First Sunrise of 2021

First Sunrise of 2021
First Sunrise of 2021

Thursday, January 7, 2021

December 2020

The sun is shining brilliantly through the office windows.  After a morning thick with heavy fog, it seems almost a miracle. Maybe that is what we need.  A miracle to come after the difficulties of the day before this one.  We need some sunlight to shine on us.  On all of us.  Some optimism, a reason to hope for a better year ahead.  I have struggled with trying to write this post.  It is easy to write about travels and camping trips, fish and chips at the coast, rain on the roof of the MoHo.  It is easy to be in the moment when traveling, maybe that is why we love it so much.

The rare sunny afternoon at Sunset House in December

The break in fog and rain gave us a chance to rake and haul the last of the oak leaves

It isn’t so easy to write about family gatherings, holidays that have been quite different than past years.  December darkness, more days of deep fog and dark skies than I remember even in Grants Pass.  We wake in the morning and it is dark, with light penetrating the fog only after 7:30 or so.  By 3:30 we are surprised to see the darkness descending again and by 5:15 it is pitch dark. 

This is actually a bit better than it was two weeks ago when it was pitch dark at 5.  Solstice has come and gone and the days are getting longer, miniscule second by second. I guess that is why a day like this, when the sun bursts through illuminating every tiny green blade of grass with a golden halo it seems like a miracle.

The Christmas season for us started even before Thanksgiving when I put up the outside Christmas lights.  Once again, we had help from Grandson Matthew, young and agile enough to climb our tall roof and line the edges of the gutters and the roof shingles all the way around the house.  Even though our home is just one story, the western side of the house is more than 18 feet off the ground, thanks to our sloping lot.  I know I wouldn’t manage to get up on the roof and even though Mo was a famed roof climber not so long ago, she isn’t about to climb up there either.  If Matthew moves away we are in big trouble.

Here in Southern Oregon our restaurants opened enough that one of our favorites, The Twisted Cork, advertised a special Sunday brunch, reservations only, limited indoor seating.  We were excited, made reservations for a birthday celebration downtown with friends Maryruth and Gerald, who celebrate December birthdays, and Daughter Deborah and Grandson Matthew to join us for the party limited to six guests.  Sadly that all fell apart when the numbers in our county began rising and once again dining was limited to outdoor seating only.  The Twisted Cork decided that with the cold and very wet weather, it was too much, and cancelled the party.

Mo and I decided the heck with that and I called Deborah and said, “Let’s do our own brunch for Maryruth and Gerald!”  Daughter Melody also drove south from Eugene for a Christmas time visit.  Her honey Robert had to travel for two weeks, returning before Christmas so she decided to quarantine at home for Christmas Day rather than taking a chance on Robert carrying the virus with him from Texas on an airplane. We had our little bubble of six and Deborah and I had fun trying to make the Sunday brunch as decadent as possible. 

We made real eggs benedict, and had lots of fruit and fruit dip choices, and Deborah made homemade pastries and we had lots of very cold champagne to wash it down.  It was such a simple but lovely way to spend a day with our friends.  In fact, we all decided that it was much more fun that it would have been in the restaurant.

The next week before Christmas we made a date with Maryruth and Gerald to drive around town to see all the Christmas lights.  It was great fun, and there were some truly fabulous light shows to enjoy.  I must say that the winner, a computerized laser light show with music to match, left me unmoved.  It wasn’t very Christmasy, and while quite loud and glitzy, it didn’t feel right. 

We discovered that the people in cars piling up all around in the tiny cul de sac where the lights were blaring didn’t agree with us.  It was incredibly popular.  We tried to follow the newspaper printed maps, tried to use google, but the four of us wore out before we could see all the various neighborhoods that were recommended. 

