Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Four friends at SahalieEugene has a lot to offer fulltime RV’ers on the west coast when it comes to maintenance and repairs, and we seem to end up here frequently when traveling in the pacific northwest.  This year, we planned to visit Cummins Northwest in Coburg (around 5 miles from Armitage County Park, where we stay when visiting Eugene for more than 3 days, or in hot weather) for our 115,000 mile maintenance, one of the big (expensive) ones. 

We arrived on Wednesday; on Thursday, we were up, packed up and moving at 7:30 for the short drive to Cummins.  The good news: the maintenance cost less than anticipated.  The bad news: we have a cracked manifold.  We scheduled the repair (a full day) for Wednesday.

Back at Armitage, time to formulate Plan B.  We had intended to leave on Monday morning, visit Carrier & Sons – an excellent RV repair facility we have visited several times – for a minor repair to our awning, then head northwest, destination unknown.  Instead, we extended our stay at Armitage County Park by two more days, to accommodate the scheduled manifold repair.

Sahalie FallsYesterday (Monday), we packed up and headed over to Carrier & Sons at 9 am.  We were back in place and set up at Armitage by 11:30 or so, with the awning working perfectly once again.  Today is another “day off” from attending to Scoopy; tomorrow, we’ll be heading back to Cummins at 7:30 am.

In between maintenance, repairs and stocking the pantry and freezer, we’ve had great fun with our friends who also happen to be here at Armitage… ALL of us working on maintenance and repairs, by the way!  Paul (Wheeling It) is trying to get a slide fixed (meanwhile, he helped Odel fix a little problem with our water heater); Alex and Ellen are working with Cummins on maintenance and repairs.  It is quite interesting to see how many big motorhomes here at the park leave in the morning and return in the afternoon – looks like it is a favored spot for many of us visiting Cummins, Monaco, or one of the many, many shops nearby dedicated to RV’ers needs.

Thunderous watersOn Sunday, Alex and Ellen invited us along on a ride into the mountains.  Alex is an experienced kayaker and wanted to go campground hunting along the McKenzie River, looking for campsites with river access.  A waterfall hike was part of the plan, too – so they didn’t have to ask us twice!

The 2.6 mile loop trail we hiked started at roaring Sahalie Falls (photo above).  Being a beautiful, sunny, Sunday afternoon, the parking lot was crowded when we arrived at noon – I think we got the last space.  As usual, crowds thinned as we hiked away from the parking lot and overlooks.

We all were amazed by the volume of water rushing over the falls, through the canyon next to the trail, and over Koosah Falls (this photo).  It’s the end of August, after all, a time when many waterfalls in the U.S. are either dry or down to a minimal trickle.  Later, when I Googled Sahalie Falls looking for information about the flow volume, I found this interesting bit of information:

Bubble pool with AlexEven though the McKenzie River originates in Clear Lake, just a few miles upstream, the river sustains a very significant volume all year long thanks to the large drainage area to the northeast which consists largely of plains of lava flows. Water doesn't linger on the surface and seeps underground, forming one of the larger aquifers in Oregon, then it all emerges in springs around Clear Lake. The result is one of the most consistent rivers in the northwest.”  (Northwest Waterfall survey)

…AND, I discovered that a handful of kayakers have braved the plunge over the 68 foot high waterfall!  What a crazy bunch!

Both of the falls (Sahalie and Koosah) were spectacular, and we spent plenty of time admiring them from both sides of the river – but some of the quieter portions of the hike were equally enchanting.  This blue pool was exquisite, and something I hadn’t seen before (click on the photo for a larger view).  The bluish-white water in this photo is effervescent – churning bubbles of water funneled into a narrow chasm, roiling to the surface (that’s Alex on the bank, getting a close-up photo).

We hiked in cool, dense forest, usually within sight of the river, always within earshot. 

Right: a cascade between the falls.

Below right: crossing a huge fallen log on a stile.

Below left: Our first river crossing was on a two-lane bridge suitable for car traffic.  Crossing back, this bridge, a downed log, was suitable only for single-lane human traffic!
A Cascade
Laurie on Bridge The log stile

Now, as I write, Odel and Alex are on the golf course once again.  I’ve got a list of things to accomplish while Odel is out of the house, and the laundry is underway (I LOVE our on-board washer and dryer).  Later, friends.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Toketee FallsLast September, as we left our campsite near Ririe, Idaho, we were gifted with about 30 pounds of freshly gleaned Idaho potatoes (read about it here).  That’s way too many potatoes for two people!  We gave some to our neighbors at our next stop, more to folks we met along our travels, even passed some along to my sister when we visited her in Moab – which she took home to Arizona with her when she left the next day.

The abundance of ‘taters prompted me to search my cookbooks for recipes – and we found a real winner, Slow Cooker German Potato Salad.  Once the potatoes were gone, I promptly forgot about the recipe… until yesterday morning when our friend John sent an email that reminded me: “… loved your warm, crock pot potato salad. With some beer brats and fresh green salad it was a very nice meal”.

