Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Odel and I just returned from Costco, our local entertainment. While there, we noticed that many Sacramentans dress in costume for Halloween. Not just Costco staff - there were lots of shoppers in costume (presumably), and even people out on the street.

I noticed that Odel was wearing black pants and a rusty-orange shirt. He is going to meet his friend Bill for lunch today, so I asked if he wanted to borrow an item of mine that would make a nice Halloween costume for him.

He didn't want a costume, but did agree to model this unusual Headress for you readers. Wouldn't this be a great costume for him? I could wrap hs wrists/forearms in leather; he could carry his walking stick and wear a toga-style tablecloth as a manly Aztec skirt... Oh, too bad we aren't going to a party tonight!

Anyway, cool hat, huh? Came from San Angelo, Texas - I am fairly certain it is one of a kind. Lucky for them, I came along.

We've been in the Sacramento area for two weeks now; it seems like a month as we have been so busy. Buying Jules 2 was a time-consuming event, and now we need to get her wired and rigged for towing.

Since we've been here, our water pump (only needed when drycamping) went out, so we removed that and sent it (under warranty) back to the factory. Some of the RV-specific lighting pooped out, so we are working on replacing that. How nice that these things happened while we are stationary, since we need to be able to receive shipped goods, logistically difficult when we are traveling.

We've had lab tests done, and our annual physicals. We've seen a movie! (Michael Clayton, which we thought was excellent.) We've socialized, and walked the familiar bike trail every day. It is our usual busy Sacramento visit - lots to do, but not much to blog about, so don't look for much action here until after Thanksgiving. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


YAY! The time-consuming, stressful "new auto" search is over; Jules II is parked outside as I write this.

After 145,000 miles driven and 60,000 more towed behind Scoopy, we had used up Original Jules, a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. We bought her, used, 5 years ago, our first SUV with 75,000 miles. Many, many times during our travels, we have remarked on how comfortable Jules was, how much we liked the leather seats and all the "luxury" (to us) features - so we were sad that it obviously was time to move on.

A new, wierd loud rumble was beginning to scare us when we drove; the remote door locks no longer worked; the sun roof opened 10% of the time; the CD player had quit working long ago; the back tailgate fell on our heads as we loaded stuff into the back; the dashboard lights flickered and went out randomly while driving at night; the A/C sometimes switched from comfortably cold to full blast HEAT. Time to say goodbye!

We decided to downsize to a smaller vehicle for better gas mileage and a smaller "carbon footprint", so test drove both a Honda CRV and a Jeep Liberty, popular "toweds" among the fulltiming crowd. For Odel, the step down in legroom and seat comfort was a disappointment, and the ride was noticeably less smooth to both of us.

Driving home in Original Jules, we realized we weren't ready to give up our big, comfortable ride. Before long we had found our replacement vehicle: a 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with 75,000 miles.

Jules II is four years newer than Original Jules, with the same mileage and for approximately the same price as our purchase 5 years ago. No scary driving sounds, and ALL the technology works: door locks, sound system, sunroof... we even had a 10 disc CD changer. The body has a few imperfections: a minor boo-boo near one of the rear lights, dings and scratches that are noticeable when you get close, and we need to work on removing some spots on the headliner. A vehicle that is towed around the country behind a motorhome gets dings and nicks anyway, so we were willing to trade a less-than-perfect body for a very affordable price. You can find great deals on gas-guzzlers these days!

We put on 30 miles or so yesterday after we picked up Jules II and traded in Original Jules. Another couple of weeks should tell us whether we traded our known problems for unknown problems, but we're feeling pretty good right now.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


We're back in Shingle Springs - one of our favorite Elks lodges - closing in on Sacramento for our usual fall visit. We've been extraordinarily busy since we arrived.

