09-14-2020 A Wheel of Fortune Birthday

As I write this morning, the air is cooler, insulated from the September sun by the thick smoke that surrounds us and extends over much of the United States. I am grateful for every little bit of relief, no matter how small

After Jimmy and Nickie left for Farewell Bend and Crater Lake, we settled in to what seemed to be a gorgeous day.  Clear skies with winds still over 20 mph didn’t hamper our work on the property raking up debris from the huge windstorm from the previous night. 

What we didn’t realize on that Tuesday was that the huge windstorm had triggered huge fires that were moving at warp speed toward communities all over the state of Oregon.

I monitored the fires and made repeated efforts to contact Nickie to no avail.  We settled in and enjoyed the gorgeous skies here in Grants Pass for another day.

Melody and Robert’s home in Brownsville

On Wednesday morning messages were flying back and forth between me and my two daughters.  Melody, youngest, was in Brownsville north of Eugene with what is now called the Holiday Farm fire racing toward her community. 

We had some good meals while the kids were here

Moments later after extended conversations with Deborah, oldest daughter, where she insisted she would be fine, I received a terse message saying, “We have been evacuated, I am coming there.”  Shortly after Deborah arrived, I got a message from Melody saying that she and her family were evacuating as well.  Their home wasn’t in an evacuation area just yet, but the speed of the fires frightened her and she needed to leave.

Melody has been working from home since COVID began and continued to do so from here

Before all this started, Mo and I had made reservations with Maryruth and Gerald to have a very special dinner at Morrison’s River Lodge on the Rogue River.  The young chef is new and his reputation was stellar. 

We thought a beautiful dinner outdoors on a lovely deck overlooking the Rogue was just what we all needed to take our minds off what was just beginning to be a week from hell in Oregon.

We added Deborah to the reservation and Maryruth’s daughter was also visiting from California, escaping her fires and smoke near Sacramento. 

Deborah and Cathy are just 3 days apart in age, and have known each other since they were 8 months old, when Maryruth and I first met.

It was a wonderful evening, with absolutely stellar food presented beautifully. 

In addition to the most tender brisket I have ever eaten, (sorry Janna), we had salads and veggies from the on site garden, and iconic Oregon blackberry creme brulee for dessert. 

Excellent Oregon Pinot Noir and a local rose accompanied the lovely meal.  What a treat! 

The air remained crystal clear until just a few minutes before our departure for the river and by the time we settled down for dinner the skies were murky and the sun was orange.  It was only the beginning.

The next few days are a blur in my mind, with Melody and Robert keeping their cats company in the closed garage since we didn’t want to lose them in a strange house.  Deborah and Melody spent much time attempting to keep track of the changing evacuation zones near her house, and trying to see where the fires were headed. 

Mattie loves having company and adores Robert

The smoke was thick every single day, and as we watched the small towns of Phoenix and Talent between Medford and Ashland were decimated.  The destruction is horrendous, and so far we have no clear numbers as to homes lost or casualties, which is also true for the rest of Oregon.  Law enforcement keeps saying they want real numbers before they say how many lives have been lost.

On Friday, Deborah decided to return home, and using her identification was able to get through the evacuation barriers to her home, which was fine.  Today the fire is growing in the opposite direction and we are all fairly certain she will be OK, except for the smoke which is awful no matter where you go.

By Sunday morning Robert and Melody felt safe enough to return home as well.  The fires are still burning but the horrendous winds which fueled the initial onslaught of destruction have dissipated.  Those winds were to use Nickie’s least favorite word, unprecedented.  Our weather comes from the coast to the west fairly consistently until an occasional winter storm will bring and east or a north wind.  This time 75 mph winds from the east were hot and dry, very unusual for this time of year on the west side of the Cascades where most of the fires are now burning.  Unprecedented.

Baking a birthday cake for my day

It is now Tuesday.  The news is ongoing, but the fast moving fires have so far slowed a bit, communities are beginning to assess the damage and everyone is basically in a holding pattern.  COVID receded to simple background noise during the worst of the onslaught, except for the difficulty encountered with sheltering people who were evacuated.  Once again instead of checking fire and smoke maps, I am checking the website that tracks COVID numbers.  We have a total of a bit more than 29,000 confirmed cases in Oregon and the deaths in the state are fairly consistent at 3 to 8 deaths per week.  Here in Josephine county we have had a total of 178 confirmed cased and only 2 deaths since all this began back in March.  I am grateful to live in Oregon.

All our travel and camping plans for the rest of the month have been cancelled.  Nowhere to go with all the forests and campgrounds closed and the skies all smoked in.  We are still hoping to travel north on the first of October to visit family in Northern Washington.

A long time ago I delved deeply into the study of the Tarot, not as a fortune telling tool, but as a psychological study of archetypal images and how we can be affected by them.  One of those great timeless archetypes is represented by a card called “The Wheel of Fortune”. 