Oh, man, my mouth began to water immediately!

OK at Fall Creek FallsIt was a timely reminder because our refrigerator and freezer are almost completely empty, and we are in Eugene, Oregon – a foodie heaven: Trader Joe’s, Costco, Market of Choice (new to me) and… drum roll here… the Saturday Farmers’ Market, one of our favorites.  I had a short list of “regular grocery store” items (this is opposed to “Costco items” and “TJ’s items” and “from the farmer’s market”), to which I immediately added the simple ingredients for the German potato salad and headed off to find out what’s up with the buzz about “Market of Choice” (yes, my email correspondents are foodies, too). 

Odel and I usually grocery shop together.  Two separate lists, two separate carts, two separate cell phones to call each other when it is time to meet at the checkout line.  On Odel’s list: everything that doesn’t require decision-making (canned food, toilet paper, peanut butter, eggs, etc.) and everything that is “his stuff”- diet Pepsi, tonic, hot dogs.  My list has all the produce and any unusual ingredients I need/want.  We shop from our lists, throwing in anything else that looks good… but with no time to browse an abundant cheese counter at a snail’s pace, for instance. (I do have a little longer if we’re in a grocery store that has a blood-pressure machine, irresistible to Odel.)

So, food shopping as hobby is best done alone.  As soon as Odel left with our friend Alex to head to the golf course, I jumped in the Jeep and headed to Market of Choice before the temperature rose too high (yes, we found summer here in Eugene).  Oh, what fun! 

Watson FallsMarket of Choice reminds me of the Nugget market chain in the Sacramento area (only the stores are smaller): a small local chain of stores that combine lovely (overpriced) produce; fabulous prepared foods, hot and cold; delectable desserts; a huge selection of cheese; health foods and bulk foods; and normal grocery items (like toilet paper and Orowheat bread).

Odel has recently been reminiscing about “the best hotdog” he has ever had (and I agree with him on this), cooked over a campfire when we visited with Jeanie and Ray at their ranch in Arizona (readers of Al’s blog will know this as the ranch where the Bayfield Bunch stays occasionally).  Ray can really cook a dog! 

I’ve been suffering through a bout of insomnia recently.  When we met new friends Cheryl and Roger for dinner here in Eugene the other night, I shocked Odel by ordering a beer after dinner.  I had the bright idea that it might help my insomnia (the main reason I don’t drink beer is that it makes me sleepy) – plus, I just didn’t want the evening to end, as we had so much fun laughing and talking politics (can you believe those two things go together??) with Cheryl and Roger. 

So how does all of this fit together?  As I strolled the aisles of Market of Choice, I saw All Natural Uncured Beef Franks and the light bulb went off.  Hot dogs for Odel, beer for me, and German potato salad.  Woo-hoo! 

The redwood water tunnelBack here at home, beer is chilling and potato salad is in the crockpot outside (the better to not overheat Scoopy’s interior).  I’ve got a sweet pineapple peeled and sliced, and picked up a few vegetable salads from the Market of Choice deli.  Tomorrow's visit to the Farmer’s Market will fill in the rest.

Here in Eugene, we’ve found summer’s warm temperatures – along with friends, old and new.  We arrived back at Armitage County Park (click here to read our most recent review) on Wednesday evening, the evening before Scoopy’s 115,000 mile maintenance, and met virtual friends Cheryl and Roger over Thai food at Chao Pra Ya.  As we left the campground heading to dinner, we saw our friends Ellen and Alex checking in.  We last saw them in Napa and were looking forward to catching up with them. 

When we pulled out at 7:30 am on Thursday to drive 4 miles to Cummins Northwest for servicing, we saw that Ellen and Alex ended up parked next to Paul of Wheeling It, yet another person known to us only through our blogs – until now.  Back at the park while we awaited word that the maintenance was complete, we spent a couple hours poking fun at the dumb things we have all done in our RV’ing lives – I laughed until my eyes teared up as Paul and Alex described applying magnetized solar shades to their rig’s huge windshields, gesticulating with wild, wind milling arm movements.   So, plenty of fun afoot this weekend.

All of today’s photos are from our waterfall-peeping trip up the North Umpqua River Scenic Byway last Tuesday when we were in Sutherlin.  We had a beautiful day for it, hiked well over 10,000 steps, and enjoyed ourselves immensely.   Refreshing photos for a warm summer day!

Odel tries his finger in the dike… … with notable lack of success!
Dutch Boy Odel Didn't work

Monday, August 22, 2011


Before I forget, I want to thank Mike for leaving a comment on my previous post, suggesting a book for the Kindle, Happier Than A Billionaire: Quitting My Job, Moving to Costa Rica, and Living the Zero Hour Work Week by Nadine Hays Pisani.  For only $2.99, I figured it was worth a look.  Mike, I LOVE it!  Nadine is hilarious!  I’ve subscribed to her blog, too – always nice to have a good laugh arrive periodically on Google Reader.  Great suggestion – thanks much!

