fight and a smooth bottom.  Every year at the beginning of the kayak season I worry, and yet so far so good and I am grateful.

The rest of the day was quiet, with a walk to the beach and a quiet afternoon in camp. Some of the family played horseshoes and some folks gathered at Dan and Chere’s place with others at Mo’s niece Juli’s yurt.  Mo and I  gave up on visiting and hung out at home watching one of our TV series on Netflix cast on to the MoHo TV.  It is wonderful to have the opportunity to spend time with family, but all the visiting, talking, and fun times wore us out.

The evening rain that was predicted never showed up, but the next morning Mo and I were still happy that we had packed up the outside rug and chairs the night before.  Breakfast was easy, and we spent a bit of time visiting with everyone before each group began the process of packing up and heading out.  The skies were gray with threatening rain that never materialized as we hooked up the Tracker and headed south on Highway 101 toward Florence.

Many years ago I discovered a wonderful quilt shop in Florence, Joy of Quilting.  Sadly, it was sold and I thought the owners went out of business.  Just recently on a Facebook quilt group I heard that they had opened a new store in Florence down in the old port area where the cute shops are located.  We arrived in Newport right at 11 when the shop opened and I delighted in the new shop.  It wasn’t as extensive as the old store was but they still had beautiful floral quilt fabrics that are sometimes hard to find elsewhere.

The drive home from Florence was easy.  We enjoyed the brilliant clear skies along the route beside the Umpqua River, savoring the 80 degree temperatures and the lack of smoke or haze.  It wasn’t until we gassed up the rig at Seven Feathers on I-5 that hints of the smoky conditions south of the Umpqua Divide appeared.  By the time we reached Sexton Mountain Pass north of Grants Pass it was apparent that we were returning from our cool, smoke-free, idyllic time on the coast the the heat and smoke that has been plaguing our part of Oregon for so many days. 

It was nearly 100 degrees when we arrived at home, and Mo and I for once decided that we didn’t need to empty the MoHo completely right away.  We got out the food and our night bags and escaped into the blessedly cool house.

That was ten days ago, and I have no idea how time has passed so quickly.  I have been completing the binding on the king sized quilt I made for daughter Deanna.  I also was under a deadline to complete a small lap quilt for daughter Melody’s birthday on the 12th.  Sadly, I didn’t make it in time, so her birthday present will be a bit late.  Lucky for me, she had somewhere to go for her long 4 day birthday weekend so a late present isn’t quite as awful as it could have been.

The rest of the time we have been managing the well, hand watering mornings when the cistern is full, and scheduling laundry loads between weekly shrub waterings.  As I write, at this very moment, a slight breeze is beginning to blow some of the smoke from our valley. I just stepped outside and I can see the peak Mo and I lovingly call “Pointy Mountain”.  I haven’t seen that peak in at least two weeks.  It is a good sign that maybe we get a bit of relief from the smoke and heat. 

It is easy to get down in the dumps with the heat and smoke.  Sometimes Facebook does good things, even though I usually just scroll past all the memes.  Recently a note came up from my youngest daughter, asking what you do that makes you want to get up in the morning, that feeds your soul each day.  I was especially shaky the morning that message showed up, and I had to think about it a bit.  But each day since I have paid more attention to the things that bring me delight, a reason to get up.

One of them is watching Mattie wake up.  Every single morning she sleeps till 8, and when we let her out of her crate she does big long stretches on the rug before tearing down the hallway to spin around in front of the back door.  I love the rat a tat tat of her paws on the hardwood, and am glad it doesn’t damage the wood! She does little doggie dances waiting for us to catch up and let her out.  She then races around the property for a few minutes, doing her business as far away as possible along the fenceline, and then races back up the stairs. 

She waits till we tell her she can come in, races past the kitchen island, does a two circle dance on the Turkish rug before racing down the hallway away for her breakfast.  Her tiny portion of breakfast finished, she races to the rug again for her morning treats, each earned with a trick:  lie down, sit up, roll over.  Next on the agenda is a run to my lap, making sure that I have the appropriate quilt over my legs where she can snuggle.  I can’t tell you have wonderful this little morning routine feels.  Such a lesson in joy that isn’t dependent on a single thing except life itself.