Grants Pass isn’t very big, but it was too big for us to cover it all that night.  Maryruth and I both grew up in Southern California, with amazing memories of Christmas Tree Lane and Story Book Lane in Pasadena, and the most amazing Christmas light neighborhood ever in a high end housing development that at the time was called Hastings Ranch.  Every single street was decorated with a matching theme for each one,  It was something to see and one of my best kid memories.  Maryruth felt exactly the same way. Still, we loved our lighted evening in Grants Pass and topped it off with hot chocolate from the downtown Dutch Brothers, just a block from where the chain was first established.

When Christmas actually came, Mo and I were perfectly content to enjoy Christmas Eve with just the two of us and probably the very best clam chowder I have ever made.  It’s a tradition for us, the closest I am willing to get to my childhood Christmas Eve oyster stew, which thank goodness I was never forced to eat. We topped off our evening with another drive around Grants Pass, finding the neighborhoods that we had previously missed and noticing with surprise how many homes were surrounded by many cars as people were gathering for the holiday in spite of the warnings.

On Christmas Day I invited Maryruth and Gerald and Deborah again for Christmas ham, another tradition that we seem to repeat each year.  I buy ham once a year, either Christmas or Easter, and the leftovers in the freezer are enough for some bean soup and scalloped potatoes and ham throughout the year.  We sat around in the living room together with whatever YouTube channel was Christmasy and enjoyed the company until early evening when Deborah decided to brave the heavy rain to drive the hour long trip back to Shady Cove and Maryruth and Gerald retreated the short mile back to their home.

The day after Christmas, with no more company to come for a meal, we pulled out another great puzzle.  The Paint the Town series by Eric Dowdle is great fun, and he even has a PBS show about each town that he visits.  It only took us a bit less than 3 days to find all the little people and figure out the many high rise buildings in the beautiful Portland puzzle.

New Years Eve was even more quiet than Christmas, with no visits and no real celebrations except for the local fireworks and gunshots that in our somewhat rural neighborhood started up around 9 and kept going until long after midnight.  I think I woke up for a minute or two at 12, and thought about the New Year to come.  The calendar is such a man made thing, and the days just shift as they will do.  Who knows if the energy of a year changes just because a man made number has changed, but this afternoon in the sunlight I can feel a bit of hope.  Vaccines are coming…eventually.

One more Christmas behind us and look at that sunshine

Our travels for the coming year have already shifted in spite of the hope of 2021 being a bit more free than 2020 was.  We had planned to travel south to California for our annual desert trip toward the end of January, but have put that plan on hold.  I just can’t get really excited about traveling through California yet.  I called Catalina Spa and learned that the pools are open but the spa and showers are closed as are most of the other amenities.  With restaurants and movies and such being closed in Southern California, and COVID numbers off the charts, the trip just didn’t seem very smart.  We will wait, and maybe travel south in March.  If things in California haven’t improved by then, we may slide south through Nevada into wild places in the desert where we can boondock without worrying much about running into too many people.

Our other big travel plans included a May cruise to Scotland, cancelled last year but still on the books to depart from London on May 22.  We will wait for Oceania to cancel this one before we make any big decisions about it, but something tells me our cruise to Scotland will not happen again this year.  It takes a long time for cruise ships to get going again, if they ever do.  I spoke with my doctor this week during a virtual checkup and was told that I shouldn’t expect to get a vaccination for weeks and possibly months in this part of Oregon.  Each state has their own priorities, and for Oregon it is health care workers with folks over 75 a bit farther down on the list.  I guess, just like 2020, 2021 is still a wait and see year. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

12-15-2020 through 12-19-2020 Another December Escape

When winter comes, our best option for a short getaway is to head for the coast.  We had barely returned from our Thanksgiving trip when Mo said, “Can we make a plan to go somewhere again before Christmas?”  Ummm….took me an overnight minute but by the next morning I was ready to search Harris Beach for a reserved campsite.  Harris Beach is beautiful, and close.  Just a bit over 2 hours for us from Grants Pass.  I guess that is why you will see more photos and blogs about Harris Beach than just about any other location we have traveled.  So be it.  If you are bored…just move along.