When we left Newport on Friday, we cruised down Hwy 101 in sunshine, heading for Winchester Bay.  We’ve traveled the entire length of Hwy 101 at one time or another, and I always think of the coastal Oregon portion as a pleasant ride with fantastic views.  And it is… but my memory conveniently edits the twists and turns, the portions with no shoulder, the narrow tunnels and bridges.  It must be a nightmare to maintain!

Slide zone on 101 IMG_3200

Metal mesh covers the rock face beyond the “Slides” sign.

Lots of bike riders, not much shoulder.

Narrow tunnels – and there is a big truck in this one!

The sand dunes south of Florence creep towards the road.

Tunnel on 101 Florence Dunes

Our trip from Newport to Winchester Bay was just 77 miles, but took a bit over 2 hours – average speed: 38 mph!  Fortunately for the people behind us, passing lanes and pullouts appear reasonably frequently and we take full advantage of them.

While Odel negotiated the challenging road, I enjoyed views of the ocean in bright sunshine.  As we approached Winchester Bay, a few puffs of fog appeared, thickening as we passed through Reedsport.  We turned the corner towards the harbor into a blast of cold wind and fog, watching the temperature drop from the upper 60’s to 54 degrees!  Hey, isn’t this August??

Foggy morning at Winchester BayWe’ve visited here several times, often when our friends in the Roving Rods are holding their annual crab fest (click here to read about our last visit in September of 2009).   There is plenty to do in close proximity to this little town (click here to read about one of my favorite excursions, riding a speeding sand rail on the Florence Dunes). This time, we came just to spend a couple quiet days relaxing. 

After a visit to the dump station, we settled into a site facing the marina on Pier C (click here to read our 2009 review of the dry camping options at Winchester Day; click here to read our 2009 review of the county campground, Windy Cove B).

The fog and fierce wind stuck with us all afternoon and evening; I wore a fleece hat and heavy sweatshirt for our afternoon walk.  Thick fog when we awoke – which finally lifted around 10:30, when we took off for a hike at Sunset Beach State Park, west of Coos Bay.  Once again, we drove south in brilliant sunshine, only to smack up against a fog bank as we neared the ocean.  We cut our planned hike a little short and headed home – oh, so happy to find sunshine at Winchester Bay!

Fog at Sunset Beach State ParkThough we had a sunny afternoon, we decided to cut our visit short.  This might seem crazy to readers who have suffered through the long, hot summer in most of the country, but we want a bit of SUN and HEAT.  I can count on one hand the number of days we have needed A/C this summer – and yes, that IS a good thing - but hey… fog??  High’s in the 50’s??  Chilling winds??

So, we’ve headed inland once again, back to Umpqua Golf & RV Resort (click here to read our review from earlier this summer).  At 3:30, as I write, it’s 83 degrees and sunny.  Odel played a round of golf earlier today; I planned tomorrow’s trip along the Umpqua River Scenic Byway – sightseeing, hiking and picnicking in SUNSHINE.

Now, I’m heading back outdoors to my lounge chair and the next chapter of Happier than a Billionaire – and wonder how many billionaires are happier than I am.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Thanks to Grant and Kathy, we found delicious chowder in Newport!  The place to go is Georgie’s Grill, a restaurant associated with a hotel, right on the beach.  The view was incredible (beach, waves, blue Pacific ocean, blue sky, and a few hearty souls braving the strong, chilly wind); the chowder a cut above anything we’ve tasted for quite awhile.

I getting ahead of my story, though.  Food!  Such a distraction!.

Tunnel at the Newport AquariumOur last day in Newport began with a trip to the Oregon Coast Aquarium.  We hadn’t visited an aquarium for years; in fact, I think the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, is the only one I have ever visited.  We’d heard good reviews of the aquarium in Newport, so were there just a few minutes after 9 am, when the door opened – which translated to “no crowds”. 

We strode straight to the back of the exhibits, to the tunnels… you know, where you walk through a glass tunnel goggling at the fish all around you, including overhead.  SO COOL!   Lots of fish (including all kinds of sharks), no folks.

After dilly-dallying in the tunnels to our heart’s content, we went on to examine all the remaining exhibits… except for the turkey vulture aviary, which made us laugh!  To us, turkey vultures are such a common (and ugly) sight, it seemed hilarious that they would have their own exhibit!  Birds?  bring on the puffins, those stubby, colorful little clowns!  We got such a kick out of the puffin taking a rowdy bath a few feet from us.

What else?  The sea otters floating on their backs, playing with toys; the seals and sea lions cruising gracefully around their tank.  The jellyfish!  We totally enjoyed ourselves, departing just as a busload of kids disembarked and came streaming down the entrance ramp.  Excellent timing!  $13.75 for seniors (65+); two bucks more for those under age 65.  Worth it.

