Finally!

Family - me and my children When I first thought about retiring, I knew that traveling would be one of my priorities.  Years ago, traveling with my kids meant making a big bed in the back of the Volkswagen van and driving all night while they slept, completely unrestrained of course. Later it involved car camping trips and sleeping in tents and sleeping bags on the ground.  We managed a trip to Disneyland once, a bit of cross country car camping as migrant workers in the 70’s, and once my life settled down a bit I did manage to take a kid or two to San Francisco for a big city visit.  We lived in rural Idaho at the time, and “the city” was an exciting destination.

As years passed and I managed to grow from eking out a meager living as a waitress to actually making a real living as a soil scientist, my travel time grew as well.  However, by then, my kids were all grown and in the process of eking out their own modest livings and raising their kids.  We managed a few local family reunions here and there, and in 2006 when Melody got married, we shared a family cruise to the Mexican Riviera. 

Melody bw 07My big goal was to manage at least one “big” trip for each of my children.  I know that some folks do  the big thing with the entire family, paying airfare and hotel for offspring and their spouses and kids and extended families.  I don’t think I could even manage a second mortgage for that much money, so my dreams were a bit more modest.  No spouses, no kids, just me and one child at a time going to the place of their choice, almost anywhere in the world that they would choose to go.  Well, Australia was out since that was just beyond affordable to me, but most other destinations were up for grabs.

Melody bw 08Almost two years ago my oldest daughter claimed her trip and we shared a charter Legendary Blues Cruise to the southern Caribbean. Which brings me to today.  My youngest daughter was the one who chose to go next and eighteen months ago I paid for this trip to Eastern Europe, and Melody and I have been planning and dreaming about it ever since.  It is Melody’s first trip off the continent.  It is mother/daughter time at its best, with no distractions of friends, spouses, children, responsibilities.  To say we are excited is an understatement. 

My first trip to Europe was with Mo, a seasoned traveler who has been to more than 36 countries.  I was as giddy and excited on that trip as I expect Melody will be on this one.  I have traveled with Mo on several cruises, to Thailand, to Turkey, to Malta, across the US and Canada, and as tough and smart as I think I am, I know how much I depend on Mo’s travel skills and take-charge abilities.  I realize that on this trip I will be the experienced one.  I won’t have Mo to fall back on…Melody will expect to be able to fall back on me.  After all, I am ‘Mom”.  I managed a complex life for nearly 60 years before I met Mo so I am sure I should manage just fine!

I have followed Kevin and Ruth across eastern Europe lately, marveling at their resourcefulness, their willingness to search out destinations on their own, to couch-surf and use public transportation, seeing the countries in ways that aren’t limited to the views most tourists get.  I, on the other hand, have chosen the tourist route, decidedly and willingly!  After traveling with Mo using Grand Circle Tours and Go Ahead Tours, I learned my old ideas about tour travel were just plain silly.  It is GREAT not having to worry about all the details.  It is GREAT having my luggage show up at my hotel, getting a quickie tour of the city and then having a couple of days on my own to go back to the places I want to explore more deeply.  goahead trip

I decided on GoAhead Tours, mainly because they seem to cater to a younger clientele.  I would have loved to do an OAT “(Overseas Adventure Travel) tour, but they are a lot more expensive and I decided against it. Go Ahead does a great job for the price, not fancy, but not cut rate either. 

560-1973 I could easily go to Turkey or Thailand again on my own, once I have been there, but for a first time trip to just about anywhere, I really like having the luxury of a tour.  Especially with limited time available, because of course my daughter is still working, I want no hassles.  I want to give my daughter the opportunity to see a different part of the world, to expand her horizons, but to do it with just a bit more safety factor than I would feel out there loose on my own.

The photos on the right and below are of the hike to Vernal Falls in Yosemite that I made with my kids back in the 70’s.  Melody was 4 and as you can see, most of the hike she was on my back.  Hopefully on this trip she will be the one I can lean on instead of the other way around.

Me - and my baby girlToday Melody and I both woke up at 3:30 am, at 4:00 am, all packed and ready with nowhere to go.  We sent each other text messages and emails, and laughed about how silly it was.  We are driving north to Albany today so that we have an easy commute to Portland tomorrow for our 1:30 departure from PDX for the ten hour flight to Amsterdam.  From Amsterdam we will take a short flight to Budapest, spending three days there before traveling the 150 miles to Vienna.  Three days in Vienna, with another day to drive to Prague for three more days and the quick 11 day trip will be over. 

