Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Sunday, June 30, 2019

06-30-2019 Small Town Times in Grants Pass Oregon

Current Location: Sunset House in Grants Pass on a clear summer day with temps in the 80’s

May is probably the most perfect month in Grants Pass, when the rhodies bloom

You probably noticed the giant gap in my writing between our return home from the cross country trip to Florida and our early May camping trip to Nehalem.  I know that I would notice in a year or two when I tried to find out what we were doing and there is nothing but empty space on the blog.  Ah well, I do have my calendars, both paper and Google, and the google calendar has a LOT of stuff in there. 

I always wanted a doublefile viburnum and here she is, growing great, even though bloomtime is short

I read that google calendar went down yesterday for a few hours.  Lucky for me I was busy elsewhere so avoided the complete panic that might have ensued.  Lately it is the only way I can begin to keep track of all the doctor, dentist, eye care, car repairs, hot tub installations with orientation, and other myriad appointments that seem to be filling up all our days.

We actually managed another camping trip in the midst of all this, just 2 nights at a local lake, but I will have to write about that one in a separate post.  This time I am going to try to recreate all the “stuff” that has kept us so busy for the last couple of months.

April was chilly and rainy, but it didn’t stop us from spending a lot of time and energy on cleaning up almost 3 months of winter and early spring debris in the yard.  I love our oaks, but they do drop a lot of “Stuff’.  We managed several dump loads and by Easter everything was clean and fresh and flowers were blooming. 

We also spent some time working with Jared, probably the most amazing tile setter around, who managed to install our antique tiles on the backsplash in the kitchen.  It was amazing to see the tiles go in, and Jared charged us quite a bit less than his original bid because we did all the arranging and planning ourselves and all he had to do was stick them to the wall.

I got to use some of my quilting experience and quilters might notice the repeating nine-patch design, including borders.  The most amazing part of the entire process is that those tiles fit exactly in the 18 inch space between the granite and the upper wall, no cutting required.  We also decided to follow the new trend of not grouting between the tiles. 

Love the look, and Jared was delighted that he didn’t have to try to wipe grout from all those carved intricate tiles. The backsplash really made a difference in the look of the kitchen.  One more thing checked off for completing our Sunset House.

No, it isn’t really curved like that, but I wanted a shot of the entire thing, and the distortion is from the panorama

Another addition to Sunset House that has been waiting for the right time is our hot tub.  We needed to have an additional deck built adjacent to the bedroom to accommodate the tub. We are lucky to have a good relationship with the subcontractors who worked on our house, and when we called Joel about building the deck, he found time in his very busy schedule to come and build it for us. 

We had the same luck with the painters, and Eric and Ian showed up in record time when the deck was completed to get it stained in time for the hot tub delivery.  The entire process went smoothly, and within a week from starting the deck, we had a hot tub bubbling just steps outside the bedroom door.  Ahhhhh…..we had a hot tub in Rocky Point, but when that house sold in late 2016 our hot tub evenings were no more. 

Nothing like a good soak before bed to ease old joints. The pink light is reflected from the sunset view that we have from the hot tub.  Stars are more rare this time of year since we don’t often stay up late enough to see them.

In the midst of house and yard projects, we enjoyed some good family times.  For some reason, Easter is the family holiday where almost everyone manages to make their way to Sunset House for our family time.  We invited the neighbors as well, and instead of our usual brunch we cooked a traditional ham dinner with a ham from our local butcher shop. 

Melody’s guy Robert made his famous deviled eggs again, and as the years go by, it has become a family tradition to enjoy Robert’s eggs with our family dinners, but definitely they are perfect for Easter.  The only hard part was keeping everyone from eating them before he could get the halves filled with his yummy, savory egg stuffing.  They are very popular here!