04-20 to 04-24-2021 Another Little Beach Trip

We hadn’t planned on returning to the beach, but when Mo’s brothers said they were gathering in Nehalem for some family time we decided to go.  At this time of year the mountains are still getting snow flurries, the California deserts are getting a bit too warm, and most of the waters we love to kayak are still a bit chilly.  Another trip to the Oregon Coast was added to our calendar for the month of April. 

Ever since we have had the MoHo we try to make sure that we get out at least once a month on some sort of camping adventure.  The only years we didn’t completely succeed was when we were selling our homes and the apartment building in Klamath Falls and Rocky Point and building our present home here in Grants Pass.  It was a bit hard to get away then, especially when our lives seemed to be all about hauling the trailer around with mowers and yard equipment trying to keep all our places in order.  Whew!  So glad we have only one home and yard to manage now.

Even though we had a few warm days here at home, the weather on the coast was predicted to be chilly and possibly rainy.  What is new!?  We planned accordingly, and decided that hauling the kayaks along wasn’t particularly important.  Dan and Don recently purchased new inflatable kayaks and planned to try them out for the first time on the Nehalem River.  Last time we kayaked with them on the Nehalem, Mo and I both decided that exiting our kayaks from the water to the dock was way more work than we wanted to do.  Never again.  From now on kayaking for us will be in warm water with nice easy launches so we can get back out of the boats without a lot of pain.   I discovered last summer that if the water is warm and the launch is reasonable I can get out with a simple roll into the water. Looking forward to more kayak time as the weather warms.

After our days at the beach, with some lovely sunshine interspersed with lots of wind and chilly clouds we were glad we hadn’t bothered to load up the boats.  With only three days to spend with family, kayaking wasn’t a top priority.

Dan had saved a spot for us in Nehalem Bay State Park, in Loop F.  Loops A, B, and C are all reservation only throughout the year, but D, E, and F are first come first serve through April.  It was surprising how full the park was, with A, B, and C completely filled.  Dan and Chere, and Don and Wynn arrived on Monday to get sites for all of us so we had a place to be when we arrived.  By the time we left, most of loops D, E, and F were almost full.

Most of the state parks along the beaches in Oregon are a bit inland, with a trek over various distances of sand dunes to get to the beach.  South Beach, where we often go near Newport, is especially distant with a long sandy slog for at least half a mile to get to the beach.  Here at Nehalem Bay, the slog over the dunes is only a few hundred yards.  Still a bit difficult for old legs and knees, but at least we can get there without having to drive a long distance to an easier access point.

The arrangement was for each family to bring their own main dish but share our evening meals together.  On our first night, Wynn assured us she had plenty of soup for all.  She made a yummy tortellini soup with a rich full tasting clear broth that was a delicious and warm meal for the windy, chilly evening.  It was so windy and cold that Mo and I didn’t even bother to trek the few hundred yards to the beach.  Instead we hunkered down after supper in the warm MoHo to watch a bit of Netflix cast from the phone.  With a great cellular signal and no local TV to speak of, this is a great option for us.  Especially since we are so spoiled with recorded TV that we can barely stand to watch commercials.

The next morning dawned beautifully.  It was Chere’s birthday, but she told Dan that she didn’t mind him spending some time with his new boat as long as she got to pick where we had her birthday dinner.  The guys readied Don’s boat for its first launch while Dan explained why his boat was still at home.  Seemed there was a problem and the company has to replace the boat they sent him. 

We drove the short few miles back to Nehalem and the river launch in the brilliant morning sunshine.  The guys managed to get the boat in the water and to figure out how to get in the rubber boat.  One of the reasons for the inflatables is that Dan and Don think their ladies will have an easier time getting in and out of them than they do with the hardside boats.  I had no desire to even try.  The Saturn is a bit more like a sit on top, with a strong bottom that is rigid.  You can supposedly stand up in one.  Not me!  I’ll stick with my treasured Adirondack until I can no longer figure out a way to exit.  One nice thing about the Saturn inflatable however, is that it is self bailing.  It is actually a sea worthy kayak that can take the waves and when water gets in, it flows out without letting more in.  A nice feature.  On a warm day I would love to launch it on a beach somewhere in some nice easy waves.  Mo thought it might be a good idea to be sure to tether the thing to your body somehow in case it dumped. 

