Monday, August 31, 2009


First: the Shrimp with Carrot Slaw was delicious – and yes, I boiled the shrimp.  It was a wonderful meal for the hot, hot weather, since the shrimp only cooked for 3 minutes.  I added the recipe – along with my own notes and suggestions - to the recipe archive (left column) in case you want to give it a try some hot day.  We had Trader Joe’s potato salad along with the shrimp and slaw.

Since we first arrived in Napa a week ago, we had been looking forward to Blues, Brews and BBQ, a downtown Napa festival of music, microbrews (and of course there was wine, too) and BBQ of all kinds: ribs, pulled pork, turkey drumsticks… 

Saturday was the day, and it was over 90 degrees by noon.  The festival was scheduled from 1 pm until 6 pm.  In spite of the broiling sunshine, we headed downtown and joined the other hearty BBQ and music lovers who gathered there. 

BBQed ribs at Napa Blues, Brews and BBQ Crowded shade at BB and BBQ

As you can see in the photo on the right, EVERYONE squeezed into whatever slice of shade they could find!  We were lucky enough to find a couple of unoccupied chairs in a bit of dappled shade, where we ate ribs, drank a couple of brews, and bobbed our heads in time to the music for a hour or so.  When the owner of the chairs showed up to reclaim them, we gave up – it was just too hot to stick around.  :(   I believe the mercury finally topped out at 104 degrees.

Trail to Sugerloaf Mountain in Napa On Sunday, it was as if we were in a different state!  We took off early in the cool, cool morning to revisit Sugarloaf Mountain in Napa’s Skyline Wilderness park.  The trail head is at 100 feet elevation; the mountain peak is at 1640 feet, and the round trip distance is 7.5 miles.  We hadn’t hiked over three or four miles in awhile and I rather wondered whether I could!

The hike climbs fairly continuously, in both shade and sun.  Throughout the climb, a breeze evaporated the sweat we generated, keeping us comfortable even in the sunshine.  What a welcome change from Saturday’s weather!  I don’t think the temperature even reached 80 degrees on Sunday. 

View from Sugarloaf Mountain in Napa to the west.We had a great view as we climbed higher and higher.  In the photo below, you can see what the weather forecasters call “the marine layer”, off to the west: the fog generating the welcome change in temperature.  Excellent hiking weather, and we both completed the hike in high spirits.

We had another early day this morning, heading up to Sacramento to run several errands, then to visit my dad, mom and sister Sydney visiting from Bisbee, AZ.  Daddy looked great, is walking more steadily, and seems to improve a little more each day.  Again, thanks for all your good wishes, comments and emails.  We all are feeling optimistic about his recovery.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Napa River Trail behind the Elks Lodge RV parking area We’ve done a whole lot of nothing since we arrived in Napa!  Our sightseeing trip to Calistoga on Tuesday was the farthest we’ve traveled since we settled into our site here at the Napa Elks Lodge.

Part of the reason is the weather; hot (even unusually hot) weather seems to be following us around (I guess we must be following it, huh?).  The past few days have been considerably warmer than forecast, and considerably warmer than usual in this area.  Mornings: cool and pleasant.  Afternoons: let’s get INDOORS! 

Another reason we haven’t strayed far: we are in such a nice spot.  :)  We arrived on Monday, and did our Calistoga sight-seeing excursion on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, Odel played golf at Kennedy Park golf course.  I walked the Napa River Trail, adjacent to the Napa Elks RV parking (photo above), then explored Napa.

A big draw for most visitors to the Napa Valley is the unlimited opportunity for wine tasting.  Though I love the beauty of the vineyards and wineries of the Napa Valley, wine tasting in this wealthy valley doesn’t appeal to our limited wine budget, so we save that activity for the wineries of the Sierra foothills. 