Then we were off to visit Grant and Kathy, staying at a nearby RV park.  They’ve been in Newport for several days, so had already sussed out the restaurant scene.  They had several suggestions, and I fell for the one they described as “a bit more upscale, with a great view” (they had already eaten there twice).  Georgie’s Grill not only has a great view, but very good clam chowder (I commend Odel for not fighting me off as I came back for several more tastes), a menu rich in non-fried seafood, and excellent, friendly service.  A winner.

Brown jelliesGrant and Kathy are birders (their blog motto: Seeing North America One Bird At a Time) who have done considerable volunteering, including three lighthouse stints along the Oregon coast.  We met once, very briefly, in Tucson a few years ago, and have many mutual friends, but this was the first time we have been able to have a relaxed and prolonged conversation.  It was a good, good visit. 

After that, nothing exciting… a trip to the grocery store, filled up the Jeep’s gas tank, Odel washed the Jeep, I added a couple campground reviews to the campground blog.  We traded emails with several people we plan to see in the next month, and began thinking about where we wanted to sit out the Labor Day weekend.  The usual downtime!  :)

In other news:  Hello to our newest followers.  Our “number” hung in at 299 for the longest time, then suddenly popped up to 303.  I am certainly one of the least conscientious RV bloggers when it comes to recognizing and welcoming new followers, but it does make me happy to know that readers “out there” (somewhere) find something of value here.  Welcome to you all.

Also, a few people have wondered what I’ve been reading on the Kindle lately – especially free or low cost books.  Thanks to a suggestion from our friend Richard, I just downloaded and read a book that lingers (intriguingly) on my mind… World Made by Hand ($9.39) by Kunstler, an interesting exploration of our world in the post-fossil fuel/post machine age.  Not creepy in the Mad Max way, at under $10, worth the price.

anemonesI admit, I do find myself buying many full price books ($11.99 or $12.99) – a hazard of listening to NPR’s book reviews and interviews.  Still, I’ve got a short list of books well under that price that I’ve enjoyed.  Remember, you can view reader reviews and download samples onto your Kindle for free before you decide to make a purchase, so don’t take my word for it:

Big Lake by Nick Russell (Gypsy Journal editor), just 99 cents.  I particularly like this book because I’m so familiar with the setting, but it had a fast moving plot and interesting characters, too. 

For $2.99, I recommend Winter Sea.  Oops, I see it is $7.69 now – I got a bargain!  I’m not a romance or fantasy reader, though this book might be categorized in either genre… but I enjoyed it.

I paid $7.62 for Mudbound, a gripping story with a couple tremendously difficult-to-read chapters – in fact, I just skimmed them, pretty much knowing what was going on.   The story reminds me of a Pat Conroy book – well-written, fascinating chapters, then a sudden horrific incident that leaves you breathless.  One of my favorites, but not for those who like an easy, light read. 

White jellyfishHere’s another cheapie: Bangkok Bob and The Missing Mormon (I paid $3.99).  I discovered this after reading a free short story that was just OK; a preview of Bangkok Bob was included at the end.  I found myself wanting to know what happened to the Missing Mormon, so bought the book.  Good marketing, eh?  Very enjoyable and fast moving.  I might end up trying others by this author.

I like Robert Parker’s Spenser stories, so recently read one of his earlier stories, Early Autumn, $7.99.  Typical Parker – fast moving story, spare prose, enjoyable characters, no wasted words.  Worth the money.

At $9.99, this one barely squeaks in under $10, but I really, really enjoyed it: Tooth & Claw.  It’s totally different than any book I have read before (and in the fantasy genre), but I was very sorry to see it end.  I’ll probably re-read it one day for the sheer enjoyment of the author’s imagination.

Another $9.99 book I thought about for quite awhile after I finished it: Snow Flower & the Secret Fan.  One of those that makes you appreciate modern life, particularly if you are a woman.

That’s my recent Under $10 reading list.  How about you?  Any good reads to add to the list?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Bridge at NewportA week ago, we hiked on Mt. St. Helens in Washington.  Today, we are seeing the sights of Newport, Oregon, along the coast, halfway between the northern and southern borders of the state.  We’ve made two intermediate stops, yet it feels to me as though we are moving in slow motion – perhaps because we’ve had so few commitments.

From Mt. St. Helens, we traveled south to visit our friends Marlene and Richard, staying on their beautiful property on an airstrip in the agricultural lands south of the Portland metro area.  We first met Marlene and Richard when we responded to their internet posting for garden sitters to water and harvest their big organic garden while they took an extended trip; it was the beginning of a rewarding friendship. 

PMarlene and Richard are full of curiosity about the world, and always busy with projects. The day we arrived, Richard had their big clay oven stoked so Marlene could bake seeded pita bread to enter in the county fair this week, followed by two round loaves of the same dough – which we enjoyed that night at dinner.