The guys and their wives went back home while Mo and I drove to Manzanita, another nearby town, to visit the beach.  Chere said that is where they often go because the parking area along the beach is right adjacent to the water, without all the dune hiking.  The beach was nice, and there were lots of dogs and people walking about in spite of the windy chilly air.  Even though the sun was brilliant in Nehalem, it was foggy and windy at the ocean.  Mattie did her thing, running wildly in the sand until she finally stopped, panting.  She loves doing that, but I have noticed that she wears out a bit sooner than she used to.  Maybe a bit like her moms.

We drove around Manzanita a bit to explore the small, somewhat upscale town.  Unlike Nehalem, Manzanita has some fancy shops, eateries, art galleries, and a coffee place that fit in perfectly with the vibe of the town.  Signs for Black Lives Matter, organic dark chocolate, hand dyed yarns, and organic candles were scattered throughout the shop.  I stood in line for a really good cappuccino while Mo waited in the car.  Couldn’t resist taking photos of the charming little place.  It reminded me of places we visited in California coastal towns.

By noon we returned to camp to meet with family for the drive to Tillamook, where Chere was excited to visit an area with several food trucks, her choice for an early birthday meal.  When we arrived, however, most of the trucks were closed and the stiff chilly breeze made outside dining less than pleasant.  We decided instead to hunt for an indoor dining venue.  The Pelican Brewery was just across the street, but with limited inside dining, it was more than an hour wait.  Chere suggested returning to Manzanita but Dan was much too hungry to wait another hour for our meal.  We searched around town and finally found a place to park right in front of The Dutch Mill Diner

 Dan and Chere with a pal

Wynn and Don

It was a 50’s diner with juke boxes, lots of 50’s music, and hamburgers and milk shakes.  I think it was a perfect choice for Chere who loves all the 50’s stuff.  Lunch was good too, and Mo and I shared our sandwich and milk shake.  We have been doing that more often lately, a great solution to the huge meals that most restaurants like to serve.

Dan and Chere’s rig with his crabbing boat parked in front. 

Dan loves to go crabbing, but he doesn’t like crab that much.  He had a successful day on Monday, but none of us were in the mood for it for dinner, so instead Dan offered his big beautiful crab to some campground walkers who were thrilled to get it.  They couldn’t believe their luck.

Returning back to camp, we rested a bit before joining the rest of the family at Dan and Chere’s place for a birthday celebration. I made a lemon cake with lemon curd filling and cream cheese frosting back home, packing the parts and waiting until this day to put it all together.  Funny moment was when we realized that the MoHo might not be perfectly level when I couldn’t get the 4 cake layers to stay upright, sliding sideways on the lemon curd filling.  Took a bit of doing, but finally the cake was good enough to take over to Chere’s for the candles and birthday song.  After cake we laughed and visited, skipping the fir since the evening was so chilly.

On Thursday, Mo took another walk on the beautiful Nehalem Beach.  The dune hike wasn’t too much, and we spent a long time out there walking and enjoying the sound of the ocean.  Mattie had her usual wild run, eventually settling down into a nice walk with us.  Mattie is almost 7 years old, and does seem to be slowing a bit in her healthy middle age.

Mo and I played some cards and as evening came we all gathered at Chere and Dan’s camp table for shared supper.  This time we did eat our own food, splitting a hot dog between us, and sharing the mac salad I had brought from home.  Again, I made all the parts at home, but didn’t build the salad until that afternoon.  It is still fresh and homemade, but much easier than taking time during a camping day to chop stuff, and boiling macaroni and eggs.  We circled around the lovely campfire for a time before calling it a night.  Once again, with the chill and our full tummies I didn’t bother to bring out the marshmallows.

When we originally planned this trip, we though it would be fun to travel east from Nehalem toward Silver Falls State Park to visit the waterfalls and maybe check out the Oregon Gardens near Silverton.  I tried to get reservations at Silver Falls, but not surprisingly, the park was completely full.  There are 12 first come first served sites in the park and we thought we might take a chance to see if we could get one.  Our backup plan was to attempt to get a space at the Silver Spur RV Park, a decent enough place near Silverton where we have stayed in the past.

With hard rain predicted for the rest of the weekend at Silverton, and no sure place to stay, we had second thoughts about driving inland.  There are very few ways to get across the coastal mountains between the Willamette Valley and the Oregon Coast that don’t involve curvy, narrow roads.  We decided that if we had to drive a curvy narrow road in the rain we might as well take the coast route home.  Somehow once we had decided to do that I felt much better.  We could check for possible open sites at any of the beachside state parks that dot the coast route all the way to Brookings.