Lunch at Taylors Refresher at the Oxbow MarketWhat DOES appeal to me is the food scene, the local ingredients, purveyors, and restaurants.  I was semi-surprised to learn that one of the big names in Napa, Copia, has declared bankruptcy and closed its doors.  Although I had often checked on the events planned at Copia (tastings, classes) when we were in the area, I had never actually attended any of them as they seemed either too costly or too precious/highbrow – or both.  Apparently other people felt the same way, and its owners/patrons weren’t willing to keep pouring in the money necessary to keep the venture afloat. Hummmpf… I guess there is an upper limit even here in the Napa Valley.  :)

I found an interesting and slightly more affordable new addition to the food scene since our last visit: the Oxbow Public Market.  A huge, rehabbed building (a warehouse? mill?  factory?) is now home to about a dozen vendors – again, very upscale – and anchors the renovation of the surrounding Oxbow neighborhood.  While Odel played golf, I browsed the possibilities for dining out.  We stopped for late lunch at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher after golf (second photo), followed by dessert at Three Twins Organic Ice Cream.  Do I know how to make my husband happy, or what?  :)

Real Simple's "Shrimp with Carrot Slaw". The wonderful produce available at the farmers’ market on Tuesday and Saturday – and the general “foodie” ambiance – has inspired me to try out some new recipes.  A recent issue of Real Simple Magazine had a handful of interesting, simple menus (an entree and a side dish) suitable for preparation in hot weather.  We tried the first one last week with my parents: Seared Lamb with White Bean and Mint Salad.   The recipes were easy (we grilled the lamb chops outdoors rather than browning/roasting them inside) and the results excellent. 

Thus inspired, I’m going to experiment with several of the remaining recipes during the upcoming week, beginning today with Shrimp with Carrot Slaw (photo from the Real Simple website).  Even though I have my own ideas on what changes might make the recipe better (like, sauté the shrimp in oil and garlic, instead of boiling them), I’m trying to stick with the original to introduce some new flavors into our meals.  I already reduced the amount of grated carrots in the slaw, though, and used a chile/salt/lime seasoning that I like instead of the specified cayenne and salt seasoning… I couldn’t help myself!  But I’m committed to boiling the shrimp.

That’s our agenda these days: walk the riverside trail in the morning when it is cool, research/plan our upcoming travels in the afternoon when we are indoors under the A/C, and try out new recipes.  Once the heat wave breaks (in a couple of days, please, please, please), we’ll be out exploring again.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I’ve been blogging so infrequently that I forgot to take photos today!  Too bad, as we are in a beautiful region.  :)

Our roomy site at the  Napa Elks Lodge

My Dad was discharged from Sutter Rehabilitation Institute on Friday, and I helped him settle in back at home.  He is doing well, and has a schedule of almost daily visits from various therapists and a home health nurse to help him continue his recovery.  We feel good about his situation and care, so fired up Scoopy and moved a couple of hours west yesterday.

We settled in at the Napa Elks Lodge (read our review and see more photos here) around noon.  This lodge has 12 sites, all nicely landscaped with full hookups and cable TV.   The sites are behind the lodge, away from traffic noise, a stones throw from the Napa River.  A 1.2 mile paved trail runs along the riverbank just outside the lodge grounds.  All of this for $20 a night, a true bargain in the Napa valley.

Today was a day for exploring.  I have visited the Napa Valley many, many times in the past 30 years and wanted to reacquaint myself of some of my favorite spots.  We started with a visit to the Napa Farmer’s Market – peaches, tomatoes, corn, cilantro, green onions, red and green grapes, peppers… they all went into our shopping bags, along with half a dozen chicken enchiladas that just need to be heated for tonight’s dinner.

Grapes on the vine in the Napa Valley Then we headed up the Silverado Trail, running along the east side of the Napa valley from Napa to Calistoga.  Unlike Highway 29, the Silverado Trail bypasses the small commercial centers in the valley, a scenic two-lane road undulating on the edge of vineyards and eucalyptus.

As we drove, I realized I’ve never come to Napa in August!  It is a hot, dry month (though much cooler than the Sacramento Valley!), not one I’ve ever picked for sightseeing.  It was fun to see the grapes hanging heavy on the vines, many of which were covered with bird netting.  Other vineyards glittered with ribbons of shiny mylar to frighten away hungry birds.

Once we arrived in Calistoga, we found the Napa County Fairgrounds, where we eyeballed the RV parking.  I’d like to spend a week in Calistoga in September or October, and wanted to see whether the fairgrounds parking would work for us.  Looked good – open with some shade, and typically lax fairgrounds management. 