With all the sites being full on our last trip, we didn’t want to take a chance.  Reservations are so easy, and for me personally it is much less stressful to know I have a place to land.  Especially when the weather is stormy I really don’t want to be wandering around hunting for somewhere to by dark.

The weather report for our four days at the ocean was grim.  Wind warnings, gale warnings, high seas and king tide warnings were many.  Still, we have camped at the coast enough to know that in between all these dramatic events the skies can clear unexpectedly and the sun will break through.  We planned accordingly.  I think I packed more outerwear and footwear than I have in a very long time.  Four days, four weeks, if it is cold and variable, I need all those alternatives to being wet.  Glad I did.

As we departed from home around 11, the skies were that gloomy gray dull that I like least of any, and the rain was spotty.  Just enough to be wet and boring, but the trip down the Smith River past the Jedediah Smith redwoods is a familiar one.  I usually like to drive home from the beach since the steep drop-off to the river is on the passenger side in the east bound lane.  Mo was happy driving to the beach that morning.  We switch off as needed, taking turns.  I function better earlier in the day so usually leave later trips to Mo.  We avoid night driving most of the time anyway and especially when traveling in the MoHo.  Lucky for me, Mo is still a great night time driver if need be.

Much of B Loop and part of C Loop are closed for the winter.  We are in A2

We arrived at our site in the A Loop and were delighted to see that most of the row was still empty.  I was relieved to see that unlike our last campsite at Harris Beach, the campfire ring was a decent height.  Mo had loaded up enough wood for four nights of campfires, in spite of the rainy forecast.  After settling in we put on our coats, including Mattie, and braved the inclement but still dry weather to go check out the beach.

It was just a little short walk to the overlook and we managed to walk down the path toward the big rocks before I had to give up.  Steep rocky stuff is out of my range now, especially when wet and slippery. 

Mattie did NOT want to turn around.

The view was great from that spot, and we could see that the beach was almost completely empty.  After walking back to the MoHo we picked up the car and drove down the steep road that leads to the main beach at the park. 

Mattie was in heaven, running wildly the minute there was space for Mo to let her off the leash.  The high tide had brought in some interesting tidbits that someone decided to arrange into a lovely still life that just begged to be photographed. 


Mattie ran and played and climbed rocks, her favorite thing to do other than running wildly in soft sand. 

Back home we settled in with some TV shows cast from the phone and a nice little steak on the BarB as the rain held off a few more hours.  By dark, the rain was coming steadily.  The rain drumming on the roof was as soothing as ever and we slept in much longer than usual the next morning.

We knew that Wednesday, the 16th, was to be the most intense day of the storm and we planned accordingly.  Snuggling in with hot coffee, some news on the TV and cozy sweats we enjoyed the indoor day completely.  I had come fully prepared with all my handmade Christmas cards ready to address and mail.  It was much more fun writing little notes and stuffing the envelopes in the MoHo than it would have been back at home. 

I started making Christmas cards back in the early days of COVID in the late spring.  The most fun is deciding which cards go to which friends.  The worst part of this is that if I make a similar card in the coming years I might not remember who got which ones the last time around.  I guess I need to keep better notes!

It rained all night but the next morning on Thursday the skies had cleared somewhat.  I decided to see if the Brookings Post Office was open and was delighted to find not a single person in the line and a friendly postmaster who checked each of my cards for weight and thickness. 

The skies were clear and beautiful as we piled into the Tracker for the short trip south to Crescent City and our favorite fish and chips restaurant, the Chart RoomWe stood in line with Nickie and Jimmy last September for our outside dining only fish and chips.

It was still outside dining only but the big difference was the weather and the lack of the long line of people waiting to order.  Although the sun was just as brilliant, the air was chilly and we wore coats.  Very few people in line and we had no trouble snagging a nice picnic table with a view.

We decided to check out the beach that we had attempted to visit last September.  At the time, it was too crowded and there was no place to park.  This time there was plenty of parking, but with the high tide coming in quite close there wasn’t much walking room.  We weren’t impressed with this particular beach, actually called Crescent Beach.  The sand is more like dark brown silt and while the surfers are fun to watch, the homeless tents and garbage strewn around was less enjoyable.