Marlene was busy working on the curriculum for the classes she teaches at the nearby community garden (which she was instrumental in starting).  Their son, Steve, his wife Diana, and their three entertaining boys were house sitting just down the street, so we were able to visit with them, too.  I finally got to see Richard’s frugally crafted coffee roaster – made from a bread machine bought for $1 a garage sale, a heat gun supported by an old desk lamp, and a vacuum hose.  I forgot to get a photo, but you can read about (and see) it here on his blog. 

Odel and Richard managed a game of golf; Marlene and I visited Penzey’s Spices (yes, an entire store that sells NOTHING but herbs and spices!) so I could replenish my spice rack, and the farmer’s market in Oregon City. Richard, Marlene, and I hit a nearby estate sale.  Besides two delicious meals at home, we had a fantastic Thai dinner at the Jade Teahouse in Portland, followed by a driving tour of some of Portland’s appealing neighborhoods.  Gosh, now that I write this all down, it seems as though we were incredibly busy, but it felt like three relaxing days.

Garden SculptureWhen we left on Sunday, our kitchen was bulging with freshly picked produce from Marlene’s garden -  blueberries, green beans, cucumbers, mustard greens, green onions, and vine ripened tomatoes - and my Kindle was fat with books recommended by Richard during philosophical conversations over the dinner table (we eat and drink WELL when we visit there).  It was a great stay, simultaneously relaxing and stimulating.  Thanks!

Next stop: 25 miles south to Silverton, Oregon.  I’ve been curious for a few years about the Oregon Garden, an 80 acre botanical garden in Silverton (Richard and Marlene had their fingers in this pie for awhile, too).  We were close by, we weren’t in a hurry, and there was a well-reviewed, nearby RV park that participates in Passport America, charging a very reasonable fee to PA members.  On Sunday, we meandered south on winding, two lane roads to Silver Spur RV Park (click here to read our review and see photos) in Silverton.

Before we arrived at Oregon Garden, I knew very little about it – like who funded it and why it was created.  Now, after our visit, I don’t know much more!  We learned that it was created to showcase plants, flowers and trees that grow in Oregon, and I believe the initial funding came from Oregon nurseries and other donors from the horticulture field.  The day we attended, though, I was shocked by how few visitors we saw! 

Water GardenThe gardens are beautifully designed; it was a pleasure to stroll along paths lined with perfectly maintained flora and enjoy the bright vistas.  A tram winds through the acreage – you can climb on and off at six locations along the way.  We enjoyed our explorations, ate a mediocre lunch at the restaurant in the adjacent hotel, and went on our way, wondering how the venture is supported if the low attendance we saw was typical during the height of the summer season.

The small town of Silverton was very quiet when we walked the downtown area on Sunday, and looked as though the current economy is a challenge for the small shops and restaurants we passed.  On the other hand, the park was bustling with picnicking families and kids enjoying a well-designed swimming hole on Silver Creek.  

After two low-key days in Silverton, we were ready for a change of climate – so off to the coast!  Though we have traveled the Oregon coastline several times and visited many of the communities along the way, we’ve never stayed in Newport, home to the iconic Yaquina Bay Bridge (top photo).  We usually stay at either the Elks campground in Florence (to the south) or the Elks campground in Lincoln City (to the north).  Since I learned that the Newport Elks Lodge offers 8 RV parking sites with water and electric hookups (click here to read our review and see photos), I’d been agitating to make Newport our first stop when we hit Hwy 101.

Port of NewportWe backed into our site at the lodge yesterday afternoon, then took a stroll down the hill (actually almost a ROLL down the hill – very steep!) to the marina and “historic Old Bayfront District” beyond.  The marina at Newport is very active, filled with working fishing vessels coming and going.  A wonderful, wide, wooden boardwalk lined with benches is the perfect spot for boat- and people-watching. 

Where the boardwalk ends, the historic bayfront district begins.   On the water side of the busy two lane street, seafood processing plants are packed in next to fishing charter companies, fresh seafood counters, tour boats offices, and whale watching tours.  Heavy trucks, including semi’s, back from the street down narrow ramps to pick up seafood.  Shrimp shells roll off a conveyer belt into the back of a dripping dump truck.  Every so often, a pier juts out into the bay, lined with tourists snapping shots of the barking sea lions lazing on rocks and wharves.

IMG_3082The other side of the street is dedicated to tourists: Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, a wax museum, t-shirts, salt water taffy, caramel corn, sea shells made into lamps and figurines, a “Made in Oregon” shop, ice cream shops and several restaurants specializing in clam chowder.  I found it mostly unappealing, but obviously, the crowds of visitors going in and out of the souvenir shops felt differently! 

Today, we headed to Nye Beach, a charming Newport neighborhood along the Pacific (rather than Yaquina Bay).  Picturesque though is was, the strong, chilly wind sweeping in off the ocean kept the long, appealing beach free of people – including us!  Instead, we headed to The Chowder Bowl on Odel’s relentless quest for a great bowl of clam chowder.  His verdict: a rather unenthusiastic “good”.  Hmmmm… guess that didn’t quite hit the spot!