A shady trail at Bothe Napa State Park As we looped back down Hwy 29, on the west side of the valley, we stopped for a hike at Bothe Napa Valley State Park.  The afternoon was warm, and the state park has a forested, creek side trail that seemed appealing. 

California has just raised all of its state park fees, and the day use fee at Bothe Napa is now $8.  Chatting with the kiosk attendant, we asked for the senior rate – then Odel said “what about a rate for retired state parks employees?”  After a lot of joking give-and-take, guess what?  The guy gave us a pass!  We’ll have to try that more often. :)

Hmmmm… lovely and shady though the trail was, we should have done our walking early, and our sightseeing later!  We both tied bandanas around our foreheads to catch the dripping sweat – and did manage a walk of a couple miles.

We’ve registered for a week here at the Elks Lodge, but may well extend for another week (the maximum stay is 14 days).  The Napa Valley is a world-renowned destination – why not take advantage of it for as long as we can?

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Hiking the northern California coast, wearing a SWEATSHIRT! After a short (4 days), pleasant “vacation” to coastal California (10 to 15 degrees cooler than Sacramento), we are back in the Sacramento metro area at Beals Point Campground near Folsom Lake.  We arrived yesterday in 95 degrees and full sunshine, and were happy to find that our site became shaded as the afternoon progressed.  We have 50 amps, water and sewer here, so we can stay comfortable in the heat.

When we made our reservation a week ago (you have to use Reserve America), we gagged a bit on $34/night – but these state park sites are spacious and the location very convenient for us, halfway between my parents’ home and the Sutter Rehabilitation Institute, where my Dad is getting excellent care in recovering from his stroke.  On Monday of this week, two days before we arrived, fees at all the California State Parks went up, substantially.  The new nightly rate here is $45!  Since we had paid in full at the time we made our reservation, we feel like we got a good deal. :)

Site 63 at Beals Point, Folsom Lake SRAMy Dad has made great progress.  His short term memory is non-existent, and he has significant vision loss, prognosis unknown.  No more driving for him, and he really can’t be left alone for awhile.  He CAN walk (though it is best if someone is very nearby, but that will improve when he is home and can hang on to furniture).  He looks normal, his speech is normal, his longer term memory is unaffected.  His sense of humor is undiminished and he works hard with his various therapists.  Go, Daddy!

He will be discharged from the rehabilitation center (boy, have I learned a lot there!) tomorrow and we finally get to bring him home.  In-home therapy will begin next week.  I’ll be staying with my mom and dad for a few days while we see what potential obstacles need to be worked out. 

If all goes as planned, Odel and I will be able to leave the heat of the Sacramento valley and move a couple of hours away to the Bay area – much cooler, but still close enough to be supportive.  We plan to stay in northern and central California until Thanksgiving – Napa, Petaluma, Calistoga, Santa Cruz, maybe as far south as Santa Barbara.  These are areas we visited many times when we were working folk living in Sacramento, and all are places we enjoy.  Blog posts to follow, once we are underway again.

Thanks for all the comments and personal emails we have received.  What a wonderful community of friends!

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Scoopy in the center at Umpqua Golf and RV Resort One of the advantages of this lifestyle is the flexibility to make quick adjustments.  We got a message on Friday morning that my (Laurie’s) dad had a stroke (not “major”, thanks goodness) on Thursday and was in the ICU.  We packed up and were headed south by 10:00 am, logging a record travel day for us, 364 miles and two metropolitan areas.  Odel did a masterful job!

We stopped for the night in Sutherlin, Oregon, at Umpqua Golf and RV Resort (read our review here), where we paid a great rate of $15 for full hookups in a pull through site so long we didn’t have to unhook Jules.  As I write, we are soon to cross the Oregon/California border, with Redding as our goal for the night.  We’ll be at the Placerville Elks Lodge (our “home” lodge) tomorrow night, able to visit my dad in the rehabilitation unit.

I know we have a lot of family and close friends who follow our blog, along with many friendly strangers.  Though I debated posting this, I know many folks would become concerned if the blog was not updated for a couple of weeks.  The latest word we have on my dad’s health is promising.  I probably won’t be posting much for awhile, but we are expecting a reasonably good outcome.