My knee is functioning rather well, and the brace and trekking poles should help with cobblestone streets and lots of stairs that I expect to climb in these beautiful old world cities.  The trekking poles are in checked luggage, in spite of the encouragement of the doctor and the travel agent, too many websites said they could be a problem on the airlines.  I decided not to take the chance and will simply lean on my daughter if i need to!

My little girl and I are off to see the world!

The Delights of Traveling Close

Melody in the Wocus Cut Something wonderful happens when summer finally arrives.  The family is nearby, the porch is inviting, the kayaks are waiting, the flowers are blooming.  Ahhh.  It takes a long time for summer to actually show up in this part of Oregon, but when it does, it is worth the wait.  While most of the country swelters and much of the west in on fire, here the mornings are still cool, the nights chilly enough for a comforter, and the daytime temperatures are in the mid 70’s.  That is a Rocky Point summer.

how are you supposed to get your mouth around this? My daughter was blessed with a three day weekend and if you remember how life is when you are all working full time, it takes a couple of days to catch up on chores at home.  The three day weekend gave her a chance to play, and this time their version of play was a night at the Casa del Sol (our little cabin by the house), with burgers on the grill, marshmallows in the wood stove, and a morning on the water with mom. Somehow busy-ness gets in the way of recreation, and I have only had my grandkids out in the kayaks a few times.  I love seeing the look on Hillary’s (who is changing her name to Axel but I still am not “there” yet) face when she gets on the water.  She loves it.  Melody kept exclaiming, “This is amazing, Mom, this is amazing!”.  Grandson Elric chose to hang out at home in the cabin with dad and when Melody, Hillary, and I returned we were treated to a great late brunch cooked up by the son-in-law and grandson.

Axel on Cyrstal CreekGood things do come to an end, and the kids headed back to town.  Of course, for Mo and I it didn’t matter that it was Sunday night.  Mo wandered off to a place we have wanted to camp for a few years and never remember.  She called me and said, “Why don’t you meet me and Abby out here at Eagle Ridge, and maybe bring some supper?”  Great plan again!

evening kayak on Shoalwater Bay The last time we were at Eagle Ridge we still had the sailboat, and the winds were challenging as usual on these mountain lakes.  Once again I remembered why we decided kayaking was easier than sailing!  It is a lot easier to launch a kayak than a sailboat and even with all the paddling, it is a lot less work. Eagle Ridge is a Klamath county campground about half way between town and Rocky Point, maybe ten miles from home for us.  There are a few primitive sites, no charge, no dump, no amenities except a great view of Shoalwater Bay, a launching dock, and sites right on the water.

  The road to the park is about 4 miles of rough gravel and dirt, with not a few bumps, but the MoHo handled it just fine.  No one else on the road to kick up gravel to worry about.  Except for a couple of fishermen in the early evening, we had the place to ourselves. 

Eagle Ridge and Shoalwater Bay Shoalwater Bay is on Klamath Lake proper, and the native algae that our lake has made famous was in evidence.  Great kayaking, but probably not something to swim in.  It is perfectly safe, but green.  I think there is a Blue-Green algae company that is still making a good profit from Klamath Lake.  I guess it is the reason our lake is so gorgeous and not surrounded by development.  John C Fremont, back in 1857, said this lake wasn’t fit for a horse to drink. The algae is supported by all the natural phosphorus in the lake because of all the volcanic ash from Mt Mazama (Crater Lake) deposited several thousand years ago.  The ambient phosphorus load is a big point of discussion about our lake, especially when trying to determine how much phosphorus is coming from the agricultural lands on the Sprague River which feeds the lake.

If you want to see incredibly clear blue water, just head up the hill to Crater Lake.  Merikay and Craig are hiking there this week and have some really gorgeous photos of all that blue clarity.  Notice, however, that all that clarity doesn’t do much for the water birds.  On the other hand, here on Klamath Lake, water birds are everywhere.  My favorite, and in my opinion the greatest of all, are the American white pelicans.  They winter in Mexico and South America, but every year in March they return to Klamath Lake and the first pelican is the sign that spring is coming, much like the first crocus. They have a 9 foot wing span, and fly in formation much like fighter jets.  I suppose it is my favorite part of kayaking around here, coming upon a raft of pelicans and watching them fly.  I especially love the black wing tips that don’t show until they are airborne. I don’t often put in a slide show, but I do think this one is worth the band width.  Check out the pelicans that we found on our paddle.

https://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf

sunset over Shoalwater Bay from Eagle Ridge Park campfire at Eagle Ridge Park, all to ourselves We watched the sunset over the bay, and found enough old driftwood to built a nice campfire on the beach in front of the MoHo. I heard recently that Oregon is the only state in the west that doesn’t currently have any large active forest fires.  Notice all that green grass and moist vegetation.  Of course, it won’t be like that later in the summer, but for now having a campfire was delightful.