The condition of our Jeep has been troubling us for a few months. Another round of repairs was not the solution, as we realized we had lost our faith in this old vehicle... after each repair, we are hypervigilant, awaiting the next problem. We arrived here well prepared to move forward on a purchase, so have been involved in a time-consuming round of test-driving and deal-making. Looks like we might have our next vehicle identified; I'll let you know next week.

We had a great time last night at a small family reunion (Laurie's family). This is not one of those huge affairs with unknown cousins coming from afar; if we have unknown cousins, they have remained that way! Sydney and Frank came from Bisbee, AZ; cousin Jeff, and his family (Noni, Sterling and Roman) from the LA area; our cousin Steve from the Bay area; and all the local relatives - Aunt Dorothy in Rocklin, my parents Bev and Bill from Shingle Springs, and my sister Nancy and her family (Doug, Patrick and Claire) from Sacramento. It was intimate and lively, a great way to kick off our visit to Sacramento.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


We are back to civilization, in a big way: the San Francisco Bay area, Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa, CA. As we drove down from northern California, the traffic thickened, the quality of the road surface deteriorated, and the air quality changed from crystal clear to light smog. By the time we hit the Napa turnoff from Interstate 80 heading to San Francisco, I couldn't WAIT to get out of the traffic!

Wine country. Even better, Napa Valley wine country. World renowned, beautiful. All the sophisticated amenities that go with such a place: great restaurants, innovative chefs, gourmet food stores, boutique wine shops... When we lived in Sacramento, a long weekend in Napa or a daytrip to Sonoma was a special event that revolved around upscale shopping and eating; now that we bring our own home, it is just another beautiful place to spend time.

We settled in at Skyline Wilderness Park, a huge, wild tract of land with a small campground, lots of trails, and wild animals! A flock of wild turkeys strolls through the campground twice a day, deer peek out from the oak trees when we hike, and signs along the trails alert hikers to the possibility of a mountain lion encounter. For $25 a night, we get to "live" here in the beautiful heart of the famous Napa valley - how can you beat it?

I took a very short walk last night as the sun was about to set, looking out towards the surrounding hills and vineyards, to take this photo. Now, as I write this, a rain squall is moving through. We have a day of chores planned - yes, while wine buffs around the world dream of a trip to Napa, we who are here are doing laundry, thoroughly vacuuming Scoopy to remove a summer's worth of dust, visiting the grocery store! Ho, hum.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I wish I could edit out the smashed bugs and other junk in this photo (taken through Scoopy's windshield) - but I wanted to post it in spite of the flaws. Mt. Shasta was the centerpiece of our drive south on Highway 97 between Klamath Falls, OR and Weed, CA. What a beautiful sight, covered with fresh snow from the last week's storms. All of the volcanos of the Cascade range are spectacular, but especially Mt. Shasta because the roads (both Hwy 97 and Interstate 5) pass so near the mountain. It surely was a standout!

Friday, October 12, 2007


In spite of the big blob of smashed insect in the center of this photo (you might not notice it, overlaid on the road), I wanted to show you some of the beautiful colors we saw as we drove from Summer Lake to Klamath Falls today. Most of the drive was around 4,500 ft. elevation, and the aspen and cottonwoods were brilliant.

We crossed three passes on good, winding two lane road. Narrow canyons filled with fall color gave way to meadows and wide valleys. Lots of old barns and big ranches, with heavily weathered old homesteads collapsing here and there. The towns were tiny, a gas station, a saloon, a mini-mart, a post office and a USFS ranger station.

We had a wonderful time at Summer Lake Hot Springs and we definitely will return. We stayed two nights and managed to fit in another soak in the pool before we left this morning.

Here is the "front view" of the bath house, built (if I remember correctly) in 1928. The sign over the door on the left says "Women"; the sign over the door on the right says "Others". No need for separate doors, as they both open into the same room.

If you stay in an RV or one of the cabins available for rent (considerably more modern than the bath house), the pool is available to you 24 hours a day - and is open to the (paying) public from 8 am until 9 pm.