By the way, today is our 8th wedding anniversary.  We are heading from lovely 65 degree weather in Oregon to California summer weather, close to 100 degrees for the next 10 days.  Odel is behind the wheel, piloting us south with no thought other than to see what we can do to be useful to my parents.  There is no better husband than mine.

Enjoy yourselves.  Guard your health.  Hug your loved ones, and be happy.  As my friend Bobbie Chapman always signs off: “Remember, you are loved”.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


HeAding to Washington across the 4 miles bridge at Astoria

Two days of travel moved us from the Elks Lodge in Tillamook, Oregon (yes, we were able to get out over the trench!), to the Elks Lodge in Hoquiam, Washington, to the curb in front of Terry and Vicky’s house in Brier, Washington, just north of Seattle (and still in the metropolitan area).  Our weather on both days was cool, cloudy and gray, and the drives were pleasantly uneventful. 

This is the bridge that crosses the Columbia River near its mouth.  At this point, it is so wide that the bridge spanning it is 4 miles long.  The surrounding banks on both sides are crammed with Lewis and Clark historic sites, now state parks, state recreation areas, and historic waysides.  I love the name “Dismal Nitch”, where there is now a rest area on the Washington State side.  The Corps of Discovery spent 6 days there in November, 1805, when William Clark inadvertently bestowed the name through an entry in his diary.  Oh, can’t you picture how miserably cold and wet they must have been?

We arrived in Brier and set up camp in the street yesterday afternoon. Happily, the record-setting heat wave that gripped Seattle and the rest of the northwest last week has eased and we’ll have moderate temperatures for our 5-day stay.

Scoopy parked curbside at the WebbsThis is a rare occurrence for us (curbside camping)!  Terry and Vicky offered this site when they heard we needed to spend a few days in the area to meet with Sydney and Frank, who are visiting nearby Kirkland from Bisbee, AZ.  We get a place to stay AND the chance to spend time visiting with Terry and Vicky – perfect.

Another rare occurrence: Odel has taken our laundry to a laundromat!  Too many consecutive days of camping without a sewer hookup resulted in a huge heap of dirty laundry, so he set off a couple hours ago with the laundry and a map.  Other highlights of our “catch up when we’re in an urban area” list:  Trader Joe’s, Costco, REI, Teavana, and AAA, all within a short drive of each other and our current camping spot.  What could be more convenient?

So we’ll be catching up and stocking up today and tomorrow, then visiting with Sydney and Frank in Kirkland over the weekend.  They are in Kirkland for an art show opening (Oil Painters of America) where Sydney has a painting.  If you would like to see her works, click here.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Scoopy and the neighbors at the Tillamook Elks Park Yesterday we moved about 60 miles from Lincoln City to Tillamook, Oregon.  We had explored a couple of camping options when we were in Tillamook visiting the Air Museum, and decided to dry camp at the Tillamook Elks Lodge park (read our review and see more photos here) for the two nights we planned to be in Tillamook.  We arrived around 10:30 am, descended a little hill on a smooth gravel driveway, and pulled into the grassy field designated for RV parking.  Of the 18 sites available, only three others were occupied.  We settled in comfortably.

Like the Lincoln City Elks Lodge, the Tillamook Elks Lodge has a park – a regular park, with trees, grass, picnic tables, and RV sites – located outside of town, a few miles from the Lodge building.  The Tillamook Lodge doesn’t have any hookups, though, so gets fewer RV’ing visitors and less revenue from their 18 sites. 

By 7:30 am, the trench had bisected the driveway and was heading up the hill.While their current sites are down a slight hill from the main park entrance, they have just begun work on a year-long project to add 25 new sites with water, electricity, sewers and a dump station on the upper level.  Bulldozing has begun, and we were able to see the layout of the new sites.

Chatting with the camp host, we learned that Monday (today) was the day designated to dig a trench to bury the conduit and cabling for electricity to the new section.  He said the volunteers would be digging a trench, putting in the conduit, then refilling the trench as they went along.