Beachside State Park with no dunes between the campground and the beach

As expected, it was raining hard when we got on the road Friday morning, but as always, rain or shine, the Oregon Coast is incredibly beautiful.  Driving south toward Newport and Florence I realized once again that the section of the coast between Newport and Florence is my favorite.  Highway 101 in this section is curvy, perched high above the ocean with views that stretch forever.  It is here that the famous lighthouse at Heceta Head is located, one of the most photographed places in Oregon.  Of course, my only photo was through an open window in the rain this time, but I took it anyway.

Many of the state parks along the route had “campground full” signs posted on the highway, especially the ones near the bigger cities.  South Beach was full, and that is a big park!  It was Friday after all and we knew that getting a spot could be iffy.  Just about half way between South Beach and Florence, is Beachside State Park.  It is smaller and closer than many of the other state parks, and the camp sites are right on the beach, no intervening dunes.  However, the campground is sandwiched tightly between the beach and the highway, without a lot of spaces for rally big rigs.  That and its lack of proximity to a bigger town might have something to do with the fact that there were spaces available on this Friday afternoon.

We settled in and realized that it was barely noon and we had plenty of time to relax.  We walked the beach, played cards, and took a short walk or two around  with Mattie.  It was a quiet time, much different than it might have been if we had tried to go inland.

On Saturday morning we left around 8:30, traveling Highway 42 inland from the coast toward Roseburg.  In my opinion, this is one of the better roads between the coast and I-5.  This time of year everything is greening up beautifully.  I was surprised at how much farther along the springtime green was here than it had been farther north toward Nehalem.  Amazing how much difference a latitude difference of a couple of hundred miles can make from north to south.

I’ll leave you with a photo of the MOST PERFECT marshmallow I have ever roasted.  No dry crackers or chocolate needed. Mo’s campfire at Beachside was a perfect bed of coals for this one.


12-16-2021 Last Day at Bastendorff Beach and a Scary Dog Story

When we woke on Saturday after such a foggy Friday, we were thrilled to once again see brilliant sunshine.  The temperatures had warmed a bit and the winds were quiet.  It was time to drive down to the beach parking area once again for a last walk.

Being a Saturday on a three day weekend, the beach was already filled with people and dogs by the time we arrived around 9.  We had Mattie on a leash, but some people didn’t follow the rules and big and little dogs were running free everywhere.  One dog especially was a problem.

The owner of the dog told us that his dog didn’t like other females, but he didn’t leash her.  She was an older chocolate lab and we avoided them as we walked in a different direction.  We didn’t realize that he and his dog were coming our way until it was too late, and the big brown dog that was off leash came after Mattie.  It was too fast for us to pick her up which we try to do in these situations.  Instead, as the dog was attacking Mattie, I tried to push the lab away with my walking sticks as the owner came over trying to control his dog.  She wasn’t paying any attention to him but finally she backed off.  In the mean time, he started yelling at me saying I had no reason to beat his dog!!  Right!!  Am I supposed to just let my dog get injured?? 

I lost my temper, and yelled at him to get that dog on a leash!  I was so furious and my adrenalin was so high I yelled at him that I would beat him if I had the chance, along with some choice colorful words.  He said, “Yeah right”, but at least he didn’t come after me.  I was ready to light into him physically whether he killed me or not!  Don’t make an old lady with a cane angry.

It took awhile for my adrenalin rush to ease as we continued our walk toward the jetty.  The ocean was wild and the waves were huge and finally that inner shaking settled down as we watched the drama unfolding along the jetty.

People were walking along the edge of the rocks as the waves crashed over the sides of the jetty.  I heard one guy tell another one, “Hey Buddy, don’t be walking on that jetty today”.  Sneaker waves that sweep people away are notorious is this part of the Oregon Coast.

It was a lovely walk and by the time we got back to the car the bad guy with the mean dog was gone.  I was grateful for that since I had no more adrenaline for another confrontation.

We took our time packing up the rig, thinking we had until 2 PM to check out.  I thought it might be nice to get some photos of the rest of the campground in the sunshine.  As I relaxed in the MoHo working on those photos in Lightroom I suddenly saw a photo I had taken of a sign that said “Check-out at Noon”.