After lunch we drove north of town along the coastline to the remote headland trails at Point St. George.  I have written about the amazing historical lighthouse that is just barely visible from this point in a previous story here. There were a few people parked but only a few hikers walking along the beach.  The beach was gorgeous, wide open and clean with big breakers roaring from the high tide to keep us company.

Home again to a lovely evening with the rain holding out long enough that Mo built us a great campfire to enjoy before retreating to the cozy MoHo. As usual, Mattie had to have her own camp chair and blanket for fire time.

Most of the next day was sunny and beautiful with enough time to walk the beaches once again.  We were surprised at how the temperatures moderated after the rain and the winds were almost non existent.  It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed every minute of it.


Mattie found many mini mountains to climb

For our last night in camp Mo once again built a beautiful campfire and we opened a bottle of champagne to enjoy by the fire and to drink with our truly delicious fish and chips.  It is great when a good dinner is enough to last for two great meals.  I am pretty sure that the Chart Room fish and chips at 14.95 each is one of the tastiest and best deals ever.
















Saturday morning dawned gray and foggy once again and we took our time getting ready to leave. Even though we have an RV dump station at home, it is a bit easier to dump right there at Harris Beach.  It is a good dump with a perfect angle for a complete clean dump.  RVr’s will know exactly what I mean.  It is also easy to get to and rarely busy.  It’s the little things that matter when out traveling!

The trip home was uneventful, except for one minor detail.  In Kerby, about 25 miles west of Grants Pass, there is a fair style food booth with hot dogs, hamburgers, curly fries and yes, corn dogs!  Best corn dog I ever ate was at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival in 2019.  Mo said, “Hey, want a corn dog ?”  I didn’t exactly slam on the brakes in the middle of the highway, but I did find a way to turn around and get back there.  Yup…Albuquerque quality corn dog.  Once every year or so isn’t that bad for some truly delicious junk food.  Then again, I might have to be sure to remember that place is there on our next trip to the beach!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

11-24 to 11-27-2020 Bandon Thanksgiving and a night at Harris Beach

Don’t forget that you can click on any photo if you wish to see if full resolution in my gallery

Site A47 had more privacy than we expected

Between the time we made our reservation and our trip to the coast, COVID numbers began rising in Oregon and the governor once again shut down restaurants for indoor dining.  One of the reasons we chose Bandon over Brookings for this trip was to have an opportunity to spend some time in the little shops and restaurants that make Bandon so charming.  The weather forecast was for rain most of the week, so we wanted to have other things to do than walk the beach.

We traveled north via I-5 toward Roseburg and turned west toward the coast via Highway 42.  However, instead of following the Google Girl directions to stay on Highway 42 all the way to HWY 101 and then back south, we thought the quicker route along 42 S made more sense.  In hindsight, Google Girl sometimes gets it right and we don’t.  I spent most of the time hanging on while Mo navigated the very narrow, very winding road toward Bandon.  It was not fun for me, but I think it might have been for her.  She used to drive a TR7 among other sports cars.

Don’t try this route in a motorhome

It rained a bit along the way, but the afternoon was dry enough that we had time to enjoy a walk along the beach after we settled into our site.

The campground is about a mile from easy beach access at the Coquille River Lighthouse


We were a bit disappointed in the condition of the lighthouse

Adjacent to the town of Bandon, the Coquille River empties into the Pacific Ocean. The river extends inland a great distance and was a natural link to the virgin stands of timber in the area, but the bar at the mouth of the river, formed by the interaction of the river and ocean, was a major obstacle for ships entering the river. At times, only a few feet of water would cover the bar, but vessels still attempted to navigate the river in hopes of reaping the rewards that lay upstream. In 1880, Congress passed a bill funding the construction of a jetty on the south side of the river’s entrance that created a deep channel, resulting in a rapid rise in the number of ships entering the river.