He DIDN’T say that they would be arriving in diesel pickup trucks at 5:30 and firing up the backhoe at 6 am!  He also didn’t say that both Scoopy and Jules would be on the WRONG side of the trench!  In the time it took for Odel and me to wake up, get up, get dressed and get focused on what was going on, the driveway had been bisected by a 4 foot deep trench the width of a backhoe bucket.  It became increasingly clear that, unless someone acted quickly, we would have no way to get Jules to the “right” side of the trench – and no way to leave the park.

Scoopy is cut off from the exit by a 4' deep trench! Odel to the rescue, of course.  He hopped in Jules and drove right up the grassy slope to the safety of the high ground while we still had room to maneuver.  The next 15 minutes were spent in conference with the contingent of Elk volunteers operating the heavy equipment, since our plans definitely include a morning departure on Tuesday.

Then we headed into town for groceries, including a stop at Pacific Seafood for fresh mussels.  By the time we returned, there was no longer a route down the hill to Scoopy by car, so we tromped on down, carrying our groceries, to the sounds of apologies shouted by the volunteers.

After further assurances that the driveway would be filled and usable by tomorrow morning, we headed out for an afternoon hike at Cape Lookout.  We had explored part of the Three Capes Scenic Drive yesterday afternoon, hiking Cape Mears, but had saved the longer Cape Lookout hike for today. 

Condition of the Lookout Trail, with an inset of the beautiful view. Our hiking book mentions that it is not often sunny on Cape Lookout, which averages 100 inches of rain each year.  Even though it hasn’t rained along the coast for at least a week, the trail surely LOOKED like a rain forest trail: long sections could only be described as mud bogs. 

Huge spruce hid the sky, fingers of fog nourished the densely packed ferns growing on the hillsides.  We could hear seabirds calling and waves crashing at the foot of the cliffs, 400 feet down.  “Primeval” comes to mind.

After a couple of miles, we broke out of the forest and mud onto the warmer south side of the cape.  The trail dried, the fog lifted, and we were rewarded with beautiful views – and one quick glimpse of a whale!  Seabirds floated in the water far below and soared nearby as we soaked up the sunshine before hiking back. 

Packing down and leveling the driveway for our departure.

Things were looking up when we got back to the park.  Enough dirt had been replaced in the trench to allow vehicles (a pickup truck and trailer) to drive out of the RV sites, though it still looked doubtful for our 15 ton motorhome.  The volunteers gathered around Odel for another conference; no problem!  Once they took off for home, promising an early return in the morning (“Go to bed early tonight!”), the camp host got to work packing and grading the driveway for us. 

WE got to work scrubbing and debearding our mussels, and settled down to a great meal of fresh mussels steamed in a simmering broth of white wine, olive oil, garlic, herbs, chopped tomatoes, and lemon zest.  A loaf of french bread purchased this morning, a bottle of white wine – these tired and well fed hikers will be in bed early, indeed.  :)

Saturday, August 1, 2009


The crowd outside Mo's Chowder House

It looks as though the entire population of Oregon west of the Cascades has moved to the two-mile strip of coastline east of the high-tide line for the weekend.  No surprises there, since temperatures in Portland and other Willamette Valley cities and towns have been setting or tying high temperature records for much of the week.  We planned accordingly, doing our sightseeing during the week, staying close to home today.  I took the photo above on a beach walk a short drive away.

Hanger B, the Tillamook Air MuseumOdel has a greater interest in airplanes than I do, buta double-header of air museum visits on Thursday and Friday had something special for me, too:  two of the biggest wooden structures of their kind.

On Thursday, we visited the Tillamook Air Museum, 50 miles up the road in Tillamook, Oregon – best known for the Tillamook Cheese Factory tours.  The museum houses a collection of 30+ airplanes and interesting exhibits, but the building itself was the big draw for me.  Described as “the "World's Largest Free-Standing Wood Structure" (206 feet wide, 1072 feet long and 192 feet – over 15 stories - high), it is almost impossible to convey how massive this building is.  Covering 7 acres and looming over the nearby buildings, cars and planes, it is an almost irresistible draw.