Oops!!  It was 11:45.  We had the MoHo packed up, unhooked, slides in and jacks up and Tracker attached in 15 minutes.

Our drive home over the coast range was gorgeous, with brilliant sunshine the entire distance.  We traveled Highway 42 again toward I-5 and then south toward home.  It was lovely driving in good weather and the weekend traffic was very light.  Delightful!  We fueled again at Seven Feathers to beat our Grants Pass prices and pulled into the driveway around 4 PM.  A perfect ending to a very nice getaway.

We enjoyed the beach and the campground was nice, but after our experience with all the people and dogs we decided that limiting our adventures to Oregon State Parks would be a bit safer for all of us.


12-15-2020 through 12-19-2020 Another December Escape

When winter comes, our best option for a short getaway is to head for the coast.  We had barely returned from our Thanksgiving trip when Mo said, “Can we make a plan to go somewhere again before Christmas?”  Ummm….took me an overnight minute but by the next morning I was ready to search Harris Beach for a reserved campsite.  Harris Beach is beautiful, and close.  Just a bit over 2 hours for us from Grants Pass.  I guess that is why you will see more photos and blogs about Harris Beach than just about any other location we have traveled.  So be it.  If you are bored…just move along.

With all the sites being full on our last trip, we didn’t want to take a chance.  Reservations are so easy, and for me personally it is much less stressful to know I have a place to land.  Especially when the weather is stormy I really don’t want to be wandering around hunting for somewhere to by dark.

The weather report for our four days at the ocean was grim.  Wind warnings, gale warnings, high seas and king tide warnings were many.  Still, we have camped at the coast enough to know that in between all these dramatic events the skies can clear unexpectedly and the sun will break through.  We planned accordingly.  I think I packed more outerwear and footwear than I have in a very long time.  Four days, four weeks, if it is cold and variable, I need all those alternatives to being wet.  Glad I did.

As we departed from home around 11, the skies were that gloomy gray dull that I like least of any, and the rain was spotty.  Just enough to be wet and boring, but the trip down the Smith River past the Jedediah Smith redwoods is a familiar one.  I usually like to drive home from the beach since the steep drop-off to the river is on the passenger side in the east bound lane.  Mo was happy driving to the beach that morning.  We switch off as needed, taking turns.  I function better earlier in the day so usually leave later trips to Mo.  We avoid night driving most of the time anyway and especially when traveling in the MoHo.  Lucky for me, Mo is still a great night time driver if need be.

Much of B Loop and part of C Loop are closed for the winter.  We are in A2

We arrived at our site in the A Loop and were delighted to see that most of the row was still empty.  I was relieved to see that unlike our last campsite at Harris Beach, the campfire ring was a decent height.  Mo had loaded up enough wood for four nights of campfires, in spite of the rainy forecast.  After settling in we put on our coats, including Mattie, and braved the inclement but still dry weather to go check out the beach.

It was just a little short walk to the overlook and we managed to walk down the path toward the big rocks before I had to give up.  Steep rocky stuff is out of my range now, especially when wet and slippery. 

Mattie did NOT want to turn around.

The view was great from that spot, and we could see that the beach was almost completely empty.  After walking back to the MoHo we picked up the car and drove down the steep road that leads to the main beach at the park. 

Mattie was in heaven, running wildly the minute there was space for Mo to let her off the leash.  The high tide had brought in some interesting tidbits that someone decided to arrange into a lovely still life that just begged to be photographed. 

Mattie ran and played and climbed rocks, her favorite thing to do other than running wildly in soft sand. 

Back home we settled in with some TV shows cast from the phone and a nice little steak on the BarB as the rain held off a few more hours.  By dark, the rain was coming steadily.  The rain drumming on the roof was as soothing as ever and we slept in much longer than usual the next morning.

We knew that Wednesday, the 16th, was to be the most intense day of the storm and we planned accordingly.  Snuggling in with hot coffee, some news on the TV and cozy sweats we enjoyed the indoor day completely.  I had come fully prepared with all my handmade Christmas cards ready to address and mail.  It was much more fun writing little notes and stuffing the envelopes in the MoHo than it would have been back at home. 