A lighthouse at the entrance to Coquille River was the next logical step for improving navigation. Congress appropriated $50,000 for the project on March 3, 1891, but it would be four years before land was purchased, plans were solidified, and the construction crew was assembled.

In 1939, the Coast Guard assumed responsibility for Coquille River Lighthouse and decided it was no longer needed. An automated beacon was placed at the end of the south jetty, the dwelling was disassembled, and the lighthouse was abandoned. The lighthouse stood neglected for twenty-four years, until Bullards Beach State Park was created on the north side of the river. The grounds of the original eleven-acre light station were included in the park, and the park assumed responsibility for the lighthouse.

Over the years there have been several attempts at restoration, since park funding isn’t sufficient to maintain the old lighthouse.  In normal years, the lighthouse tower is open for visitation from May through September, however at the moment the old lighthouse looked quite sad.

The air smelled so incredibly fresh, and the surf was loud enough that we could hear it in camp across the dunes at least half a mile from the beach where we were camped. 

There were high tide and surf warnings posted for the next couple of days so one evening we drove through town in the dark to the south jetty where we could watch the huge noisy waves breaking over the jetty rocks.  Lots of warnings for “sneaker waves” kept me alert and when a big one came roaring in I immediately jumped back into the car.

It rained off and on that first night and the next morning dawned cloudy and wet. We settled into the MoHo for a cozy morning before driving the a mile south to Bandon to explore the small town.  The rain came and went all day, usually with a downpour at just the moment we would head for the car after visiting a shop.  About half the shops in town were open, with masks and social distancing, and we especially enjoyed the beautiful Second Street Gallery, Winter River Bookstore, and the Coastal Mist Chocolate Boutique, where we had two tiny cups of creamy drinking chocolate, to go of course. 

This photo is from last year when there was still inside service

The rain poured down as we ran to the car with our little cups of chocolate. I also purchased my first ever macaron (not a macaroon).  I wasn’t impressed, although I do think that maybe the high humidity at the ocean makes it hard to make a light crispy meringue cookie. Who knows.  I don’t have to try again.

We then meandered around the famous Cranberry Sweets.  The store has been in Bandon for more than 50 years and specializes in all sorts of cranberry confections.  I learned that more cranberries are grown around Bandon than anywhere else in the west. Although Bandon is referred to as “The Cranberry Capitol of the World”, more research informed me that most cranberries come from Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Five states grow almost all of the country’s supply of cranberries with Wisconsin producing more than half of all cranberries in the US.  Massachusetts harvests another third, and New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington produce most of the rest.  So much for “Cranberry Capitol”.

Still, the shop was charming and old fashioned, with lots of candies and confections behind the counters.  The hostess told me that they usually had lots of samples around the shop but due to COVID we had to settle for a little bag of free stuff. 

I decided it was time to get some fish and chips to go and tried out Tony’s Crab Shack where I was politely told that Tony didn’t fry ANYTHING, and perhaps I might like to try to fish tacos. Made with fresh caught crab and halibut, they were delicious.  Everything in town was take-out only, with all the restaurants closed for inside seating. We returned home in the pouring rain and it continued to rain all night long.  Funny how wonderful rain on the roof of a motorhome can sound, especially when accompanied by the roar of the ocean.  Great for a good night’s sleep!

The next morning was Thanksgiving, and we woke to beautiful clear skies.  I had precooked much of our dinner, and simply had to reheat the turkey, bake the sweet potato, mash the potatoes, and cook a pot of Stove-Top stuffing, and open a jar of gravy.  It wasn’t gourmet, but was completely and totally delicious for the two of us and our socially distanced Thanksgiving dinner.

On our first day in camp I discovered the tsunami evacuation trail.  The path is narrow with signs leading to an area high on a heavily timbered hill behind the campground where people are instructed to assemble if the tsunami warning horns go off.  It would do no good to attempt to drive out of the campground in that situation since most of the highway is in the tsunami zone.