Jeanne from Vermont just happened to be here visiting on Mother’s Day weekend, and while our time together was short, it was precious.  Jeanne didn’t want to intrude, but I convinced her to stay around for Mother’s Day brunch. Deborah and Matthew shared the day with me this year, and instead of our usual outing for a Mother’s Day brunch in town, Deborah offered to make brunch for me right here at home.  She came over early on Sunday morning with her incredibly yummy eggs benedict casserole and enough hollandaise sauce to keep us all happy.  She also roasted some fresh asparagus with bacon and seasonings that was the best I ever had.  Yum.

After brunch, we sent Deb and grandson Matthew off to do some projects around his place and Mo and I wandered downtown to enjoy the 25th Annual Native American Arts Festival & Mothers Day Pow Wow at Riverside Park. We learned that this is an annual event and the largest native event in Southern Oregon. The biggest surprise was that in addition to traditional dancing and drumming, there were Aztec Dancers from the Bay Area that were incredibly good.  I hadn’t heard of Aztec Dancers before this and discovered that much like Tribal Belly Dancing, performed by people of many cultures, they are people who are dedicated to preserving the traditions and rituals of the pre-Hispanic culture through the expression of dance and ceremony. They perform at various special events throughout the year and regularly at powwows.

Three of the basic forms of Aztec dance were performed; ceremonial rituals, concheros (a rhythmic and slow dance performed to the music of armadillo shell guitars), and warrior dancers, which are very colorful and energetic. It was a new experience for us and incredibly entertaining.

Memorial Day doesn’t have quite the effect that it used to when we were working and treasured the long holiday weekend.  Now in retirement, we tend to avoid camping on those big holidays and lay low.  This year, however, we decided that it would be fun to check out our local Memorial Day Parade.  It was a perfect day, not too hot, and beautifully clear.  The parade was everything a small town Memorial Day parade should be, with bands, and kids, and flags, and lots of different kinds of displays to honor the military.  We took our folding chairs and parked them right on the sidewalk to watch the parade.  Arriving only an hour early got us great seats.  It was a fun day.

Just a few days later, on my Saturday morning foray to the Farmer’s Market I happened on the annual car show that is held in conjunction with our local Balloon Festival.  We had decided to skip the balloon fest, with no need to fight the crowds to see a few balloons.  Instead, when I saw how great the cars were at the downtown show, I went back home to get Mo and we wandered the streets together oohing and ahhing at all the great old cars.  These vintage bikes in the back of an old Ranchero were my favorite!

A couple of times we made our way 15 minutes south into the Applegate Valley to enjoy Friday night wine and wood fired pizzas with live music on the patio.  We love Schmidt Vineyards, not so much for their wine, which is Ok but not our most favorite, but the gardens and parklike atmosphere is just wonderful.  The wood fired pizzas are really great, too. Driving down the Applegate Valley in late afternoon so beautiful and this is one of our favorite places to be on a Friday evening.

One evening in June, as we were settling in I got a text message from Gayle and Wes, our friends who live in Arizona, letting us know that they were going to be in town the following Tuesday and were we going to be around.  I was so glad they let us know ahead of time because we had planned our camping trip for Tuesday and it was easy to postpone it and have a nice time visiting friends. 

This time they didn’t stay long enough for a meal, but I managed to put out some of my favorite little cheesy tartlet things that were a hit.

We also had some surprise visits from friends Maryruth and Gerald from California.  They decided that it was time to leave Oroville and the scary fires that have plagued the Sierra Nevada foothills for so many years.  Their home is in the midst of dry oak woodland, and they have been evacuated 3 times in the last 2 years.  After both of them living their entire lives in California, they have decided to come to Oregon.

I totally forgot to take photos because we were so busy trying to look at houses, but here is a photo from their visit last year when we drove over to Brookings

It was nice that they could stay with us when a house appeared on the market that they wanted to see.  The process was agonizing, with most properties being sold literally overnight, and we all were losing hope that they would find what they need and want.  Finally it is a done deal, and my lifetime friend of 56 years will be living just a mile away from me by the end of August.  Maryruth and I look at each other and shake our heads.  We had no idea that this would ever happen.  I am really looking forward to having them in town and happy that we all get along so well.