This is what you find when you enter the bath house: the concrete pool, with 100 degree water constantly pouring in through a pipe on the side wall. See Odel waving at the far end? A narrow hallway runs down both sides of the pool, with funky little changing rooms opening along each side.

Windows on two sides let in light; big skylights on top do the same. It is an incredibly relaxing, comfortable, fun spot. In the three times we visited the pool, there were between 1 and 4 other people in with us, around our same ages, so we could chat or just float around, propping ourselves up with pool "noodles".

Our friend Sharon added a comment to my prior post, about what appears to be a dust storm approaching. Sharon, that is exactly what it was!

Summer Lake is mostly dry, but not completely. It is in the center of a huge, alkaline "playa", which was about the consistency of heavy ash - very pale, soft and powdery. On the day we drove from Bend to the hot springs, the wind was blowing, picking the dust off the playa and blowing it in huge clouds to the north (away from us).

To me, the white dust looked like steam rising off water, and I thought maybe there were hot springs out in the lake bed.

Yesterday, the weather was much calmer and we went for a long walk through one of Oregon's largest bird refuges, Summer Lake Wildlife Refuge. This is a huge wetlands area on the edge of Summer Lake, filled with marshes and cattails. LOTS of birds, mostly waterfowl - but, in a little stand of cottonwood trees, the only large trees around, we saw TWO GIANT owls, the biggest I have ever seen.

It was a gorgeous walk, sweeping vistas in all directions. As we left, we stopped to read a historic marker about John Fremont's trek through the area in... hmmmm... I think it was December 16th, 1864, going from The Dalles on the Columbia River to Sutter's Fort in Sacramento, California. Funny, that is where we are now headed (well, not the fort).

So, we had to leave the hot springs, and we find ourselves tonight in much more dismal circumstances. We arrived at Klamath Falls, Oregon, mid-afternoon. Once we were set up, we went off sightseeing. Perhaps it was the gray, overcast weather, or maybe Klamath Falls reveals her charms only to residents; to us, it looks quite depressed and depressing, with only the fall colors in its favor. No matter, we're off tomorrow.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Awesome! That is the perfect description of the scenery we saw yesterday as we drove from Madras, Oregon, to Summer Lake Hot Springs. The road we traveled, Oregon Highway 31, is a National Scenic Byway, the Oregon Outback; it definitely lives up to its name.

This spot is so remote, I can't believe I will be able to post this but, it you are reading it, our Verizon aircard is a miracle worker. We are at about 4,200 ft. elevation; as I write this, I am looking out the window to "Winter Ridge", which has snow on its upper reaches.

The hot springs here has a long history of "development" and use, beginning with hollowed out logs as bathtubs (one is still on display by the bath house).

The current setup consists of a 30' by 50' concrete pool, about 4 feet deep, with a constant inflow of hot mineral water. It is sheltered by a ramshackle wood and metal "bathhouse" that protects bathers from the wind, rain, snow - great, rustic ambiance. The hot springs is the sole reason for the existance of this little development: RV park, 3 geothermally heated cabins, a home for the owners (or managers). There were two other RV's here last night besides us, and a couple of tents.

We have a hike planned today, with another long soak this afternoon, then another drive tomorrow... slowly heading to Sacramento for our fall visit.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


Though the Tri-Cities area was a good place to get the refrigerator door fixed, to shop, to get caught up... it was a bit boring. We stayed longer than we planned waiting out bad weather, but finally couldn't stand it any longer. Yesterday we took off, heading to an Oregon State Park north of Bend, Oregon. We just had to get out of the urban environment.

This is Luna's first "close encounter" with the very tame deer that wander through the campground. Luna is crazy about this spot!

Our Verizon service here is tenuous, but I think I will be able to get this posted. Tomorrow we will move on to an even more remote spot, a natural hot springs southeast of Bend, Summer Lake Hot Springs. We don't know how long we will stay - but we figure we can enjoy a soak in a hot mineral pool even in the rain!