It was a lovely little trail, with moist moss, mushrooms in the duff under the trees.  On this beautiful morning it was a perfect time to share the trail with Mo.  Mattie loved the trail and we enjoyed walking in a place where there were no dogs or people around.  Mattie gets so excited when she sees other dogs and always wants to “play”.  That entails lots of energy and training time, trying to get her to sit and calm down.  Walking around the campground can be challenging sometimes when all I want is a nice simple walk.  The trail was perfect for that.

It was surprising how full the campground was on this holiday weekend.  By the time Thursday rolled around, all sites were full and everyone seemed to be having a great time celebrating.  We even saw an outdoor TV broadcasting a football game. 

After our early afternoon dinner we went for another great beach walk, and were amazed that the weather was so perfect.  There was very little wind and the temps must have been in the 50’s.  Beautiful day. 

Home again to the MoHo where after many years of hearing about it, I actually figured out how to cast the phone to the TV with the included app on my Samsung phone.  We turned on Netflix on the phone, and with our unlimited Verizon plan we were able to watch movies and even live television on the big TV with the right apps.  My daughter Deanna told me about this capability a long time ago, but I never managed to figure it out until this trip. On a chilly evening having some TV was great entertainment.  The Verizon signal in the park was perfectly adequate to stream a movie.

Bullard’s Beach State Park has some beautiful picnic areas

On Friday morning we took our time with a lazy breakfast, a little bit of news, and some reading time before packing up.  Checkout time wasn’t until 1PM, and we only had a little over two hours to travel along the coast south toward Brookings and Harris Beach State Park.  I didn’t make a reservation for Harris Beach, thinking that winter on the coast would be open without a problem.  We planned to arrive around 2 in plenty of time to snag an open site before evening.  Things have changed in the camping world!  When we arrived the park was completely full except for one site, the only ADA site in the park, number 37 in the B loop.

I must say I was grateful for once to have my little blue disability card to hang from our windshield.  We settled in to enjoy our last evening on the beach and Mo built a nice big campfire.  Only problem with the campfire is that the ADA site has a very tall metal fire ring, I suppose so that it is safer.  It took a very long time to get that metal warm and I spent campfire time in LOTS of clothes and blankets trying to warm up.

One of our favorite holiday treats are the wonderful lights at Azalea Park in Brookings.  We knew that this year the big light show wasn’t happening, but the city of Brookings was attempting to do something at least and made arrangements for businesses that usually displayed their lights at Azalea Park to put lights up on both sides of Highway 101 and down into Harbor.  We hopped into the Tracker at dusk to go check out the show.  I must say that it was a bit of a bust.  There were a few nice lights near Fred Meyer, but the rest of them were scattered along the road with lots of space in between displays.  Oh well, at least they tried.  We heard the next morning that someone had stolen one of the big displays on the very first night of the show, the 4 piece Dragon.  So sad.  Maybe that is why so many businesses chose not to display their lights in the unprotected lots along the highway.  Eventually the dragon was recovered.

Here is a photo of the dragon from the park show last year

The next day we didn’t have to check out until 1PM and with no rush to get back home we enjoyed every last minute of park time.  I took Mattie around the campground, and walked out toward the overlook that has such a beautiful view of Harris Beach.  I felt no need to climb down to the water. 

There were so many people on the beach I was amazed.  More people and dogs running around on Harris Beach than we have ever seen even in summer.  I guess as many people have said, RVing is the great COVID escape and everyone and their dog or dogs is on the road and filling up the campgrounds.

We left in brilliant sunshine, driving as far as Cave Junction about 30 miles west of Grants Pass before we encountered the fog.  Grants Pass is often foggy in winter, sometimes without any lifting in the afternoon.  This was one of those days.  I always say, if we must have fog, we might as well have it at the beach.  It was nice to get home to our cozy house, the steamy hot tub, and TV without having to figure out the casting thing.  It was a great four days of ocean time, and a perfect way to handle a quiet Thanksgiving for just the two of us.