Another small town activity that I had read about in years past and never managed to attend was our local Grants Pass Porch Fest. In one of the nicer historic neighborhoods of town, people open up their porches to local musicians, the streets are closed down for walking, and there are food and craft vendors as well.  The music was typically folk and bluegrass type music, but there were also jazz and blues bands, vocalists, guitarists, and other kinds of musicians.  It was fun, although sometimes it was a bit disconcerting to be hearing 2 or 3 bands playing at once from different directions.  Again, it was a gorgeous day, cool enough for walking and yet warm in the sunshine. We enjoyed it thoroughly, the best of small town life and entertainment.

The photo above captures the feeling of that day, with old friends meeting each other and laughing, kids running around playing, and everyone having a great time listening to the music.

Somehow in the midst of all this activity, we managed to attend to an ongoing list of appointments for all sorts of things.  I went to Eugene to see my daughter, my friend Joanne, and to see my urologist checking up on my surgery from 2015.  Mo managed to get successful cataract surgery for both eyes, and we counted a total of 12 different appointments to get that process completed, including the pre and post op visits.  Sheesh.

Neither of us is “sick”, but the mechanics of things seem to be wearing out and time for some repairs. Between the two of us, knees, wrists, ankles, hips, and the like have kept us busy visiting all the various specialists.  I still can’t figure out why a wrist orthopedist is different than an ankle orthopedist, and from a knee doctor.  Sheesh!  Sp many appointments!  I think we are almost done for the time being, except for carpel tunnel surgery scheduled for Mo next month. We should be good to go after that for a few more miles I hope.

The apartments were a bit more charming before the EPA took out all the vegetation

In the midst of all the appointments, Mo decided that it was time to sell the apartments in Klamath Falls.  The EPA project is completed, the papers are signed and the property has been certified safe and good to go.  We thought it might take a bit of time to get it on the market and sold, but to our surprise is sold for cash in just 2 days.  Surely were happy about that, although we did have to pack up the last of our leftover stuff that was in Apartment B and bring it all home to Sunset House. 

Last Day at the Apartments

Last view up Old Fort Road from Apartment B

Finally we are completely through with moving.  It was a process that began in 2015 with the sale of my house in Klamath Falls, in 2016 with the sale of Mo’s house in Rocky Point, in 2017 with the demolition of the Cottage and building of Sunset House, and then finally this year with the sale of the apartments.  We now have only one home to manage.  Finally. 

As I sit here writing, I can see why I might have let the blog slip.  The days sort of run together until I actually look at the calendar and the photos and realize that we have been on the go much more than I realized.  Time to slow down and enjoy the summer. It’s a dog’s life for sure.



Sunday, June 16, 2019

05-05 through 05-09 2019 A New to Us Coastal Destination

So often, when we are thinking about spending time at the coast, we choose to take the easy route.  Just 2 short hours on a well known highway will lead to a beautiful beach and a beloved campground in Brookings, Harris Beach State Park.  However, for Mo’s brothers, the southern coast is a long drive, and they are more inclined to travel to their own loved places a bit farther north.

This time, the family consensus was to spend a few days at Nehalem State Park, not far north of Tillamook, Oregon, and just 40 miles south of Astoria, which is as far north as it is possible to travel on the Oregon coast.

With a special event scheduled in Coos Bay for the day before our scheduled family time at Nehalem, we thought it would be great to break up the 336 mile trip into a couple of days of travel rather than trying to do it all at once.

The West Coast tall ships Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington were scheduled to be in Coos Bay and I was thrilled for the chance to see them, to tour them, and maybe even to cruise the bay in one of the ships.  Sad to say, this is an incredibly popular event and even though I attempted to book the cruise online while we were still traveling in Florida last February, the events were sold out.

I took this photo of the Hawaiian Chieftain under full sail from the official website of the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport, the home port for both ships.

This photo of the Lady Washington under full sail is from the same website.  Sorry there are no photo credits for either photo on the website, so I do hope this is sufficient. Here is a link to the website which tells the story of each ship and includes the sailing schedule for the various ports visited on the west coast.