Saturday, October 6, 2007


Doesn't this look like a beautiful day along the Columbia River? I wish I could say everyday has been like this but, as was forecast, for every day of sunshine we have had a day of clouds and sprinkles or wind.

Our refrigerator door repair didn't go exactly as planed, but the job is done now. We spent two nights in Chief's lot then, with the new door installed, settled into a site at the Franklin County TRAC facility (that's Trade, Recreation, Agriculture Center), similar to a huge fairgrounds or Expo Center, but with more "recreation": softball diamonds, soccer fields, the stadium for the Dust Devils baseball team.

The county run RV park is in the center of the property, 48 sites with concrete pads, 50 amp electric, water, sewer and cable TV. Roomy, manicured and with a price to match - much higher than the usual county campground.

When we are waiting out weather, this is just the kind of place we like - all systems plugged in, close to shopping, quiet, well-managed, with lots and lots of space to walk when the weather allows.

We've done a little sightseeing (Lewis and Clark spent a lot of time here), but mostly the normal mundane details of life: paying bills, balancing the checkbooks, menu planning, grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, etc. We did have a fun visit at a loal winery, though...

Boxed wines are an RV'ers dream: lightweight, easy to store, relatively inexpensive, and long-lasting after they are opened. We have found a red that we both like that is reasonably priced, but have not found a white worth "rebuying". At the FABULOUS supermarket within walking distance of our site (I left Odel at home this morning so I could spend as much time as I wanted browsing the store and studying new and local items), we found a local wine in a box, both a red and a white. Rather than invest in the white without pre-tasting it, we looked up the address and paid 'em a visit.

I am sure the young woman staffing the tasting bar that day was underwhelmed when we walked in, breezed past the impressive display of premium wine in bottles and asked if we could taste their boxed wine. On the other hand, we represented a diversion from her otherwise boring afternoon (no one else was in the tasting bar). We went immediately from boxed wine to premium wine, interspersed with crackers and chocolate truffles. She wanted us to taste EVERYTHING... and we couldn't, there was just too much (or we are just too old).

I think she had as much fun as we did, and we left with two reds, four whites, and a box (yes, a box) of cabernet.

This photo is the "Cable Bridge" over the Columbia, from Kennewick to Pasco. You can see the cool, cloudy weather, to which we are reacting as all mammals do: eating as though we were planning to fast while hibernating through the winter. We had a slow-cooked stew of beef, carrots, parsnips and onions for dinner, along with cornbread muffins...

... and opened our new boxed cabernet for a wine tasting with our old favorite boxed shiraz (which we usually buy on sale for about 35% less that we paid for the cab). The old favorite (Delicato Shiraz, usually on sale for around $15.00 for a 3 liter box - 4 bottles) won - as least as good as, and much less expensive than, the new one.

We have one more day here, then will move on next Monday. Once again, we are heading for southeastern Oregon, the high desert: wildlife preserves, hot springs, lots of sagebrush and not very many people. Probably not much cellphone/aircard service, either, so blog updates may be delayed.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about the "art" we encountered in Baker City. Now that several of you have made your guesses...

Yes, it is "Salt Lick Art"!

Sorry this poster is not more clear (I shot through glass), so I have included a few links to view - it is a great story and fundraising idea.

Here is my favorite part, the rules. I added my own emphasis:

"All entries must be salt blocks licked by cows or other livestock. Range blocks licked by wildlife will also be permitted. Blocks licked by humans will not be permitted. Licks may also be subject to DNA testing. Blocks with human DNA will be eliminated and offenders banned from future contests.

"All entries must be submitted by October 3. No more than 2 entries per person. Judging committee will judge blocks for originality and artistic flair. All different types of blocks are eligible (mineral, selenium etc.) Blocks only. Drawings, photos, paintings of sculpted blocks will not be accepted. Cows caught using steroids will be canned."