Now cheapie kinds of fortune tellers will say if you get this card you might win the lottery, but when one goes a bit deeper into the psyche of the image it tells a completely different story.  I mention this because based on my birthday (today), I am in a Wheel of Fortune year.  Fun.  What it really means is that whether for good or bad you can expect your fortunes to change and your goal is to figure out how to stay centered and balanced in the midst of the wild ride.

I can’t think of a better way to describe the year that almost everyone has experienced, beginning for me with the death of my son.  My meditation for this 75th birthday is to focus on the center of that wheel and to do my very best to remain balanced as our fortunes spin and turn from good to bad to  terrifying. 

Oregon Fires

Photo Credits to the Douglas Forest Protective Association from their (Facebook Page Link
Douglas Complex fire
Douglas Fire 2

Time for a little bit of update now that we are back home in Rocky Point.  We planned a few days in Grants Pass, and as luck would have it, we arrived the morning after more than 3,000 lightning strikes from a summer storm ignited at least 54 fires on private and BLM lands in Southern Oregon.  Living in the west as we do, keeping track of the fire situation is part of the routine, and we aren’t surprised to see smoke rising from one direction or another.  Some years are worse than others.  The year I moved to Klamath Falls in 2002, the Biscuit Fire burned more than 500,000 acres in the Siskiyou National Forest and the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.  Much controversy continues to this day about whether or not to allow salvage logging in these wild areas.
southern oregon firesIMG_0790 Several times in the last few years we have cancelled an August camping trip to one place or another due to smoke, and some of you may remember our travels last summer in the upper West that were marred by smoke from huge fires in Idaho and Montana.  There are many good resources to help keep track of fires and smoke, the best of which is found at the Incident Information website, http://www.inciweb.org.  This year, however, it was several days before the webmasters of this amazing site were able to keep up to date with all the rapidly changing information for the Douglas Complex fires. Another very helpful website related to fire and smoke is on Weather Underground, where the WunderMap for an area has a layer for active fires that shows the current fire situation and the extent of smoke cover. 
Actually, by the time we reached the pass last Saturday morning we didn’t need a website to know that smoke was probably going to be an issue for the entire time we planned to work at the cottage.  Once these fires start, it takes some serious weather to calm them down, and our rains don’t usually show up until October.  In the mean time, we get thunderstorms, with or without dry lightning, and very little real moisture.  Sometimes a marine system will come in and cause a shift and the smoke clears a bit, but it is usually around one way or another after a fire like this gets under way.
IMG_0769 Our main goal for the trip was to make sure we got the wood split from the trees we took down last month before it got too dry.  Mo loaded up the splitter in the big trailer and hooked it up to the truck for the trip.  We took the MoHo since daughter Deb is now living in the little cottage (one bedroom only) and we didn’t want to completely invade her space. 
IMG_0770 It turned out to be an incredibly productive trip, in spite of the heavy smoke.  We got all the wood split, with close to a cord of oak and about 3/4 cord of madrone, probably the best firewood around in Oregon.  The big rounds were heavy, but with the three of us working, (Mo does the splitting part) we managed to get it all done on the first day we were there.  We have a good ten cords stored here at home already, so plan to let the hardwood dry at the cottage before bringing it back here in a year or so.  We heat with wood in Rocky Point, but the cottage has a gas heater that works just fine.  No fireplace.
We had a great time with Deb, and she had a chance to show her strength and skill at demolition, tearing out a lot of the old wood and shelves and yukky “stuff” that was in the old bunkhouse.  We will eventually tear down the bunkhouse add-ons, but the main part of the building will be saved for Mo’s workshop.  Mo worked a lot on the sink plumbing again, and on building the wall and new cupboard that separates the bath and kitchen.  Finally we don’t have to hang a quilt for bathroom privacy!  Of course, her projects are not made any easier by the fact that nothing is even close to plumb in the little cottage and the reclaimed wood she is using is rarely square.  Lots of measuring and sawing involved.
IMG_0781P1010042 Deb and I managed to get a full load of metal for the recyclers and made almost enough money to pay for the full load that we took to the dump the next morning.  I have no idea how many dump loads we have hauled out of that place, but sooner or later we will get it all cleaned up.   In the midst of all the work, we cooked some good meals and enjoyed sitting at the table in the old fashioned kitchen in front of the windows.  Deb and I took time to play some rousing games of Hand and Foot, my favorite!  I taught her how, but she is fast catching up to me.  Dang! 
We also took an evening to go see “The Lone Ranger”.  Mo didn’t want to go, so we had a mom and daughter night with popcorn and one of the most entertaining movie experiences I have had in a long time.  There were some great sight gags, gorgeous photography of very familiar places I have traveled, including the exact spot where I built a campfire in Valley of the Gods back in 2004.  We both love Johnny Depp and his performance was great.  I am really glad that I didn’t let some of the negative things I have heard about the movie keep me from at least giving it a try.
We came home to Rocky Point to discover smoky skies on this side of the Cascade crest as well, and our first night back included another big thunderstorm that ignited a few more fires on this side of the mountain.  One bolt hit right on top of us, and I had an especially good view of it through the skylights!  Do you suppose that lightning could come in through those roof windows??
We live in the forest.  Fire happens here.  It could happen to us.  This part of Rocky Point hasn’t burned in more than 100 years.  I hope I don’t ever have to live through what so many have endured in the last few years.  I read about Nan trying to help her daughter save her cabin near Idyllwild, and Gaelyn returning home to her lot in Arizona with sadness.  But for the grace of God, we could be there as well.  I am thankful every single day.