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Between the dysfunction of our government and the rather bleak financial outlook, I sometimes find myself feeling dispirited (not to mention annoyed, frustrated, shocked, angry or discouraged).  An email I received this afternoon was a wonderful antidote to gloomy thoughts about the future!

We don’t have much contact with young people in our traveling lifestyle (which reminds me of a funny story, totally off-topic:  as we conversed with another retired couple recently, they mentioned the significant health problems of a friend.  I asked how old he is.  The reply?  “Young.  He just got on Medicare.”  Boy, did we laugh about that!)

photo_30So, back to the email, which really cheered me…  My 21-year old niece Claire wrote, detailing how she is spending her time until she returns to school at UC Berkeley in January (pursuing a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies).  Claire has designed for herself a “Read-A-Thon”, raising funds for Building Tomorrow to help build schools in Uganda.  This is an excerpt from her email:

“This fall, I am conducting a five month long Read-a-Thon to benefit a non-profit called Building Tomorrow. This organization constructs schools in Uganda, where many children are unable to attend school due to a lack of funding and infrastructure. I contacted One Day’s Wages, another non-profit that works to end poverty by providing grants to various organizations like Building Tomorrow, a couple weeks ago with my proposal for the Read-a-Thon. They agreed to help me and will even match every dollar I raise.

The goal of this Read-a-Thon is to raise $7,000 and read 7,000 pages between August 7, 2011 and January 7, 2012. I chose these dates because I am not going to be in school this fall because I was recently admitted to UC Berkeley as a spring transfer. Therefore, I decided to further my education by spending these months reading and raising funds for a great cause.”

Claire is posting daily updates on her blog, Reading for Uganda – and her effort has been profiled by Building Tomorrow on their blog, which you can read here.  Besides partnering with Building Tomorrow and working to get the matching funds from One Day’s Wages, she has been inspired by the first book she read (Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox) to contact her Senators and Representatives to see if they might give her a campaign a boost via social media:

“… I’m not sure what kind of responses I’ll get (assuming that I get any), but if Barbara Boxer would just tweet the One Day’s Wages campaign URL, I would be thrilled. I am planning to email Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Congressional Representative Doris Matsui, State Senator Darrell Steinberg, and Assemblymember Roger Dickinson.”

You go, girl!!   I hope Barbara Boxer will tweet; I don’t have the contacts she does, but I’ll do what I can to get the word out, too.  :)

If you take a look at Claire’s blog, you might feel moved to pledge or contribute, or you may simply enjoy following her daily posts for a glimpse of one person’s inspired effort to make a difference.  I am immensely cheered.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


LB and OK at St. HelensOn our way south to Oregon, we planned one day to visit Mt. St. Helens.  The weather report looked promising; we figured we’d get lucky – or not. The day dawned foggy and overcast but, with help from The Weather Channel, we kept our optimism, expecting the skies to clear around noon. 

Like Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, the Johnston Ridge Observatory (for observing the volcano, not the heavens) has a webcam (click here for the current view), and we checked conditions every 30 minutes from the time we got up.  The first several views showed nothing but a dense cloud.  Then, around 10:30, Odel yelled “it’s clearing"!   We grabbed sweatshirts and sandwiches, and off we went.

Our campsite at the Elks Lodge in Kelso (click here to read our review and see photos) was about 60 miles from the observatory at Johnston Ridge, the closest interpretive center to the volcanic crater.  After we exited I-5, our first stop was in the little town of Toutle, where Barbara and Ron – known to us through her blog – were camped with about 20 other rigs, a group of WINs (Wandering Individuals Network) in a field next to the Toutle school. 

Closer to Mt. St. HelensWe know other members of this interesting RV club (which, since we are not single, we are not eligible to join), but hadn’t met Barbara and Ron.  She left a comment inviting us to stop by on our blog, and a visit fit right into our plans for the day.  We caught them at home, and spent an hour chatting about mutual friends, our backgrounds, and the WINs RV club.  Barbara and Ron, I hope we will run into each other again some time.

Then we were on our way east once again.  This is our third visit to Mt. St. Helens, our second to Johnston Ridge.  We planned to drive right on up to the top so we would be able to explore the Boundary Trail more fully, but were distracted by Coldwater Lake – and the picnic area there.  My stomach was growling!  After eating our lunch at a sunny (!) picnic table, we took a short lakeside hike, dozens of photos, then we were back on the road.

The clouds continued to clear, and we caught glimpses of both Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens as the road snaked its way up Johnston Ridge.  Soon we pulled into the big parking lot at the end of the road and made our way to the observatory.  An entrance fee is required for all visitors, whether simply viewing, visiting the observatory, or hiking: $8 for people between ages 15 and 65.  With Odel’s Golden Age Pass, we both slipped in for free.  Ya’ gotta’ love it!  :)

Boundary Trail Odel takes a break

The narrow thread you can see here is the Boundary Trail.

Nice benches along the way!