Check out these links:

The Official Site for the Salt Lick Contest, Salt Like City

The Official Gallery of Salt Lick Art, ready to auction

Front page story in Portland's newspaper, the Oregonian, about the licks.

We found the whole thing fun and funny, and it added to our good feelings about Baker City.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


This is how you know you have what it takes to enjoy full-timing: you spend the night drycamping in the parking lot of Chief's RV service center and think to yourself, "This is GREAT!"

Let's see... when I last wrote, we had moved from Wallowa Lake State Park to Pendleton, Oregon to avoid future snow. We had a beautiful day for driving, and settled into an expansive RV park next to an Indian casino, planning to wait out the weather (which would mean staying for five days or so). Cell phones worked, aircard worked... life was good.

Then Odel opened the refrigerator door and it just about fell off! Luckily, we have a 4-door refrigerator (two for the freezer, two for the refrig). We manipulated the left side door back into its proper position and decided not to open it again. This was Saturday night, and of course nothing is open on Sunday; we figured we could get along until Monday, then go to a repair shop in Pendleton.

On Sunday, it rained. And the wind blew. Then it poured. We drove into Pendleton to look around, but with raw, wintery weather, my attitude was not good. Pendleton is WAY smaller than I had pictured, only around 15,000 people... a small, western town that didn't seem welcoming in the rain (of course, what does?).

First thing Monday morning, we called the RV repair shop we had found in Pendleton. They seemed disinterested, and suggested we travel north to the Tri-Cities (this is what they call Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland, nestled side-by-side on the banks of the Columbia River in southeastern Washington) to a larger repair shop. So, we did.

Once again, a beautiful day for driving (though very windy). We found Chief's RV Center with no problem. While they made calls to find a new door, we drove around the Tri-Cities checking out RV parks and sightseeing - and liked what we saw.

Back at Chief's, we discovered that the door would arrive Tuesday (today); meanwhile, we could spend the night in their large lot (MUCH easier than driving to an RV park, checking in, setting up, closing up again in the morning and driving back here) to await the arrival of the door. Sweet!

Next on the agenda: Odel became concerned about stomach pains he had been experiencing all day, enough so that he wanted medical attention. Hooray for the aircard: we found a nearby urgent care facility and turned our attention from the refrigerator door to Odel. Two hours spent at the clinic (1:45 waiting, 15 minutes talking to the doctor) assured him that he was not in imminent danger. By then it was 6:30 pm; Odel discovered his appetite and we went off in search of dinner.

Here we hit the jackpot, deciding on the Bonefish Grill. This is an upscale chain of fresh fish restaurants that originated in Florida. I felt embarrassed going in to the well appointed dining room wearing rumpled clothes well suited for hiking, including a baseball cap covering hair that had not been washed for a couple of days. Odel look slightly better than I (at least he could take off his cap). To their great credit, none of the staff batted an eye - like everyone else we have encountered in this area, from the RV shop to the RV parks to the clinic, we were warmly welcomed and well tended.

All the concerns of the day melted away in the muted hubbub of the restaurant. We ordered an appetizer and a couple glasses of delicious local wine (this is a prime growing region) and took our time deciding which of the many fresh fish dishes to order. We people-watched, and evesdropped on neighbors' conversations. It was delightful.

Partway through dinner, I thought about the coming night, and laughed out loud when I realized how pleased I was that we could spend the night in the RV lot. Then and there I realized that fulltimers ARE a little bit different... I can only imagine that many of our home bound friends would feel very sorry for us if they saw our current circumstances. To us, it was an excellent combination of convenience, efficient use of our resources, and... FREE! Who could ask for more??

The new refrigerator door will be installed this afternoon, and we will move to the RV park we picked out yesterday, within walking distance of stores and movie theaters. Looking at the weather forecast for Oregon, we plan to stay here until Saturday. When it rains, we can go to movies; there is good walking along both sides of the Columbia River; maybe we will even be able to visit some wineries. Then, head south; winter is on the way!