I started making Christmas cards back in the early days of COVID in the late spring.  The most fun is deciding which cards go to which friends.  The worst part of this is that if I make a similar card in the coming years I might not remember who got which ones the last time around.  I guess I need to keep better notes!

It rained all night but the next morning on Thursday the skies had cleared somewhat.  I decided to see if the Brookings Post Office was open and was delighted to find not a single person in the line and a friendly postmaster who checked each of my cards for weight and thickness. 

The skies were clear and beautiful as we piled into the Tracker for the short trip south to Crescent City and our favorite fish and chips restaurant, the Chart RoomWe stood in line with Nickie and Jimmy last September for our outside dining only fish and chips.

It was still outside dining only but the big difference was the weather and the lack of the long line of people waiting to order.  Although the sun was just as brilliant, the air was chilly and we wore coats.  Very few people in line and we had no trouble snagging a nice picnic table with a view.

We decided to check out the beach that we had attempted to visit last September.  At the time, it was too crowded and there was no place to park.  This time there was plenty of parking, but with the high tide coming in quite close there wasn’t much walking room.  We weren’t impressed with this particular beach, actually called Crescent Beach.  The sand is more like dark brown silt and while the surfers are fun to watch, the homeless tents and garbage strewn around was less enjoyable.

After lunch we drove north of town along the coastline to the remote headland trails at Point St. George.  I have written about the amazing historical lighthouse that is just barely visible from this point in a previous story here. There were a few people parked but only a few hikers walking along the beach.  The beach was gorgeous, wide open and clean with big breakers roaring from the high tide to keep us company.

Home again to a lovely evening with the rain holding out long enough that Mo built us a great campfire to enjoy before retreating to the cozy MoHo. As usual, Mattie had to have her own camp chair and blanket for fire time.

Most of the next day was sunny and beautiful with enough time to walk the beaches once again.  We were surprised at how the temperatures moderated after the rain and the winds were almost non existent.  It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed every minute of it.


Mattie found many mini mountains to climb

For our last night in camp Mo once again built a beautiful campfire and we opened a bottle of champagne to enjoy by the fire and to drink with our truly delicious fish and chips.  It is great when a good dinner is enough to last for two great meals.  I am pretty sure that the Chart Room fish and chips at 14.95 each is one of the tastiest and best deals ever.























Saturday morning dawned gray and foggy once again and we took our time getting ready to leave. Even though we have an RV dump station at home, it is a bit easier to dump right there at Harris Beach.  It is a good dump with a perfect angle for a complete clean dump.  RVr’s will know exactly what I mean.  It is also easy to get to and rarely busy.  It’s the little things that matter when out traveling!

The trip home was uneventful, except for one minor detail.  In Kerby, about 25 miles west of Grants Pass, there is a fair style food booth with hot dogs, hamburgers, curly fries and yes, corn dogs!  Best corn dog I ever ate was at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival in 2019.  Mo said, “Hey, want a corn dog ?”  I didn’t exactly slam on the brakes in the middle of the highway, but I did find a way to turn around and get back there.  Yup…Albuquerque quality corn dog.  Once every year or so isn’t that bad for some truly delicious junk food.  Then again, I might have to be sure to remember that place is there on our next trip to the beach!

11-24 to 11-27-2020 Bandon Thanksgiving and a night at Harris Beach

Don’t forget that you can click on any photo if you wish to see if full resolution in my gallery

Site A47 had more privacy than we
expected

Between the time we made our reservation and our trip to the coast, COVID numbers began rising in Oregon and the governor once again shut down restaurants for indoor dining.  One of the reasons we chose Bandon over Brookings for this trip was to have an opportunity to spend some time in the little shops and restaurants that make Bandon so charming.  The weather forecast was for rain most of the week, so we wanted to have other things to do than walk the beach.

We traveled north via I-5 toward Roseburg and turned west toward the coast via Highway 42.  However, instead of following the Google Girl directions to stay on Highway 42 all the way to HWY 101 and then back south, we thought the quicker route along 42 S made more sense.  In hindsight, Google Girl sometimes gets it right and we don’t.  I spent most of the time hanging on while Mo navigated the very narrow, very winding road toward Bandon.  It was not fun for me, but I think it might have been for her.  She used to drive a TR7 among other sports cars.

Don’t try this route in a motorhome

It rained a bit along the way, but the afternoon was dry enough that we had time to enjoy a walk along the beach after we settled into our site.