Every 30 minutes, Johnston Ridge Observatory plays one of my favorite “shows”, a narrated sequence of photos and computer graphics explaining the huge landslide, volcanic explosion, and pyroclastic flows that reshaped the landscape here on May 18, 1980.  We’ve seen it once, so decided to head out on a hike, then relax in the theatre afterwards. 

St. Helens out the window of Johnston RidgeThe Boundary Trail, stretching to the east towards Windy Ridge, follows the top of Johnston Ridge, with the story of the explosion and subsequent mud flows writ large in the landscape – the crater in front, the sediment below, and blasted tree trunks, both downed and standing, on slopes to the north.  Wildflowers – primarily lupine and Indian Paintbrush – bloomed in trailside gardens. 

We had enough energy left for a couple of miles out and back, arriving back at the observatory a few minutes before the doors to the theatre opened.  And this is what EVERYONE remembers best about the presentation: when it has ended, with a picture of the blasted crater of Mt. St. Helens, the screen recedes into the ceiling, and the floor-to-ceiling draperies behind the screen part to reveal the exact same view of the crater, huge, up close and personal (this photo shows about 1/6 of the panoramic window).  Stunning!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


We waited out the morning fog, and look what we found…

Mt. St. Helens, lupine,

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Lupine and Indian PaintbrushHere on the Olympic Peninsula, at 11:50 am, it is foggy/overcast and 56 degrees.  That might seem like heaven to those of you anywhere east and south of us, suffering through your long hot summer – but I’m ready for some sunshine!

More than most years, this summer has made me aware of how important sunshine is to my well being.  Early on, we left Eugene to head east to find sunshine (and fell in love with Joseph, Oregon).  Since we’ve come back across the Cascades to western Washington, our days have been cool and most often cloudy or wet.  Sunny days (especially the four glorious days in Port Townsend) have been at a premium, and have filled me with energy.

When we left Point Hudson RV Park (click here to read our review) in Port Townsend, we moved less than ten miles, to COHO Evergreen Park, the Escapee co-op park in Chimacum, Washington.   Many of our traveling friends were there; it was nice to catch up over a potluck dinner and a happy hour.  Two days later, we moved another 30 miles to the Elks Lodge in Sequim (click here to read our review), looking forward to revisiting a couple of our favorite hikes.

Our ridgetop trailIt was a sunny afternoon in Sequim when we arrived, set up camp, and took off in the Jeep for the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge.  We looked forward to hiking the Dungeness Spit, a long tongue of land sticking out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca between the U.S. and Canada (click here to see a great photo).  Instead, we smacked into a cold, wet, bank of heavy fog.  That was it for me – I knew I was ready to leave the Olympic Peninsula in search of sunshine! 

We turned around and headed home, making plans to head south after one last day in Sequim - August 8th, which happened to be our 10 year wedding anniversary.  Though it was cold and gloomy when we woke, the Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge webcam show glorious sunshine and snowcapped mountains above the fog bank, so off we went.  What a great way to celebrate!

A few of the trails high up on Hurricane Ridge were still closed by snow, but the sunshine was abundant and we hiked a ridgeline trail in short-sleeved shirts.  Wildflowers were thick and lush; glaciers sparkled on the Olympic range.  We felt completely energized.

Snow at Hurrican RidgeBack at the Elks – sunny! – we visited with Dave and Diane, a couple we met during our first year of travel, then went home to a crockpot full of posole, a Mexican stew we both love (click here for the recipe I use).  It was a good way to end our day, and a good end (for now) to our travels in northwest Washington. 

I’m writing this as we travel Hwy 101 south.  It is now 12:20; we’ve left the gloomy fog behind us and the temperature soared up to 70 degrees!  :)  We have beautiful blue water to our left, thick green forest to our right.  We’re planning to overnight in Kelso for two nights, with a hike on Mt. St. Helens on the agenda for tomorrow.   Then we off to Oregon, visiting our friends in Canby where the temperature is forecast to be in the mid-80’s.  I’ll try not to complain.  :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Say “Pacific Northwest” and I picture charming Port Townsend, Washington.  A historic town in a gorgeous setting, Port Townsend has a mellow culture that suits our style.  Good restaurants, a wonderful Saturday farmer’s market (with a smaller version mid-week), plenty of hikes at Ft. Worden State Park, enjoyable window shopping along the small main street – and big enough for a major grocery store, a food Co-op, and a very reasonably priced golf course ($20.00 for seniors includes a cart).

Boarding the ferry to PT Packed on to the ferry

Driving down the ramp into the belly of the ferry.

We were a foot from the neighboring rigs.

As on past visits, we used the Keystone-Port Townsend ferry, loading Scoopy (towing Jules) onto the ferry from Whidbey Island for the 30 minute ride to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. We’re more used to ferry travel than we were when we first took this ride (in the other direction), but it still feels a little scary to drive onto a BOAT in our motorhome. They pack vehicles on like sardines – we barely had room to open our door once on board.