The night was silent except for the lake breezes and dark until the moon rose.  Not a soul around, and just four miles from the highway.  Nice.

the morning pelican paradeMorning came slowly with Eagle Ridge directly east of us, and the dew was thick on the windows.  We even had to turn on the furnace for a few minutes with morning tea as we watched the day lighten.  Deciding that breakfast back home would be nice, we drove the few miles back to Rocky Point and cooked up a nice Sunday breakfast (even though it was Monday) watched the news, and got ready for our day, much refreshed and renewed by our little side trip.

The flowers are starting to bloom more and more, and I am enjoying the gardens now that the heavy labor of May cleanup has dissipated a bit.  We had another load of juniper delivered, and it is piled high in the MoHo shed, so the big job of splitting and stacking has begun. July is about good weather and having fun, but it is also about getting in the firewood, spraying the deer repellant, and mowing the lawns. 

DSC_0026We keep driving to Grants Pass, thinking that someday when we are “old”, we will settle over there out of the snow into a better growing season.  I looked around last week at this beautiful place and said, “No”.  Let’s just stay here till we have to go into a home somewhere.  Worst case scenario, we have to pay someone to help now and then with the hard stuff.  But every time I drive to town, or over the mountain to the “other side”, and then return I feel my breath quicken at the sight of that murky lake below in the sunlight.  I am thrilled by the birds, the silence, the clear sunny skies, the forest.  It is home.  I guess that is why we have a motorhome after all, we can leave in the winter, we can travel if we want to, but we have home right here.  I don’t want to give it up, even for a growing season that would let me have more flowers.

A parting thought here, one that came to me last week as we were traveling home from Oroville:

picnic at Eagle Ridge July 11 2004sailing at Eagle Ridge, July 11 2004 Sometimes, when riding in the MoHo, memories wash over me in waves.  Maybe it is the vibration, maybe the changing scenery flying by.  Somehow the complexity of my life flows by me like the trees rushing past, ephemeral, hard to catch, hard to track.  I was once known for my phenomenal memory, spitting out dates like “Oh that was on a Tuesday in 1987”.  Memories used to be like individual stories, with a beginning and an end, solid and real and separate.  Lately, as life gets more and more full, and the memories begin to stack up, they are becoming more fluid, overlapping each other and flowing by in complex scenes, just as rich, but somehow with more flow. I wonder if that is what the old folks in the rocking chair on the porch are experiencing, that magical, colorful flow. I like it. 

 sailing at Eagle Ridge in July of 2004

The long trek home, and breakfast with Donna and Russ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

It’s not over yet

Maligne Lake Jasper NPI woke up this morning missing Alaska and the Highway, the open road with no cars, the memories of the road to Valdez, the road to Haines, the utter silence of Joe Lake on the Denali Highway only a memory in my mind. We are parked in the Wal-Mart in Cranbrook, British Columbia, just 50 miles north of the border and this morning will be traveling to visit our friends in Bonners Ferry and spending the night there.

To Jasper Day 37_4899I have the past three days still to talk about and remember, thank goodness I have the photos to remind me.

I still have the camera to take the photos which is amazing, but that also is part of the story still to write.  These last few days have all run together, filled with the magnificence of the Rockies, Alberta and the beautiful Canadian National Parks.  There are still gorgeous photos of beautiful mountains and lakes to come, the rest of the story is still to be written. The stats of the trip to soon be calculated, more than 7,000 miles so far and more to come.

I took this from the MoHo window with the regular lens, no telephotoParking at the Wal-Mart here has been delightful.  It was a long day yesterday trying to find a place to be on a hot August Saturday night in an area that is focused on golf and resorts. Wal-Mart is filled with RV’s, but still not as crowded as the slide to slide packing we saw in the few RV parks we passed yesterday afternoon.  We have free Wi-Fi right here in the rig from the McDonalds down the street. Enough for now, just know that there is more to come.  We still have several hundred miles to go before this trip is finished.

I had no clue that the trip would be as amazing as it turned out to be.  I had no clue Alaska and the Yukon would capture me the way it did.  I had no clue.  Enough for now.  There will be plenty of time to write about the past few days on the long road home.

Pahrump to Fernley and home to Rocky Point

Highway 95 I can’t believe that I am once again sitting at my desk in Rocky Point, looking out the window at snow.  The snow came down in big fat flakes all day yesterday but didn’t stick, but this morning we woke to more than a good inch covering everything as if it were winter and not April.  Somehow luck was with us all the way home, and we slid into Rocky Point on bare pavement under blue skies on Tuesday afternoon.  This storm blew up the next day and now will be with us for a few more days according to the weather predictions.  I am hoping that all the folks on the road heading north are warm and dry and avoiding this latest round of weather from the Pacific.