The campground is about a mile from easy beach access at the Coquille River Lighthouse


We were a bit disappointed in the condition of the lighthouse

Adjacent to the town of Bandon, the Coquille River empties into the Pacific Ocean. The river extends inland a great distance and was a natural link to the virgin stands of timber in the area, but the bar at the mouth of the river, formed by the interaction of the river and ocean, was a major obstacle for ships entering the river. At times, only a few feet of water would cover the bar, but vessels still attempted to navigate the river in hopes of reaping the rewards that lay upstream. In 1880, Congress passed a bill funding the construction of a jetty on the south side of the river’s entrance that created a deep channel, resulting in a rapid rise in the number of ships entering the river.

A lighthouse at the entrance to Coquille River was the next logical step for improving navigation. Congress appropriated $50,000 for the project on March 3, 1891, but it would be four years before land was purchased, plans were solidified, and the construction crew was assembled.

In 1939, the Coast Guard assumed responsibility for Coquille River Lighthouse and decided it was no longer needed. An automated beacon was placed at the end of the south jetty, the dwelling was disassembled, and the lighthouse was abandoned. The lighthouse stood neglected for twenty-four years, until Bullards Beach State Park was created on the north side of the river. The grounds of the original eleven-acre light station were included in the park, and the park assumed responsibility for the lighthouse.

Over the years there have been several attempts at restoration, since park funding isn’t sufficient to maintain the old lighthouse.  In normal years, the lighthouse tower is open for visitation from May through September, however at the moment the old lighthouse looked quite sad.

The air smelled so incredibly fresh, and the surf was loud enough that we could hear it in camp across the dunes at least half a mile from the beach where we were camped. 

There were high tide and surf warnings posted for the next couple of days so one evening we drove through town in the dark to the south jetty where we could watch the huge noisy waves breaking over the jetty rocks.  Lots of warnings for “sneaker waves” kept me alert and when a big one came roaring in I immediately jumped back into the car.

It rained off and on that first night and the next morning dawned cloudy and wet. We settled into the MoHo for a cozy morning before driving the a mile south to Bandon to explore the small town.  The rain came and went all day, usually with a downpour at just the moment we would head for the car after visiting a shop.  About half the shops in town were open, with masks and social distancing, and we especially enjoyed the beautiful Second Street Gallery, Winter River Bookstore, and the Coastal Mist Chocolate Boutique, where we had two tiny cups of creamy drinking chocolate, to go of course. 

This photo is from last year when there was still inside service

The rain poured down as we ran to the car with our little cups of chocolate. I also purchased my first ever macaron (not a macaroon).  I wasn’t impressed, although I do think that maybe the high humidity at the ocean makes it hard to make a light crispy meringue cookie. Who knows.  I don’t have to try again.

We then meandered around the famous Cranberry Sweets.  The store has been in Bandon for more than 50 years and specializes in all sorts of cranberry confections.  I learned that more cranberries are grown around Bandon than anywhere else in the west. Although Bandon is referred to as “The Cranberry Capitol of the World”, more research informed me that most cranberries come from Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Five states grow almost all of the country’s supply of cranberries with Wisconsin producing more than half of all cranberries in the US.  Massachusetts harvests another third, and New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington produce most of the rest.  So much for “Cranberry Capitol”.

Still, the shop was charming and old fashioned, with lots of candies and confections behind the counters.  The hostess told me that they usually had lots of samples around the shop but due to COVID we had to settle for a little bag of free stuff. 

I decided it was time to get some fish and chips to go and tried out Tony’s Crab Shack where I was politely told that Tony didn’t fry ANYTHING, and perhaps I might like to try to fish tacos. Made with fresh caught crab and halibut, they were delicious.  Everything in town was take-out only, with all the restaurants closed for inside seating. We returned home in the pouring rain and it continued to rain all night long.  Funny how wonderful rain on the roof of a motorhome can sound, especially when accompanied by the roar of the ocean.  Great for a good night’s sleep!

The next morning was Thanksgiving, and we woke to beautiful clear skies.  I had precooked much of our dinner, and simply had to reheat the turkey, bake the sweet potato, mash the potatoes, cook a pot of Stove-Top stuffing, and open a jar of gravy.  It wasn’t gourmet, but was completely and totally delicious for the two of us and our socially distanced Thanksgiving dinner.