3200 miles and It’s a Wrap

smoke from the 250K acre fires burning south in Oregon and Nevada I am sitting in the office at home in Rocky Point watching the midges, mosquitoes, and moths slapping against the dark windows.  We have been home for several days now and I am still not all caught up.  It is hot here, in the mid 90’s today, and smoky.  The Barry Point Fire near Lakeview and the Holloway Fire farther east in Oregon and Nevada have been raging since the 6th of August.

The heat is incredibly hard on the firefighters, with exhaustion setting in for the crews.  I have been following along on Inciweb in addition to a nice blog and Facebook posts that someone from the Barry Fire is doing.

Barry and Holloway fires The heat is good for the tomatoes, though, and the vines are getting heavy with nice little green things that hopefully will turn red in the next two weeks or so, at least maybe before the Labor Day frost.  The heat also is bringing out the frogs and every time I lift the top of the hot tub a little frog or two jumps out.  So far no floaters at least.

Mo came into the office today smiling at me saying, “What’s the temperature at the beach right now?” Brother Dan and his wife Chere are over there and with temperatures here in the high 90’s and smoky skies ever since we got home, those cool, foggy days on the coast sound pretty nice.

Seems as though the beach is calling Mo and she brought the motorhome back up the driveway this evening.  I have been working this week in addition to catching up on gardening chores and got the MoHo all spic and span on the inside and Mo shined her up on the outside.  Finally finished that job yesterday…and now it’s time to load up again?  But wait…I still haven’t written about half of the last trip we were on!  Still, I have been missing the ocean too.  Guess we will be pulling out of the driveway tomorrow morning early, sans Tracker.  This time we are just going to hang at the beach, and Mo put the bikes directly on the back of the MoHo so we can enjoy those great bike trails around the South Beach State Park near Newport, Oregon.

route map Colorado 2012Our Colorado Reunion Trip was a total of 3,212 miles, through Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, SOUTH DAKOTA, back into Wyoming, Idaho, and back home to Oregon.  Yes, we finally got to put that dang South Dakota sticker on the decal on the back of the MoHo. I think people like to see the numbers, so here they are: 21 Days:  fuel including about 500 extra miles of Tracker travel $1747.32, camping $280.12. We spent over 300 in groceries and 145 eating out which is unusual for us.  Must have been all that family time and fun cookouts.

time to fill in the South Dakota sticker! I managed to process most of the photos while we were traveling, and spent a couple of days after work here at home cleaning them up and getting them uploaded to Picasa.  That Picasa/Google thing makes me just crazy.  I hate that when I share photos directly from Picasa now, even using the actual copy/paste of the URL, when folks go look at them, they still get the Google thing.  Yeah, sure, Google is nice enough, but the photos are so dang BIG and you can’t see nice little thumbnails the way I can on Picasa Web Albums directly.  Ah well, progress I guess.  Like that crazy looking Windows 8 thing that Rick keeps talking about.

our beautiful Wood River Valley with the Casade Crest to the west...all hidden by smokeI last wrote when we were all relaxed in the beautiful Shoshone National Forest at Falls Campground in Wyoming.  I haven’t been that relaxed since, and our trip home was a blur of smoky highways and interstates, punctuated by the magnificent Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho, and finished off with the long trek home through the deserts of Eastern Oregon.  Even with the bronzy skies and red setting sun it was great to be home.  The house was clean and cool and roomy, and my bed even more so. 

Jeremy in position as we head west over the Bighorns Jeremy wandered around meowing at all the space, wondering where we went if we left the room.  He loves the motorhome because we are close by and it takes him awhile to adjust to all the rooms in the house where he can’t keep track of his people. Aren’t cats supposed to be independent?  Not this one!  Ever since he was a bottle fed baby of three weeks old he has wanted to be as close to me as he can, most of the time. Now, of course, Mo’s lap is as good or better than mine.  He adores her, even though she has only been around the last ten years or so.  Ha!

Roger and Nancy behind usDriving Highway 95 northeast of the Steens Yes, yes, I will write about the rest of our journey, but it will be predated for the actual dates that we were doing whatever we were doing, and as a result probably won’t show up in the blog rolls.  You will have to be a truly dedicated reader to find the posts when they go up.  Ha! I have the list…Bear Lake Regional Park, Carhenge (you won’t believe this one!), Wounded Knee, The Battlefield at Little Bighorn, the magical, mythical Bighorn Mountains and the Hot Springs at Thermopolis, the Niagara of the West at Twin Falls, and the sweetest little desert hot spring around in the middle of nowhere in Oregon.  Stay tuned…and to the people who read this blog and follow along and make comments…thank you.  For being patient with me and for still reading.