Mt. Baker in the distanceWith the price of diesel so much higher than it was when we first did this ferry trip, I was curious about how the cost of the short ferry trip compared compared with the long drive.  This year, the ferry cost $70.60 for the motorhome, jeep, and Odel and I, and we spent another $6 or so on fuel to and from the ferry terminals.  A short drive, a fun ride, and we were here.  If we had elected to avoid the ferry, we would have driven 204 miles, all the way south through Seattle to Tacoma, then up the Olympic Peninsula, spending half a day and around $96 on fuel.  Hooray for the ferry!

By 2:30, we were settled in site 340 at the Point Hudson Marina and RV Park (click here to read our review and see photos).  This is a first for us; we usually stay at the Port Townsend Elks Lodge or the Escapees RV park in nearby Chimacum.  Our site here is much more expensive than either of those options, but we enjoyed the fantastic view from our site and easy access to all Port Townsend has to offer, a short stroll away.

Our visit to Port Townsend coincided with the arrival of summer weather, at last!  We’ve hiked at the nearby state park, walked all over town, and shopped at the farmer’s market.  Yesterday, I visited almost every gallery and shop in town while Odel played 18 holes of golf.  I’ve spent several hours sitting in the sunshine reading my Kindle, and we’ve dedicated plenty of time to relaxing in our outdoor chairs, absorbed in the boat traffic that passes by in front of us, the strollers and dog walkers along the beachside trail, and watching the tide ebb and flow.  Not at all a bad way to spend a few summer days… :)

Looking over the marina to downtown Port Townsend.

This cottage garden looks inviting!

Marina looking towards Port Townsend Cottage garden

Monday, August 1, 2011


At FinsWe planned to stay in Oak Harbor, on Whidbey Island, for 5 days when we arrived.  Now, two weeks later, we’re finally leaving Staysail RV Park to ferry over to Port Townsend, on the Olympic Peninsula.  What kept us so long?

While Oak Harbor is lacking in charm, its central location made it an excellent base for exploring many interesting and beautiful areas of Washington, either by ferry or by car.  As it turned out, it also was a great base for socializing – we saw more friends here than we knew we had!  Let’s see if I can remember everyone…

We began with lunch in Mt. Vernon with our clamming friends, Bill and Wilda, who we saw again on our visit to the Bellingham farmers market.  Diana and Steve (we last saw them in Yellowstone National Park) invited us over to their temporary home near Coupeville as they prepared for a family wedding, and the next day we saw Steve’s mom and dad, our friends Marlene and Richard (Quartzsite last winter) in the Ft. Casey campground as we caught the ferry over to see Gisela, Bill (our neighbors at the Elks Lodge in Napa early this summer), and Chris (last seen in Yuma?).

Ann, Mick, Elaine, Laurie, Odel, MaryThe day we visited La Conner, we stumbled not only upon the arrival of the Indian canoes, but also friends Dan and Jenny (Yuma in January) – as we walked along the sidewalk, they turned in front of us in their big Alfa motorhome.  We walked a couple blocks to surprise them and chat awhile as they backed in to their site for the next couple of weeks.

Our local friend, Joe (last seen in Loma Linda a couple years ago), met us for lunch in Coupeville one afternoon…  was that the afternoon we came home to find Ann and Mick (AZ this past winter, I think) parked in the site next to ours?  It was just a day after that when I responded to a knock on the door to find Donna and Bob (saw them near Yellowstone last fall, and again near Quartzsite last winter) wondering if the Boomer sticker on our rig meant they’d found someone they knew.

With Ann and Mick, we ferried over to the Mukliteo to meet Vicky and Terry (we’ve seen them since, but they also hosted us in their street for a short stay a couple years ago) for lunch one day, then had lunch the next day with Mary and Elaine (I know we saw them recently – must have been AZ last winter) back at Kim’s Café in Coupeville.  

Anita, Linda, Zoe, Laurie, Odel, StevenYesterday, Linda, Steven, Zoe (their oldest daughter) and Anita (Linda’s mother) came to visit – meeting in person after a long acquaintance on Facebook.  In their company, we made our last visit to Kim’s Cafe, getting to know each other over bowls of mussels and Thai curry.

Ann joked on FB today that the economy of Coupeville will plummet when we leave the island, all thanks to Kim’s Café at the end of the wharf.  The food there is outstanding; you have your choice of indoor seating when the weather is gloomy, drippy or windy with outdoor seating when sunshine permits.  Highly recommend by us and the many friends who joined us there!

Just about a year ago, I looked back on our years of traveling and the friendships we have made (click here to read that post).  I can still clearly recall setting out on our travels in 2003, wondering how (or if!) we would form new friendships.  Believe it or not, that was before blogs!  Before Facebook!  Before air cards and easy internet access!  Though the ease of electronic communication has made maintaining friendships easier, it is the human connection that we all seek – and we found it in abundance here in on Whidbey Island.