On our first day in camp I discovered the tsunami evacuation trail.  The path is narrow with signs leading to an area high on a heavily timbered hill behind the campground where people are instructed to assemble if the tsunami warning horns go off.  It would do no good to attempt to drive out of the campground in that situation since most of the highway is in the tsunami zone.

It was a lovely little trail, with moist moss, and lots of mushrooms in the duff under the trees. 

On this beautiful morning it was a perfect time to share the trail with Mo.  Mattie loved the trail and we enjoyed walking in a place where there were no dogs or people around.  Mattie gets so excited when she sees other dogs and always wants to “play”.  That entails lots of energy and training time, trying to get her to sit and calm down.  Walking around the campground can be challenging sometimes when all I want is a nice simple walk.  The trail was perfect for that.

It was surprising how full the campground was on this holiday weekend.  By the time Thursday rolled around, all sites were full and everyone seemed to be having a great time celebrating.  We even saw an outdoor TV broadcasting a football game. 

After our early afternoon dinner we went for another great beach walk, and were amazed that the weather was so perfect.  There was very little wind and the temps must have been in the 50’s.  Beautiful day. 

Home again to the MoHo where after many years of hearing about it, I actually figured out how to cast the phone to the TV with the included app on my Samsung phone.  We turned on Netflix on the phone, and with our unlimited Verizon plan we were able to watch movies and even live television on the big TV with the right apps.  My daughter Deanna told me about this capability a long time ago, but I never managed to figure it out until this trip. On a chilly evening having some TV was great entertainment.  The Verizon signal in the park was perfectly adequate to stream a movie.

Bullard’s Beach State Park has some beautiful picnic areas

On Friday morning we took our time with a lazy breakfast, a little bit of news, and some reading time before packing up.  Checkout time wasn’t until 1PM, and we only had a little over two hours to travel along the coast south toward Brookings and Harris Beach State Park.  I didn’t make a reservation for Harris Beach, thinking that winter on the coast would be open without a problem.  We planned to arrive around 2 in plenty of time to snag an open site before evening.  Things have changed in the camping world!  When we arrived the park was completely full except for one site, the only ADA site in the park, number 37 in the B loop.

I must say I was grateful for once to have my little blue disability card to hang from our windshield.  We settled in to enjoy our last evening on the beach and Mo built a nice big campfire.  Only problem with the campfire is that the ADA site has a very tall metal fire ring, I suppose so that it is safer.  It took a very long time to get that metal warm and I spent campfire time in LOTS of clothes and blankets trying to warm up.

One of our favorite holiday treats are the wonderful lights at Azalea Park in Brookings.  We knew that this year the big light show wasn’t happening, but the city of Brookings was attempting to do something at least and made arrangements for businesses that usually displayed their lights at Azalea Park to put lights up on both sides of Highway 101 and down into Harbor.  We hopped into the Tracker at dusk to go check out the show.  I must say that it was a bit of a bust.  There were a few nice lights near Fred Meyer, but the rest of them were scattered along the road with lots of space in between displays.  Oh well, at least they tried.  We heard the next morning that someone had stolen one of the big displays on the very first night of the show, the 4 piece Dragon.  So sad.  Maybe that is why so many businesses chose not to display their lights in the unprotected lots along the highway.  Eventually the dragon was recovered.

Here is a photo of the dragon from the park show last year

The next day we didn’t have to check out until 1PM and with no rush to get back home we enjoyed every last minute of park time.  I took Mattie around the campground, and walked out toward the overlook that has such a beautiful view of Harris Beach.  I felt no need to climb down to the water. 

There were so many people on the beach I was amazed.  More people and dogs running around on Harris Beach than we have ever seen even in summer.  I guess as many people have said, RVing is the great COVID escape and everyone and their dog or dogs is on the road and filling up the campgrounds.

We left in brilliant sunshine, driving as far as Cave Junction about 30 miles west of Grants Pass before we encountered the fog.  Grants Pass is often foggy in winter, sometimes without any lifting in the afternoon.  This was one of those days.  I always say, if we must have fog, we might as well have it at the beach.  It was nice to get home to our cozy house, the steamy hot tub, and TV without having to figure out the casting thing.  It was a great four days of ocean time, and a perfect way to handle a quiet Thanksgiving for just the two of us.