We were both excited to see the ships in port, and to explore them, if only for a land tour, but it was not to be.  Upon our arrival in Coos Bay I discovered that the schedule has been adjusted due to heavy seas which delayed the arrival of the ships.  Instead of the land tours for Sunday morning that had been advertised, there was instead a special charter cruise.  Note to self, be ready for weather adjustments to any kind of sailing schedule for the tall ships.

It was a beautiful sunny day on the coast by the time we reached Coos Bay, but it was chilly and the winds were at least 20 knots.  When we arrived at the Coos Bay dock where the ships were anchored, there was a long line of people waiting to board for the cruises.  It was fun seeing the ships, even from a bit of distance, and watching the excitement of the folks getting ready to board.  A few were even dolled up in pirate costumes.

We watched the ships leave port, hoping to see the sails unfurl, but alas the winds were too high to open the sails at all. Still, the ships were lovely and graceful with their tall masts and spider web of ropes and beams. Jumping back into the car, we spent a great couple of hours following along the highway as the ships sailed through the harbor.  Although technically they weren’t “sailing”, they were motoring. It isn’t sailing unless the sails are actually unfurled.

We had fun watching, and there were several other groups of people doing just what we were and following the ships along the harbor.  Someone even said that there was a small mock battle, but that one was behind a hill and we missed it.  Mo and I were both very happy that we hadn’t paid $79. each to “sail” on a tall ship that never set a real sail.  Hence the photos stolen from the website, since we never got to see the ships under full sail, or under any sail at all.

We had decided previously to stay at the Mill Casino in Coos Bay, right there on the harbor just a couple of miles north of where the ships launched.  The price for a site with hookups ranged between $55  to $75 per night, way too pricey for us to pay for a simple night of sleep.  Instead, we spent just $20. for a dry camp in the parking lot.  Still really pricey, but we could use the amenities at the RV park, not worry about being bothered by anyone and we had access to their free WiFi.  This is more important lately since after we returned from our cross country travels I cancelled our Unlimited Verizon plan and we are on a small plan of just 2 GIG a month on our phones.  Free WiFi is almost a necessity if we want to do anything online. 

We skipped dinner out and enjoyed our hot soup in the rig, with the slide pulled in to stop the rocking, rolling and snapping slide cover due to the high winds.  The park was actually quite nice for walking, and there was a great view of the bay and a nice little dog park for Mattie. 

After an hour or so at the Casino, we decided that was a losing proposition and returned home for a really good night’s sleep in that parking lot.  Even the sound from the highway was muted by the sounds of the high winds and didn’t bother us in the least.

The next morning we woke to fog, not a surprise for time on the coast when the inland temperatures were much above normal.  Our route was a familiar one, with the beautiful winding curves of Highway 101 opening up to views of the ocean, rolling and lifting fog, and then back into the deep green forests that line the highway.

Mo drove this part of the trip and I took phone photos, with LOTS of bugs and rain on the windshield, so in spite of trying to clean them up a bit, we are left with buggy photos or none at all.

We decided that Yachats was the most charming community along the way, and decided once again that we needed to travel the Oregon Coast sometime when we didn’t have an actual destination in mind, just wander, meander and enjoy.  Still not sure why that doesn’t happen, but often our coastal trips involve time with family and coordinating times doesn’t fit well with casual meandering.

We did stop for a bit in Tillamook, instead of the famous Cheese Factory, we stopped at a lesser known French Cheese Factory about a mile south of the big new Tillamook Cheese facility. 

The  Blue Heron French Cheese Factory was charming and cute, but we never did see the actual factory.  Instead there was a shopping area filled will all sorts of cheeses, including some from Tillamook, and a lot of gourmet foodstuffs. 

The only cheese from Blue Heron was Brie, which I love, but we were looking for family gifts and weren’t sure if Brie would be a hit.  We bought some cheeses, wandered around a bit and took silly photos before continuing north toward Nehalem.