Highway 95 (12) We left Pahrump early in the morning on Monday, driving hard and straight north on Highway 95, through the tiny town of Goldfields, and passing Tonopah, the Nye county seat, in the blink of an eye.  Somewhere in all my western travels, I don’t think I have traveled this route, usually preferring to go west to 395 in California.  We were rewarded with decent gasoline prices, at 3.69 per gallon for the $172.00 fill-up in Fallon, Nevada.  I heard rumors of prices well above 4 bucks on 395, but will have to see what Donna and Russ have to say about that, since I believe they traveled that route south in their pretty new Lazy Days called “Therapy”.  I think we must have passed each other somewhere close to Susanville.

Highway 95 (3) Highway 95 (9)
Goldfields, Nevada in the process of restoration by the local folks We were on the other side of Tonopah before we knew it

Highway 95 (14)The skies were clear all the way north, but the temperatures were only in the high 40’s as we traveled through Nevada.  Our plan was to boondock for the night, but when we reached Fallon, it was still only 3 in the afternoon, and once on the major east-west route of ALT 50, boondock sites were in short supply.  The lovely BLM land, great for boondocking, all seemed to be considerably south of Walker Lake, another spot that I would have liked to explore, but it was much to early in the day.  Like horses heading for the barn, we were on a roll and wanted to get as close to Reno as possible before stopping for the night.

A quick search on Streets, turned up a CampClub USA park west of Fallon in Fernley, Nevada, right on our route. My visions of camping in the open desert on a big alluvial fan with never ending vistas was only partially realized.  I was still on an alluvial fan in the desert, with a decent view only obstructed a bit by the RV next to us.  By 4pm we were settled in to a very nice little park called Desert Rose.   In addition to our CampClub discount, this park had just about every other club discount, including Escapees.  It wasn’t fancy, but clean and lined with level concrete pads, new trees, grass, and “the best cable TV this side of Michigan”, according to the very gregarious caretaker.  We even had decent Wi-Fi where I was able to post the last couple of blog entries.

Fernley to Home (1) We slept well, after staying up much too late catching up on cable news and the internet.  Tuesday morning dawned clear and gorgeous again, if a bit cool, and we were on the road by 7:30.  Our route was straightforward, through Reno on Alt 50 to I-80 to 395 north to Susanville, Alturas, and then on 39 home to Klamath Falls.  The skies were still gorgeous, with puffy clouds and snowy mountains in the distance as we approached our mountain home.

We love to camp at Medicine Lake, and the snow covered barren slopes of Glass Mountain, formed entirely of black obsidian, beckoned us as we passed the familiar turn-off on our route. 

Fernley to Home (5) Once in Klamath Falls, we gassed up the MoHo at Fred Meyer for 3.72 per gallon, picked up some vet only cat food for Jeremy, and took the Lakeshore route home so that we could stop in at Moore Park for our free dump site.  Klamath Lake seemed especially full, and the A Canal delivering water from the lake to the farmers on the Project was also full, indicating that for the first time in a couple of years, we are having a good “water year”.  The farmers will get their irrigation from the Project, and the salmon will have enough water to make it back up the Klamath River.  We will have enough water to get the kayaks back out in Recreation Creek hopefully very soon, at least if this snow ever melts.

Once home, we were happy to see that almost all the snow was melted and the road looked fine.  The grass was starting to green up except for extensive areas where the voles have tunneled a virtual city protected by our 4 month snow cover.  Daffodils are starting to appear, and the buds on the trees look good.  Mo backed the rig into her waiting berth and in no time we were unloaded and back home with the fire going, checking the recorded shows on the DVR and laughing at Jeremy racing around the house after all the invisible ghosts that must have taken over while we were gone.

Something wonderful about rounding this bend in the road and seeing our home turf across the lakeFernley to Home (21)

I spent all day yesterday washing bedding and rugs and clothes from the MoHo and tried to get adjusted to being back home while I watched the snow fall and remembered the 100 degree afternoon in Laughlin.  Sometimes that re-entry can be ambivalent; I’m so happy to be home, yet somehow feel a bit disoriented.  Mo doesn’t seem to get as confused by all this as I do, and she just settled in easily to our home routines without a hitch. By this morning, however, all seemed just fine to me, in spite of the deep snow.  I have no clue if I will be working next week, thanks to the government shutdown rumors, but either way, it’s good to be home.