Blimp Hanger, outside looking in I had no idea that blimps had been used to protect ship convoys during WWII.  The Air Museum is housed in a blimp hanger that could hold 8 K-ships, one of 17 wooden blimp hangers constructed by the U.S. Navy.  Two hangars were built at the Naval Air Station Tillamook.  Hangar "B" was the first one built, completed in the spring of 1943. Hangar  "A" (destroyed in a spectacular fire in 1992) was completed in only 30 days.

A short movie detailed the building of the hangers, required to be built of wood due to wartime shortages of metal.  According to the movie, the wood for ALL 17 hangers (including those on the east and south coasts) was harvested and milled in Washington and Oregon.  When Oregon’s winter rains came, vehicles and tractors were mired in mud up to their axles.  When the fog rolled in, crane operators, attempting to lift the crowns of the arches into place on the side pillars, weren’t able to see the tops of the pillars; spotters with radios relayed commands to the operators.  Unbelievable!  Amazingly, there were no serious injuries or deaths on the whole project.

Blimps at rest in the hanger Deflated K Ship being carried through the hanger!

These photos were part of the display in the exhibit room.  On the left, the 8 inflated K-ships rest inside the hanger.  On the right, that thing that looks like a centipede?  Those are men carrying a deflated, folded K-ship!  That really tickled me.

Spruce Goose Tail with Odel in the right lower corner for scale. On Friday, we headed east, back to McMinnville and the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.  The two sleek museums (one for aviation, the other for space travel) and an IMAX theatre offer a completely different experience from the down-home Tillamook Air Museum, and the price reflects it ($32 per person included an IMAX movie vs $7.50 in Tillamook). 

Here is another “biggest wooden structure” of its kind: the Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes amazing flying boat.  Don’t ask me why (I don’t know the answer), but I have always been interested in seeing the Spruce Goose – and I loved it. 

Once again, it is a sight too massive to convey in a photo (taken with my camera, anyway).  A nearby sign described it as “bigger than a football field”: while the wing tips would reach beyond the goal posts on each end, the tail and nose would be in the laps of the fans.  It has a fascinating history, conveyed in a video that we watched while sitting in airplane seats that are used throughout the museum as rest areas and video viewing areas. Another interesting tidbit: the wing floats were filled with inflated beach balls to help provide buoyancy!

Grab and pull the yellow and black D ring embedded in the front of the seat. Way back in the mists of the dawn of time, Odel was a fighter jet pilot. Some of you have heard him say that he has “one more take off than landing” and know the story of his ejection from an F-4 Phantom – the close call, his close-to-final thoughts (“what would John Wayne do?”), and the second desperate yank of the D ring that finally ignited the rocket pack and blew him out of the cockpit just before the jet crashed to earth.  Well, here is the cockpit and the position of the famous D ring!  We carry one just like it (slightly used) in the bay of our motorhome – maybe a good luck charm?

Next we headed over to the IMAX to see “A Pilot’s Story”, following a fighter jet pilot through Operation Red Flag, a training exercise for the top Air Force pilots – the Air Force equivalent of “Top Gun”.  We sat back in our chairs, settled in – and I immediately got airsick!  Odel watched the movie with interest; I closed my eyes tightly each time we saw the pilot’s viewpoint, peeking out occasionally to see if the horizon was back where it belongs.  Oh, well – the seats were comfortable and the theatre air conditioned.  :)

Sputnik, the first man-made object to orbit in space Then we were off to the Space museum, filled with artifacts and exhibits of space travel, along with Shuttle landing simulators where we each were able to land our space vehicle safely.  One of my favorite exhibits was a replica of Sputnik, tiny – about the size of a beach ball - and shiny, hanging from the ceiling.  On a nearby wall, we read:

Soviet space chief Sergei Korolev designed Sputnik to be spherical, like a moon, and highly polished, to brightly reflect the light of the sun.  He wanted earthlings to see the satellite with their own eyes and remember it always.  “The first Sputnik must have a simple and expressive form, close to the shape of natural celestial bodies,” he said.  “It would forever remain in the consciousness of people as a symbol of the dawn of the space age.”

I think he accomplished his goal – I certainly remember watching Sputnik pass overhead in the nighttime sky.