We arrived at the Nehalem Bay State Park mid afternoon, with Dan and Don directing us to our reserved spot. The layout of the park is much like South Beach State Park, near Newport, but the major difference is that the beach is just over the dunes a few hundred yards instead of the 1/2 mile or so that you need to walk to get to the beach at South Beach.  We could hear the sound of the ocean from our campsite, always a soothing delight.

Power and electric, with a dump station at the park makes for an easy week.  You will notice our TV antenna up. That was a purchase we made before leaving for the big trip last winter, and we also upgraded our TV to a newer digital model so we could get local TV.  Even at Nehalem, I think we got something like 18 channels.  Far more than we needed but it was still nice to get an occasional hit of local news in the mornings.


As soon as we were set up, the first thing we did on this gorgeous afternoon was head for the beach.  Nancy Rusher, an extended family member of Nancy Oukrop had joined us for this trip, and she had a fun young pup who made pretty good friends with Mattie. 

It did take a bit of time to get them untangled now and then, but as soon as they were off leash the two of them had a great time running the beach.

Clockwise around the table:  Brother Dan and wife Chere, Mo, Nancy Rusher and husband Jack, sister-in-law Nancy Oukrop, brother Don and wife Wynn.

The family has previously decided that the best way to handle group meals for the few days we would be sharing time was for each family to bring their own food to the family table.  Worked out great, and there were a few shared items, but for the most part it was easy and everyone had plenty to eat.

Table time, conversation time, and campfire time was a good part of the three days we spent together, in addition to many walks on the beach.

Crabbing and kayaking were on the list as well, with Dan and Don and Jack catching a great mess of crabs for supper one evening.  Dan cooks the crabs in sea water, and we had lots of laughs at the folks who weren’t quite sure about how to get the meat out of the claws.  Chere was the best pro in the group and helped those of us less sure with the crab crackers.

A lovely kayak trip on the north fork of the Nehalem River filled the better part of another day, although the dock launch was fine getting in the boats, but a bit more challenging to get out.  Don and Dan took Don’s tandem kayak. 

We had current, wind, and tides to contend with, but the views were beautiful, and we were entertained by a huge eagle bathing along the river.  Sadly I only had the phone along with me, so no decent eagle photos.

On the day that the guys went crabbing, Mo and I drove 26 miles north along the coast to Seaside and Cannon Beach.  It was fun seeing the iconic Haystack Rock on a day without fog and clouds.  Last time we were here was back in 2011 when we did a February coast camping trip all the way north to Astoria from Brookings. 

Seaside was a bit kitchy and felt like a tacky tourist beach town, but oh my, Cannon Beach was quite upscale and lovely.  I could spend time in that place.  I’m not a huge shopper, but I did manage to find a quilt shop with some amazing fabrics with a seaside theme that were gorgeous.

The route along 101 between Nehalem and Seaside is gorgeous, climbing along the cliffs overlooking the ocean with great views of Nehalem Beach in the distance.

The cliff in the distance on the right is where Highway 101 crosses along the western slope of Neahkahnie Mountain, at 1661 feel elevation, one of the highest points on the Oregon Coast.

We left on Thursday morning, planning to drive down 101 as far as Lincoln City and then cutting over to I-5 for the trip home.  I was driving, and didn’t put the Google Girl on talk mode, and somehow missed the turn that was supposed to take us south to 101.  Instead we ended up driving considerably north on a very sketchy, narrow road that kept climbing and curving and of course the phone didn’t work up there so we had no clue where we were headed.  Not a single turnaround spot showed up until we were so far along that we figured it would be easier to continue north rather than backtrack.  Crazy!

Once we intercepted Highway 26 headed for Portland, I was able to get the map working again and we bypassed Portland in favor of the nice 2 lane country side roads that parallel the interstate to the west. 

It turned out to be a great drive on a gorgeous day though some of the small towns in Oregon that we rarely see. Still, it is better to keep Google Girl talking if the navigator is also the one driving!  Hopefully I won’t make that mistake again.

Great trip, great family time, great beach time.